Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I begin to understand

A minor musing on the ways and whimsies of the Internet:

I'm starting to get why trolls do their troll thing. It's coming to me, after having this particular poli-blog up for a few weeks now, and getting, well, pretty much the same amount of attention over here as I generally get over at the geek blog, which is to say, next to slim, and close to none. But that's incidental, or at least, secondary, to what I'm typing about presently.

Where true enlightenment lies for me in this regard is in watching how other poli bloggers routinely ignore my comments. I'd like to think it's personal, because that's exactly the kind of jerk I am, and I even suppose it could be, but believing that a bunch of unrelated utter strangers all have it in for me smacks of madness, and anyway, I keep changing up the pseuds I post under just to eliminate that factor. So it seems unlikely there's an agenda actually at work, loathe though I am to admit that.

Barring that, then, I have to assume they're just ignoring my comments, and responding to comments from other people in the threads... why?

I don't know why. At first and last, I can only speculate. I'm tempted to extract from this a general rule for commenting on blogs -- something like "Never be smarter, funnier, or a better writer than the blogger whose blog you are commenting on" -- but, well, that only works for petty insecure types like Aaron Hawkins, and I certainly hope that folks like Jim Henley and IOZ and Roy Edroso and Glenn Greenwald are above all that shit.

It could be that my comments just suck. In fact, the whole "I just suck" thing could explain why nobody pays much attention to my writing at all -- why no one comments on my blogs, why my short stories and novels all get rejected, why no one will believe a word I say about a certain big name pro telling pathological lies about me and his wife on the Internet. Yet here, clear cold analysis tells me that however badly I may suck, there are many, many others who suck much worse who still get much more attention than I do. So, again, that brings me back to -- why? Why do all my comments, regardless of the names I post them under, get routinely ignored by all the bloggers whose blogs I post them to? Why do cretins who can barely type get several hundred word responses?

Ultimately, I don't know, and no one is going to tell me, so to hell with it.

But it certainly lets me understand the troll mentality. No one likes to be ignored, and that certainly includes me -- and no one ever ignores a troll. Especially on the better read blogs. Because no matter how many people there are in the comment threads who understand that trolls thrive on attention (just like the rest of us) and therefore, the only way to deal with them is to ignore them, there is always some frickin' rookie who doesn't believe this, or who doesn't have the discipline to apply the wisdom, and who feels they just have to engage the fucker. Which is exactly what he or she wants, and is exactly why he or she trolls in the first place.

Now, I'm not going to start trolling. I'll continue to keep what comments I post on topic, and try to make them about the subject matter of the blog post, rather than what I perceive of the personality of the blogger. (On the other hand, if the subject matter of the blog post IS the personality and/or behavior of the blogger, well, a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.) Still, I'm above trolling, and certainly am not so pathetically desperate for attention that I'm going to start leaping into the middle of someone's threads screaming personal abuse just to get a rise out of folks.

Unless it's a really slow day, or something.

But, you know, when you post all this really cool stuff, and nobody pays it the slightest mind... it just gets really exasperating.

I suppose it's really just that blogs tend to be cliqueish, and bloggers tend to focus their attention on the people they already know and like. That's probably the bulk of it, and it's very common, and very human. But, I think it's also lamentable, and limiting, and to what extent I can, it's a behavior I try to avoid. On the rare occasion I actually get comments from people outside the very small circle of my familiar audience, I try to give them just as much time and attention as I do the feedback from more familiar folks.

But, in this as in so many things, I seem to be an exception rather than the rule.

Of course, it's tough not to believe that in point of fact, what's going on here is, for whatever reason, few if any people like or welcome my comments on their blogs, and what they are doing is what nearly all civil, polite people do in such circumstances -- pointedly ignoring me until I go away. And eventually, I probably will. But I'm more obtuse than most people; I tend to need a more direct disinvitation before I sadly pick up my glove and ball and wend my dejected ass back home again.

It's not beyond possibility, of course, that my reputation has preceded me, that these people recognize my singular signature style regardless of how I actually sign myself, and none of them want a damn thing to do with "Kurt Busiek's psycho stalker". In which case, well, fine, I'll own that; I earned it, and I'll take it. I just wish they'd tell me, if not least because, I could then ridicule them savagely for it on my blogs.

Ah, well.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled political ravings, already in progress, most likely.


At 9:50 PM, Blogger AaA said...

Maybe... it's the ghey?

At 12:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think part of the problem is that the format for comments are so atrocious. It is just a big scrolling list and you can't tell who is responding to what, and if you dont read every comment the thread of the conversation is invisible.

At 7:06 AM, Blogger Handsome said...


I guess it could be The Ghey. But it seems beneath its attention.


I don't know. I hadn't really considered that. I suspect it's largely that I tend to leave very LONG comments, and while I believe I have a very readable, very lucid style, many people have little patience for anyone's opinions but their own, so they tend to skim my stuff at best, and then not bother to respond, because they won't be able to do it in depth. Or something.

Still, I didn't mention that in the entry, because on several of these blogs there are other people who leave comments just as long as mine, or longer, and the bloggers respond in reasonable depth to THEM, so... again... didn't seem to fit. So, I dunno.

At 4:18 PM, Blogger sarah said...

i've definitely had this experience, and i don't really know what to say except keep commenting, if you want to comment for you. it feels odd and lonely to have my ideas ignored on the internets, but during the times when i've been able to separate (or at least dial down) my desire for people to engage with my comments have been the times i've enjoyed life in blogistan the best (and sometimes the times when my comments have been picked up. life's funny.)

also, don't forget about the folks who lack the time or inclination or ability to comment who read your stuff. i got here from the link in roy's turkey thread. and i like your blog, dude!

At 5:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've had the same experience. My comments are uniformly urbane, trenchant, erudite, and - errr really good and stuff.

It can't be teh ghey. I exude a musky aroma of rugged manliness, or so I'm told.


I agree completely. Forums that support nested comment (slashdot and K5 come to mind) are far better at maintaining the back-and-forth of a real conversation. I shouldn't have to address my post to "Justin at #2" or whatever, and the reader should have to conduct mental thread reconstruction exercises just to enjoy our witty repartee.

At 10:37 AM, Blogger billy pilgrim said...

I wouldn't read too much into it if I were you. On a typical big poli-blog, there are hundreds of comments, and a lot of the regulars will skim the thread; you're correct in that they are likely looking for the commenters that have previously said something worthwhile, and may give the new guys the pass.

But my experience has been that if you're really adding something to the thread (and not just blog pimping), you'll get responses, and that will eventually lead people back to your blog. Time permitting of course, sometimes it's just impossible to follow through on everybody.

I usually don't click through to check on a person's own blog until I've seen several comments I've liked, or one really exceptional comment.

At 11:39 AM, Blogger Highlander said...


Yeah, I know. But my comments are often exceptional, and yes, of course I blog pimp, and I understand that that pisses people off, and...

Yeah, okay, you're correct, but, nonetheless, when you're posting stuff that you regard as being just as attention worthy as the biggies -- that, in fact, you feel would generate 50 or 60 positive comments, if it showed up at The Poor Man or Sadly No or Alicublog -- it just gets frustrating. And you get impatient.

What the hell has happened to billmon lately, anyway?

At 6:10 PM, Blogger Handsome said...

I'm sick today, so please forgive how scatterbrained I am.

I did want to add, while TC's responses certainly do well address one half of the phenomena -- why good, well written, funny comments and/or blogs tend to get ignored in big comment threads -- he hasn't said anything about the other half of my observations -- namely, that if one DOES want attention, all one needs to do is troll a little. As can be seen with the recent case, where some conservative commenter had the temerity to say something, well, conservative in the Sadly No threads. EVERYbody piled on him.

I'm not so crazy that I'm looking for negative attention; I am, however, simply pointing out that everyone wants attention of some sort, and when we ignore quality comments/good writing, and reward idiots with what everyone wants, we set up a particularly noxious feedback loop. The effects of which continue to be felt all over the Internet, every second of every minute of every day.


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