office-y type noises
I discovered this article today called “10 Techniques to Get More Comments on Your Blog” and in the comments, someone named RJ says he (or she) thinks the term “lurker” is creepy and non-flattering to the 90% of people who read but don’t speak up on blogs.
Before I get to the “lurker” issue, I’d like to talk about feedreaders. I feel like since a good number of people use feedreaders now (though I myself don’t – more on that later) the amount of actual visitors to any given site has dropped, and with it go comments. The purpose of the feedreader is to make it so you don’t have to visit the website – it comes to you. Therefore, it’s an extra step for a feedreader user to click through to the original article in order to leave a comment. It’s a self-imposed commenting and visitor barrier that the webmaster really doesn’t have control over, and I find that kind of sad.
I don’t use a feedreader. I have a Google Reader account that I’ve set up to sync some web comics I read, but I’ve probably used it less than five times, ever. I like the surprise of finding a new post on a website. I enjoy checking out people’s designs. I do try to comment on posts and I’d like to think I comment at a reasonable rate.
Personally, my biggest reason for not leaving a comment is because I feel like the post author will think I am out of my element. As though my saying something like, “I think that’s great advice; I’ll keep that in mind for the future.” will make me look like an idiot. It’s not rational, but I talk myself out of a lot of comments because I feel I don’t have much in common with the author. I’m sure those people would welcome feedback regardless of whether or not our lives are identical.
That said, I don’t think the word “lurker” is entirely inaccurate; I’ve been on websites where the author’s policy is that if you don’t leave at least an introductory “Hello, just found your site, you seem interesting” type of comment, she takes offense because it’s like you’re gawking but don’t care enough to say anything. Personally, I think that’s a bit much for my tastes, but to each his own.
People who read but never (or rarely) comment are obviously getting something out of your website, or else they wouldn’t return. Rhetorical question: shouldn’t they “give something back” by leaving a comment now and then? Or are you merely doing them a favor of sorts (or providing a service, however you want to think about it) that they are in no way obligated to acknowledge or reciprocate?
I like to think of blogs as a very give-and-take kind of thing. Authors write posts, readers comment, author responds, maybe there’s an email sent here and there… I don’t think anybody should feel obligated to comment (as in my example about gawking) but I also think commenting is an easy way to reciprocate without it taking a lot of effort – kind of a “why not?” attitude.
I’d like to hear your thoughts on the subject. Is the term “lurker” creepy? What other word would you use to describe the people who read but don’t speak up? Do you find lurkers to be sort of offensive or do you not mind them?