Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bloggers: Be Well-Read; Enter the Dialogue

My favorite college professor would tell us, "Writing an literary analysis paper is, in essence, entering the existing dialogue on the topic. Pretend you're having some friends over for dinner. Just as you would listen to the various points of view sitting around your dining room table, and just as you would agree or dispute or at least consider, so do you need to read the published opinions of the subject you're analyzing. Respond to those in some fashion, and then -- most importantly -- add something. Don't just sit there, nodding your head."

Her advice has stuck with me through all these years: Be well-read; Enter the dialogue. It's occurred to me that this advice applies not only to writing literary analysis essays but also to many other writing endeavors, not the least of which is blogging.

Enter the Dialogue of the Blogosphere:

1. No man is an island: I'm sure Donne will excuse my usurpation since these words ring true in the blogging world as well. Find or create a community; seek out like-minded writers and read their blogs; leave comments. Link back to posts you agree with or disagree with or find interesting.

2. Build community: If you're a lurker -- one who reads blogs but leaves no comments -- now's the time to change. Leaving a comment, even if it's just one that says Hey, I was here, I read your post, I liked it allows others to 1) realize you exist, 2) appreciate your presence, and 3) follow you back to your own blog to read your posts. Make sure that your account is set to public and provides a link to your blog. Otherwise, no one can find you.

3. Enter the dialogue: The final part of the equation is making sure that you add to the dialogue. Create posts that enhance what has already been said by going deeper into a subject or by extending the subject wider. Or provide an alternate point of view. Or disagree entirely. But somehow comment on what's been said already (making sure to link to those bloggers' posts), then add to the conversation in some fashion.

Which brings me to your blogs: I gain so much from reading your thoughts. From musings, mis-adventures, and mini-articles to victories, vices, and vanities, they all settle into my being, marinate, and filter through my subconscious in a half dozen delightful ways. Without that vital food for thought, where would I be? No doubt, stuck in the vast ocean and paddling with only one oar.

So how do you connect? In what ways do you enter the dialogue? There are so many blogs to read: how do you find the time to read, leave a comment, and then respond in some fashion?

20 comments:

Dogtrax said...

This is another great post and it begs the question of what role readers have in the writing, doesn't it? I believe in readers having a stake and Web 2.0 allows more of that than every before in history (or is that hyperbole?).
How do I find the time? I subscribe, use an RSS reader and filter out what no longer is valuable to me. It's a winnowing process.
The value is in posts like this one and others that force my thinking in new directions and allow my writing to (hopefully) expand out beyond my comfy confines.
Take care
Kevin

laughingwolf said...

good advice, alex

if you're on blogger and comment on another blogger user's site, they need only click on your name to see who you are...

Gary Corby said...

Hey, I was here, I read your post, I liked it.

(Sorry, couldn't resist that.)

I confess to total curiousity about who's reading my blog, especially the repeat readers, who show up with same of similar IP address in site stats, but who don't seem to leave comments. Who are they? What are they thinking? What do they like or dislike about the blog?

Wishing you a Happy Ides of March.

Alex Moore said...

@dogtrax: thanks :) and yes, you're absolutely right: although many have lamented the 'publish now; edit (or think) later' ability we all have, Web 2.0 certainly opens up the playing field. and like any democratic endeavor, it's messy. but good. Thanks for your advice on time issues...

@laughingwolf: good point. however, if you still have your profile set to private, you need to set it to public, before anyone can "see" you when they click on you.

@Gary Corby: heh heh. you are too funny :) I share your curiosity on blog stats and it raises an interesting question about the responsibility of the reader/viewer in Web 2.0 to be interactive. After all, we'd never demand such information from someone buying books (how would we know?) -- but the web opens up so many delightful versions of Pandora's Box...

Jenn Johansson said...

Great post! And good to see you are practicing what you preach. Thanks for stopping by my blog, I'm glad you found me so I could find you! :)

Alex Moore said...

@jenn: thanks & welcome! you have a fun and interesting blog -- i'm glad i found you. hope our paths continue to cross...

colbymarshall said...

In general, I try to visit and leave comments on anyone who leaves me a comment...then sometimes I get to reading my "regulars'" comments and click on one of those blogs and stumble upon a new one I like. There's not a method to my madness, I don't think;-) good post!

Aggie said...

Food for thought. I quite often resist poking my nose in on blogs first time up. I like to get a feel for the folk there first ... just in case I'm coming at it from a wrong angle. However, I'm not usually at a loss for opinion. There are also times of year when I get more time to blog than not ... such as winter. Over the summer (which has just been here) I find myself less and less inclined to blog.

spyscribbler said...

Google Reader helps! I've gotten behind on commenting regularly at my favorite blogs, but I still read all of them. I cherish my blog buddies! Even the ones where I just lurk, LOL!

stu said...

It's certainly nice with comments to know that what you've read has made someone think, however briefly.

Lady Glamis said...

This is such a great post. I'm impressed! And what good advice! Entering the dialogue really helps you connect. Being a writer is about networking... reaching your readers on so many different levels.

I think blogging and having an online presence is one of those levels.

I see that you respond to your commenters, as well. THAT makes a huge difference. I am always more likely to comment on someone's blog when I know they'll answer me later. It's like a mini conversation, and that's a great way to network! Being invested makes a huge difference.

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

This is such a great post - I wish I had read it several months ago! Although I've had a blog for a little short of a year, it took me forever to overcome my natural shyness and reticence and comment on other people's blogs.

I think I was expecting some sort of formal invitation (You are cordially invited to comment on this blog), but then I realized, wait a minute, I love getting comments on my blogs from, and I bet other people do too. Since then I've been commenting all over the place, and have had more people finding their way over to my blog to comment back as well.

It really is fun, and makes you feel more connected with other writers and bloggers out there.

Kameron said...

I've been blogging for five years, now, but have only really learned what it takes to be good at blogging in the last year. Cultivating a dialog with the community is essential to longevity. It provides inspiration for regular posting long after the personal creative well has dried up, and commenting (both on others blogs and in response to comments on your blog) is the Web 2.0 equivalent of networking.

jchart said...

Another awesome post :-) too often I lurk, often it depends on whether I've had enough sleep to feel like I can say something intelligent - which I don't today lol but I know you won't hold that against me!

Peter said...

I'm so grateful for your blog and the others you've introduced me to.. and for the encouragement you gave me to blog as well. The creativity flowing between all of us is inspiring.. helps keep me thinking... constantly...

Alex Moore said...

@colbymarshall: me too! i have my regulars -- but then i try to explore their regulars as well, when i've the time!

@aggie: good point. some blogs feel very...closed. as if there are "in" members who are the only ones who can belong and the rest of us are somehow less. obviously, that's their choice! and obviously, i don't go back :P

@spyscribbler: i'm definitely guilty of lurking myself, esp when i feel so not clever. but i do gain a lot of strength and joy from my bloggin' buds.

@stu: yes -- which is why it truly is a community... the coolest thing is that writers tend to be thinkers :)

@lady glamis: thank you! i love the interaction possible w/ blogs -- and commenting allows me to be heard and to hear others. so empowering.

@kate karyus quinn: i know exactly how you felt. i was so shy! and who were these witty, clever people who had such snappy things to say? and why would they ever want me nosing about their blogs? but you're right: making those connections made all the difference. makes all the difference!

@kameron: cultivating is an art form. inviting comments and interaction is entirely different from simply pasting up a sentiment. kudos for your knowledge and shift!!

@jchart: you are always welcome here, lurker or not! (tho it's good to "see" you occasionally, too) no witty comments necessary; just be you :)

@peter: ahh, friend. it truly is an inspirational thing, and i'm glad you're on board. you are awesome.

Charles Gramlich said...

Good points. I've tried to do many of these things in blogosphere but I hadn't quite put them into words.

Alex Moore said...

@Charles Gramlich: Your blog is awesome from what I've seen (I've only just found you). I must say, though, that your amazon reviews are pure genius: what an honor to be compared to ERB! I will definitely be ordering my copy soon.

Charles Gramlich said...

Thanks much for the kind words!

Heather said...

Wonderful thought-provoking post! Which reminds me... thanks so much for your comment at my blog! I really needed that. :)

Sometimes I get behind on reading my favorite blogs, but when I do get around to visiting, I try to always leave a comment. You really never know how much it may encourage someone.