Reply, Respond, Comment
TL;DR: Be thoughtful, critical, respectful, and specific in your comments.
Everyone who publishes anything online loves comments. One of the greatest aspects of digital media is the participation that it encourages and requires from the community.
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We, as commentators, have a great responsibility to provide feedback and help to direct the conversation on issues that concern our communities. This is a great responsibility, and it makes the author feel good, too — that his or her writing is actually being read in a thoughtful way.
In writing comments on a blog or forum, you should try to add to the conversation the entry begins. First, has the author done a good job in carefully considering her position? If not, your comment might indicate what has been omitted and provide additional ideas for her to consider, including your own. You should respectfully encourage further thought — deeper thought. No one wants to read entries that just skim the surface of an issue, so comments should help direct continued investigation. Did the author or original responder support his observation with evidence or a link? Maybe a comment could help fix this oversight?
Comments can move the discussion in another direction, but they should not completely ignore original comments, or if posting on a blog entry, be sure the comment is not a non sequitor. Comments need to stay on-topic, but there’s usually much leeway within the topic to explore.
Not only should comments elicit further thought, but they should also provide helpful feedback. You might also consider how well the entry is written from a stylistic and mechanical perspective: i.e., is the entry relatively free of typos and poorly composed sentences? A comment might indicate specific sentences and general problems the author seems to have. You goal here it to be helpful to the author’s developing writing style, especially in writing courses.
Above all, commenters should avoid “trolling” and “spamming.” Trolling is when you’re just harsh, disrespectful, and generally not helpful. Always be respectful to another human being: try to respond the way you might want someone to respond to you. Be considerate, but critical. Responses like “Yeah, good job! I totally agree!” are not helpful. You may be complimentary, but any entry could use improvement. “Spamming” can be defined, at least for our purposes here, as comments that are irrelevant to an entry. Many spammers are trying to make money on the web and will link from as many blogs as they can to gain exposure through search engines like Google. Yet, spam is also junk that has nothing to do with the subject matter of the post. Always stay relevant and on topic. Your goal as a commentator is to prod additional thought, not just thoughtlessly support mediocrity.
Be thoughtful, critical, respectful, and specific in your comments.