I am a firm believer that it is personality that is important in this modern age of Web 2.0, distributed communications and mediated, online societies. I have always felt that blogging is about making connections between people. Easier said than done, but possible. The blogs I enjoy reading are the blogs where the authors are clearly identifiable. They have personalities and opinions and voices that I do (and don’t) enjoy reading.
As Mia has pointed out, blogs from a “personal” standpoint as opposed to an official view are rare in corporate environments. This is not to say that they can’t be done and done well, but these are the exception rather than the rule. I think that people need a ‘face’ to relate to. The Net is a hyper-crowded market place and you need to make full use of any hook you can develop to bring the customers in. One of the reasons I keep coming back to Innocent smoothies, despite their high price, is that they are just so fun and approachable as a brand.
How does this relate to blogging and in particular the “personal” blogging that I practice?
I used to joke that Bright Meadow was a small community of people, more than just me, made up of everyone who reads and comments. I have also said time over time that I couldn’t do it without y’all. I would still be writing and blogging without the regular input of readers, but for damn straight it wouldn’t be the same. It was brought home to me recently that this jest has actually become the reality. In my latest moment of blogging angst (yes, even the best of us have our moments of insecurity) several people stepped up to the plate and flat out told me that I had created a great community around the site.
And that chuffed me to bits.
I am also chuffed to bits by the fact that I have had just three – yes, three – trollish comments in the five years I have been blogging. And the people responsible for two of those came back to me, apologised, and now contribute to the wider BM community.
What has perhaps chuffed me to bits the most is the welcome my guest writers have received. I know it was/is a big thing for both of them so my heart is always in my mouth when they post (not because I don’t like to let anyone loose on my baby, but because what if the readers are rude?!) but I should know better. Somehow there has developed a unique group of people who hang around Bright Meadow and I can trust them (you) to treat the space and everyone in it with respect.
How have I done this? I am not exactly sure, but I think it is something to do with my personal policy on comments. I do have a comment policy, but as you can see it is fairly basic: no spam; no meanness; and I reserve the right to remove/edit obscene or inflammatory comments. My unofficial comment policy is that I leave no comment un-answered, even if it is just a “hello”. All first time commenters get a “welcome to Bright Meadow and thank you for commenting” and as much of a personal response as possible. Even if the comment left is rude I much prefer to respond in a reasoned fashion and try to engage the person in dialogue than just summarily delete it.
I think it makes a difference. I know it has worked on the trolls because one of them flat out emailed me, said mea culpa, and now joins in the fun.
I know when I comment on other sites and don’t get a response, something that happens all too often, I feel unwanted by the blogger. Quite frankly, I find it rude. If you don’t want to join in the conversation, don’t have a comments field. I am a reluctant commenter at the best of times because I am shy and hate to be rebuffed. I can’t be the only one who puzzles for an age over the simplest comment and who more often than note clicks on from the page leaving her contribution unsaid. It is a big thing for someone to leave a comment. Acknowledge it!
This policy, I think, has directly led to readers getting involved with Bright Meadow; makes them want to come back and contribute again and again. It has got to the point where whole conversations and debates happen in the comments between readers. We even had our first duel a few months back! I can’t express what this means to me. It means I have succeeded. And it makes me think other bloggers should do the same. Without our readers we are just one more self-obsessed geek pouring our hears out to the disinterested Net. People read our words, especially on personal blogs, because they want to make a connection. It is unpardonably rude to ignore them.
Where did this thinking stem from? I am not totally sure. It certainly has something to do with my background in customer service, where more often than not a smile, an anecdote and a personal connection with a customer got me that machine sale, and more importantly for my manger, repeat sales. I wouldn’t be surprised if my first introduction to the web being on gaming communities where all the posts contributed to an ongoing story doesn’t have something to do with it. But it is also the inescapable conclusions my research over the past few years have led me to draw. I am not the only one. Neko is finding it hard at the moment to get this personal approach into her research and I can understand her frustration *. There are currently certain arenas where it is not deemed appropriate to bring the personal voice (scientific research being one of them) but blogging is categorically not one of those arenas!
So how has my comment policy affected by blog? It has made my blog! It is not an after thought, but something integral to the site. Just as I will not tolerate spam or meanness, I will not tolerate ignored comments. If I ever ignore a comment you make, feel free to take me task.
And now we perhaps come to the best bit and what keeps me sitting at the computer, typing away despite the RSI in my wrists. Here, as always, is where you all get to say your stuff. How did the welcome make you feel? What are your thoughts on commenting? Am I totally talking out of my hat?
And can you help me update the Usual Suspects page? I really want to get it up-to-date and to include as many of you as want to be included, but I don’t want to miss anyone! If you want in on the page, pipe up in the comments or shoot me an email. Requirements are a name and a short bio (no bigger than 50 words if poss). If you want to include a link to your own site, then even better 🙂
* Yes, I did read it sweetheart, I just needed to think things through.