Sunday, 15 May 2011

Lazy Sunday Open Poll Thread Question Thingy: Should Bonkers Be More Interactive? Noooo, Don’t Answer That….!?!

Right off the bat, I should say that the title of this post in no way sets out to make fun of the various forms of rubric by which other bloggers introduce an interactive post. Rather, by combining all the customary terms for such things in one strangely lumpen phrase, my aim is to emphasise the fact that posts which invite a reader response are in fact the norm, and I am out on a limb here for mostly eschewing them.

Thinking across the many blogs I enjoy reading, you’ve got Now Smell This with its Monday Mail to help find someone a perfume – it was commenting on one of those posts that led to my friendship with lovethescents, one of the search subjects back in 2008! And of course, Now Smell This also has its Lazy Open Threads and Quarterly Damage Polls about bottle purchases. Olfactoria has her Monday Question, Boisdejasmin recently conducted a poll on the most popular scents amongst perfumistas, while not so long ago Josephine invited readers to think up a comedy name for her nose, which was a lot of fun! (Daphne). And then more blogs than you can shake a stick at (myself included - see below!) also invite a comment on a specific aspect of a post to qualify for a prize draw.

And apart from all the above, there are the ad hoc questions lobbed in at the end of a post on anything, pretty much. Every blogger worth their salt does that. As a bit of a maverick, however, I tend to prefer more oddball lines of questioning to the perennial suspects about how you store your perfumes, or your top spring/summer/”cosy sweater” scents etc. This is not to say that these aren’t perfectly valid questions to which people’s answers might change from year to year, even if they feel a bit Groundhog Day to me.

And when it comes to this more “left field” style of questions, Katie Puckrik’s zany blog offers us rich pickings:

Fumies, what's your favorite "yacht perfume?"

Fumies, help "un homme fatal" out. Your best "beautiful and cruel" perfumes for the gent, if you please.

Fumies, what garbage dump perfume might we smell at Ms. Edwards' barbecue?

Now for the occasion of my 200th post, I did take the plunge and dip my toe in the interactive arena with a prize draw of my own – I was quite apprehensive about doing so, but the draw drew a good response in fact! But if my memory serves me, that was pretty much the lone exception to my general custom of merely talking to myself. ("Bonkers" by name, bonkers by nature, you might say....)

Right, time for the psychoanalysis bit – let’s hope Potiron, our resident fumehead-cum-shrink is reading this... - why do I not overtly invite readers to participate in posts on Bonkers? Is it because I am not interested in what people have to say?

(Don’t worry – those were both rhetorical questions!)

No, that's not it at all, indeed when readers comment of their own accord, they come up with all sorts of intriguing titbits on topics as diverse as their own Beau’s Lines, teeth and sinus cavities, to Scottish travel aspirations, wedding dress bra arrangements and thoughts on the brand extension strategy of a penknife company. I love all these comments, I do!!! I just can’t bring myself actively to solicit them in any shape or form (except for that 200th post, when I broke through, swallowed my reserve and connected with people in the conventional manner on such milestone occasions).

Hmm...the reason I think I feel shy about asking readers to participate on Bonkers is the exact same reason why, down the years, I have hardly ever had a dinner party, never mind a proper party party. I barely ask individual friends if they want to do things, but wait to be invited. Yes, I may appear a gregarious soul - and I am, when I get to where I am going - however, I am incredibly timid about making social overtures in the first place. The bottom line is that I am afraid that people will not want to come to my party or whatever, and will say no, or just fail to get back to me with an answer. You know, a touch of Groucho Marx club syndrome may be at work here. It is a defence mechanism to preempt disappointment, like taking a book with you along to a speed dating event.

So it’s official then – as far as blogging goes, I am a shrinking violet – “in and proud”. Only I am not proud, because clearly I am questioning my stance on the matter – it has prompted this post, after all. No, I am “in and indecisive", more like.

Okay, so I had got right to the end of this post, and was just looking for images to illustrate it, when I came upon an article on the subject of comments, which gave the following tips to bloggers to make their site a more friendly environment, and encourage readers to de-lurk. Here are the headings of note:

Invite comments (as discussed!)

Compel them to comment(!) (eg discuss Tiger Woods' philandering in a bid to draw your readers out - : - ) )

Reward your readers (that's the prize draw business)

Tried and tested subject (okay, well, we don't quite see eye to eye there, though I quite take the point, and it says here that it's also winner in SEO terms)

Reveal your soft underbelly (done?!)

Be nice! (I do hope so, and if not, someone usually pops up and bites me on the nose)

Sooooo….do people already feel there is an open invitation to comment on any post – or shoot the breeze in an off-topic way as the spirit moves them – or should Bonkers be more overtly interactive, posing specific questions of the reader? Eek! Did I just ask a question? Oh no, was that another one?? How many is that now?! Double eek!

Fascination Perfumery Part 2 up next…

Photo of shy girl from, photo of comments label from, photo of dog from, photo of Katie Puckrik Smells from, photo of poll figures from, photo of shrinking violet from, photo of poll form from


Carol said...

oh my dear Bonks. I kinda feel that if you have entertain or entice your readers to comment...I dunno.... I like the way you blog. And as you well know I don't have give-ways and only occasionally ask questions.

BTW, I would come to your party!

Vanessa said...

Dear Bloody F,

If I ever have a party, you will of course be invited. Why, you will be the life and soul, indeed! : - )

Carol said...

You are too sweet!

And I DON"T mean by my post that folks who DO give-way things are 'enticing' their readers ...oh dear, I don't want people to be upset with me! I'm just trying to say that whoever you are and however you blog is just fine! And that personally I would feel like I was enticing readers if I did give aways because I really don't have a lot of good stuff to give away, and I better shut up before I dig myself a bigger hole!

*cries* I should have had more coffee before I posted!

Vanessa said...

Hi BF,

I think I skimmed over the word "entice" and didn't notice it when I read your comment first. Though now you mention it, I shan't take it as a criticism of bloggers who do hold prize draws, myself included. If I can stick my neck over the parapet again, I will probably have one at the 300th post (if I get that far!), or the 100th follower.

No, I am absolutely not against questions or giveaways, but rather "questioning" my own shyness around the whole issue. That said, I think there may be an optimum frequency for such things. If bloggers collectively held too many giveaways, I think general fatigue might creep in on the part of readers, as with those blinkin' charity bags that come through the door, sometimes four a day! How "rubbish" a shopper would I have to be to have that much stuff to throw out every week!

Angela Cox said...

I think your sense of humour is enough to make me want to comment. I also find bloggers who answer comments to be easy to deal with. I have decided not to bother with a few that don't as I am thinking "Oh God they think/know I am an idiot" .The worst was when a comment wasn't even published and I wanted to crawl under a rock. I think you all know I am no expert but I have fun on here and have been wondering of late if men's blogs intimidate me . As you are not a man and have a zany sense of humour I feel that as you have bothered to write for readers it would be nice to comment even if I get it wrong .

Vanessa said...

Hi Angela,

It is nteresting to know that you do feel sufficiently drawn in to wish to comment. That is what I am trying to gauge really. At the back of my mind I am aware that blogging - especially when one gets more into personal stuff, as I increasingly do - can wander off into the realms of navel gazing.

I do also prefer to comment myself on blogs that comment back. Given its elephantine size, I have always marvelled at how NST manages to interact with its readers as much as it does.

And I understand your squeamishness when your comment wasn't published. It might just as easily have been a technical malfunction, mind, especially after Blogger's shenanigans last week.

Your humour is as zany as the next man, and I have enjoyed your whimsical snippets on FB lately!

Cymbaline said...

I refuse to pay big bucks for super-fast-speed internet service (it cuts into the perfume budget) so I love to read blog posts with enough content that my medium-speed computer can actually finish loading before I'm done reading-and yours' fits the bill!
No!, of course that's not the only reason : )and I agree with Angela that your sense of humor and style of writing are a big plus on inviting comments, which leads me to the subject of putting on parties-
you've already got the 'kind-heart, good listener, interesting person' part down so you're perfect for the job of Hostess! Still not sure it'll go well? Then just load the guest list with fellow perfumistas : ), you can't fail!

Vanessa said...

Hi Cymbaline,

I *love* your medium speed Internet connection reason for reading Bonkers! : - )

Thanks for your other nice comments. Sounds as though I could be emboldened to hold a party one day after all. As it happens, I have just asked for corn on the cob holders for my birthday, so things are coming together on the utensil front!

Time zone and venue could prove a little thorny logistically, mind...

potiron said...

Hi Vanessa,

I really enjoyed your post (perhaps it's the shrink in me that enjoys people posting about their insecurities? ;-)).

I can only agree with Angela. The fact that you respond to all comments can be taken as encouragement to comment. And there have been some very interesting discussions going on here because of your encouragement.

Anyway, the thing that makes this blog special is your style of writing and story telling. Moreover, it's always on such a personal level. I'm sure that's what prompts your readers to react on a personal level as well.

Oh and incidentally, it was ultimately your initiative that gained me three friends (Wordbird, Alica and yourself) - though you did have your initiative carried out by Alica. ;-)

Vanessa said...

Hi Potiron,

Thanks for commenting in your shrinkerly capacity! An expert opinion is always welcome, as with that discussion we had on underfilled decants back whenever that was! : - )

In writing this post, it never occurred to me that the *subsequent* act of answering comments might encourage people to comment in the first place.... On the face of it that would seem like a chicken and egg conundrum to me, though of course there is now a past body of comments to give any new visitor a clue about what goes on here. Meanwhile, I was single-mindedly considering the matter from the point of view of "questions or other forms of encouragement to comment IN the main body of the post" ie integral to it.

Interesting where a bit of lateral thinking can get you! : - )

Yes, and hats off to Alica for acting as go between - or "go among"? - the four of us last year!

And none of the foregoing absolves me from the fact that I owe you an email from a while ago!

Tara said...

Interesting post, Vanessa. Particularly interesting because I didn't even notice that you don't usually ask a question at the start/end of your posts! Maybe it says more about my eagerness to comment, but I really don't think you need to overtly encourage people to interact.

What is inviting, is the way you write in such a friendly, funny, engaging and down to earth manner. I definitely think it's the personal tone of the blog that makes all the difference because that's what creates a connection with the reader which in turn "entices" them to comment.

So please don't start talking about Tiger Woods' philandering! Bonkers is great the way it is.

Anonymous said...

I am with Angie and Tara, Bonkers is great as is, and because of your unique style. I would love to know how you came to think about this topic? Do you feel you get not enough comments? Do you want to change Bonkers, and if yes, why? (See, if you start asking questions, you get some in return :) )
Since you mentioned me, I ask the Monday Quedtion, because I am so curious about others and their perfume affliction, I feel connected when we all share our experiences with one particular topic.
And I know your "in and proud/indecisive" stance very well, Dee called it being a cave dweller, I am one too. Obviously this is a common trait among perfumistas (my own shrinky observation). :)

Vanessa said...

Hi tara,

Thanks for that, and how funny that you didn't notice I didn't ask questions...and thanks for letting me off the hook as regards a Tiger Woods' "endocrinal adventures" post!
: - )

I had no clue that "tone alone" could be sufficiently inviting to would-be commenters, and had got myself hung up on what I perceived to be a potential point of etiquette/convention.

Glad I asked the question - it is all rather enlightening!

Vanessa said...

Hi olfactoria,

For starters, may I say that I do like "shrinky" and will add it to our lexicon along with "shrinkerly". Wasn't Freud from round your way...? Have you read The Fig Eater, btw? : - ) One of my favourite books on a shrinky theme!

And Dee's "cave dweller" is also good...

I think what prompted my question at this time is the fact that my general travel and sniffathon posts have been increasing over the last six months or so - I think California spawned 6 in total and my last US trip about the same number. There is still one more to come from Fascination and one from Dusseldorf! And so I had started to wonder if the increasingly personal nature of Bonkers, coupled with a lack of overt interaction with readers, might be perceived as stand-offish, or as me being uninterested in other people's doings, which is far from the case. But as explained above, my shyness has kept me from throwing down the gauntlet up to this point (with the very occasional exception).

I wouldn't say that I am looking for more comments - though it is a very good question! - so much as checking that the non-interactive style of Bonkers is not a deterrent to them. If this posts confirms that, I shall carry on pretty much as I am, and let the comments fall (*or not*) as they may!

Hazel said...

I am so looking forward to the party involving the corn-on-the-cob holders - perhaps start with those little itsy-bitsy ones from Kenya as a canape? Then I'm seeing us mingling, in an up-market version of 'Gimme a pigs foot and a bottle of beer' - a corncob and a martini. Did I ever tell you about the hot sweetcorn drink we had at a Chinese banquet (in China)? A-maizing. What? You think I should go to bed now? And everything could be set out daintily on corn doilies... perhaps you're right.

Anonymous said...

Whaddya mean, "non-interactive"??

Pish tosh. I never wait for a blogger to ask a question... I just jump in and blab away. In fact, I was whining with a group of friends on Facebook recently about several perfume bloggers who do not respond to comments. I hate that. I HATE that. To me, that's like saying, "MY blog here, I talk. You peons, forget it."

Your personality comes through in your posts and your responses to comments, whether you request reader input or not, and I think you're fine as you are. Ask a question if you want to, and if not, 'sokay. Chatter away. Tell me about your travels and your sniffery (and your mini-fridge), it's all good.

[Side note here: I frequently would like to comment here but have issues with my spam/porn filter. Why, I don't know. I can *read* content, but apparently the filter blocks my use of the comment box. It isn't just this blog - that is, I know it's definitely my filter, because I let my subscription lapse the other day and have had zero problems with commenting since. However, I think I need the darn thing, with youngish, impressionable-ish humanoids using this computer, so I may wind up having trouble commenting again.]

Ines said...

I think you're worriyng too much.
If you want to ask your readers a specific question, great.
But I think the fact that people want to discuss your posts without your conscious effort to get them to, only shows that we all love talking to you. :)

Vanessa said...

Hi Hazel,

Those mini corn on the cobs are so cute! Like the one and only time I sent Mr Bonkers out to buy vegetables (for a ratatouille). I told him to get me a "small aubergine", as in not one the size of a zeppelin, and he brought back a DWARF aubergine no bigger than my finger. I didn't even know such things existed! So they might go well with our baby corns...

And yes, I think your mind was going into corn overdrive last night. Not sure I'd fancy that hot sweetcorn drink myself!

Vanessa said...

Hi Muse,

I am glad you agree that overt invitations to interact are not key. I think this post has well and truly established that - unless of course the people who might feel more encouraged to post in response to a direct question are too shy to say so. (As I am about not asking questions, haha! Though I am asking one now... : - )

I quite understand about your over-zealous spam filter and the not commenting. On balance I am sure your spam filter is the right way to go for your young family.

And for some reason my browser doesn't like IsmellthereforeIam and will not load it without crashing. I don't know what it is it doesn't like, but I miss not being able to even read Brian and Abigail's stuff anymore.

Vanessa said...

Hi Ines,

Thanks for further confirming the key role of my comments AFTER posts vs asking questions IN them. In the light of everyone's helpful and kind feedback, I shall probably carry on as I am, more or less, with the odd prize draw and who knows - maybe the odd question... : - )

lovethescents said...

Your style is unique which is what brings many/most of us to read your blog. That style also encourages us to comment, regardless of whether we have a material incentive, ie draw, or have been asked questions.

We appreciate what you do because it's natural and candid. Thanks for all your wonderful posts and for always taking the time to respond to your readers....

Vanessa said...

Hi lovethescents,

Thanks for your vote of confidence, and for being the great friend who came to me as a direct result of a question...when you were featured on an NST Monday Mail all that time ago! : - )

lovethescents said...

I've always enjoyed our talks, even as they began on a comment thread, years ago!

Anonymous said...

ROTFL! Just beee yourself---that's why we love you, and your blog :)

Sometimes I forget that the blog owner doesn't know I'm reading if I don't comment, so I need to get better at... checking in? Poking my head out? Maybe I'll just start using a specific sort of signature: "dee was here". LOL. I'm being serious---I kind of hate commenting, because I feel like I should say something interesting or useful, and I rarely have anything interesting or useful to add, so I just read, from inside the cave!

-dee was here

Anonymous said...

Another cave-dweller (Troglodytes R Us) checking in.

The conversational tone of your blogs invites feedback without asking for it. And if a shy and retiring soul like me feels able to comment, you must've hit upon the right friendly tone.

Carry on following your blogging instincts. And keep eating, please:-)

cheerio, Anna in Edinburgh

Vanessa said...

Hi Dee,

I really appreciate your coming out of your cave to say hello! And you are right, the blog owner has no clue who is reading, and that the readers might also include folk like yourself whom they feel they "know" virtually .

And I always assume that a fair proportion of the traffic to Bonkers is actually here by mistake - when I look at some of the wackier search phrases I am confirmed in this view, haha!

You are spot on about feeling you should have something interesting or useful to say before you de-lurk and comment on a blog. I probably read about 20 other perfume blogs and comment on 5-6 of them during one of my reading sessions, maybe 8 tops. And if I don't comment it will be just as you say, because I would be adding something similar to the people above, for example, or am just stumped, frankly. Perhaps I don't know the perfume in question, and can't think of anything more original to say beyond:" Hmm, from your description, I think I might like this" or "Hmm, I think I might not like this". And I probably am still guilty of comments like that! : - )

Vanessa said...

Hi Anna,

Now you may call yourself a cave dweller, but based on your great track record at commenting, I would say that your particular cave has a garden just outside where you tend to sit a lot. With Stone age decking, perhaps - or should that be a rockery? : - )

Your ongoing input is very much appreciated!

Anonymous said...

Hi Vanessa,

I'd love a rockery and have been daydreaming about the range of Alpine plants flowering merrily at the Botanics too. This is clearly a sign that I am maturing and that you have great insight.

Unfortunately, the folks in the flat immediately below and the shops further below would probably complain if I built a rockery here. Some people have no imagination ....

cheerio, Anna in Edinburgh

Vanessa said...

Hi Anna,

Hahaha! Pleased about my great insight - it is often to be found hiding under a rock, so am glad it ventured out on this occasion...

Yes, I can imagine that a modest window box would be more neighbour-friendly than a lot of earth moving activity and boulder rolling.

(None of which is meant to sound saucy, by the way. : - ) )

Undina said...

Vanessa, your blog doesn't like me today: I've tried leaving a comment a couple of times and something isn't working properly for me. I'll try one more time but if all three appear at the same time - it wasn't me!
I tried to say that usually I read all your posts but since often I do it in a day or two after it has been published it feels like people have discussed already everything they wanted to and I am too late to comment. I wish there was a button or something like that to let the author know that I've read and appreciated his/her work.

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

So sorry about the bother you have had with the comments facility - it was very valiant of you to persevere as much as you did!

I do know what you mean about the timing of a comment too... This is the reason I often don't bother on NST, for example, for that blog moves at such lightning speed that you might come back only the next day but feel that the post you are reading feels almost historic!

Hmm, an "appreciate" button sounds good. There is some kind of little "like" button up above, but it may be specifically linked to Facebook. Or it may not even work at all - I have never tried it!

Over on FB, great credit is due to Elaine Jaune, who gives the old thumbs up to pretty much everything I post on there. She is what is known round these parts as a "little duck". (Which is a term of endearment, in case that isn't clear!)

Martha said...

Heya! I, too, never really noticed the lack of questions, and have always found your blog and posts very inviting - yes, the "tone", as I read on in the comments, is entirely welcoming. You don't need questions.

Vanessa said...

Hi ChickenFreak,

Thanks for flapping by!

It is interesting how the lack of questions doesn't seem to have struck people. This is good to hear!