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A short personal treatise on the comment system and its implications


So many lovely comments on that last post.

I know I have no right to complain. As many of you have pointed out, this blog has so many loyal readers and/or commenters. Some of you have been with me almost from the beginning [Bluegrass Mama, Professor Batty, Karen, Auður spring to mind …] and others show up every day to read. I know a lot of other blogs don’t have that kind of loyal readership and I value it. A lot.

I also feel somewhat guilty that I’m not able to reciprocate as I would like to. When I started blogging almost four years ago, I had just re-entered the labour market as a freelancer and I had a fair bit of time on my hands. Since then my business has grown progressively, I have a greater number of assignments and a lot less time than I used to, so things have had to be pared down and new priorities set. Unfortunately I don’t get around to visiting other people’s blogs as much as I used to, and I always feel honoured when others take the time to stop by mine.

To me, one of the best things about blogging is the interactive nature of it. I love the fact that I can write something and someone can chime in immediately, tell me what they think, commisserate, present a different point of view, share a similar experience, whatever. I love that community feel, that conversation. That’s why I try to make a point of responding to all comments, although I’m not always successful, particularly if I’m having a very busy day. I’d hate to have to shut down the comment option like some of the A-listers do. To me, that would be like blogging in a vacuum [which indeed is how it sometimes feels, even now]. I don’t see how someone like Heather Armstrong does it, even with the zillions of dollars in ad revenues.

For one reason or another, though, I seem to have a remarkably low visitor-to-comment ratio on this blog, and that sometimes bothers me. Aside from the community aspect, as Marc pointed out comments are a way of saying ‘thank you’. While it’s great that people keep coming back to read and I really appreciate that they do, when two or three or four hundred people repeatedly stop by to take advantage of something that I have taken time and effort to create and which moreover is free – without leaving a little ‘thank you’ – it can feel a bit disheartening. It sometimes makes me wonder why I’m doing it, who I’m doing it for, and if it’s really worth it. – Sentiments that most bloggers are familiar with, I’m sure.

Meanwhile, reading the comments to the last post was also a great eye-opener, because it brought home to me just how differently people view the comment thing. Some people wrote that they felt they had nothing to add … which to me is so not the point! It’s not about having to add anything profound, it’s about taking part, being present, being part of the community, saying thank you. Not that everyone has to say something every time, but … you know … sometimes.

Another possible reason for the low number of comments is that a lot of people in Iceland read this blog and perhaps they don’t feel comfortable leaving a comment because they feel they have to comment in English. This is pure speculation on my part, but it seems quite plausible, no?*

Some people wrote that they felt strange leaving a comment because they felt it was intrusive, because this blog is so personal. I was amazed! I don’t see this blog as very personal at all … believe me, there are many things going on in my life that I do not blog about here – both trivial and not-so trivial. I sometimes joke to my friends or family that my life is an open book … but of course it isn’t really. Or if it is, then only certain pages are visible.

Last but not least, I don’t want anyone to feel pressured or manipulated into leaving a comment. I know that a lot of you read only sometimes and/or comment only sometimes and that’s cool. Yes, I was feeling a bit morose about the whole thing yesterday, wondering if I needed to park this baby for a while [not the first time I say that, as some of you may recall] – but please don’t feel that you have to caretake me. My soft little underbelly was exposed, that’s all. Nothing serious.

I think I’ve now emptied the contents of my brain on the subject. Thank you for listening – and feel free to throw tomatoes at me in the comment box!

WEATHER: Cloudy with showers today. Cooler than last week. Highs of around 14°C here in the capital. Right now 11°C [52F]. Sunrise 4:52 am, sunset 10:13 pm.

* And then there are all the porno doogs, hm.



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Guðbjört August 7, 2008, 1:14 am

    Hæ Alda,

    Mér finnst æðislega gaman að lesa bloggið þitt, til að fá skemmtilegar fréttir um hvað er að frétta af Íslandi, þar sem ég bý núna erlendis. Þú skrifar rosalega vel, og það er alveg rétt hjá þér-fólk ætti að þakka fyrir sig! Takk takk 🙂 Mér finnst sérstaklega skemmtilegt að lesa þegar þú lýsir hefðbundnum hátíðisdögum á Íslandi. Bið að heilsa Ella og fólkinu hjá Heimi ef þú hittir þau.

  • Karen* August 7, 2008, 2:14 am

    Hiya! Me? an Auld Pharte? I love it!

    I don’t comment a lot because I grew up, Internet-wise, on email lists where one of the strongest taboos was the dreaded “one-liner”. Sending a simple short email to an entire list of people, many of whom were paying huge sums to download by telephone, was considered quite rude.

    Some of that Netiquette has worn away as people’s access changes but some of it is still useful. And it’s somewhat entrenched in my brain.

    But I do hear ya – I blog because I like making pretty things on the computer, so it’s mostly about me and what I want, but I like comments too.

    If it helps – I’ve been loving your My Iceland posts. Visiting in May has only made me more of an Icelandophile! I want to come back and see more – sometimes it’s so strong, I feel like I’ve got to jump on a plane right now and go.

    Funny squirrels make you miss Canada? 🙂



  • FlaBill August 7, 2008, 2:18 am

    Ditto to what you said. Please keep going.
    91 degrees in Ft. Lauderdale today. Sunny and humid. The sun rose, for which we are grateful. The sun set, for which we are thankful(cooled things off a bit).

  • Professor Batty August 7, 2008, 2:31 am

    You’ve already written an 800+ page nonfiction novel with humor, style and class. I read a page almost every day; it is a joy to read someone who knows how to communicate effectively, to say nothing of giving me a needed “Iceland Fix” almost every day (my next trip to the rock is slated for 2010!)

  • Dave Z. August 7, 2008, 2:40 am

    I originally found your site while looking for, coincidentally, wearther reports for Iceland for a trip I made in June to the northeast.

    I have stayed because of your writings have kept my interest. I have also enjoyed your writings about your trips within Iceland, which have shown me how cursory my visit was.

    Don’t get too discouraged, sometimes a comment doesn’t seem like the right thing to attempt.

  • Bluegrass Mama August 7, 2008, 2:43 am

    I read you every day, and am one of those who comments when I feel I have something to add, or when a post truly touches me. I have pared way down on the number of blogs I read regularly, but would have to cut down to almost none if I were to take the time to comment on every post I read. Still, I try to chime in periodically–definitely more than one per 200, or whatever your comment to reader ratio is! In fact, here I am in two consecutive posts, mostly because I wanted to thank you for the kind “shout-out” to my blog in the post.

  • Karen* August 7, 2008, 2:48 am

    Hot Damn, did I ever miss an opportunity in that first post.

    Let’s make a deal…. *g* I’ll commit to commenting on every post if you can find a decently priced method of getting me a regular ongoing supply of Skyr.

    I’m about an hour and a half southwest of Toronto, where the nearest Whole Foods store is, and they don’t carry it (something about annoying Canadian government regulations on milk products – the Americans don’t know how lucky they are). I’ ve been bugging two local gourmet stores but I’d bet they are running into the same problems.



  • Auður August 7, 2008, 4:48 am

    Hey, thanks for the comment on my blog!

    I’m surprised you mentioned me because I certainly don’t comment much but I suppose you see it through your….what’s it called..’teljari’ or something. But you’re right, I’ve been reading ever since you started this, I remember very well when you said you’d just started blogging and I got your url, doesn’t seem so long ago.

    I’m like Mary who commented on the last post; You’re my first visit everyday and I’m ‘disappointed’ (Maybe too strong a word for it) when there’s nothing new. Still you’re one of the more productive bloggers I read. I’ve never thought of commenting in the way you mention above but think it’s a really good point so you might be getting more comments from me in the future 🙂

    Takk fyrir mig!

  • Keera August 7, 2008, 7:36 am

    Now I’ll leave a comment. I got annoyed yesterday with your “pity party”, so I deliberately chose not to comment. I don’t like being made to feel guilty for some wrong I didn’t do.

    I think asking yourself why you blog is a good exercise. I have two blogs and both apparently get far more visits than this one (go figure), but neither has the comment level yours has. Still, I write, because I love writing, even for the mysterious, anonymous thousands. I’m tickled there are even that many visiting my blogs! So why do you blog?

  • alda August 7, 2008, 10:09 am

    Guðbjört, hæ! Gaman að heyra að þú skulir vera í hinum þögla meirihluta. 😉 Ég skila kveðjunni frá þér, hafðu það sem best úti.

    Karen – Auld Phart? – I think so … or thereabouts, at least. 🙂 And yes, squirrels make me all nostalgic. As soon as I see one I can feel the heat and humidity of the summer, which believe it or not I miss (in small doses).

    FlaBill – nice. I would definitely not mind a bit of that heat right now.

    Professor – sell it to a publisher!

    Karen – sad to say, I don’t think we have a deal. And you know, I have to say that I don’t get the big fuss about the skyr. To me it’s horribly overladen with sugar so that I can hardly get it down – and the ‘unsweetened’ version tastes like artificial sweetener. Next time you’re here, try the BioBú yogurt, especially the mango flavour. Wery wery nice.

    Auður – já já, ég fylgist með! 🙂

    Keera – I think I sort of answered that question in the post – I love the communal aspect of blogging. Plus – like you – I love to write. I just sometimes wonder if blogging is the right forum.

  • EF August 7, 2008, 10:27 am

    i’m not really sure what to say…. I do read your blog regularly, just to forget where i’m sitting while reading it, and to remember what it was like to be there (i have lived in iceland for about 5 years)… This is my first comment, as for many others, i don’t necessarily have anything to add…. I enjoy your company, tha part of your life you’re sharing, all those little very icelandic experiences you write about. Maybe this is a selfish way of using the Blog community, but i’m more of a reader than a writer, and reading icelandic blogs compensates with the fact that i don’t get to visit Rvk often enough any longer (unfortunately, about once a year).

    so thank you.

  • hildigunnur August 7, 2008, 10:43 am

    My (Icelandic) blog’s about the same, 200-500 views per day but it tends to be the same 20-30 people that comment. I don’t really mind, but sometimes do think who all those lurkers are 😉

  • hildigunnur August 7, 2008, 10:43 am

    wonder who they are, rather.

  • Chris August 7, 2008, 10:58 am

    Alda: I like to read here, but always telling you how great this site is and how wonderfull your texts are ist getting boring quite fast, right? So I am writing comments, when I want to say something, which does not come like copy+paste under every article. Don’t worry to much about it.

  • Skúli Pálsson August 7, 2008, 11:10 am

    Já af hverju ekki láta vita af sér þótt maður sé að fylgjast með? Sumpart er það hrein leti og vanþakklæti: Maður fær þessa skemmtun ókeypis og fyrirhafnarlaust í tölvuna sína og hugsar ekki út í að einhver hafi þurft að hafa fyrir því að skrifa hana. Sumpart er það feimni og hlédrægni: Svona blogg er ný tegund af samskiptum og maður er kannski ekki búinn að temja sér hluti sem ættu þó að vera sjálfsögð kurteisi. Svo er þetta með að skrifa enskuna: Ég er allavega ragur við það á svona stað þar sem lesendur hafa hana að móðurmáli. Ég er samt nánast daglegur lesandi. Ég held að þetta sé eitthvert skemmtilegasta og best skrifaða blogg á Íslandi. Þú hefur nefnilega sérstöðu; þú skrifar um Ísland en hefur alveg sérstakt sjónarhorn. Þú getur einhvernveginn skoðað það bæði innan frá og utan frá. Svo er það bara svo skemmtilegt. Ég held það væri hreint ekki vitlaus hugmynd að gera bók úr því. Ég myndi kaupa hana handa öllum vinum í útlöndum. Besti kveðjur.

  • alda August 7, 2008, 11:25 am

    EF – thanks for the input, and welcome! If nothing else, this is a great way to learn about the people who are reading. It’s really quite fascinating for me to be able to put a ‘face’ (as it were) to the statistics. So thanks for sharing that information about yourself.

    Hildigunnur – ditto that comment above … I often wonder who the people are who read this blog and why they come here. It’s great to get a bit more info. Perhaps it would be simpler to just write a post and ask people to share a little bit about themselves. Hm. It’s a thought.

    Chris – point taken. And like I said, I don’t want anyone to feel pressured. I quite agree, ceaseless flattery would become incredibly tiresome. And then you’d have me complaining about that! 😉

    Skúli – TAKK KÆRLEGA fyrir falleg orð … into my garden (heh). Frábært að fá svona feedback – þetta er einmitt það sem mér finnst gaman að fá, sjónarmið annara, t.d. að þú teljir mig hafa sérstöðu varðandi sjónarhorn – eitthvað sem ég sjálf er ekki alltaf að pæla í en meikar sense eins og maður segir. Og bara svo það sé á hreinu – fyrir þig og aðra – það er í góðu lagi að skrifa komment á íslensku. (Ég hef ekki leitað leiða til að koma því á framfæri hér eins og á gamla blogginu en kannski væri sniðugt að gera það.) Já – og gott að vita að þú myndir kaupa bókina. Sjáum hvað setur! 🙂

  • sigga August 7, 2008, 12:34 pm

    I guess I sometimes don´t see the point in commenting, you have either said what needs to be said or the blog for that day did not seem like it “wanted” comments… and saying “thank you” everyday would become really really lame. I wouldn´t visit your blog daily if I didn´t enjoy it – and I would assume that this would be the case for the majority of your visitors. So here is my thanks for past present and future entries.

  • Scabby the cat August 7, 2008, 12:45 pm

    Þú ert a mikill rithöfundur! Og ÉG eins og the ljósmynd af Ísland.

  • Dumdad August 7, 2008, 12:46 pm


    I’ve just caught my cat playing on the computer. She claims to be fluent in Icelandic but I think she accessed a translation site.

  • alda August 7, 2008, 12:48 pm

    Sigga – hm. I guess there are probably comments, too, that don’t really seem to “want” a response. And maybe responding to all comments is really kind of lame. Food for thought. Thanks.

  • alda August 7, 2008, 12:49 pm

    Dumdad – LOL!!!

  • mary August 7, 2008, 4:41 pm

    Just “Hello”.

  • andrea August 7, 2008, 5:46 pm

    My moments like yours yesterday are offset by something you have experienced but not as often as me (though I don’t experience it often either). That’s when a lurker feels strongly enough about something visual I’ve posted (and let’s face it, some blogs are more about the pictures!) that they want to actually buy it and I discover that that regular visitor I’ve noticed in the stats is actually a silent fan. That makes me feel so good! I think blog readers come in two stripes: commenters and too-shy-to-comment-ers and just remind myself of that when I’m particularly underwhelmed with feedback. My favourite commenters (and yours, too, I’m sure) are those who actually continue the dialogue, though — don’t just leave a quick comment so you’ll visit their blog!

  • alda August 7, 2008, 9:10 pm

    Mary – Hello! 🙂

    andrea – So you sometimes feel underwhelmed too, huh? I’m glad it’s not just me. I totally agree with the last bit about the commenters … of course it’s like that. Thanks for the reminder – it’s great to hear it from someone who really gets it.

  • Hank August 7, 2008, 10:28 pm

    I read you every day, and am one of those who never comments. Thanks for all you do…….

  • Cama August 8, 2008, 12:30 am

    Stepping out of lurkerville here… I’m shy…..
    Just stopping by to say hello from the Chicago land area USA. I enjoy your blog, can’t wait to visit Iceland. You satisfy my urge to visit through your writing! I promise I’ll post more!

  • Lee August 8, 2008, 5:14 am

    Mainly shy. Overcome with all kinds of doubts… what if I misspell? what if I make a typo? what if my comment sounds dumb? So I only get up the nerve if I absolutely positively have something to say. But I do read, and I do enjoy, even on days like this when I have to fall back on dialup.

  • alda August 8, 2008, 9:34 am

    Hank, Cama – takk!!

    Lee – thank you! And on dialup, too! OK – with that kind of effort, I promise I’ll never complain again.

  • Mark S August 8, 2008, 1:01 pm

    I tend not to comment unless I’ve got anything to say. Which mostly I don’t.

    That’s no reflection on you, I’m just not really sure what I add would contribute any.

    Weather in London: 21C, and raining. Too hot of a jacket, to wet not to have one. Could probably do with some sort of thin waterproof thingy.

  • Rozanne August 9, 2008, 5:22 pm

    Oy. The whole commenting thing. Impossible to figure out why people do or do not comment.

    But I can shed some light on why I haven’t commented recently. I haven’t had any time to read any blogs for at least the past week or so! Just catching up now.

  • CarolQ August 10, 2008, 5:11 am

    Not much to say except “I wuv wu” because you have an incredible ability to say what you want with the right words and and a correct English ability/ By the way, what’s the translation for comment #1? If you want. Many thanks.

  • Teri August 12, 2008, 12:52 am

    Hey Alda – I love reading your blog… and look forward to seeing Iceland someday. For some reason, it was never a place I thought about going but now I cannot wait to see this land and be inspired to create photos. So. Thank you for writing!

    I guess I don’t comment because I feel it would somehow be presumptuous…

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