commenter’s remorse

Posted on September 5, 2007


Einstein Etch-a-SketchMost people’s first introduction to writing for blogs is commenting on other people’s blogs; it’s a gateway drug for sure! Some, in fact, develop more of a reputation as commenters than they do as bloggers, and if your wit and wisdom is expressed best in two-to-three sentence bursts, that’s probably right and good. But if you want to move on and promote yourself to “real blogger” you can’t wait for the Blue Fairy to wave a wand; you have to move on.

And how, you cry, can you move on when you’ve left all these comments everywhere that document your:

  • crush on Wilmer Valderrama
  • momentary flirtation with the Conservative Party
  • fondness for mimes
  • strangely comprehensive knowledge of the engineering specs of the Starship Enterprise
  • appearance at the dorm party costumed as “Captain Matey!”
  • etc, etc


  • You just move the hell on.

If that sounds harsh, it’s because the public sphere is a harsh place, where each of us is always in the spotlight. Meatspace has nothing as Panopticon-like as the blogosphere, so be sure, before you put keyboard to pixels, that you mean what you say, that you’re willing to stand by it, and that you are not commenting under the influence of ego, drugs, or vengence. If you do, it will bite you in the ass every. single. time.

There’s quite a debate in the forums right now about allowing people to edit their comments; I oppose this, because if we allow the editing of comments we are cheapening those original statements. By taking the permanence away, we are enabling and encouraging thoughtlessness in comments, and allowing people to take back that which has already been made public, which is the way to madness. Can you imagine how livid they’ll be when they find out GoogleCache still has their original remarks? How injust they will feel that to be? And, really, why would you use the most powerful communication device in the history of civilization to put remarks on the record if you didn’t want to stand by them?

More importantly, it disallows the tracking of personal growth and the development of conversation. You haven’t been online long if you haven’t said something you later regret, and surely the best way to indicate that is to step up and apologize, right there in the comments where you put the original statement. If you just edit it, the blogger and readers can definitely get the sense that, rather than expressing remorse and giving evidence of personal growth, you’re doing retroactive damage control: quite a different perspective. Conversations can deepen when flaws are admitted and apologized for, and over and over I have seen people who began as simple antagonists evolve into friends.

Boles has gone into the social implications in some depth over at Urban Semiotic, so click over and give this (and your comments) some thought.

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