Sunday, September 13, 2009
How To Generate Comments On Your Blog
A very close friend of mine recently dropped out of law school and began work on his Masters Degree in Literary Studies. I was asking him how the transition was going and he explained that the biggest shift was just the attitude adjustment from the adversarial style of discourse. People just sort of talk and float ideas, voicing them in the group and letting others wrestle with them. As someone disagrees with a concept, another builds on it or takes it in a different direction. Since you are often dealing with abstract concepts being correct is not really a factor, expanding the scope of the discussion is favored and even necessary. In law school, you are trained to think of being wrong as a calculable factor in an argument and to minimize it. If the facts are on your side, argue those. If that fails, argue for applying the laws in question as intended by their creator. If that fails, wave your arms and shout.
These distinctions are important to understand the basic difference between making a statement versus generating a conversation. Michael Abbott’s Brainy Gamer gives us an interesting variety of essays to see both comment heavy and non-comment heavy pieces. Just looking at what’s recently been posted, the most comment heavy article is TCBAGS at 47 posts. The article ends with Abbott asking if anyone else has experienced a TCBAG, a ‘This Could Be a Game Syndrome’ moment where you pretend an activity in your life is a game. The lowest comment count is an announcement for the upcoming podcast series. Broader concepts like POV, Emergent Design, and enjoying simple games generate a range of about 30 comments while narrower focuses on individual games such as Devil Survivor or The Sims 3 fall into 20 or so. A post on Little King’s Story pulls into the 30 range while an essay on cinematography, which you could argue is a narrow field, falls into the 20’s. To contrast this sample, look at Leigh Alexander’s Sexy Video GameLand. A post on her write-up on the Hot Coffee lawsuit pulls in 16, a post on FF7’s music nets 24, while one on the viability of the FPS pulls 47. The FPS piece also ends with a question. A post on Shadow Complex and the Orson Scott Card issues nets 40 and ends on a similar note. A mirror post to an article on nostalgia pulls in 9.
Many of the articles I’ve referenced have repeat posters debating the issues raised in the essay. We’re also only looking at two blogs, chosen because they are examples of isolated audiences engaging with a single author and topic, instead of a broader webzine or forum. I think, perhaps, the pattern still applies even when dealing with larger audiences. Let’s look at a larger website like Destructoid. A post on worn-out archetypes in video games pulls in 120 comments. A post recommending an individual game generates 9. Chiptunes article gets 43, a newsbite on the Wii price cut 32, and a newsbite that Prototype will be appearing in Entourage pulls in 51.
Obviously asking a question at the end of your post tends to encourage people to speak up. Discussing an abstract or broad concept like zombies in games or quirky moments in life means more people will have personal experience and thus more likely to comment. The point of this post is to correct an odd assumption I see occasionally on Twitter and in other bloggers. The number of comments on your essay are not indicative of how popular you are or how many people are reading your work. I say this because my own work is a prime example of the distinction I made at the beginning of the post: I don’t leave many loose ends. As a consequence, I only get the occasional comment. Which is fine, I’m happy to chat with anyone, but it’s not something I actively seek out. This is just a personal decision about what I want to contribute to the video game discussion, I don't think any one method alone is superior.
What is important is to point out that if you really want people to talk on your blog, there are a variety of writing techniques that ought to generate a comment or two. I just wouldn’t confuse this with being a viable indicator of the quality of your work. Is the subject of your post narrow or broad? If it’s about an individual game, it’s unlikely that all your readers have played it and will have something to add. A refined game design concept is a bit broader but probably not as much as something as large and abstract as ‘Best Racing Game Ever’. One should also not confuse having a lot of comments on an essay as necessarily being a sign of success. You might’ve just pissed someone off.
Unfortunately, if I knew how to reliably attract more readers to your website and thus proportionally more comments, I’d be in a different line of work. The only advice I have for getting more readers is to ask yourself a question: what do you want to write about?
Posted by Kirk Battle at 3:18 PM