Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Open wide!

First, let me apologise. For the delay. For any inconvenience caused. You see, your comment is important to us. Please hold.

If you're human please press 'comment' and then carefully type your words of wisdom in the box provided. Now squint at the screen in an attempt to decipher the random lines and scrolls and curlicues before typing them in with your thumb. Then press 'publish'.

Now find an open space and scream. Loudly.

I've written about the decline in comments before. I've no desire to repeat myself but I do feel the need to explain why - if you've been trying to leave a comment recently - it might have been a little tricky. (Or bloody hard, or a challenge of Gordian-level complexity.)

But it's not my fault. Well, not entirely.

You see, I've been plagued by comments, inundated by them, overwhelmed both by their volume and their frequency. They've been occupying me, entertaining me, frustrating me and, well, baffling me for months, ever since I reverted to the in-house Blogger comment system. It's as is Boris Johnson has been spamming me several dozen times daily with flights of flowery fancy freely flowing from whatever key words I've been using, randomly held together by odd conjunctions and peppered with inappropriate adjectives.

I mean, here's just one that arrived this morning, ostesibly from a florist in Richmond:

'your passport are renewal . missing your possport so you found a new passport.'

That was in response to (guess what?) my post about my missing passport. No link; no attempt to hijack traffic or to lead people astray. Just a random (and barely literate) attempt to re-use my words in the guise of a comment.

Comments in general (or genuine ones, that is) seem to have become a rather scarce commodity recently. (Or is that just me?) From my own point of view, it's easily explained. Increasingly I read blog posts on my phone, whether through Google Reader or links on Twitter. And it's almost impossible to leave a comment from a smartphone, especially if the host has turned on the dreaded WV (or word verification - an updated version of mediaeval trial by ordeal).

Which brings me to the apology. You see, I have. And I know how difficult that makes leaving so much as a 'here, here' or a 'no way', let alone a full-blown, thoughtful and clearly articulated response to anything I've written. And for that, I'm truly sorry. No really I am. Because I like comments - both in the giving and receiving, thereof. And I don't want to stand in anyone's way.

Of course, comments aren't always benign. Someone in The Telegraph even wrote the other day that comments are 'the radioactive waste of the web'. Although I wouldn't go that far I've had my share of vitriol in the past. Whether they're on blogs or twitter, comments can be upsetting. Only last month Helen Skelton (yes, she of the Marilyn moment in yesterday's Olympic parade) left twitter because she could no longer cope with negative comments.

But for my part I'm going to open the flood gates, turn off the dreaded WV and let everyone have their say. It's not as if what the bots write is difficult to delete, after all. So no longer will the tail of protection wag the dog of interaction. It's time to roll the comment bandwagon, smash the chains of moderation and extend the arms of a great big cyber welcome to everyone - even Boris and the dreaded spam-bots.

Open wide!

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