Less bullshit, more comments.

I fell out of love with comments.

Once upon a time, oh about two-and-a-bit years ago, I cherished my post comments. I courted them, I made languorous invitation, I flattered and anointed and eulogised them.

I did this because my business was not yet a business. It was a shiny-new website that started with four subscribers (including me, and my friend Cass), one offering, and zero sales.

I did this because I needed some feedback to keep me going until I made some money.

I did this because I had no idea what the fuck I was doing and data was vital.

I did this because I was needy, and smart enough to know I was needy.

And it worked.

Until it didn’t.

I got bored with answering every comment when at least half would be the empty ”This was a great article, thanks” puffery that my ego had grown sturdy enough not to need any more.

I got exasperated at seeing people who read every article, left appreciative comments, but never actually implemented… anything.

I started to ruminate how much my comments really mattered, epecially now they were chock-full of polite flattery. Whether the conversation was just another distraction from the real work, for my readers and for me.

Oh, and I slid down into a major depression, too.

(These things are probably related.)

Now the comments on my articles are fallow, and shallow.

Instead of 20 comments per article, I get two. Conversations no longer flourish.

It’s a persistent itch. Wondering:

Should I shut the comment system down? Reinvest the time and attention to make it rock? Do it differently?

I don’t know. Let’s try an experiment.

The Grand Commenting Experiment

The purpose of the comments on this website

  • To build on and explore the idea of an article.
  • To make it less scary. (Or more scary!)
  • To explore possibility.
  • To find other amazingpants people.
  • To get clear on how to apply it to your particular situation.
  • To laugh.
  • To tell me I’m full of it, and why.
  • To transmute ideas into action.

My part

  • I solemnly swear that I am up to no good will respond to every (worthy) comment.
  • I will never reply with ”Thanks!” or ”Good point!”.
  • I will respond in a timely manner, although most certainly not the trigger-reflex way I did it back in the old days. But probably within… 24 hours? 48? Let’s say: as soon as I can do it well.
  • I will go back through the archives to catch up, too.
  • I will craft thoughtful, meaningful answers to drive the conversation – and transformation – onward.
  • I will write articles that invite conversation and exploration.
  • I will not pull my punches when asked for feedback.
  • I will not give feedback or advice unless I am asked.

Your part

  • You will only comment when you have something to say that is useful, or at least wildly entertaining.
  • You will not comment just to give me a compliment.
  • You will ask questions, offer your own related story, challenge my ideas, ask for feedback, or spot the Firefly/Terry Pratchett/Tank Girl reference.
  • You will not offer feedback or advice to any other commenter unless they ask for it. Encouragement and sympathy are always awesome.
  • You will not be a dickbag just to get attention, ’cos you’ll get deleted.
  • You will come back and tell me how you used something you read to make a change. (Oh please yes)
  • You will not whine if you write a comment that I do not reply to. Pretend to be me for a second and ask whether you could craft a reply that wasn’t ”Aww, thanks!”.
  • You will go forth and rock it the fuck out.

Let the experiment begin! Come start it by telling me what you think of it, in the comments.


Creating from the bleeding edge

Johann was a cookie virtuoso.

His cookie emporium was famous across town, most especially for his Single Chocolate, Double Chocolate, Triple Chocolate, Quadruple Chocolate, Quintuple Chocolate and Sextuple Chocolate miracles.

His ingredients were impeccable, his equipment custom-designed and his staff were his favourite family members. Everything was safe and secure in Johann’s business.

And then, Johann awoke one morning, blasted with an obscene inspiration.

He wanted to make a rice cookie.

Not a cookie with rice flour, that had been done. Not a cookie with rice puffs, which was shameful and populist. No, a cookie with grains of rice in it. In a fearful, excited daze he walked into his kitchens.

Two hours later, he summoned Annoushka, his cheerful plump wife. She found three trays of cookies thrown out in the rubbish, one tray on the bench, and a manically grinning husband.

”Try this, my plum,” he said. Accustomed to being the bakery’s taste tester, she obediently picked up a small pale cookie and took a toothy bite. She paused. Her eyebrows creased together. She chewed thoughtfully. She ran her tongue around her mouth. She sucked her teeth. And then she said,

”I have never eaten anything like that before.”

“The texture is crunchy and smooth at once. It isn’t sweet, it isn’t savoury. It’s not dense or moist. It is… different.”

Johann smiled and then his smile fell. ”Yes, it’s very different. But I don’t think we can sell it.”

”Why not?” said Annoushka, while tentatively eyeing off another cookie.

”Because, my plum, it does not have chocolate or pecans or raisins or fruit pieces or cashews or any of the things people expect from a cookie. It doesn’t even have sugar in it! Only rice. And who would buy a rice cookie?”

Annoushka disagreed. And since Annoushka was in charge of marketing and retail strategy, Annoushka got her way.

Johann had a sleepless anxious night after Annoushka put a large ad in the paper.

It said, ”We bet you’ve never had a cookie like this before. Come try our astonishing Ricecapade Cookie. You’ll be amazed.”

Johann was distraught. He moaned, ”No-one will buy them, everyone will think we have gone mad, and Jormqvist across town will gain all our business and he will laugh in his damned beard at us. What have you done, my plum? Why did we have to tell everyone that we have lost all sense? We could have just made the cookies and hidden them up the back or something!”

Annoushka, used to life with a cookie virtuoso, ignored him and rolled over to get enough sleep. She knew tomorrow would be a busy day.

And she was right.

That night, exhausted and happy, Johann said, ”That was… gob-smacking. Did you see how Jormqvist turned up to gloat but he couldn’t even get to the counter? Ha! You are brilliant, my plum.”

Annoushka smiled. ”I am. And so are you.”

They embraced for a long, long moment and then Johann said, ”There is something I do not understand, my plum. Today we made triple our normal sales. Some of them were from those who came to try our Ricecapade cookie and bought it. But many of those sales seemed to come from people who never even looked at the rice cookie, but just bought a Quintuple Chocolate pack. Why so?”

Annoushka replied, ”Creating something unusual, daring, innovative or bold will get you attention. But the attention often wanders from what you created to who created it, and what else you’ve made. Some people may buy the unusual, daring, innovative or bold offering. But more people will likely buy the older, safer, more predictable one.”

”So once you get their attention, they still buy what they want to buy?”

”Yes, my dear. Cookie innovators will buy the new and untested recipes, and more people will go for the predictable Quintuple Chocolate. But neither group would be paying attention if you hadn’t created the innovative thing.”

”You’re a genius, my plum.”

”You already said so. Now come to bed.”

When was the last time you created something from the bleeding edge?

For me, it was last week: while somewhat sleep-deprived I wrote a sales page that made me squirmy and uncomfortable. The first line in it is Being stuck in your business is like a permanent case of blue balls.

I implored my brain to come up with a metaphor that was less intense and weird, and my brain refused to comply.

I went to my inner circle, including my just-graduated Pilot Light group, to get their feedback, and they told me it was awesome and hilarious and they would probably buy it.

And so, despite feeling jumbly and wrong about it, I hit Publish and told my wonderful Rise and Shine newsletter subscribers about the new offering and the process behind it.

To my complete lack of surprise, I got interest. One sale of the new Delogjamification service, to someone who loved the process of getting unstuck being handled in a light way, and conversations about other services, like Goddamn Radiant – a service I have been offering for a year-and-and-half without ever updating the sales page. (Although I will, soon.)

This has been the pattern every single time I have pushed my creative boundaries.

First, I freak out.
Then, I do it anyway.
And lastly, I get interest… most of it in something other than the new and scary thing.

I do not think this is a me-specific pattern.

But I want to know. So come to the comments and tell me:

When was the last time you created something that made you a bit nervous?
And what happened when you did?


Webinar: 27 Minutes to Seriously Better Domain Names

Baby Wearing Large Headphones Listening To Music
Why have I never done a webinar before? I was designed for webinars. Talking to lots of people at once? HELL YEAH.

So I’m joining the experiment a bit late, with a teeny bang.

27 Minutes to Seriously Better Domain Names.

I spent a half hour – minus a couple of minutes for saying howdy and arguing with buttons – unloading as much of the wisdom as I could fit in about how to choose an awesometacular domain name for your website.

The Kickass Naming Service has been one of my mainstays for two years, and in that time I have refined the hell out of my guidelines on what constitutes a great domain name and how you can create one for yourself.

Here’s the recording! I’m a wee bit nervous (you can’t tell, apparently), but I still squeezle in lots and lots of info about what’s important in choosing a domain name.

Audio MP3

Or download it here.

Any questions that remain?


Creative Commons License photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography