The answer depends, entirely, on you.
My grandmother used to say, "You have to write letters to get letters." And while letter-writing isn't a dead art quite yet, it is quickly being replaced by IM, email, and blogs.
Does anyone just spill their words onto paper, pay postage, and not hope for a response?
Even junk mailers hope someone might glance at the postcard and make an impulse buy before tossing it in the trash. They've figured out the odds and the cost of doing business; it's a coldly calculated exchange, and not deep enough to be called a relationship. It's more like a one-night stand.
Retailers and service providers have always known the importance of building a relationship with customers, in order to gain loyalty and repeat business. While they don't expect lengthy correspondence in exchange for their sale flyers and coupons, they're a bit disappointed when you toss them in the trash and don't stop by frequently - or at least pop in for a quick hello on every major holiday. They like to know what you're thinking. In fact, they can be somewhat needy, willing to spend inordinate sums of money getting others to ask, "Why haven't you come to see us lately?" Like insecure and dysfunctional family members, they're often willing to bribe you to visit.
If you've been hanging out with the truly dysfunctional side of the family - the retailers and service providers - too long, you may have forgotten the niceties of polite conversation, or how to start one. Friends and family expect a genuine, somewhat meaningful relationship that is as complex and subtly nuanced as Aunt Carolyn's nine-layer bean dip. The only bribe they offer is their ears - or eyes - and the occasional pot roast or a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Everyone likes to be heard, and these are the only folks who give a fig about what you have to say. If you occasionally disgrace yourself, you're automatically forgiven - they're willing to blame it on Aunt C's bean dip. Note, though, that unlike the junk mailers and retailers - unlike the folks who service your AC unit or your plumbing - these folks usually treat conversation like a tennis match. "Ball's in your court!" they say, expecting you to lob it back.
It's the same with blogs. Most are written by real people - even the biggest corporate blog has real people behind it. Friends and family really do want a conversation with you. Take a minute to chat when you drop by their online "home," and they'll usually do the same for you. Refill your coffee and pull up a comfy chair - it might lead to a meaningful conversation. Even the "professional bloggers" usually welcome some exchange of ideas (hint: they often use it as fodder for future posts, so your silence can leave them reeling and your offhand comments may just end up in some widely read and highly acclaimed article). Sploggers and spammers, the "junk mailers" of the online world? They can be good for entertainment, but never feel obligated to respond. Unlike most blogs, these can be written by a small script while the nefarious mastermind sleeps. They're usually programmed not to answer back.
But What Should I Say?
"What kind of comments do you want?"
Remember the Golden Rule? "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." What kind of comments or response would YOU want?
Spontaneous comments - the kind inspired by something you've read - are always welcome. If they take the conversation off on a tangent, that's okay. If you're new to my blog, please introduce yourself! If you have a blog, and your thoughts evolve into a post there instead of a comment on mine, that's okay - just leave me an invitation and directions to your place.
Sometimes, people post comments that make you wonder if they're the sort of people who listen with half an ear, waiting for a nanosecond of silence in which to blurt out something that was on their mind two hours ago. Friends can get by with that, sometimes, but when I see that on my blog from someone I don't recognize, I have to assume they're junk mailers masquerading as real people.
Can I Leave a Link of My Own?
Of course. Leave me a meaningful comment, take two seconds to engage in a little entertaining chit-chat, and you get a line of free advertising or the right to leave breadcrumbs back to your personal blog. The only links I'm likely to delete are these:
- Comments or links to sites that promote illegal activities, hate, or bigotry;
- Links to "adult" (as in "M for mature") sites;
- Links to splogs, "get rich quick" schemes, irresponsible (dangerous) products, etc.;
- Links to sites that don't allow links in comments (c'mon, now, it's a two-way street!);
- Comments that contain nothing BUT links to other sites;
- Comments that look like they were left by a automated script ("bot");
- Comments in languages other than English (unless I can read them and be sure they're appropriate).
So please, grab a coffee and pull up a chair...