Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Does Commenting Cause ....

Does commenting cause a decline in literacy?

Before you go psycho and attempt to ban me from the blogosphere, I'm not talking about a decrease of writing ability and/or intelligence. What I am talking about is the hideousness of most comment interfaces on blogs and the effect it has on the literary merit of the comments left on those blogs.

Some comment interfaces don't allow even the most primitive of proof-reading. The only option is to push the publish button with only the raw text entry box for you to have proof-read. And if you do press publish? Then your only corrective option is to delete the whole comment (leaving those nasty "Comment deleted by author." squirrel tracks to mess up someone's pristine blog) or to leave your dirty underwear hanging in public.

Some comment interfaces at least allow you to proof-read your comment. Unfortunately they then often require an arcane sequence of button pushes or the corrections will be lost. The end result is often the same: delete and leave a meaningless squirrel track or leave the skid marks of life hanging in the breeze. Of course that means that the misspellings and other embarrassing errors are preserved for the universe to see too. There is a reason that Google finally started offering alternatives to the search word you entered. That way they can use a canonicalized index and find things in spite of all the misspellings out there. I attribute at least part of that to blogs and their comments as filtered by the current interfaces.

I could probably live with the above limitations, but because of security worries, you lose the ability to do any but the most plain jane formatting and referencing in the comment forms. How many times is the perfect comment a link to another place that you cannot put in the comments? I understand why many hosts and blog forms don't allow references and links. Heck, let me put unrestricted links in the comments and I can think of hundreds of mean and malicious things I could do. Including infecting every reader who came by with some really nasty viruses and spyware and maybe even a bot or two. Can you imagine the meltdown if that happened on a popular blog with 100,000s and 100,000s of views each day. How long would it be before all blogs were verboten in browser security packages? But it does seem that a good hosting service combined with appropriate blog design would at least allow tags so one could put in links and have them vetted as mostly harmless before they become visible.

If I haven't lost you to glazed eyes yet, what do you think? Is the comment interface a detriment to the literary quality of the comments you leave and read? Do you resort to direct email to the author to avoid the interface?

Off Topic:
(What, you mean you couldn't detect a thread of thoughful reason through all of the above? For shame!) I have been toying around with the idea of a collabrative novel where each author writes a chapter and then the next author has to carry on using the previous developments. Short chapters, say 2-4 pages so that anyone could participate and not be over-burdened. Given the immense range of writing styles I see in all the blogs I read, I think it could be very amusing and fun. So is anyone interested? Am I insane? (No wait, don't answer that!)

My copy of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue came today, I need to go drool now.


  1. I wish there was spell check on comments.I don't understand why they can't make that a feature and I like your book idea!

  2. I also like your novel idea.

  3. For a few minutes you lost me Dan, not out of boredom or in a bad way, it's just been a bit since I've read anything with words like "canonicalized". Yes, we need a spell check for comments, I just hate it when my fingers go faster than my brain and I look illiterate. The novel idea is fantastic!

  4. I used to be an editor at a newspaper and later a magazine, so I hold myself to a high standard when publishing anything. And I hate when I make typos or misspellings. Must read this 3 times before I post ...

  5. you make a very good point. Now wipe your chin, there is a little drool on it.

  6. So leaving you a comment like this:

    Ur awsum and ur BLOG is Kool! check mine out plz!

    Won't suffice?

    Well damn.

    Back to the old drawing board

  7. Get it right the first time... that's what my mother espoused. Spellcheck? That's why we can have multiple windows open... (Go to Round robin novel? Maybe.... there are tons of very talented writers out there in the blogosphere. (Did I spell that right?)

  8. My Firefox spell checks for me lol but that doesn't help when my brain thinks write and it should be right. I use the preview button every time it's available :)

  9. Oh I hear you! I hate the commenting interface on most blogs. And I'm usually so pressed for time that I don't proofread as well as I should and I'm positive I have lots of misspellings and all.

    And your book idea...great! Fun! Exciting! I would totally do it! But perhaps a paragraph rather than a few pages? Will it be passed from blog to blog? ? ??? Or are you talking about a real chapter/book?

  10. Firefox does spell-checking for you - I hate it! :) I don't really have a problem with the comments boxes, I never expected them to be sophisticated...

    I would join in with a collaborative novel, too.


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