Commenting on Blog Posts: The Art and the Science



One of the more dynamic aspects of the blogging world is the comment thread. The emergence of the blog as more than just a platform for personal expression into a potential tool for marketing of ideas, products, and services has brought with it a desperate need for traffic and followers. The “worth” of a blog no longer lies in the value of the content; instead, the value of the content is now measured in terms of hits, bounce rates, and time on site. Content is now created keeping keywords and SEO in mind, and creativity often is forced to play second fiddle to them. To this end, the blog comment has also undergone a revolution of sorts and the art of commenting is slowly losing out to the onslaught of social media marketing and promotion.


In the early 2000’s, one hardly bothered about the market-ability of what one wrote, and the blog posts and the discussions that followed were profound yet informal. Comments would be few, but relevant and insightful, often adding greater value to the post itself. Nowadays, popular blog posts attracts hundreds of comments. These start flowing in and getting approved and published as soon as the post goes live, more as an indicator of the quantity of readers and popularity of the blog than as reflection on the content of the post itself.



While there are two sides to this state of affairs, it is not hard to understand why it is so. Comments have come to be identified as more of a tool for self promotion than one of dialog. One of the leading experts on blogging says, “To grow your blog, commenting on other people’s blog is the way most blogger start off promoting their websites. It’s easy to do because most of the times you don’t need the permission of the website owner to comment on their site.” One can see how this has translated to reality in the quality of comments that one commonly finds on blogs these days.

For many blogger, a comment on another blog has become a tool for getting a comment back or at least a single hit on their own blogs. What most commenters ignore is that the comment thread is a tool for a dialog that is initiated by the blog post. The only reason why one would click through to a link on the comment is if one finds the comment to be relevant and thought provoking enough to check out the content on the commenter’s link. Of course, the reality is different. I regularly click through to links on comments like “nice post” and “great article.” Part of it is out of a compulsion to reciprocate, and part of it is to seek an opportunity to leave a comment on a post out there. I do not pride myself for this behavior, yet cannot ignore the effort taken by someone to leave a comment on my post.

Given the ongoing dissonance between my beliefs on this subject and my behavior, and the frequent annoyance that arises from it, I decided to jot down my guidelines for commenting for myself. These are not necessarily guidelines for commenting on this blog, though I would love it if you looked at them that way.

The art of commenting

1. Comment only when you have something to say. Instead of just saying “nice post,” let the blogger know why you thought it was nice. While “nice post” is something to say, if you are saying that for all posts on all blogs, it really boils down to nothing. If you have nothing to say, please do not say it here.

2. Disagree courteously. Disagreements are often opportunities to explore new ways of thinking and looking at things. It is only natural that you may have a point of view that is contrary to what is put out in a post. Feel free to put your point across but refrain from being unpleasant. This planet and cyberspace both afford each of us enough room to disagree and cohabit. If you feel so strongly about your viewpoint that it is not possible for you to express yourself without being uncivil, refrain from commenting.

3. In the realm of wisdom and spirituality, we keep what we have only by giving it away. It is likely that you have greater knowledge and understanding of the subject of a post than the person who has written it. Please do share your wisdom in the comments so that all can benefit from it.

4. Do not use the comment thread to settle scores or personal disputes. Use your cellphone, bedroom or the courts for that.

5. Provide links to resources. If you are providing data that readers will want to verify, quote your sources. If you have already written at length on what you are saying in your comment, add a link to your post, instead of writing it out all over again. A comment is not a blog post.

6. Use your comments for shameless self promotion. Yes, you read that correctly. Comment in a manner that establishes you as someone whose opinions and comments are worth listening to, and someone whose blog is worth following. Most of the bloggers whose work I share or refer to in my social media presence are bloggers I have discovered by virtue of the quality of their comments on my posts and elsewhere. That means making sure that your comments bring value to the post, to the blogger, and to the readers.

7. Very often comments are left in a hurry, as if the commenter’s time is more valuable than the post being commented on. While that may be true, that is not what a blogger will want a comment on his post to reflect. Proofread your comments for spelling and grammatical errors. Nothing speaks as poorly of your intent as a sloppily written comment.

And finally,

8. Comment from your heart. If your heart dictates a “nice post” or a smiley only, so be it. A genuine comment, regardless of whether it is disagreement, criticism, or adoration, is more valuable than one which is contrived and artificial.

You are free to reproduce these guidelines on your blog with or without modifications, with or without any credit or backlink to me, and you do not need my permission to do so. If you do let me know that you used it or do offer me credit, I will be overjoyed and will send you a free audiobook of me reading the Concise Oxford. If these guidelines can bring about an improvement in the quality of comments anywhere in the blogosphere, I will consider my mission to have been accomplished.

49 comments:

  1. NICE POST :)

    hahaha
    just kidding, outspoken points :)
    it sounds true but pretty difficult if we expect others to adhere to it:)
    i do accept few people reads and never comments
    but few people comments but never reads :P

    as usual post from you!
    Liked it..
    SEE I AM NOT LEAVING BACK LINK :P

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  2. A very compelling topic you have picked up here. The art (or need) of putting oneself out there is increasingly menacing these days.

    I can understand the logic (or compulsion) behind visiting more blogs and leaving comments etc.. though I cannot relate to that. To me it deprives the pleasure and joy that comes with simply reading and enjoying a post.

    Also.. I think that reading but not commenting is sometimes fine. Sometimes, you read a post, you love it, feel content/excited/happy, have nothing to add/comment. I have experienced that. All I do is just enjoy the post and then come back for more. :)

    Anyways.. a very nice read and your guidelines are well balanced, effective and highly useful for everyone. :)

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  3. Sometime even I feel like writing "Nice Post" and hit the submit button...especially on photo blogs...but i try to control as i can see scores of same phrase commented before me, if it is on wordpress, I would rather hit a like button.
    You have presented valid points, I believe in commenting but not for sake of link dropping, I find it obscene on my comment thread.
    Last week I wrote a light take on some trending practices on blogs, only to only to invoke the ire of some fellow bloggers. I got to know the different perspectives and i think that is a satisfying aspect of Blogging.

    For my observation, I believe link dropping on blog is inspired & professed by writers and bloggers who wrote "How to get more traffic to your blog" and similar post...

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  4. at times i feel i m not qualified enough to analyze a particular post but i know that the post is really good, so i write "nice post". its just to let the blogger know that someone liked his/her post. what a blogger wants is a little appreciation coz i dont see too many genuine comments on any blog.

    now coming to promotion, yes if i want a particular blogger to read my post then comment is the only option to let that person know that i have a blog. otherwise comment is not a feasible tool to get enough number of visitors.

    however, the most important aspect according to me is comment reply. many ppl are of the opinion that u leave a few words of appreciation or disagreement why u need to go back and check. i do. i want to see whether my comment was at all required or not. a reader spends sometime to read a post and then some more time writing a few nice words. for me it is basic courtesy that the blogger replies back to those comments. when i see no reply to my comments, that blog is a strict no no for me. and if you observe the blogs which get more comments are the ones where there is interaction.

    an excellent post on this subject with comprehensive study as always.

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  5. Commenting is all about visibility and letting the other blogger know about your existence.

    The trouble starts, when it becomes the only sole subject of visiting a blog. They dont even read the entire blog and make a comment which often is quite out of place with reference to the context.

    Cosmetic compliments are well appreciated while true critiquing raises their defenses.People dont like being told that they need to improve...they all like to hear good things.

    Cest la vie.

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  6. @Deepak You might not have realized it, but this post is a direct result of two of your posts over the last couple of months on comments. Don't let your madness die down ever!! :)

    @Raj I have a huge list of blogs that I read frequently if not regularly but never comment on, for various reasons, but which I enjoy very much. Sometimes, I share them on my networks or link back to them, and I think that is fine. Thanks for validating this line of thinking.

    @Barun & Gyanban Ire and constructive criticism are perfectly acceptable responses in my opinion as long as they do not cross the boundaries of decency. Blogging is all about having a point of view and it is natural that there will be other views too which need to be acknowledged. I have a problem with commenting on photoblogs which is a little different but fits in with the "criticism" aspect, I feel like telling the photographer how he or she could have taken a better pic!! I have to work hard to control this aspect of mine, yet there are times when I know that that comment would help the blogger. It is dicey to offer advice or criticism in comments, but I do go ahead where I feel it is essential and in the interest of common welfare.

    @Factsandnonsense As you can see, if you had not commented, I would not have responded to all these comments. :) Not kidding, you have woken me up to the responsibility of the blogger or the commenter to check back and respond to the effort made by other readers! Thanks, mate.

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  7. When I started blogging, I thought it was a platform to share your passion or talent without your work being under scrutiny. But, followers and comments have taken the charm away. Comments are nasty at times, at times someone people promote cell phones/Rajnikant, at times people don't comment and visit the blog, you ask via email, why don't you read their blog. In fact, I have seen so much that I can write a post about it.

    There should be guidelines which everyone should adhere to while commenting. I enabled threaded commenting on my blog last night only to have a conversation with bloggers who have something worth to say.

    Honestly, best post to improve the essence of blogging...

    BTW, Great post;)

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  8. relevant topic this one and one that most could identify with.
    agree to what you presented here.

    the only thing i felt a little off was the seemingly clashing points # 1 and 8. on the one hand, its not ok to say 'nice post' & such other things & on the other, its ok if it is genuine. but how do we know right away if it is genuine or not. that part of it comes only with the interaction & rapport the two bloggers build over a period of time. For ex, now that i know you a little better having read some of ur posts & your style of commenting, if one day u just wrote, nice comment i would know that u meant it.
    But that is no reason to doubt the intentions of a first time visitor to the blog who might respond with similar words.
    what i am trying to say, (looks like i wrote a post here!! ooops) as a guideline, the points 1 and 8 might confuse some because it is hazy in practical terms
    the rest of the views perfectly said and i think more of us should read this post

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  9. Nice post. Check out my blog at http://abhyudayatoons.blogspot.com/

    Hey jokes apart... you do bring out the essence of the dying art of blogging and commenting. But, in my own insignificant and humble opinion, this posts strikes me as an example of pseudo-intellectualism. See, both types of people are there. The comment whores and the quality seekers. The comments whores have existed ever since the blogosphere started evolving. I don't think anything can be done about that. Sometimes, on a bad day, they are a delight too. :-)

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  10. great read this.

    numbers have always mattered, haven't they coz we all want visibility? i agree a 100% on all what you've said. but there's a thing i'd like to add. ur work/content still works in the long run.

    ive got a photoblog so im rarely gona get counter arguments n may be even suggestions (just to be polite may be). and sure a lot of 'nice pic check mine'. n its easy to kw coz at times the better photos dont get those many hits/comments.

    nonetheless...after about 6-7 months the trends did change n comments come off more genuine these days with just a few 'nice post come see mine!'

    cheers!

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  11. i completely agree with each and every point you made in this particular post.

    but sometimes it so happens that you like the post but you run out of words in expressing yourself how you felt after reading the post and you end up writing "nice post"

    anyways, i believe blogging is like talking to a friend where you do not expect your friend to either reply to what you say..he can just nod as well to give right/wrong signs of confirmation...similarly, clicking the blog to increase count or replying only as yes no or i liked it should always be taken positively...

    thoughts are all personal

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  12. It depends on the intention of the blogger. If one is into blogging merely to draw attention to oneself, you cannot expect any profundity - neither in the blog nor in the comment.

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  13. Hey i commented on your post about Dirty Picture only a few mts ago.I hope it meets your specifications!
    But seriously ;though i am new to Indiblogger i feel getting more hits & high scores is just a matter of -"i scratch your back,you scratch mine" tell me if i am wrong.

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  14. hahaha...rotfl...

    rightly said buddy...these days it has been the tendency of people to go on other people's page just to increase their page hits or comments...and the main thing that hurts that when u come to know that they didn't read the post and only commented just to increase their views(their comments are just enough to know whether they read it or not...) :P

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  15. This seems to be the topic of the day. Everyone is talking about it. People should stop begging others to read. I believe you can only suggest someone read your blog if you feel the person will be entertained, educated or motivated by reading it. I don't like threads like 'comment on blog above', 'link exchange' and 'people not getting traffic leave link here' - I feel all that lowers my dignity as a writer.

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  16. Its not always that you'll want to say something about somebody's post..its just a way of telling the blogger that "yes, I read your post and I liked it"...Infact, I don't understand the concept of voting for people's posts, most of them don't read anything and just click on it..It sucks!..either read it and comment or else just let it be..

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  17. Subhorup Sir - Since the time i made my thoughts public on my blog i have been forced to look into the herd mentality of getting traffic for my posts. I read about SEO , saw many other blogs that were famous and even made some changes to my blog appearance to suit the masses. Later i realised it's not worth it, playing in the hands of masses or being appreciated by hundreds is not what i set out to do. Writing is a pleasure and i do it to share my thoughts , take feedback from intellectuals like you and then help my own self to refine this thinking process. This is more of a learning exercise and growing up with a few set of people who too think like minded or even play devil's advocate. There is something called 'responsible writing' because somewhere, someone reads it and associates himself /herself with our views . I rather write positive & constructive and help build opinions that matter or may help in shaping up a better society or individuals.

    Commenting follows all these set norms for writing because one cannot comment if the involvement with the writer is missing. I enjoyed your post and the pointers for commenting are very well taken by me. I wrote this to agree with your last point "Comment from your heart" :):)

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  18. Personally, I don't love big comments.I like precise comments that is to the point.Anyway I should say this is a NICE POST ;)

    Regards
    village girl

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  19. @Saru Thanks for your thoughts, it is always a pleasure to have your inputs on this blog. I too have faced a barrage of cellphones/rajnikant type of comments, and I end up not approving almost half of the comments that come in. But the entire idea of enabling comments is to be able to have a dialog like the one that is taking place now. I guess with every good thing comes the risk of the unwanted creeping in.

    @Sujatha As this discussion has been evolving, I am revisiting my attitude to the "nice post" type of comments. Not only does it apply to people with whom we have built up a relationship, but also to new visitors who might actually genuinely be dropping a word of appreciation without having anything more to say about the post. I think it is only fair that we do not judge them the way I used to. That said, I would still be not very appreciative of comments that are left behind for the sake of a link, and often reflect that the person has not even read the post. Thanks for taking time to comment.

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  20. @Abhyudaya You have helped me (and hopefully many of the others on this thread) develop a more balanced view of commenters. As I have been reviewing the inputs left behind, I am realizing that my views on comments that do not meet up to my expectations is biased and perhaps unduly harsh. Can't ascribe it entirely to pseudo-intellectualism but definitely some amount of snooty arrogance at work in me. Thanks for helping me see things more clearly.

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  21. @Rohit - Content is and will always be king in the long run. The problem with blogging as it is practiced today is that people want to promote their blog and get high traffic instantly, and the easiest way to do it, even as per the experts, is to leave comments and backlinks. I agree that with time, the quality of comments does evolve.

    @Rahul - As you can see, this comment thread has led to a good deal of reflection on the practice of commenting, and yes, I see it now, the "nice post" can often be like the "hmm" of a friend on the phone that communicates approval and empathy. Thanks for taking time out to share your views.

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  22. @Matheikal - Sir, there is a certain amount of vanity built into all aspects of human behavior, and blogging is no exception. When we comment, it is often on topics where we feel we have an opinion that deserves to be heard. It is not always easy or simple to distinguish altruism from self interest. Appreciate your point of view, and by the way, I love your work on your blog.

    @Indu - Blogging networks are often frequented by bloggers who are trying to promote their web presence in order to build (I think) monetary value for their blogs. As a result a certain amount of mutual back scratching does take place. However, I have found some of the most interesting blogger friends (including you) through these networks, so once again, with every great good, comes perhaps an equal dose of what you would rather avoid.

    @Cynosure - Thanks to the new interface of google analytics and some help from more learned friends on Indiblogger, I have been able to set up custom reports that let me correlate peak traffic times with time on site, and many of them translate to very high reading speeds from the visits given that they leave a comment at the end of it saying nice post!

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  23. @The Fool - An honor to have you leaving your thoughts behind on this post. Not all who blog are trying to build up their dignity as writers, I guess, and this discussion has helped me develop greater compassion to those who are as well as those who are not. I have, for example, never understood what a copy blogger is, but it turns out that it is a whole new ball game. Copy blog? I have been part of tutorials in content development teams where they teach you how to copy and make enough changes to enable it to pass through plagiarism checkers. Beat that!

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  24. @Ana_treek - Welcome to SJD, truly glad that you took time to leave a comment. We live in the time of reality televsion and shooter games, so everybody wants to be in a race, to be rated, and to come out on top. It is a way of seeking self worth perhaps. Like Indu pointed out, it is often nothing more than a mutual backscratching and soliciting votes back. You will have also noticed that this discussion has helped me rise above my lesser self and see comments and commenters with the dignity and compassion they deserve.

    @Vivek - YOur thoughts and motives are truly noble, and I know from your blog that you are a true warrior for peace (if one can be that). I think part of my disregard for insincere and casual comments comes from my identification with my work as a mission like yours, to use writing to change the world. However, if you look at the top blogs, you will see that most of them do not think in that way, and are more of a vehicle for ads and affiliate programs or content reselling. We need more people like you (and me and the many others who are actively blogging for change) to make a difference to our future. Appreciate your taking time out to comment. PS: I got the Sunny Leone post out before you did, got you there!!

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  25. @Roopz - Like your posts, your comment too is brief, to the point, and sweet, and your genuineness comes through. I recommend all readers to visit Roopz's work at the village girl. It is a testimony to courage, conviction and determination.

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  26. Thanks Subhorup Dasgupta.That is so sweet of you :)

    Regards
    village girl

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  27. Subhorup,

    Great post, this is something that has been running in my mind over the last couple of weeks when I registered for some bloggers networking sites.

    You have made some great points. I would however disagree with commenting on someone else's blog with the intention of promoting one's own blog. I think that is not healthy at all.

    Blogs will get a lot of hits because people reciprocate. But success of blogs is in engaging people to come back for content and content only. Blogs might be ranked highly in the networking sites and every post might be on the front page, because u comment on every one else's post. But it doesn't mean a successful blogger.

    I am glad that I found a post with a lot of sense after a week on these blog network .

    Regards
    Asif

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  28. And to add further as a blogger we should be more keen on receiving disagreements and suggestions to improve or plain comments about some spelling or grammatical errors more than appreciation.

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    Replies
    1. appreciation is always welcome, as should be feedback and criticism. glad to have you here, asif. wish you all the best with your networking. do keep coming back.

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  29. I agree with the points you have made. Commenting has become a self promotion tool now a days. Many bloggers have made it a practice. People should comment to appreciate the post or whatever they feel they should say about it to the author.


    Nice Post :)

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    Replies
    1. thanks, suroor, for your kind words. as you can see even from this discussion, a good deal of emphasis in commenting has to do with self promotion. while this is fine at a human level - you read, you reflect, you opine, - sadly what we are seeing has to do more with link building than anything else. really sad.

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  30. I would love for more people to read this post. Very well-written! A lot of people need to learn blog commenting etiquette :)

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  31. Great topic and well articulated. The catch is just as common sense is not so common so is also the art and science of commenting! And the catch is know how to balance it. A blogger also gets the feel of his readers by their comments.

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    Replies
    1. one the most important functions of a discussion thread is the feedback and dialog it brings. it helps clarify thinking and opinion. the comments from my readers are truly my compass.

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  32. Commenting on other website having a high pr is one of the best techniques of building backlinks. Even if it is a nofollow backlink it adds upto your pagerank and helps in increasing it.

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  33. Never read such extensive list on comment etiquettes. I can't agree enough on the point that often people comment even if they don't have to say anything concrete. Perhaps a few times I did too.

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    Replies
    1. thanks, SB. worse than the not having anything to say types are the ones who comment without reading the post. punks are not dead, in a manner of speaking.

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  34. I think I agree with most of them. A weird thought: We must remove the "followers" option ;) and replace it with subscribe only!

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    Replies
    1. subscription does offer greater engagement than followers. but everybody has their preferences. even i have wondered about the wide variety of networking options that are available, whether it does not end up diluting engagement with readers...

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  35. Yesssssssssss this was needed. The practice of 'commenting' merely to get 'a return gift' should be discouraged. I see posts with 148 comments (half from the writer herself/ himself thanking the 'commentators' which is fair enough although condensing this thanking business could be useful)without half a dozen meaningful ones. All part of the 'you-scratch-my-post-I-will-scratch-yours' syndrome. And obviously writers who are into Blog-commerce have more temptation..

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    Replies
    1. It is a nice thing to reply to a comment, even if it is just a thank you. Sometimes, it may also develop into a larger dialog. But I agree with you that on several blogs, comments are rather superficial.

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  36. Very old words of wisdom from the great sage of blog-o-sphere. Nice. One more thing to add. Please don't leave link to your blog on a comment to someone else's blog. Makes the blogger feel it is a hollow commercial transaction.

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    Replies
    1. A link that is not relevant does come across as a hollow commercial transaction, almost to the level of spam. Thanks, TF.

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  37. Hahhah...laughing at reading The Fool's comments above!
    I have personally struggled at giving any kind of bad news to bloggers through comments - not on opinion, but on their grammar. I try to lace it with "Btw, if you don't mind my saying..." etc. Some are thankful, but many respond with a curt "ok" and never seem to make any corrections.
    My bad. Who am I to correct anybody's English? And yet, I plow on!
    I have been leaving backlinks to my blog on some post, if I feel that my post is on a similar topic, or if I have a contrarian POV which they might like.

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  38. I have gained a lot from the views and info in some of the comments to my posts that readers gave. That is also an eyeopener to understand that how ignorant I am. Frankly, I a am very lazy to give detailed comments. After reading your article, I have decided to do it more often and with much more enthusiasm. Thanks for the wonderful article.

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  39. Your observations are very relevant and agree with most of them!More than the art of commenting or not, blogging is more a creative forum of writing which one would like to share who may enjoy to read what is written.Good comments or critical ones are the perks:)

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  40. I found this post extremely useful. As I am new to blogging/reading/commenting, the tips will make me more responsible. You have an amazing ability to observe and care for others, actually practicing "Simple Thinking Responsible Living". :)

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