Disinhibition-driven interactive condimental ponderings
I found an article about commenting on blogs just now on Time.com which begins, “Last month a woman who worked for the Stranger, an alternative weekly in Seattle, quit in a huff. She had been writing for the paper’s blog, the Slog. The problem was the comments people were making on her posts. She couldn’t stand them anymore. “The word I would use is cruel,” she wrote in her sign-off.”
I got my first uncharitable comment the other day and I sort of deflated a bit. Not that I was puffed up to begin with, but I felt a sinking feeling which, while slightly painful, was mercilessly, atypically underdramatic in its subtlety. Although (and there’s always an although), in using the word ‘mercilessly’ I suppose I insinuate some missing drama which in turn suggest my typically Drama Queen-esque tendencies. I am an italic, or so I wrote in the intro to my possibly never-to-be-published, “novel”, thinly-veiled in its autobiograpicality.
Anyway-I have my blog set so that I have to approve comments. I don’t approve pingbacks though because I really don’t understand them, or their why, and the most smartypantsiest of my friends concede to offer no explanations. And I am having pound cake and ice cream for breakfast, so there’s that.
The article points out the ubiquity of commenting – “Web publishers have begun to offer commenting on everything–posts, videos, pictures, whatever–like it was a kind of interactive condiment. … In theory, it’s a great thing. We’re giving the people a voice! But the reality is that commenting either attracts loathsome people or somehow causes ordinary people to express themselves in a way that is loathsome.”
And further, goes on to compliment the middle ground by way of; “Comments aren’t always that idiotic. The comments … can be incredibly mean, but they’re also often funnier and cleverer than the posts they comment on…. The horribleness of commenters isn’t really a mystery: Internet anonymity is disinhibiting, and people are basically mean anyway. Nor is it a mystery why the people who run websites put up with commenters: the economic model for Internet content is based on advertising, which means it’s based on traffic volume, and comments mean traffic.”
Well, that’s sorta an exactly. WordPress (by the way, as I write this in WordPress’ own editing interface, spellcheck underlines that word and suggests I change it to “Word press”. That’s so sweet and unassuming) URL-ishly touts the “Top WordPress.com blogs today” when I log into my dashboard so I can see who’s hot.
This Top-ness is completely metrics-based. That’s what it takes, content; i.e., traffic. By having to approve all of my few comments I am a traffic cop. The volume of comments supports the popularity of your blog and that makes it quantitatively valid. It’s about the quadratic formula perhaps. Comments support traffic in that people will go back again and again to see how people respond to their comment. Arguments ensue, it gets personal, people call each other out by name and accuse each other of not having a life.
I love that line – I dated a guy (suit-wearing, Saab-driving, in the spirit of full disclosure) in Boston many revelations ago who evidently had quite a life as quantified by his accruential existence, and he would look at all the sculptures and paintings in my apartment and say, “Looks like someone has a lot of spare time on their hands”. I learned a lot that week.
Under that “Top…” heading, WordPress has promoted blogs like Stuff White People Like, and I can haz cheeseburger, both of whom have since been awarded dizzying book deals, which I think is pretty great, and which are the result of traffic and content and comments which indicates a huge market the book dealers naturally want to hitch their money wagons to, in that tangible and fungible publishing way. WordPress also tries hard to create cross traffic within this community by putting a ‘next’ button on each blog so readers can click on the mystery door and take their chances on what sort of blog they’ll find at the randomly generated link, and WP also puts ‘possibly related posts, automatically generated’ at the bottom of each post. They want us all to succeed and that feels like bonfires and kumbayas.
Further (more), the comments are possibly a more qualitative stat than just the traffic because they show that the readers are there for the content for the most part. Stats just show traffic; comments show engagement. I get loads of traffic to my blog, as of late, from certain search strings which leads me to recent nagging and related ponderings…
There is a phenomenon happening in benigngirlwood, which is characteristically confusing me, in which I am getting loads of hits each day from people using google image search in the UK, by using the search string “Giant Cat”, which brings them here, which totally benefits Big Sue, the Benefits Supervisor (sometimes found sleeping), which is coincidental.
Big Sue’s big, beautiful quotes is my best-selling blog post to date partly because of that borrowed image of a “Giant Cat”. Although, Big Sue herself is generating loads of traffic as well, but not even Sue Tilley can compete with that giant cat, (on my blog stats, I mean), which the UK is seemingly mad for. It’s mental. I wish someone in the UK would explain this to me. Oh, and Cy Twombly – same thing – loads of hits because of a single eponymously-named jpg bringing people to a certain post. Perhaps there is a current Cy Twombly exhibit somewhere in that kingdom? Why, Big Sue Tilley, why? Give me a big beautiful quote and make it all right. (oh, the drama)
So when people find me that way it feels like false traffic because they did not necessarily want to find me. A few have returned for the content, which I can investigatively tell from the URLs they use in their commenting and that rocks. But when people actually comment on the content it means they have read it and have something to say about it. So comments are key and are indicators of interest and I imagine this is partly why book publishers would offer said book deals to those behind said sites.
But then you get the comments like the one I got about Holiday in Dubai Gone Awry in which a commenter asserted that Michelle Palmer was born out of wedlock (How does this commenter know that? Is it true? Sure! relationships are not valid unless legalized, and thus validated by the government, certainly, and failing to legalize your union renders the resulting offspring pointless and evil), is white trash (just the ‘white’ part of that screams things), and that she and her co-drunkenbeachgoer should have their this’s and that’s cut off. Nice. Traffic Cop Mo says no. <–I’m sure I’ll regret that. Sigh.
Sadly, The world is not entirely made up of beautiful stock photo people. And we mere mortals cannot know what the road to hell is paved with.
Regretfully, my loyalest commenter Gnomus is driving across the country and will not read this and comment for a few days. Regretfullyer, Lev Grossman did not enable commenting on his article about comments. But it was a good piece so I wanted to share my unloathesome two cents. He was perhaps wise to shut off commenting on that bit.