Friday, April 13, 2007

Comments and community

When I started this blog I didn't think much about readers. But within a few short weeks, the blog was discovered, first by Annie of The Transplantable Rose and shortly thereafter by Pam of Digging. I'd left a comment on another Austin garden blog (The Great Experiment, I think) and from there they tracked me down. As Pam said, once you comment, you can run but you can't hide. They, and a few others, left comments here and there and my perspective on blogging started to change. Blogging wasn't just writing for myself, record-keeping or navel gazing. I wasn't exactly sure what it was but I started looking forward to seeing those comments.

It took me a while to understand something about the communal nature of blogging, that thing that Annie was writing about the other day. I started out reading food blogs and there is certainly community there. The same people — from Paris to Seattle to Munich to Bloomington, Indiana — cheer and gripe and share, back and forth and around and around. When one travels, another throws a dinner party and invites bloggers from the neighborhood to join in. The food blogging community has contests and fundraisers and gift exchanges.

As I started reading more garden blogs I saw that a similar, if apparently smaller, community exists here as well (smaller maybe because it's easier to share a recipe than a plant? Or because everyone eats and only the discriminating garden?). Events like Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, sponsored by May Dreams Gardens, and the Mouse & Trowel Awards (have you submitted your nominations?) bring garden bloggers together. And shortly after I was found out by the Austin garden bloggers, they kindly invited me to an actual gathering, face to actual face, in Annie's garden. Now we're planning an all-afternoon tour of our Austin gardens, north to south and back, with snacks and, no doubt, lots of garden questions and advice along the way. Being part of that community is certainly welcome (especially since my friend/next-door neighbor/fellow gardner moved a few years ago, reducing my garden gossip chances by at least half).

I have to admit that, although I check on about 20 garden blogs a day (among the 50 or so blogs that I get feeds for through Bloglines), I mostly lurk. So maybe, in that sense, I'm not truly participating in the garden blogging community. I don't know. I enjoy getting comments, I like knowing that someone is reading, I like that sense of connection. But for some reason I wasn't commenting much.

Then, over the past week or so, I put up several posts and no one seemed to notice. No comments at all (okay, since then several people have commented so I guess someone is reading). Every time my e-mail dinged (I get notified of comments by e-mail) I'd stop what I was doing and check to see if it was a comment. I realized how much I enjoyed getting comments and became determined to comment myself more often. Turnaround is only fair play, right? Or should that be, what goes around, comes around?

I still have some more pondering to do about the difference between personal reflection and a larger readership. About keeping notes for myself and writing something that might be interesting to others. But plenty of time for that.

Oh, and the picture at the top is my attempt this morning to catch Climbing Pinkie at what is absolutely her best moment ever (why do I think of my roses as she? Do you do that?).


Pam/Digging said...

Ding! You've got mail, Susan.

I enjoyed this post because I went through a similar progression myself, although I knew from the start that I wanted people to read my blog. What I didn't know was how much it would mean to me to get comments from lots of different people all over the world. I really enjoy being part of that gardening/writing group.

Once I clued in that commenting frequently on other people's blogs led to more comments on my own, I started exploring the community even more, commenting whenever I liked something I saw or read. It's a pleasure to comment, knowing that each blogger out there is looking forward to comments just like I do. And the ensuing dialogues have led to friendships, which is great.

I'd noticed, actually, that you seem to be commenting more often lately. I figured you'd finally gotten sucked in!

M Sinclair Stevens (Austin) said...

I, too, find it difficult to hit the right stride between personal garden journal and public garden writing. But it helps so much to keep a vision in mind of my audience.

When I first started I used my blog to share my garden with my friends and family who don't live in Austin. But they aren't very computer-oriented and I was disappointed that they didn't keep up with the pictures and text I was posting for them.

And then people I didn't know began commenting--other gardeners. And my blogging changed as I began sharing and comparing notes with people who have the same passions. This makes it much easier to write because I can imagine my colleagues in garden blogging as I write.

Blogging without receiving comments is like writing a letter and not receiving a reply. Or leaving a phone message and not getting a call back. In a word, depressing.

pablo said...

You'll drive yourself crazy pondering stuff like this. (Look at me, for example.) I just write and post and see what happens.

Thanks for commenting on my humble blog. Like you, I still appreciate any comment I can get. I finally did myself a favor and stopped looking at the visit count each day.

As for my cedars, the are called eastern red cedars, but they are really junipers.


Annie in Austin said...

Ding, again, Susan!
For me, the main reason to start the blog was the chance to talk to other gardeners in the blogging community. It's been wonderful.

Now, I find myself in a sort of reverse of your situation, now realizing how valuable it can be to look back at previous posts for reference. This took me by surprise. I'd kept journals and records for years and had no idea what dimension the blog could give to the way I look at my garden.

What an excellent post you have made. Thank you.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Susan said...

Well, I am glad to see some comments after that rather whinging post.

Pam and Annie — Thanks for the kind words about the post. I enjoyed writing it. It's something I've been thinking about and it was good to get at least the start of my thoughts down in words. And Annie, I added labels to all my posts the other day, thinking maybe that would make it easier in the future to find what I'd written about roses or whatever.

MSS — I agree that blogging without comments is depressing. Especially after I'd gotten some comments, I was disappointed to put up a post and hear nothing. Maybe putting myself out there and getting involved in others' blogs will bring more readers here.

and Pablo — Thanks for stopping by. I do agree that I may be overthinking the "who's reading and where the heck have they gone" question but it's early days for me in blogland.

I'm enjoying Roundrock Journal. Maybe one of these days I'll post some images of our Hill Country land.

Carol said...

Susan... I like what you wrote, comments are fun to get, fun to leave. I like the community aspect of blogging and connecting with other gardeners from around the world. (And thanks for your recent comments on my blog. I, too, am looking forward to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day on the 15th).

That rose is outstanding, by the way!

Robin said...

Susan, I just started a blog myself and wish I had done it sooner. I enjoy this far more than I ever thought possible. I looked at gardening blogs regularly for three months and never posted, I didn't think it mattered and I wasn't really a part of the "community" I was just an observer. Now that I have my own blog, I see how important it is to communicate and I am trying to do that more also. For some reason though some of my comments don't go through.

purple cucumbers folk art said...

just passing threw darling,come on over for a visit

Susan said...

Carol — Thanks for checking out the site. I've been enjoying yours for some time — lurking, as I said in the post — and after taking part in Bloom Day last month am looking forward to tomorrow.

Robin — Welcome. I'm glad you came out of hiding. In the next few days I'll post Pam's suggestions and what I and my husband figured out last week that really improved my images (now all the blame is on the photographer, not the equipment!).

Purple Cucumber — I think we all need to hear the background of your blog name. Thanks for stopping by.

Dawn said...

Hi Susan,

Great post! As a newby I'm learning how all this works from you ladies. Must agree that it's very reinforcing (and slightly addictive) to receive the comments. Thanks to you, Annie, Pam and some others for encouraging me as well. Also, when I get a comment I always visit that person's blog, if they have one. It really is fun!

Oh, and I LOVE your flowerbed. That rose is especially gorgeous! :-)