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The Commentosphere

A key feature of blogs are the comments, and rare are the bloggers such as kinkybluefairy who have disabled the comments. Interestingly, the reason she gave for disabling the comments - "Because i’m always thinking about what people perceive when they read thingsz" - relates to the reason why I see comments as an integral part of a blog: for me, a blog’s authors are both the blogger and the commenters. First because people read blogs for different reasons, but reading the comments is one of them; also because the blogger is influenced by the comments, and to a greater of lesser degree the feedback from the comments will influence the content of the blog.

People also no doubt leave comments for different reasons - and most bloggers know that one way to publicise one’s blog, and to make others aware that there’s a 'new blog on the block' is to leave comments in other blogs, with a link. On the extreme of that practice, are 'free-loaders': bloggers who leave a comment such as:
'Hi great blog, check out mine'
(this is why so much comment spam now looks like this – spammers are very good at tapping into people’s interests and motivations to make people click on links)
or, in a manner more relevant to the post:
'Hi, I blogged about this too here:'

Anyway, most bloggers like to leave comments in other blogs from time to time, for various reasons, and it’s most definitely a way to expand one’s personal blogosphere.

Baumer, Sueyoshi & Tomlinson is the only paper that I know of that looks specifically at blog readers. This is a good idea. However, in their study "only three of the fifteen participants do not have their own blog." (1117); so basically, they are mostly bloggers talking about their reading practices. Hopefully, someone else will look more at the blog readers – in my upcoming survey, I will allow for them to answer questions even if they don’t have a blog.

There are three levels to blogs in terms of the blogosphere: the bloggers, the commenters, and the readers.

Also to be noted that, in terms of influence, the bloggers are the opinion leaders, trendsetters, and so on. So power radiates out from those who engage the most in the formative practices of the blogosphere.

There are some differences in terms of types of blogs though. In the 'normal' blogs (i.e. personal/lifestyle which are the majority), most of the commenters tend to also have a blog; but in the SoPo blogs this is less likely. This may also be because people in Malaysia are more careful about giving political opinions in public.

I have also started to notice what I’m starting to call 'professional commenters'. The name isn’t quite right, as they are not making money or anything, but what I mean is that these commenters regularly comment in blogs, becoming a fixture of particular blogs comment space, but don’t have their own blogs. It seems that these are more common in the SoPo blogs, such as rocky’s bru, or Che Det.

Those two blogs are high traffic blogs, and Baumer, Sueyoshi & Tomlinson also note that there is a “tendency for the non-bloggers to read only popular, highly trafficked blogs” (ibid.:1117). However on, with a readership of apprx. 15-20K readers a day, and whose posts usually get 1-300 comments, there are a greater proportion of commenters who have blogs too (or, at least, who leave their blog url).

So, a conclusion is that SoPo blogs are less of a meeting space for bloggers, and more of a place for people to engage in political discussion. Duh. It also means that if one is looking for examples of ‘pure’ blogging, it’s not in the SoPo blogs that you’ll find it.

By 'pure' (an essentialist and flawed notion I know), I mean people who blog more for the sake of blogging, rather than to achieve non-blogging oriented goals such as political influence. Blogging is basically a socialising activity, a way for people to share interests and concerns, meet others and display one’s social eligibility.

Oops. I titled this post 'The Commentosphere' and now I’ve gone off track a bit. I guess my main point is that it would also be fruitful to study blogs just by looking at the comments. There are many kinds of interactions and practices there that say a lot about blogging, on the one hand, and also could perhaps be considered separately from blogs.

What do you think?


anthroblogia on : My 2009

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One useful thing about blogs is that they also serve as a kind of 'digital memory' - like a diary, memories and thoughts are stored for a future time when you can go back and be reminded of what you've been through. How some things you thought were so imp


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Su-Lyn on :

"Blogging is basically a socialising activity, a way for people to share interests and concerns, meet others and display one’s social eligibility."

So, I'm not a "pure" blogger then? :-P I actually disagree with your definition of blogging. Of course, people can socialize through blogs; but it seems rather limited as compared to social networking sites like facebook.

To me, blogging is more accurately defined as a writing activity, rather than a socializing activity, as people blog for a lot of reasons - like expressing their opinions on issues (most socio-political blogs), providing a service (food/online boutique reviewers) etc etc.

julian on :

Well, saying 'pure blogging' is definitely opening me up to all kinds of counter-examples...

Thanks for bringing up social network sites, they are clearly more oriented towards socialising. Which is why I think less people will turn to blogging as SNS become more and more prevalent. Still, if you say blogging is a 'writing activity', then one has to ask what is the purpose of writing? If a SoPo blogger wants to promote democracy by writing, that is a social activity and writing may not be their main purpose (e.g. they may happily use video and YouTube instead).

I guess it depends what is meant by 'socialising' - I still think that's what people primarily do with blogs, though not only.

'display[ing] one's social eligibility' could include something such as writing poetry: poetry can be a way of saying 'look I'm someone interesting who says interesting things in a unique way' - i.e. I'm worth knowing.

Anyway, these are all rough thoughts. Thanks for your input :-) And feel free to give more!

mktheberge on :

I don't know that I think of my blogging as primarily a social activity. It's more of a research activity for me, although having said that, it is definitely the most social form of research I've ever done.

As an unrelated sidenote--I like your blog's namechange. Very fitting.

julian on :

Hiya. Well, I guess I'm focusing mostly on 'personal' or 'lifestyle' bloggers, so maybe that's why I think that way.

In a way, in terms of research, it's no more social than publishing or presenting papers (one puts ideas and data 'out there', and others/peers get a chance to give feedback) - but perhaps the greater immediacy (in terms of time and interpersonal contact) makes it feel more 'social'??

Glad you like the name, the old one was so boring! :-D

Prasys on :

Very well observation in deed . I was going through your posts and I think you're right about some big sites such as kennysia. There are people who seriously comment on what they think and there are those who just comment in order to get some traffic to their site and hopefully the author visits the site so that they can generate more traffic and revenue

As for me , blogging is a way of reaching out the mass public out there. In other words , we are actually telling the world on how we look at things

Oh anyway , I hope you do have a memorable stay and a good time here in Malaysia !

julian on :

Thanks for dropping by :-) Yes, blogging is a way for one person to communicate with many that never existed before.

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