Wednesday, 15 July 2009
Blog Comments and the Internet
A bonus today: two posts in one. The first is a bit of nuts-and-bolts information on commenting.
Email and RSS Subscriptions
Many more people read Time Goes By via email and RSS subscriptions than visit this website. As a result, I field 10 to 15 emails each week asking why they cannot comment. So this is a self-serving explanation intended to reduce the number of those messages I have been answering individually. Let me explain.
When a day's post arrives in your email inbox or RSS reader, it contains the entire story. Many bloggers send only the first paragraph or so which requires you to click “Read More” to see the rest of the story at the website. That does wonders for visitor statistics, but I figure you subscribe for convenience – we all have too much to read – so if you subscribe to TGB, you get the whole thing.
Then, if you want to read comments or leave your own, all you need to do is click the title at the top of the email or RSS feed. Your browser will open on that story at the Time Goes By website. To comment, scroll down to the bottom of the post, click the word “Comments” to read comments and/or leave your own. (It works identically at The Elder Storytelling Place.)
This is not unique to my blogs. All email and RSS subscriptions work this way. You can always tell what words are links; they stand out by being a different color from the rest of the text and usually become underlined when you roll your cursor over those words. Sometime, if the site is designed that way, the words change color too when you mouse over them.
One person who emailed this week asked why there are no instructions explaining this. Except for the story, I don't control what the email and RSS service includes in the mailing, but linking is the lifeblood, the essence of the internet whether it comes to you by browser or email, so I suppose they assume everyone knows how linking works. And if you didn't before, now you do.
Isn't the Internet Wonderful
The graphical browser, which is what made the internet easy for anyone to use, has been around now for 15 years. The web is commonplace enough today that I think we forget how wonderful it is. I remember decades of going to the library for research, plowing through Readers' Guides and other listings, writing down names and dates of publications I wanted, then waiting for the librarian to deliver microfiche rolls. When I was lucky, I didn't have to wait further for a machine to be free to view them.
Dozens of reference books that once lined my shelves are gone now (although I still use my favorite print thesaurus because the online versions are limited in scope and number of synonyms). If I can't remember what year a film was released or who starred in it, for example, or when Frank Sinatra died, it takes less than 30 seconds to find out. A few keystrokes bring up hundreds or thousands of stories about anything I want to know.
There is no way to count what I have learned by following links. Often it is information I didn't know I wanted, but it expanded my knowledge. When I don't understand something – toxic derivatives come to mind – there are hundreds of explanations. And if I need instructions for a do-it-yourself project, it is on the web.
And then there are the services unique to the web, that didn't exist before. Turn-by-turn driving directions; detailed descriptions of products I might want to buy with reviews from real users; email; blogs and Skype are just a few examples.
And now we are in the middle of a transition to all internet all the time. If you missed an episode of a favorite television program, it's online. If you can't attend a lecture because it is in another city or halfway around the world, it is likely to turn up on FORA, YouTube or TED. More and more news events, such as the Senate hearings on the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court this week, are broadcast in real time on the web.
It would take a book (or, these days, a book-length blog post) to list all the terrific things the internet has done for us and when I stop to think about it, I'm thrilled. Among the best is how it gives elders, who might otherwise become isolated and lonely, a worldwide social life.
I was wondering recently if I could I identify a single thing the internet has taught me that I would value above all others. After a good deal of thought, I have come to this: that no one is unique. If I am thinking about it, believe it, question it, wonder about it, love it, hate it, want it or care about it – so do others.
What that means is that no one is alone. No one needs to worry that he or she is weird or a freak. No one needs to be afraid to speak up. Somewhere online someone else is already writing about it, someone who can answer questions, console, help you understand or simply share a rare interest.
Isn't that wonderful?
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, polkadot22: Parts of a Man