I love it when new people show up and comment. Regular readers know that I try to answer every comment, and sometimes I’m a bit ridiculous with the length of my responses. On my last post new commenter Bernadette Coley asked “Tell me why you love London so much? (So do I, but everybody’s London is different)” and I dashed off a response between conference calls this morning. It was such a perfect question that several people have asked if I would move my response to its own post so they could comment on it directly. FULL CREDIT to Bernadette for asking a really great question on a Monday morning.
“Everybody’s London is different” is the truest thing I’ve read in days. Why do I love London? Because in my heart she is my city and I will always belong a bit to her.
Sometimes I write something and I get a reaction that surprises me. Sometimes I’m simply surprised a long time later when someone remembers or comments on one of my past posts months (or even years) later. Sometimes I surprise myself by reaching out to someone who’s writing has evoked strong reactions in me.
In the last six months I’ve had one of each of these.
Last fall I wrote up a personal review of how Catherynne Valente’s Faryland stories had affected me and how I had come to feel about them. I hit publish, and I fully expected to hear a couple of responses from my regular readers and that’s it. Instead the review got linked by a couple of Sci-Fi/Fantasy aggregators and linked on a couple of twitter feeds, about five hundred people stopped by to read it, and it resulted in the following:
I can honestly say that I had no expectation of ever writing something that the author of the book would ever see. I was honored that it affected her, and I spent about 48 hours walking about six feet off the ground.
On a more personal level, I’ve written about someone I grew up with and who was personally, emotionally, and romantically significant to me during my school years. I changed names, I protected the innocent, and I used to write under a reasonable vale of anonymity. Anonymity and Facebook are not friends. I’ve had several posts end up connected back to my Facebook profile in the last few months, and through a chain of events that person arrived here. And read everything.
And then sent me an email on Facebook.
Without betraying a confidence, I will say that the last thing she said was “but you should know I have never thought of you as ‘that weird kid I grew up with'”.
Which almost made me cry. Years later, years after first putting how I have always felt into words…finally something redeeming came out of that exercise. I carry plenty of demons around in my personal closet of dark-things-that-lurk-in-the-night; but now I carry one less.
The experience has deeply inspired me to return to writing about things from my own past, even if I find the writing uncomfortable. So the “What I’m Looking For” series once again has a chance at actually seeing completion.
Finally, I “manned up” a week ago and sent a fan letter of sorts to a blogger that I really admire and who moves me almost every time he posts. And to my complete shock, on my birthday, he emailed me back. He had encouraging words, he let me know he’d stopped by my own little outpost of creativity and liked what he read, and asked if there was more to come. And that was the final kick in the pants.
Yes. There is more to come.
[Word Count: 475]
Last week I noticed something when I posted, my stats were all screwed up. Since I have like NO stats, that was both difficult to quantify and hardly important.
Then I noticed that comments were being erratic.
Then I installed the JetPack plugin (which I LOVE).
Then my stats are back, but the comments thing officially became a crisis (in the very VERY unimportant sense of the word crisis).
Apparently JetPack and Akismet have “a thing” and that thing makes prior approvals go boom. Which means if you tried to comment in the last few days, unless I happened to see your comment in a very narrow time period (of less than 15 minutes) your comment was tossed out of the spam filter and lost forever.
I know that Allison and Rachel had comments get trapped, and one of Rachel’s even wound up lost to the digital aether. What I don’t know is if anyone else commented. If you did, it’s gone. And I’m REALLY sorry, because comments are what I like best about my blog. I promise they didn’t get destroyed on purpose.
So, if you try to comment now, I believe that things are once again on track. If you have any issues, please let me know. I can always be reached at my “mybadpants” gmail address.
The other neat thing is that my RSS feed went, as they say, “all to hell.” If you read through a feed reader, then the last post, and possibly last two posts didn’t show up. While that’s not a huge deal, I just thought some of you might like to know.
Anyway, hopefully we’re back to normal operating procedures around here.
First, I’ve been struggling again with the next line in my “What I’m Looking For” series, and I’m close…I’ll try to post lines 10 and 11 today.
But bigger picture, I’ve come to a realization recently and I’d like to put it out there so everyone will understand where I’m coming from. Let’s talk about comments. Specifically, how I answer comments.
The comments are my favorite part of blogging. I enjoy writing comments, and I deeply love when people post comments on the things I write. My favorite blog in the whole world is noteworthy not for the posts themselves so much as the wonderful comments and conversations that happen there.
Conversation is the key word. I feel like every comment here is a part of a conversation. Every comment I post somewhere else is part of a conversation. Some conversations are very public, and I just feel like I’m contributing one more voice in a collective; that I’m just chiming in, and no reply is necessary or expected.
But here, on my blog, I feel like I’m having conversations in a coffee shop…personal and sincere, but not private. I feel like everyone who shows up is due the respect of a response, even if it’s just a verbal nod of the head and the confirmation that I was paying attention and I heard what you said.
What I don’t want, is to come across like I have to have the last word. Or, to sound like some sanctimonious prig who always thinks he knows better…or knows more. I want this to be a place where people feel invited to have a conversation. I value every comment, and I want to encourage that conversation, even if I disagree with someone’s position, my disagreement and my response are a part of a conversation and NOT meant to be seen as “the last word.”
I do not think of myself as someone with all the answers…hell, I don’t even think of myself as someone with even a decent grasp of SOME of the answers. I am a person who will write about what I’m thinking, and then enjoy talking about what other people have to say about those things.
I guess what I’m saying is that I have a terrible addiction to words. I use lots and lots and lots of them. If you write a 30 word comment, and I stitch in a 300 word response, please PLEASE don’t feel like I’m somehow talking over you…I’m just a talker; and I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate the chance to talk.
I don’t confuse the amount of words I can say about a topic with being “right” about a topic; I’m just perpetually afraid that other people don’t draw that distinction.
So I’ve spent some time over the last couple of weeks actually drafting up a series of posts. I tend to work better that way: outlines, synopses, drafts; you’d think I have a “workflow” for this stuff all worked out! Anyway, before we start down that path, I realized that I need to set forth the rules I’ve been using for the last few years when it comes to comments.
These rules are the result of years of occasionally blogging on topics that bring out a different crowd from my usual collection of like-minded blog readers and fellow leaky-brain ramblers. More than ninety-nine percent of my non-spam comments are approved. Hell, even the occasional spam comment is approved just because it’s sorta funny in an ironic way. So these rules very rarely come in to play. But when you need them, you REALLY need them; so what follows are my time tested criteria for why I won’t approve your comment:
- No Punctuation.
- Comments in ALL CAPS.
- Comments longer than the original post.
- Comments that reference more than three verses from the religious works of your choice.
- Comments that actually include entire citations from the religious works of your choice.
- Comments that insult either my position or the position of other commenters. I reserve the right to decide the difference between ardent disagreement and out-and-out insulting.
- Obvious Trolling.
- (corollary to # 7) Obvious Troll-Baiting.
- Having a worse potty-mouth than I do. I have been known to edit particularly foul-mouthed comments, substituting humorous non-swear words and phrases (or archaic and out-of-vogue ones) for over-used examples from our current spoken English. I do this rarely. Generally I just hit delete.
- Using the “C” word (and no, I’m not talking about “crap”) under any circumstances. Why is this different from #9? Because all other criteria are flexible, this one is not.
As I point out in rule 10, these are basically criteria, not hard rules. I’m likely to let a reasonable comment that only breaks the first rule pass if the comment is short, and the intent is clear and vitriol free. Likewise with a comment that seems reasonable except for the (perhaps accidental?) use of the caps-lock key. I myself have posted comments that were longer than the original post, so the third one is highly flexible…but not if it’s trolling, quotes the Koran for 33 verses, or if seven hundred of its thousand words can’t be repeated on broadcast television before the watershed hour.
Also, these rules essentially only apply to new commenters. If you’ve been approved, commented consistantly in the past, and have a generally reasonably position that you are defending ardently in a way that bends these criteria, I’m VERY unlikely to revoke your comment.
Except for rule 10. Break rule 10 and I will delete your comment and assign you to the spam filter for all time.