23 November 2009

Comments

Getting a comment on something I've written here is like opening an unexpected birthday present, even if the comment is critical. Perhaps my readers are particularly shy, or perhaps my arguments are so earth-shattering and airtight as to preclude further discussion. Far more likely, though, is that no one is reading. I feel like some of the things I post here ought to rile people up a bit more than they do, and I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I sometimes stoop to that level as much to find out if anyone's actually reading as to get something off my chest.

Spam comments don't count, obviously. I get a good laugh out of some of them, and perhaps even a tiny bit of the same excitement I feel about the legitimate ones. That little bit of excitement has turned to quite a bit of impatience, however, as I've now received over 100 of them within the month. Though I published new posts at a similar rate the first time I ran the Blog Month experiment, I certainly didn't attract this kind of attention last year. Nonetheless, I can't believe it's a coincidence that behaving like a "real" Blogger has earned me an e-heckler. That person must be crapping their pants with delight that I'm taking the time to mention this here. Why not? It's Blog Month, goddammit.

Blogger makes it easy to deal with such things, and while I've previously expressed regret over the need to enable comment moderation, it's more apparent than ever that I have no choice. This whole thing makes me think of Kyle Gann. Though I come from a different planet, I'm an avid reader of his blog, so much so that I've taken it upon myself to start reading it from the beginning. It's brilliant and fascinating stuff the likes of which I wish there was more of of floating around on the musico-interweb, but I can only be disappointed at the fact that not only are new comments disabled in his archives, but old ones are not visible. If you've read Gann, you know that despite his brilliance and his espousal of a "generous" composing style, he has little patience with his readers and can be far from generous when dealing with them. Nothing could be less generous than hiding previous comments, where blogs with an actual readership tend to get really interesting.

Do comment threads get out of hand? Absolutely. Do I really want to read every comment ever made on PostClassic? Probably not. I'd be a month rather than a year into the archives if that were the case. Nonetheless, my bullshit detector is not too shabby, and as the Libertarians among us might point out, the internet in some cases polices itself pretty well. I'd rather make up my own mind if the comments were valid or not. Any lengthy comment thread is bound to suffer from an imbecile or two, but there are more than a few heavies among Gann's readership, and it's too bad the rest of us no longer have access to their off-the-cuff reactions to his often thought-provoking posts. At the very least, current posts still seem to allow comments, though I seem to recall that he once flirted with the idea of dispensing with those as well. Perhaps I'll never understand what a chore it is to administer a blog with that kind of traffic, but from where I sit today, it's tempting to say that if I found myself in that situation, I'd feel that I'd finally succeeded with this project, and that I had a responsibility to see it through. We'll see if I ever get there, and if I feel the same when I do.

Gann's quality is that much more impressive in light of his quantity. I've seldom been able to keep up with his posts, hence the idea of starting from the beginning. I'm finding that to be a much more informative and fulfilling way to approach my favorite blogs, even though it goes against the very core principle of blogging. I've wasted enough time sifting through people's soup recipes and vacation photos in search of their one music-related post of the year. At this point, I'm content to focus on a few writers' entire body of work and miss out on the day-to-day rat race of link dumping and live blogging. I still find time for it occasionally though, and you can bet your ass I'll be leaving comments if I read something that I feel warrants it. I just hope those comments survive as long as the original post.

13 comments:

Cavorter said...

I have to wonder if there isn't a meme about comments and the current state of the blog-like electronic universe going around right now, though I suppose in some ways it's a fairly evergreen topic for anyone involved in the process.

I have gone back and forth over the years about comments in general though in the case of my personal blog I'm certain I don't get many because essentially no one reads it, but my blog has always been more about a personal text dump than something for the outside world.

However a friend recently pointed me to a great article about why a different kind of content creator in a situation that seems similar to yours does not allow them: http://www.arianaosborne.com/?p=685

Anonymous said...

Hi Stefan, here's a comment for you. Arts Journal didn't accommodate comments until October of 2005, so I didn't hide comments from earlier blog entries - they were never there. In fact, people would send me comments to my e-mail, and I went nuts trying to quote them all. I've erased very few comments over the years. But thanks for your interest. - Kyle Gann

Stefan Kac said...

Cavorter,

Thanks. That's an interesting article, though on first read, I'm not sure I read it as an indictment of comments themselves so much as an indictment of those who expect allowing to comments to magically attract them an audience by themselves. I've never viewed them that way; I won't even give a blogroll because that whole tit-for-tat thing makes me sick. I suppose I can't really complain about the lack of attention then. Obviously, I don't do much to promote this blog, outside of posting comments on other blogs that I read. I try not to do that simply to promote myself, though, but instead only when I have something to say that I think is worth taking the time to write (and read). Posting comments or Twittering or Facebooking merely to promote yourself is not something I'd ever endorse here; in fact, I look at that phenomenon as embodying everything that's wrong with the current situation, not as a solution to it. It's really no different than what my spam commenter does, even if it's marginally more related to the subject matter at hand. That's why I don't engage in it, and perhaps also why I don't get a lot of attention here. Ever the idealist about this sort of thing, I'd rather invest my time in what I'm writing than in merely becoming an internet gadfly. I wouldn't want people to read if I just churned out posts with profligate abandon the way most bloggers do. That's why Blog Month is a once-a-year event. I approach music itself the same way, and I consider myself to have been somewhat successful letting my work speak for itself. Perhaps that's not enough here, but I'm probably not going to change, even if that means those unexpected birthday presents arrive rather far apart.

Stefan Kac said...

Kyle,

Thanks for clarifying, and sorry for overlooking that. I wonder if it was a technical or a philosophical issue that led them not to enable comments retroactively?

Stefan Kac said...

Cavorter,

FWIW, I meant to say also that the analogy given between real life and the blogosphere doesn't really resonate with me. All my friends are musicians. If I want to talk with them about the stuff I write about here, I can. I express myself much better in writing, though, and usually come away from those in-person conversations kicking myself for being so clumsy in what I say. Ironically, I think most of the people reading here are my musician friends, so they get it either way. It's important to me that I get to finish what I'm saying (since it usually takes me several thousand words) before someone chimes in because otherwise I'll never get to say it. In the article, she does a clever job of making this sound awkward and unnatural, but dialogue has taken place in a back-and-forth fashion in print for a long time, most notably in dead tree media with editorials, letters to the editor, and the like. It's a crucial part of life, and I'm not ready to give it up for Twitter just yet. Thanks, though, for pointing me to that article, as it's obviously got me thinking.

Anonymous said...

Some of them do have comments enabled. But I turned a lot of them off because the older ones were attracting gigantic quantities of spam, hundreds of e-mail advertisements that I'd have to go through and delete. Now the Captcha phrase prevents that. - Kyle

Stefan Kac said...

Got it. Thanks for explaining. Odd that they target the old ones, isn't it? It's been the same with my heckler this month. Actually, among the legitimate comments I receive here, they are also disproportionately on older threads as well (got one last week on a post that's over a year old). I wonder if the blogosphere is just plain living a lie?

Anonymous said...

i'm gonna make my own journal

Stefan Kac said...

You go right ahead and do that.

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Stefan Kac said...

Yep, I'm still here.

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