Yesterday, in a fit of bluntness, I let loose on Twitter an idea I’ve been simmering for a long time.

If you’ve disabled commenting on your blog, I’m gonna go ahead and say you’re not a blogger.

I had a conversation with my friend Scott about it. And a bunch of people responded on Twitter. And I talked about it at work with Zak.

@meagangracie asked, “how would you classify @mimismartypants then?” And I replied, “As a writer.”

I mentioned Seth Godin, the master of profoundly stating the obvious*. He has a tremendous impact on conversation in the marketing and publishing worlds, but he’s pretty much inaccessible. How would I classify him? As a writer. (And as a speaker and a consultant and whatever.)

Blogging is about conversation, and not just the conversation a blogger might spark elsewhere. It’s about a conversation on that writer’s blog. Put another way (or perhaps a different way; I’m still working this out in my head): a blogger is a participant in conversation, whether it’s a conversation they start or simply join in on. Just starting it and walking away or watching silently from the sidelines is simply not participating.

What do you think?

* I say that without sarcasm. There’s a true talent in conveying such things to people, and he really, really has it.

14 responses to “What’s a Blogger?”

  1. SisterDiane Avatar

    I agree. If blogs are indeed “social media,” then the idea should be that the audience can talk back, and the author will respond.

    The only problem with social media is scalability. There definitely comes a point where you have to inch back from your audience in tiny increments, because the demands on your time and attention become too much. I struggle with this all the time – I want very much to be present and accessible, but… have you seen my email inbox lately?!

  2. Kim Werker Avatar

    I haven't seen your inbox, but I can imagine it. :)

    I don't think participating in conversation needs to mean “reply to every
    comment.” (And I don't think that's what you're implying, either.) As a
    blogger gets more known and their blog more popular, it becomes harder and
    harder to stay connected to everyone who joins in on the conversation. That
    just means the blogger's way of participating needs to evolve.

  3. crystalynkae Avatar

    Kim, I'm totally with you. It seems like I get many more comments on facebook or twitter – folks rarely respond as a comment section of my blog. are FB & twitter stealing blogging's thunder?
    or maybe it's the sign-in process on blogs that turns folks off?

  4. heatherdollarstorecraftscom Avatar

    I came across a blog today that closes comments after 10 days… a craft blog. I'm not sure why that is… too much spam to deal with after a certain amount of time passes?

  5. Kim Werker Avatar

    We were just considering this for the LexPublica blog. My preference,
    especially for a new blog that people are discovering all the time, is to
    keep comments open indefinitely so new visitors feel welcome to join into
    the conversation.

  6. GinkgoKnits Avatar

    I think that's a very valid division.

    It seems like there is also a difference between someone writing on non-personal topics (ideas about business or politics) and someone just chronicling their daily life. While the former can be the writer/journalist category, a lot of the latter are just public diaries that have attracted an audience. If you are a diarist, you may also be a writer but you may not depending on your devotion to the craft of writing and editing which can be hard to judge from the outside. I'm not sure I'd call someone a writer if all they do is type out a story from their day in the exact way they'd describe it over the phone to her friends and can only maybe bother to run spellcheck before hitting publish. My feeling is that if the diarist blogger publishes things to be seen by a wider audience that would be same as a story I write in an email and email to friends, she's not a writer as much as one who correspond via a computer media. Would a person's twitter musing make him a writer? Yes, if it's done with creative or intellectual intent. No, if it's just him just complaining like the rest of us about the price of milk. It's hard to know where the term writer ends if the world is also living (and writing) online.

  7. Michelle Avatar

    I don't know, Kim — maybe that's what having a blog means today, but traditionally I think a blog was simply a record of one's thoughts, or events/news on a single topic, and comments were optional, and not something that defined what it was that one's website was. (I can't believe I'm using the word “traditionally” in tandem with “blog,” but what the hell — it's almost a new decade.) As blog tech became more accessible and more people created websites in which to post things that they thought were important or fun or creative or whathaveyou, comments became indispensable, but I also remember a number of blog purists claiming that these particular websites weren't blogs, precisely because they were more personal, or more focused on conversation, and less on sheer information-dump. The distinction seemed rather unfair at the time.

    I think the Internet is amazing in its capacity to grow organically and have these sorts of definitions and labels and websites flow and mutate and evolve. They're all blogs, 'sfar as I'm concerned.

    Put another way: If a blog has comments but no one leaves any, is it truly a blog? (blog:tree::internet:woods) (OK, I am kinda in love with what I just did there.)

    I guess my point is that I'm not totally comfortable with the idea of making conversation the defining mark of a blog. When conversation happens, it's fantastic. When a post generates a reaction, it's great. I think the point of a good blog is to forge connections between writers and readers, and I'm not entirely convinced that one needs comments in order to achieve that. (Though it helps, most definitely.)

    And I also think that disabling comments after 10 days is completely reasonable in terms of how fast news gets old on the Internet.

  8. Georgette P. Avatar
    Georgette P.

    I disagree.

    “Blog”is defined as a web page that is updated, as opposed to a static page, which is not. Period. Blogs are used for many reasons, not all of them as yours is– for commercial purposes. You have to be available to your customers. People who blog for themselves or a small number of people have other reasons and being available may not be one of them. I have three blogs. One has comments, two don't. One is for my students, one is connected to a huge forum (people are encouraged to come in and post), and the last is where I write about my life, post photos. It is a diary. People who want can e-mail me about content. My friends do. I am not interested in random people coming across it and telling me what they think, as they did with a previous blog. Random people translate into possible sales for you, so you need comments, you need to build community and have people keep coming back.

    It is the function of the blog that determines the use of comments and nothing else. A blog in itself is a webpage that is upated.

  9. Kim Werker Avatar

    I don't think people leaving comments is what makes a blog, but more the
    writer's openness to them. In other words, a blog that allows comments but
    doesn't get any is still a blog. A website that has writing but no
    commenting is not a blog. And in fact, I think openness to comments is the
    only thing that defines a blog.

    On closing comments after a certain period of time, I have no opinion.
    Closing comments doesn't negate blogness; having comments open for any
    significant time ensures blogness.

    (I love that we disagree on this. It's like a crazy thing!)

  10. Kim Werker Avatar

    Hm. I've never thought of myself as a commercial blogger. (Not with this
    blog, anyway. It was different when I was writing the blog.)
    But I can see why you think I am one. Really, I blog because I like to, and
    I love the conversations that ensue both with people I know and with those I
    don't know (yet). But aside from the posts I write that explicitly push my
    books or events or whatever, I don't write posts with a goal in mind of
    making sales. There are actually few things I've ever done with the explicit
    goal of making sales. Selling things makes me queasy.

    That said, I recognize I owe my career to the things I've written and
    created online. In that sense, yes, I can't divorce myself from the
    awareness that what's posted online can have significant work/financial

    Still, I'm not convinced that a blog without comments is still a blog. The
    posts might be widely read or narrowly focused or serve some other very
    specific purpose very well, but without conversation, it's not a blog.

    I suppose what I mean is that I think a blog, in a very contemporary way, is
    very specifically a website that has (loosely defined) frequently posted new
    content and houses (at least the potential for) conversation. This is very
    consciously contrasted with “old” media that simply provided fodder for
    thought or for discussions elsewhere, letters to the editor notwithstanding.

  11. Kim Werker Avatar

    Hm. This is a great thing to bring up. Discussions online are certainly more
    and more distributed, and I don't in any way think that's a bad thing.
    There's certainly less overhead to conversing via Facebook or Twitter versus
    a blog, but as could be shown by the discussion in the comments of this
    post, alone, people still find some value in leaving their thoughts on the
    actual post.

    Come to think of it, in many ways I think blog comments contribute to a
    great degree to the value of the post itself. Even if some or even most of
    the discussion happens off-site.

    Food for thought…

  12. misti Avatar

    Interesting conversation. I have been thinking a lot about blogs, how comments seem to be lacking. Some very popular blogs have very small comment bases, which I find strange. Are people afraid to comment?

  13. misti Avatar

    Interesting conversation. I have been thinking a lot about blogs, how comments seem to be lacking. Some very popular blogs have very small comment bases, which I find strange. Are people afraid to comment?

  14. trueepicure Avatar

    Thanks for tweeting about this and reminding me about your post. I’m thinking a lot lately about what I write on my blog, how I want to use my blog, and whether I want to link my blog with my real name and be OUT about it. The other issue for me is that my blog doesn’t directly relate to my “real job” so I’m not sure how I feel about linking the two. Maybe I need a “work” blog too?

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