Around this same time last year, I wrote a post on my commenting habits that I said was "a confession, a discussion and a serious cry for help." I got great feedback on the post, but it almost stressed me out more. Why? Because I learned that everyone has different expectations and there's really no way to make everyone happy when it comes to commenting. After being stressed about it and letting it negatively affect how I felt about blogging, I knew it was time to make a change.
I started implementing this system prior to the New Year, but I haven't really talked about it. I framed my blogging goals differently for this year and focused on what I wanted more and less of in 2014. Commenting made the list, but probably not in the way you imagine. I noted that I wanted less guilt, and commenting was something I specifically mentioned in that section: "And when it comes to pressure, I feel guilty about about not commenting enough or replying to comments quickly."
A few days ago, I was reading Judith's discussion post - Why I'm Bad at Commenting - and I loved it! It definitely reminded me of where I was at a year ago when I first wrote about my commenting habits. After commenting on her post, I realized I hadn't talked about my system on my blog or shared why commenting was already so much less stressful for me in 2014. So, I decided to turn my comment on Judith's post into a follow-up post here! So thanks, Judith, for inspiring me to write this post.
Let's start with the most important thing:
It seems really simple and dumb to write that sentence, but it was the first step for me. I had to get to the place where I realized that the pressure and guilt came from my own brain and the way I thought about everything. Real life comes first, as does my mental state, so I'm not letting the shoulds dictate how I feel about commenting or blogging. This is a hobby, not an obligation. If commenting doesn't happen, then it just doesn't. It was a total "um, duh!" moment for me when I started thinking of it that way.
The other big change I've made?
I have almost completely stopped responding to comments on my own blog because it was either a) respond to comments on my blog or b) leave comments on other blogs. I know how important replies are to some people, but I figured most people, when it comes down to it, want a comment on their posts more than a response indicating that I read and appreciated what they said about mine. I don't refuse to reply to comments - it's just not my priority anymore. I do try to make sure I reply to any questions OR continue the conversation on Twitter or via email if there's more discussion to be had.
Whew! I haven't even talked about my system yet. I'd apologize, but I think it's important for me to note that a big part of why my system works for me is that I changed my attitude about commenting. Comments are amazing, but I have to remind myself they aren't the point of blogging. Quality over quantity, y'all.
My Five-Step Commenting System
1. Set a goal.
I made it a goal to leave a certain number of comments per week based on what I felt like a) I had the time for and b) I would have the energy to do. The number is completely up to you! For me, it was five comments. If I leave more, that's awesome. But all I really shoot for is leaving five thoughtful comments per week. And, as previously discussed, I don't beat myself up if I don't leave any some weeks. It's a goal, not a rule.
I divide all the blogs I follow into different folders: two have "names" and three are "numbers."
The Name Folders:
There is Read Only for blogs I love to read but almost never comment on. For me, that's something like Forever Young Adult, author blogs, and a few niche topic-focused blogs (like ones focused on Jane Austen) that I like checking but don't feel like I need to comment on.
Next, I have Trial for new blogs that I've just found. Since I'm not sure yet how they'll fit into my numerical folders, I stick them in their own category. Once they've hung out there for a bit, I'll move them to whatever numbered folder they fit into for me.
The Number Folders:
I have three other folders that are simply numbered 1, 2 and 3. The folders, and how blogs go into them, are based on two things: how many of the posts I typically read and how much I usually have to say about what is posted.
1 is for blogs where I read almost all of the posts and/or want to practically comment on everything.
2 is for blogs that fall into the middle - I read most but not all of what is posted and usually have at least two or three things I could comment on.
3 is for blogs I enjoy enough to subscribe to but don't often read a lot of what is posted (like if we have very different reading taste) and thus don't usually have a ton to say in response to the posts.
3. Work backwards.
Throughout the week, I work my way backwards based on these categories. Whenever I log into Feedly I always check Read Only first, since I can read through them pretty quickly and am rarely leaving comments. I then move to the Trial folder, then folder 3, and finally folder 2. I work backwards because I like to start with what I can conquer quickest and easiest.
I'll go to a folder, mark everything as read that I doesn't interest me, and then go back to read what's left. From there, I'll pick around five-ish posts to comment on. It's often five posts between folders 2 and 3, but I do sometimes choose five from each. I don't comment a ton on the Trial folder until I finally move it to a numerical one (or remove it if I never read anything).
4. Save posts.
The posts in the 1 folder stay there the longest. It's the smallest number of blogs in a folder, BUT it accounts for the majority of what's in my Feedly at any given time. I'll save a ton of posts in there for giant comment dumps whenever I have extra time and/or energy. The stuff in 1 can sit there for two weeks or even more than a month. One weekend I may pick one blog from 1 to shower with comment love, and the next weekend I may work through them all. This is the main place where my "system" is totally up in the air.
I realized that there was always a handful of blogs that I spent more time on, and it was harder for me to not leave my five comments on those each week. So, I separated them out. I want to mix up where I leave my five comments, which is why I try to scatter my weekly five comments among blogs in my 2 and 3 folders. I needed a system that could accommodate both my desire for variety in where I commented and my need to spend a little extra time on certain blogs.
5. Return the love, if possible.
I've already explained how I handle replying to comments on my own blog, but I do also have a step in my system for "returning" comments. First of all, I don't really do it. Well, not exactly. I won't immediately go leave a comment on a blog just because one was left here. I have an aversion to obligation. But I will go check out blogs that have commented on mine, especially if they are leaving really thoughtful comments or keep returning to my blog. If I'm intrigued, I add them to the Trial folder and proceed from there as I've described above. I do try to "return comments" - just in my own way.
This system works for me because I needed:
- A lot less pressure on myself
- A specific, manageable goal
- A folder system to help me meet my goal quickly and easily
- A way to still go on longer comment dumps when I had time
Have you found a commenting system that works for you?
And any thoughts on the crazy way I make it work?