Online Discussion in the Design Community

For the last couple years, I’ve really made an effort to stay up to date with what fellow designers and freelancers are talking about on their blogs. At any given time I have 10 – 20 blogs that I keep regular tabs on that are written by web designers, freelancers, or something closely related. For a long time, I was what is known as a “lurker,” I would regularly consume the content, but rarely chimed in with a comment or Tweet about my reaction to it.

It wasn’t until I really got into blogging myself that I realized how important the commenting side of the process is! Writing a blog with no interaction is only a sliver of the full blogging experience.

At the beginning of the year I made a conscious effort to get more involved in the discussions going on at the blogs I followed and in the last few months, I took a few steps to try and make this easier for me and to encourage others to start interacting as well!

Subscribe to Feeds

The first thing you can do to make staying on top of multiple sites easier is to subscribe to their RSS Feed. I use Google Reader to keep track of my subscriptions, where I am able to organize the various feeds into categories. Depending on what types of content you follow, your folders may include all types of categories and sub-categories.

Because I wanted to focus on joining in more on the discussions from other designers sites, I made a folder specifically for blogs written by designers. The items in my “Designers” folder focuses more on smaller sites maintained by one or two designers, whereas larger sites like Smashing Magazine or NetTuts fall into my “Designy Stuff” folder.

I recently shared this tip on organizing your feeds in response to Brian Hoff‘s post at The Design Cubicle, How To Become A More Effective, Proficient and Informed Designer.

Having something to Say

Since my aim here has been to get into the discussions and/or feed off what other people are talking about to continue related topics on my blog/twitter, I try to not comment unless I really have something to say. It is always great to let a blogger know you appreciate them posting, but what’s better is sharing what your thoughts are on the issue… even if it seems like you’re going off on a tangent, share what went through your mind when you read the post!

I sort of ran off on a tangent this morning, responding to Aaron Irizarry‘s weekly VidCast where he discussed being transparent, authenticity, and creativity and designing for yourself.

Promote Interaction within the Community

I’ve made a decision to ReTweet any stories I comment on for the next week and see if that is a good method at promoting the dialog on various sites, also I have revamped my vanity URL, and started linking any item I comment on from there.

So part of why I’m writing this is to promote those of you reading this to also make a greater effort to join in the discussions going on. With each of us having our own personal experience, we all have something valuable to contribute!!!


  1. *obligatory 1st!!!!!! coment*


    I totally agree – interaction and community are what its all about. I’ve been making more of an effort to interact as well! woo!

  2. Obligatory 3rd comment (should we count Niki’s spamming? :P)! Woot!

    I’m quite the lurker but I need to eventually get out of my shell. I’m planning on creating a blog notebook for my freelance business so I need to get out there and do some commenting (when appropriate of course)!

    Thanks for sharing your experiences with being active the online community!

  3. You’ve totally inspired me into coming out of lurkdom with regard to your blog. :) I discovered it when I came across one of your “Ask A Freelancer” posts, which are very useful, by the way.

    I would love to hear your thoughts on how to be notified when someone responds to your comments across different blogs. I sometimes subscribe to comments via email, but not all blogs support this, and you have to read through all the general comments (which can be a lot!). I sometimes subscribe to comments via RSS, and search for my name from time to time in the comments folder to see if someone has directly addressed me. But this is rather time-consuming. What’s your system? I wonder if there’s a web app out there that does this.

  4. whoa, this comment thread is all about the typos and spelling errors! HAHA. Perhaps I need to add in that “edit comment” option or …something i’ll look into getting added soon.

    @Madeline – glad to see you out of lurkdom!

    I don’t know of any service that tracks commenting on various sites, I’ll do some research and see if I can uncover anything… cause it is something I would find useful as well.

    I look forward to hearing you chime in on future posts! Thanks for reading the blog!

  5. I’ll break the trend on this post by being the first guy to comment rather than having perfect spelling :)

    I have learned that leaving comment love, interacting with the community and showing personal interest in someone else’s work is the single most important thing you can do to increase personal exposure but also be taken seriously on a larger scale. We all know this is a day-to -day work in progress but will certainly pay off in the end.

    Thanks for the write up

    The most consistent traffic I see coming back to my site are the users that I have once left a comment for. Now I just need to find time to finish off my own site…

  6. I’m really shy when it comes to getting involved in other blogs via comments and discussion but I too have been trying to be active on the web. I agree it is very important to get in on the discussions, it’s a good way to learn and I think to make yourself known.

  7. Your blog is so informative … ..I just bookmarked you….keep up the good work!!!!

    I’m Out! :)

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