Oct 28, 2012

The Sunday Salon – Showing Appreciation

The Sunday Salon.com

A few months ago, Teresa at Shelf Love wrote an excellent post about showing appreciation for good writing about books online. The context for the post was another one of those discussions about whether book blogging is damaging serious literary criticism that seem to take place every couple of months. Teresa suggested the following: “Instead of going on and on about what kind of writing about books we want to see, let’s go on and on about specific pieces of writing about books that we enjoy.” Since then, she’s been using her social media accounts to draw attention to specific pieces of writing she enjoys, which I think is a fabulous idea.

I mention Teresa’s post because lately I’ve been thinking more and more about how the book blogging landscape has grown and changed over the past few years. This is certainly not a bad thing – I absolutely love the fact that there are so many people who think that devoting huge amounts of time to discussing books online is worth the effort. But a larger community is also a less integrated community, and sometimes I think that these days it’s very easy to feel that maybe your voice doesn’t matter; that it’s just one more among the crowd; to wonder what you could possibly have to offer when there are so many others blogs out there.

Also, every couple of months I seem to catch a conversation on Twitter about how commenting patterns have changed in the blogging world. Again, I think this is only natural in an older, more mature community. For example, the way I approach commenting certainly has changed. I used to put a lot of pressure on myself to comment regularly on all the blogs I enjoy – so much so that I often felt that I wasn’t “allowed” to post myself if I hadn’t had time to comment that particular week. Obviously this wasn’t a healthy way of approaching blogging: had I not been able to let go and just relax, I’m sure I’d be completely burned out by now. I suspect that many others have gone through similar processes, and as a result the majority of us are far more relaxed about commenting and blogging in general these days.

The downside of this is that it makes it easier for blogging to become a bit of a solitary experience. Even when you know that people are still out there reading, it’s only human to crave concrete signs of engagement. This is where alternative ways of showing appreciation come in: I want to do my best to become a cheerleader for the writing I enjoy, but I want to do that without going back to putting unhealthy amounts of pressure on myself to always be there with something relevant to say.

The solution I came up with is to do a link roundup every couple of weeks. I won’t set a regular posting schedule for myself or anything, but every once in a while I’m going to draw your attention to some of my favourite pieces of writing by book bloggers. They may be recent or older, from old favourites or from blogs I’ve only just discovered, but they’ll all have in common the fact that I think they’re well worth reading. Here’s what I have for you today:

These are only a few examples, of course – this list could easily be twice as long, as thankfully there’s absolutely no shortage of thoughtful content I enjoy in the blogging world.

If you’ve been blogging for a while, have you noticed the changes in blogging dynamics I mentioned above? Is this something you think about? Do you show appreciation for good online writing in slightly different ways these days?

28 comments:

Beth F said...

I have definitely noticed a difference in commenting. I still read all the same blogs (yours too!) but I just don't comment as much as I used to. I find that I need to balance my online life (which includes my work) and offline life. Massive commenting is what suffers.

As a consequence, the number of comments I get on my own blog really went down. *shrug* There isn't much I can do about it. I look at my traffic, and I see I'm still getting plenty of readers, so that's good.

I'm also not on Twitter to the extent I used to be so, I guess I'm now isolated. That makes me a bit sad.

Sometimes I miss the old days.

Ana @ things mean a lot said...

Beth F: that's been my experience too in the past year or so. I'm commenting much less myself, which means I get less comments in return, even though the stats show people are still reading. But because I'm still on Twitter quite a lot, I haven't always experienced that sense of isolation. Sometimes I miss the old days too, but there's definitely no going back - balance is key as you so well said, and something had to give. This is why I want to focus a bit more on community in my blogging from now on. If I can't comment as much, I want to do *something* that will still make me feel connected to others.

Beth F said...

I've been thinking of revamping my Twitter presence so I can at least keep track of what my friends are doing. I love the community element in blogging.

Teresa said...

I've noticed some of the same changes you mention, and it is sometimes hard to figure out how to find--or maintain--a place in the blogging community. I haven't been able to be on Twitter much lately, and then when I do have a few minutes to log in, I feel awkward stepping into a conversation. And I've ended up commenting on fewer blogs in general and on those less often. For the most part, I'm pretty good about not beating myself up about it, because I know that I can only do what I can do.

And that said, THANK YOU for the shout-outs. I've been having a really rough few weeks (such that I haven't been able to keep up with my own plan for blog appreciating), and getting the commendation is a real pick-me-up.

Sandy Nawrot said...

I have noticed changes, but then I've changed so I guess that is to be expected. Like anything new, we are all gung ho at the beginning and want to do everything right and perfect. And the reality is that it is nearly impossible to keep up with it all and still have a life. I find it interesting that with some, I only get a comment if I leave one at their site first! I guess that is human nature...and if my busy-ness means less comments, so be it. Sometimes we just have to learn to let it go.

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

When I first started blogging, I tried to comment on everyone's blogs, joined weekly memes and challenges, and eventually, the pressure of all of those self-imposed obligations wore down on me. Now, especially since I've been traveling so much for work, it's really rare that I get a chance to compose a coherent thought for a blog post, much less a comment on another blogger's well-written and informed thoughts. With this approach, of commenting when I can, blogging when I want to, and most especially to stop accepting book review requests completely, has made blogging much, MUCH more peaceful and, ultimately, fun.

I love the blogging links you posted! I always love it when bloggers do this and I've been looking around to include new blogs into my Google reader, and since I'll always take advice from you, I will definitely visit the ones you post!

C.B. James said...

I've started doing a 'link love' post on a semi-regular basis, too. I was also inspired by the same post at Shelf Love.

I think you're right about how commenting has changed, too.

Rohan Maitzen said...

Thank you for the link! I'm still thinking through some of the issues raised in the comments, which is exactly why I love getting comments. But I have noticed the same shifts, including in my own commenting patterns. I use Google Reader to follow a lot of blogs, and that makes it easy to keep up with reading them, but it turns commenting into something that feels 'extra' and so I've been less likely to click over to the actual blog and get in the conversation. Since I realized this, I've been making more of an effort. And then Twitter has taken up some of the commenting function -- it would be nice if there were an easy way to get tweets incorporated into a comments thread and vice versa. (Maybe there is?)

I've always said that filtering is the great challenge on the internet, so posts like this are very welcome! Thanks for the tips on other good things to read.

Amy said...

I love that this is a low pressure task for you first of all. I loooove link round-ups and like to do them myself but they themselves can be time consuming posts. So doing them when you can is a perfect approach.

And yes. I miss the sense of community there used to be. I do get depressed when I spend a lot of time writing a post and get no comments. I find that I have a lot of posts that get heavy traffic and no comments. And I'm like...but I want to know what you think!!! But obviously I also agree about the pressure we put on ourselves and I know I can't even read blogs everyday. It's just the way it is.

So anyway yay for this approach!

Becky said...

Wow. This is really nice. Thanks for sharing! I definitely understand your thoughts on commenting. I was in the same camp--pressuring myself to make sure I checked my feeds ever day. That became impossible after I bought my first home, became department chair, etc. Now, I try to circulate and read (and comment) when I can--like today. It sounds like many of us are doing that more and more as the blogging community grows.

You're still someone I peek in on all the time. :) ;)

Iris said...

I have been contemplating something similar. I feel horrible for not commenting more, especially when it comes to new-to-me-blogs, which I feel obliged to show that I am reading, somehow, as encouragement? Not that they need my encouragement, but it just feels like a friendly thing to do. But I truly do not know how I am to keep up. So I have been contemplating using a link round-up every once in a while as a shout out. It also feels rather special to be mentioned, so it might work? And it definitely promotes community, I think. Now I just have to figure out a system to keep track :P

And thank you so much for the mention. I feel honored to be among a list of so many wonderful bloggers.

Jenny said...

I love a link round-up, thank you for posting this! I had seen some of these already, but the Gaudy Night post was new to me, and wonderful.

I wish I were a better commenter. There are so many blogs that I love, and I wish I had more time (i.e., no commute, grrr) to comment on all of them. And particularly, I wish I could be more proactive about finding the new awesome blogs that are out there. That's the upside of an expanding community, but I feel like I'm not taking advantage of it at all.

bermudaonion said...

I have noticed changes, but I think blogging is ever evolving. I think commenting is usually the first thing a person has to let go.

Charlie said...

This is a nice idea :) I've noticed things changing from my own experience - there are only so many blogs one can comment on and after a while you reach your limit and have to accept that you can't keep up with all of them. I like how Twitter, for example, means you can give a shout out to a post you didn't have time to comment on, instead of making it that you are completely silent.

Aarti said...

Thank you for including me in your round-up, Ana! I always feel so incredibly honored when people include me in things like this, and I want to reciprocate but I never really do.

I, too, comment much less now. I also have almost completely stopped responding to comments on my own blog, which makes me sad, but I just get so exhausted. Like Jenny, I have a really long commute, and by the time I get home at night, the last thing I want to do is jump back on the computer. And I don't really Twitter much any more, either. I didn't even know the readathon happened again recently. I also don't discover new bloggers. I don't know. Is that a problem? I am not sure. I think all we can do is do our best to make the little corner of the internet we participate in better, and hope to see positive outcomes from that.

Tasha B. said...

When I first started book blogging, it seemed like the community was really cohesive, much more so than now, but that might have just been my personal impression as someone who was new the group. It does seem like blogs dedicated to genres don't participate in the bigger events as much anymore, which makes me kind of sad.

As for comments, I don't comment as much as I used to. Since I started teaching online, things like commenting and answering e-mail can seem way too close to work some days. =/ But I always comment if I have something to say about the post, and if I really like a post I tweet about it or share it on FaceBook.

Stephanie Ward said...

Excellent post -- blogging and commenting is definitely a difficult balance. I like your idea of posting links periodically. I've been trying to do this too, and I hope to do it more mindfully in the future.

Jeanne said...

I have definitely felt what you say here, that blogging seems much more solitary even though the same number of people are reading. I think that, like reading without making marginal notes, reading blogs without commenting can be too shallow in terms of engagement. My blog writing is always first-draft writing, so I need comments to make me think further about what I've written and what other perspectives readers have. The two-part post about The Casual Vacancy is a good example of that--the comments spurred the second post. Thanks for engaging with those posts!
Thanks also for the links, which helped me re-engage with some bloggers I hadn't found in a while, since I (finally) started using my google reader better because I couldn't keep up with the schedule of blogs I visited regularly.
You and Teresa have some good ideas for more engagement on a human time scale.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

I love your idea of rounding up posts that mean something to you. It's a great way to draw more attention to them. I think it's hard to balance commenting and blogging. I've just accepted that there are times when I can do more and times when I can do less and that's ok.

Nic said...

Firstly, thanks for the link, and the kind words about both the blog and that post. :-)

Secondly, I know what you mean about commenting: I don't do it as much as I would like - even in response to comments on my own blog, sometimes! (We do get fewer comments these days, although I'd taken that to be partly a reflection of the fact we don't post as much as we used to, either.) Sometimes the day job is so mentally draining that I like to use my evening internet time to just browse, and not actually engage. Also, I think it doesn't help that I have such an enormous backlog of things I want to post about, such that sometimes I feel guilty using blog-related time to do anything other than write posts! Very silly, really.

Clare said...

Thanks for the link, Ana!

Coming from fandom, I understand deeply how much a comment can mean, so I try and leave comments where I can—never a comment just to say "this is cool" (although those aren't unappreciated), but when I have something to say or add, to do so. I also work a lot better on a schedule, so I take time every once in a while to set aside time to respond to comments and comment on posts that I have something to say about.

Stefanie said...

What a very good idea Ana! The book blogging world has definitely gotten bigger and instead of one small community it feels like a huge community now made up of smaller neighborhoods. I used to comment a lot more on a lot more blogs than I do now, but it gets to be too much after awhile. So yeah, while I might be reading, I am not always commenting. Though I do try to comment now and then, just not on every post I read.

Debi said...

Oh sure, Ana, just give me a bunch more posts I need to read...you all's Lady Business link posts aren't enough?!! LOL--you know I'm kidding! But it is true in a sense, as I know anything you recommend will be worth my time. :D

Agree about the commenting. But personally I still haven't learned to give up the guilt. I comment far less than I used to, just because of the time/sanity thing. But there are still times I really do want to post something myself but don't because I haven't made the time for commenting. I know how dumb that is and yet I haven't been able to get rid of that guilt. Oh well.

Biblibio said...

Though I never considered myself particularly integrated in the book community of yore, it certainly does feel different. It might just be exposure. While I could once feel as though book blogging was its own, enclosed community with various niche blogs, today it feels as though there are niche communities. Blogs that maybe don't fit as neatly into these niches seem to slip between the cracks, and I've seen a lot of excellent blogs get very little readership because they don't simply stick to one specific group.

As for commenting, I absolutely agree with you: a more established community will obviously be less inclined towards the fervent commenting of fresh, new bloggers. That's neither a good thing, nor a bad thing. It's just... a thing. And link sharing is certainly another way to acknowledge good blogs; it's also a significantly more effective way of leading others to read a particularly strong piece of writing.

stujallen said...

i commment less than I did it can take time away from actual blogging but also fell so far behind had to cut back ,all the best stu

Gavin said...

The links are a wonderful idea, Ana. I find myself scrambling to read all my favorite blogs with less time for thoughtful comments. There are so many blogs out there I find it impossible keeping up, not to mention actually writing my thoughts about books!

Rebecca H. said...

I definitely have loosened up in my blogging and commenting demands on myself. I've contemplated stopping the blog, and I may still do so, but right now I can't quite give it up. The new baby may change that! But I still want to get my thoughts out there, no matter how brief they are, and I want to maintain a connection with the other wonderful bloggers I know. So irregular posting and commenting is preferable to dropping out entirely. I've come to appreciate people's list posts, since if I share their taste, simply knowing they liked a book means a lot to me. So that makes me feel better about writing more of my own list posts and brief reviews. There's no reason I HAVE to go in depth.

Emily said...

I've thought of doing something similar for a while now (highlighting favorite posts, that is). It's a good way to give a shout-out to all the great bloggers out there!