Thursday, February 4, 2010

ON BLOGGING ~ I Always Feel Like - Somebody's Watching Me...

BlogAnon: Joy of Confession

Image by Cool Text: Logo and Graphics Generator

Welcome to our weekly BlogAnon meeting where we confess a particular blogging sin and turn to you for support, suggestions and that blogging bond so we know we're not all alone. Don't be shy. Read along and let us know if you identify with us this week.

A few weeks ago at a party one of our friends told me that she reads my posts on UpTake's Attractions Blog religiously and that she enjoys them. Which was awfully nice of her to say. Because had she not, I would never have known she was even there. She has never left a comment on any of my posts. I told her that she is a "Lurker" and that she should step out of her shell sometime and leave a comment on the blog. She had no idea there was a name for people who read and leave.

Lurking sounds pretty sinister to me. But it is really just people being shy, very busy or technologically challenged. I lurk sometimes just because I feel I wouldn't possibly fit in with the conversation or can't think of anything fascinating to add. We have family members and friends who follow or check in on our personal blog here. Sometimes they leave a comment but generally, they just lurk. Some subscribe to our feed via e-mail so we know they're around. But the rest we learn about when they feel the need to mention it in person.

It reminds me that we never know who is out there. I sit in my comfy chair in our family room in front of the TV tapping away at my laptop sharing things from our world to an unknown audience. But sometimes, I forget that people I know very well are reading along too. And that's OK. There isn't anything here to be ashamed of or embarrassed by. It would be pretty stupid of us to put up stuff like that on a public site.

As far as we know, our audience consists of friendly, honest, kind people. We've never had a reason to think otherwise. But just as we forget that there are people we know checking in on our blog, there can also be weirdos, bullies, trolls, stalkers. People that have no lives other than to make people miserable. At any time someone could come along and decide to make our lives a living hell by misrepresenting who we are out there in the blogosphere. Or by harassing us here in comments or through e-mail. By finding out the forums and sites we visit and sullying our reputations. It isn't difficult for someone to do this. They lurk for a while and then follow. And then they strike. It isn't something we want to experience first hand. Because engaging them is the worst thing you can do - and I have a hard time biting my tongue.

So that is why we don't share photos of ourselves. Or our last name. We don't link to Facebook. We don't make it easy for potential stalkers to make it personal. Although we are both very trusting, we are pretty private Bumbles. So we welcome you into the parts of our world that we want you to see. But no matter how long you lurk here, you'll never get the full picture. The only way to do that is to stop lurking, introduce yourself and build a blogging relationship. Unless you are someone we already know - in that case - don't spill our secrets!!!

What do you think about putting yourself out there online? Are you overly cautious, semi-exposed or completely transparent? What would you do if someone tried to trash your reputation online amongst other people you don't really know? Have you ever had content stolen or found your image modified or shared inappropriately? If you are a lurker, do you do so out of laziness or because you are shy? Don't be afraid to share - your blogger thoughts are safe with us - unless some damn stalker is lurking!


Matty said...

I have a number of followers who never comment. Ever. But they're always there in my followers list and have been for a long time. I've even visited their blog and left comments, but never get a reply and not one comment back from them. Seems harmless to me.

As for my blog, the only person who knows about it is my wife, and even she isn't fond of it. My extended family knows nothing of it and I like it that way. I do not and have never identified myself to anyone, even bloggers I trust. They know me as Matty and that's it. Nor have I ever published my occupation or employer.

So far, at least to my knowledge, I haven't had anyone copy anything. But then my knowledge.

I guess this all adds up to being cautious.

jehara said...

I consider myself semi-exposed. I blog under a pseudonym and only a couple of my friends know about it and my husband. When I first started blogging, I didn't post any pictures. Eventually, I did but I made sure my face wasn't visible. I suppose the longer I've blogged the more comfortable I've felt in my little corner of the interwebs so some pictures I've posted have shown my face but they are few and far between. I don't have a lot of followers and don't get a lot of comments so I have this impression that not a lot of people read me, but I suppose I could have lurkers. But this lack of exposure makes me feel safe in my blogging anonymity. Of course, I don't post anything I wouldn't want anyone I know to read in the off chance that someone I know does stumble upon me.
I try not to be a lurker, but some blogs I discover and really like, it takes me a while to warm up and start leaving comments, especially the ones that have a million comments already. I feel shy and not sure I have something worthwhile to add. However, if a post really strikes a cord with me then I will use that as an opportunity to break the comment ice. Some blogs I find it easier to leave comments on than others. I suppose it's about comfort level. But once I make my presence known I try to leave comments on most of the posts I read because I want the author to know that I came by and appreciated the post.
Long comment, but you really provoked some thought, as you usually do. ;)

Susan said...

Good subject. On most of the sites where I lurk, it's because a)it doesn't interest me enough to comment, b)the blogger never answers or leaves a return comment, c)they're so prolific, there's not enough time in the day to keep up. But, if I'm interested enough to visit, I leave comments occasionally so they'll know I'm there.

I have about 15 loyal followers who always comment on all my posts and a few who hit most of them...and that's just fine with me. It's about all I can keep up with. God forbid that I would ever get Blog of Note (not that I would). I've seen what it's done to a couple of my blog friends and if you're like us and want to answer each and every one, it is kind of overwhelming. The reason I answer all my comments publicly is because I like the back and forth of it, sometimes a reply will spark another comment from someone. And let's face it, I love seeing my words there and hope someone else besides me thinks they're funny and smart! ;)

I mainly started my blog so my extended family and friends would have a way of knowing what's going on with the grandkids and seeing current pictures of them. So, yes, I've kind of put myself and them out there. It doesn't really worry me much, and so far there haven't been any negative results. I think I've only gotten 3 or 4 spam comments and they were harmless. But I may take down my Facebook link, because that kind of takes it up a notch or two.

Sandy Nawrot said...

I suppose I am a little too trusting, because my picture can be found as well as my family's pictures, if you find me on Facebook and I friend you. My husband is a little more paranoid than I, but doesn't enforce anything.

Funny thing about these lurkers, no? My mom is one of them. She has only commented two or three times ever. I have 111 followers, and only hear from maybe a third of them on a regular basis. Still, I will be out and about and run into people I know and it is always disarming when they immediately pick up a thread or topic from one of my posts. They know what I'm reading, what I liked, what I didn't, my other projects, etc. I suppose that is the price we pay for our fame (haha).

Misfit said...

I agree with you on keeping your name and personal details private, I do the same. There are plenty of nut-jobs out there, along with the fact that there is a lot more personal information available on the net than most people realize.

As for lurking, I do that quite often. 1) I don't comment just to comment, if I don't have anything to add I don't have anything to add to the discussion. 2) There are times when I would like to comment by the freakin' blog takes soooooo long to load that I can't take the time to wait. I have books to read :)

Penny said...

What do you think about putting yourself out there online? I think moderation is the best. When I first started blogging I was completely. I was Bitter Betty. After two years or so I decided to reveal my first name. I dont' generally mention my husband and I NEVER use his name...or any of my friends names for that matter. They are all random other names. Everything I talk about on my blog I would talk to the general public/strangers in actual life. It's just random, useless musings. Nothing to private going on.

Are you overly cautious, semi-exposed or completely transparent? I would say semi. I have posted a picture or two of myself before. Never of my hubs. My first name is out there...nothing else. I don't have my blog linked through facebook or twitter or any other medium.

What would you do if someone tried to trash your reputation online amongst other people you don't really know? I really don't know. Not sure on that one.

Have you ever had content stolen or found your image modified or shared inappropriately? Yes, actually I was browsing myspace several weeks ago and some random person was claiming to be Jim Adkins. I know Jim..and I know he doesn't have a myspace. I went to look at it just to check it out and the person had taken a ton of my pictures of my guitar I took at my job when I first got it. My file boxes and calculator were sitting next to it..hahahaha. I wrote him and told him to knock it off and to inform him I knew he had my photos. He ended up confessing he was some 13 year old kid and he apologized.

If you are a lurker, do you do so out of laziness or because you are shy? I don't normally lurk. I try to comment on everything I read. There are two blogs I follow that are mommy blogs...only because I know these people personally. I don't comment a lot of times on those because I really have nothing to add about diapers and throw up and random Kid stuff. I own cats. Not kids. I don't want to leave a snarky one word "nice" so I just skim and leave.

Honestly, unrelated but, I follow them more out of politeness I guess. If I wasn't friends with these people I would never read their blogs because of lack of interest.
Everyone else I comment on. This could be a good topic for bloganon

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I both lurk a lot without commenting, and hold back on personal information. Mostly because I am shy. I get lots of weird spam anyway even without personal info!

otin said...

Well, being that I put my phone number on my blog, obviously you can see that I am willing to put it all out there. I am not a big believer in Lurkers. I think that sometimes people just drop by, see that a post may not interest them and then move on. I do not comment at every blog that I click on. If the post does not hold my attention, I will move along.

hmsgofita said...

I have three blogs. One is completely real names, picture, etc. Then I have a book/movie blog but that one links to my family blog where, yes, I'm pretty open. I've got pics, though, no links to facebook. So I guess if I ever do get stalked it'll be my own darn fault for letting myself out there...

caite said...

I try not to lurk. If I enjoy a blog, I like to give some feedback to the author..because I know know much I love it myself. But I know I have lurkers, people I know, family and friends, on my own site. And I don't really like it. lol

As to revealing yourself..I don't really, at least not much. I don't post pictures or live too much personal info. Really, if someone wants to find out about you and you are online, they can. But I try not to make it too easy.
I have been online, in various venues for many years and while most people out there are nice, there are some strange folks too. Really.

LJ Ducharme said...

This is a topic I've written on a couple of times. When I first started blogging I was rather private about who/where I was, but as I got more comfortable with writing, and who (that I was aware of) was reading me I began to loosen up. I think now I'm on middle ground with what I put out there. I am also kinda trusting on who I think is reading me. I like to think there aren't people our there stalking or going to potentially harm me. I've got nothing worth exploiting about. I think.
In regards to lurkers - I'm sure I have them. I've done it myself, but generally because I don't think I have anything to add or share. But, even as I write that - I'd like to know when people drop by - even if its just to say "hi". So if you ever get a "hi" from me, its because I didn't want to just lurk, but let you know I was by.

The Bumbles said...

Matty = I too wonder about those who follow publicly but never interact, even after I've left comments for them. Curious. We didn't tell anyone about our blog initially either - and we still don't go out of our way to. But just because we don't advertise it doesn't mean that people we know won't stumble across it on their own some day. That's why I feel it is important to not use our blog as a venting spot about real people.

Jehara = I would say you, like us, are semi-exposed. We are trying to have it both ways :0) Google Analytics is the only barometer we have to gauge how many people are viewing our pages, whether they comment, follow or not.

Susan = I always try to visit new commenters, to reciprocate the interest and find out a little about them. I don't always comment on recurring visitors' posts daily, but I am there - lurking through them all!

Sandy = You are very trusting. I think that helps to lend to your credibility with your reviews. Full names, photos, things like that make me feel more certain that I am reading facts and not just what someone posing wants me to think. I struggle with that myself - wanting to add validity and transparency to our thoughts here, but also protecting ourselves from those troublemakers.

The Bumbles said...

Misfit = I get lax in my commenting sometimes myself because I would rather be reading, catching up on our DVR, visiting with friends, getting work done, etc. etc. etc. I have learned to let go of that guilt. I also feel it is counterproductive of my time and theirs if I leave a comment for the sake of commenting, instead of bringing something to the table.

Penny = You are always so thorough in your responses ;0) Your example of the teenager content thief is a good one to show that we can't believe all that is presented to us online. I am glad you were able to resolve that particular matter. Hopefully he doesn't grow up to be a stalker! As for following favors, that is a topic I plan to address in a future BlogAnon! Good call.

Rhapsody = Our stupid spam has started to pick up lately. I know their intentions are not really malicious in a stalking/trolling way - more just an annoyance. But I refuse to monitor comments before publishing them. If Blogger offers a SPAM filter I am not aware of it, but I'd love to have a way to block them.

The Bumbles said...

Otin = Yes, you are completely accessible. And I think that draws good people to you - being such a unique approach. Stalkers probably think it is too good to be true - or too easy! You don't present enough of a challenge to their efforts ;0)

Gofita = I have come across several bloggers who have multiple blogs with different access levels. Pseudonym ones where they are publicly accessible, and ones requiring passwords/special access that are more personal. If we were to create a family blog, I'm pretty sure we'd keep that one private. But at this point, no one is really clamoring for regular photos of our cats ;0)

Caite = You're funny! Not really liking your "known real world people" lurking on your blogosphere. But you are right - these days, if someone wants to find you - they will.

The Bumbles said...

LJ = Very sweet - saying "hi" is always welcome - but never necessary around these parts. I saw something on the local news last night where this guy had been randomly stalking this family for almost 3 years - in the real world - not cyberspace. He would spray paint their home and vehicles with ominous sayings. He made their life a living nightmare where they felt trapped and that the person in line behind them could be "him." Gave me chills. They finally found out who he was because he had mounted a GPS tracking device on their vehicle and the police were able to find him via the serial #. They still have no idea why he selected them - there is no known connection. He just seems to have randomly picked them out of the phone book and got his kicks scaring the crap out of them. Stalkers are sick 'effers.

LJ Ducharme said...

The story you wrote in response to my comment just freaks me out. But I suppose its not helping matters that I'm reading "The Lovely Bones" at this time and you just never who what creeps are where and how and when they might strike.
That just gives me the heebee-jeebee's.


I use a pseudonym for the erotic romances I write. But I have posted a picture and I'm afraid if someone were to really google that name, it would be linked somewhere to my real name.

As an author, I want to connect with my readers and other writers. At the same time, I want to keep my family safe in case someone turns ugly.

Unfortunately, a former friend whom I confessed my pseudonym to, turned into an enemy. I know she's read my blog because she has sent hate email and took exception to one of my posts and harrassed me about it.

I can't change that name, that blog, or even that email address as I use it for my writing business and all my publishers, editors, and writing contacts use it. But I sure wish I'd been more careful and never told that person my secret identity. Of course, that person only lives a couple miles from me so it's possible I could run into her in the grocery store, too. So far, I haven't. Only online.


To answer your other question, I try to comment when I visit a blog. But like you, I want to have something relevant to add to the conversation or I feel funny leaving an inane answer.

From looking at stats on my blog, a very small percentage of people who visit leave comments. It makes me wonder if my posts don't give them enough meat for discussion. Who knows?

Jersey Girl said...

I wrote on this subject recently too. I subscribe to Feedjit, which tells me when people have visited and where they're from. I'm always amazed to see the different places the lurkers are from and wonder why they stopped by and how they found me. I put a challenge out there to them to leave a comment, but, so far, no one took the bait.
I admit, I'm a lurker at times, mostly because, either I don't have time to comment or I don't have any opinion about the subject.
I have my regular followers, but as I have become pretty much a weekend blogger for now, due to time constraints, I'm afraid I may lose some.
And, btw, I may not comment often, but I check out your blog regularly.

Beth F said...

Considering that I blog and tweet under a fake name, I guess I don't have to add anything more!

I read way more blogs than I comment on -- but that's really a time issue. If I commented everywhere every day, that would be all I would have time for.

Kathleen said...

I try to think of Lurkers as friendly but shy people. That being said although I do reveal that I live in San Francisco Bay Area I never reveal my last name and I purposely don't link to my book blog from Facebook. I like staying in the middle ground area and not revealing too much to have a problem but not so little that people don't get a sense of who I am.

kaye said...

wow--great topic, sure generated a lot of comments. I had such a hectic week I'm late getting on board.

I'm semi-cautious. I started out very cautious, but when my daughter started blogging and had no problem with putting names, faces etc out there--I thought what am I trying to protect. Anyone that reads her blog knows I'm her mother :)

I mostly worry about the little children, you hear such horrible stories about kidnappings, pictures being stolen and used for pornagraphy and such things.

I am a lurker. I don't comment on about 80% of the blogs I follow. The majority are photo blogs and I enjoy rolling through the browser looking at the amazing pictures.

Some of the blogs are people who write: stories,columns etc. I enjoy reading them but don't feel like I need to comment.

I usually only comment on blogs of people I play meme's with or who visit me regularly.

I'm somewhat conflicted about electronic sharing of information. I am having so much fun--but sometimes I am afraid of the cyber boogie man :)