Is Tobold too popular to be good?

| Monday, February 22, 2010
[edit] This was originally scheduled to go up in a week or two. I messed up the posting date due to a lack of February 29th, so it ended up posting right now. Then. Somehow Tobold got it during that 5 minute window and made a post about it. I'm afraid this will end up looking a bit too much like a war, so I want to reiterate: I enjoy reading his blog, comments or not; he's a good writer.

Supposedly blogs are about conversation. Not normal conversation with constant back and forth as we'd have in real life or text chat or whatever else. But an exchange. Someone says something and someone else responds. And they do so in a manner that encourages response.

Blogger posts, commenter reply, more commenter reply to the comments and to the post. It's like a snowball of words. Sometimes the snowball gets too big, rolls away, and crushes a mountain village. This seems to happen often on big blogs. That's the first thing hurting Tobold.

Then there are the trolls. They are drawn to giant snowballs as a mosquito to your breath. And spammers. And so Tobold has added comment moderation. It goes downhill from there.

I don't mean to criticize him. His posts are good and I enjoy reading them. But I have a hard to commenting. It's a terrible mockery of a response and conversation when it is delayed by hours, and then published along with a dozen other comments that say more or less the same thing. It's hard to advance a discussion when you don't know what has already been said, until it's been said ten different ways ten times.

The terrible irony is that it takes a decent-sized crowd to make a discussion. If a post has two comments, they're probably both responding to the blogger and maybe he'll respond, but at best you can some back and forth. You need the crowd to get a discussion going. But when there's too much crowd and even worse the blog becomes so well-known that it attracts not only those who care, but also the trolls, then it becomes tempting to moderate comments, and then it dies.

Not so long ago Tobold put out a vote: Moderated comments or none at all. I was a bit apathetic. None at all makes it just him stating opinions into the void and what can we respond with: emails or our own blog posts. Emails easily vanish as a response is likely to be a reply email; only a few will be worth a post response. Other bloggers can make posts to respond but, pardon the egocentrism here, I can hardly afford to start losing posting days just to respond unless it's going to be a full topic all to itself.

No matter how great a post is, it is missing something if you can't say anything about it. It's some weird human flaw that we can enjoy few things in isolation. We want to share and discuss and disagree and argue. We post comments and we find others to talk to. I'm sure I'm not alone in living in a world in which people aren't really interested in talking about some MMO blogger's latest post. That leaves the blogosphere. With no comments we're left with only our own blogs. Or for some, nothing at all. With no comments, everyone else is silenced and the whole experience is weakened.

In the end only one person is left with the ability to respond fluidly: Tobold. He can stick his replies up right after he puts out the non-troll posts. That makes it all rather one-sided. He sets the topic, decides what responses are acceptable, and is the only person who can respond effectively. I'm sounding rather harsh, and I know how he'd respond, as he has many times: It's his blog. That's quite true. But what is a blog without commenters? It's quiet and even more lonely than usual. Early on when I had few comments, it was a little sad. Even still, when a post has no comments I start to wonder, does anyone care?

I'm bad at wrapping up topics, so be distracted by this instead: MC Frontalot - Indier than thou


Gronthe said...

It's a tough call. When you have so many commenters it could easily get out of control, i.e. your snowball theory. Should a blogger let the snowball get big for the sake of conversation or will that ruin all good conversation?

Personally I don't care one way or another. I'm glad I'm not in a position to make that call. But I can understand both points of view and think that both arguments have compelling reasons.

I'm not a fan of extremes either way. What a blogger could do is allow people to comment then go in and delete the stupid troll comments as he/she sees fit.

LarĂ­sa said...

Well... considering the amount of spam I get, having a blog with a third of the size of Tobold's, I can imagine what a nightmare it must be to keep up with it. I really don't blame him for putting up the only defense that Blogger provides against this.

I still judge that I can manage without moderation on beforehand, but still it's growing a bit out of my hands. I keep missing to delete spam and I just hate to know that people who go back reading old posts with commentaries have to put up with that garbage.

Well, all in all, I too love Tobold and I can't see that he has any alternative than to moderate the comments. Unless he wants to change to wowpress which has filters, but I don't expect him to want to go through that hassle. I certainly wouldn't.

Tobold said...

My main reason for comment moderation is not feeling hurt (some people tend to read too much into my actions), but the fact that trolling tends to completely derail threads. Most famous example: The Eurogamer review of Darkfall. Instead of arguing against what was written in the review, the people who disagreed produced some (still disputed) numbers of the reviewer having played the game only two hours. Then everybody jumped on that bandwagon, and all the discussion was about how many hours a game has to be played for a valid review. The arguments of the reviewer himself, some of which were totally valid, never got discussed at all.

And I get the same sort of comments all the time. Even with statements that are obviously true, e.g. "WoW has more subscribers than WAR", somebody will start the argument that I can't count the Chinese subscribers to WoW, in spite of that being completely irrelevant to the discussion. Or I get "you are badly informed" comments, without saying what was wrong, or offering proof to the contrary.

The malicious thing is that comments like that lead the next poster to rather comment on what the troll said, and not on the original post. So even if I'd moderate "after the fact", with some hours delay, the thread would already have been completely derailed. I'd need to delete half of the comments to get back on topic, not just the troll.

Tobold said...

And damn, now I forgot to tell you what a moron you are, how you are completely wrong with everything you said, and how somebody who doesn't know that 2010 isn't a leap year shouldn't go spreading his inferior intellect all over the internet! ;)

Klepsacovic said...

@Gronthe: That's what I do, but I've not yet had to delete any trolls. I'm grateful for that.

@Larisa: Wordpress? I think you've got wow on the brain. :)

@Tobold: You're right, a single troll can destroy everything. I wonder though, if left to their own, could people learn to ignore them? Commenters can really only derail themselves, there's no rule that they have to feed the troll.

Oh, and comment DELETED!

Stabs said...

Props for Tobold for picking up the ball and running with it.

Cat said...

Why d'de trolls get de bad name mon, we be de serious't of de races.

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