Peter Croft penned our 180,000th comment last night just before I turned in. (He's in Oz so it wasn't night where he was—it was a bit past noon.) Note the counter.
...All moderated, by the way. When friends ask me what I do for a living, I sometimes say "I moderate comments." It's what I do most of the day, most days. I used to do a better job at it, but then I got a life, and I no longer wanted to spend quite as much time doing it. I hope I've reached a good balance, although sometimes I mess up.
Which raises an interesting issue...up until a few years ago, I was convinced that TOP had to keep growing. But then I thought, wait a minute, we get about the right number of comments already. Not too few—but not too many, either. If I got three times as many comments as we do now, I would be swamped. Therefore it stands to reason that we must have about the right number of readers right now.
I do want TOP to stay healthy and keep going strong, but I'm happy enough where we sit. It might amuse you to learn that there are ways to manipulate both the amount of traffic the site receives and also, to some extent, the kinds of people who visit and read. If I were solely interested in driving traffic up, I could do a much better job of that than I do. I like the readers I get.
Commenters are the core of the readership. By very rough estimate, I would say only between 5% and 10% of readers ever comment. Many more people read but never comment.
If you're a regular reader, you probably get pleasure from what I write. For me, of course, that's work, and I already know what I think, because I thought it before I wrote it. The entertainment value of the enterprise for me is centered on the comments. I always learn things and find out about things (my entire house is full of stuff I've been turned on to by readers, from movies to socks), and you keep me entertained. It might amuse you to learn that I have my own favorite commenters...people whose thoughts I always looking forward to reading. There are two or three dozen on that list. I would probably read a blog by any of them, if any of them had time to write a blog (one is a retired financier, one a novelist, one a lawyer, one a country doctor. None are likely to become full-time writers about photographs).
But, ironically, sometimes it's the people who almost never comment who write the very best ones. Why? Because they are readers who are not motivated to respond unless we happen to light upon a topic that exactly fits their expertise or their direct experience. Then they chime in. Example: I once wrote a post about Irving Penn's platinum prints, and we got a comment from the platinum printer who assisted Penn in making those very prints, who described for us what it was like working alongside Penn in his darkroom. Priceless. I admit I'm always thinking about ways to figure out new topics, thinking that we might hear from new people if I do.
You don't have to comment to be welcome here. I'm well aware that I never hear from most readers...including some of my most loyal readers. Non-commenters are important too.
But thanks to Peter Croft and, by extension, all of you who have had, and will have, thoughtful and interesting things to contribute. It's an integral and important part of the lifeblood of The Online Photographer.
ADDENDUM: The following comment just came in from Hugh Crawford (one of those commenters I always enjoy) in response to the "Eggsactly" post:
My mother has some pet chickens that are about 16 years old. They used to run free dining on snails in the garden but then the hawks and owls started killing them. Now the two surviving hens mostly stay in a big covered pen about 20 feet square, unless a human is around and then they will come out but stick close to people.
Chickens are very social animals and get lonely. A few months ago a couple of chickens just wandered in* and without much fuss joined the flock. The two old hens and the two new hens really seem to enjoy each other's company. One of the hens even likes being held. Backyard eggs are to store eggs what backyard tomatoes are to store tomatoes. And the nasty short lives of most commercial hens is just awful.
*Not particularly unusual. For years we had a flock of peacocks that just moved in. Not as fun as you might imagine. They sound exactly like a screaming woman. They like to sleep in trees but when they are asleep they tend to fall out of the tree. On the roof of the house. They weigh about as much as a large turkey so in the middle of the night you wake up to the sound of what seems to be a screaming woman tumbling across the roof. Eventually you get used to it but it leads to interesting conversations with overnight guests at two in the morning. Oh and peacock poop, pretty much like goose poop, except that geese don't like to stand on things.
See what I mean about finding new topics? The part about the screaming woman tumbling across the roof made me laugh out loud...and who has a flock of peacocks "just move in"? Hugh leads an interesting and usual life.
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(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Tim: "I've probably visited TOP every day once a day for the last 10 years and commented less than 10 times. Good to know I'm appreciated."
David Dyer-Bennet: "With novels, I often find a special kind of goodness in first novels (not always, of course). I think maybe it's that that particular story grabbed them so hard that they had to sit down and write it out. I can see how there could be a similar effect with people who don't often comment (also not 100.00% perfect). Something that you care enough about to break your usual barriers."
Wolfgang Lonien: "What a nice story. Yours is one of the very few sites where I actually read all these comments...."
Steve Belanger: "I've been a daily reader of TOP for a number of years. I'm always impressed with the quality of the writing, both from you, Mike, and the people who comment. I've learned much from TOP over the years and I really appreciate your efforts."
Mike replies: You're very welcome, and thanks for reading.
Peter Croft: "Wow, my 15 minutes of fame. Thanks."