Monday, December 07, 2009

Recap: MBS Sunday Brunch for Dec 6

Our topic this week was embracing new readers and making them feel welcome.

Hermione: The best way to seem less of an exclusive community is to invite readers to participate and leave their responses. These brunches are an excellent example. My “Guess the Implement” series is another. Welcome new commenters when they leave a message, and make them feel special. Tell your readers frequently that you encourage their comments. Refer to those comments in subsequent posts if it seems appropriate.

Something to watch for is how you reply to comments. Someone may have said something to ruffle your feathers, intentionally or accidentally, but it's wise not to react. A short, non-committal reply is preferable to an outraged or sarcastic response that may result in no more comments from that reader. Remember, many readers get follow-up emails of all comments that appear on a blog after they comment, even the ones that have been deleted. Always play the gracious host or hostess. You never know who's reading.

Some readers fear exposure, even if they comment anonymously. That's a shame, but it's a fact. Some blogs have gadgets that display where the current reader is located. They're scary, even though they're often inaccurate. A reader trying to protect her identity would be even less likely to leave a comment with one of those on a blog.

A friendly, welcoming tone in posts is always helpful. Nobody can be cheerful all the time, but posts should remind the readers that they are part of an inclusive, warm and very special community.

Indy: I like Hermione's suggestions very much, and I'd echo the one about flagging your location. For those of us who don't live in large metropolitan areas, seeing the name of your hometown along the right margin is unsettling. In fact, there are several really lovely blogs that I don't visit for that reason alone.

As for those wishing to find their way into the scene, I'd suggest leaving a relatively substantive comment, even a couple sentences. That will draw the attention of the blogger and make it easier for him or her to respond personally, even if you make the comment anonymously. I think I was "Loyal Lurker II" the first time I commented here, and it made a big difference to me that Bonnie responded so warmly.

Elle: My personal experience has been the exact opposite. I have found this community to be kind, open, and very supportive. It seems that newbie spankees, especially, are driven to understand this compulsion when they first embrace it whole hog, and people that have been in the lifestyle for awhile are wonderful about giving advice, reassuring, etc.

As far as my blog goes, I value EVERYONE's comments! I really try to reply to each one. I know that's not always possible when you are dealing with a bunch, but I'm still have the advantage of few readers so I can keep it more personal. However, I've seen blogs that have many, many readers still maintain that personal touch. (Thanks, Bonnie and Hermione).

For me, I just try to be as honest as I can. No one knows how I really am. Why would I shield myself? I can share exactly how I feel as I figure it out.

I think Hermione's point about having interactive stuff is a good one. I don't always have time to participate, but it is an inviting way to get people involved. Asking questions works, too.

Cookie: My personal experience has also been like Elle's. I find the community as a whole to be a very friendly and welcoming place. I think that people are just so diverse that it is almost impossible for everyone to feel the same way though.

I have gotten negative comments, but it really doesn't compare to the many nice and helpful comments from the majority. So I would never say that the community is closed and cliquish. There are, however, some people who are just like that. I wish I knew how to avoid that perception, but I believe it really isn't within our control. We can just be one of the many warm and welcoming bloggers, like Bonnie and Hermione. Both were very kind and welcoming when I joined the community a few years ago. There are a lot more of the friendly welcoming type from what I have seen.

I do hate that some people, even a small number, can make it seem as though we are like that by their actions and make a person feel like they don't belong. That's wrong to me and I would hope that I would never come across that way as I do not feel that anyone deserves to be made to feel that way ever.

I am one of the bloggers with that gadget that shows where the readers are from. I never thought about it the way that they described. Now that I think about it and it has been brought up, I can see their point and will be removing my gadget. I don't want to scare away any would-be reader or commenter.

Anon: I'm a medium-time lurker (about two years) and new commenter (maybe six months here and as yet no where else, I still want to be anonymous and it's easiest on the brunches). I have to say I haven't found the community to be closed or cliquish. I will say that occasionally it seems like many bloggers (particularly those who blog about party experiences) know each other and therefore refer to one another with nicknames that can be confusing. I think I'm still mixing people up with each other people in accounts, but it isn't off-putting.

I find MBS to be particularly welcoming to new folks and I very much appreciate it. I have one question. Can I use the "name/URL" option below without entering a website? I'm feeling like I'm almost ready to have a name on my comments, but have no blog or website to attach to it.

Yes, you can and I hope you will. It's helpful to be able to attach a name to a person, even it's an obviously fictitious one.

Jean Marie: This is something I feel strongly about. Spanking is an integral part of who I am. I think that's true for many of us. When I found MBS, I thought I'd gone to heaven. I probably came "out" to people posting on this site too forcefully. It was a reaction to being repressed with this side of my sexuality for so long, and due to the fact that I am very shy in real life. On the one hand, I felt honored when Bonnie ran one of my short stories here years ago (about pooling and co-mingling punishment implements early in a relationship). On the other hand, I foolishly felt crushed when busy Bonnie lost track of an e-mail I sent and didn't reply. What I'm saying is that some of us wear our hearts on our sleeves when it comes to this fetish. So, we all ought to hear one another, not judge, just share. I don't want to sound Pollyanna-ish, but life is better that way. Our individual experiences can enrich one another. I so love reading what people post here.

I'm sorry about that, Jean Marie. No offense was intended!

PK: I will agree with everyone here. When I found MBS, I too realized I had found a heaven of like-minded people. I was instantly welcomed in the entire community. People shared their experiences and seemed interested in mine and many were just wonderful in answering my questions both about spanking and on how to begin my own blog.

Like Elle, I answer every comment I get. If someone takes the time to read what I've written and then comments on it, I want to acknowledge and thank them.

Bonnie, you do so much for young blogs by letting us know that they are out there. I don't go exploring on my own much anymore, but I try to check out the ones you mention. But now that I read so many and still like to write and comment myself, I look at these new blogs to see whether the author answers their comments. If they don't, I usually won’t leave one myself. I limit myself to those bloggers who want to talk.

I try, through Fantasy Friday, to provide a place where everyone is welcomed and to give anyone who wants to try their hand at writing a place to try it out and see how it feels. I am thrilled that two of my readers, Kaylynn (Externally Motivated Wife) and Florida Dom (Florida Dom’s Corner), have started their own blogs after wetting their feet there.

I sure hope that everyone feels as welcomed here as I did when I came!

Slowsong: As a lurker, I first of all look for someone who writes in a way that I can empathise with them. I look for someone who links spanking to real life in what I see as a genuine way, and someone who talks about feelings as much as actions. This may take time! Then there is the matter of security, what is safe and what is not. Here you need a bit of computer knowledge, so a few simple lessons might help. Good luck with this blog. It is a real treasure!

Thanks, Slowsong. I can write something about being secure. I'll add it to my queue.

Curtis: I think the most important thing is what you, Bonnie, create -- a welcoming space and support. I think those entering the scene need to feel that there is no single right way to enjoy. The scene probably contains almost as many varieties of what individuals desire and need as there are individuals. Each individual's views and feelings need to be taken seriously. But I also think it helps one joining initially to feel that out of self-realization and fulfillment comes joy. And to the extent that blogs such as this, local munches and communication through individual give-and-take on the Internet provide a means of emotional and, perhaps later, physical connection, they serve to make the newbie comfortable in their own skin and optimistic about their prospects for fulfillment.

Ronnie: My experience was totally the opposite. I found the community to be friendly, warm, helpful and very welcoming.

I fully agree with the others and Hermione has a good point about gadgets that display where the current reader is located. I must admit I tend to pop back out when I visit blogs who have these gadgets and not leave a comment.

I hope I make everyone feel welcome and I value every comment made. If a new commenter has visited, I acknowledge them and make them feel welcome. Always reply to comments, even if you don't have time to reply to each one a simple thank you, appreciate your visit.

Bonnie, your brunches and your "in with the New" posts are great at making everybody feel welcome.

R Humphries: Our blogs come in a wide variety of flavors. Many are highly personalized accounts of individuals' (and couples') adventures in the spanking world. Others, like mine, are outlets for experimental writing. By their nature, the latter are probably more accessible and attract more comments and discussion. Nonetheless, whatever the theme, I think we should consider all of our readers as guests and treat them with courtesy. If a guest takes the time to leave a comment, we should respond in an appropriate and timely manner. Over the span of 175 posts, I have only ever received one comment that I refused to approve or respond to. It was sent anonymously and made some lascivious and unoriginal comments about my wife. I was not prepared to enter into an extended conversation, so I just ignored it.

Without question, Bonnie’s MBS brunches and her regular introduction of new blogs is a tremendous service to the community. On the slightly broader subject of blogging courtesy, if you find a blog you particularly like (especially newer blogs), drop them a quick note wishing them luck and to offer encouragement and add them to your blogroll. If someone takes the time to feature your site, always acknowledge them.

Personally, with the exception of that one rather rude comment, I have always found the guests and bloggers who make up the community very warm and open.

Prefectdt: I think the majority of blogs are already as open and welcoming as is possible. I would especially cite the BDSM blogs that I frequent. I am definitely not part of their clique and yet the BDSMers always seem happy to have a spanko visit. Both groups are usually very welcoming to newcomers.

It may be worth considering if this "closed and cliquish" image may stem from our natural tendency to close ranks and keep our mouths shut, when we feel under threat (It does tend to be our usual reaction). This could be misinterpreted as being a little rejecting of people about whom we may not be sure.

LDD-4-Me: I suppose being new creates a feeling of being overwhelmed, no matter what the aspect of life. It's just like when one is first learning to read and feels proud sweating through the “Dick and Jane” reader and then sees War and Peace sitting on an end table.

Regarding the spanking blogger community, perhaps the best things we can do to help new bloggers feel welcome would be to put out the word that we’re happy to link to them and follow their blogs if they contact us. We can put a link to our own stories of how we first got involved and encouraging them to do the same. Perhaps if we all create a set of links to “Anniversary Blogs” where we go back and look at our comments and feelings “After Six Months,” “After One Year,” etc.

I must say the ‘spanking community’ as I’ve know it never seemed closed and cliquish. If anything, it's the opposite but I can imagine for many it could. When I first started, I spent a lot of time on forums like “Spanking Classics.” There were always a lot of new people there, so I never felt alone. Then again, having never been to a ‘play party’ or weekend event of any kind, maybe I’ve just never been exposed to the ‘spanking ceiling.’

When exploring these things and looking at BDSM aspects, there certainly are those who do make it intimidating simply by belittling anyone without decades of experience with comments like “No time for newbies or wannabes.”

Love4her: Visitors to a blog come with a great variance in expectations and experiences. They will be curious, excited and elated to see others share their kink. At the same time, they may be offended by some that take that kink far beyond what they feel is appropriate. They may worry about what others may see on their computer history or favorites list and limit excursions to some sites.

Also, blogs mature with the blogger. They can easily progress to a level that may not be comfortable for one new to a particular kink. I think a blogger should do all in their power with steps like setting limits for topics, removing abusive comments, being cordial and inviting others to take this into account. Ultimately, where the visitor is in their spanking (or other kink) journey will determine their comfort level with a particular blog. If they fit the milieu of the blog, they will be more likely to revisit and become a contributor where possible.

An excellent blog, like Bonnie’s, becomes a resource to which readers will return for information and links to other sites. It is non-threatening and even if found by a vanilla spouse, it would not be offensive to one with a slightly open mind.

Daisychain: I would be interested to know which blogs are supposedly "closed and cliquish." I have never yet come across one that is!

I would think that most people who blog do so to gain or give readership and support and friendship. This is just one big supportive family and everyone welcomes new members to the family!

Ann: I'll start my reply by saying that I lurk more than I comment. That is largely due to the fact that although I have a great interest in TTWD, I have a small amount of experience to draw on. But those times when I have delurked and commented, I've felt very welcomed by most (95% or more) of the spanking blogs I've posted on.

There was one occurrence that made me stop commenting for several months. I disagreed with the blogger. Maybe that is against an unwritten rule that I was unaware of, but I felt I did so in a very mature, sensitive, and humble manner (I started my comment with "I think I'll have to disagree. In my opinion..."). There were several people who then posted after me saying I was completely wrong for posting my thoughts since I didn't wholeheartedly agree with the blogger. And the blogger never really chimed in again. So I was never sure if I had offended or not. It did make me less sure of commenting and I did feel like an outsider to the blogger's clique, like his friends had the right to post there, but I didn't.

I feel so much better about how my comments will be accepted when I do occasionally comment here, on Hermoine's blog or on Dr. Ken's blog. The three of you have all made me feel extremely welcome. Thank you. :)

Thank you, Ann. You are welcome to disagree with me or anyone else here so long as you do it in a respectful manner. If we all agreed all of the time, brunch would be boring.

Radha: While mostly everyone that I visited through MBS has been warm and welcoming, I have had some experiences that have left me hesitant to comment much. There were times when I did not get responses to comments that I left while others got lengthy ones. It made me feel like my words were not welcome.

Because of my experience, when a new commenter shows up on my blog, I make a point to say thank you and try to engage in a warm way.

With much love and respect for you, Bonnie, and all those who come and comment here, thanks for all the good times!

Thanks to you as well, Radha.

C: I am for the most part a lurker. I will preface this by saying that I have never been treated badly and most bloggers are very gracious at answering comments. I think the fear derives from our own insecurities. We all have fears relating to TTWD. I know at times I am reluctant to share much in a comment when it seems that others share so much and talk with such ease. It's like they are talking to friends. We lurkers get the wrong impression. As for a solution, when bloggers answer the comments personally and address the writer, it goes a long way toward making us feel a part of the community. I feel that most bloggers do this. Of course, open forums such as this that draw us in.

Ally: I was new not so long ago. For me, it felt weird to try and jump into a group that appears to know each other very well. I know that responses to my comments were the most encouraging and I felt more a part of the group by starting my own blog. Since then, I have always found the community warm and open. I would encourage anyone new to be persistent with their comments and not be discouraged.

Dr. Ken: First off, thank you, Ann, for the kind words.

I've never found the blogs or the community to closed or cliquish. My experiences with spanking groups, such as Crimson Moon in Chicago and the Texas All-State Party (to name two), has been that the people there are very warm and friendly. It may seem different to a newbie just because they as yet have not developed those relationships with the people they are coming in contact with.

All we can do is continue to be open and inviting, encourage comments and participation and respond when people do so. Let everyone know that they are valued members of the Spanko Society.

Fantasia Lillith: I suggest that readers should comment on blogs and don't bring up your own fetish. Focus instead upon what is important to them. It's strange, but it works for me. When a person leaves a really smart and well thought out comment, it makes me realise that we all have a fetish or a something and it's no "big deal" that it's not the same.

Blogs are about conversation. Engage and others will engage.

Lil Sam: After reading the comment about making first timers feel welcome, I just had to post.

I remember well my first few days and all the wonderful people I met. I was never judged or put down. I was always encouraged to follow my heart, to be me, and to talk with my new friends. This is the most supportive and friendliest community I have ever had the pleasure of being a part of. I am very thankful that my search lead me here. If I can help in any way, please do contact me

Bonnie: This was one of our best conversations. Thanks to everyone who joined in. Perceptions can be difficult to change. People tend to see what they expect to see. Nevertheless, courtesy, patience, and responsiveness create positive first impressions and reinforce the welcoming environment we want.

I think Ally explained the most likely origin of the comment when she said, “it felt weird to try and jump into a group that appears to know each other very well.” Some members of our community have known each other for ten years or more. It's only natural that obscure references or inside jokes occasionally creep into the conversation. For example, many of us know why Elis goes by the initials PK. But many readers don't.

I wouldn't want bloggers and commenters to avoid these references, because they are fun. Nor would I suggest that we explain precisely what we mean every time. That would limit spontaneity.

At the same time, we have a responsibility to let newcomers join the conversation. That means we should encourage their participation, answer their questions, and help them to feel at home. As long as we don't scare away these new friends, they will soon fill in any gaps in their understanding.


Fantasia Lillith said...

I really like how you went and took all the comments and created a blog post. I think that's a fantastic approach.

Speaking of bottoms ... I posted mine - wonder how many people go to my site and want to smack that ... I even wrote about that ... so perhaps I have a fetish I didn't realise I had!

Starla Kaye said...

I just wanted to share with everyone that Black Velvet Seductions is having a 3-Day online Holiday Party Dec 12-14. They will be giving away some copies of my newest release, Holly's Big Bad Santa, which is a very light spanking story. Please check it out at
Starla Kaye

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