Friday, July 20, 2007


OK. I'm cracking up. I'm cracking up. I'm cracking up. I go over to Joel on Software to calm my nerves. Help me, Joel, help me please.

Joel has a post on the worthlessness of comments on blogs!!!!!!!! Endorsing the position of Dave Winer whose view is, if you have a point to make, start up your own blog.

Joel (and Dave):

" the extent that comments interfere with the natural expression of the unedited voice of an individual, comments may act to make something not a blog.... The cool thing about blogs is that while they may be quiet, and it may be hard to find what you're looking for, at least you can say what you think without being shouted down. This makes it possible for unpopular ideas to be expressed. And if you know history, the most important ideas often are the unpopular ones.... That's what's important about blogs, not that people can comment on your ideas. As long as they can start their own blog, there will be no shortage of places to comment."

The important thing to notice here is that Dave does not see blog comments as productive to the free exchange of ideas. They are a part of the problem, not the solution. You don't have a right to post your thoughts at the bottom of someone else's thoughts. That's not freedom of expression, that's an infringement on their freedom of expression. Get your own space, write compelling things, and if your ideas are smart, they'll be linked to, and Google will notice, and you'll move up in PageRank, and you'll have influence and your ideas will have power.

So Joel and Dave don't get people writing in about the decline of hip-hop??????!!!!!!!!! They don't think comments on the decline of hip-hop are a million times more interesting than whatever it was they had to say in their original post??????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I think there is some sort of Nietzschean Will-to-Power behind the apparently easygoing facade of Messrs Spolsky and Winer. The implication is, Look, you moron, I wrote my post, if you have anything worth saying PageRank will inform me of the fact through the wisdom of crowds, don't rain on my parade. In other words

First come I: my name is Jowett
There's no knowledge but I know it
If I don't know it it isn't knowledge
I am Master of this College


Anonymous said...

I'm teaching a course on blogging to a group of high schoolers at the moment - it's a summer enrichment program for inner-city kids in Philadelphia - and the best teaching moments have come when people have been kind enough to comment on my students' blogs. Little random things inspire new spoken-word poems, performed impromptu during class. Blogs are a chance to open dialogue, not speak into a void; at least, that's been my opinion, and what I've taught my kids.

I've been reading Riddley Walker due to your blog, and it's rearranging my headspace in wonderful ways. I hope that better things turn up for you.

Jenny Davidson said...

But it might also just be that your commenters are nicer than theirs!

Lee said...

I enjoy controversial comments and wish I'd get more of them. Niceness is boring.

Would I mind personal attack? Don't know, it's never happened, but I'd probably relish finding ways to deal with it.

Language said...

I can't imagine blogging without comments. I might as well holler out my window, or just tell it to the cat. What's the point of talking if you're not getting a response? That whole attitude baffles and annoys me.

I stopped reading Boing Boing when they stopped allowing comments.

Mithridates said...

I only wish I could get enough readers to have to fend off unjustifiable attacks. In fact, if any of you would like to visit my blog to insult me or my family, please do. I even welcome preemptive assaults, just in case you think I'm might write something even stupider than before.

I'm with language, lee, and anonymous on this. And by the way, maybe this is a dumb connection I'm about to make, but anonymity seems to be going to the way of the dodo. Britain's got 4.2 million CCTV cameras around the country (about a million in London, I think), which means that there's 1 camera for every 14 people, and New York is currently adopting the same system. Plus I've got Dick Cheney reading my mail to The Idiot King every night before bed--so I think we should encourage people to remain anonymous if they want to.

Lee said...

And to start the ball rolling: why aren't you reading (consuming?) HP7 on this auspicious day?

Ithaca said...

Lee - was the question about HP7 addressed to me? I think I would first have to go back to HP1 and pick up at page 2, the point at which I closed the book and put it down.

Leitmotifish said...

Please don't kill me, I can see one reason why one would not like comments--(and this is a comment) don't you feel it is a bit exhibitionist (is that a word) and perhaps passive aggressive (again?)--like, like how sometimes people in New England can be talking and you KNOW they are talking because they want to be heard and not to exchange anything between one another? Such a task can appear daunting to the commenter, not to appear this way when he believes others appear this way. I think TWO people making a slight attempt at communications is ALOT and impossible as is. How about email responses? I know this is not the way the world works,( I must sound young), everything should have a purpose should be a discussion should be arranged to be put on display---if the girl is pretty she PROBABLY should not be on the world wide web—and I know THIS is a comment, but added late---probably people aren't reading it and have moved on.

Ithaca said...

leitmotifish, I think Spolsky probably does feel that he would like a very focused discussion where people bring additional expertise to bear on the subject of his posts, and other people benefit through the additional expertise. I don't think he would care much about the motives, I suspect exhibitionism drives many comments on blogs -- the problem for him is people who turn up with a pet peeve that has nothing to do with the topic under discussion.

That makes sense if the blog is meant to be a magnet for expertise. It makes less sense in a blog that is not that focused; sometimes what's interesting is connections between the post and subjects the writer hadn't anticipated. Again, I'm not sure the purity of the contributor's intentions are a source of concern.

Leitmotifish said...

Oh yea yea, I totally think the reason Spolsky brings is a rather, Large generalization...I was just bringing up another reason (that comment sort of falls into 'subjects the writer hadn't anticipated') but regardless I think the problem is, for me, is that I am sure the purity of the contributor's intentions should forever and always be a source of a concern.