Comments or No Comments? Walking the Blog
The analogy in the title has nothing to do with dogs, but with a plant. The picture above is of an Egyptian Walking Onion, a weird beauty of a plant which sends up a big central onion-domed stalk and loads of little onion-domed stalks around it. It “walks” by sending out horizontal shoots at the top of a stalk; gravity then causes the stalk to bend down to the ground, enabling the shoot to take root. In this way, the onion walks all over the garden and soon there is a large network of edible onion bulbs taking over your garden world. Here’s the Wikipedia entry if you want to know more about this plant.
I’ve noticed that blogs spread the same way: plant a blog, and then a bunch of topics and posts sprout up around it. Comments shoot out from the posts and then they take root and send up other posts, sometimes in other blogs, and send up more stalks and more shoots, and bit by bit a web presence grows. And if you’re lucky it’ll help you eat, too.
I’ve used this analogy to point out the truly organic process by which blogs come into their own and expand. I liken Twitter to wind-borne plants like dandelions, and Facebook is more like those propagated by insects, but I’m open to other notions about that. The Egyptian Walking Onion seems particularly illustrative of blogging. In the garden, the easiest way to keep the onion from getting out of control is to break off those top shoots. In the case of blogs, it would be to turn off comments.
Everett Bogue’s most recent post, Seven Ways to Invest Your Time Besides Commenting on Blogs is his announcement that he has decided to turn off comments on his blog. In other words, his onion is big enough. He is following the examples of Leo Babauta and Seth Godin (click on their names to read their rationales, which are quite different than Everett’s) and doesn’t recommend that other bloggers turn off comments until they earn their living totally from their blogs. Like I said, his onion is big enough.
Blogger Gip Plaster has raised his protest of Everett Bogue’s action in his post Comments Matter: Why I Unsubscribed From Everett Bogue’s Blog This Week. His point of contention is that blogs without comments are “lifeless and uninteresting,” and he’s peeved at the loss of opportunity for other bloggers to gain attention by posting comments on A-Listers’ blogs. The loss of vitality and opportunity for growth in any direction, plus the lack of participation in a community is something he hopes does not become a trend.
To extend my already-stretched analogy, a walking onion was never intended to be a specimen plant. Was the blog format ever intended to be non-interactive, non-spreading? Or is what we have now a different kind of life form, a sort of levitating onion? (Trying hard not to get silly here–sorry about that.)
I, for one, love my comment-posters, or maybe I should say they are free to walk all over my garden. For the hungry blogger, more onions is definitely a better deal. My readers who comment inspire further posts and encourage me to visit their blogs and links in turn. It’s a vitality which I’d really miss if it wasn’t there. I still subscribe to the other guys’ blogs and still read them avidly and have no intention of unsubscribing, but it would have been really neat to be able to post a comment or read others’ comments on their blogs.
I do agree wholeheartedly with what Everett Bogue suggests his readers do as a better use of their time than posting comments on his blog, especially now that we can’t: write about his posts or ideas on your own blog, or even better think up your own stuff and write about that. Or sit in the sun. So I have. I took away a valuable bit of advice: don’t plant more onions for Everett, he’s got all he wants–go back to your own blog and plant more of your own and come on over and check out mine. For most of us, that means encouraging comments on our blogs and commenting in others’ as well.
What’s your take on this?