September 20, 2012

Where Have All the Comments Gone?

When I began writing this blog in 2002, I did not provide for comments. I didn’t know much about blogs back then, so I doubt I thought much about it. As the years went by and blogs became more popular, I began to see the utility of allowing comments, and I was impressed by the kind of communities that some blogs attracted.

I remember a conversation I had about comments with Terry Martin, the “Father Jake” of Father Jake Stops the World. Terry’s posts elicited lots of comments, sometimes a hundred or more. I was concerned that I might be overwhelmed with comments were I to allow them. Terry suggested that supporting comments was unnecessary, so I left well enough alone.

In September 2008, Tony Seel criticized me for not supporting comments on my blog in a post on his own blog titled “Why is Lionel Deimel afraid of conversation?” I was not afraid of conversation, of course, and explained my thinking in a comment on Tony’s post. (That did not lead to conversation, as it turned out.)

Finally, more than a year later, I took the plunge and allowed comments on my blog. This required a redesign of the blog, but the change was worth the trouble.

So why am I writing about comments now?

My fears of being overwhelmed by visitors expressing their opinions and arguing with one another were overblown. Most of my posts attract no comments at all, and seldom does one accumulate as many as 10. Rarely do I receive a comment that justifies a long reply or one that requires extensive research. A few of the comments that show up are really ads for something or other. I delete these as soon as I become aware of them.

What is particularly perplexing is the lack of any correlation between length of post and number of comments. In fact, there seems to be no correlation between the number of times a post has been viewed and the number of comments. My post “A Preëmptive Political Post” serves as a good example. It is relatively long; includes many individual, presumably controversial, assertions; and has been viewed more than 700 times over two and a half weeks. It has attracted not a single comment.

So, I have a question for my readers. (I know there are readers.) Why don’t you leave comments more often? Are my posts so brilliant that they leave you stunned and intimidated? Are my posts so dumb that they are beneath notice? Are you too busy to take time to leave a comment? I haven’t a clue, and I suspect that different groups of readers may have different disincentives for writing comments.

Please leave a comment offering your own explanation. Your failure to do so will only deepen the mystery.


  1. I have been thinking very similar thoughts. I began my blog hoping that some of what I wrote would garner some thoughts from readers, and that from the resulting conversations we all might learn something. Not happening.

    I shall read the comments you receive with some interest.


  2. Like the famous Mister Ed, most of us will never speak unless we have something to say.

    But, further, I find I don't comment as much as I used to. On controversial topics I find I've mostly spoken my mind and find there's not much satisfaction in repeating myself, and hearing the same things repeated back. Maybe, as the novelty of these forums wears off, others feel that way. Seems to me there's been a general drop-off in comments all over.

    Also, topics I have an interest in reading aren't necessarily topics on which I feel I should say anything. Because of a friend's interest in ordination I picked up an interest in Episcopalians a few years back, so I continue read some of your blogs. But I have no interest, as a Catholic, in jumping into controversies I have no part in.

    (I commented on one of your posts below only because the discussion touched a factual question, the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, followed by a news article claiming the pope was telling people to leave; admittedly, "Pope suggests prayer to Mary for Doubt" is a less killer headline.)

    Besides, seems to me your comment quota is about average. I've been putting things in a little blog for three or four years now, and I doubt if I've had more than ten comments. Maybe no one's there, and maybe it's really, really dull. But I like to think people respond to my writing with an astonished, awed silence.

    1. Nick,

      Thanks for responding. I think you are right about a decrease in commenting generally, certainly on the blogs I usually read. There are exceptions, of course, but I haven’t seen the conversations I used to see on Father Jake Stops the World anymore.

  3. I too generally don't say anything unless I really have something to add, but please know that I appreciate your commentary.

    I know how great it feels to get comments just so you know someone's out there. I just feel awkward when all I have to say is "yep."

  4. Some people have responded to my question on Facebook. I suspect that people who spend a lot of time on Facebook prefer to comment there, where, in general, they are speaking to friends, rather than authors.

    The distribution of comments I see on blogs may be related to the Facebook phenomenon. I see more comments on sites that post or take note of other people’s writing than I do on sites, like this one, that offer personal views. In the former case, the comments are addressed to the community of readers, not directly to authors. An example of such a blog that I read regularly (and at which I sometimes leave comments myself) is Thinking Anglicans.

    Additional thoughts?

  5. I'm trying to learn more about the Episcopal Church here in Pittsburgh but am not a member. So As noted above, I read for information but don't feel that I should participate in conversation. Also, as I non-Episcopalian I don't always understand some of the details of the situations discussed, then I try to research on my own

    1. Gale,

      It is hard even for Episcopalians to understand some of the matters I write about, though I do write about other things as well.

      In any case, if you want to talk about The Episcopal Church or the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, feel free to contact me directly.

  6. My view, most of the time, is that you have done research on your topics and it is a way for me to learn some new things, even opinions with which I might not agree. I don't reply because my replies would be my opinion, for the most part, and I probably don't have good research or sources to back them up, so I don't feel they would be supportable or authoritative. Just my thoughts...

  7. One issue not yet mentioned is the ergonomics of new platforms. I used to use a laptop exclusively. Now I use a tablet and a smartphone. I personally find these great for reading but not so great for any serious amount of typing. When I want to write more than a couple of words on my tablet I usually resort to my Bluetooth keyboard (as just now). But if it's not handy or convenient to pull out, then my comment has to be pretty important to me to go the screen keyboard route.

    1. Changing technology, particularly its unanticipated negative effects, had not occurred to me as an influence on the general decline of comments. The problem you cite, however, no doubt applies to the behavior of many.


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