Saturday, January 12, 2008

Happiness, Part II

One of the most enjoyable parts of maintaining a blog is watching the incredible conversations that sometimes sprout in the comments section. Most bloggers learn over time that it's a losing proposition to try to guess what subject might spark the most input from others. Sometimes you'll write something that you're so passionate about, and which you thus assume others will respond to in spades, and it will go uncommented upon. Other times you'll toss in a quote you come across that grabs you or quickly link to an offbeat article of interest, and then the floodgates open modestly, and readers pour through with their comments. Here's an example: not long ago, I posted a glancing item on science fiction, a quote consisting of a single sentence. It resulted in the longest comment thread ever on this blog, and one from which I learned a lot through the thoughtful, extended back and forth by two wonderful readers who know a lot about sci-fi.

Anyway, this recent Washington Post piece on the subject of happiness reminded me of one of my favorite comment threads ever, when readers actually helped me better define what I thought about the very essence of the word happiness. I couldn't believe it was now a full year ago, because the online conversation at the time was so fascinating that it seemed to have happened only the other day. Anyway, it all reminds me of how thankful I am for such smart, wonderful and discerning readers. Sometimes they even help me better discern my own mind.


At 12:47 PM, Anonymous Jim Kenny said...

Interesting. The comic Frazz covers the same subject today (1/13).

I also find it interesting that you had contributed nearly half of the comments in your favorite comment thread. Does this say more about you or your readers?

Thanks for provoking us.

At 1:03 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Jim, I think it says that it turned into a real conversation, where others were making me think of new things I hadn't ever considered, and I felt responsible for answering them. In any case, I always do want to acknowledge those contributions (in part to encourage more). Occasionally, I remain mostly silent and just listen to others chat, especially in cases where I know little about the subject, as happened during the discussion about sci-fi. There, my role was merely to be a cheerleader and eager student.

At 1:06 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

And by the way, I meant to add that in the case of the happiness thread, the conversation began by a reader essentially saying, 'hey, you're holding out on us.' So he/she challenged me to come up with an answer. Every one of those conversations unfolds differently, which is part of the charm of it all. Plus, I'm generally the only one who has some sense of who various anonymous folks might be, plus the only one who kind of keeps mental track of what others have said before about various subjects, some publicly in comments and others in private emails. So it all gets thrown into a giant Hungarian stew.

At 4:06 PM, Anonymous Jim Kenny said...

John, I understand what motivated your involvement in the thread in question. I'm glad you expressed these so others can understand your passion for the subject.

And yes, I know how well you catalogue and attempt to understand the person through their comments, here and elsewhere. In fact, I sense a level of happiness is achieved by you when you're near target.

Last, the answer to my question of does it say more about you or your readers, I suspect, the answer is "Yes, it says plenty about both."

Again, thanks for provoking us to think.

At 6:41 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

I'm just glad that smart people such as yourself find something here worth reading. That's a blessing.


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