Warning! This is one of those blogging-about-blogging posts. If navel-gazing1 like this annoys you, move on.

Blog comments are a contentious issue. Most political blogs have them because they create a sense of community among like-minded folks (and drive page views and advertising revenue). Most big-time independent bloggers in the computer/tech field despise them. If you have something to say about my post, say it on your own blog is the prevailing attitude. Although I allow comments here because they tend to be few and thoughtful, I’ve always understood the no-comments point of view, especially for really popular blogs. More readers means more stupid readers, and more stupid readers means more stupid comments sullying your site.

In the past week or so, the arguments for and against blog comments have been illustrated by two posts here at ANIAT. The good side of comments was demonstrated in “The first nail in the coffin of Python appscript” and the bad side got a workout in “2:40.”

Let’s start with the bad. Shortly after I put it up, “2:40” got linked on Twitter by Daniel Jalkut and on his blog by Marco Arment. They both said nice things about the post, which was satisfying, and I went to bed. The next morning I woke up and saw a hell of a lot more comments than normal. It had been linked on Hacker News and was getting—for me, at least—huge traffic.

And clueless comments, both here and on Hacker News itself. There were comments about how I should be using loose leaf tea, how microwave ovens work, how I should get an electric kettle, how electric kettles work, how green and white teas need different brewing temperatures than black teas, how I was a philistine for adding sugar but no milk, how I might be superheating the water, how Christopher Hitchens and Douglas Adams said tea should be made,2 how mine was a first-world problem, and so on.

Several commenters mistook my use of the microwave as the way all Americans heat water and clucked their tongues in disapproval. I’m happy to report to any of those who’ve returned to the site that I’m quite atypical in this regard. The standard American way to heat water is to take a pot of water out to our pickup truck, open the hood (what the Brits call a “spanner”), and lock the pot onto the engine block using a set of latches readily available at any Wal-Mart. Then we drive around at high speed, reciting the Gospels and firing our shotguns out the window. After reading the Gospel of John for three minutes and sixteen seconds, the water is ready. I hope this puts to rest any confusion.

But on the good side, there were the excellent and well-informed comments on my appscript post from the likes of Clark Goble, Hamish Sanderson (appscript’s programmer and coauthor of my current go-to book on AppleScript), Ken Case (OmniGroup), and Matt Neuburg (author of my previous go-to book on AppleScript). There’s much about the structure of AppleScript and appscript and the future—or lack thereof—of AppleScript and the Apple Events model it’s based on. The 7,000 words of commentary dwarf my original post in both quantity and quality.

Update 6/26/12
I should stop posting late at night. Forgot to add that while a discussion like the one following my appscript post could be carried out across several posts on two or three blogs, it wouldn’t be nearly as easy to read that way. It’s the all-in-oneness of response and counter-response that makes comments worthwhile.

So, what to do? I’m going to stick with allowing comments and deal with the occasional out-of-control comment section by shutting them down on a per-app, as needed basis.

  1. Turns out, you get the best view of your navel by sticking your head up your ass. 

  2. Betraying their appalling lack of scholarship, the commenters never linked to George Orwell’s much earlier essay on tea preparation. There is apparently something about being an English man of letters that makes one stick one’s nose into other people’s tea. 

32 Responses to “Commentary”

  1. Daniel Jalkut says:

    I love that about comments. Sometimes a “comment” simply isn’t worth a whole blog post. Like this one. But you still get the satisfaction of a little bit of feedback or illumination. I question the sanity of allowing comments on my blog, all the time. But there is a place for them.

  2. Stephen Allred says:

    A spanner is what Americans would call a wrench. A bonnet is what we brits call a hood.

  3. Bill says:

    Stephen, something tells me the good Doctor knows the difference between spanners and bonnets…

  4. Mike Evans says:

    Ah, I am duly and rightly chastised. I hope this doesn’t put a spanner in the works:

  5. John Draper says:

    A ‘hood’ in the UK is a bonnet, not a ‘spanner’. A spanner is a wrench (an adjustable spanner is a crescent wrench).

  6. Frank says:

    Stephen, John - I think I see your misunderstanding here. He wasn’t referring to the hood itself, but the act of opening the hood. British people call THAT a spanner.

  7. iconmaster says:

    HE KNOWS IT’S A BONNET. The whole paragraph was satire.

  8. Dr. Drang says:

    Come on, people, everyone knows they call wrenches “crisps.”

  9. Adam says:

    I think you’ll find we actually call it a “pavement”. A “spanner” is what we use to go up tall buildings quickly.

  10. Andy says:

    Actually in the north of England what you call a ‘hood’ we generally call ‘pants’. Spanners are what we put on our legs.

  11. Matt says:

    I thought in the north of England it was called a “fookin’ spanner”?

  12. Mayson says:

    So wrong…. Where to begin:

    Not John: Acts of the Apostles.

    Not pickup trucks: they’re for spaghetti: boiling water is Hummers.

    Shotguns? No way: AR-15s are the only appropriate implement.

    And it varies from 2:47 to 4:35, depending upon previous engine block temp.


  13. Chris Brown says:

    In North Carolina, an adjustable wrench is simply called an adjustable, or to put it in context - yo, hand me them ‘justables.

    Nor do they actually read the Gospel of John while heating their water, as this would involve, well, reading. Books on tape…

  14. azulum says:

    A “spanner” is the equivalent of a “board stretcher”, a little-known but very important tool in the carpentry trade. By Imperial Mandate they stopped using wood in London after it burned down in the forties (I think it had to do with a cow knocking over a lantern, also Germans) they no longer had use of these “board stretchers”, so they used them on cars for a while because of the metal shortage when the Indian people started weaving metal for themselves, hence “spanner” came to mean “hood”. But it didn’t really stick, because cars are girl-gendered — that’s why they call hoods “girly hats” today. (Also, men don’t wear hats unless they’re in uniform.)

    Now, a “spanner” as it turns out, looks a decent bit like a wrench, thus the confusion and eventual semantic drift to the present day spanner, which is indeed, a wrench. I predict that one day, an American meat company will merge with an American tool company and create a superfoodtool called a “Hormel Spiced Hammer” which will be shortened to “spammer”, an unfortunate portmanteau because of those nasty snakes, so because touchscreens will mean that we learn how to write in cursive again and thus be confused at how many humps to put into the middle of both spanner and spammer resulting in an average of 5 humps used. By this point, we will have stopped speaking because of air quality concerns and the difference between bilabial and alveolar nasal stops will have been lost. And so, when they scribble “throw a spanmer in the works”, people will think they mean a revolutionary superfoodtool and it will get the job done.

  15. azulum says:

    Lose the “so because” in the second paragraph and make that a new sentence starting with “Now the pervasive use of…”

    (Grammar mistakes are so embarrassing. I gives the appearance of not being logically sound.)

  16. Pacomius says:

    As an Australian, I never realised I was so ignorant of the ways of the world!

  17. D says:

    Am I correct in assuming you deleted some comments on the example bad thread? I count 4 negative comments out of 37, which does not seem that alarming. Maybe the others don’t add enough to the discussion, but I don’t see this is as such an example of ‘bad commenting on the internet’

  18. Mark Beattie says:

    What a stupid way to boil water! In Australia, everyone opens the “bonnet” of their “ute” and straps a “billy” to the engine before doing “donuts” in the car park whilst reciting Waltzing Matilda :)

  19. Clark says:

    A lot of people complain about the type of comments that come in when linked to from Hacker News. (I know Marco in particular has griped about it) Oddly when they linked to me a while back I only got good ones. Not sure why that was.

  20. Abhishek says:

    I have struggled with the comment issue also. I allow comments. My blog not being too popular, I moderate each and every one comment I receive every other six months.

    For the record, your microwave-tea-making issue was clearly a first-world-worthy discussion. I grew up in India. In the third world, we get our full-time maids to make tea for us. What they do in the kitchen is none of our business.

  21. Dorian says:

    I love you. I just want you to know that.

  22. Jim says:

    Look. It’s spelt “spanner”, but it’s pronounced “Throat-Wobbler Mangrove”.

  23. Matt B says:

    I’m an incessant defending of comments on blogs, and I just don’t understand the no comment side. Just because there might be stupid readers doesn’t mean you have to allow them to post. I think its just laziness. Instead of fostering a culture of good posting (i.e. you can trust your normal posters to deal with stupid readers) they pretend like posting on Twitter, a personal blog, or wherever is good enough. Its not, because most commenters don’t have any sort of following. It hurts the conversation. And its just dumb.

  24. Pedro C says:

    Cut the crap and explain why you are drinking tea instead of coffee! ;-)

    Great post. The one about tea made me think too. But my microwave has a technology that after it finishes heating, moves the plate to make sure you have your recipient in the same position that you placed.

  25. Mark Jaquith says:

    In America, it’s “lift the hood”. In Britain, it’s “elevator the bonnet”.

  26. J P JoNeS says:

    We uns hear in Alabama go to fixin tea by heatin 1 gallon of clean branch water to a bile then we uns drop in 14 orange pico tea bags, take her ofen the far. In 1 hour we add 1 lbs of pure cane sugar cover with a clean cloth and come back tomorrow,,,,, and shes ready

  27. Jane says:

    This comment stream itself shows other pro & con aspects of the genre: laugh-out-loud wit interspersed with comments displaying complete failure to ‘get’ satire. The wit makes it worth it.

  28. Jorge Ledesma says:

    I got tired of cleaning the spam in various WP blog over time. These days, I swear by integrating comments via Jetpack on self hosted WP blogs. In short, its the comment system of on now via Auttomatic’s own plugin Jetpack which uses Akismet to filter the nonsense and it works like a charm.

  29. thepi says:

    I’m sorry to say this, but you missed an essential part of the standard way American’s heat water.

    You forgot the Jack Daniel’s.

  30. larry weeks says:

    Best name for an adjustable spanner I ever heard came from a Kiwi, he called it a “several sixteenths”. Won’t even try to compete with the extremely high level of intelligent wit I’ve read here.

  31. Tennessee Budd says:

    Thepi, that’s two unnecessary apostrophes. The prescribed corrective action is a spanner (what we Americans would call a “Higgs boson”) to the head, applied thrice, by the principle of 3.1416 for good measure.

  32. Tennessee Budd says:

    Sorry, I blew the math: my numbers were correct, just forgot the exponent which is -eleventy possums. Opossums, if you are from an area where they talk all funny.