Ideas Of March: Don’t Read The Comments

It’s that time of year again, time for an “Ideas of March” post (you can read more about this initiative on Chris Shiflett’s blog). Most years many bloggers pledge to write more often, start or restart their blogs, and generally embrace the idea that some thoughts are worth more than 140 characters. Chris himself wrote this year about the demise of google reader, and about blogging as a way of curating and retaining ownership of your ideas, which I thought was an excellent point to make.

I won’t pledge to blog more, my posts-per-year rate is now only in double digits rather than the triple digits that I managed for a few years, but I still consider this blog to be very much on the side of quantity rather than quality. There are two reasons for that. One is that I often come across small snippets that I don’t want to lose, so I blog them – that was the origin of this site and I’ll always use it for that. The other reason is that people with opinions seem to mostly have a hard time on the internet. This blog has an “opinion” tag, almost as an apology for having an actual thought that someone might disagree with. If there’s one thing the internet is good at, it’s disagreements!

On my technical posts, comments are almost always enhancements. But those well-thought out, carefully-written posts where people air their own take on difficult ideas? The comments are enough to make us all ashamed. So on an opinion piece, I don’t read the comments (the women in tech mailing lists taught me this, and it has saved a lot of wasted energy on people who are wrong on the internet!). I don’t read hacker news, slashdot or reddit, because I can’t bear the negativity. Everyone’s a critic, if you’ve got an opinion, write your own piece in a constructive way rather than picking holes in someone else’s.

This tendency to be glib and dismissive in the comments does none of us any good. It stops us from sharing ideas, which is really what the internet is for! I have not written my thoughts on a whole range of topics – including my own progress into being a community elder, how I felt about using blind selection on a CfP last year, what I really think about diversity in technology (it probably isn’t what you expect), why describing someone as a REST “enthusiast” isn’t a compliment – because while I would like to express my ideas, I know I’ll attract very negative attention. On my own site, I can control the publicy-visible comments, but will still have to read and deal with the comments that will never be published.

My challenge to you, and to me, for this year’s Ideas of March is to share your ideas, and don’t get drawn into the firestorm. Squabbling on the internet undermines us all, when you’re reading a comment thread where the standard of conversation is dropping, just close the tab and move on. My pledge is to blog more thoughtfully, between the storm of “how to fix problem X” and “I’m speaking at event Y” posts, and to share my ideas, maybe with the comments disabled. Will you share yours in return?

Comments are closed.