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on being approachable

Iím going to stick my neck out on the chopping block here and disagree with Kate.

Kate doesnít really care for email from her readers. She would prefer that you leave a comment and not send her long personal emails, because she doesnít have time to read/answer them.

Every minute a blogger spends reading e-mails from some lonely individual who hopes to strike up a lifelong friendship by exchanging the minutia of their daily lives is one less minute the blogger has to actually blog, which is presumably what attracted the reader in the first place.

While I may not be the best at answering my emails (I always do, sometimes later rather than sooner), I love reading them. In addition to the slew of hate mail I receive, I get long, detailed letters from people who want to expand on thoughts they left in my comments or feel that what they have to say is too personal to leave in the comments. What Kate says to that is:

...the best way to a blogger's heart is through his or her "hit counter."

Not this blogger. Yes, having a steady readership is nice. Being a Mortal Human in the Ecosystem is good for the blogging ego (and yea, I'm a little perturbed that I fell to #5 on the Blogrolling Top 100, but that's just because I have this need to be above Pirillo). But I don't want my readers to just be a number on my sitemeter. I like to know who they are, where they came from, why they're reading, what they think. Stats mean absolutely nothing if you know nothing about why people are reading you.

Kate gives some tips to people who are considering emailing bloggers.

Next, ask yourself this: 2. What am I hoping to accomplish from this e-mail? If your answer is "to make a friend," then you need to realize that the best way to a blogger's heart is through his or her "hit counter." So comment, visit, and tell your friends about the blog, but let the blogger do what he or she set their hearts on: Let them blog!

When I first started blogging, I considered some bloggers unapproachable. I was intimidated by writers with huge stats. I thought huge stats equated huge egos. I was wrong. Iím glad I took the time to email some of them, because we either struck up friendships or their replies made me realize that being a blogger with a giant hit counter doesnít make you better than anyone else at being a human. I started my blog to connect with people. Iím certainly not going to turn those people away when they want to strike up a conversation outside of my website.

When I wrote about my sonís bullying problem, I received over 100 emails about it, ranging from people who had been bullied in school and wanted to relay their experiences and how they got over them, to people who had been the bullies and wanted to give me tips on how to keep DJ from getting beat up. I got emails from educators, attorneys and people I had never corresponded with before who wanted to reach out, but didnít want to do it publicly.

I get emails like that every day. I am honored that people want to share their stories with me. I donít think they are looking for a life-long buddy like Kate does. I think they just want to share part of themselves with someone who has shared part of themselves with them. Part of the glory of writing in a public place, for me at least, is that I make a connection with people. I like to hear that someone has been through the same thing and survived. I like to read the emails that encourage me, give me strength or send me off in a direction I hadnít thought of.

I have made friends through emails like that. Iíve made very good friends that way. Maybe I will take ten days to answer your letter, but I always will at some point. And you can be sure that I read it as soon as I opened it. I donít delete or discard or throw into a folder to read some other time. I feel if someone has taken the time to write to me, especially if is not hate mail, they deserve my attention. I would feel awful if someone poured their heart out to me and I never acknowledged their mail.

I do get a lot of crap mail. I get people begging me for links, people asking me to help them write their high school essays, people who want to engage me in a flame war that I want no part of. Most of the mail I get in a day, besides spam, is from people baiting me into a war of words that I want no part of. So when I do get long, personal letters from someone responding to something I wrote, I pay attention.

I never consider emails sent to me from readers a burden like Kate does. I consider them a honor. So go ahead, email me. Iím all ears and eyes.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference on being approachable:

» Amen, Sister! from A Gaggle of Gals (and one Guy)
Go read Michele's post on emailing bloggers, and then come back and I'll tell you what I think! I know, [Read More]

» Corndogs and Accordians from aka cooties
LeeAnn left a comment at Michele's discussing how awkward it is, sometimes, to leave a 'comment' on one of the Big Gun blogs (like, say, Michele's). I confess that sometimes I feel the same way, though I do usually end up posting a heavily revised comm... [Read More]

» More on blogging from Beth's Contradictory Brain
Sometimes the most disheartening thing about having this blog is reading all the other blogs and how well some of [Read More]

» Friendly or invasive? from One Name Left
I really don't know quite what to think of this post by Kate. In it she expresses her views on receiving emails that are either too long or too personal to have been sent to someone you know only from... [Read More]


Is there any difference between getting an e-mail and getting a comment forwarded to you via e-mail from the MT engine?

It depends, Laurence. I get my comments emailed to me because it's easier to keep up, plus I like to see the comments I get on older posts.

Emails tend to be longer and more personal. I like that.

I totally agree with your sentiments here - I've even gone so far as to email someone who has left a comment on my blog when I thought they had more to say on the subject. It's easy to be intimidated by a bloggers huge hit counter, like you mention, and also feel like there's a clique in the commenting forum on a blog, so the very act of reaching out and emailing is a pretty big step for some people.

Just yesterday I had a comment from someone who came right out and explained how she found my blog and stated how nervous she was about even leaving a comment. What, like I was going to bite her head off for leaving a comment? If I have commenting available, use it. If I have my email published, use that, too. If I didn't want to hear from people I'd take the necessary steps.

I don't think emailing equates a desire to strike up a long-term friendship but sometimes it naturally evolves that way. I've gotten to know some really great people simply because they took two seconds to email me and I've also met some real freaks that way. That's what the delete button is for.

I'm not a blogger, just a commenter, but I've got positive responses from all the big-name bloggers I've mailed so far. Usually I just chicken out and use comments, though. grin

I actually don't mind it either, although I haven't gotten a whole lot of emails from people, when I do I actually enjoy the experience.

I prefer the comments, though (which are emailed to me, as well), simply because I like the communal aspect of the communication.

Michele, you have been unfailingly polite in your emails to me, and I thank you.

I got a blog-related email from Senator Dianne Feinstein. Of course, it was because some wacky joker had sent her an email using my email address, but, even so, it was very special to me.

As a blogger and a commenter, MB thinks most times the comment section is just fine. That said, on rare occasions, MB has something to say on the topic that is best done by eMail for whatever reason. MB does enjoy both reading comments from readers and the occasional eMail sent for the same reason as she does. It works.

Laurence, the biggest difference is that comments are typically on topic. The emails that I was describing were not.

As I explained to Michele in our email (see, I don't hate all email), I was talking about intensely personal, off-topic emails from folks who'd never previously commented at my site.

For the record, I replied in what I thought was a nice but brief way but recieved another round within an hour of my reply, and so on, and so on. My replies got more brief and I hoped theirs would, too. No such luck. Then came the round of "did you get my e-mail??" e-mails. I tried the delete button. I got another round of "Are you going to write back?" e-mails. I tried writing back with "I'm sorry, I'm really swamped right now, so let's talk in the comment section," but got yet another flurry of e-mails saying that whenever I had time to reply to the first, here's more to write back on, too.

When the number of those kinds of emails reached over 100 in my InBox in a 48 hour span, I blew my cool.

Why the fuck would anyone post an email link on their blog (right at the very top no less) if they don't want people emailing them?

The attitude expressed over at "that site" really epitomizes what I hate about the new breed of vanity bloggers, seeking to glorify their opinions and avoiding any responsibility for the community building some of use older folk have always encouraged.

But hey, I'm just a troll, what do I know.

"...let the blogger do what he or she set their hearts on: Let them blog!..."

I have visions of young Kate being hounded by paparazzi, like she's in a French high society movie, flash-bulbs popping as she tries to run from her limo to the entrance of the Versace show.

'Over here, Kate! [Pop] Thanks!'
'This way, Kate.[Pop] Thank you.'
'One for your Aussie fans, please, Kate. [Pop] Thanks, Kate'

Pop! Pop! Pop!

Press Release read by Kate's personal assistant, while Kate stands quietly in the corner: 'Miss Kate wants to thank everyone for their interest, and will do her best to accomodate the press and photographers. She plans on spending what little free time she has between blog entries visiting some friends here in Paris, and then it's back to the computer. Kate has some really wonderful ideas for future blog work, including some collaborative efforts with Bono, Sting and her dear friend, Luciano. She will be taking no questions at this time...'

Well, I'll never get the past five minutes back, and it's a shame because I would like to have time to post to my own blog.

PS I don't mind e-mail at all.

Email aside (which, btw, I love to get and answer) let's address the intimidation issue. As a newbie blogger and one on the hated Blogspot train to boot, I am now more conscious of how I comment, especially on the "big guys" blogs. Will they see it as just a comment, or a pitiful plea for attention or the desperate attempts to sit at the big kids' table? And what if it's a dumb, unwitty comment? A boring comment? A comment that goes on and on forever without reaching the point?
Point is, I know there is a heart and mind and potentially nice person behind the megalinks and the gazillion and two hits on a "famous name" blog. And I am less apt to speak without backspacing to get it just right than I would be on a lesser-known blog. Bloglebrity worship? Possibly.
Or it might be I just know someday I AM gonna sit at the big kids' table, and I want my manners to be good enough.
Thanks for a nice post.

Ditto. I much prefer the e-mails. I don't always respond, unless they are asking me a question (I can answer), but I don't care about my hit counter. If hits were all I cared about I could show pics of my tits (okay, maybe that would drive people away)--but you know what I mean.

Blogging software is simply the software I use. I don't consider myself a "blogger" looking for hits or fame and fortune. It's a hobby and a form of expression for me. If no one read it, I'd still do it.

If any of you people know how to make my penis larger, I sure could use an email, because I never get any of those. Or a comment - that's fine, too. Either way, as long as I see results in 30 days or less.

I have to point out the obvious bit of irony: Kate sent the post to a bunch of bloggers IN AN EMAIL.

All comments, directed to the daily topic of a blog, should be posted in the "comments section", to make it public domain for all to read, rather than sent by Email, where the comments might as well be labeled confidential or stamped top secret, more suited for an online diary, a crude misnomer if not, an outright, oxymoron. Email is the protocol of Pen Pals, and in the aforementioned context, equivalent to a side bar discussion in a criminal courtroom. I feel that you should consider Email from strangers different from Email from your circle of friends, as chummy as the former, may be, still soul mates, nonetheless. As a general rule, all correspondence should be posted as comments, if for no other reason than to prevent the "echo effect" and the "assimilation by collective" which many, today, accuse blogging to be inflicted with. At least, their commentary will be available for review and subject to reply. Too many birds of a feather on one web site is like a bunch of pigeons on a stature, with the same effect. Show me some tit, Michele, and I'll still come back, even though I'm an ass man. There are certain items like--suggestions on what topics to write about--that should be requested via Email by the readers, but I can't see any reader considering you "unapproachable", if you low-prioritize Email. Maybe their Emails should instead, be labelled I-Mails, since most of the content on their stationary excludes the rest of your children, stalkers and junkies, alike. But that's only one bloggee's opinion, on one day in May.

To add my widow's mite to the discussion:

I think that each blogger has a personal preference as to how they'd like their readers to communicate with them. Some prefer comments, some prefer e-mail, some don't care as long as they get feedback. Some don't care if they get feedback at all! (My ego is way, way too fragile for no feedback; I admire those of you who can put so much energy into your writing and be content to let it drift on its own).

I did not think Kate's post was rude - I saw it as a blogger expressing her preference, as she has the right to do on her own blog. It seems to me that letting one's readers know that your e-mail volume is swamping you is much more polite than never answering those mails, or giving a terse reply to someone who has poured their heart out to you.

Again - a matter of preference. I just don't see why folks would get so upset over the expression of a preference, and resort to personal attacks as a consequence.

I don't see where I attacked Kate.

Oh, dear me, no. You did not.

Others did.

Not to get too caught up in this clique mindset, I think Kate didn't merely state HER preferences; she was giving advice to readers and saying "what we'd say if we had the courage" or something with that intent. That is simply not the case. It was advice to blog READERS about how ALL bloggers feel.

Kim, for example, doesnít have public comments because he doesnít want that kind of feedback. He has a comment section that is intentionally invisible to anyone but him (and it helps him keep track of what generated the feedback by associating it with a particular post)óhe likes it that way. He also gets tons of e-mails from people asking him advice on which gun heíd recommend and he LIVES for that. He LOVES it. That is, literally, what he does this for. If Kate thinks that she is speaking for other bloggers, or helping Kim or I, she isnít. In fact, she is giving advice that is directly opposite of our personal preferences.

If Kate (or anyone) states their particular preference for communication (or anything else for that matter) I would have no issue with it (itís none of my business). But when someone decides to speak for me, then I donít like it. Thatís MY opinion. Other bloggers might not have a problem with a blogger making a public pronouncement about something. I do.

Ewwwwwww. I don't like that aspects of this discussion are starting to remind me of things that really did happen in the high school cafeteria.

When will people learn to disagree with a person does not mean that you have to hold them up personally as an object of scorn and ridicule? It feels like some character assissination is going on with regards to Venomous Kate's online persona and that doesn't really seem cricket to me. Like, let's all gang up on the popular girl. That's mature.

Granted, the tone of the post was rather scathing. I won't be sending her any personal e-mails unless invited, I guess, but it isn't like she has shut all the drawbridges and refused to communicate, either. That's why she has enabled her 'Comments' feature at all.

So, please, let's all take a deep breath and put this into perspective. Yes? Can I buy you a drink? I promise you don't have to hear my life story.


i am just amazed that michele is able to read other blogs, post entries on multiple blogs, answer readers, work outside of the home, raise kids, and keep her husband sexually satisfied. i'm worn out just thinking about it all.

Well if that's true, should Michele waver off course in any way or show the slightest sign of dereliction, we (is there such a thing?) act like drones, with mob mentality, and keep her paddling like a hampster.

Fascinating. May I point something out that's related, if bigger in scope:

I'm chilly and uptight myself, so I'm generally not in danger of misbehaving, I don't think. But people have different house rules. It's a facile point, but "too personal" and "insulting me rather than countering my argument" have different watermarks for different people, and even the same people vary in sensitivity. Those that don't give lists or otherwise clarify are going to have to keep making case-by-case announcements. Especially since nowadays there are plenty of people who do think it's perfectly natural to start a friendship with a stranger by pinging him 1000 words about their bunions (or worse).

Of course, you could also argue that a woman who styles herself "Venemous Kate" and puts gorgons in her banner is trying to tell you something.