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If you build it

Six weeks ago I quoted from a New York Times article on teenagers' obsession with tanning (and made some smart-ass remark, of course). Last week three teenagers, who each apparently found the entry via a Google search, commented on it.

Which is pretty cool, but also a little bit puzzling. Why did they comment on some website they just happened across, that (I imagine) they'll probably never come back to? I mean, the idea behind the comments function is to lower the pedestal — to make my musings on this site less like a sermon (ack) and a little bit more like a discussion. But what kind of discussion consists of single, passing remarks, made six weeks apart, by complete strangers?

I suppose there's one answer I can think of, which is that it sometimes feels good to share some knowledge or experience, even with a stranger you're never going to see again. And if that's what's behind those three comments, well, dang. That's good stuff.

July 9, 2002 12:34 PM

Comments (and TrackBacks)

I think it goes both ways.

A weblog writer leaves comments for those who regularly visit, or those who visit maybe only once -- regardless of intention. And, as you noted, it obviously works the other way 'round too (human reading your site one-off).

Every entry you leave is like hurling some bottle into the ocean. Sometimes people will collect your bottles. But, more likely, they'll only read the contents of one bottle.

As the web gains a greater level of permanency (content will be housed for longer and its presentation vehicles will also be retained longer as time goes on) these entries will seem a lot less like bottles hurled into some anonymous ocean... and more like small, mini tombs buried deep in a growing desert, sometimes discovered, often times not.


Posted by rob adams on July 9, 2002 4:22 PM

But there's a significant difference between something published on one's own website, and a comment left on someone else's, isn't there?

In fact, I agree with you, though, at least as far as my own web publishing efforts go. I don't (as of yet, at least) have any ambition for this website at all; it's simply something I enjoy doing, and I'll continue trying out various things with it so long as I still find them interesting. But I don't know that that's the general rule; I think the main reason why many people publish is because they're trying to achieve something for themselves (though even they seldom seem to know what).

I could easily be wrong about that, of course (I'm basing it mainly on the observation that many webloggers worry about things like their site's traffic figures and how many links they get, and are almost hyper-defensive of their sites). But even if most web publishers are indeed unambitious, they still benefit (at least personally) from creating their own sites, in a way that the one-time stranger passing by but stopping to share his or her thoughts doesn't.

Posted by M on July 10, 2002 12:11 PM

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