even if the notification process is now automated, my responses to you will never be

September 6, 2013

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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.

Hmm.

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!)

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{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

marlo Jen September 6, 2013 at 10:26 am

I’m excited to try out writing workshops this fall – your new commenting system sounds like a great support for us! Thank you!

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patricia September 6, 2013 at 10:28 am

You twitter friends are speedy! I am so excited for you to try out a workshop this fall. I am your support person, here at your service if needed!

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patricia September 10, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Jen, just wanted to let you know that I unsubscribed you to “all” comments, and resubscribed you to “replies only.” I don’t want to bother you with all these test comments! Sending one more test comment to see if you get a notification. I think I’ve got it working!

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Kerry September 6, 2013 at 10:39 am

I always appreciated your e-mail responses to comments. I loved checking the inbox and finding the messages, a bit of happy mail. So nice to not have to remeber where and when i commented too, in order to see the reply. I’m glad you’ve found a way to simplify i for yourself, the responses alone take time and consideration and I’ll appreciate the automated emails just as much.

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patricia September 6, 2013 at 10:43 am

I’m glad you’ve appreciated my emails, Kerry. I hope this new system works; if it doesn’t, I’m back to the old cutting and pasting. I so appreciate people taking the time to comment here, that I don’t mind a little extra work to let them know that. I just love the idea of commenters being able to choose which responses to subscribe to. Thanks for testing the system for me!

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wanderingsue September 6, 2013 at 12:29 pm

Argh, then I wrote part 2 of my comment here, and lost it when I tried to “Manage” my subscriptions. I was just saying that I was curious as to whether in your old system you would have emailed Kerry, for example, with my reply to her comment, just now. I have clicked on lots of your commenters’ links, way back in the archives, and found that some of them no longer work- I guess they have stopped blogging at the address they gave, huh?

I’m going to miss the old banner, though this yellow one is very smart. And yes, we’re back to focusing on writing, huh? I’m so good with that! :)

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patricia September 6, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Okay, now this is even trickier: Wanderingsue, I’m responding to your response to my comment, which was a response to Kerry’s comment. Who will get a notification? *Crossing my eyes at the confusion.*

In my old by-hand system, I occasionally forwarded a comment response to someone if the responding commenter said something that I thought the original commenter should see. It happened a few times. This format is fun because it might really invite conversation among readers–if it works.

The new banner is possibly a temporary thing–just my goal of simplifying things around here, and making sure my blog’s purpose is right there at the top, so new visitors will understand what I’m trying to do here. But I do still love that old banner, which Mr. T made the letters for. So I’ve preserved it for eternity on this page: http://patriciazaballos.com/whats-a-wonder-farm/ Who knows–maybe I will bring it back. :-)

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wanderingsue September 6, 2013 at 12:20 pm

Oooh, so, what happens if I put my comment here, then? I’m with you, Kerry- those email responses are pure love. I have sometimes gone back on other blogs, and found responses to my comment, quite by accident. I wonder how many I’ve missed altogether.

And I knew it must have been a bit of effort, Patricia, but I was only thinking of the replies you write, and not the convoluted way of getting them sent!

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Kerry September 6, 2013 at 1:25 pm

I got an e-mail for this response to my comment, but only this one from wanderingsue. Seems like I should get an email for each response though. Right?

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patricia September 6, 2013 at 4:05 pm

I’m not exactly sure how these nested comments work, Kerry. I don’t know if wanderingsue hit reply to your comment, or to my response to your comment. And if she responded to my sub-comment, I’m not sure whether the notification would go to you, or me, or both. (I get notifications to all comments, so I can’t verify.)

How’s that for making your head spin?

Then again, when I tested this morning, it seemed like I didn’t get a few of the notifications I should have. If this plug-in doesn’t work most of the time, it’s toast! Please keep me posted on what notifications you receive. I appreciate it!

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patricia September 6, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Well, it’s not *that* hard to email responses to you all, and I really don’t mind doing it. But I’d like there to be an easy way for folks to subscribe to all comments for that mini-forum post, and if I’m installing something for that, I may as well see how it works for response-only notifications too.

(I still owe you a response to a comment you wrote last week, wanderingsue. But it’s one of those comments that requires Deep Thoughts, and I’m slightly behind on my Deep Thought Email Responses. I will get to it, though!

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wanderingsue September 7, 2013 at 4:20 am

Goodness, I don’t even know what I’m responding to, now! The first one, I hit reply to Kerry’s original comment, and the second one was to your (first) reply to the same comment of Kerry’s. This is the third one, replying to your reply of Sept 6 at 4:01, “Well, it’s not…” I hope I’m not making it too complicated, too quickly!

I think this is going to be wonderful! Just for the record, I’ve had an email for Kerry’s reply, of Sept 6 at 1:25, “I got an email…” But no others. Yet.

Please don’t worry about hurrying those Deep Thoughts, Patricia, my brain’s missing at the moment, and I’m not likely to get it back this month! (You’re not going to happen to be in Florida in the next few weeks, are you?)

Cheers, Sue

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patricia September 10, 2013 at 10:02 am

Responding to you as a test, wanderingsue. I changed some settings, and want to see if readers get verifications more reliably now. (Apologies to marlo Jen, who very kindly subscribed to “all” and should be getting this too.)

If you get a chance, please let me know if you receive notification of this response, wanderingsue!

Alison September 6, 2013 at 11:37 am

Thanks for the thoughtfulness behind all this! Hope that the automated side of things goes fine for you – and we continue to appreciate the personal responses to comments. Like the slight refresh on the banner at the top of your site too, by the way – though maybe I’m a bit slow in noticing it.

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patricia September 6, 2013 at 4:22 pm

I hope it works out, Alison. We shall see! Thank you for helping me test it.

Yes, the banner is new. Just trying to simplify things and make my purpose here clear.

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Steve September 6, 2013 at 3:27 pm

I do the same cut-and-paste on the CheesieMack.com website. If this works for you…it’ll be a terrific time-saver for me.
Thanks for blazing the trail.

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patricia September 6, 2013 at 4:28 pm

So nice to see you here, Steve! Fun to know that I am not the only crazy one cutting and pasting my responses. (But who wants to write responses that no one will see?)

I’m sure I will report back on how it goes here on the blog, so stay posted!

And hey to any parents reading these comments, check out Steve’s Cheesie Mack books, particularly if you have a boy a few years on either side of ten or so. They are smart and hilarious and Mr. T loves them. http://cheesiemack.com

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Abi September 10, 2013 at 12:46 pm

Oh hey! Cheesie’s the reason I was tasked to research this! :)

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shelli : mamaofletters September 6, 2013 at 5:35 pm

Do you do self-hosting Wordpress? I’m asking because I’d love a plug-in like this, but I have a free Wordpress blog, and I don’t think I can do plug-ins. I have always replied to comments by doing it in the administrative comments section. After I reply, I copy my message before I click “Reply and Approve Comment.” Then I just click on the person’s e-mail address and my e-mail application opens w/ a new message to them where I just paste my comment and send it to them. I do that because I never have time to go back to read responses to my comments on other people’s blogs, so I assume others don’t come back to mine. It’s not a big deal, but I have wished that I could somehow reply on the blog and have an e-mail sent to them automatically with my reply. Good luck with your new plug-in!

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patricia September 6, 2013 at 7:05 pm

Now see, Shelli, I didn’t get an email notification of your comment, either through the new plug-in, or from WordPress! (I find that WordPress fails to mail notifications about 20% of the time.) I’m not sure why that is. Grr.

My blog is self-hosted, and unfortunately I think you’re right about plug-ins on free Wordpress blogs.

Good to know that there are others who mail out copies of their responses! As a commenter, I sure appreciate that extra effort. Your process for responding is a little more streamlined than what I was doing; if I have to go back to my old method, I’ll try out what you do.

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dawn September 6, 2013 at 7:38 pm

i appreciate the efforts you have made, and continue to make, to build a community here. i like commenting on blogs in a different way than on twitter or facebook, both of which i use but for different reasons. with blogs, i sense a more personal and intimate conversation. i think your idea here can strengthen such conversations.

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patricia September 6, 2013 at 8:18 pm

Ack, Dawn, I didn’t receive a notification about your comment either, from the plug-in or WordPress! I wish I understood why that happens. I wonder if it has something to do with certain types of email addresses. I notice that when WordPress doesn’t notify me of a comment, it tends to fail to send notifications for that particular email address always. Hmm.

Will you let me know, via Twitter, whether you receive a notification of my response here? I appreciate the help!

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tereza crump aka mytreasuredcreations September 7, 2013 at 9:46 pm

You are so professional and so diligent about your purpose here and your blog. It’s really a joy to come read your blog and post comments. I hope your new plug in works so that you don’t have to do all the copying, pasting and digging up email addresses. I am looking forward to the Q&A post.

As for commenting… it can be frustrating sometimes to read comments people leave on blogs… specially the link up types… you can tell when someone read the post or not. Anyway… so much for trying to generate traffic.

Oh, your blog post the comments always seem very sincere… as people are really interested in what you have to say and like to converse back. :) A joy!

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patricia September 9, 2013 at 9:02 am

I think the commenters here seem sincere too, Tereza. I love the conversations we have.

I’m not sure that the plug-in is working out, though. I didn’t receive a notification of your comment, and that’s three in a row missing! Oh well. So long as I can find a way for readers to subscribe to all on the mini-forum post, I don’t mind the copying and pasting. I want readers to know when I’ve responded to them!

Thank you for *your* sincere comments. :-)

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Kirsten September 9, 2013 at 12:16 am

Oh I hope this new system works for you! Sounds like such a chore otherwise – although one we really appreciate! I just started a new blog – although ironically suddenly have zero time for it – so am interested in how others treat comments, and ensure their readers hear back from them. So I follow your plug-in search with interest!

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patricia September 9, 2013 at 9:04 am

My cutting and pasting thing really isn’t a chore–I’ve got the system down, and can do it pretty quickly. And it looks like that’s what I’ll be back to doing because lots of readers aren’t receiving the follow-up notifications that they should. So much for that!

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Kirsten September 9, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Oh dear… I just checked back in to see if you had replied – I hadn’t received an email either. How very frustrating that it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do! I’m sorry!

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patricia September 9, 2013 at 6:01 pm

Grr. Did you get that response, Kirsten? Oh well. At least I have evidence that the plug-in doesn’t work! Thanks for your help!

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Abi September 10, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Hey Tricia!

Em tasked me with researching this plugin so I’m testing it out here! (Thanks for doing all the heavy lifting finding it!!)

-Abi

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patricia September 10, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Hey Abi! Nice to see you here!

The plug-in did not seem to be working, so I looked for help on the WP forums and got some good advice. Read to the bottom of this page, and you’ll see the two additional plug-ins that were recommended to me. http://wordpress.org/support/topic/replies-only-subscriptions-receiving-all-comments?replies=17
(I also used the fixed version of Subscribe to Comments Reloaded, shared on that same page.)

I actually used a different SMTP plugin, just because it’s been updated more recently: http://wordpress.org/support/plugin/easy-wp-smtp And bingo! The verifications seemed to go through.

I’ll share this with other readers later, but since I know the details make a difference on your end, there you go!

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Abi September 10, 2013 at 2:54 pm

What exactly do you mean by verification? Are you talking about the double-check feature? I’m working with the plugin right now and it seems to be doing just fine with our server set-up. My only hurdle at this point is adjusting the placement of the checkbox/pull-down/etc to inside the form, as I don’t like having it after the “post comment” button. I’m workin’ on it… :)

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patricia September 10, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Sorry! I should be using the word “notification” rather than “verification.”

I decided to opt-out of the double-check feature because I was hoping to keep readers from having to deal with an extra verification (right word there!) email.

Re: your question about the notifications tab. The answer is yes.

If you have any helpful insights, please let me know!

(This is my second time posting this comment. First time didn’t send a notification, so I logged out of WP and responded again.)

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patricia September 10, 2013 at 3:09 pm

Trying something else. Under “Options” “Let admin subscribe” I changed the response to “no” to see if it makes a difference.

Let’s see if you get a notification now.

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patricia September 10, 2013 at 3:16 pm

One more test. Thanks for your patience, Abi! I’ve sent these last two comments directly through the comments panel on my admin page, rather than from the comments section of the post page. Maybe that’s why they’re going through.

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Kristin September 10, 2013 at 4:59 pm

Oh my dear, you have way more patience than I do for handling all the technology behind your blog. I did notice that your blog had disappeared from my wordpress.com reader, which was weird. I re-entered your website, of course. I wouldn’t miss a thing going on here.

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Kristin September 10, 2013 at 5:01 pm

Oh shucks, I clicked submit too fast and didn’t subscribe to the comments. I will try it and see if it works.

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patricia September 10, 2013 at 8:18 pm

Okay, Kristin, let’s see if this works! I don’t know if I have patience with technology, or if I’m just stubbornly single-minded about making things work the way I want them to. I wonder why my blog disappeared in your WordPress? I think your West Vista blog may have disappeared from my Feedly, which is how I follow blogs. Must fix that. Darn technology. For all it helps, it sure confounds too!

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CathyT September 12, 2013 at 4:13 am

I have always appreciated your emailed comments to me because, you are right, I don’t recheck a post I read usually and don’t always want to get everyone else’s comments on that blog post. I think this is a very cool feature and you are very cool to think this all through!

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patricia September 12, 2013 at 9:17 am

Being told that I’m cool is always a nice start to my day. ;-) Thanks, Cathy T! It’s always good to see you here.

Here’s hoping that this response arrives in your email box. I think I’ve finally worked out the kinks!

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patricia September 13, 2013 at 2:18 pm

test

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patricia September 13, 2013 at 2:20 pm

test 2

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