Hi everyone. Today I would like to present to you an interview of a friend of mine, Valerie from Spoken-For.org . A lot of you may know Valerie already, and may find this interview interesting. Those of you who have never heard of Valerie or her site may come to know her through this interview also.
This interview revolves around the concept of commenting and how one should react to commentors and comments, and how comments can shape your blog and you. This is the first part of the interview. I conducted this interview via e-mail and online chats – thank you Valerie for allowing me to bug you through these two ways.
This is part 1 of the interview, from a total of two parts. Part 2 will be published soon.
Interview with Valerie of Spoken-For – Part 1
- How did you start your site? What is it about?
I guess you could say my blog has its beginnings in late 2002, not long after I found out I was pregnant. I had seen a friend do something similar, and I thought it was a great idea to add a section to my already existing (genealogy) site where friends and relatives who aren’t around can get updates on the pregnancy, photos, etc. This carried on through the whole pregnancy and I sort of quit there.
But in October 2003 when I had a three-month-old and some extra time on my hands, I thought I’d pick it all back up. I had such great fun at it all that I got the blog its own domain name and as time progressed I was getting more attention from strangers than family and it turned into more of a diary and lifelog than just baby updates and photos.
Also, when I started, the site was just an html page that I updated with the dates and so there were no direct comments on entries. I had one page where people could leave a message and still have those posts. When I moved to actual blogging, I later had to track down those old posts via archive.org and them. I think I lost some of them in the process.
- How do readers play a part in your site?
I think I stand in the middle with this. On one hand, I really do not care if people visit and leave comments – after all, that’s how I started, never dreaming anyone who did not already know me would care and there are lots of things that I post that I just know will bore everyone else but I write them down anyway for me – but on the other hand, it does matter to me. Over the course of time, I’ve met some really great people through this whole blogging thing and I often really desire their input and validation. They
are real friends to me, not just people who come and go, and I highly value their friendship and opinions.
There have even been several occasions when I’ve asked for advice regarding my candle business, what scents people would be interested in. Both regular visitors and one-time visitors were very helpful in helping me choose scents to make that would suit a variety of people and not just myself.
- When you started the site, what did you expect from the readers? Were those expectations met?
Since I had started it all as a family thing, I had expected my family to at least pay somewhat attention. However, I wasn’t so lucky in that respect, especially after I got the separate domain for the site. My family (this includes uncles, aunts, cousins, etc.) sort of missed the change altogether (not that they had paid attention much past the initial pregnancy updates anyway) and, as far as I’m aware, none of them visit today, or even know the site exists, with the exception of two in-laws. What I ended up with was a couple of visitors for several months until other bloggers began to visit and make their presence known.
- You get a lot of supportive comments, and you also get a lot of critical comments and comments which attack you personally. You are one of the bloggers who has sparked a lot of opposition due to your posts regarding Geek Squad and DHL. What do you think of the people who support you and the people who disagree with you on posts revolving around those companies? Has any company directly or indirectly retaliated because of your posts?
When it comes to posting the ugly side of a company or pointing out a company’s mistakes, you’re bound to gather attention. There seems to be four types of people that respond to these posts. There are the friends who know I’m not just making stuff up and they offer their support for me, and indignation towards whatever it may be that has caused my grief.
The second group is made up of those who have had their own problems with the company. They find me via search engines or other people who have shared their stories and linked me. They tend to just want someone to rant to about their issues, sometimes they want advice on where to turn next; they’re typically the biggest group of the four.
The third group is typically smallest, the people who say they’ve not had a problem at all with that company, “but, whatever.” The fourth group is usually the most fun. These people are, for some reason or another, outraged that I would dare say anything negative about a large company; many admit to being employees of the company while others’ IP addresses tell on them. While some are nice and can agree to disagree, in my experience, most of these people take it personally and then proceed to act as such. However, they mostly seem to be lone gunmen. I have never had a company directly contact me about my postings nor are my postings wide-spread enough for me to be recognized when I am forced to deal with these companies “in real life” (especially since by the time I’m posting about them, I’m typically already boycotting them).
I have had two occasions where an employee and then a different employee’s wife went to other, unrelated articles in my blog with other nasty comments but that’s been the worst of it. I don’t really have a general opinion regarding the people who agree or
disagree with me, they are all given equal chance and profane language is edited out no matter which side of the fence they’re on. Also, I don’t respond to every comment. Sometimes I ignore comments, good or bad, depending on the amount of time I have.
- Has earning money online played any part in dealing with commentors? For example, would you turn off comments if advertisers paid you to do so, or would you allow certain personal attacking comments if you were paid to leave the comments on and uncensored on some posts?
I have personally never heard of either of those scenarios and they present an interesting dilemma. I think I would have to take that in a case-by-case basis. How much money are you offering? I really don’t think I could answer this question until I were to know all the specifics.
- Have your blogging, other online or offline habits or behavior changed because of either the supportive or criticizing comments?
Someone who visits my blog and calls me a nasty name because of my view of the Geek Squad doesn’t have me lying awake at night upset. At most I may wonder for a few minutes on how I should respond, if at all, but then I move on. However, there have been times where I have taken to heart things that commentors have said. Usually this is in regards to a parenting issue I feel lost at or some other life issue. My actions may be affirmed, and I will continue at how I am behaving, or someone may offer advice and I will try that out, too. The only real things that have changed have been due to an online stalker and a friend whom I had a falling out with.
Because of those situations, I have taken many things private (only visible to friends and family I trust, or even sometimes just myself) that may have otherwise been posted publicly.
- How do you deal with such comments, and commentors, that attack you personally?
I pretty much handle this on a case-by-case basis. I think it also depends on the mood I’m in – haha (I /am/ after all, a woman).
Typically, because of the moderation rules I employ, these comments will go straight to moderation (dependent upon how old the post is). If I feel I have something substantial or witty to say back to this person (or even if I have nothing to say), I may approve the comment and reply (or say nothing). If I’m unsure about it, I might check to see if they’ve subscribed to the comments or if they’ve left what appears to be a real name, email address, and/or URL.
In other words, I’m more apt to give answer if they really seem interested in one rather than bash-and-run. If I get the feeling they’re bash-and-run and the comment is extraordinarily mean and/or full of profanity, there’s a good chance I’ll just delete it (especially when they have nothing new to add to the conversation like is common on the Geek Squad thread where they all have the same points/complaints).
From comments to commentors, Spoken-For keeps on speaking
From the above interview and the links presented within it, you can see a lot of trends that go along with that I said in a previous post titled “Disagree with arguments, not with people who argue.” Also, one can see from Valerie’s experience above as to how the shape of a site can change from being a simple website to being a blog, yet the function of the site remains exactly the same: to allow for a place for Valerie to express herself. What do you think?
Do you have any questions?
That is all for this time. Stay tuned for the next part of the interview soon, where I asked Valerie about the possibility of closing down comments section, the comparison between her blog and her online business, online stalkers, and more.
Please let me or Valerie know about any opinions, thoughts, or questions you can think of either by e-mailing me or Valerie, or by leaving a comment below.
Thank you for reading.