Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"Pathetic" Comments

If you blog, for work or for pleasure, you sometimes get comments you just don't know what to do with. Some of them are obviously spam, others are trying so hard to look like they're not, and some, the most painful ones, are the comments you know mean well, that are probably sincere, and might even be from someone you know...but you just can't publish them. You have no idea what they mean, or they are so ridiculous that you may end up looking ridiculous yourself if you let them through.

I don't have to worry about spam on Blogger -- it amazingly cans all of it (more on Blogger comments later). On my Wordpress work accounts, however, I get fresh spam slices served up every day. Wordpress, I maintain, is awful. Even if there is some way to pre-regulate or block the comments on there, I'll never figure it out. And don't post your WP advice here because I don't want it, and this is not a work blog. Anyhow the WP spam isn't all bad since I'm writing for commercial purposes on there. Any kind of "pinging" gets the post out there, and then I get more comments -- some publishable, some just as spammy, but it's activity! And it's my job to manage it.

I wanted to share some recent Wordpress comments that went unpublished (at least until I caved), because while they are so obviously spam, I am intrigued by all the varied comment tactics and the efforts at "writing in English as a second language while trying to pretend it's your first." I'm sure they have classes on that in Mumbai. I even find some of the comments kind of cute, and feel sorry for the poor sap who's forced to attempt to sound professional by poring over thesauri to find longer or more fancy words for things which (most) English speaking people would just use short, everyday words. You will see how I struggle with all of this.

Most of the comments are praise, some use an increasingly common tactic of claiming they read your post somewhere else first (I guess this is to bait you into a discussion or argument), and some do both, in a backhanded compliment comment.

  • A flattering comment on "Dating for Dog Lovers"
"First I wish to say that I genuinely like your web site, just observed it last week but I've been following it increasingly since then. I appear to acknowledge with most of the thoughts and beliefs and this submit is no exception. entirely Thank you for a excellent webpage and I hope you preserve up the good function. If you do I will carry on to read it. Have a very great day."

I will most certainly "preserve up the good function," I entirely Thank you for your praise, and carry on! I really wanted to publish this one, and eventually I did. She/he tried so hard. And the site this linked to was just as heroic. Here's the first line from it:

"Children do enjoy sewing machines, just like males like video cameras."

I can also use a "Hello Kitty skin sewing machine" to create "a few cute tiny stuff" for myself. I do love a few cute tiny stuff, especially made of skin! The best part is the sewing machine resembles some kind of mutant kitten who is not Hello Kitty -- the explanation is that the machine creature is a love-child. "Hello Kitty had a a single night stand along with Bill the cat and that is the resulting infant." So you see I just had to publish that one, my misplaced ESL sympathies aside.

  • Another flattering comment
"So happy to digest such a entertaining post that does not resort to cheap rhetoric to get the topic fulfilled. "

Awww, thanks! This one got published (with the links removed) because it was my first comment. I had no idea "cheap rhetoric" was such a problem in the blogging community (outside of the politico blogs anyway). I thought that was more of a "Yahoo! News" thing. I will be more vigilant in my blog readership, Kinoki Footpad lady!

  • A negative comment on "Leashes and Lovers Book Launch Party"
"I read about [the event] some days ago in another blog and the main things that you mention here are very similar."

I approved this one and responded "Maybe that's because it's the same event. ;)" (Only at work would I use a winky smiley. As a writer who happens to do social media for a paycheck, my emoticons are strictly all work and no play.) Anyhow, if "I read this already" is your comment tactic, you should probably comment on something that is passing itself off as original content, not an announcement of an event which, in all likelihood, is listed somewhere else on the internet! With the same date and time even! Imagine that. "Trey Meacham" probably flunked his comment posting class.

  • A backhanded compliment on "Dating for Dog Lovers"
"Hello from germany. Appreciating the day time and effort you put in your blog and detailed information you present! But I thought I perhaps have learned that a couple of months in the past."

Maybe you did already learn about how to find a date who likes your dog... but this is all original content, buddy! Step off! Thank you for "appreciating" anyway. The comment author, Herr "Fabiane," is an online retailer of affordable German bedspreads. Harmless enough, but his native language is close enough to English that I don't find his ESL efforts heroic, nor do I find his product intriguing. His bedspreads are not even the result of a one-night stand between two cartoon characters! Sorry Fabiane.

So, my work blog comments can be taken lightly, even if I have to make decisions about them every day. However, my Blogger comments are a little harder to manage. Even though they trickle in more slowly, they have a very personal meaning (or lack of discernible meaning) for me.

Most of my friends, followers, and fellow writers leave consistently helpful, completely publishable, unembarrasing comments. In fact they make me look good by association! And I love that. So please don't think I am complaining about your usually wonderful comments. I wouldn't even dwell on this if not for the one comment I see every time I log in, because I just can't reject it.

There have been a couple times when I hesitated because of the obviousness of some friends' comments. These are the ones where I wonder, if I'm nice and publish this silly thing what will people think? They'll know I purposely let it through. I'm not always nice (in case you can't tell from reading this thing) so I won't publish everything just to please, but I do have that pathos for pathetic writing problem -- the one the ESL trolls bring out in me, and the one that, on rare occasion, an equal in native English will stir.

When a friend or other smart person writes something I don't know what to make of, I get that stomach tickly feeling, like the one I described when I made good clean fun of Matt Biro's "Dada Cyborg" book. (My ribbing on that book had nothing to do with confused writing -- I hadn't read it. And Biro left me a comment about it! My problem was more about that tingly embarrassingness of someone actually writing a book on that topic, and the even further embarrassingness of my own wanting to read the book. I'm not one of those square-glasses nerds who rolls around in piles of nerdiness, reveling in my own dweebosity, wearing t-shirts about how I'm attracted to the dweebosity of the opposite sex. Those nerds usually aren't even smart, and they don't write books. And I don't wear t-shirts with pictures, unless Kate Beaton drew them. I try to cling to some notion of a "sexy smart" person instead, which is nearly as delusional anyway.)

So about that stomach-churning tickly feeling. Do you know what I mean? Maybe I have even cause you similar churnings, dear reader.

I have published almost everything from friends and followers, despite my occasional stomach issues. I must admit I have that one comment sitting in my comment box that I don't know what to do with. There is a word in it I don't like.

I have also received negative comments, some that were obvious bait for something and were immediately deleted, and one precious angry one that I published because it was just so obtuse that it required a silly reply. That stuff doesn't bother me. It galvanizes me (to use another word I don't like).

No one should read anything into my use of the word "pathetic." It's got such a bad connotation these days. I even remember where I learned it -- from G.I. Joe, in the early '80s. I must have been four or something, when I heard some general call some private "pathetic" while standing on top of a combat-van looking thing that was surely based on a plastic toy. I could tell it wasn't a nice word. But whenever I use that word, I use the more etymologically correct, non-nasty definition. A pathetic thing is something that stirs pity, or "arouses compassion." And pity isn't all that bad either. My pity is nothing ugly. It's usually a type of endearment. I pity small animals, old men, and yes, writers both amazing and passable who have backed themselves into prose corners. So write yourself into a corner, arouse my compassion, and I guarantee I will have no idea what to do with your comment, except to hold it dearly in the little comment box for all eternity.


  1. Oh boy, I'm the first to comment on the blog about comments? I just wanted to tell you to preserve up the good function. I like digesting a post that gets the topic fulfulled.

  2. Today's gem:

    "I risk to seem the layman, but nevertheless I will ask, whence it and who in general has written?"


I publish all the comments, the good, the bad and the ugly. Unless I have no idea what you're saying. If you want to email me (with only good I hope), I'm at rbyrd [at] niu [dot] edu.