Comment Challenge Day 18: Analyze the Comments on Your Own Blog
Comment Challenge Day 19: Respond to a Commenter On Your Own Blog

Reflections on the Comment Challenge at MidPoint

We're a little over halfway through the Comment Challenge and I decided it would be a good idea for me to write up some of my thoughts on how things are going.

My participation in this Challenge has been very different than what I did in the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog challenge last August, primarily because in the Comment Challenge, I'm acting as an organizer and writer of the activities, rather than as a participant in them.

Initially I'd planned to do both (write the activities and do them), but I found that coming up with the tasks and then trying to comment on Challenge participants' blogs was more than enough activity, so I decided to sit this one out as an active participant. Instead, I decided I'd look at this as an experiment in using a 31 Day challenge format for learning. I also wanted to sort of "stand above" the conversations about commenting to get a perspective on the issues and challenges people seem to be facing in developing their commenting skills.

Here are a couple of things I've been learning (in no particular order):

  • One of the biggest reasons people don't comment is fear. They're worried they have nothing to add to a discussion or that they'll look stupid to the blogger, other commenters, or both. And the idea that their mistake will be forever enshrined online only adds to the pressure people put on themselves.
  • "Policy" is a dirty word and no one wants to disagree. The two challenge activities that have seemed to meet with the most resistance were  the one on writing a blog comment policy and the one where I suggested that people disagree with someone through a comment. I figured that participants might not be too happy with the idea of disagreeing in a comment, but I was a little surprised at the people who said they didn't want to write a comment policy. I realized that I should have called it something besides a "policy" and that I should have done a better job of explaining why I think it's important. A comment I left at Tony Karrer's blog is probably the best explanation for why I think a comment policy (or whatever we call it) is necessary.
  • A Challenge format is a great way to try out different skills. It becomes a sort of "boot camp" where a bunch of people are working together on the same tasks, dealing with similar issues. They can support each other and provide good feedback and motivation. And if people don't like today's activity, they only have to wait until tomorrow for another one. I think it's a sort of "bite-sized" kind of learning that people can reasonably manage. As Ken Allen told me, "If ever there was an award for hooking in a recalcitrant, belligerent, Middle-earth would-be-blogger-cum-commenter you should have it." It's the Challenge that did it, though.  I think that if these kinds of challenges were tied to people's actual jobs, this could be a fun professional development approach that could also build some camaraderie within a team.
  • It's better to build it as you go. I've tried to stay a few days ahead on coming up with Challenge activities, so I've been putting these together as we go. Although it's like building the plane while you're flying it, I think it's a better strategy because it allows us to be more responsive to what's happening in the Challenge. For example, it was clear that people were starting to feel completely stressed about keeping up, so the other day I inserted a "catch-up" day. Being responsive to learners in this process is a big part of why I think it becomes so valuable to people.

So that's my learning so far. What have you been learning?


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I am wondering if you are seeing my comments or posts being picked up on Technorati? I am not sure it's picking up my posts or comments?

Hi Carolyn - yes your post has definitely been picked up and is showing on this page of the wiki. I recommend whenever you write a post tagged comment08 you ping Technorati so that it grabs the fee.

The fear factor really surprised me because I assumed that if they were bloggers or had conversations in Twitter they wouldn't have issues with commenting. Shows you how wrong you can be when you make assumptions without facts.

Funny how the word "policy" created such emotions and yet as you said if you had used different words it mightn't had. Yet I don't think that is a bad thing because sometimes its good to have a debate on topics.

I'm thinking that Challenge type activities works well for some types of learners but not for others. Would be interesting if we could work out the type of people who engage well with these types of activities as opposed to those that don't.

What have I been learning? Heaps. You have a great skill at being able to see the big picture and know what tasks will help their learning. Then slowly move them toward that point. I've gained a lot from trying to pull all the threads together so have a better understanding of how to improve this (if ever did similar type of project again). Also gained a deeper understanding of what influences peoples commenting behaviour. Its been good to see the community aspect happening and see some great progress for participants.

Thanks Michele -- we all owe you so much.

I frequently give workshops on wikis, and I actually advise people never to have policies on a wiki, because policies can make a wiki lose the grassroots feeling that is so critical to its success. Because wikis are (ideally) not supposed to be controlled from above, they should have "guidelines" rather than "policies." It's all about semantics.

I think too many of us have experienced policies (like in some libraries) that were more for the good of the staff than for the good of the user. Guidelines feels more like something that's for the good of the community rather than that's good for the person managing the wiki or blog. And so many of us don't want to feel like we're controlling our blog (even though we are and should be), because we're worried about discouraging conversation.

So, even though it's pretty much the same thing, I like to have guidelines rather than policies.

This has been a really enlightening experience so far; thanks for helping to organize it!

I'm keen to see this format (boot-camps are big right now all over aren't they?) extended into PD. I think a 3 day/5-day/10-day challenge would all assist recalcitrants and/or 'time-poors' to have a go at particular tasks like blogging and then commenting without feeling swamped. At least they'd get through the front door.

As to the fear factor? Oh yes. I have found this one in my suggestions that Seesmic or a voice or video comment would be interesting. Words are easy, voice and image are hard.

And thank you for being one of the fantastic people who started up this wonderfully nurturing and generative activity.

Your blood's worth bottling (Ask Sue or Ken!)

Hi Michele.

Thanks for the summary of the Challenge so far. It is good to know I'm not alone with where I'm at and what I feel about things.

I have a question for you. Your link to Tony Farrer's blog (which I have pinched from your site to use here) intrigues me. How on earth did you manage to pull over a link that specifically pointed to the comment - am I missing something here?


@Kate - he he he.

@Ken I'm admitting the link to the comment also got me. I was really tired when I wrote my post and am able to link for most blogging platforms but couldn't work it out for blogger. What Michele did was click on the date and time link which puts the URL for the comment in the address bar (DUH why couldn't I work that out? -- probably cause late).

I think @Kate is being a bit cheeky @Ken by trying to see if we can side track another comment thread -- and that is soooo not going to happen Kate :)

Thanks again, everyone for great comments!

@Sue and @Kate--I think you're right that the challenge activities work well for some and not for others. It seems that some people have been resistant to being told to do something, preferring a freer kind of challenge where they can pick and choose. Which I find really interesting since so many people participating are edubloggers and presumably complain about students having this kind of reaction to assignments.

I'd love to have people reflect on their own behavior in the challenge as a way to learn about the people they're teaching. In other aspects of my work life, I've observed that the things that people complain about the most in others are often the areas where they face challenges themselves. Maybe this should be one of the final activities. . .

@Meredith--interesting point about wiki policies. I agree with you that "guidelines" would probably have been a better word choice than "Policy." My bad. :-)

@Kate--Luckily I saw the conversation over at Tony Karrer's blog so I actually understood the "bottling my blood" thing. Otherwise it would be a little creepy!

@Ken--I see that Sue answered your question, and she's right about how I did it. That's one I should use more often as a way to bring comments into posts for discussion.

@Sue @Michele - thanks both of you.

I discovered how to do this recently when I was writing my latest post. I so much wanted to link to Diane Hammond's comment that, in frustration I tried looking at every spot where I could lift a URL until eventually I found it.

Ka kite

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