Never Fear My Dear

I don’t receive many complimentary comments…Actually, scratch that. I don’t receive many complimentary comments from non-affiliates who don’t feel obligated to say my updates look nice. But when I do receive them, I’d say about half sound just like the comment above. What’s worse is when they say they’ve been afraid to contact me. Why? Nothing makes me happier than waking up to an inbox full of friendly emails. What kind of sick human being would deprive me of that pleasure?

Well, someone like me, I suppose. And probably you, too. After years of being baffled by my handful of silent fans, I finally decided to give the topic more than a passing thought. Much to my surprise, I realized that I do the same exact thing. In fact, I’m worse. I’ve been following certain artists and designers and resource creators for years, and I’ve never sent a word to the majority of them. Huh. This research has taken an unexpected turn.

So why don’t we approach our favorite designers? For me, the “fear” stems from an unfortunate experience very early in my so-called design career. Like many beginners, I was inspired by a certain chick who enjoys water sports. I had just gotten Paint Shop Pro, and her tutorials helped me whenever I was sick of learning by trial and error. I, the naive little eleven-year-old that I was, thought it would be nice to send her a gushy email, complimenting her on her helpfulness. Her response? Nothing. Not even a happy emoticon to show that she is, in fact, a real human being who has the slightest care about her visitors. Okay, maybe my email got lost in a pile or her reply got caught somewhere in cyberspace between my inbox and hers. It happens. So a couple years later, after good ol’ Atomic Affliction here was established and booming, I thought I’d apply for affiliation. Once again, no response. Not even a rejection message. I was resigned to believing that my idols were just there to be observed and nothing more. If we lowly visitors aren’t worth their time, why should we waste our time?

Because even though we may not receive responses, those little comments could very well make a person’s day. Yes, some people don’t respond because of a false sense of superiority, but many artists and designers truly are too busy. Several of my favorite artists on deviant ART receive hundreds of comments on each piece, and no human being can possibly respond to every one and still have time to eat and sleep. You’ll also find that many artists and designers are actually much less intimidating than they appear and have no problem conversing with fans. Responding to comments and emails is part of the job of running a website. If a webmaster doesn’t understand that, well, just remember not to give them the time of day in the future. They don’t deserve it.

So spread the love. Ask questions if you have them. Hell, don’t even be afraid to send complaints. Your input will most likely be appreciated.

Lame Trends Using Footnotes

I left the blog world for six months and that’s what I came back to. Footnotes. The first time I saw footnotes used in a blog post, I thought they were a cutesy quirk of the blogger whose post I was reading. Fair enough. Maybe I wasn’t able to understand how they improved the posts, but I couldn’t fault the blogger for thinking outside the box. With so many nearly identical sites out there these days, I’ve learned to appreciate even the smallest strokes of originality. But much to my disappointment, the idea wasn’t original at all. Every other blog I visited had footnotes in the posts. Talk about lame.

The problem doesn’t lie in the footnotes themselves. After all, countless books have been utilizing footnotes for years to inform us naive readers about crucial facts that don’t quite flow with the rest of the text. The problem lies in the way bloggers use them. Footnotes in posts are more dizzying than footnotes in books to begin with. The jump from the superscript of the note to the actual note and back again is quite a doozy. It’s tolerable the first time, but when bloggers include five, six, seven, or more footnotes, the result is just plain irritating. What book has more than two or three footnotes every couple of pages (which is about the length of an average blog)? None that I’ve read, that’s for sure.

The fact that these footnotes usually consist of the blogger’s pitiful attempts at being funny doesn’t help the matter. I can’t say I enjoy being distracted from the main point of a blog just to read a short comment that could have easily been included in a sentence as an appositive (or omitted completely). I know you think you’re funny. I know you want to look “random” but feel the need explain yourself afterwards so no one thinks you’re a weirdo. I know you have a lot to say but don’t have the writing skills to include it all in a cohesive paragraph. I can figure these things out without footnotes.

Surprisingly, however, I am not completely anti-footnote. The internet is full of bloggers from all over the world. As an ignorant American, I am unfamiliar with many of the customs in other countries. I definitely wouldn’t mind seeing footnotes that explain certain holidays or foods or places. I could easily do a quick Wikipedia run, sure. But a footnote could potentially save me thirty whole seconds. That’s at least three hours in teen time.

Even if that blogger you admire for no good reason is using footnotes, just say no. Work on your writing skills and learn how to incorporate your occasional asides directly into the main body of your blog. If that doesn’t work for you and you absolutely need to use footnotes so you can look uber kool, at least make them interesting and relevant. Don’t be lame.

How to Return Comments

Returning comments seems fairly self explanatory – A visitor comments on your latest post, you visit her blog, and you comment on her latest post. It’s a process that should be easy, but thanks to the introduction of “blog etiquette,” returning comments has become complicated and confusing. Some bloggers, myself included, have been left unsure of what method is best. Should I reply to a comment on my blog or her blog? Should I address the content of the comment at all, or just respond to her latest post? What do I write if I have nothing genuine to say about her blog?

After years of irritation, I’ve concluded that you should reply to comments however the hell you want. Yes, I’m just as annoyed by short and unrelated comments as everyone else. But who am I to tell strangers what to do? This may be my blog, but I don’t own the internet. Anything goes here. That’s why porn sites and viruses exist. And while porn sites may burn virgin eyes and viruses may destroy computers, lame comments don’t really hurt anyone.

Of course, leaving off topic, single sentence comments is not going to make you any friends in the blog world. You have to make some concessions if you expect to have visitors ever again. So, I’ve composed a list of simple guidelines to follow to make returning comments a little easier.

1. You’re not required to address the comment you receive, but if you do, respond in your comments (only works with WordPress).
Unless someone asks a question or says something that makes my fingers tingle with the desire to type a response, I usually just go around and address the the topics in my commenters’ blogs. I usually forget what I write in comments after a few days, so I assume others forget as well. But if you must reply, use the nifty reply feature in WordPress. That way, you won’t have to flip back and forth between your blog and theirs, and they’ll receive a nice little email with your reply AND their comment. It’s more convenient for both parties.

2. If you have nothing to say about someone’s latest post, wait it out.
I keep a Notepad document titled “Revisits.” In said document, I keep the links of websites that haven’t been updated since I last commented or have blogs I just can’t relate to. I’m sorry, but I have nothing but sassy responses to a blog about how much someone hates her mother because she won’t buy her a pony. Seriously, though, I have a particularly difficult time leaving genuine, helpful comments on very emotional blogs. I’m cold and apathetic, and anything I would say would be phony. Still, that person commented me, so it would only be polite if I commented back. So I wait it out and respond on a happier day.

3. Don’t fret about comment length.
Some people are under the impression that you have to write a book for a comment to be meaningful. That’s a myth. I’ve found that the three-four sentence comments I receive usually have the greatest impact because many multiple paragraph comments are full of fluff. Don’t feel like you need to reply to every point in a blog, either. If only one point strikes you, just focus on that point.

4. If you really dislike a person, don’t comment back.
I adopted this policy very recently. I’ve always felt as if I need to return the favor to everyone because that was the polite thing to do. All this does, though, is guarantee you another undesirable comment and another undesirable trip to an undesirable blog. Is it a little mean? Maybe. But just as in offline life, there will always be people who rub you the wrong way. No need to make yourself miserable.

5. If you’re going to skim, do the old textbook trick.
Read the first and last sentence of the paragraph. I’m a fan of loosely related openings and contradictions, and too many people “skim” by just reading that first paragraph. The result? A comment that addresses the opposite of what I was trying to say. Reading the first and last sentence of every paragraph is not only quicker, but it gives you a better idea of what the blogger is actually saying. Try to read the whole post whenever you can, though. You’re not Superman, so you won’t always have the time, but it’s the best way to avoid awkward misunderstandings, and save yourself some grief.

With these tips, you should be golden. Damn the man if you’re not.

Get your affliction fix before exploding