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Is it even possible to have this conversation …


… without proving Kathleen wrong?

Bloggers who have been at it for a while have noted a recent decline in commenting, and while that decline may have begun with the popularity of RSS feeds (which abstract the content of blog posts from their web presences, encouraging reading without interaction), it has accelerated with the privatization of discussion on platforms like Facebook. When a friend shares a link there, it’s only natural to discuss the link with that friend, in that environment, rather than discussing the text with the author, on the author’s site.

I’d start it, but I’m not a commenter, strictly speaking, so I don’t know. (Or am I one? I try to “tend the garden” beneath my own posts, but I don’t comment on other sites all that often anymore.) One thing I will note is that both Kathleen’s post and the one to which she links have a slightly melancholic tone, and it’s understandable why: once upon a time bloggers measured their worth by their ability to generate comments. (And mostly still do.) This worth doesn’t accrue when accomplished cheaply — as through deliberate provocation or daft contrarianism — but when a blogger invests five or six thoughtful hours in a post, seeing comments snaking below it makes the investment feel worthwhile.

This isn’t the case so much anymore, though, because the conversation’s have disappeared: if you link to something I write on Facebook, the uptick in traffic alerts me to the fact that I’ve written something that’s being read, but I can’t participate in the conversation, which not only strikes me as a strange — inasmuch as I’m being excluded from conversations I’ve started — but also creates an occasionally inhibiting paranoia. I know people are talking about something I’ve written, but I’m structurally excluded from that conversation. I like to imagine that if I wanted to join it, I’d be welcomed, but only because it’s a comforting thesis that I can’t disprove.

But this post is about commenters and I’m a blogger, so I’ll stop yammering and concede the floor to you.

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