For several years I’ve had this crazy little practice when someone leaves a comment on this blog.
After I respond to the comment, I copy my response from the blog and paste it into the email notification that WordPress sends me each time one of you leaves a comment. The notification arrives via the email address you’ve submitted with your comment, so it’s pretty easy to hit “reply” and have my pasted response get emailed to you. Those are the emails, if you’ve ever received one, that start with response for you at wonderfarm. Often though, for no known reason, WordPress doesn’t send a notification email, so I have to create a new email, and dig up your email address from the Comments section of my administrative pages. I’ve even memorized the convoluted subject line that comes with the WordPress notifications, so I can type it into the responses I’ve created on my own.
It’s kind of a pain, and sometimes I think the whole process makes it seem like I’m the sort of compulsive person who would sort her underwear drawer by hue. (I would not.)
I do it because I value the conversation with you here. I’m guessing that I receive the fabulously meaty comments that I do because I respond to each one, and because I make sure that the commenter knows that I have. I don’t presume that after you’ve left a comment, you will have the time or memory to revisit WonderFarm to see if I’ve responded. (I’m guessing that you have better things to do. Like maybe sort your underwear by hue.) I always feel bad for bloggers who respond to commenters, but don’t have some way of letting commenters know that. Seems that many of their responses must go unseen, like thank-you notes written with care and lost in the mail.
Early in my blogging days, I noticed that TypePad blogs send an automated response when someone responds to your comment. I liked that, but at the time, WordPress didn’t offer the same. Free WordPress blogs (and self-hosted WordPress blogs that contain a snippet of code called a plug-in) give commenters an option of subscribing to comments that come in after theirs. I’ve never wanted to add one of those plug-ins to Wonder Farm, though, because if you subscribe, you don’t just receive an email when someone responds to your comment, you receive one every time someone leaves a comment on that post. And who wants to get all those extra emails just to see whether a blogger might respond to whatever they’ve written?
So I kept doing my respond, cut, paste and email thing.
In the past few days I’ve been researching plug-ins, though, because I’m putting together that post that I’m calling the Question Post. Remember how we talked about that? My hope is that this post will serve as a simplified sort of forum here. Readers can post questions and concerns about their kids and writing, and other readers and I will respond. I plan to make a button for the post in the sidebar so it won’t simply get tucked away in the archives, so readers might continue to visit the post and add to it. It will be a living, continually morphing thing. Like a sourdough post, if you can imagine that.
But I want the responses to be a community affair, with responses from all of you–not just me. Thinking about this, I realized that my compulsive little cut-and-paste response emails won’t make that happen. This particular post will work best, will only stay alive and yeasty, if many readers subscribe to the post’s comments, so that they see new ones as they come in.
Sorting through the available plug-ins, I finally found one that should plug right into the socket I have in mind! This particular plug-in allows comment authors to subscribe to responses to only their comment (which is what I have been doing for you by hand) and it allows commenters to subscribe to all comments on a post (which is what we want on the Question Post.) Yee ha! It also allows readers to subscribe to a post’s comments without leaving a comment at all.
I’ve installed the plug-in and am hoping you will help me test it out now, before I publish the-post-currently-known-as-the-Question-Post. Would some of you kindly leave a comment, and then subscribe to all comments, or to responses to your own comment? To give you something to comment about, let’s try this: tell us anything you have to say about commenting–or replying to comments–on blogs.
I hope the plug-in works. I’ve heard it occasionally quirks out and sends multiple email notifications, or doesn’t send notifications at all. Please bear with me and let me know how it goes. If the process is confusing or tedious–or easy!–I’d like to hear about it.
I hope, too, that you commenters will at least subscribe to replies to your own comments. I worry that you won’t, and you won’t see how I’ve replied to you–which would make my response-writing a waste of time. But subscribing is easy, I promise! You just select your subscription choice from a drop-menu before you submit your comment. That’s it. No follow-up confirmation emails. You don’t have to do anything else, and ping!–any comment responses will show up in your inbox.
This means that I will be ending my respond-cut-paste-and-email routine. That makes me a little sad. It always felt somewhat personal, to email a response to each of you commenters, and to hear my macbook make that woosh that it does when an email goes from me to you. Know, though, that even if the notification process is now automated, my responses to you will never be. They’ll be straight from my heart and mind to yours, every time.
Maybe I’ll use the extra time on my hands to sort my sock drawer.
(updated 9/10: If you’re just coming around now, you may notice from the early comments that the plug-in seemed not to be working well. However, I made some changes in settings as of today, after comment #25 or so, and am hoping folks might actually receive the responses they subscribe to. If you would be willing to leave a comment and subscribe, I’d adore you for it! In particular, I’d love to have a few commenters subscribe to “all” comments. Once I get the kinks worked out, I can unsubscribe you right away. Thanks for considering!
one more update, 9/13: If you are a wordpress.org blogger and are interested in adding similar functionality to your blog, this is what worked for me. I used the “fixed” version of Subscribe to Comments Reloaded, found on this forum page–make sure to use the second fixed version, linked lower on the page. At that point I noticed that many commenters weren’t receiving responses to the comments they’d subscribed to; I followed some advice on that same forum page and added this plugin–not the same one mentioned in the forum–so responses would go out via my SMTP settings, and not WordPress. Then I added this plugin so I could check on which email notifications were actually being sent. The combination of all three finally worked!)