Audience Approach Adjustment

(I was really committed to the idea of alliteration with that title.)

The initial Arena post and the redux Arena post have led to lots of great conversations about what went wrong and how to fix it, and whether the vision I have for That Wife can ever come to fruition. If you look at the comment section of the redux post though, you’ll see that I haven’t spent very much time there. Initially I needed a break. And then the usual thing happened — the idea of responding to all of the comments became overwhelming, and so I read them all and then archived the notifications telling myself I would get to them another time.

I think you know where this is headed? “Another time” never comes. I’ve got a folder in my Gmail account labeled Respond, which has emails from April 2012 waiting for my attention. It makes me sad to think about the number of people wondering why I have never responded. That inability to keep up with people who mean something to me is an aspect of my actions and personality that I really dislike.

When it comes to interacting with readers of That Wife in the comment section, I’m going to make two changes.

T2 is skeptical that I can change. Have faith you guys! I think this is going to work.

1. Act, don’t react. Engage with readers who are furthering the conversation.

It has been pointed out to me several times over that when I wade into the comment section of a meaty post it’s often to defend myself to the people who are criticizing me (whether those comments are constructive or waste). I use up my time and energy on those commenters, and neglect everyone else. Engaging with readers who are putting forth productive criticism is an excellent opportunity for growth, but not if I’m reacting in a defensive way. When commenting from here on our I plan to think to myself “Am I acting or reacting? How is this comment helping me or the discussion?” Those who have invested in me and my writing deserve more from me.

2. Comment summary follow-up posts for posts with robust comment sections.

That Husband reads a site that takes comments on popular posts and highlights them in a separate post entirely. It’s a way for the authors to highlight the reader contributions that add to the conversation as a whole, and it’s a practice I would like to adopt as well. I’ll continue to dash off short comments on my iPhone on the posts that aren’t as hefty, but for those with an intense comment sections filled with a variety of thoughts I’m going to give myself some time to process and then write a summary post highlighting the comments and themes that stand out to me. I’m working on a post like that for the My Arena (redux) post now.

With changes like this readers will feel like their contributions are valued and appreciated (which is really important to me because they are, deeply so) and I will no longer have to feel anxiety or guilt about discussions that I prompted and then failed to engage with properly. I hope that these changes help all of us enjoy the experience here a lot more.

11 thoughts on “Audience Approach Adjustment

  1. I don’t comment here very often but I wanted to just say that your first point is awesome. I think a lot of bloggers do that — only interact negatively in the comments section — and it means I almost never read comments, or leave comments myself. So here I am, leaving a comment, ha. Anyway, I am really enjoying your recent posts. And you daughter is so cute.

  2. Jenna – I’m an on again/off again reader since Weddingbee days and I’ve never commented before. I read the comment furore on your Arena post with interest though and then I randomly looked at some of your archives and I was really struck by the different tone in the comments. In a post from 2011 (I think), you had posted something fairly controversial about your faith (at the time) and it had prompted a signficant number of affirming and dissenting comments. Your responses to the comments were thoughtful, respectful and insightful. It was really enjoyable to read.

    I just thought you might be interested to also read some of the older posts and see what’s changed. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but there was just such a different vibe in your responses, which in turn, seemed to encourage a similar vibe from your commenters. Just a thought.

    Ellie Reply:

    I think it’s really hard not to become super-defensive when your site is featured as a hate-read, and when a number of people who you used to view as friends turn against you and start sharing personal things you have shared with you on that site. It must be really hard to not read every constructively critical comment as from the Enemy and it’s hard to know whether you can trust somebody who is being critical as actually trying to be helpful.

    One time I think Jenna handled it well recently was when she posted about buying T1 a helmet from Goodwill and then pretty much everybody commented with either: used helmets are gross or used helmets are unsafe! and she did a follow up post that addressed the issue and included a link to the helmet that she ordered. I think that is similar to what you’re talking about here, Jenna, so I look forward to the changes.

    LifeOn Mulberry Reply:

    I have to imagine Jenna had more time to devote to comments in 2011…

  3. It sounds like you have a good plan in place. I’ve seen several blogs that do the follow up posts for comments and I think it’s a good one. Someone that may leave one comment may not check back for additional comments and would get more from the discussion by seeing a new post.

  4. I think this is a great idea, Jenna! I also think that it will end up being better for you and for the discussion amongst readers if you are not engaging in the negative conversation. Some of the comments I read on either the Arena post or the Redux post were way out of line (that’s putting it mildly). I think that when you didn’t engage with them, it really served to highlight how incredibly out of line and crazy those people sounded.

  5. I appreciate that you are taking the time to evaluate how you interact with your readers, but honestly, as a reader, I don’t expect you to respond to everything I say, lol Especially when you have so many followers., it’s just not realistic. I don’t expect everyone to agree with you, and when you’re bombarded with 345987987 different opinions, I also don’t expect you to take each and every one into consideration to come up with an “educated” conclusion. What we all SHOULD insist on is a platform for civil discussion. Read every comment, but ignore the truly heinous ones. Respond when you can, whether it be to a praise or constructive criticism comment. I do like the FAQ idea though…I think your readers really would like to hear your response to certain questions and that’s a great way to address the major ones all at once. Good luck! 😀

  6. I really admire your new approach. I’m looking forward to participating more! I think comments are really what makes blogs great.

  7. Thanks for listening, Jenna.. I am looking forward to this new approach, too! The opportunity to interact personally with a blogger, or at least the sense that the blogger interacts with his/her audience in some way, is what brings me back to blogs 🙂

  8. I honestly did not see anything wrong with the first Arena post. I understood where you were coming from when you said there is a select group of people whose opinions you really appreciate and respect. Respect needs to be earned and relationships need to be built over time. The internet makes building trusting relationships even more challenging. I understand you do not want to offend your readers, but honestly, I am confused at the heated discussion going on in the comments section. Why are so many readers angry they are not in your inner circle? If they are not the ones trolling your page, they should be glad to hear you have a new approach for weeding out and ignoring the damaging responses. Anyway. Good luck with your new approach.

  9. Hey
    I really like the idea of considered responses that RESPOND meaningfully to further the conversation rather than a defensive ‘Here’s why I’m right and you’re wrong’ or ‘ha-ha, LOL!’ that you see on so many blogs (and to be honest option A there is what has recently turned me off commenting here, as sometimes I think you obviously find it difficult to see the forest – readers wanting a discussion – for the trees – people jumping on you just because they can). Taking the time to cool down and think through who is worth responding to and who to ignore will greatly improve the community around here.

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