Monday, August 25, 2014

Quality of comments on blogs gets sillier as more interaction moves to Facebook and Twitter

Okay, it’s time to talk about comments, again.

I do get a lot of “anonymous” comments that Blogger marks as spam, and usually I don’t open.  They don’t even appear in a moderation queue.  Generally, they make some kind of generic comment about my blog and then provide a link to a website selling relatively silly items (like diet pills and the like).  It’s all pretty harmless.  I understand the economics of spam, but it’s hard to see how anyone would order these items online.
In my Wordpress blogs (on two different sites), the same thing happens.  I haven’t gotten around to looking at the moderation queue of “” for a while, but I usually delete everything en masse as spam.  On the newer sites under Bluehost, I get them filtered by Askimet (link ).   A few get through.  I even approve a few of them, but I probably shouldn’t.  I’ve read that reputable companies and organizations tend to judge the credibility of a blog not only by its own content (originality, fact-checking, and so on) but by the quality of comments the blogger can “attract”.
I also very rarely (but very recently)  get comments attempting to flame some particular company or person.  While Section 230 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act should protect me from downstream liability, I’ll reject the comment if it is clearly made in bad faith and is just an attack.  A comment that complains about some party needs to back up its claims with some articulable facts. And a comment needs to have some relevance to the specifics of the posting.

I used to get a lot more good comments on the blogs.  Blog comments have slowed down somewhat since Facebook (in particular) has come to rule the world.  I do have my Twitter feed copied onto Facebook, and many of my tweets get reasonable comments on Facebook (as well as retweeting, replies, or favoriting).  It’s a lot more convenient now to write a detailed comment about something (like how the Washington Nationals are winning, or about “Will and Sonny” on “Days of our Lives”) on Facebook than on blogs (or even specific fan sites).   Mark Zuckerberg has changed the Comment Game (and monopolized the indirect revenue stream thereof).  Oh, and by the way, the latest episodes about Will’s own writing career bear a lot on the world of publishing – whether by self or by others (see TV blog Aug. 18, 2014).
The deterioration of blog comment quality does raise another concern.  How much do I care about my readers?  The tone of a few of the “spammy” comments, trying to flatter me as a “writer”, is disturbing;  the flatter is sarcastic, as if I don’t live in their “real world”.  The spam seems to be a desperate attempt to earn a little change in an economy that is getting increasingly polarized (the silly robocalls are another symptom), and where the idea of learning for its own sake is less cool for so much of the public.  And, yes, it’s back-to-school time. 

I’ve recently described, elsewhere, my concept of “karmic journalism”.  The major media outlets are always raising red flags about terror and other criminal or natural threats to the public, for good reason.  Some people are concerned about the psychological effect when an individual like me raises them, as if to say “I told you so”.  It suggests that the speaker is unsocialized and unusually vulnerable to having his life destroyed by enemies who are indignant over his own bad karma.  I’ve gotten that kind of reaction before from my own (now late) mother.  
Let me note also, I often get requests to review books.  One person has only so much time.  I generally don't review children's books unless the book addresses some issue of importance to me (like sexual orientation).  I generally don't review various fantasy and and sci-fi genres (or romance) unless something specific catches my eye.  Self-published is fine.  I might be more likely attentive to a genre work to be interested if the author is local or already known to me for some reason.  

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