An ongoing topic on Twitter is resonating with me – the #CommentChallenge, described in this blog post by Kristīne Corbus – Comment Challenge. The challenge is basically to leave a comment on at least one blog post a week that’s relevant to your work.

This is something I tend to do anyway. It doesn’t matter if I’m reading an article, book, discussion forum, or blog post, or listening to a podcast or any other media, I’m always looking for a way to engage with the author. If an author gives me something useful, I have an opportunity to make it a richer experience with the author’s help, and possibly strengthen my network. Also, if I expect I may be posting a comment, I find that I read the information more carefully and I’m therefore more likely to retain it.

When I’m reading a blog, the form of my feedback may be a blog comment, but that’s not generally a great platform for an extended discussion. So if I really want to get into the topic and I know where the author hangs out online, I may start a discussion elsewhere. I’ll probably also post some sort of comment on the blog, because that helps to show the public that the blog has engaged readers (especially if there are no comments yet), which helps the author. A habit that serves me well is just trying to be helpful.

These are the types of situations where I tend to offer comments:

  • When I have a question about something the author said or a closely related topic, something I’d really like to learn – either the author’s opinion, or facts that are hard to find elsewhere.
  • When the author asked a question and I have potentially a useful answer.
  • When I have something to add to what the author said that I think will be highly valuable, even if the author didn’t ask for this type of feedback. I try not to do this very often.
  • When I disagree with something the author said. I think carefully before I do this. Doing this can often earn the respect of the author, and we’re both likely to learn something from the exchange, but when done in the wrong way, it can damage both my relationship with the author and my public reputation. I won’t try to elaborate on all the subtleties here. Often I just ask a question instead of stating directly that the author is wrong. I may find out that I misunderstood something they said, and I don’t actually disagree with them.
  • When I want to give kudos to the author for making an important point or for making a point particularly well. This type of feedback is less useful than the rest, so it’s best to combine it with one of the items above.

I still don’t comment on everything I read – only those things that I have a useful reaction to that I can share.

My challenge to myself is a bit different from the Comment Challenge. I tend to let my learning habit fizzle, so that I stop taking the time to read or otherwise learn new things. So my challenge is to expose myself to new things every week. When I do that, the comments will naturally follow.