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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 http://anexampleblog.blogspot.com'
(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: http://anexampleblog.blogspot.com/a-similar-post.html'

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 kennysia.com, 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?