The Sunday Question: Why Read, Why Comment?

There’s a good deal out there about why bloggers blog, and bloggers, as is their wont, comment on why they blog (or don’t blog).  However, it is safe to say that one reason bloggers continue to blog is because people read the blog and respond to the blog, often in the comments section (there’s a secondary comment area that’s not readily apparent because it does not take place in the comments section, but suffice it to say that I’ve seen extensive discussions about blogs and blog posts on various discussion groups; sometimes those discussions even give rise to blog posts because the blogger is able to identify an audience he/she knows will respond).

Not all readers and commenters are necessarily in agreement with the author of the blog.  Some people seem to track blogs (and bloggers) with the primary purpose of expressing disagreement; others feel the need to desire more than to respond.  Some of the critical voices here have followed me from blog to blog or from various discussion groups; I’ve seen folks criticize the blog and blogging, only to show up here (sometimes within days), as if they are moths drawn to the flame.  Of course, many of those same folks (a bitter group well-known to some readers of this blog) also seek to join discussion groups that they have criticized.  Some of this is no doubt due to the decline of usenet as a vehicle for discussion (of the two Civil War groups that once held sway, the moderated one is no more while the unmoderated one would struggle to reach one hundred posts a month without spam and the occasional flamewar).  For other folks, there seems to be something of a watchdog function: various bloggers have their favorites, and vice versa.  I’ve even seen a few bloggers basically carry on a conversation between each other on their respective blogs, and those exchanges aren’t always friendly.

Those folks who follow blogs in order to criticize posts tend to comment out of proportion to their numbers, although they sometimes spark lengthy exchanges.  Most readers, however, don’t fit the descriptions provided above.  Yes, bloggers read what other bloggers say, and sometimes they respond.  But most readers don’t comment, and many who do offer thoughtful (and not uncritical) reflections on what they’ve read.

So, the Sunday question, in two parts: why do you read blogs?  Why do you comment?

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9 thoughts on “The Sunday Question: Why Read, Why Comment?

  1. Good questions.

    One reason is purely educational. It’s not just pure “civil war” information either – the concept of studying how the civil war is remembered and studied, or attention to the diversity of the term “southerner” and how that term is often misused, or various other perspectives (such as asking not only questions, but the right questions as you suggested previously) are some of the more general concepts that blogs have brought me. Without blogs, I would pay no attention to historiography and probably would not appreciate Southern Unionists. I also see how some bloggers analyze their topics and wonder why I didn’t think of that question or look at it that way. (This doesn’t give away a few of the blogs I read, does it? :) )

    Part of it, honestly, is also how accessible blogs are and how most of them are written to be read rather quickly. I do still read books of course, but it’s nice to come to a blog (or a dozen) and see an interesting article that may be a few paragraphs long, instead of hundreds of pages. Perhaps that’s a sign of a weak attention span or too much “internet generation” in me, but I do like the easy-to-find, and usually easy-to-read formats of most blogs.

    And some of it is just enjoyment. Of the blogs I follow, several strike me as very well-written and very enjoyable, sometimes by showing me new facts, or other times unintentionally when I read some of the back and forth in the comments.

    In terms of why I comment, I sometimes wonder that. I’ll make a comment that I think is a good addition to the discussion or to clarify something I may not have understood but sometimes though, I’ll come back and see other responses and start thinking my point or question was not as good as I thought it was when I posted it.

  2. The good blogs are worth reading just like a good thread on a discussion group is worth reading. I’ll comment if I think I have something to offer—like in your discussion about what makes a good teacher.

  3. I read your blog because you are a leading scholar on the subject and, while we have squabbled, I think you have intelligent, interesting, and valuable things to say. You are one of the few blogs I read regularly.

    My reasons for comment vary. Sometimes I just think its fun — like your ‘Your Army Command’ post; sometimes I think I might be able to add something; other times I am guilty of a need to engage.

  4. I read blogs because I’m a lifelong student and this is another great way to learn. I comment because it’s a chance to interact directly–as if I’m in a classroom asking questions and discussing the subject in seminar form. I may have something to add to the conversation, or something just strikes me and I’ve got to make a comment.

  5. There are several reasons I read (and write) blogs, to state them in top order would repeat many of the points already made. However I will say one of the important reasons I read blogs such as this one is to survey the presentation, composition, and technique – looking for ways to better convey meaning in this media.

  6. I read very few blogs. I read yours because I am familiar with and admire your work on a topic I am deeply interested in. I comment when I believe I can add something or when I feel strongly about a blog.

  7. I read and answer blogs because the content interests me. In my daily life I do not aften come in direct contact with people who share my interests and things can get quite boring for me. I try to avoid dinner get-togethers, for example because the converation enevitably turns to work, family, TV shows etc. and I feel like a trapped animal. It is quite different when, for example I attend my monthly CWRT. By participating in blogs it is as if I am attending a perpetual roundtable.

  8. I read this blog daily in part because where else can I read the daily thoughts of a Civil War scholar and if I comment on a post , where else can a rank historical amateur like myself have his comment examined and even responded to at times by a published Civil War scholar ? I also find it both interesting and educating .

  9. I read and engage (sometimes) and I like reading the comments because there are nuggets of history to be found there.

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