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How to Run a Comfortable, Friendly Blog with Great Conversation

Last week, my friend janinsanfran, who blogs at Where is the Way Forward, left this comment:

”If you have the energy and the desire, I think your blog friends would greatly appreciate your writing about how you've managed to make this place an oasis of healthy interaction among your readers.

“So many internet spaces have turned out to be such disappointments, but here reading comments is part of the delight.”

Isn't that true, about how good the comments are on this blog. What I write wouldn't be half as interesting without the followup from TGB readers.

janinsanfran is right about how so many other places on the internet become impossible to read, filled with trash talk, personal attacks, generalized hatred, even pornography sometimes.

My first favorite forum for good online conversation, 25 or 30 years ago, succumbed to such trolls and had to be shut down. I vowed I would never let that happen to TGB and I've been successful. Here are some of my self-imposed rules to make that so.

No personal attacks against me or commenters. There are no second chances on this one and no prior notice. If a personal attack appears, I delete it as soon as I see it and I ban anything from that IP address from being posted in the future.

No advertising masquerading as a comment. This happens more than you would think. The message is structured to sort of look like a comment but it is always poorly done and there is always a link to something that is for sale (or pornography).

As with personal attacks, I remove these as soon as I see them and ban the IP addresses forever. No prior notice, no explanation.

No links of any kind in comments. This sounds like a harsh rule but it saves readers and me an enormous amount of time and distraction. First, some are links to commercial products and services. This site accepts no advertising in any form including trying to slide retails sites past me as a comment.

For that and other reasons, it is necessary for me to check all links and there is not time for that in my world even before I was diagnosed with cancer. So I delete all links no matter who they are from, even if I know the person, because, in addition, any links suggest to others that they are allowed to be posted.

And, sorry, but most of you do not know how to do the html to make a proper link so if I allowed them I'd need to spend even more time untangling the html.

These three immutable rules have helped keep Time Goes By an attractive and comfortable place for anyone to hang out without fear of being attacked. Aside from the three rules, anyone is allowed to say whatever they want.

But there is more than just rules.

I always acknowledge sources of facts and information and link to them whenever possible whether they are research sites, media or from TGB readers who have supplied useful information. People can then make their own choice about whether to dig deeper into topics.

It has become part of wallpaper now, hardly noticeable, but many years ago, I made a deliberate decision to share something about my personal experience or observation when it is pertinent to whatever I am writing about.

Humans are uniquely designed to learn through storytelling – we've been doing it for millennia, passing on information and lore from our experiences to the next generations.

When I share something about me, it gives readers permission to do that too and together, every day, we build a rich compendium of stories to add to our knowledge.

Or sometimes, just to laugh with one another. That's important too.

One last thing, in ageing for all these years and now with end-of-life issues, I write about things that other people often don't - the everyday things I've noticed in my life or run across in my reading that don't seem to be part of general literature of growing old or dying.

The first big one that worried me when I posted it was urinary incontinence. I thought readers might run away in droves at such an icky subject. But no. So many people had their own stories and I realized from that experience that there were a lot of things that needed to be discussed in the open. And so it has been ever since.

Most recently, in my current predicament, I find that about 90 percent of the literature about dying that I've read over 15 years is by, for or about caregivers. I may have told you already that I have learned these past 18 months that caregivers of all kinds are different from me and most people I know.

They dedicate their lives to helping people often in the most dire circumstances of their lives and beyond caregivers' expertise, their kindness and love and care is almost beyond reason. They are special people.

But, as much as has been written about them – hundreds of books, thousands of articles and studies – very little is written for, by or about the person doing the dying. Maybe there is a handful.

And so, on that subject, I am trying to do what I've done in the past for the other ignored aspects of ageing. By my documenting one person's end-of-life journey, readers have been leaving many stories from their own and loved ones' end-of-life predicaments, and by that we are all enriched.

So janinsanfran, that's at least some of what I've tried to do to make this a safe and comfortable place for people to have their say and I think it has worked most of the time.


"....some of what I've tried to do..." changed to:

"....some of what I've done...."

You've wildly succeeded at this, to everyone's satisfaction and often, delight.

Gads, how I look forward to coming here in the early hours of dawn! And never with a dread of snark or friction amongst this group or for something I post.

As a fellow and far less successful blogger---although I've been at for 16 years in various reincarnations---I really admire what you've accomplished with your blog. You have such devoted followers and your hard work shows with every post. Thank you for answering janinsanfran's question with such detail but you left out one important fact: You're a darn good writer and people have come to trust the information you dispense.

I suspect it may be function of the maturity of the audience. Ronni provides a wealth of useful and interesting content. (It is one of very few blogs I read.) Her readers respect Ronni for the way she provides and polices her blog, and the readers are here for incremental knowledge and thinking, not to create mischief.

I just started blogging at 67. It is so crowded out there. I don't know if I will ever be 'found' even after studying SEO and all that. I will try if for a year and see what happens. You have a great blog.

Thanks for answering. I agree very much with Perspective above -- we respect you. And so we respect your space and each other. Thanks to Perspective also for the phrase "incremental knowledge." That's exactly what we pass about through personal blogs at their best.

Ronni, you go the extra miles to ensure we don't see on your blog all the detritus of virtually all other social media. We appreciate all your efforts! Plus, your blog captures all the good traits including but not limited to: honesty, dedication, generosity, trust, respect, incite, hard work, humor, humility, timely topics, openness, and so many more in well written prose.

Thank you. As others I look forward to reading you very early before the sun peeps through my window. You and I begin my day.

I too look forward to starting my day with you. And I’ve often continued on to read the comments. I appreciate your candor as well as the supporting or in addition to comments of those who come comment.

Sorry I posted a link to my rabbits the other day! I didn't know about the rules.

Ann Silbermann from "But doctor, I hate pink" (great blog title, I think) is writing about her experiences around cancer, knowing that she is on the last stretch.

Thank you for your blog ; I ve got quite a few years to go through and am inspired by your honest, humorous and saying - it-like-it-is style.
Love from Amsterdam

Your comment rules are much like mine, Ronni, except I don't have nearly as many readers. I do allow links, but they are held for moderation until I can review them; only then do they go into print. And I try to reply to most of my comments. The exchanges are half the fun of blogging. (But, as I said, I don't have nearly your readership.)

Comments used to be the best part of most websites I visited -- until they got so bad that some sites stopped allowing them at all (and I almost always want to add my two cents!) or comments are still published, but are so rude and off-topic that I won't read them.

Time Goes By has always been a fun, informative place to visit and I love reading both the posts and all the comments.

Thank you. Just thank you. This is a breath of fresh air in a town polluted with garbage.

I think there is one more factor, not mentioned because intangible. Or perhaps out of innate humility. You set a tone here, Ronni, that would make unpledantness jarring! Thank you.

I am fairly new to your blog and now look forward to reading it every day. A few months ago, I was talking to a good friend about getting older. We graduated from university in the early 70's together and have remained in touch throughout the ups and downs of both our lives. She recommended I start reading your blog. For anyone stumbling through the aging process, your honest and open descriptions are relatable. I am 67 and help my 87 year old Mom. Both of us now benefit from your incite and practical approach to living life to the fullness at any age.

You are a miracle and a mitzvah, thank you for helping all of us on this “parlous” journey.

I read you as soon as my eyes are open, before the newspaper. You are what keeps me going in the age of the name which shall not be spoken!

Ronni--You have succeeded, brilliantly. You are succeeding, brilliantly. I'm sorry that such is the case but it seems likely that many of us will continue to benefit from your successes long after your efforts have ceased. I fearlessly say that you will succeed, brilliantly, to the end.

As a relatively new blogger, the one thing I've learned from you is not to hold anything (or very little) back. I cannot tell a story in the "third person." I try, as I think you have done, is write as if I were having a conversation with a friend over a cup of coffee.

BTW, I really love your "Interesting Stuff" posts on Saturday. It shows that older folks are interested in things other than Medicare, Social Security, and the latest mobility aids.

What kept me coming back is your excellent writing, Ronni. It's so good that it goes unnoticed, but it's always been one of my favorite features of this blog. The other is having a real live human going through aging, something that was beginning to interest me when I found you.

And yes - even when it comes to looking at senior living, much of the marketing is directed to the resident's children, not the future resident. I'm noticing it more as I watch two friends, both single women with no kids, struggle to stay in their single-family homes despite increasing health problems. I hope I make a different decision.

Terrific management!

It's so easy to feel like the only one in the world sometimes and that no one gives a hoot. Starting my morning with you and your readers gives me a good shake up and a boost because self-pity gets one nowhere. My thank you's are just as much for this community of followers as for you.

Back in the time I had a blog I read the blogs of the writers who commented on my blog. I am quite political and my blog ended up being more political than personal (never intended at the start) and one commentator wrote a similar blog and allowed all sorts of comments.

The comments were quite insulting and nasty by a repeat commentator and he attacked my offerings in an attack on me personally. As a result I quit reading the blog to avoid further displeasure.

If a blogger allows insulting comments for the fun of controversy, it demeans the blog and becomes just another social media post and, to me, becomes meaningless as a result.

Thank you, Ronni, for not allowing that to happen to TGB.

I know it's a fantasy and not practical, but wouldn't it be a hoot to have a grand "live" reunion of all of us on Ronni's ship and give her the send-off she deserves!

I have nothing to add to these lovely comments. You have and are writing something that I look forward to every day. That is hard to come by in this day and age.
Is there a way your thoughts can be saved, perhaps in a book form? Your thoughts are invaluable.

Thanking you again, Ronni, for your posts bring so many into the good 'conversations' we all want at this time of life.

No need to repeat all that has already been said so well, but really agreed with Bruce Cooper mentioning the interests of the folks of our vintage.

It leads right in to "Perspective's" comment: " I suspect it may be function of the maturity of the audience."

Now, from my house... I think the four sure signs of maturity are,
Wisdom, Confidence, Character and Courage. Many more come to mind, but those stood out to me as I encountered older folks all of my life .

"incremental Knowledge" (what a wonderful phrase), generosity of spirit, clear and cogent writing, critical and current topics -- those are just a few of the reasons so many of us return to the caring community on this blog every day!

I don't have anything of value to add to these comments, but I also don't want to be left out! I second all previous comments and am so glad I found you way back when. The comments are as important a part of each blog that I read them avidly.

You nailed it Ronni. 'Nuff said.

It certainly is a rare talent that keeps us coming back fore more "ronni." The Alex &Ronni Show is like icing on the cake. Grateful to have found TGB a few years ago.

It's always cozy in here.

As with all the other commenters here, I really love visiting your blog. I always read the comments as part of the post. I too am rapidly aging and acceptance of that natural state is part of the battle. I hope your "boat" stays afloat a very long time. Your writing is humanly wonderful and reaches the nub of whatever you are saying. I have left all the social media sites that I once followed, mainly because of the nasty comments and trashy posts. I don't need it in my life and don't understand those who thrive on the dross.

Since I often do not get around to reading my email until afternoon, all the good stuff has already been said. All I can do is ditto it. Having been mildly called out a couple of times over the years for veering a bit off-target, I definitely respect what Ronni has done to keep TGB, well, TGB. I've learned to be a little less direct at times, especially if I'm not very knowledgeable about the subject under discussion. (I'm still pretty direct when it comes to the current occupant of the Oval Office, however.)

What a brilliant legacy Ronni will leave for her readers and the world.

On this final day of the Festival of Lights חַג הַאוּרִים, thank you Ronni for lighting the way for so many years.

You're a special lady, Ronni. 'Nuff said.

It's your frankness, Ronni, that I appreciate most, I think. You pull no punches and tell it like it is. (I suspect on this point you were the same even in your youth.) So, yeah, your frankness. And your toughness. (Maybe grit is the word?) And your integrity. And your sense of humor. I could go on. But you being you encourages all of us to be us, and to share the best of us. It's just great to have a place — this blog — where we can share our thoughts without all the trolling one finds elsewhere online. So thanks for all the rules, and for being your inimitable self.

Not being a morning person, I read your blog, Ronnie, when I settle down in the evening. I learn so much here, and feel encouraged to reflect on and be open each day to my own experience of aging (75 for a couple more months). I am never disappointed by your posts, and I almost always read the comments and watch the videos.
Your "rules" for the blog, plus the quality of your writing (mentioned by others), make my time with you enjoyable and enriching, and I cannot express the value this has for me. Many, many thanks to you and the community here.

Ronni you are a blessing. Thank you.

I began to succumb to the lure of commenting in the blogosphere when I discovered TGB. Skepticism I felt toward my contributing slowly waned as I noted the consistent civility, pertinent topics, and interesting points of view expressed by the writer and those who commented.

But it was the blogger’s writing that initially attracted me and continues to do so — the ideas, the aging perspective, sensitivity to language nuances, occasional quirky humor, facts offered with supportive documentation, opinions identified, the sense of responding to a friend when I comment.

Further sharing some of the same attitudes, especially toward language and aging, undeniably motivated me to consider starting my own blog, though I did so prematurely accidentally. Occasionally, when I’ve allowed digital to absorb too much of my time I’ve lessened my participation, but I’ve continued to value being part of this community.

My sometimes erratic visits often don’t occur until evening, but that does offer me the benefits of reading others thoughts. Meanwhile, you just keep writing as long as you feel like it and I’ll keep paddling in my place on this ship whatever end is up.

I thank you Ronnie for allowing me to be influenced by your strength. When I come to your blog I learn so much and not just about what's happening in this world. I learn how to handle life situations. I know that may sound strange but making decisions is not my forte. Then I go to the wonderful group who leave comments. Once again I am made to think and I learn how that person is living, maintaining a life alone, or making the best of every day life. This is just an amazing journey. I love all of you for sharing so much of yourselves.

You’ve been the friend I wake up to every morning, who has given me the courage to open up about past and current events in my life, which now makes discussion possible.

Thank you

I guess I could best sum it up by saying, Ronni shows us what real class is when much of the
world has forgotten. Eleanor Roosevelt, who I admire so much, said, "Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art…"

Ronni, for all that you have done for us and given to us, you are a work of art.

Much gratitude and love from Canada,

Seems to me there are plenty of people who are actively dying and writing about it. When I was first diagnosed with cancer 13 years ago, I found such stuff online very easily. But IMHO interesting blogs (buried under junk promoted by algorithms?) are way harder to find these days.

As a long-time blogger, dealing with the challenges and possibilities of what I call the October Years, I envy the way you have been able to create a real conversation, with meaningful comments. Obviously you are touching people in ways that make them comfortable.

My own cancer diagnosis, two years ago, had me creating an eight-part series of posts that seemed to be well received. So I can see how folks are drawn to your frank discussions of such late=life trials. Good job.

And you do it so well.

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