Tuesday, 10 October 2017

The comments conundrum: a post by Val the Cookie Queen on Australian Perfume Junkies

I will be back shortly with a review of the latest release by Puredistance, Warszawa - that's as soon as I am able to spell it without looking it up each time - but I just wanted to link to a thought-provoking post by Val the Cookie Queen over on Australian Perfume Junkies today, considering why readers choose to comment on blogs or not:

Comments and Fleur de Lalita by Parfums Dusita

As you may have noticed, every New Year without fail my paranoia about the relative lack of interaction with readers on Bonkers - for example, my latest post has attracted 332 page views to date and...er...4 comments(!) - reaches its seasonal peak. At that time I reach out to readers - and trust me things have to be in a pretty parlous state to even use the words 'reach out', never mind actually do so! - and ponder what this radio silence may or may not betoken. And resolve to carry on blogging regardless.

And then the other day, I got to talking with Val the Cookie Queen about the whole issue of comments on blogs, and how they do seem to be tailing off generally, although some notable sites - like Australian Perfume Junkies, indeed - still act as a watercooler or focal point in the blogosphere, and get a good quorum of comments on a regular basis. We wondered if the cumbersome steps involved in commenting on a Blogger blog might be offputting, or whether the visual feast that is Instagram has siphoned off some readers. If feasts can be said to siphon, though if they are capable of moving, I am inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt.

But based on the comments coming in so far to Val's post on APJ, it seems that the fall in commenting may not be so much to do with the fragmented nature of today's social media scene, or the physical mechanics of engaging with Blogger blogs (my top theory), but more with people's reluctance to contribute to the discussion unless they feel they have something significant to say. (Which might not be the case with a brand they haven't heard of, like the Civette & Unicorn one I just featured. So I may well have pinpointed the reason for the lack of comments on that particular post!) I must say I did not see that coming. And then I gather other readers hold back because the fragrances in question are not accessible where they live, or are not affordable, or not their kind of thing stylistically / notewise. Others lack the time generally to comment, while a few hold back for fear they might be gatecrashing the 'commenting community' that already exists, like going to a party where you hardly know anyone. I do hope nobody feels that about Bonkers, for the fellow bloggers who mostly pitch in on here are doing so not because we are a clique, truly, even if it may sometimes seem that way. Rather (I suspect!) it is precisely because they are also bloggers that they know how much store I set by any kind of interaction with readers.

And something just occurred to me, namely that the main reason I blog is to entertain. That's it, in a nutshell. The posts are often - but by no means always - hung on a 'hook' of perfume, but the topic could be travel, or the antics of my cat, or a skincare crisis, or a crazy band tour - oh, and I do also plan to report on the upshot of my recent wave of allergy testing for contact dermatitis! But whereas with a stand up comedian the normal rules of engagement are clear, namely to laugh if you find the act funny, and heckle or walk out if you don't!, with the printed word there are no comparable conventions, no set feedback loop.

And I am not sure I have ever fully understood what matters to the readers who stop by here, assuming it wasn't by accident. Plus I may be being presumptuous to even bring up the notion of 'perfume blog as entertainment', which could be purely a figment of my intention. All I know is that if the lack of comments becomes too pronounced (which it tends to by the end of each year, as I say!), I start to question the merit of what I am doing, in terms of quality of output, theme, tone - everything, basically, hehe.

However, by the time the comments have stopped coming in on Val's post, I reckon I shall have learnt an awful lot more about what makes readers of perfume blogs tick, and I would like to thank her for thinking of doing a post on this very subject. It really struck a chord, and as I was part of Val's 'mini-focus group', along with Tara of A Bottled Rose and Thomas of The Candy Perfume Boy, I felt moved this afternoon to write a companion post on Bonkers.

Oh, and notwithstanding all of the above, please don't feel obliged to comment here if you wouldn't naturally have done so. I think my deliberate policy of winkling out lurkers every 12 months in a New Year round up post is probably often enough!


Odiferess said...

I'm making the first comment, quite excited about it now!

I have no idea why there are so few comments in comparison to the large number of people who read our posts. I do love it when I get one, especially when it's from someone that I don't know or haven't engaged with before. It makes you feel like it was worth writing it.

At least we don't have a plethora of trolls!

Vanessa said...

Hi Odiferess,

It is a source of great excitement, I agree, when someone new comments!

I have had two trolls in the past: one who was generally abusive in a sexist way, and whose IP address I managed to block, and one who called me 'God's mistake' for daring to voice my views on perfume. But a lot of trolls would be very hard to deal with, and might even prompt the hitherto much resisted move to Wordpress!

Unknown said...

I can only speak for myself, but I do find it increasingly difficult to find something worthwhile to say in the comments. My perfume urge is not as strong as it used to be, but I still enjoy reading about releases, it just feels a bit stilted to always just comment: " Great review, can't wait to try." Your sideways approach to perfume blogging is much appreciated, not least because it gives me an opportunity to actually comment on a wide spectrum of topics. :)

Unknown said...

I often don't comment just because I feel I have nothing new to add and I feel I don't know as much as others who have been in the perfume world for much longer. I'm still catching up but I really am hugely entertained and informed by all your writing on all subjects.

Vanessa said...

Hi Bejoux Noir,

Thanks very much for commenting! I hope no one feels any pressure to do so until at least Christmas. ;)

There is even more coming through on Val's post now and not having anything new or weighty to add seems to be a top theme, so you are not alone. I had no idea so many people felt that way, so it has been a revelation to me.

I am meanwhile most heartened to hear that you enjoy the blog, even the off-topic posts, which are quite numerous!

Vanessa said...

Hi Sabine,

I hear you on not wanting to say something a bit predictable like the comment you suggest. And also on the reduced perfume urge, which mine is too.

The sideways approach will definitely continue, and thanks for sticking around!

AustralianPerfumeJunkies said...

Hey there Vanessa,
Once upon a time I would comment on EVERYTHING I read, just to feel part of the community, part of the great worldwide swarm to fragrance and fragrant things.
There are a few things that inhibit me now.
Time, my reading is far more sporadic and often I'll try to read my 10 or so faves all at once to know what they're up to.
BUT, I'll having nothing to add, usually having said same or told of my fave amber/night time/sexy/sheer/oud/mens/bargain scent 100 plus times before and no change means no comment.
I really LOVE the LIKE buttons, it means I can let the blogger know I've read to the bottom but haven't had a comment in me.
Time is such a contributing factor too nowadays, it seems the days got shorter and shorter. I only sleep around 4-6 hours now, there's no more wiggle room.
Your blog is one I look forward to though. It's always perfume plus life and that makes for a great combination. You write a lot so often I'll take three goes to read it all because my mind wanders after a very short amount of time at a computer. That also means that I might be days behind in finally leaving any message. Because you're with blogger I don't get a follow up notification like I would with WP, so my comment is usually a solo effort.
Hope that helps,
Portia xxx

Anonymous said...

What interesting observations! I guess I wouldn't take lack of comments as lack of interest in your blog (although I wonder about that with my own little blog). I like to comment when I have something to add, even if it's just responding to a question like "What fragrance are you wearing today and why?". That doesn't require any special knowledge, lol. Sometimes it takes a while for newbies like me to get comfortable chiming in. And like you, if no one reacts to a comment or replies to it, then one wonders if one's comment was considered somehow out of place or dumb.

parfumista5 said...

dear Vanessa! I do try to comment here every so often - especially when you mention Truffle ;-) - but usually i just read and ponder things in my head (pure laziness). If it makes you feel any better: i am on your mailing list, and your blog has its own tile on my mobile phone! cheers, Wendy

Anonymous said...

I love your blog!!! You entertain me - probably more than any other blogger - as you combine great humour with wonderful writing and fascinating stories (especially about Truffle ..... cats are always a furry magnet).

I used to comment on numerous blogs every day, especially in the first flush of my perfumomania, but after falling silent for a while when a bereavement robbed me of the joy of fragrance, I gradually returned to the blogosphere with a more tempered approach; I only say something now if I feel that I genuinely have something to contribute, and I worry I might bore other readers, so try not to be repetitive or too silly.

Entertainers on stage live for applause, but I don't think a blogger's audience approval is indicated by the number of comments made, for all the reasons everyone mentions above. Rather it must be the number of readers who return for each posting. When nobody reads a blog any more then that is the sign that it's lost its appeal.

Please carry on keeping us entertained in your own inimitable way - reading your latest post always brightens my day!


Undina said...

I had my own conundrum: where to answer first (I read your post first but Val’s was first chronologically) and what to do not to repeat myself?
I decided to split the answer: on APJ I answered why I comment when I comment, and here I’ll tell why I don’t.

On those blogs where I usually comment I might skip a post for two reasons: either I am not present online for anything not work-related at all, and then a backlog of posts gets so big that I have time only to read but not to comment. And the second reason is when my friends right about natural perfumes or small indie brands that I do not like - then I follow the wisdom and “say nothing.”

There are also some blogs, which I might read (or rather look through), mostly for information or sometimes out of curiosity but I almost never comment there for one of the following reasons:
1) the blogger does not respond to/acknowledges comments (my or others’) - why would I keep talking to somebody who doesn’t want to talk? :)

2) “commercial” blogs: I do not mind banners but I do not trust “infomercials.”

3) the blogger has never commented on my posts: it’s not as much quid pro quo but rather a general idea: if I have never written anything that would nudge that person to engage into the conversation with me on my territory, I shouldn’t probably impose and make them to react to my comments on their.

The disparity between viewers and commenters still baffles me. I keep explaining to myself that most of the views are not real, that it’s just some random hits from the Search Engine :)

Tara said...

"Perfume Plus Life" is a good description!

Tara said...

Isn't the feedback enlightening, V?! I hope it helps you to put less store on comments and continue regardless. The page views are certainly very healthy and people are definitely being entertained.
It is a shame that Blogger doesn't have a Like button because you'd get lots more of those.

Vanessa said...

Hi Portia,

You are the last person I would think would have time to comment on other blogs, given how mad busy you are organising APJ and all the other things in your life, not least the dogs now! And yet you still find the time to drop in here, for which many thanks.

And I quite take the point that people generally are busier these days, and it is true that my posts usually lean to the long side!

It is a shame Blogger doesn't have the facility to notify people of follow up comments, but I always answer any I receive on here at least, including some quite historical ones on old posts, if they are not spam (which they mostly are, hehe).

I will keep on with the "perfume plus life" - the ratio changes but I am not over perfume by a long chalk.

And finally, thanks so much for airing this topic on APJ: the replies to Val's post have been absolutely fascinating, ditto the comments on here.

Vanessa said...

Hi scentsandsensibilities,

Aren't they interesting? And may I say how much I like your name. I wasn't aware of your blog, and will check it out! Yes, a lot of people have mentioned "lacking special knowledge" as a reason for not commenting, which really took me by surprise. I see myself as someone who has no special knowledge either in this field, but am just weighing in with whatever is in my head. And you are right that a SOTD-type post should attract people to interact with a blog, though I have never done anything like that, always being on the look out for a more 'bonkers' angle.

I do think it is bad of bloggers not to reply to comments - downright rude in fact. That would definitely deter people from ever leaving one again.

Vanessa said...

Hi parfumista5!,

Thanks for dropping in on this one, and you have totally made my day by mentioning that Bonkers has its own tile on your mobile phone! I thought I was the only person in the world with one of those. ;)

Note to self to keep up the Truffle content...

Vanessa said...

Hi Jillie,

Thanks for your comment and I do know you are out there reading - and sometimes the husband too?! ;) As I was saying to parfumista5 above, I am going to work on keeping up the Truffle quota. She has been sitting fetchingly on a lot of different radiators lately, but I am not sure that quite qualifies for a post in its own right.

I also like 'perfumomania' - I remember it well. 9 years ago for me. Even without a sad event in my life as you experienced, I think my own approach to fragrance is also more tempered now.

Then I don't think there is any risk you would bore other readers with anything you had to say, and the silly bar is quite high on here, hehe, so you would be all right on that score too.

I have learnt so much from the comments on Val's post and my own, not least that these days a) there are fewer commenters around and b) the lack of comments is probably NOT a sign of disapproval or lack of interest in a blog, which is the conclusion I can't help falling into with the passage of time. The page views may well be the true indicator of a post's appeal.

I have also twigged to the fact that a number of my non-perfumista friends are regular Bonkers readers and would never think to comment!, but they tell me they were reading in an email, so I guess non-commenting is the new normal! Or it is on here.

Anyway, thanks so much for coming through with your helpful and supportive insights - and also for commenting on Val's post. I did find those replies immensely interesting.

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

Thanks for your detailed and carefully thought out responses to both posts! I enjoyed your contribution on Val's piece as to why you DO comment, and share several of your reasons.

Indeed I think we follow a similar approach generally in our own commenting MO, for those are the very reasons I DON'T comment either, especially not on 'informercials', of which I am becoming increasingly aware. I also don't like blogs when they have been completely colonised by ads, such that the actual post text is relegated to a small landing strip in the middle.

Oh, and I have one more reason for not commenting - a particular kind of blog template. I struggle with whichever one presents posts as little boxes, maybe 4-6? to a screen simultaneously, whereas I much prefer a straightforward linear approach. The other way I am not even sure which is the most recent post.

Yes, the disparity between viewers and commenters on my last post really baffles me. I can only think it is because the perfume house featured was unknown to everyone. A few non-perfumista friends came through and said they enjoyed it, and to be fair many of the perfume houses I feature on the blog are unknown to them. I would be gutted to think most of those 300 odd were random hits from a search engine, though I guess it is always possible, hehe!

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

Yes, it is a complete revelation! A Like button would be a handy feature, but meanwhile I do feel heartened and encouraged to press on. It also surprised me how many perfumistas seem to be quite shy and introverted, and diffident about commenting. I would never have imagined that, and if a few people feel bolder about doing so, now that we have comprehensively aired the topic on two sites, so much the better!

AustralianPerfumeJunkies said...

Hey there scentsandsensibilities,
I have taken your advice and there will now be a SOTD Thread on APJ on Mondays that people can drop in and chatter about their current frag any time during the week. If we hit 100 comments I will draw a set of 5 mainly harder to find samples each week.
Excellent suggestion, thank you.
Please drop in and leave yours too.
Portia xx

AustralianPerfumeJunkies said...

HA! Yes, busy life. It's a really fun life too fortunately.
One day you'll come over into the light of WP.
Part of the P+L thing is also that I know you, so what you're really doing in your posts is writing me a personal postcard. I feel like we are up to date with each other after reading your posts.
Val is completely to blame for creating such an interesting and engaging topic. In only 25 hours it has become the best read article in the last 30 days. That's quite an achievement and rarely happens so speedily.
An exciting day all round.
Portia xx

Tara said...

That's great. I'm really happy it's buoyed you up.
I was surprised about the shyness too as I don't consider many people shyer than me, but there you go. I think we are a bookish, introverted bunch on the whole.

Vanessa said...

I must say I have been completely floored by the shyness angle. That came right out of left field, as it were. ;)

Vanessa said...

Great idea, Portia. Given that APJ is already something of a watercooler in Perfume Land, your blog is the ideal place to host a SOTD-type post, whereas it might seem a bit out of character for me to do such a thing.

Vanessa said...

Come over to WP - never, haha. I'd sooner give up blogging than embrace all that palaver, as well as losing my page view history (as I understand it).

It is actually really spooky that you describe my posts as a 'personal postcards', as I am currently exploring the idea of a travel writing format that would be based around postcards I have sent in the past thirty odd years - some of which came to light after the death of the relatives to whom they were sent - or fictitious ones which I might have written. I feel that the postcard is my most natural medium of all...

So pleased Val's post has really caught people's attention. It's been a great source of proxy feedback and I have also learnt a lot directly on Bonkers.

teardrop said...

Vanessa, I've been avidly reading your blog for several years, & this is my first ever comment! I concur with many of the comments regarding the shyness factor, plus the lack of time. Being a bit of a completist, if I comment on a post then I feel compelled to read every other comment, thus putting pressure on myself to spend too much time online when I have so many other things to do. It then becomes too much of a commitment, instead of a pleasure. I spend the majority of my online commenting time on basenotes, & although I also read three other blogs, I've never commented on them, either!
Please know that I find you hugely entertaining, I love your sense of humour, & IMO you can never have too many Truffle posts. :) Please don't be discouraged by lack of comments, as I'm sure there are hundreds like me out there who'd really miss you if you weren't here. And like many perfumistas, I'm more of a listener than a talker.

Perfume history said...

Thanks for your detailed and carefully thought out responses to both posts!

Anonymous said...

I have commented before but, again, only when I felt I had something to add (a misidentification of an OJ bottle first and then a couple of responses on the changes I think greater access to so much on line information has made to how many books we read today). I do love reading your blog. I enjoy your approach and I am always pleased when I check back and find a new post to read. Best regards, Helen

Vanessa said...

Hi teardrop,

Oh I say, I feel honoured that you have chosen to de-lurk and comment for the first time on Bonkers. I am so glad you enjoy it, and your feedback is much appreciated. Commenting and reading blogs should always be a pleasure, not a commitment, so just carry on lurking, I say, now that you have spoken up! Request for more Truffle posts noted. She will get such a big head when I tell her. ;)

Vanessa said...

Haha, and thanks to you too!

Vanessa said...

Hi Helen,

Thanks for dropping back in - it is good to get your take on this topic. I think that 'not having something to add' is emerging as the top reason for people not commenting on blogs in general, and it is also clear that pressure of time is becoming an ever greater factor.

Anyway, I am glad you enjoy reading the blog, and there will be a post up soon on the new Puredistance!

Anonymous said...

Not having something to add is my reason. I guess I could at least say hello, so you know that not all the page views are random. Your writing style is why I keep reading no matter what you write about.
The postcards idea sounds very interesting -- give it a shot.
Say hi to Truffle. If you feature her more often she may begin to think she is a professional model like Rusty and demand a special treat each time. ;)

-- Lindaloo

Vanessa said...

Hey there Lindaloo!,

I have learnt from this post that 'no comment' most certainly doesn't mean 'not reading', though cumulatively that is the feeling I have historically got. From now on, I will try to see the whole commenting issue in this new eye opening light!

I will have to manage Truffle's self-image as I go. She is quite wilful, and our power balance is delicate at the best of times. ;)

Anonymous said...

I really hope you are encouraged and do not take lack of comments as lack of interest, it's certainly not true for me and I do also think that some blog articles/entries get more comments because they actively invite them by asking for feedback. That is they end by asking questions that invite responses such as whether readers find X is too sweet/just right or whatever...

AustralianPerfumeJunkies said...

HA HA HA HA HA!! OK, you seem a little resistant to positive change. HA HA HA HA.

I would LOVE to read some Postcard sized posts from you between the regular ones. That would be excellent.

Love you Vanessa, the scentbloggosphere would be less interesting without you and BaP.
Portia xxx

Vanessa said...

Yep, I am very change-averse all right, haha. I am amazed I even changed my template recently. Like how did that happen?

I feel the same about you, P. A true one off and perennial hoot (as you know). ;) xx

Vanessa said...

This post - and Val's - have been a tremendous learning experience for me. About asking questions...I checked back over my posts in recent months, as I had the feeling that that is something I do every now and then, when I reckon the topic might strike a chord with people. The most recent being my post about Diptyque mailing too often - I was curious to know if other readers were being similarly besieged by brands' heavy handed marketing - while in another I inquired about whether people had experienced problems posting perfume.

I will give some thought now as to whether I could lob in questions more often, but it would only be where I am sure they arise naturally out of the post, and are not forced or contrived - like the comment-eliciting equivalent of 'clickbait', if that is the right word - and it may not be!

Asali said...

Yup, exactly what Undina said, except I did read your blog first, but went to comment on Val's post before yours 😊
Those are exact my reasons, when not commenting, perhaps with the small add on that when I'm very busy, I always read (my friends) blog g posts, mean to come back, but sometimes don't. What Undina describes as the backlog.
In the beginning the comments where very important to me, as a sign that what I did was not just for myself but actually of interest to others. However, the more letters or impromptu comments on others fora I got about people appreciating what I wrote, the more I felt that comments were perhaps more for a certain type of reader, and even perhaps more a way of staying in regular touch with your online friends?

Vanessa said...

Hi Asali,

It seems we three have a similar approach to not commenting. Yes, I could also add on your small add on to my own reasons!

Historically I would agree that I have mainly had comments from online friends, which is why I get unfeasibly excited when a new reader pops up. Whether this post will act as a turning point in that regard, time will tell, but I don't think I will be as troubled about the lack of comments as I was in the past. And I now know an awful lot more about the reasons for why people do what they do!

Anonymous said...

Helen here again, just to add that I haven't commented on your latest post as I have never tried the perfume reviewed and it does not sound interesting to me. I was however interested in the latest post on perfume shrine and I commented on the same day it was posted (13/10/17). I have had no reply as of yet and this seems odd to me given that I pointed out that the Galliano room spray she laments being discontinued appears to be still available on the Diptyque website. I am not saying this to be picky but rather because this sort of lack of response, even to a report of a factual error, might help explain why people don't bother to comment. Your blog is different. The comments are always real conversations that can be enjoyed even by those not moved to comment on that individual post.

Vanessa said...

Hi again,

Appreciate your coming back to explain your (completely understandable) reasons for not commenting on my Puredistance review, and I am glad you can enjoy the back and forth of the comments others have left. The translation of that dumpling recipe Jillie stumbled on deserves its own post really! An absolute delight.

Sorry your comment on Perfume Shrine is still awaiting a reply. It was materially significant information you were bringing to people's attention, though I do believe anyone who has taken the time to comment deserves an individual response. I only ever ignore spammers, who are a fairly frequent occurrence. They get deleted as soon as I spot them! I hope you get your answer in due course. Might Elena be away or something?, says she, playing Devil's advocate.