When Helping People Gets to be too Much (Closing Comments on Posts)

I’ve thought a lot about this post and how to write it without sounding like a cranky bitch. So before anything, I need to throw this out there:

I love to help people!

I do. I really, really do. That’s why I write my Bitchin’ Book Blog posts. That’s why I help people on Twitter. That’s why I give away things like free Blogger to WordPress migration services. That’s why I help my friends with their PHP homework.

99% of the time I love helping people.

…but there is that other 1%.

When too much help on the same thing becomes exhausting…

A few months ago I wrote a post on how to add a drop down navigation menu in Blogger. Since August, it has gotten nearly 150 comments (although some of those are my replies). Many of those comments are people just saying “Thank you”, which is great. But many of those are different people posting about problems they have or requests. Examples include:

  • Problem: “It’s not working at all! It’s just showing vertically and it’s completely un-styled!”
    Solution: They pasted the CSS incorrectly, inside some other CSS. This invalidates all the CSS after that point, so the menu doesn’t work.
  • Problem: “The submenu items disappear before I can click on them!”
    Solution: The CSS they chose needs a tad bit of tweaking to actually get it working correctly. It usually just needs a higher z-index.
  • Problem: “The subnavigation appears under my image slider so I can’t click anything.”
    Solution: See previous solution.
  • Problem: “I want to center the navigation menu on the page. How can I do this?”
    Solution: I have to write slightly different CSS code for each person, depending on the navigation menu they chose.
  • Problem: “I want to add cool hover effects or change the colours!”
    Solution: I have to write custom CSS code for the person, depending on what they want.

For each comment/question like this I have to visit their blog, go digging through the source code to find the problem (because they don’t know what it is other than “It’s not working” or “I want this”), then walk them through how to fix the problem.

At first I didn’t mind.. but now whenever I get an email in my inbox saying:

[Nose Graze] Comment: “How to Add a Dorp Down Menu Navigation in Blogger”

I’m overcome with dread.

Another person to help.
Another blog to debug and dissect.
Another person to walk through how to fix it.
Another person basically asking me to code “extras” into their navigation bar for free.

Now I’m really happy at how much attention that post gets and how many people it helps. But the amount of times I have to visit individual blogs and solve their problems is really starting to weigh down on me. If you combine that with school work, client work, my own blogging, reading, my own coding projects… it’s just a huge burden. It immediately puts me in a bad mood because I’m just so darn sick of digging through Blogger code to fix navigation menu problems. It has made me want to never code another navigation bar again!

For the first time, I’ve been considering closing comments on one of my posts

Technically it’s not the first time. I have closed comments on a few old giveaway posts that attracted a bit of spam. I closed them because there was no reason for real visitors to comment on old giveaway posts.

But this is the first time I’ve been thinking of knowingly cutting off legitimate ‘discussions’ on one of my posts. I know people will still want to comment on that post and ask for help. But I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t want to do it anymore. I have no more energy to continue assisting people with that problem, and I don’t want to drive myself nuts.

That being said, don’t stop asking for help!

I hope people don’t read this post and then get afraid of asking me for help. I still love helping people and if you need assistance you can poke me on Twitter. It’s mostly this one subject of Blogger drop down menus that’s driving me up the wall and into a small hole of sadness and frustration.

Have you ever gotten really tired of helping people with a specific problem?

How do you feel when people close comments on certain posts?
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  1. Okay, I will admit, I got scared at first because I thought I was one of those people but then realized you weren’t talking about the people who ask for help occasionally. But if I do ever ask you too much, just let me know, you know it’s hard to offend me. 🙂

    Anyways I have closed down comments on like 5 posts that are super old because those five posts get A LOT of spam. But that’s it. Now, I can’t really help people with that much since I am still learning all this web design stuff, but I can only imagine how frustrating it is.

    I think that since you have helped so many people already, you should close down the comments. If they can’t figure it out from all your replies to problems you already solved, then maybe (just a thought) you can offer your services to help those who want the code altered for their blog specifically for a small fee. Maybe you can do this with all your blog tips after a certain time frame has passed because people can’t expect to get free coding from you forever.

    Now, this may make you feel like you are changing the point of “free” tips but after so long and after so much help served, you have a right to be paid for extensive or time consuming projects.

    Or maybe you just don’t want to deal with the topic at all anymore, then just politely let people know this through email (if that’s how they contact you).

    Jennifer Bielman recently posted: Bookish Blatherings #4: Book Boyfriends
    1. Don’t worry, I’ve never gotten sick of helping you! 😛

      I think for this specific topic I’m just so sick of it that I need to take a break from it. But perhaps I will use this idea in the future! Thanks!

  2. Well I don’t really have that problem on my blog so… But I do understand. I always admire you because you do so much! You go to school (right?), you design for you own blog, you design for others (whether it’s themes and plugins or websites), you help others out with their blogging problems, … I think it’s a wonder you even have time to read. xD On the occasion that I send you a message for help, I nearly always get an answer within an hour. I wouldn’t blame you closing off comments on that post. I would too. I have read that post, but I was considering switching to wordpress back then so I didn’t try to do that myself.

    And like Jennifer said, if I ever ask for help too much, just say so. You have a life too, I get that. =)

    1. Yes I do go to school. 🙂 Sometimes I question where the heck I find the time to do everything LOL!

  3. I misunderstood your post title and thought you closed the comments on THIS post haha. Silly me. Anyway, I do understand what you’re saying. I have one old post on my blog that still get comments every now and then, and a few times the questions were basically the same and it can get tiring when you just keep repeating yourself.

    I think it’s perfectly fine to close the comments on a post that’s gotten way too many comments already. I’ve come across posts like that and it didn’t really bother me because I could see there were too many comments already. I agree with what Jennifer said about closing down comments on your tips post after a specific time frame.

    1. Haha I can see why you would have thought that!

      Thanks for your input! And sorry that you’re kind of in a similar situation. 🙁

  4. You know, I always see you helpin people out (mostly on Twitter), and I sometimes think, “Wow, this girl does an awful lot to help people out!” which I think is awesome but is 100% understandable as far as it being too much. I don’t think you’re in the wrong, or “bitchy,” at all to think that enough is enough.

    When I see a post wtih the comments closed, such as you’re considerin with the Blogger dropdown one, I think, “Okay, so obviously that’s no longer up for discussion.” When I see a helpful post, again like the Blogger dropdown menu one, I think, “It’s really cool that they went through the trouble out explaining all this out!” (for instance, the only reason I have my author site http://www.srcarrillo.com up and runnin now is because I used your “moving from blogger to wordpress” walkthrough and adapted it to my situation… otherwise I’d prolly be massive at a loss right now with that [so thanks, by the way!]). I try not to take it for granted by asking for specifics to whatever problems I may have. Others don’t have the same reservations, and that’s all fine and well, but when it comes down to it all, the help you provide IS timely and can be exhausting after a while. Like I said, totally understandable that you’d be fed up.

    So, in conclusion, *I* think you should close comments. Maybe post a note at the end of the discussion poiting out that you’ve customized/fixed so many that you pretty much have had it. In whatever tactful (or, you know, not so tactful) terms you may want. It’s no one’s business to feel affronted by your decision to no longer expend effort and energy on somethin that you only get a “thank you” for, in the end. If you wanna close the post to comments, then do it.

    That’s my two cents!

    Sierra recently posted: Another Milestone: My Author Site!
    1. I’m glad my Blogger » WordPress post was helpful for you! 🙂

      Thanks so much for your thoughts! I think I will do that and just add a note to the post.

  5. It’s totally your prerogative to close comments on a post if it gets to be too overwhelming. And I can see why – I’ve visited your site many times before and you get a lot of comments. Responding to those and visiting blogs takes a lot of time. Add fixing blogger layouts to that and to your life and other work? There’s really only so much you can do, and I think that people, especially book bloggers, will understand that. I think that it’s fine if you close the comments section for that post. One thing you can do too is leave an edit section and ask people to look through and see whether it’s a problem someone else has already commented on – you already listed the problem and solution part of it here :).

    Haha, I think that this is my first time actually commenting on your blog because I was literally thinking something very similar about a discussion post and rehashed arguments/comments. Huzzah. I hope that you find a solution to this that you like and I hope that frustration dries away soon!

    Christina @ Christina Reads YA recently posted: Book Review and Giveaway: the Anatomy series by Daria Snadowsky
    1. Thank you Christina!

      And yes, it actually might be a good idea to put my problem + solution notes on that blog post. i didn’t even think of that! *doh*

  6. I was so incredibly grateful when you helped me set up my UBB and my Tweak Me theme. I was, and still am, clueless, but having said that, I can totally understand your wanting to close the comments on that post as you can still be getting requests for help for months, if not years down the line and you need to draw the line somewhere. Time is precious …….. use it wisely 🙂

    Rosemary recently posted: Seven Years – Dannika Dark
    1. You’re right, I need to draw the line! I can’t help people with that post forever. 🙁

  7. I totally see your point, I can only imagine how tiring that must get. But remember, just because they comment doesn’t mean you have to help them. If you want to leave the comments open for people to thank you, you could always add a disclaimer to the post about how you’re not able to help individuals anymore. Or you could reply to the comment with a similar message.

    I know that I’ve used old tutorials and wanted to leave a “Thank you, that was helpful” message, but couldn’t because the comments were closed. Of course, now I know why!

    At any rate, it’s your blog and your choice, so do what YOU are most comfortable with.

    Andrea @ The Busy Bibliophile recently posted: Top Ten Scariest Looking Book Covers
    1. You have a good point. I don’t have to help everyone who comments. I have a problem saying “No” though. It makes me feel bad to see people asking for help and for me to ignore them (or reply saying I can’t help).

      I think if I see people leaving comments, I’d be more inclined to break my own policy of not helping and just help them anyway because I feel bad. It would be easier for me if I could just close comments so I don’t even know people are out there asking for help.. if that makes sense. O_O

  8. I think it is amazing that you’re so willing to take time out of your own busy schedule to help people. Unfortunately, that gives people the ability to take advantage, event without meaning to. You certainly shouldn’t have to troubleshoot everyone’s code in your free time (what’s that?). So I completely understand you wanting to close comments on that post.

    Julie S. recently posted: Book Tour: Ransom by Michele Poague
  9. Ash, I see a huge business opportunity here. Instead of fixing all these issues for free, what about charging a fee for your time. Like, “sure, I can fix that for you, but it’ll cost $xx.” Your Bitchin’ Book Blog is extremely popular and there are so many people out there that are trying to learn coding but still can’t fully grasp it. I know I would gladly pay you to help me with web stuff when I get in a bind, and I have no problem giving you the $$ for your time either. When you have helped me in the past, it took you seconds (or maybe a minute ;-)) to fix a problem I’d spent hours on and was about to pull all my hair out. It’s cheaper to pay someone to help me at that point or my next hair apt is going to cost me a fortune. LOL.

    If you’re really pressed for time and can’t squeeze this into your schedule, then closing your post is the only other option. People will continue to reach out if you don’t, and it isn’t there fault…they’re just trying to implement new cool changes to their site and instead of it working smoothly, they encountered a problem.

    xo ~A

    Ashley R recently posted: Blood Promise Update & Cover Reveal
    1. That is certainly a good idea Ashley! I might put that into action sometime in the future. Right now I don’t think it would work for me just because I have so many other things I have to do. But maybe once I’m done with school or on a break and have more time I could totally put that into action!

  10. Honestly I think this shows what a kind and helpful person you are (not bitchy at all). I’m seriously impressed that you would even troubleshoot other people’s sites like that just because you can. It’s so easy to take on other’s problems especially when they are easy for you to fix. I do it sometimes, too. If I were you I would (even for all your BBB posts) answer general questions and just kindly say you don’t have the time to help with custom coding and wish you could help. And totally close comments on that post. You don’t want to feel dread every time you check your email! You are seriously such an amazing person. Don’t get yourself down that you can’t help all the people.

    Jessica @ Books: A true story recently posted: Book Review: The Forgotten Locket by Lisa Mangum
  11. One thing I’ve learned is that you have to be protective of your own time. A lot of people will think, “I want this and she knows what she’s doing, so I’m going to ask her to help me” without considering (or realizing) how long it takes you to help them. So closing posts is one way (but then you’ll have persistent people contacting you anyway because your comments show you’ve helped other people). But I like what Ashley R said about charging people. Even if it’s only a few dollars. If you show people your time is valuable, they’ll treat it that way.

    Btw, I’ve seen you answering questions on Twitter and I’m impressed at your willingness and generosity. Because just seeing those questions made me want to poke my eye out and they weren’t even directed at me. My general rule is “if you can Google it, you shouldn’t be asking me” — I usually only want to answer questions if the answer isn’t readily available somewhere.

    Amanda @ On a Book Bender recently posted: Top Off Tuesday, Straight from the Nip
    1. You make sooo many good points Amanda! You’re right, people don’t realize how long it takes when they ask me for help. Or even if it doesn’t take that long, they don’t realize how all the small requests can add up so quickly.

      Yeah sometimes I do wish people would just Google stuff because so many of the questions I answer would probably be the #1 Google result. A lot of people don’t think that way though and I’d always feel really bad if I outright said, “Why don’t you just Google it?” LOL.

      In fact, for a lot of the questions I do answer, I usually just Google it, find the answer in <30 seconds, and paraphrase it back to them, hah!

  12. Oh, Ashley! I know how you feel, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with finally saying “enough is enough”! Whenever I comment on a post like that, I feel ridiculously grateful if the OP actually responds to help me — but I totally get it if they don’t (especially if the post is more than 6 months old).

    I say close the comments! But maybe put a disclaimer at the end of the post, explaining that comments are closed and why (and maybe even provided some helpful links?), would be a nice idea for any new visitors to the post. I mean, even your list of examples you included in this post would at least give them a clue as to where to start trying to troubleshoot their own issues. Shrug.

    OR, take on a protege and forward any new comments you get on that post over to them and let THEM handle it! (That’s what I do at work, and it feels *so good* to pass on the troubleshooting calls to someone else, after having done it for so long!) 😉

    Kelley (Another Novel Read) recently posted: September Mini Reviews (2013)
  13. Oh my goodness if this post doesn’t hit a nail right on the head. I tend to help people where I can, and although it doesn’t come anywhere near the amount that you help out, there have certainly been times where I’ll help someone on Twitter & then I have DMs and Emails asking to explain things to other people as well. And more than likely if I am on Twitter or something either I’m eating lunch or, responding to emails so I have a few minutes here and there, but certainly not enough to spend another hour explaining things to ten different people – but I like helping, so I end up doing it anyway.

    I think you just have to learn that you can’t help everyone as much as you want to. I agree though with the few people who have suggested charging for edits… maybe put something in the post saying, as Tiffany said, that either you unfortunately can’t help everyone, or to try it at your own risk since everyone’s sites are a little different, or even if they run into a problem you’ll be more than happy to help for a fraction of your usual hourly rate or something… or a combination of those things. So that you’re not running yourself into the ground, but they’re able to get the help they need!

    Anna recently posted: A Friendly Reminder on Success
  14. I think it’s great that you are helping people. And I don’t think that if you closed your comments or just waited to answer them until you did have time that would be a bad thing. Helping people is always great, but not at the detriment of your own sanity and other personal obligations. This is your blog and I believe that it is your prerogative to do with it as you please. If someone does not like what you have done than they can always decide not to follow it anymore. At least that is how I feel about my blog. And I love your blogging tips, thanks so much for doing those posts <3
    Great Post!

  15. I would like to say that I’m the one who originally submitted that question. *hides* But I also want to say that I’m really thankful for your help. You’re seriously awesome and I don’t think anyone is going to hold it against you if you close the comments. You’re really busy and we all understand that. If people seriously need help/want your help, they can pay for your services. 🙂 Thanks for all you do, Ashley! Sorry my question has given you such headaches!

    Rebecca @ The Library Canary recently posted: Top Ten Scariest Looking Book Covers
  16. I can’t imagine how frustrating that would be! I see this all the time on the internet (and probably have been guilty of it elsewhere when I need help with something) and I always feel bad for the nice generous person giving free help. I see the dilemma, it’s happened to me in other places, you want to be helpful and generous but you also could spend your whole day on other people’s problems. I think it is perfectly fine for you to close comments down. There is probably a lot of information that you’ve given them both in the post AND in the comments so they just need to go google or something else. It’s hard because it’s probably in your nature to help others but you need to think of your time.

  17. I would’nt close the comments… what if someone else reads it and can help them out? Someone might just comment and help for you.. plus I always think comments from others can be real helpful. Especially if someone is having the same problem.. maybe instead of messaging you they’ll message that person and see how they ended up fixing it. Just my thoughts.

    Angie recently posted: Project Disney- The Little Mermaid
    1. One more thought… maybe the post wasn’t as thorough as you thought (not being rude just thinking here)… maybe you could add a few more tips. Did you add information that you have given to the individuals into the post? Maybe more information in that post will also help alleviate some of the questions? Just thinking…..

  18. There’s nothing wrong with putting your foot down! You are one of the most helpful people I know, and I feel awful for adding to that stress.
    I can see how that could become exhausting VERY quickly. I think if I had to deal with that, I would end up deleting the post altogether. Which just proves how awesome you are!! I think it’s great that you’re so willing to share your knowledge, many people wouldn’t be that generous. I luff yew!!

    Jessi @ Novel Heartbeat recently posted: Horror October Discussion: Horror in Books
  19. For that one, I really wanted to ask you for help, but I didn’t instead. Mostly because I hadn’t tried doing it myself, and it sounded so complicated that I just didn’t feel like doing it and going to you to explain, in a dumbed down way. I was also feeling a little ashamed to do so, and I’m really glad I didn’t ask! *hugs* That must be so stressful.

    I can really relate to this, because I’m really selfish in real life. I only like helping people I like, my friends. But my acquaintances (which is most of my classroom) usually get a burst of irritation from me. I’m kinda known for writing and editing, and I really hate it when they go to me for help when I haven’t even done the writing assignment or whatever.

    I wouldn’t mind it if you closed the comments, due to what you’ve written. I would, though, if there was no prior notice. Those kind of things are horribly inconvenient.

    Shannelle (The Tracery of Ink) recently posted: I'm Back . . . Or Maybe Not
  20. DUDE. You are a freaking pro at computers and I totally understand why you get annoyed. I would give up after a week max. I guess I do ask you quite a lot of questions but their mainly to do with telling you something’s wrong with the UBB plugin…hope I don’t annoy the poop out of you! 😐

    Great post, Ashley! <33

    Melanie (YA Midnight Reads) recently posted: Review: Man Made Boy by Jon Skovron
    1. I don’t mind your questions at all! 🙂 Anything about WordPress, UBB, or any of my other products never bugs me. 🙂 It’s just these silly Blogger navigation menus!

  21. I think if you can answer in a comment that is one thing but if you have to visit a blog, check coding, etc then that is something people should not expect you to do for free.
    I have no idea how long this takes you but you should charge for coding in blocks of 15 minutes. I think it’s a service that is handy to provide and you won’t feel so annoyed if at least you are getting something out of it.
    And yes, close those comments! If it’s making you cross then it’s time to draw the line, you’ve more than done your part in providing the help that you have so far.

    Trish @ Between the Lines recently posted: Bookish Chat : Halloween, Celtic Ireland and Save A Book Soul!
  22. You give your help very freely, and you should not be ashamed of having to say ‘stop, this is enough’ every now and then! Sometimes, you are busy with lots of other things, and I can see where it would be really hard to have to go through coding on other blogs meticulously to try to see where they pasted in some code.

    I am always grateful when you have the time to help me with my quirks and changes, but I would never expect you to always do so, or to do it straight away, or to do it for free, you know?

    Just keep on being you, Ashley! You’re awesome *hugs*

  23. Phew! When I saw the title of this post I panicked just a little. First thinking you were done with answering random questions and then thinking I was one of the people that pushed you over the edge. So I’m thrilled that wasn’t the case!

    I see nothing wrong with shutting down comments when it gets overwhelming. I think most of us (at least I speak for myself) wouldn’t actually be upset if you responded to one of those comments asking for help saying that it’s actually a bit of complicated, individualized coding that you can’t really explain. For me that would be a, ok – guess that means I’ll have to let this particular project go until I learn myself or want to hire someone. It’s great how willing to help you are, but I think most of us know that people charge for expertise like yours and wouldn’t be at all offended if you gently let us know that our question isn’t one that can be solved without significant effort (for which you should be paid) on your part.

    Berls @ Fantasy is More Fun recently posted: Sunday Post | 20th Edition

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