The Fine Art of Conversation

I actually considered “Lost” in place of “Fine”. I changed and reverted a few times. I finally decided it is not completely lost, so I let it the original remain.

Bishwanath Ghosh, a friend for a long time, a blogger in my A-list, and a senior blogger (oh, don’t get me wrong, he is a fine young man) in the world of blogging made an interesting statement in one of his recent posts.

Of late, I’ve been trying not to contribute to my comment box, the reason being I do not want to push up the number of comments with ‘Thank yous.’ I have seen posts that have, say, 20 comments; and when you open the comment box, you find that 10 of them belong to the writer who is expressing gratitude to each commentator individually. Therefore, the ’20 comments’ figure is not only misleading but also meaningless. In any case, a heart-felt ‘thank you’ is supposed to be felt, not spelt out. Every sensible commentator will know that his or her comment has been read with a deep sense of gratitude.

There have been interesting comments to the post; I recommend that you read them. Of course, the said post is actually a response to a comment he received, which is rare – the response from him, i.e. I considered a long while (the said post was written on 27 July) to comment there. But all that I felt and would write about would hardly qualify as a comment, let alone do justice. Also, it wouldn’t get a response.

I agree with BG that often half the comments belong to the author. And half of those are only phrases of gratitude. But then, there are instances (and one comment on his post amply states that), where the comment stream is often a conversation. Rare, but it exists. There are the comments of the “Wow, well written” genre, to which you can’t do much justice other than the “Thank you” genre. But along comes a comment that begets a response from the author if not demands it. Putting your blog and thoughts out in the open is even more reason to respond. Ironically, this applies the most to his blog – he gets some of the most incisive and conversation-worthy comments (though quite a few of his readers are anonymous.) Some comments warrant a post – they do – a short response doesn’t quite do it good. Far-fetched though it may sound, would that be a mark of a responsible blogger, if I brought in the context of the word responsibility as Fredrick S. Perls brought it out in Gestalt Therapy Verbatim? The ability to respond.

I think of newspapers (whether print or online) when I think of these one-way conversations. It is not very often that an Editor ever replies to the “Letters to the Editor.” I have often felt about writing to editors, but have refrained. Does the Editor really read the letter? Or does it just go off to the layout person to be printed (or added as comments in an online publication)?

As blogs permeate geographical boundaries and you have readers from different geographies and cultures reading what you write, I think the heart has to do more than just feel. It has to set your hand and keyboard in action. I have seen many ways that people respond to comments. Some reply to each comment. Some reply only to the conversation-worthy comments. Some reply to all comments in the end. Whatever style you choose, it is better that the conversation happens than not. Conversation has taken new forms, we live in a larger world, we connect through our blogs rather than in the local coffee-shop or the pub.

Bishy, someday we will sit in a coffee shop or a pub and have a conversation, face-to-face, until then, will you deprive us of conversation? Let’s talk of the words in the comments, not the number of comments.

Update: You should see the way RubyShooz manages her comments. See, for example, this post about opening your eyes.

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