Does Familiarity Really Breed Contempt?
INTERESTING STUFF – 6 December 2014

Thank You for Being Such Good Blog Commenters

An increasing number of websites – Reuters, Popular Science, the Chicago Sun-Times among them - have turned off their online comments sections. According to a story at World News Publishing Focus, one reason is

”The arduous task of moderating the hundreds of uncivil comments that plague comment threads are making news sites reconsider their value.”

The New York Times reported that one Atlantic magazine columnist agrees:

“'Unless a comment stream is actively moderated, it inevitably is ruined by bullies, hotheads and trolls,' James Fallows wrote...”

Others like Re/Code cite the importance of social media as the reason for shutting down their comments sections:

“...as social media has continued its robust growth, the bulk of discussion of our stories is increasingly taking place there, making onsite comments less and less used and less and less useful.”

I realize that the websites I've mentioned have much more traffic than this one but I am regularly surprised by other blogs, some with far less traffic than mine, that have no comment section.

The way I see it, without comments TimeGoesBy and any blog, is nothing more than a lonely, personal soapbox.

It can be argued that comments are what distinguish blogs from every other kind of online writing. Comments invite conversation, an exchange of knowledge and, as we sometimes mention here, community – a sense of belonging to something together and a reason to return.

Closing down comments in favor of social media makes no sense to me and Sarah Gooding, writing at WPTavern, explains my own reasons well:

”Allowing social media to be the primary outposts for conversation on your content may bring some decent interaction for a short time, but posts sent via these channels soon disappear under the heavy stream of cat pictures, location checkins, Candy Crush invitations and every form of distraction.

“Furthermore, a conversation happening in many different places becomes severely fragmented, diluted, and difficult to track. The quality of the conversation starts to plummet.

Exactly, Sarah. Time Goes By and it's companion blog, The Elder Storytelling Place, are both automatically distributed via Twitter and Facebook each day as a convenience to people who use those two programs.

I don't, and it surprises me now and then to get emails from Facebook telling me someone has commented there. Like Sarah, I am not inclined to chase reactions all over social media so those comments are lost – as least to the “home” TGB community.

As to the first argument against comments above, there has never been much problem at TimeGoesBy with trolls and bullies. One reason is that long before I became a blogger, I learned the hard way in what was at first a gloriously engrossing online forum that if you don't crush those interlopers immediately, they will destroy the site.

So since the beginning, I have closely monitored TGB comments, deleting offensive ones as soon I see them: defamatory and bigoted comments, hateful language, personal attacks aimed at me or other commenters are the most obvious. Those are deleted and the writer is permanently banned without notice or recourse.

Not much of that happens here and I don't think I've banished more than half a dozen, maybe eight or 10 people, in the ten years TGB has been here.

It surprised me when advertising first appeared in comments. Most often it has been an author trying to sell his/her book. I get quite incensed about that. What makes anyone think they get free advertising on another person's real estate? And since I have a soft spot for all writers, the chutzpah is a huge disappointment.

Haven't seen any of those for awhile – and good riddance.

The biggest comment bother here is benign enough: people who have never heard of paragraphs. No one reads long, unbroken chunks of text and when I sometimes force myself to go through them, I'm sorry that hardly any others will see what are often compelling thoughts and ideas. (If that's you, it would be good to take heed.)

There is a lot of controversial argument surrounding comments and although I don't like being thwarted at no-comment sites, I surely understand why the big guys, newspapers and magazines, TV shows, etc. don't have the resources to moderate comments.

But I wish they did.

Here, however, we have a large group of readers who keep the comments lively, interesting, informative and funny, and so few comments cross the line that if trolls weren't a common online problem there would be no reason to mention it at this blog.

Besides how much I learn from you, some comments become the basis of posts I write. I quote the writer when I can but often it is just the thought or idea I recall and can't place when or where it appeared. (If that's you, I apologize but I doubt it will change.)

So thank you, every one of you, who comment. I wouldn't care much at all about doing this every day without you. Sarah Gooding again:

”...with comments open on your website, you have the opportunity for the brightest minds to respond to each other in one public location, not limited to x number of characters or the commenter’s social connections.

“If your blog is your home on the web, then everything important that you have to say should be said in your posts and in their comments. Social networks come and go but your blog is forever.”

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Wendl Kornfelt: The Picasso on the Bookshelf

Comments

Thank you for allowing comments. The exchange is what makes reading a blog more personal.

Thanks Ronni, for creating a forum/platform for this information.

I really appreciate the information you provide. I was able to provide the link to a friend this week who is caring for his mother who has essential tremor. The liftlabs link to the spoon was very helpful.

So thanks for the info.

My first experience of reading comments online was those done in relation to my hometown newspaper.

If the news had not provided them a target, the bloggers would attack each other.

I did find a place to relate to others from my high school and hometown. After several years of sharing most moved on to
facebook, which feels to me like whistling in the wind—not my cup of tea.

Thank you for allowing comments and for your diligence in monitoring. I agree with your philosophy and I appreciate all whose comments I have read.

I enjoy the comments on this blog almost as much as your writing, Ronni. (Sorry) I often wish we could comment directly to other commenters in sub-threads. But I've seen some of the outright vicious attacks some online news sources get and I can understand why the bigger places are doing away with their comment sections.

I monitor the comments on my blog before they get published and I'm often surprised that spammers bother with small, personal blogs. The ones that get me are the ones who pretend to have read your content when clearly they haven't. They waste our time and whose got time to waste at our age?

I too enjoy the comments here. It gives your posts that delightful talking over the back fence feel. You know, friendly and neighborly. I am sure that it is largely because you monitor comments plus the audience you write for are positive people.

TGB is my first internet stop in the morning.

I LOVE reading the comments that follow pieces on your blog.

You take no prisoners. You put on your steel helmet and talk about every aspect of getting older.

No bull**it.

I like that.

I also like the fact that you check every single response and weed out "Creeping Charlie" posts.

The extra touch is when you throw in a little cat story or photo of Ollie.

I laugh out loud at some of the responses. Laughing is good. Don't change a thing.

I am always amazed and happy to see a comment on my no-frills blog.

Your blog is where we learn about each other, get tips, find out we aren't all that different no matter where we live.

Your Montreal fan.

When I first started going online way back in the last century, chat rooms were all the rage. There, one could find a group of like-minded people who enjoyed talking about a subject they loved. Unfortunately, as the internet became more available (cheaper) to more people, all of the haters started to come out of the woodwork.
I used to be in a chat room populated by people of my particular ethnic persuasion. After a while the room was inundated with anti-semitic comments, essentially ruining the chat room for ever. Hopefully, the "narrowness" of this blog will forestall the nay-sayers and malcontents from commenting.

Ronni:

I guess I'm a luddite, but I can't imagine using facebook or twitter.

I've scanned a few facebook pages for content; I think of them as homes for the inarticulate in search of the ineffable.

Blogging is the modern version of letter-writing.

Imagine: It's 1850. I just got a letter from my cousin in Europe, postmarked six months ago. I write him a long letter in response. He receives it and reads it six months later, after it travelled in a sack for two months on a trans-Atlantic sailing ship.

Today, we read a blog, decide to comment, and milli-seconds later, the author, and thousands of others, can read our thoughts.

FB and Twitter are restricted in format, and ephemeral, like notes scratched on a scrap of paper to remind you to buy a quart of milk.

Keep up the good work! Everyone!

I love reading the comments as much as I love the posts. It is one of the things I like about the NY Times, first the article and then the conversation for good or bad about the story.
But the nastiness and stupidity I sometimes see in comments is astounding so I can understand why policing a blog is a lot of work

I just want to add my thanks as well.

You've created a great space and community here and the comments are appreciated. I've simply stopped reading blogs where the comments aren't monitored and the bullies have taken over the playground.

When I posted regularly on The Elder Storytelling Blog, the comments were wonderful and uplifting to me. I am hoping to get back to sending stories--a voice-activated program is just waiting to be installed--I can't wait!Thank you so much, Ronni, for everything you do, but especially for keeping the comments going.

I rarely comment on your blog, but I read it every single day. And sometimes the comments simply amaze me and open my mind to new ways of seeing things.

I agree with everything you said, Ronni. I love my commenters and think of them as friends with whom I chat over a cup of coffee. I haven't had a lot of trouble with trolls (knock wood) and have blocked only half a dozen or so in more than ten years.

I appreciate the problem that bigger publications might have with commenters, but I get terribly frustrated when I read long, thought-provoking pieces and then can't express my thoughts at the end. Of course I've also been frustrated when such articles are followed by hundreds of comments that don't address the topic at all and instead devolve into personal attacks on other commenters or on the author.

Yes, thanks for having this an open forum for discussion of pertinent ideas. I always read the comments to your posts and learn from them.
Other than the guy who hates American women and won't marry them and a rare comment in Arabic, I've had very few comments I've deleted from my blog. I value the rest.

Somehow your blog followers feel like 'family' and it is a Godsend to people who are alone.

I will never forget the time I broke my hip and you told my blog friends about it. I got so many 'get well' cards that I was the envy of the re-hab center.

Your blog is so informative that it's no wonder you have such loyal and erudite commentators.

I check into your blog and comments nearly every day ( and one or two others who think in an interesting way ) and it gives me lots of food for thought during the following 24 hours. This week's blog and comments all about "that conversation" got me thinking in a whole new way about how I want to plan and discuss the last stages of my life and how to go about organising the practicalities of it all.
Many thanks to all involved!

I value the comments to be read after the post as a way of "hearing" new ideas. So thank you, Ronnie, for sharing so much to think about and also to the commenters.

Great discussion and excellent comments.

Ronnie, I did appreciate your reminder about breaking up a comment into paragraphs. And short paragraphs at that.

Salt and pepper, love and marriage, blog and comments....you can't have one without the other! Like most here,I seek out your blog daily ...well, sometimes I skip Sundays, sorry Peter. I've found useful information, entertainment and especially food for thought. As I read I start to wonder what you regular commenters will add to the conversation. I'm usually enlightened and humbled by the depth of thought I find. Thank you all for enriching my days.

I've been with you from the beginning Ronni! Haven't missed a day & what I appreciate most is how much I've learned not only from you, but the regulars here. I come here early every day, love Saturdays especially & find some sanity in the midst of the world's madness. Thank you many times over :) Dee

I'm a reader more than a commenter but like the idea that I can comment here if I want to.
Turning comments off gives the reader the idea that their point of view isn't worth anything - it's 'my way' or 'no way' as far as the author is concerned.

Digital conversations, civil arguments and moderate praise are what makes this new world go round.

I read this blog daily -- and the comments -- even if the subject is one that doesn't particularly affect me....

I do wish that you had a list of "favorite" blogs so that I could check out the ones your commenters have. I know you list hundreds of blogs, but I don't know which blogs go with which commenter.

And thank you for allowing comments and for keeping out the trolls!

I don't know exactly when I started reading your blog, or how I ran across it, but it has become a highlight of my day. I enjoy reading the comments as well.

Though I do have a small group on Facebook, reading the unmoderated comments on the articles that come through the newsfeed does not restore my faith in humanity.

I will be very sad if nytimes ever gives up the comments section; I love getting my comments published! ("Those who can't do, comment" nytimes, Feb. 13 2012)

Nice; thank you.

Classof65 and others...
When a commenter has or blog or, rather, if a commenter wants a link to their clog, they enter the URL in the comment form and their name becomes a link to their blog.

Most days - especially "Crabby" days (!), I'm here twice. First to read and enjoy (and learn), and then back a second time to read all the great, thoughtful comments.

Thanks, Ronni!

Oh my goodness, Ronni. In my apparent naivete, I have always thought that TGB was just inherently civil and well-written. I had no idea you were working so hard to keep out trolls and defamatory comments and those horrible ads that sometimes crop up on other comment sections. I still do and will continue to believe that TGB has the best, most thoughtful, most intelligent and most skilled writers in the entire blog world. It is my community---a place to go to find not only like-minded people, but people whose minds I like. -Meg

Maybe it's the Fox News syndrome - keep everybody stirred up and angry.

I think it will calm down eventually. The haters are just having fun with their new toy - the internet. And they're loving the power it gives them.

I have unhappily discovered that I now have two comment threads going in relation to my blog. There's the regular one on my blog which is usually pretty quiet -- and there are my other friends/acquaintances who insist on commenting on Facebook where the blog automatically posts. I appreciate the latter, even though I hate Facebook.

Some enormous percentage of us -- Pew says about 30 percent -- get news from Facebook. Since all I see on Facebook is a succession of unrelated tidbits, mostly personal or inconsequential, how can that be? Do other people have a way to get FB to show them more significant items? The platform mystifies me and I can't seen any reason for its popularity.

Thank you so much for letting me know how to link to the blogs written by some of commenters -- I feel rather like a dummy that I hadn't figured it out on my own and I do appreciate your personal reply.

So many of the blogs I visit have "dropped out" over the years, but I always know that I can count on your blog to be here. I hope you get as much enjoyment in providing it as the many of us do in reading it!

What everyone else said :)

I love it here... it's a place, the Ronni Real Estate, and I feel like a welcomed guest.

Comments take time; just another reason I admire you <3
a/b

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