As we established earlier this month, one of the best things about blogging is getting comments. They're the icing on the cake, they're added depth, they're two-way conversation. But how do you get comments? I thought I'd carry out a scientific study to try to find out. I've looked back through five years of diamond geezer to see which of my posts got the most reaction. I've only counted single posts with a single comments box, and I've not counted any of my own comments within each total. And that leaves just ten posts which have gathered more than fifty comments. Here's my top ten most commented.
1) How deep is your screen? [115 comments] (9th November 2005) I wondered how big my readers' computer screens were, so I posted a huge long list of London's old telephone codes and asked you to tell me how far down the list you could read. Well over 100 of you responded, and we discovered that the most popular screen resolution was 1024x768. (It still is, by the way, but 1280x1024 is catching up fast) How to get comments, Rule 1: Run a survey, and make sure that the survey is extremely quick and easy to enter.
2) The Highway Code for Cyclists [73 comments] (31st October 2006) I wrote a tongue-in-cheek list of instructions for the capital's cyclists, jumped-up bunch of selfish red-light jumpers that they are. The capital's cyclists leapt to the attack, while scores of pedestrians sprang to my defence. I wouldn't say much has changed since either. How to get comments, Rule 2: Pick a subset of society, preferably a self-righteous subset, and insult them. And then sit back and watch.
3) My 40th birthday [70 comments] (9th March 2005) Not only was it my 40th birthday but it was also my Mum's 70th. You lot couldn't resist chipping in and wishing us both a happy double celebration, which was very nice of you, thanks. But I suspect it helped that "Happy birthday" is a dead easy comment to write, with no thinking time required. How to get comments, Rule 3: Tell everybody that it's your birthday. Special "round number" birthdays get the most comments.
4) Doughnuts - the aftermath [59 comments] (20th July 2005) Ah, the legendary "doughnuts" experiment. You wrote lots of comments on a miserably short post about doughnuts, but then wrote even more the following day as we dissected the results. If nothing else, we discovered that the number of comments on a post often bears no relation to how interesting a post is. And that you like jam-filled stodge. How to get comments, Rule 4: Writing about comments is an extremely good way to get comments.
5=) Starbucks comes to Whitechapel [57 comments] (26th March 2007) I noticed a new Starbucks opening in Whitechapel (in Whitechapel!) and wrote about it. And then in my last paragraph I insulted people who feel the need to drink multinational corporate coffee. And that seemed to upset a lot of caffeine addicts. But not as much as the eradication of local enterprise upsets me. How to get comments, Rule 2: Pick a subset of society, preferably a self-righteous subset, and insult them. And then sit back and watch.
5=) Ranking supermarkets [57 comments] (10th August 2005) I gave you a list of 12 UK supermarkets and asked you to shuffle them into rank order with the most respectable first. You stuck Waitrose at the top of the list and Lidl at the bottom. It was a nice simple idea and easy to respond to, but people also chipped in with a lot of fascinating (and class-ridden) insights along the way. How to get comments, Rule 1: Run a survey, and make sure that the survey is extremely quick and easy to enter.
7) London's burning [55 comments] (30th January 2007) I ran an entirely fictional week, timeshifted into the future, in which I pretended I was blogging from a new mobile phone whilst escaping from a tube train beneath Armageddon-hit London. You wrote lots of comments, but you saved most of them for the moment when you believed I was dead. Well thanks for that. How to get comments, Rule 5: People are really good at responding sympathetically to tragedy. Or imagined tragedy. (Or blog hiatus)
8) Thanksgiving [52 comments] (23rd November 2006) We don't celebrate America's turkeyfest over here. I dared to query other alien American concepts and phrases, such as "Junior High" and "The Prom", and you lot suggested more. Various American readers then thought we were taking the piss and promptly demonstrated their legendary sense of humor. Too easy. How to get comments, Rule 2: Pick a subset of society, preferably a self-righteous subset, and insult them. And then sit back and watch.
9=) Four letter words [51 comments] (13th December 2004) You know those really rubbish stocking filler books that appear every Christmas, with a few words scattered across a handful of tiny pages? I asked you to help me write one by contributing four four-letter words each. If only I'd got my act together and sent the result to a publishing company, I could be a rich author by now. How to get comments, Rule 1: Run a survey, and make sure that the survey is extremely quick and easy to enter.
9=) Saturday blogging [51 comments] (22nd September 2007) It's true - the number of blog visitors really does take a tumble on a Saturday. So I was very surprised when a Saturday post ended up getting more than fifty comments. Serves me right for questioning the social capability of my weekend readership, I guess. How to get comments, Rule 2: Pick a subset of society, preferably a self-righteous subset, and insult them. And then sit back and watch.
Conclusion: If you want a lot of comments, either ask your readership a very simple question which requires very little thought, or insult the bastards.