How I’m hoping to aid clarity in online discussion

Some of the responses to some of my recent posts have been interesting. There are now more people reading St. Eutychus that I don’t know than there are people who I do. People who haven’t been following along for the six years I’ve been posting on this blog. So I’ve done some housekeeping.

I’ve updated my about page to be something more substantial than a staccato list of definitive factoids about me.

I’ve created a comment policy.

And I’ve edited my disclaimer.

I’m going to expect that people who comment here have familiarised themselves with these before they attack me (not before they comment), so they’ll be useful to refer people to. But they also say something about why I blog, what I blog, how I see this blog, and how I see conversation on this blog. They provide the interpretive context for reading each of my posts.

I’d love your feedback on each, or all of these – especially if you think my expectations are ridiculous or I’m incredibly wrong about any of it.

While I was doing some housekeeping I moved the Facebook comment form off the home page and onto each individual post, where previously it was on both. It was slowing down the page too much and a little too cluttered. Clutter reduces clarity.

Confession: I have been a bad citizen of blogworld

A long time ago, in a virtual galaxy not so far from me, people used to comment on blogs as a blogging love language. I knew that, It was blog etiquette. Somehow that world passed me by. And I miss that.


Image Credit: Apparently there’s a conference called blog world. Who knew? (This guy)

I have commented much more sparingly than I used to. Others seem to have a similar blog comment malaise. I’m going to do my bit to hold up my end of the social (media) contract. And be more appreciative of the good content other people are writing that I’m thinking about.

Here are some links, rather than comments, as my first step towards rectifying this situation.

Andrew has pretty much killed Things Findo Thinks, replacing it with A Borrowed Flame. I liked this SLR camera simulator he found.

Anna at Goannatree has been writing about writing about writing. She’s posting about her PhD, which is about literature. Which is pretty meta. I enjoyed this post, which came hot on the heels of this one about a week of dissertation themed life in Scotland.

Al writes nice little posts, and I like them. His posts about Tim Chester’s posts about Social Media made me grumpy, not at him, at Tim Chester. So angry I commented on the first one. Also, his post about preaching at weddings is something I’m going to file away for the future.

Ali posted something last week about her near brush with a raving gunman in Sydney, and this week introduced me to The Tallest Man on Earth. She also tagged me in a book spine poetry meme which I will participate in once my books consist of something other than light reading on Corinthians and the Pentateuch.

Arthur and Tamie are getting ready to finish life in Melbourne, start life as parents, and start life in Tanzania. Their posts are fun. I liked this one.

Ben has a new theme. Which looks nice – though for some reason the first second after you load it the fonts are really effeminate, only to be replaced with the felt tip styled ones.

David posted a good little review of the 2 Ways 2 Live App, and a better post about marriage and stuff.

Izaac has been pondering preaching, I commented on two of those because I think the idea that word ministry is ONLY preaching is a bit spurious and doesn’t fit with the Bible’s picture of prophetic ministry, or the way Paul conceives of his teaching of the churches he cares for to include his life and sufferings.

Mikey posted about the search for black curtains, spiritually inspired cake, and excellence – following this discussion on Hans’ blog. Hans has an excellent post on Christianity and homosexuality too.

Steve at Communicate Jesus also reflects on the excellence thing.

Peter Ko posted on a strange issue (I thought). Apparently there are young Christians who think it’s a good idea for unmarried Christian couples to holiday together. Alone. And further, that it’s a bad idea for people to be “legalistic” about the issue. This isn’t legalism. This is wisdom. And thus, I became an old person.

Simone has been writing reports and musicals.

This isn’t a comprehensive list of the posts I’ve enjoyed from the blogs that I read, but I hope that in some way it makes amends for my poor online citizenship in recent times.

UPDATE: I completely forgot this one. Which was, indeed, the motivation behind providing a list to blogs I enjoy. Dave McDonald has started a blog tracking his fight with cancer, and the thoughts that go with it. This sensational letter to Sam Harris is a fine example of what he’s producing and why you should read it. Plus – it’s a great way to keep him, his family, and those around him, in your prayers.

Going social with Facebook Comments

Hey. You can now comment on posts here using Facebook commenting. Check it out. You’ll love it. Or maybe you won’t. For those of you who still don’t have Facebook the traditional commenting options are still available… Try it, and let me know.

Also. Almost 100 people (99 at the moment) like St. Eutychus on Facebook. Are you one of them?

There’s an Internet Law that describes why you people don’t comment…

It’s called the 1% Rule. It has its own wikipedia article. And getting a wikipedia article is more difficult than you might think. So it must be true.

But here:

“The 1% rule states that the number of people who create content on the internet represents approximately 1% (or less) of the people actually viewing that content (e.g., For every one person who posts on a forum, there are at least ninety-nine other people viewing that forum but not posting).

The “90-9-1″ version of this rule states that 1% of people create content, 9% edit or modify that content, and 90% view the content without contributing.”

That explains it.

Blog Commenting Guidelines for Journalists

The Guardian Newspaper has posted its commenting guidelines for its own journalists.

I like them.

1. Participate in conversations about our content, and take responsibility for the conversations you start.

2. Focus on the constructive by recognising and rewarding intelligent contributions.

3. Don’t reward disruptive behaviour with attention, but report it when you find it.

4. Link to sources for facts or statements you reference, and encourage others to do likewise.

5. Declare personal interest when applicable. Be transparent about your affiliations, perspectives or previous coverage of a particular topic or individual.

6. Be careful about blurring fact and opinion and consider carefully how your words could be (mis)interpreted or (mis)represented.

7. Encourage readers to contribute perspective, additional knowledge and expertise. Acknowledge their additions.

8. Exemplify our community standards in your contributions above and below the line.

Confessions #5: Sometimes I post here rather than commenting elsewhere

I think blogging time, in my schedule, is a fungible thing. That’s a cool word I just learned. Basically, I have an allocated amount of time for “blogging” and I have to spread that time between writing, reading and commenting.

So sometimes I write lots of posts here and neglect the “community” aspect of blogging. Times like yesterday. Yesterday my blogging comrade and e-friend Ben mentioned a really significant moment. A momentous moment. He sold his house. Without having to go to auction. Which he had expressed concern about. What a relief that must have been for him, and his family. But here’s little old me. Blogging about pointless stuff like Jesus themed thongs. So caught up in my own world that I didn’t comment on his post. Nor did I take the obligatory Monday Quiz.

And now, a day afterwards, I feel guilty because I’ve missed the commenting boat. Other people, who have commented, clearly love Ben more. The only way I can possibly rectify the situation is by trumping a comment with a link. That’s how blog love works. The blug1 beats the comment. It’s like a game of scissors rock paper. The Blug beats the comment. The comment beats the read. And the read must therefore beat the blug – because there’s no point blugging if people aren’t reading.

1A portmanteau2 of blog and plug.
2The strategic mashing together of two words to form one concept. Like Venn diagramming words.

Commenting Rules

Commenting rules on blogs are generally pretty passe.

Mine can be summed up as:

  1. Please do, unless you’re a spammer.
  2. If you disagree with me prepare for me to argue my case. For a long time. Making sure I have the last word. Unless your name is Andrew.*

There are times when I wonder how Christians should be governing their behaviour online. Justin Taylor had some good guidelines. He took the high road and used the Bible.

  1. I hope this can be a place where we “seek understanding” before critiquing, where we are quick to listen and slow to speak, where we judge others charitably not critically, where we encourage and build up each other rather than tearing down and destroying each other.
  2. I would encourage commenters to consider carefully the following commands and principles regarding our speech:
  3. “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt” (Col. 4:6).
  4. “By your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt. 12:37).
  5. “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Rom. 12:10).
  6. “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29).
  7. Speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15, 25).
  8. “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (James 1:26).

Those are great if your commenters are Christians… I like these ones (via Gordo) from Triablog (they expand on each point in this list on the post).

These are the first five, of ten.

  1. You can say pretty much anything you please about the team. Attack us with impunity. We don’t care. We can take it.
  2. It is not, however, equally acceptable to turn the combox into a free-fire zone whereby one outsider can heap personal abuse on another outsider.
  3. Dialogue is a two-way street. If someone comments on what we say, we reserve the right to respond.
  4. By the same token, we reserve the right not to respond. You don’t pay the bills around here. We choose where to put our time.
  5. Expletives, abbreviated or not, will not be tolerated. Ad hominem invective, as a substitute for reasoned argument, is unacceptable.

*He sometimes gets the last word.

IntenseDebate

So I’ve been using IntenseDebate for my comments for a while now. And while it allows cool features like giving you the ability to post YouTube Videos and pictures, to log in using various online accounts (like Facebook or Twitter) or as a guest, a pretty good spam filter, and the ability to vote comments up or down – it can be a little bit slow and annoying.Plus, nobody uses those features anyway.

I’m thinking about canning it. What do you reckon? If you’re hanging around wishing you could comment but put off by complexity just “like” this post and I’ll assume that’s your indication that I should kill the system.

While you’re telling me what you think of that system feel free to raise any other things that annoy you about the design or technology behind this blog… I’m always interested in fixing those issues because it gives me a chance to play with code and design stuff.

Over to you.

Top five rules for blogging: #5 comment elsewhere

Blog readers don’t just fall from the sky… well that’s only partly true. A lot of readers come via Google. And they may as well fall from the sky.

To significantly boost your traffic you can do one of two things – you can write google friendly copy, or you can try to steal other people’s readers by getting involved in their blog community.

I don’t know how many readers I’ve pilfered from Ben and Simone – but I’d suggest the link love I score from them was a significant factor in my moving to more than 500 unique readers a week.

500 readers a week isn’t a significant number. I’m certainly not about to quit my job and become a full time blogger. But I’m comfortable with that. I think if I wanted to increase that figure dramatically I’d take one strategy – I’d comment on popular blogs. Particularly popular blogs that cover similar topics to mine.

Readership is only part of the picture. Blogging regularly can be tough. I think that’s why so many blogs falter. One of the things that makes it easier is the support of people who leave encouraging comments, and post links to stuff they like that you’ve written. You don’t get this sort of support unless you know the person in real life and as such want to see their blog continue, or you comment and share the link love elsewhere.

That’s my theory anyway.

Top five rules for blogging: #2 don’t blog for comments

Here are all five tips, and here’s my post on the first one.

Comments are great. All bloggers love comments. They make us feel special. Almost as special as a link. Depending on your blog love language (which Simone posted about back in January).

Comments indicate reader engagement. Comments – even negative ones – show that someone cares enough about your ideas to respond.

But if you hang your blogging hat on the number of comments you get – and make a decision to continue, or not to continue, on that basis – then you’re bound for disappointment. People don’t like to comment. I read about 300 blogs, I comment on a handful. I should comment on more – knowing as I do that people like getting comments.

Comments are not a measure of quality. They’re not a measure of how much your post is appreciated. They’re not really a measure of anything except how good you are at annoying people or how cleverly you hook your readers.

Because I like awesome scientific analysis I’ll repost this graph I made a while back.

And further analysis – I mentioned how bad my blog was when I first started the other day (prompting some people to head back to the archives). It was really bad. Terrible. And yet I scored more comments per post in those days by a long shot.

If you’re going to blog for any measurable outcome regular visitors and subscribers. Or blog for google keywords so that you can attract random visitors who might subscribe.

Blogging for comments is a thankless exercise.

YouTube Tuesday: Video by request

Hey peoples.

I want to try something new this week.

My new commenting platform, IntenseDebate (which you should try out) gives you the ability to add your own YouTube videos.

So I’m thinking that rather than post my own YouTube video this week you should all post your favourites. I’ll put a post up. I may even put my own favourite video in the comments. And then you can all go nuts.

If it works I might occasionally have a YouTube Tuesday category like music or something funny… I’m not holding high hopes. Because most of you are pretty slack at commenting (based on the ratio of regular visitors v commenters).

Here’s a couple of samples…

How not to lose friends and alienate bloggers

There is a better way.

  1. Find a blog/article about a topic you’re passionate about online.
  2. Read and comprehend the original post.
  3. Think about a reasonable response.
  4. Write your response, erring on the side of grace and caution.
  5. Read to see if other people have commented since your last comment.
  6. Reread your comment.
  7. Make sure it’s loving in its tone, and not offensive.
  8. Post it.
  9. Realise that other people aren’t like you and don’t necessarily want their comment pages spammed. Post once per response.

How to lose friends and alienate bloggers

  1. Find a blog/article about a topic you’re passionate about online.
  2. Barely read/comprehend the original post – just find key words and points that invoke your bloodlust.
  3. Get indignant.
  4. Post a comment about why the person is wrong.
  5. Only read the follow up comments that talk directly to your point.
  6. Argue with those comments using much hyperbolic subjectivity, little objectivity in order to demonstrate why you are right while continuing to ignore the context.
  7. Read back what you, and they wrote.
  8. Feel guilty.
  9. Post a contrite apology on that discussion and a list of things that alienate people so others will learn from your mistakes.
  10. Hope that the people from the other blog also read yours so that they see said list.