Comments and Contributors

Getting Feedback

Once you have completed an initial draft, it is time to get some feedback. Blooki makes this easy because, being a website, you can invite anyone you like to come and take a look.

If you enable comments, your visitors can also post comments against each of your posts. This can be open to anybody or restricted to only those people you have decided to give access.

Enabling visitor comments starts the process of the "Virtuous Cycle of Content Creation". The comments may directly suggest additions and changes which directly contribute new content. But they will also stimulate new ideas which you might not otherwise have thought of. As a result the seed of an idea you plant may become the nucleus of a large amount of content and ideas (if you will forgive the mixed metaphor).

Reader comments will also help you to improve your writing. If you are lucky enough to have an experienced writer, or even reader, amongst your reviewers you can expect a substantial flow of useful comments.

Inviting Contributors

You can go one step further than allowing comments by inviting contributors to edit the work directly. You must decide whether their role is collaborator or editor, or something in-between.

Contributors will be given permission to make changes to the content which saves you time and effort but of course means that you relinquish some control. Fortunately there is a mechanism to "roll back" changes after the fact, if a contributor does something that you do not agree with.

Dealing with Feedback

When you first allow someone else to critique your work, you may need to be prepared for uncomfortable criticisms. You donņt have to blindly accept every comment or suggestion, and you should by all means defend your writing. But you should also try to accept criticism calmly in the first instance, and try to understand the other personņs viewpoint. Once you are more adept at accepting criticism, you will be in a better position to look at feedback objectively and, if necessary, reject it. In some cases the comments may be extremely subjective, if not prejudiced. For example, if a reviewer writes "I have always hated stories about cats" it is not very helpful. But unbiased comments, particularly drawing attention to technical errors, will help improve the quality of your writing, and constructive comments may send you in a completely new and fruitful direction.

Be courteous and thank commentators for their feedback, even if you do not agree with it. At all costs avoid getting into "flame wars" where a trivial point is debated with increasingly vitriolic language.

Donņt forget that people connected to you, such as relatives or friends, may pull their punches when they comment on your work, or they might err on the side of compliment. Whilst encouragement is a good thing, and you should certainly use it to spur on your enthusiasm, you must also take any over-enthusiastic comments with a pinch of salt. The same applies to people or representatives of organisations who might want to get some business from you - you must be realistic and at least consider the possibility that they may be trying to flatter you, however much your ego makes you long to take their comments at face value.

You must also be prepared to deal with the occasional nutcase out there. Somebody might be hypersensitive to some issue or you may have accidentally offended them, or they may just be a bit loony. If you are only accepting comments from signed-in users you can easily block them out, delete all their comments, and you need never hear from them again.

Turning up the Volume

If you are not getting much feedback it may be that your site is not being seen by many people. There are a number of ways you can rectify this.

One great idea is to join an online writerņs circle. These are groups of writers who comment on each others work. Of course you will need to comment on the work of the other writers, but that is in any case a useful exercise in itself.

You can attempt to get more visitors to your site by using SEO (Search Engine Optimization) techniques. There used to be a bit of a black art to this involving the use of keywords, page structure and regular site submission to the numerous search engines. Nowadays there is really only one game in town - Google PageRank. Even though Yahoo and MSN (Windows Live) are starting to fight back, Google holds the lionņs share of search engine traffic. Google ranks your pages amongst the rest of the Internet according to how many other pages link to you and, crucially, the page rank of those linking pages themselves. Somehow Google manages this in such a way that the whole process doesnņt dissappear into its own page rank. There are tricks that people use to try and boost their page rank but usually these are eventually rumbled by Google and rendered ineffective. The only sure way of getting visitors from search engines (i.e. Google) is to make your pages interesting enough that people will link to them. Having said that, it doesnņt hurt to ask; so by all means contact the owners of web sites that have content that ought to link to you and ask them to do so. But beware of "link farms" and "link exchange" schemes - these will simply clutter your site with useless links and they almost certainly donņt work anymore.

Another possibililty, since your Blooki site is amongst other things effectively a blog, is to use blogging tools like Technorati, de.li.cio.us, etc. to publish your content and RSS feed. There is a community building up around blogging which has its own search technology, and it also helps your Google page rank.