I know it may come across as, at best, clueless, and at worst, elitist, to state on my blog that weblogs suck.
I know it may come across as, at best, clueless, and at worst, elitist, to state on my blog that weblogs suck. However, they do. It’s not the blogs’ fault, or usually even the writers’. It’s the readers. More accurately, it’s the readers who feel so moved to post every little idiotic and annoying thing they can think of. These trolls are, if not ruining, at least hindering the progress toward really expressive and useful communication tools online.
Now, I’m honestly not referring to anyone who has ever posted at my site. Sure, I get some troll-ish comment spam which is pseudo-social-engineered to provoke a response. They usually consist of some shallow psycho-babble about "the meaningless existential existence of feminine culture has imbued a sense of degradation in the modern hedonistic social collective," or something like that. However, that just gets deleted within a few hours and you never have to suffer it here at super_structure. My friends, family, and strangers, all with something interesting to post, are the only people who have cast a true-type shadow upon the familiar comment form below. That comes from only those rare people who have ever heard of super_structure, which is okay by me.
No, I’m referring to the larger sites that I read throughout my digital workday: Slashdot, Engadget, TUAW, and to some extent kottke and many others. Many of these posts are of news or rumors which the writer asks open questions such as "How could this have been better?" and "If this involved X instead of Y, how would have people reacted?" The very nature of having open comment forms allows for a large conversation, in which we could share ideas and critiques to produce something great. Trey recently posted a blurb from a much larger article which I’m only addressing one small aspect of (that article was concerning the open source movement). These posts would be a great way to learn what great ideas are floating around out there and just what people really want to read, see, and use. Sadly, as Jason Kottke pointed out, this often doesn’t result in a conversation at all. Most times, it isn’t even amusing or informative. It’s just one stupid comment after another.
I suppose I had been getting exposed to this behavior reading blogs increasingly over the past year or more. However, with the recent news to which I had first hand exposure, it all became glaringly obvious. The massive amount of online exposure and news stories brought floods of comments. I read in horror as the discussion just degraded into how everyone involved was scum, and only the person writing a scathing comment about them had any insight or sensibility.
Take an example of a post made earlier this evening on Engadget. This is a site that posts about, of all things, gadgets. They often, after a product has been on the market for a while and many readers have a had the opportunity to use it, ask "what would you do to make it better?" This would be one of my favorite kinds of posts, except for comments like this, by macsucks:
first change, i’d dump this crappy mouse along with its crappy system…
…and they get worse from there. For every single useful comment, there are about five completely useless statements (I’m not counting the most inane of all, the "first post"). If Engadget and TUAW are bad, Slashdot has become utterly pathetic. The once uber-geek site is now host to online wannabe geeks with nothing better to do than bash Microsoft first and Apple second. I’m not saying there are legitimate complaints about both companies, but there’s room for that online, and making harsh comments about Gates and Jobs ad nausium is hardly the way to go.
I am hardly above making crude jokes or rash judgments about people in the news, but I at least try and make some attempt to frame them as such. Further, I usually try and maintain enough of the human virtue of empathy to at least understand that I do not know all of the story and therefore can’t serve as a faultless judge. That being said, maybe some of these trolls are just having a bad day and need to vent… or maybe Jason Johnson’s right: they’re just 12 year old jerks with too much free time.
Either way, until there is a Greasemonkey script which allows for a stupidity threshold, I’m going to curtail my reading of comments and stop posting comments myself. Unless I can find some decent conversations online underway,as I seem to have little luck in starting them myself.
[I continue to make a liar out of myself by posting to these and other blogs. Why to I hate myself so?]