Thursday, February 01, 2007

Are Commenters that Predictable?

Ann Althouse is furious at New Blogger--I don't blame her. I have hesitated to switch over because as with everything else on the internet, one doesn't know if the updated version will be better or worse. I read the comments to one of Professor Althouse's posts describing her frustration and as is typical, there were a range of responses to her troubles:

First, there is the "sympathetic acknowledger" who tries to soothe the Professor: "I feel bad for you, Ann. Don't start the day out on the wrong foot. Turn that frown, upside down!"

Next, comes the "Let's roll up our sleeves and see if we can fix the problem" commenters who provide constructive advice on how to cope with this New Blogger pain in the ****: "Click no on the first "Security Information." Click yes on the next one to go back."

And finally, towards the end of the Althouse thread (about 9 comments down) thus far--we have the "subtle dig" commenter who uses passive-aggressive techniques to attempt to make the blogger feel bad and themselves feel superior: "I also wouldn't worry about a one-day drop in traffic because you were offline or subjected to slower response time for a day or two. It sounds a bit obsessive, you know? Unbecoming." Really, was the word "Unbecoming" really necessary here? I don't think so.

So the thread will typically desintigrate from there until we have the "plain old aggressive commenter" who hostilly accuses the blogger of being a racist, sexist, Nazi, or launches an outright personal attack on the blogger and so on--all stemming from an unrelated post on a topic having absolutely nothing to do with what the aggressive commenter imagines the post to be about. But then, it is not about responding in any meaningful way to the topic at hand, but rather about how the commenter views the world and his or her place in it. Some people are sympathetic, some practical, some passive-aggressive and others just plain aggressive in their approach to the world. What type of commenter are you?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm practical and sympathetic. When I am attacked, harassed, etc. I respond with aggression.

11:48 AM, February 01, 2007  
Blogger Peregrine John said...

The Endlessly Amused type. But then, I tend to comment where I like the blogger in the first place and enjoy watching the interplay between the commenter types.

12:02 PM, February 01, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I refuse to answer the question on the grounds that I may incriminate myself! ;~)

Oh, what the heck. Our local newspapers now offer Comment capabilities to online readers. I've noticed the same range of responses to newspaper articles that we see on blogs.

One difference is that any online reader who believes another comment is "inappropriate," per the newspaper's definition, can refer it by e-mail to an editor, who will likely remove the comment.

12:08 PM, February 01, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess that makes me one of the "elitist commenters" (provided I commented on her blog about this). I have no sympathy for users of blogger. It's a terrible service, especially for those of us who read a lot of blogs with RSS readers. Even today, most of the blogger-hosted blogs I read are unavailable via RSS because of defective XML. Why is that? Why do I get that once in a blue moon with a blog that uses TypePad, WordPress or Movable Type? Hell, even LiveJournal is better.

That's why I say, you want to upgrade? Go sign up at TypePad or if you aren't comfortable with hosting your own blog (which isn't that hard if your have about 1-2 hours if you're a newbie and a good hosting service). I stopped using blogger about 3.5-4 years ago because of how bad it was compared to Movable Type 2.X.

Really, it's not hard to switch to another platform. In fact, to install WordPress at many bigger hosting services, is just a single button click in their admin console for your account. Point, click, blog set up. You then have full control over the data. That in and of itself is worth the pain of having to learn how to do it yourself.

12:17 PM, February 01, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm, what kind of poster am I? Well, I am the kind of poster who knows that I am really not qualified to judge my own posts because I am too close to them.

But . . . I really try to be short, pithy, earnest, respectful, open to learn, and invested in dialogue. Unless I am responding to a troll or ideologue. Then I try to be short, pithy, and devastatingly critical. Left or right, ideologues do not bring out my best.

My posts go too long when someone I respect seems stuck to me and I throw too many words at the blog in an attempt to persuade. That is my assessment, but I really appreciate the question!


12:30 PM, February 01, 2007  
Blogger geekWithA.45 said...

What sort of commenter?

Depends on who y'are.

One thing that I've found in life though, is that every act of passive agression is a lost opportunity to indulge in the joy of open hostilities. :)

12:52 PM, February 01, 2007  
Blogger DADvocate said...

I've been commenting and blogging for about 1.5 years and find that I developed from various types rather rapidly. I tend to be sarcastic and prefer rational discourse (I think). I used to be more argumentative and insulting, althoug I still love a good insult occasionally.

I have noticed there are two types that you, DrHelen, attract: 1)those that attack you because you're not liberal, and 2)those that attack you because you're married to Glenn. The second group is among the saddest of all.

BTW - the new blogger offers no advantages that I can find.

2:00 PM, February 01, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the new blogger's feature that permits me to easily categorize my posts. Otherwise, I don't blog enough or have a large enough readership for the glitches to affect me much.

What kind of commentator am I? Not sure. I guess, "random." Whatever my first reaction is to the post, that's the comment I leave. I do tend to stick with my early upbringing, though. If I don't have something nice to say, I tend not to comment. And if the blog raises my blood pressure, I tend not to read it. Life's too short.

2:22 PM, February 01, 2007  
Blogger Eric said...

Have to say, I just hate it when passive aggressive commenters force me to be passive aggressive!


2:41 PM, February 01, 2007  
Blogger Kim du Toit said...

"What type of commenter are you?"

Infrequent. [pause for drumroll and scattered laughter]

Mostly, though, I'll comment for the purposes of widening or deepening the discussion, or correcting a factual error.

I'm not interested in being hostile on someone else's blog, unless the host included in their original post an ad hominem attack on me or my wife.

Then, the gloves come off.

3:05 PM, February 01, 2007  
Blogger Nick said...

Personally, I try to cover the spectrum. First I start with acknowledging your pain...

"You must really be having a hard time with your commenters Helen. But it's nice that you can read other blogs and feel a sense of solidarity."

Then I might suggest something to help, like moderating your comments.

Of course, later on I might start getting angry at how many more comments you get on your posts than I do, and that you should quite complaining already.

Finally, I'll end with a bit of introspection, that perhaps I'm just a smart ass funny commenter.

What do you think?

3:37 PM, February 01, 2007  
Blogger Simon Kenton said...

I'd be very leery of new blogger. Those sites I look at that have converted are coming up with Google temporary server errors 50% of the time, and some weird coded errors when I try to see (much less add to) the comments. Exacerbated by suggestions that you post all details of the comment failure including the alphanumeric error code to blogger support, but without any links or even a url to get you there. What kind of lameys run a blogging service and don't provide links to the help facility?

3:40 PM, February 01, 2007  
Blogger Helen said...


Well, you have come full circle, although really, to get with the spirit of things, something passive aggressive or insulting should have taken place. Your version is more self-deprecation than passive-aggressive. Perhaps you are too good natured to pull that off or perhaps you don't have a proverbial chip on your shoulder.

3:44 PM, February 01, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would tend to be more sympathetic. From a wife of a new blogger that proof reads his blogs daily the new version certainly has it's bugs. For anyone with the amount of traffic that Dr. Helen experiences and Ann Althouse, be patient. The kinks need to be worked out. As with anything new, technology included, it takes time to work out the bugs.

8:21 PM, February 01, 2007  
Blogger Purple Avenger said...

I switched to it about 8 months ago -- big mistake. I couldn't see any way to back it out so I was stuck.

I suppose I'll just snap someday and change to something else. The last time a tool pissed me off (a cheap Chinese saber saw) I threw it into a lake while cursing like a sailor.

Takes a LOT to get me to snap like that, but when I do the thing is gone and I don't look back.

1:41 AM, February 02, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

New blogger sucks rhino dicks, as my 15 year old son would say.

10:27 AM, February 02, 2007  
Blogger Mercurior said...

i just type what i want.. i wouldnt mind if no one came to my blog.. its first and foremost for me, my fiance 2nd, and everyone else 3rd..

i use an external comment system, i dont have many problems.. sometimes the graphics go a little wonky.. but thats ok..

so if you dont visit my blog, then thats ok.. you arent being forced to read the blog, so why visit if you hate it.

3:50 PM, February 02, 2007  
Blogger Mercurior said...

i am an eclectic poster, from my poems, to newspaper stories to entries from pepys diaries.. to even one post of 499 flibbles and one flubble.. why.. because i could and i wanted too.

3:51 PM, February 02, 2007  
Blogger Manos said...

Yeah well just because you posted an article about people who like to use comment on any post as an excuse to lauch a broadside attack on the blogger - wait for it - doesn't mean you're still not a Nazi.

8:51 PM, February 02, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I happen to know Nick. I've been drinking with him. I can confirm that there is nothing proverbial about the chip on his shoulder.

9:10 PM, February 02, 2007  
Blogger Mercurior said...

what one persons chooses to post, is upto them, there is no one telling you this is wrong, or right, or you must type in proper grammar, dr helen, ms althouse can post whatever they wish, its their right.

in america its called free speech, but some people think free speech must mean stopping all those against one point of view.

there are many people online with different tendencies, mine change depending on the subject matter, i try to be reasonable, i dont insult posters, i definatly dont insult the blog owner.

i do argue, but thats part of what makes us human, using words. just because someone has a problem with blogger, i have had a few problems with it myself, i swear at it. i have posted about it.. doesnt mean i hate it.. just i get frustrated at THAT moment.

when something is wrong, then its wrong. i once posted about a stupid person deliberatly messing up my life, i was told i should have said that.. on my blog, one i write.. but thats the great thing about blogs, you can type what you wish, put your view, get your knowledge out there, if someone visits my blog, and comments or makes nasty comments i will reply, or delete as its my right..

6:54 AM, February 03, 2007  
Blogger Billiam said...

All I can say, is that as a mildly literate user, I managed to get the new blogger working. I use haloscan for comments, as it seems to be less of a pain in the butt. I'd just offer suggestions based on what I did to get it up and running. What's that make me? Other than a goof ball, that is.. ;-)

12:17 PM, February 03, 2007  
Blogger Helen said...


How do you like the haloscan for comments? Is it easy to moderate comments with it?

2:07 PM, February 03, 2007  
Blogger Cham said...

I have no problems with the new version of blogger. I switched while it was in beta and there were a couple of bugs that needed to be worked out and the sign-in feature was confusing, but the problems seem to be solved in the last few months. My blog is not here to reinvent the wheel. Those that need information on the topics I write about seem to get to my blog through a quick Internet search which is all that I ask.

3:09 PM, February 03, 2007  
Blogger Mercurior said...

i use haloscan too, its very good, for moderating.. you go into manage comments, if you have the full version you can edit, delete, see where that person has commented from, track backs, you cna also have recent comments shown on the blog.

you can set moderation, manage bans, export all your comments into files.. i have used it since before blogspot had the comment facility

3:51 PM, February 03, 2007  
Blogger Jazz Bass said...

Cranky Curmudgeon

5:05 PM, February 03, 2007  
Blogger Jazz Bass said...

My better half just reminded me that Steve at HogOnIce threw me a link the other day and the first comment was "dead url...some blog". I know my salon is sometimes infrequent but sheesh!

ergo cogito Doom as far as new blogger goes.

5:09 PM, February 03, 2007  
Blogger Joan said...

I'm the commentator who said that Ann's concern about her traffic seemed obsessive and unbecoming.

I'm confused that you consider that passive-aggressive. I could've been more direct and told her to quit whining, but my word choice made it clear that I thought she was carrying on unnecessarily. How is that passive aggressive? How is that even a subtle dig? It wasn't an implied criticism, it was a direct one.

I guess I don't know what "passive aggressive" means. Looking at the Wikipedia entry for it, the only thing in the list of common signs I'm guilty of with that comment would be "complaining." So what? After three posts in a row complaining about how bad the new Blogger is, I was moved to say something about Ann's response to her blog-related adversity. (Perhaps the drop-off in traffic was partly because people didn't want to read her complaints about Blogger?)

At any rate, Ann is obsessive about her traffic and stats, and it is, IMO, unbecoming. She's a huge player in the Blogosphere, why is she so insecure? I don't get it. (You'll never see Instapundit or Capt. Ed fretting over a denial-of-service that knocked them offline for half a day.) I said what I said because perhaps Ann doesn't get that she's coming across that way. I had no intention of being either subtle or passive-aggressive.

Your saying it was makes me realize I need to work on my commenting skills so that readers can spot a criticism for what it is.

5:58 PM, February 03, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is Ann insecure, or is she competitive? I think the latter, but then hers and this blog are two of my favorites.


6:57 PM, February 03, 2007  
Blogger Helen said...


First, you tell her not to worry and then, you tell her that her behavior is unbecoming--sounds a bit mixed to me. But what you said here in your comment sounded like you actually admire Professor Althouse, that you really think it is beneath her to act in an upset manner over a half a day's traffic because she already has plenty of readers and traffic. But the way you phrased it in your original comment, it sounded like a back handed compliment followed by a put down. Why not just say something like, "with all the traffic you have, is it really necessary to worry so much about the loss of half a day?" That gets the point across without a put down of any kind. Or perhaps you want to insert a put down and then I have to ask, why?

7:23 PM, February 03, 2007  
Blogger Joan said...

Althouse is the blog I visit first each day, and most frequently during the day. I do admire Prof Althouse and usually enjoy the discussions she begins. It was frustrating to have difficulty getting to her blog only then to find the only new posts were about difficulties with the blog!

Please note that I didn't say she shouldn't worry, I said I wouldn't worry. (Then again, I'm a nobody, I realize... ) I fully intended to criticize her airing this obsession, because I do not think she realizes how petty it makes her look. It conflicts with the image of the professor that I have constructed over the years of reading her blog!

For the record, I think that Ann is very competitive and enjoys being in the public eye, and would like even more exposure and recognition than she already enjoys. I wish her every success in her endeavors, because she's a person worth listening to. But posting about (most likely) temporary traffic woes , more than once, takes her ambitions from respectable to grubbing, somehow. At least to me.

Is there a difference between criticism and a put-down?

8:21 PM, February 03, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As this thread winds down, let me just say that I am openly hostile and aggressive. You nazi's have a problem with that?

9:16 PM, February 03, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For almost a year now, blogger Christopher Taylor has been profiling different types of blog comments and commenters. He's up to 34 different entrys now, and adds one every few weeks. It's worth the read:

3:09 AM, February 04, 2007  
Blogger Helen said...


Yes, criticism can be constructive if you wish it to be--which I assume you do. A put-down is just there to make the person feel bad. Using the words "that's unbecoming" is more put down than criticism. People will tune out if you slip in a put down but might listen if you use constructive criticism. You were dissapointed, upset, etc. that Ann spent your blog reading time yelling about blogger--that is understandable. But adding the put down probably didn't help your position, which is that Ann should be heard more, not less. If you really want someone to hear what you are saying and take your advice to heart, leave out the put down.

8:17 AM, February 04, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Be more a straightforward bitch, and don't put any compliments in.

It's how these ladies operate, what they understand. They don't like criticism, so instead of responding to the substance, what you are saying, they will criticize your "style".

Good thing they can't hear your voice, or see what you are wearing! Remember, these are ladies of a certain age, raised with certain womanly (ie. "looks") standards. See the Hirshmann hair criticism

Right now, Helen and Ann need each other for links, and they both desperately need MrReynolds. It will be fun when these two very similar competitive and conniving women turn on each other -- and it will happen, there is no loyalty amongst this type of lady. Heh.

8:26 AM, February 04, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone who thinks "turn your frown upside down" is positive, while Joan's critical remarks are negative, isn't standing on substance.

8:28 AM, February 04, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In fact,
you can see it in the political men these ladies support. Substance doesn't matter -- results, accountability... no.

It's style.
Do we "like" the person, nevermind whether he can do the job or not.

Funny thing is, even InstyPundit acts like a lady on this one -- check out his political track record. Indeed!

8:30 AM, February 04, 2007  
Blogger Cham said...

Joan, you might be taken more seriously and less critically if you called yourself Matt.

9:04 AM, February 04, 2007  
Blogger Helen said...

Anonymous 8:26, 8:28, 8:30,

Ahhh, Greg, what are you doing up so early on a Sunday morning?

9:42 AM, February 04, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Up for church, "Diane".

10:11 AM, February 04, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hahaha. This post and thread started out really lame. I mean, what kind of "commenter" are you? It's like one of those retarded online tests--"Which Star Trek character are you?" But it has turned out pretty amusing here at the end.

Yes, lots of rather detailed discussion about what Joan intended. But truly, none of this matters. Put-down or constructive criticism? Helen and Althouse don't want either one.

If you can't agree 100% and compliment them to boot, you might as well shut your trap. So much for the "free speech" touted by mercurior. I mean, Helen is talking about moderating her comments now and already has deleted some comments. Not because they contained profanity or anything like that. Just because she couldn't deal with the substance of what some people are saying. Substance? Yes, not her strong suit. Disagree with her and all you get is "Greg?" Apparently, around here that is some sure-fire way of discrediting a comment without actually having to take on the substance. And Helen is going to sit here and lecture someone about polite commenting and how to be taken seriously?

And Cham is right. Use the name Matt or Bob or Steve and mention how your bitch ex-wife never worked and then left you. That's the only way to be listened to here.

11:25 AM, February 04, 2007  
Blogger Helen said...

"Anonymous" 11:25:

I can see from the IP addresses where you are from, so please spare me your "outrage."

And as far as free speech? You are free to set up a blog of your own and say what you want, free speech does not involve coming to my blog and making snarky comments about me or my commenters while we sit quietly by. That is masochism--not free speech.

12:00 PM, February 04, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You didn't address his point about substance, or constructive criticism though...

12:56 PM, February 04, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can see from the IP addresses where you are from, so please spare me your "outrage."

You're apparently not so good at reading them, "Diane".

12:57 PM, February 04, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'I can see from the IP addresses where you are from, so please spare me your "outrage."'

I'm confused. How does my IP address affect my entitlement to "outrage"? Besides, "outrage" is your word. I believe I said I was amused.

"And as far as free speech? You are free to set up a blog of your own and say what you want, free speech does not involve coming to my blog and making snarky comments about me or my commenters while we sit quietly by. That is masochism--not free speech."

Yes, I am free to set up my own blog. I am also free to comment here--at least until you decide you can't take the heat and eliminate or screen comments. (Which, again, you have already done.)

Finally, let's don't pretend I am the sole purveyor of snarkiness around here. You do it all the time. Who's the masochist? You're free to ignore snarky comments, free to elimate comments, and free to shut down your blog. But I think it's terribly silly to go around posting snark-laden posts of your own (snarky about liberals, snarky about women, snarky against anyone who disagrees with you, etc.) and then get upset when snarkiness is handed back to you.

This is what YOU wanted for yourself. Nobody makes you splash yourself over these pages. It's the equivalent of standing in the middle of a crowded park and spewing a bunch of invective. You do this because you want the attention. Fine. But it's silly to think you can demand that the attention is always positive.

1:02 PM, February 04, 2007  
Blogger Joan said...

We will have to agree to disagree on whether "unbecoming" is a put-down or legitimate criticism.

"Unbecoming" was necessary because "seems obsessive" was value-neutral. Some obsessions are rather charming, IMO, but some are unbecoming. Ann's obsessions with the use of language and how public opinion is formed is fascinating; her obsession with her blog's traffic, not so much.

Think of it this way: I'm the blog-commenting equivalent of the good friend who goes shopping with you who will say "Yes, those pants make your ass look fat" when the pants do, in fact, make your ass look fat. If no one else says anything, does your ass still look fat? Yes, but you're walking around all unawares.

Posting on a topic is the same as trying on a pair of pants; you're opening yourself up to everyone's opinion of you. Sometimes you aren't going to like what you hear, especially if you think the pants are adorable and they're on sale. None of that matters if they don't fit properly, right?

As for the discussion about what both Helen and Ann want in their commenters: their blogs, their rules. I've heard complaints from time to time but since I'm always too late to read the supposedly-deleted comments, I can't judge. At Althouse, I still enjoy the conversations between her regular commenters. I don't know that I've ever commented here before, and only did this time because being labeled "passive aggressive" required a response.

1:23 PM, February 04, 2007  
Blogger Helen said...


So we agree to disagree--thanks for responding in a polite manner.

2:18 PM, February 04, 2007  
Blogger TMink said...

OK, is it a cat fight if one of the women is a sock puppet?


2:53 PM, February 04, 2007  
Blogger Joan said...

Trey! Are you calling me a sock puppet?

That's insane. You think Helen posted a critical comment on Althouse as a sock puppet? So, what, she could then write this post and get a link from Ann? And then Helen engaged in an extended discussion as to whether or not that comment was passive aggressive?

(Elephant Man)
I am not a sock puppet!
(/Elephant Man)


3:10 PM, February 04, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

*waves* Hi, it's me--you know, the "sock puppet". Because, you know, anybody that disagrees here must perforce be called "Greg" or a "sock puppet". (Really, Trey, is that the best you can do?)

You know, I guess I'm kind of naive, Helen. That whole IP address thing--obviously there's no connection between my IP address and my ability to be legitimately outraged. But it took me awhile to figure out what you were trying to say. Is the reference to my IP address supposed to be intimidating? Is that like, "I KNOW where you are. I know WHO you are."?

Wow. Niiiice.

3:25 PM, February 04, 2007  
Blogger TMink said...

Sorry Joan, I did not mean to infer that you were a hoisery mannequin. I was just trying to be funny. Please forgive me for offending, that was not my intent. It was a joke, and apparently, a poor one.

And no, I was not suggesting that convoluted stuff that it looked like I was suggesting. Honestly, it was too complicated for me to folow! I have also been confused with a sock puppet, and the experience was interesting and a little unsettling. So I can empathize with your experience, I am just sorry my clumsiness caused it.

5:22 PM, February 05, 2007  
Blogger Joan said...

No problem, Trey.

I realized after I posted that you probably weren't talking to/about me, anyway... but I'm in New Blogger and it won't let me delete my own comments anymore! (How embarrassing!) Oh well. No harm done.

9:59 PM, February 05, 2007  
Blogger Helen said...


I find some of the anonymous commenters very funny also. I can't tell you how many hours I have spent laughing (in a good way) at some of the humor some of the commenters have. That is why I like the spontenity of open comments, but the insults and put downs, and slurs are getting a bit over the top.

And yes, it is hard to read people sometimes without the nonverbal cues etc.

6:32 PM, February 07, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Omg. Loved the post, but by the time I was done with the comments, my head hurt. I started reading them, was amused by the navel-gazing about commenter type, enjoyed the initially subtle Helen/Joan discourse, then the anonymous and inflammatory comments started flying, I was amused by Helen's brush off, annoyed and bored with the subsequent "hey why are you ignoring my insults? I demand attention!!!," and then I just started carelessly skimming for intelligent comments. But I didn't read many because I had shut down out of weariness earlier.

Apparently you don't even need to be the object of the insults and digs to stop listening.

5:31 PM, March 29, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


12:18 AM, June 08, 2009  

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