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Where did the discussion move to?

The oldest post you’ll find on this blog is from nearly sixteen years ago, although it’s technically a “recovered” post that came from a very old Blogspot account I used when I was in high school. The actual blog that people started following is probably fourteen years old, when Planet Gentoo started and I started writing about my development there. While this is nowhere as impressive as Scalzi’s, it’s still quite an achievement in 2020, when a lot of people appear to have moved to Medium posts or Twitter threads.

Sixteen years are an eternity in Internet terms, and that means the blog has gone through a number of different trends, from the silly quizzes to the first copy-and-paste list memes, from trackbacks to the anti-spam fights. But the one trend that has been steady over the past six years (or so) is the mistreatment of comments. I guess this went together with the whole trend of toxic comments increasing, and the (not wrong) adage of “don’t read the comments”, but it’s something that saddened me before, and that saddens me today.

First of all, the lack of comments feels, to me, like a lack of engagement. While I don’t quite write with the intention of pleasing others, I used to have meaningful conversations with readers of the blog in the past — whether it was about correcting my misunderstanding of things I have no experience with, or asking follow up questions that could become more blog posts for other to find.

Right now, while I know there’s a few readers of the blog out there, it feels very impersonal. A few people might reply to the Tweet that linked to the new post, and maybe one or two might leave a comment on LinkedIn, but that’s usually where the engagement ends for me, most of the time. Exception happen, including my more recent post on zero-waste, but even those are few and far between nowadays. And not completely unexpectedly, I don’t think anyone is paying attention to the blog’s Facebook page.

It’s not just the big social media aggregators, such as Reddit and Hacker News, that cause me these annoyances. Websites like Boing Boing, which Wikipedia still calls a “group blog”, or Bored Panda, and all their ilks, appear to mostly be gathering posts from other people and “resharing” them, nowadays. On the bright side of the spectrum, some of these sites at least appear to add their own commentary on the original content, but in many other cases I have seen them reposting the “eye catchy” part of the original content (photo, diagram, infographic, video) without the detailed explanations, and sometimes making it hard to even find the original credit.

You can imagine that it is not a complete coincidence that I’m complaining about this after having had to write a full-on commentary due to Boing Boing using extremely alarmist tones around a piece of news that, in my view, barely should have been notable. Somehow it seems news around diabetes and glucometers have this effect on people — you may remember I was already annoyed when Hackaday was tipped about my project, and decided to bundle it with an (unsafe!) do-it-yourself glucometer project that got the most of the comments on their own post.

I guess this ends up sounding a lot like an old man shouting at clouds — but I also still think that discussing ideas, posts, opinions with the creators are worth doing, particularly if the creators have the open mind of listening to critique of their mistakes — and, most importantly, the “capacitance” to send abuse away quickly. Because yeah, comments became toxic a long time ago, and I can’t blame those who prefer not to even bother with comments in the first place, despite disliking it myself.

To conclude, if you have anything to discuss or suggest me, please do get in touch. It’s actually a good feeling to know that people care.

Comments 10
    1. Good question. I don’t often go and check the spam folder because the comments that are held for moderations send me notifications and I approve them quickly. But I’m so afraid I might not have access to all the logs now that the blog is on WordPress 😔

      Maybe the antispam wars are indeed causing this dread. That makes me even more profoundly sad, as I have spent so much time previously fighting it, and nowadays it’s even more common…

      1. I thought it was odd that you wouldn’t approve my comment, and I was mostly agreeing with you, and offering a little of my side. I was said I didn’t save a copy in a draft somewhere but it just seemed to disappear. I think spam fighting can limit conversations, but I identify with some of the concerns you have here. Things feel more fragmented, and if a post generates engagement it can end up spread over so many platforms. I find comments on things I have authored on platforms I don’t (or rarely) use, and wish they had a way of at least informing me of those comments.

  1. I was sad to disable (easy) comments on my own blog, but the spam forced me to years ago. Also it doesn’t look like the spam filters are any more intelligent than link = spam, tbh, so that the spam still comes through while the good comments with references don’t.

    Looks like the oldest blog post on mine is from ’05, although I could technically import my archive back to ’03 if I wanted to.

    If the spam filter doesn’t catch this because of the link, color me impressed.

      1. Weird, I just posted a link a few weeks ago and it was flagged as spam, same account. You also have to be careful writing URL-like words such, although that specific one will be manually excluded from the filter if they’re halfway clever. It seems to happen almost every time I try to post a comment with a link. I don’t think I usually link to my own blog though, maybe that somehow made a difference. 🙂

        The likes of Bad Behavior and ModSecurity help a lot, but I don’t even remember how long ago it’s been since I effectively threw in the towel. I installed OneAll Social Login and called it a day.

      2. PS Posted a link on a site that’s hosted on or uses it for comments, not as in this very blog in case you were wondering. 😉

  2. Two thoughts related to this…

    1) I feel like creators usually get shafted as a result of others “commercialising” their work better than the original creator. I know a lot of creators across music, film and tech – most of them are motivated by the challenge of creation / development and not monetary reward (money is just a means to and end. There are whole companies that exploit this in their favour and the creators are limited in their ability to limit the occurrences.

    2) It feels like spam is half the internet some of the time. I’ve run a band’s online forum for 20-ish years using a one-off solution I ported from VBscript (yeh. i kid you not!) back in 2001. Spam eventually became a problem but we tried to keep the original spirit of visitors being able to scrawl on the wall. No accounts. Every post/reply needs a captcha. Has been very very effective and the community kept abuse low.

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