Thursday, February 14, 2008

This is a Comments Mandatory Blog

On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, this blog received between 100-120 visits per day. For me, this is exciting. Even better: My most recent post about the VA primary produced an avalanche of comments and has fueled some stimulating (and ongoing) dialog between Richmonders. However, rather than simply rejoicing in increased traffic and the stimulating exchange of ideas, I tend to focus on the voices who are not present and pine for their participation (is that you?). Maybe, my inner busybody just wants to know who's reading. Yeah, I know, yall have jobs and can't contribute to every site you peruse. I'm the same way. But, what if you had no choice? What if you had to pledge to leave a thoughtful comment every time you entered a blog or at least leave a rating for the quality/utility of the content?

Welcome to my fantasy: A comments mandatory blog.

When I first saw the debate sparked by Preston Yancy about certain bloggers refusing comments on their sites (overflowing with raw opinions to make you cry, unlike the caramelized variety), my reaction was that it's a matter of prerogative or personal property. A person's soapbox is his/her castle. Nuff said. Don't like it. Don't read it. However, after laboring over a few posts, receiving minimal feedback, and not feeling content in the act of creation alone, I'm wondering if there is any way to maximize feedback, debate, and discussion. I mean, there is no subscription fee for any of the RVABlogs that I'm aware of. So, how do any of us know if our blog is legitimately popular, an utter disappointment, or a service to the community? Disallowing comments may be the ticket to an insider job under a likewise undemocratic despot, but what about those of us who prefer two-way (or multi-directional) communication? Or better yet, there's something to be said for just standing back and letting better informed readers fill in the blanks. (JB, I know you can take that ribbing)

Unlike Ebay, where sellers/buyers are critiqued through a reputation system, Craigslist users generally operate on trust in humanity (counterbalanced by a profit motive), despite a high level of vulnerability. Is that what we have to accept as bloggers: that our sentiments are likely to garner minimal unmeasurable returns in the exchange? The democratic system of voting empowers us only so often. Shouldn't we consider it our obligation to weigh in early and often whenever a public forum is made available? Are you all not as compulsive about this as I am? Okay, some of you are and I wish you'd cease and desist, but attention getting behavior is a double-edged sword, ain't it?

Opinions are like... blogs. Everyone's got one. Well, almost.

In reality, blogger traffic in Richmond is really unrepresentative of the City's population. And then there's the hard to pin down "unique" visitor factor, which further diminishes our relevance. I mean, does anyone read blogs besides bloggers? I'm beginning to wonder. Can you expect a fellow blogger to chime in on your post if they've already got their own soapbox?

Personally, I'm in no position to turn the mandatory comments blog into a reality. I don't even know how to install the appropriate widgets that would make this site more user friendly. If I had a listing of all of the restaurants mentioned on this site, I'd probably be motivated to get back to the frugal food-blogging idea that gave birth to the RVA Foodie pseudonym and grow that list of eateries.


Okay, before I trail off into mumbling, I'd like to point out that my unique invention: Grilled Ramen has been the biggest attraction to this site to date (thanks to consistent international traffic from a feature on "the Official Ramen Homepage."). However, I have not quit my job to retire to the Bahamas thanks to revenues from my tender-crisp creation (cuz there are none to speak of). In fact, as of today, I've only attracted 11 comments to that post, and two of them were my own. Using the How much is your blog worth tool, it turns out that Caramelized Opinions is worth $9,597.18. I have no idea what that figure means (how many packages of ramen is that anyway?), or where I might go to cash in, but I'd actually trade every penny of that potential in exchange for your two cents. That's right. I want to virtually lift every voice in Richmond through this site's many comment sections.

Has there ever been a more earnest post than this one? I'm sure that I've left numerous openings for your criticism, included confounding contradictions, and maybe inspired a few laughs. But, I did it all for the comments. Kid gloves are called for here. But, if your hackles aren't all the way up, maybe there's something worth saying in response. You make the call. But remember, if you have 10 thoughts, give one thought, and comment 'til it hurts.

ps: The comment Nazi says, "No blog for you!"


  1. My ribs hurt. I can't breathe!!

  2. Sounds like a government plot to control our choice to comment or not to comment.... What's next? Mandatory Healthcare?????

  3. Why comment when I can blog?

  4. Very well, I will delurk for this post.

    I read your blog and others. It was the Piccola's post that brought me in (linked by another RVA blogger). It was my addiction to food and interest in local businesses that keep me here. I don't comment a lot because 1) I tend to skim and 2) most of the commentors in the blogs I follow seem to know the poster. I'm not really part of the blog scene (I have a friends-locked LiveJournal, and it's mostly personal stuff), so I kind of feel like there is some secret handshake I need to learn before I start commenting prolifically.

    It seems like I only recently started following blogs that weren't mainly food recipes, so I'm still figuring out what I want out of a blog. I like yours so far, it's given me leads on places to check out.

    A++ would read again.

  5. Loved it, hated it. It made me laugh and cry. I'll never be the same.

  6. Shouldn't it be fair and then require you to comment on others blogs if they comments on yours? I'll even make it easy for you as my last post is about LuLu's. You can either say you loved my review, I'm full of sh*t, or I should leave it to the professionals... :)

  7. Having spent the day in meetings and a baby-doctor appointment, I was on the edge of my seat about who was going to chime in. So far, I've got fewer comments than I have hits. Hmmmm... Guess the word "mandatory" was too ambiguous. Or, maybe it means that I have been an inadequate host by not delivering pithy retorts to each and every reader who reciprocates. Is that the expectation with blog comments? Plenty of my responses on other people's blogs just languish making me wonder if a pre-blogging/reading contract isn't absolutely in order. I mean, what is conflict but the existence of unclear expectations?

    Jason: Thanks for adding a serious angle to my rum-fueled rant. I responded with more sarcasm on your site.

    Books: I voted for and commented on your Lulu review (nice ring to that).

    Kat: Don't try to figure out the handshake. Just strap a buzzer to your palm. Thanks for piping up, but feel free to lurk. I'll think I'll try to model that advice for day or two.

  8. Vino: Glad to see that you're in compliance. Although this initiative is seeking a bit more than two word responses and emoticons, your participation will be noted once I start the door-to-door comment extraction this weekend.

  9. ambivalent richmonder10:28 AM

    Since you know where I live, I thought I best say something before comment extraction commences. You've actually made me wonder what my views to comments ratio on my blog is. Another creative way to waste time. Thanks a lot.

  10. AR: You once posted an announcement that you were considering NOT blogging anymore, but that you were only
    continuing with the contingency
    that your blog saw increased discussion in the comments. How's that going? Your blog is popular, provocative, and wants to be participatory. And then again, there's the rationalization that .lack of response is actually silent approval

  11. So I've only been enjoying the blog for a week or two and did, in fact, comment once. So here's number two. And to make it meaningful, here's recipe for a to-die-for Peanut Butter and Chocolate Truffle Torte that's terribly easy. Note the suggestion in my review (which review? the only review).

  12. Just before heading out the door with my clipboard for some neighborly comment extraction, I decided to walk the walk and lead by example. So, I asked Karen if she'd read my mandatory commenting diatribe and she said she had, but did not leave a comment. I couldn't believe it. A traitor in my own home. She said she didn't have anything to say. A coworker advised me that the post sounded desperate. I have no idea what could be more worthwhile than an effort to democratise the web and bring a public platform to the people. Is my ego involved? Sure. But now, to be rebuked by my own life partner. It's just too much. This blog will revert to the "comments optional" setting and I'll secretly cross my fingers that participation will be enhanced by an infusion of free will.

  13. Well... I don't live in Richmond and I'm only a foodie in theory, not necessarily in practice. That's why no comments from me. Though I am a frequent reader for the purpose of enjoying your delightful writing style and in hopes of catching some gossip about your real (as opposed to online blogger) life.


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