Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Forgotten chapters of Blogging 101?

A blogger needs to be many things - intelligent, well-read, interesting, creative and articulate.

However, there is one trait that seems to far surpass all these in many instances.

Bloggers need to be good relationship managers more than anyone else because people’s egos are subtle and extremely worthy to them.

When I relate to a blog, I do not isolate the writer away from it – the blog is a symbolic personality of the writer to me. Importantly so, because I have, in almost all cases, not seen or interacted face to face with the writer. And since judgment is a largely subconscious automatic process, it takes only a few minutes to form a majorly unchangeable impression of the person who has written it and the next time we go there to the blog, it is not just to read the words but also in a way, to visit the ‘person’ who has written it.

The same does not somehow apply for a book. With a book, it is possible to keep concrete pictures of the writer away from the writing, provided the writer is not a media celebrity or has not been too keen on a  compelling social network presence. Better still, if long since dead.

Firstly, a book is a not as transparent and blatant a window into the writer’s life as a blog is. The narrative, the characterization and language might still speak volumes of the writer’s thought process. For e.g, a person who uses a lot of satire might come across differently to you than one who uses a lot of melodrama.

However you are not really going to have an immediate inter-personal connection like one you would share if you had an update of what they think of specific issues and how they felt and reacted in myriad situations. Stories of their first kiss, their contempt towards cat people, craving for midnight dance – all these establish their identity in a far more open and definable manner that makes it easier for another to react or label them.

Secondly, relating to the author of a book is a one way process – it is not, in most of the cases, a two way interaction. In the sense, I pick a book and read it. The exchange is a one-way process. A monologue. I form deep connections with the characters in it but the author to me is simply a talented chap who has enabled me to have a leisurely evening. He is the screen on which I see my movie. 

However, in a blog there is room for two way interaction. You can comment on it and talk to the chap who wrote it. Here is where a very delicate relationship begins because leaving a comment on a personal blog is like having entered the house of someone whom you have so far seen from outside and wanted to reach out to. We expect to be welcomed in a house. We expect to be treated courteously in a house. And when if we have come in to disagree about something, it helps if it is not rudely dealt with.


And sometimes, I am not the only one entering the new house. In fact, there already seems to be a huge crowd there. It seems like a freaking party. And I perceive that I am the lone stranger in this mass of embracing buddies - an entrant to a thriving confident community; even greater need to feel respected and recognized by the host.

In other words, so many little things matter in a blog and a single mistake can make the person never again finding the goodness in any splendid thing you ever write again. A small insult can make him resolve never to step there again. Your blog never had a face of its own – from the beginning, the ‘constructed’ image of your personality in the reader’s mind was the face of your blog. 

My point? (Idha firste sollirukkalame - mind voice? LOL. Apologies)

1. Always try your best to reply to the comments on your blog. It is understandable if you are not able to do so immediately. Sometimes you might have an overwhelming number of comments. However, for over 99% of the blogs that I have visited, the maximum number always rests around 20. That should not take too much time.  Respect the time and effort that people have taken for your blog. It is not an option. It should be your principle of priority. More often than not, people come back because they love you.

It often surprises me when I see blogs where the writer seems to have some iron policy that he/she would not reply to comments, even if there are just a couple of comments for each post. I don't blame them. I am only curious as to what could be the reasoning behind such an action. Perhaps they feel that stranger interaction should not be encouraged? Or that the 'purity' of the written word would be compromised if additional frivolities are added? I don't understand.

2. Try your best to reply in a personalized manner - the way you would have spoken to them, had they said it to you live. Be courteous. Express interest in the other person. Be grateful. You need not type a paragraph in reply but one always can sense and distinguish a mechanical response from one with a personalized touch. 

P.S: It is true that these days, authors too are in the realm of having to facilitate two way interactions constantly with their readers. Tweets, FB pages, websites - the options are many, whether to their anguish or glee, I do not know. However, I prefer the days when I did not personally know the author. Ruskin Bond, Jane Austen, Satyajit ray...their writing defined them and continues to do so in my mind. An age where the writer's life dominates the writing is becoming increasingly tiresome. Of course, this is just my case. I do not think it anywhere near the mass opinion, especially in this matter. After all, I am aware of my excessive love and need for detachment.

P.S: I thank The Visitor for bringing to notice point 1 quite a long time back.

Image courtesy http://interactivemultimediatechnology.blogspot.in/2009/11/varied-collection-of-interface.html

20 comments:

PeeVee™ said...

Oh great. Now I feel guilty :/
I was waiting till I'm done with my research work to do justice to all the serious comments and now, I just feel guilty.

Srinidhi said...

I think part of the reason I go back to some blogs more than others is the sort of relationship the blogger has with his/her readers :)

And I am glad to have you as one of my readers :)

Tangled up in blue... said...

Wow! I did not realise so much work and so much thought goes into blogging for some people. I would have been very hesitant to take it up if I'd been aware of all these implications.

It's for these very same reasons that social networking is worrisome for me. Most people exhaust my mind, I don't know what the right things to say to them are - I cannot calculate what or how much anyone's sense of humour can or cannot withstand.

I am so afraid of hurting people inadvertently. I used to believe in the old, "Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me." but now I'm not so sure.

People are so quick to take offense and so easy to turn off completely.

I actually turned to blogging because it felt easier somehow. And I am glad I did, I found so many friends because of it and so many like-minded folks that I felt it was alright to make a few social gaffes occasionally. :D

But now I must admit after reading this, I have decided I need to be a little more wary in my conversations with people online. Because they have only my words to judge me by and they do not have the intonations of my voice or my facial expressions to go by.

Sinduja said...

PeeVee, Srinidhi and K, it is ironic that for a post as this, three of the most warm and responsive bloggers out there had to pour in the first comments.

@PeeVee: Guilty? Woman, you are an exception to all the norms in the post. Firstly, you get 40 plus comments which I agree is quite an arduous task at hand. Secondly, you are really one of the most 'give-it-back-to-the-community' bloggers I have ever met and thirdly, you almost all the time do reply to comments. So...well, guilty is the last thing you should be feeling! :)

The Fool said...

Food for thought. Wonder if it is possible in some way for a blogger to establish and maintain the same relationship an author does with his readers.

Sinduja said...

@Srinidhi: So much more glad to be there at your blog each time! :)

@K: I have told this to you before and I will tell you again - I am a huge fan of the way you reply to comments. It is true that communication can be a challenge on the virtual media but by all means, from what I have observed, I can't think of you going wrong. So, there is no room for concern. Anyways, take my word with a pinch of salt. I might not represent the reality.

Sinduja said...

@The Fool: I must admit it feels quite bad to address you every time as 'the fool'.

Blogging and writing a book, I feel, are two different things because as readers, we approach the two medium differently. We approach a book seeking a great literary treat/ a verbal extravagant escapade to an imaginary world. However, we approach a blog to know more about the blogger and his/her thoughts.

It is the difference between watching a movie directed by James Cameron and seeing an interview of James Cameron. Personally, there is so much more scope to build personalized relationships through blogs than books.

PeeVee™ said...

You're one of the few people whose compliments go straight to my head even before I have the time to caution myself :)

Thank you, if even half of what you say becomes true at some point, I'd be able to say with pride that I'm a good blogger :)

And thank you, also, for noticing that I get 40 comments instead of NOT seeing, like most others, that my replies are included in the 80-odd that appear :)

Tangled up in blue... said...

Thank you for saying that, Sinduja. Your vote of confidence means a lot to me. You know, sometimes I think it is easier to talk to people because they're bolder on the net than they are in person. I suppose that is why I've managed to make as many friends as I have. :) I am glad I found you, Sinduja or rather that you found me! :)

Anonymous said...

Hello Sindu,

"Thank you for letting me into your life..."
I heard the anchor of a TV program say this. True, for blogs too isn't it? When a reader reads a post he is allowing the blogger into his/her life. Similarly when a blogger allows comments, the blogger is allowing the commentor into his/her life.

When the communication is two way a relationship is established, virtual though it may be.

Nice post. :)

-V

harishsram said...

i had put of sharing my views on this topic for obvious reason that i dont reply to many of the comments in my blog. But while reading this- http://baradwajrangan.wordpress.com/2012/04/02/a-month-without-mary/ i realised even some of the prolific bloggers whose comment section is a forum on its own, can become less inviting.

I dono about others, but its not some iron policy to avoid replying to comments. Basically a blogpost is written for various reasons. It could be to vent the steam from one's system or to ask opinion on certain issues or to record/capture certain events. Finally there is 1 last type - a blogspot is written for the beauty & joy of writing.

Most of the my blogposts are a form of outlet for the turmoil inside. Once the expulsion process is complete the post becomes alien to me. So when someone comes & says 'nice post' 'well written' or for that matter 'poor work' these flat adjectives doesn't compel me to say anything in return because i have moved on from it. Basically the commenter should evoke the interest of the blogger to revisit the topic - that is how a healthy conversation starts. I am not asking for some intellectual comments. why not elaborate on what made you like/detest the post. It is this extra effort from the commenter that truly encourages a writer & not some empty superlative adjectives.

Anonymous said...

@harishram: True. Different people - different strokes. :)

-V

Sinduja said...

@V: When a reader reads a post, he is letting the blogger into his or her life. Hmmmm...really? I don't know... seems more like he wants to stay at a safe distance and take a sneak peek into the blogger's life. Similarly for the blogger too.

Like I have said earlier, virtual world is a comfort zone and part of the comfort comes from the fact that while we can chose to connect at some level, we also have the freedom to stay disconnected at some level. 'Letting into life' is a huge thing.... I don't know if I have left even many people I am related to, into my life.

Sinduja said...

@Harish: I did not understand your point about Baradwaj's blog.

I agree that a blog post could be written for all the reasons that you have mentioned. However, I feel there is the element of having connected to a bigger world the minute we chose the blog to write and not the personal journal/notebook. And maybe being in the public sphere brings with it certain courtesies? I don't know.

Of the 300 people who read the post, 3 have taken time to comment. Anything might be their intention - maybe to attract your attention or get you to visit their blog or simply some connection. Whatever it is, responding to them is our way of saying thank you. You might say you don't really see anything to be thankful about in their comment. Hmmm, that would be an interesting proposition. Should you force yourself to respond for courtesy's sake? No. But it helps to remember that there are so many blogs out there, dying for a few words of attention.

It is not an evil thing not to reply but it would be a wonderful habit if inculcated. Just my opinion. :) Thanks for the comment Harish!

Anonymous said...

"... letting into one's life..."
I meant that by reading a blog a reader, in a limited way, is influenced by the thoughts expressed by the blogger and thereby is letting the blogger into his/her life.

And I agree that replying to comments is a desirable trait; by replying, a blogger acknowledges the (virtual) existence of the commentor.

-V

harishsram said...

Mr.Baradwaj is someone who though not the outgoing type, is good with the comments section. This particular post was close to his heart. When ppl got interested in the back story instead of the post itself, he expressed his angst about the quality of comments that were coming in.

Maybe the man felt he deserved more than an appeasing comment to satiate his hunger.

Anonymous said...

@Harish - I just read that post of Mr Baradwaj and was blown over by the intense feeling that it created in me - I could feel the loss as though it were my own.

-V

Anonymous said...

@Sindu - The comments in that post discuss precisely some aspects of what your post says - that a person's writing in some way reflects something about the author.

-V

Sinduja said...

@V : "I meant that by reading a blog a reader, in a limited way, is influenced by the thoughts expressed by the blogger and thereby is letting the blogger into his/her life."

No no..othukka mudiyaadhu..samaalichifying! :P That way, everything is about letting into life - watching movies, hearing speeches, listening to lyrics. But is that the case? No. I think the 'Magic Bullet Theory' (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypodermic_needle_model) is long dead and thank god for that :)

@Harish: Blessed is the man who is endowed with the fortune of having people around him who can provide learned, consciousness raising conversations. Blessed I am, I think.

Anonymous said...

I never knew about these theories of communication. Thanks for the link, I learnt something new.

As an aside - Have you read / seen Ibsen's "A Doll's House"? Do read it when you find time.

-V