The Art of Commenting

by Reverend ~ October 21st, 2010. Filed under: comments, digital storytelling, ds106, Student Posts.

king of comments
Image credit: Not in HD

In DS106 one of the things that I have been pushing harder than anything else is commenting on each other’s work. I want it to be honest, plentiful, and sustained. In fact, I have the same expectations of commenting as I do of blogging, and, as Alan Levine notes, “Commenting is sharing, and its easy. We all need to spend more time commenting.” (And we all know the cogdog practices what he preaches.) That is absolutely right, and the value and importance of commenting is so greatly underrated in the larger discussions of blogging and social media in higher ed. What’s more, a lack of concern with absence of commenting when using blogs in a course is often a sign that what you are trying to accomplish with “social media” and “networked learning,” could probably be achieved with any old media.

In my mind commenting is key to such an experiment as DS106, it’s a sign of both engagement, distributed sharing, and relationships outside of some central discourse of learning. With every comment, there is the possibility of a whole new conversation. It’s not lways the case, and not all comments are equal, but the expectation has to be established immediately in my mind. Be part of the community, even if somewhat forced and arbitrary as we often find in any given class at the beginning. We all have to move beyond the impulse to remain unengaged and do the minimum, without the willingness to to explore and discover how we learn out in the open you can not truly be a part of this course. The whole enterprise requires that we feed off each other’s ideas, we think hard about how we create for others, and both offer and respond to feedback regularly.

There have been very few of the over 7000 comments on my blog that I have not appreciated. In fact, comments have been, and remain, the lifeblood of my blog. And when they start going, or I am failing to get them, it tells me something. It tells me is that I am not commenting enough on other people’s work, I am not reading widely enough, I am not linking to other people’s work enough. Because comments are born out of a reciprocal sense of interaction, community, and respect. A relationship with an audience that is both present and mindful of your wok, and ready and willing to push you to more, by way of links, ideas, thoughts, and criticisms. All important, and all part of what makes this space more than simply “journaling.” It’s conversation, it’s relationships, and it’s a sense of community born through a holy trinity of characteristics the best blogs exude: personality, honesty, and thoughtfulness.

And this is exactly what I said to the ds106 internauts this evening: if you aren’t getting comments, than you aren’t commenting on the work of others enough. if you aren’t getting comments, than you aren’t linking to the work of others enough. And if you aren’t getting comments, than you aren’t engaging your audience enough. And I have no qualms with saying any of it, it’s part of what I expect of this class. Understand you are engaging an audience, understand you are part of a conversation, and understand you have to take responsibility for that fact. I can and will not comment for you, but I will engage you once you do.

One of the many things I have learned from ds106 thus far this semester is that comments are key. And the fewer you have on your blog, the fewer you’ve made on the blogs of others. And it has proven to be absolutely right when looking at the 28 blogs I am following regularly for this class. Those who comment get comments, those who don’t, don’t. and for me, that tells the tale better than anything else has thus far this semester.

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