A Tip For Controlling Your Blog (And A Tidbit)

DC 035

Blogs can take over, can’t they? They’re social, fun, and ultimately addictive, leading many of us away from the activities that led to them in the first place. In my ongoing quest to get back to writing fiction, I’ve done more than cut back on my posts. I’ve taken steps to rein in my blog’s apparent desire to have things its way (that is, controlling all of my time). Some of those steps are small, like the one I’ll discuss in this post. Small, yes, but they can have unexpected benefits.

Today’s Tip

Close comments on your posts after a set period of time.

There are two good reasons to do this, one of which surprised the heck out of me. I did this originally with only the first reason in mind. And that is this—it’s hard to get back into the mindset we had on a post that was written 6 weeks ago, let alone 6 months. Closing comments lets us and our readers focus on more recent events. Even if few comments come in on those older posts, it’s a way to keep control. More so than I ever realized.

When I did this on my blog, I discovered another HUGE benefit of closing those posts, one that I think a lot of bloggers might appreciate. What was it you ask? (At least, I’m hoping you’ve asked!)

Question Marks

My spam queue is nearly empty. Every day. Yes, I’m serious.

Take a look at the posts the spammers try to link to on your blogs. I’ll bet you see what I did. Many of the posts are months or years old. The unexpected benefit of limiting the comment period was exhilarating.

Limiting the comment period closes the posts to spammers.

You can bet your last sweet dollar that a smile reached my face at that realization.

If you’re a WordPress blogger (and most of my followers are), here’s how to do it.

In your Dashboard, hover over “Setting” and choose “Discussion” from the menu that appears. Under “Other Comment Settings,” there’s a check box where you can close comments after a period of days that you select. I’ve chosen 14, but you can go higher or lower.

And if someone gets a comment in before the deadline, but you miss it before you can reply? Just change the setting to a longer period that will reopen comments. Write your reply, and then change back to your preferred number of days. Easy peasy.

You’re not only controlling your blog, you’re controlling the spammers. And doesn’t that sound good?

The Tidbit

Just to prove I’m working on the fiction, here’s another excerpt from SATC.

____________________

She turned back to business, ostensibly comparing the fruit and vegetables while listening to the conversations between sellers and local buyers. As she passed from stall to stall, the subtle shifts from Spanish to the local Maya dialect as she and her crew approached reached her like scents on the breeze. Not that it mattered. She understood Ch’orti’ as well as she did Spanish.

A prickling sensation rose on her neck while she stopped for mangoes. The vendor excused herself, uncharacteristically leaving the transaction to her daughter, Raxka, the same who helped with artifact cleaning. Normally a talkative young woman, even when Vicente was around, today she was subdued and turned to the next customer as soon as she could.

Kat almost missed his whispered words.

____________________

Highlighting like you see here is where I’m marking word choices as I type, knowing immediately that they’re just placeholders. Other text will change, too, but I like to mark specifics as I think of them. This is, after all, still a first draft. But I hope the intent of the scene comes across at this early stage.

cherry blossoms 2014

Limiting my blog posting and reading is hard! I miss you all!

71 thoughts on “A Tip For Controlling Your Blog (And A Tidbit)

  1. That’s a good tip J, I hadn’t even thought of the possibility of closing comments after a certain amount of time. That makes sense, the majority of the comments come in during the first two or three days really don’t they, and so 14 days is definitely enough. After that it’s only very occasional isn’t it, or as you say, the spammers!

    Nice tidbit, keep up the good work! ;)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Vanessa. :) I know some people simply ignore their spam queues, but I check regularly to make sure a legitimate comment didn’t end up there. And scrolling through 20 or more real spam gets old, especially when there’s rarely someone to rescue. ;) I also figure that if someone really wants to comment on a closed post, they’ll make their way to an open post to do it. I know folks who have done that when I’ve closed comments on a single post.

      I’ve got the very rough draft/ideas for Kat’s story in SATC out to betas to see if it holds promise. We’ll see what they say…. Fingers crossed!

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  2. It was really nice to see your post in my inbox this morning, JM. Glad you’ve been productive with your fiction writing, and I loved your highlighting tip. Thanks for sharing. I will also look into the blog tip. I largely ignore the spam comments, really don’t give them much thought. Don’t know if this is good or bad. Like you, I’m thinking of cutting back on blogging, too. I’m considering 2x monthly instead of every Monday, for many of the reasons you expressed in an earlier post. Hope you’re doing well. :)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Gwen! It’s been tough staying away from all you blog buddies, but I have seen better progress than I have in ages. So at least there’s that!

      I check my spam queue because every once in a while, a legitimate comment ends up there, and I don’t want to accidentally leave someone there. Skimming through the real spam gets tiring, so when I did this “housecleaning” bit on the comments, I was really happy to see ZERO items in my spam queue the next morning instead of 20+. :)

      Obviously I don’t get everything to be “fixed” highlighted in drafts, but every little bit helps for the next draft. And that’s also where I love Scrivener’s “Document Notes” feature. I can put lengthy comments in there for each scene regarding ideas to work in or concerns about how something might be working—or not.

      I really think twice monthly is fine, no matter what agents and editors might say. Once a work is closer to publication, I can see going weekly again in an attempt to build an audience. But I don’t want to sacrifice too much writing time to frequent blog posts or to do “boring/lower quality” posts just to meet a weekly commitment. The social interaction with fellow writers is great, but we also need to write our WIPs!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great to have you back JM. It looks as though the ‘cutting back’ is working in your favour – some great writing creating intrigue as usual. Good tip about the comments too – I just received 3 spam trackbacks today alone!! I’m still plodding along blogging weekly, but I never give myself a hard time if I miss a week here and there. Life is just too busy and other writing sometimes takes precedence. Take care, Gemma x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Gemma. :) I really hope this version of SATC will pass muster with beta readers and then find a wider audience. I love the idea, difficult as it might be to get right!

      I’ve always gone through my spam queue regularly because legitimate comments do end up there, and I want to rescue them. But scrolling through all the garbage gets tiring. So when I ran into this unexpected benefit of “housecleaning,” I was happy.

      Life is just going to be so busy through at least September that I felt the need to “officially” announce a cutback in blogging so I could have time for writing. And depending on how things go, I may stick with a twice per month schedule until the time comes that I’m seriously close to publishing a book. Then I’d pick it up again—not to make endless sales pitches, but to get myself “out there” again.

      I hope your book is nearing that point!

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  4. Awesome tip, JM. I always kept my comments open because I have a number of followers who comment on posts some 6 weeks after the fact! I never realized that old posts are vulnerable to spammers, mainly because I don’t usually run into problems with spammers getting through. Akismet does a great job for me. However, I have gone ahead and closed out comments on posts that are older than 14 days. This will probably help me from having to worry about replying to commenters after too long a period of time. As you say, after a few weeks I am ready to move on to newer, fresher topics.

    Love the tidbit, and it was great seeing your name in my inbox today!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Kate! The great thing about the comment period is that you can set it to a length that works for you. Even a longer period should still lessen the amount of spam in the queue since those older posts are now off limits. I’ve always checked my queue regularly because real comments can end up there—and I don’t want to leave someone hanging or thinking that I’m ignoring them. This way, I don’t have to scroll through 20 or more spam to find those lost commenters.

      I’m just crossing my fingers that the whole story will one day hold readers’ interests from Page One to The End. ;)

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    • Thanks, Karen. :) As I mentioned to Clowie above, I can’t give anything away! But you can be sure those whispered words are important to the story. ;)

      If you’ve made this change, check your spam queue in the morning. There should be a drastic decrease!

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    • Thanks, Jennifer! Without giving too much away, I think it’s safe to say those whispered words play an important role in the story. ;)

      Sometimes there’s great post fodder in the spam comments. Mostly not. But I always check to make sure that a legitimate commenter didn’t get trapped there by Akismet. It does happen from time to time. Now it’s much easier to check. :)

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  5. I completely understand your reasons for limiting comment time, but as a reader, I’m not always on the ball. Sometimes I am a few weeks behind so when someone closes comments, I also can’t engage with them on their blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is an individual thing. Closing comments after a period might not be right for you or some other bloggers. I’m glad that WordPress gives us flexibility in how long to keep the comment period open. A longer period might let more spam slip through, but it would still be a decrease. Not everyone goes through their spam queue like I do, but I always check to make sure a legitimate comment didn’t end up there. That happens, and scrolling through a ton of garbage takes time. For me, most comments will come in on a post within a few days, so I thought two weeks would work. But another blogger might be more comfortable leaving them open for six weeks. And another, like you, might never close them. For now, if someone really wanted to talk about one of my older posts, I’d be fine with them choosing a still-open post to do so. :)

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      • I don’t go through my spam queue so I don’t have that incentive to close comments. But I can understand wanting to avoid that time suck. You’re right, everyone has to do what works for them. :)

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    • Kourtney – I ran across that problem reading blogs, too. What I do is go to their “about” page or the current post and say “Hey I was touring your blog, you closed comments, so I’m just saying it here” So far bloggers have been OK with that work around. Just an idea

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    • I suspect you are like me and regularly check your spam queue to make sure real comments didn’t end up there. And I’ll bet you have at least as much spam in there as I do and likely more. I doubt many real people will be looking at my old posts and wanting to comment, so this shouldn’t impact them. And my most recent posts will be open if they do want to say something. If you do this, you should see a real drop in the amount of spam in your queue the next day!

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      • I set mine to 60 days. Since I only post weekly (and sometimes not even that), that allows two months for my posts to stay comment-active. It seems I rarely get comments on old posts, anyway, and if this reduces my spam, I’m all for it. And yes, you know Type A me checks her spam file regularly. :)

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    • Thanks, Char. :) I stumbled on it while looking for something else and thought it would be a good “housecleaning” thing for controlling the blog. Not that I get a lot of comments on old posts, but it was a way to keep things fresh and more current. The decrease in spam, though, was a major benefit! Much easier to make sure no legitimate comments are in that ugly queue. :)

      I hope your Spring is going well!

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  6. I find that it helps to blog on a schedule. There are set days where I update my blog and there are days where I write other stuff. Sometimes it’s hard to keep that routine, but I think it works out with a bit of discipline.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for stopping by to join in the conversation!

      Until recently, I had a set schedule for blogging. And yet I knew it was causing problems. Although I only posted once a week, I spent a lot of time on other blogs—reading and commenting. And my “real” writing (two novels) had slowed to a crawl at best. It also became clear that “real life” has laid claim to much of my time through September. If I was going to make any progress on the fiction front, I had to scale back. And so I’ll only be posting once or twice a month until October—maybe longer if real life insists on making more demands.

      I totally agree with setting a schedule for blogging. It’s good discipline, and it helps readers know when to expect us. Sometimes, though, life requires a reset!

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    • Thanks, Helga! If you’re like me and check that spam queue regularly for legitimate comments, this is a handy way to make the task easier! And I do like the subtle way that it keeps the conversations current. People can still read the older posts, and if they really want to discuss them, there’s nothing wrong with referring to them on a newer post. :)

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    • Ha—I can’t believe that so-called “meat” product is still around! I think the techies who applied the name to computer junk mail picked a good one. ;)

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    • I hope it helps others the way it has me. :) I can really do without that spammy stuff. I’m way too busy, but with the blogging cut back, I have gotten some writing done. So I think that counts as well. I hope you are, too!

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  7. Great tip, JM. I’m going to take it up. I may even follow your lead in cutting back on my blog posts for a while so I can write guest articles for other blogs and build up my readership. I’m thinking about it. Nice to have you as a role model.

    Your scene is tantalizing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Jagoda! I was so happy to see so much emptiness in my spam queue. Some bloggers might not get as much of it and wonder what the big deal is. But when I have to wade through 20 or more spam when I check for real comments that were mistakenly sent to the spam queue, that time adds up. And many of us don’t have that much to spare.

      I have no problem with bloggers I follow cutting back to twice a month or even once. Following as many as I do, I actually appreciate it. I think it helps both blogger and reader maintain some sanity and a higher quality level on the posts and comments, too.

      This scene is one of many that have been revised based on your beta comments and others. ;)

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  8. I smiled when I saw a new post from you had arrived, JM. So glad your work is paying off. I do miss you, of course, but I empathize about needing the space away from the blogosphere. It does suck a lot of our attention.

    I don’t have the same problem with spam you seem to do. A few nonsensical hits per year, I’d say. (One of the nice things about having a blog nobody reads.) Actually, on the rare occasions I do get spam, it always gives me a chuckle. Some spam has even sparked new ideas for me! Though, it is mostly true that any comments that do come in will occur in the first week, so the time limit is not a bad idea.

    There are a lot of names in that tidbit, but I think I have a handle on who everyone is, already. The man whose whispered words popped a question mark in my head. Is that Vicente, I wonder, or someone else? I’m curious to know! :)

    Liked by 1 person

    • For a long time, I’d only get one or two daily spam comments in the queue. Then, a few months ago, they really picked up. And I might wake up to find 30 in the queue and another 20 or 30 would come in later in the day. That gets time-consuming to skim for the occasional real comments that Akismat dumps there. So this was a real benefit to me. I’d also noticed that the “funny factor” of so much of it had been replaced by huge “comments” composed only of hundreds of links or coding that should have stayed behind the scenes. Not even good post fodder! :(

      When this tidbit is placed back in context, there should be no confusion for the reader as to who’s whispering. ;) And the words are of great importance for Kat and her crew…. A very rough (and incomplete) draft of her story is out for beta review to see if it sounds like a story line readers will enjoy. Fingers crossed that it is, but as always, I prepare for the worst. ;)

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      • I wonder what the change was? It doesn’t sound like it was something about the posts or your blog itself. Though, if it’s the type of spam that’s more code- than word-based, I wonder if it’s tricking Akismet somehow. Hm. A mystery fit for a cyber-detective! :)

        If you’re still accepting beta readers, I’d be happy to read more about Kat!

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        • I’d love to have you read the rough draft if you’re up for it. It’s only 17,000 words at this point. I think a fresh set of eyes that didn’t see the original version could provide some great insights. I can send you a file tomorrow evening if you’d like. :)

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  9. Ch’orti’ – Always wondered what it’s called. (Is there a translation for that? somethings don’t translate at all. Is it a tribal name?)
    The scene is intriguing…we’re hooked. Highlighting makes sense – no need to stop the writing flow, but marker to pay attention later.
    Great idea about limiting comment time periods – it has made a difference. (and I check spam daily,too – people do get stuck in there accidentally from time to time)
    Gorgeous picture! Glad you checked in. (and have steeled yourself to keeping on track…and maybe having some outdoor real life fun)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ch’orti’ is the name of both one of the Mayan groups and their language. Today it’s spoken mainly in Guatemala, although there are still some speakers in Honduras. The name apparently refers to “corn farming” in its origin. Unlike Kat, though, I never learned to speak it. Might have led to some interesting job offers if I had. ;)

      The cherry blossoms have all blown away, as have many others. Flowering crabs and redbuds are still going, along with some magnolias. Everything is really green now, although we’ve had more rain again today that we really didn’t need…. Still, we’re definitely past winter, and that’s a relief.

      We’ll see what people think of this revised story of Kat’s. The very rough draft of it is out for beta reading to see if this story line will better grab and hold readers’ attention. I’m hoping yes, but it’s my nature to prepare for no. ;)

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  10. Great to see you, J. I love passages where the storyline encompasses “mundane” things while moving the story along. Your characters choosing fruit, the different languages and dialects being spoken, while something ominous or suspenseful is lurking…works and makes me want to read more. This absence from blogging is obviously working for you in terms of your writing!

    Blogging can take over if you let it and I didn’t know that about closing comments but it makes sense. I’ve had “comments” from blogs written two years ago so thank you.

    Now, both of us back to writing! Have a great week, J.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Brigitte! Great to see you here, too. :) I’m hoping this version of Kat’s story will work better for readers. We’ll see what the current round of beta results will say about that. A very rough and incomplete draft of Kat’s story is out for review. I’m hoping for a positive response but preparing for the opposite. But at least I’m doing some writing even as life gets busier by the week, if not day!

      I hope you’re doing well with your writing, too, and enjoying some lovely Spring weather. Before we know it, the heat and humidity will take over, so we’d best enjoy ourselves while we can, right?

      You have a great week, too!

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  11. Thanks for the tips! So far, WordPress catches all my spammers and eliminates them, but it’s good to know what to do if they don’t.
    When do we get to read the rest of the excerpt? ;)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m hoping the draft of the rebuilt book will be finished sooner rather than later. ;) I am making some progress since cutting down on the blogging, but life will be busier than normal through September. I’ll keep at it when I can, though!

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  12. JM you sound much more upbeat about your writing in this post, so the new regime is obviously working for you. I do miss blogging every week, but I’ve been so much more productive in other writing since I went to fortnightly – I’ve written 7 short stories as well as finishing the final polish of my book and getting it query-ready! Interesting tip about the comments, I’ve never checked my spam (I’ll have to have a look now!), but one thing I have done this year is set up pages that link to my older posts, which has given me some traffic to those posts, so I was thinking I wouldn’t want to close comments on them – having said that, I’ve only got a year’s worth of posts, so I might change my mind once I’ve got a longer history.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think we all have to find the system that works for us. And be aware that we may need to change it as our life’s circumstances change. The cut in blogging time does give me more for writing, and that is helping. While there’s still not as much time as I’d like, it’s more than I would have otherwise.

      Whether to limit comment periods is also an individual decision. I rarely got legitimate comments on posts older than a month or two, so closing them was more a “spring cleaning” thing designed to be part of the “reset” of my approach to blogging. But it’s not necessarily the right step for every blogger.

      You’ve completed seven short stories and polished the novel? That’s wonderful! You’ve clearly found the balance that works for you. I’m sending positive thoughts your way for the query process! :)

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  13. This is great advice, JM! I’m about to do it right now.

    My inbox has 2,000 unread emails in it (yikes!) so I’m finding things a bit overwhelming at the moment.

    I love your extract and hadn’t thought of highlighting (I often put words in and think I should come back to that spot, but then forget where it is) LOL – it’s the simple solutions that are sometimes the hardest to come up with. Thank you! :D

    Liked by 1 person

    • 2,000 unread emails??? I think it’s perfectly acceptable to delete some of those without reading. :) I know some bloggers feel guilty about missing someone else’s posts, but sometimes we just have to start fresh! You’ve been so busy with the RUC, friends and family should understand if you’re a bit incommunicado. ;)

      I haven’t always highlighted either. For some reason, the idea just clicked when I started rebuilding SATC. And yep—it was a “Why didn’t I think of this sooner?” moment! :D

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  14. Neat blogging tip! Never thought of that before and I just had a spam comment on an old post this morning. Of course, I have my approval barrier in place for any new commenters, so that always helps. : )

    Your fiction sounds crisp!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The blocking of potential spam was an unexpected benefit of this “housekeeping” step. It’s so much easier to check for real comments that are lost in the spam queue when there’s little to no spam! Luckily, Akismat does a good job most of the time, but every little time saver helps. :)

      My earlier fiction attempts weren’t nearly this crisp—far too close to the academic writing of my day job. But I’m working at it!

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  15. Hi JM, So glad to see a post from you and sounds like a useful one for many. I don’t get a lot of spam (and often forget to check it) but if I ever do, I’ll keep this tip in mind.

    More importantly, I’m so happy to hear you are getting some good writing done! The excerpt is excellent! Great descriptors and intrigue! :) I do the same with highlighting those placeholders when I know there’s a better way of saying something or if I’m just not getting it right. I highlight and keep going so as not to disrupt the flow, then go back to it later.

    I’ve been making some good progress on my new WIP and really enjoying getting back into that story. It’s been fun. I’m just not as brave as you to be willing to share any excerpts. Maybe one day.

    Anyway, I know I’m late commenting here but I’m glad I got in under the deadline :) Happy Writing!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey, Arlene, it’s great to hear that you’re making good progress on your new WIP! And having fun while you’re doing it is definitely the best. I’m having some good days and others not-quite-so-good as I try to get back into a good, steady groove. There are still too many days when I think my first drafts should be top notch. And that’s not realistic or healthy attitude for writing. But I’m working on it. :)

      I hope the day does come when you’re willing to share a few tidbits of your writing. I know some writers feel we shouldn’t do it because some agents/presses have feared the work is then “previously published.” But I’m seeing more agents getting comfortable with the idea as our world spends more and more time online. It’s a decision we all have to make for ourselves and do what feels right for our situations.

      Now keep writing, and I’ll try to do the same. :)

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