Tech Life Fake news is not the problem

The Likeability Feedback Loop

For years, the numbers of comments on articles here have decreased. Comment-worthy articles from five years ago would get dozens and sometimes hundreds of comments. Similarly trafficked articles from the past few years get a handful.

It is not without pain, but I believe open comments are part of the deal with running a weblog. If you’re taking the time to write down your thoughts and put them in a public place, you provide a safe place for others to agree or disagree otherwise it’s just you… thinking publicly.

It’s no secret that traffic to weblogs is way down. Kottke wrote back in 2013 that “sometime in the past few years, the blog died.” Those eyeballs still wander the Internet, but they’re spending their time on social services whose initial allure was, “People you like are here. Follow them and see what they like. Because you like them, you will like what they like.”

This likeability feedback loop tastes great. Who doesn’t want a steady flow of relevant, interesting, and targeted information? Who doesn’t want the world synthesized and simplified into a palatable set of information that one can easily consume in just a few moments? And who doesn’t like the simple satisfaction of sharing or retweeting that likable and relatable piece of information that just speaks to me.

The likeability feedback loop feeds on itself. It uses its signal to prioritize and resend what resonates and what does not. It is good business to do this well because the more we find what we search for, the more likely we will return. The business often does not care if we’re more or less informed, it monetizes that we come back as many times as possible.

Some of my lowest points with this weblog are a result of critical comments. They were comments saying how I was uninformed, biased, or just plain lazy. My brain does what many brains do when receiving critical feedback.

  • I rage, “Jerks.”
  • I rationalize, “They don’t understand me.”
  • But then, after years of practice, I think, “Why does this feedback sting? What does this teach? And how can I learn?”

After years of raging and rationalizing, I understand feedback is the means to improve critical thinking. Feedback leads to understanding the strategic value of considering as many points of view as possible, especially from people you do not like.

Social media gleefully feeds a post-truth society and it does so by design, but social media is not the problem. Fake news is not the problem. The problem is we the people taking the time to think critically.

Comments are open here because I know that while it is my great joy to understand and write about a few select topics deeply, what will make these topics honest and true is if you tell me what you think.

I would love to hear your comments.

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60 Responses

  1. Dan Wilson 2 weeks ago

    Too long, didn’t read.

    Back to reading about more important matters than Truth and Improvement. Did you hear Kanye posted something?

  2. Margaret Leber 2 weeks ago

    I think one of the biggest friction points on blog commenting is the number of blogging systems that want to suck you into a social network maw of membership and spam by insisting you create an identity account before allowing a comment…unlike this one.

    WordPress, Medium and Quora are prominent examples.

  3. I always thought of personal blogs like little backdoors into my head. For most, those doors are shut, and perhaps the lights are turned off because nobody is home. They are out – maybe working, but most likely engaging in what Americans do best, consumption. This is browsing Facebook, mindlessly sharing or tweeting, and other passive activities. Just like consumption of a product, throwing yourself into this streams gives you this feeling of actively participating in something. I don’t know if it’s more akin to a temporary high, or just a faux foot rub. It feels good to engage in social media and have others comment or “like” because in that act, I’m subtly making a statement about my beliefs or values. I don’t have to do any work.

    When you write on your blog, you open up a little door, and you turn on the light. You invite others in to sit down. It’s much more uncomfortable, because the other person is engaging you directly – sitting across from you, and looking in the eye. This makes them more accountable, and it’s harder than just clicking into a stream and swimming away. To be fair, I would say that many fish do stop by your door, but they look inside and keep swimming. These fish value your words, and are perhaps thoughtful fish, but they don’t wish to chatter. I’ve been one of those fish, reading your thoughts for years, but never participated in the discussion. The fish that choose to engage you are a smaller sample of the quiet fish. Perhaps even the engaging fish are a sample of those that want to engage you, whether that be to make you feel good, or something else.

    There are producers, and there are consumers. If you take the time to write down your thoughts, regularly over time, you are producing a beautiful digital story that can be appreciated for as long as the digital bits endure somewhere. The mistake that the consumers make is mistaking a mindless consumption of an idea as this same kind of personal assertion. Perhaps this assertion could feel real for a transient second at the onset of the click, but it doesn’t maintain the same level of oomph and statement as a written down thought. Perhaps the providers that allow them to make this mistake want this? Whatever the incentives driving this change, it’s easy to see, as you point out, that the way that we consume, and think about what we consume, is changing. It probably looks different depending on the generation of the person, and what kind of tool they prefer to do that consumption. It sounds like you are wondering if there is anything that you can, or should, proactively do to change those incentives. Would your house be more appealing if you uprooted it and put it in a bigger stream? Should you send notices to the fish that you want them to visit? Should a different method of interaction be promoted over writing? I don’t have answers to these questions, but in that the act of writing our thoughts down is cathartic, and in that the definition of impact is rather personal, I do hope that you continue to write. I personally believe that if something that I write or share changes the mindset of one person, whether that be an opinion or emotion, it’s had an important impact, and that makes me feel good. And maybe at some point, an epiphany will be reached by the “click and share” cohort that they are left feeling empty. On that day, I suppose, they might start a blog, or whatever might be the modern equivalent.

  4. Cameron Stewart 2 weeks ago

    Timely and appreciated. I was just raging against this “post-truth” like and forward (but don’t think critically about it) mentality yesterday.

    On the other hand, blogs have a huge disadvantage vs. Facebook and the like. Social platforms provide some pretty powerful marketing tools to authors. I draw a comparison between hackers vs. script kiddies and blogs/authors vs. social media denizens.

    It’s not hard to get your friends to like something you post. It’s not hard for a message to propagate in an echo chamber.

    Writing a blog is Doing It Yourself and success looks different; it’s not as apparent or easily measured.

  5. NickV 2 weeks ago

    Please keep blogging… I don’t normally comment because saying “+1” or “That’s interesting, I’ll have to think about / try that” seems insufficiently interesting to say.

  6. Nice informative read as always

  7. A Pearlman 2 weeks ago

    Thank you for this piece.

  8. When I write an article on my blog, I pour a lot of hours, energy and my experience into it. I am presenting my opinion and I invite critical thinking about it, but I want people to pour the same amount of effort as I did. I am happy to link to a blogpost that reacts to mine or to have a meaningful conversation with someone over email.

    Four years ago I wrote an enthusiastic article about how I am looking forward to play Diablo 3 and what is my relationship to this franchise. But someone added a comment that just said “It won’t be that good.” And like that, the comments were gone.

    It won’t probably surprise you that I follow John Gruber and other Apple personas who also despise having comments on their sites.

  9. Russ Harlan 2 weeks ago

    My Pavlovian social media activity loop : “Scan Twitter. Send shared links with provocative or “likable” headlines to Pocket. Repeat.” Little to no actual reading, zero critical thinking.—just the feels, all the feels.

    It’s like waking up every day on a cruise ship with a never ending 24-hour bottomless buffet of hot takes. I keep getting in line, though I’m not particularly hungry. But yeah, I’d better save these pastries for later, just in case.

    I quit Facebook after the election. That has helped a bit.

    I’m getting more work done, at least.

  10. Barry 2 weeks ago

    Very interesting and thoughtful post. Blogs and their protocols of comment feedback loops have been around long enough that we expect them to remain in their position in the information hierarchy. I’ve also noticed the traffic reduce and wondered what was behind that. I assumed that readers are favoring social media (a la FB). I suppose part of the motivation is that services like FB offer a central ecosystem vs, blogs.

    At some point (who knows when) I suspect the tide will shift back to independent publications like blogs when users become exhausted of advertising and intrusive manipulation of information. Remember AOL?

  11. I think things have changed greatly over the last decade. Previously, everything was rose colored. Plenty of things have happened that has changed that rose-colored view. I have always enjoyed reading and sharing your articles, and have commented sparingly in the past.

    When everything is cozy and good we can focus on improving things. But sometimes you just need to focus on surviving. Very few people are in a situation where they get to actively *think*. They are always being called to action, squeezed to within an inch of their life. I’m in a small company with essentially no full-time managers, so it was interesting to get big picture ideas on this. But, frankly, I don’t have the time to synthesize and promote something useful. None of us do. Which is why there are no full-time managers.

    I was trying to explain to a client that a legitimate reason their sale numbers weren’t as great as they were hoping is because: Things. Are. Crazy. You marketed your sale after a shock of an election, in an economy where personal expenditure consumer spending hasn’t budged. Wages have been flat. There is a lot to worry about these days.

  12. Hear hear! You’d probably be interested in https://indieweb.org/. (And maybe also https://brid.gy/ for bringing back the blog comments lost to likes, replies etc. in social silos.)

  13. Kinda meta to comment on a comment. 🙂

    1) Maybe we are ALL too busy for comments. Do the “owners” of blogs reply back to comments with regularity? Has the engagement on the “other end” also slacked? Just some food for thought.

    2) Keep writing. I still enjoy it. I still follow. I enjoy the dialogue, even though if from your side it feels one sided since there isn’t aren’t any comments coming back.

    3) As an example of a comment that is out of context for this post but about something I tried from you. I finally deleted the Slack app on my ipad. I found the noise to signal ratio off. It was too much to consume. There were also some voices that seemed to have unending amounts of time to just “create” commentary and that also put me off. When you give everyone a microphone there is a chance that you’ll “have to” listen to someone your not interested in. Became more to filter through than I wanted to. Bummer for me. And I was disappointed that Slack wasn’t anything more to me than a pretty UI on IRC.

  14. Miles Archer 2 weeks ago

    Thank you for having open comments. I don’t have much to say on this topic as I opted out of social media several years ago.

  15. Kenny 2 weeks ago

    I never would have guessed your blog had comments as your writing doesn’t seem to invite commentary. Your writing is … anodyne. I can’t remember the last post that inspired me to write anything in response.

    At least among the blogs I follow, and I admit I only use Facebook for minutes a few times a year, there are functional communities seemingly living out significant portions of their lives in the comments. So it’s certainly not dead everywhere.

  16. Commenting because I’m a subscriber to your blog via RSS. I really enjoy and value it, but since I’ve never said anything, you’ll never know (apart from the analytics). Keep posting, as I and others value your insight and challenge.

  17. Romans Fomicevs 2 weeks ago

    Dear Rands,
    I read the article (as always) and read all the comments (not that often, only when I really interested in comparing my opinion to what other think)
    I like your thoughtful approach, I do the same. I’m on this line for the 3rd time and wording is not the best still.
    I read this post from my phone. It took some 20 minutes to consume = the topic is resonating with my own observation. And I grabbed my laptop to write this comment.
    And this can sum it all perfectly well: modern society prefer to consume very small bits of information because there are too many distractions: when you read on the phone instead of being in your cave you are prepared to react on every distraction happening around. That is one part.
    Now “I grabbed my laptop” part: with the phones of the size of a pillow they are is still uncomfortable to write long posts.
    Lastly you need a cave, and that is the place where I do my reading, where I practice, and where I think.

    So please, continue blogging. Without your blog I would have never read any of your books.

  18. Erik Brown 2 weeks ago

    Another thought-provoking piece. Thank you for continuing to take the time to write and post here, on this blog.

  19. Phoebe 2 weeks ago

    Every site is different.

    As a steward of a pretty prominent website that has comments, I have to take into account the real damage that nasty, no-value-add, mean-spirited comments have on my writers, then I have to weigh that against the value of “good” comments, and then that against the frequency of both.

    I am quickly coming to the conclusion that comments do not add value to our site.

    There are many ways our readers can connect with us and give us their thoughts. I’d rather they do that on social media. At least that has the possibility of signal boosting. At least that doesn’t punch my writers in the face with garbage.

  20. Geordie Korper 2 weeks ago

    Add me to the list of people who read it on RSS and had no idea you even had comments. Also to be fair you tend to write cohesive well thought out pieces that don’t lead dangling threads for me to tug on in the comments so I never looked.

  21. Rupert 2 weeks ago

    It’s funny, I never even realised this blog had comments, as I’m only ever reading on RSS. There should be a feature for that.

    The one thing that gets me about the “social media bubble” is… didn’t we always live in a bit of a bubble? I don’t get my news from social media, I get it from RSS feeds. But I don’t find myself subscribing to sites with views I actively disagree with or interests that are far removed from my own. Similarly, people tend to buy the newspaper that lies on their side of the left/right divide.

    Certainly the difference is more obvious in social media, and fact checking is more of a problem, but is it really a different issue?

    Also since this is a web comment: *flame, flame, flame, comparison to Hitler*

  22. Mikael Jönsson 2 weeks ago

    I typically don’t comment because I’m lazy. You see, I use my morning commutes and a free to cheap news aggregator (So I’m not only lazy, in cheap too) on my mobile device to catch up on blogs. Writing this comment meant I had to:

    1. Copy article link
    2. Open Safari
    3. Paste link and load
    4. After 20 seconds I hit reload because page didn’t load (fast enough?)
    5. Fill in this field
    6. Fill in separate field for email
    7. Fill in separate field for name
    8. Press the button

    I’m sure there’s at least one more person like me out there, that follows a few well selected blogs like yours (thanks for that, both blog and book has affected me), but are just too lazy to go through the “trouble” of commenting. 😉

  23. Sye van der Veen 2 weeks ago

    I agree that the problem is that we the people, in the broadest sense, are not taking the time to think critically. But we have at our disposal the tools to train people to think critically. Social media may not be the problem, but it must…it must…be the solution.

  24. Jeroen Bakker (The Netherlands) 2 weeks ago

    I’m with Jo: as a long time RSS subscriber I really enjoy reading your posts. About your cave, the old guard (an article I keep sharing with my team) all the way to managing humans many years ago. I bet many of us are reading via Feedly and other RSS Readers, but still reading every post!

  25. I have two comments, one more important than the other.

    The least important one is about comments on a blog (or article, or wherever). I tend not to read them because many of the commentators either don’t put the thought into them that the original author did in writing the piece. Or the commentators just don’t have much of interest to say. I prefer how Andrew Sullivan got feedback when he was blogging. He didn’t have comments, but his email was accessible and he responded to emails in his blog and often quoted parts of emails directly. So he was soliciting feedback – but only presenting it in an edited form. I like that because for me, a blog is an opening into the mind of the author and I appreciate his/her editing of feedback as part of that mind. For the most part, commentors don’t earn my trust or my time to the degree that the author does.

    Having said that, I’ll respect your way of doing it, and post a comment.

    My more important and more frustrating comment is that I think you’ve explained the problem with post-truthism very well. Unfortunately, in this case, a clear explanation of the problem does not reveal a solution – at least to me.

  26. Tony T 2 weeks ago

    One of the reasons for the drop in comments may be that so few places *have* open comments. I think I might just assume that comments aren’t open.

  27. Rands in Repose has always been a joy to read, and I’m glad to see that this particular blog is still around.

  28. I’ve been following your blog for sometime now. I’m subscribed to your email newsletter and I read everything that you send out and then wander around here.

    I don’t comment but your posts have given me insights that I discuss with my coworkers. I just prefer a face-to-face discussion as the latency on web comments takes a while that I forget my opinions about the matter.

  29. Joe Cullin 2 weeks ago

    I’ve kept your blog in my short list of rss reader favorites for about 6 years. Unfortunately, the default view keeps me inside of the reader, so I don’t even think of looking for comments. That’s a shame, because I know the comments conversation is often as interesting as the main post.

  30. Allen Laudenslager 2 weeks ago

    The quote is most often attributed to Andrew Carnegie: I never learned anything from a man who agreed with me.

  31. Matt Simerson 2 weeks ago

    Still reading. Still enjoying. As others mentioned, the costs of replying are high (time, logging in, revealing identity) and it’s pointless to do all that to say, “like” or “yeah, I totally agree.” That doesn’t diminish the value of our blogs.

  32. Justin 2 weeks ago

    I don’t know that I’ve ever commented, but I’ve really appreciated some of your older, classic posts (NADD, Nerd Handbook) — they really helped me understand myself better. I will also offer that I don’t always agree with your conclusion or your vision on things, but I’m really glad people like yourself take the time to blog and to share it with the rest of us. I’m not sure what else to say but thanks!

    PS – I also bought one of your books. So there’s that. 🙂

  33. Caspar 2 weeks ago

    Very good. My initial reaction was to like/share it. How ironic.

  34. Ben S 2 weeks ago

    Hi from the silent majority.
    Most of the time there’s nothing to add, but keep up the good work

  35. CdrJameson 2 weeks ago

    I generally post fewer comments these days simply because I reflect more on whether I’m adding anything to the debate.

    And I read via an RSS reader, so that may negatively impact stats.

  36. CdrJameson 2 weeks ago

    On that topic, RSS reader style interfaces do seem to inhibit commenting.

    I have my Slack set up in an RSS style(usually in ‘All Unreads’) and it’s always a right faff to start a topic or respond to anything .

  37. Rob Rothwell 2 weeks ago

    I subscribe by RSS and enjoy what you write. Makes me think about useful topics. Keep it up!

  38. Jason Heiss 2 weeks ago

    One thing that the social sites address that a standalone blog struggles with is discoverability. I has taken many years for me to build up the list of blogs that I find interesting enough to subscribe to (these days in Newsblur, after the demise of Google Reader). But the tradeoff, and where usage of social sites stink, is that you’re constantly being fed the content that your friends and advertisers find interesting, and much of that is probably not interesting to you.

    I don’t have an easy answer to this. I guess I feel like the social sites are training wheels. It is a good place to get acquainted with the spectrum of content on the Internet. But over time you should wean yourself off of the training wheels and just pull in content, and contribute to the discussion, in places that are genuinely useful and interesting. Of course that takes effort and many folks will never bother, but we should try to encourage our friends and children in that direction.

  39. Mike WoodhouseMiMIke WOodhouse 2 weeks ago

    Maybe I’m just old…
    I don’t have time to check that I’ve spotted every tweet. And to be honest, no matter how interesting the tweeter may be, there’s a limit to how interesting they can be in that format. If they’ve got anything substantial to say, I’d rather read it in blog form.
    And I don’t have the patience to sort the wheat from the chaff on Facebook, even if I had “friended” a stack of folk who I don’t consider friends. You’re lovely people, all of you, I’m sure, but I don’t know you and my Facebook timeline is already so clogged up with “must-watch” videos and whatnot that I don’t go there very often.
    With a blog and an RSS feed, however, I’m in control. I get a chance to read (or pass) on everything that’s posted, because my reader tells me what I haven’t read. I’m not restricted to reading stuff on my phone, which is a long way from ideal for larger blocks of text.
    But maybe I’m just old.

  40. I’ve been reading your blog for years, pointing to them from my social media accounts and recommending them to friends. Certain articles (the ones about 1:1 meetings, agendas, etc.) have given my management tactics the exact boost I needed at the exact moment. Your writing style has influenced mine: I’m more concise and signal-driven when I write to my employees.

    Briefly: your blog has helped me transition from a strong individual contributor to management, and really feel shiny at it.

    Thank you.

  41. MarMark Honomichlk Honomichl IIIM 2 weeks ago

    Unfortunately, it is this likability feedback loop that has gotten us to the point that we are with our discourse. I used to comment all the time on articles and posts, not just to provide critical feedback but to also improve and solidify my own thought process around the topic. But long ago comments degenerated into generally non-related rage sessions that attacked people rather than discussed the topic so now I generally skip them.

  42. Mark HonomichlMarMark Honomichlk Honomichl IIIM 2 weeks ago

    It also doesn’t help that your form doesn’t quite work in my safari

  43. Tomasz Jamroszczak 2 weeks ago

    Summarizing the comments on lack of comments:

    1. Contents of your blog doesn’t need that much of a discussion.

    2. Culture of rush and short attention span.

    3. Shift in hardware supports consumption at the expense of production.

    4. Software prevents discussion.

    5. Design doesn’t encourage discussion.

  44. Ian Jones (UK) 2 weeks ago

    Is it just social alternatives ?
    I can tease out two points.
    1) How is traffic measured ? I probably did once visit blogs directly, but don’t recall using a raw rss reader at any point. Google Reader and now Feedly and very rarely click through to blogs. Also those who don’t publish the full text in the feed are the most likely for me to unsubscribe [ although still not very likely ]. Do you get those stats ?
    2) The side effect is then that making a comment requires a click through. So you end up with a lot of lurkers.

    Other issues with the comment arena in general (which contribute to why I rarely comment). Threading. “Me too”. “Frist”. Discourse (it may be better if you comment a lot, but as a dilettante seems far worse). Having to enter your ID. and probably others.

  45. Here’s what I learned from Usenet:

    – Good comments breed good communities
    – Good communities encourage good comments
    – Spammers must be squashed
    – Trolls must be deprived of attention
    – Tight moderation is expensive (in terms of attention that must be paid by the moderators)

    – Threaded comments are superior to chronological comments, but only if the software remembers what you’ve seen and collapses that.

  46. I used to use NetNewsWire to support my blog-reading habit. Then Google Reader ate the entire market for RSS aggregation, so NNW changed to be a front end for Google Reader. That was inconvenient, but livable. Then Google Reader up and disappeared, which is — from my vantage point, anyway — the moment that blogs died. I didn’t have a system any more for finding and aggregating blogs, and I was too busy to find or make a new one. So, my blog-reading habit died.

    The only reason I still (occasionally) read Rands in Repose is because you send out email links, or link to it from Twitter.

  47. M Sims 2 weeks ago

    I have been a reader for years through Google Reader (RIP) and now Feedly, and bought your books both for myself and for friends. I have never left a comment, but I very much enjoy content like yours over what is fed to me on social media. I hope that you continue, and if leaving comments more often would help I would be happy to do so. 🙂 Happy holidays.

  48. During my Thanksgiving break, I’m reading Managing Humans. Thank you for writing it.

  49. I love the communities that build around good blogs. I try my best to participate in them. The trouble is, I’m in so many. I can’t keep up! I’ve had to decide which handful I’m going to participate strongly in, and lurk among the rest.

  50. I found it a lot easier to participate in online discussion when I followed or kept track of fewer things. This is a bit of a wake up call for me. I’m going to go through my feeds and unsubscribe from a bunch.

  51. rands 2 weeks ago

    Thanks for all the thoughts, folks. For the record, I was more looking for “Thoughts on comments” and less “Concern about traffic and/or will this blog continue.” I’ve been writing since I was eleven, so this place isn’t going anywhere. I’ll write on the back of leaves with squid ink after the apocalypse.

  52. There is just as much good reading being written today as there was 50 years ago, and probably more. The problem is that anyone can now write and publish all by themselves, so we no longer have gatekeepers. We see Kindle books about writing Kindle books festooned with grammatical and spelling errors. We see gibberish copped from gibberish, with minor editorial flourishes. We wonder whether anyone would notice John Steinbeck if he were to post “Tortilla Flat” today, with all the dogshit prose also competing for our attention. Abundance is punishment. We’re so busy consuming six thousand belly-aching calories that we neglect to Give Thanks.

    So thanks, Michael.

  53. MikeC3 1 week ago

    A few random thoughts on comments.

    I generally never read the comments to an article or a blog. When it comes to news, I’m used to reading a newspaper or hearing a radio story and accepting (or sometimes rejecting) the conclusions based on the evidence presented. When it comes to a blog, I see it as a peek into the mind of someone I don’t know, and I don’t want the distraction or noise of other minds drowning out the first one.

    And I therefore never (ok, rarely now) write a comment.

  54. T Riley 1 week ago

    “kind of an introvert”, and I don’t trust anyone enough to register anywhere so I don’t post comments, ever….you’ve got a good thing going here though, so I’ll chime in to say you’ve made it on my 12-site human powered RSS feed (that’s me in your server logs refreshing 5x’s/day for three weeks waiting for the next post–recently discovered I can check your Twitter page to see when you’re on an anniversary trip and won’t be posting anytime soon) Your recurring themes on leadership and workplace dynamics have been unexpectedly applicable to my own career and have applied several of your ideas/strategies around managing groups with mostly positive results. And I have your new book on my Christmas list. As long as your writing, I’ll be reading.

    To actually contribute here, I’d just second the reader who mentioned the Andrew Sullivan technique of requesting email comments and then regularly publishing that feedback, both positive and negative. He was able to develop a true community like that, albeit with ALL published material going through him, quite probably a significant contribution to his retirement from the format. But the rule still stands that in most of the web, the comments detract from the content.

  55. It’s not as though there aren’t comments people make – see the numerous comments on practically any Facebook post – but that people increasingly changed their consumption mechanism, and so to a degree the response mechanism.

    The consumption moved from “I’ll click on my daily bookmarks to see what each of these people wrote” to “I’ll follow in RSS” (RIP Google Reader) to “I’ll follow their twitter/facebook/etc” and from there. And each gets you a step removed from the site and the comments…

    And then the response mechanism changes; where before the only real way to respond to something written on a blog was to comment on it (or if you wanted to go longer, use ping backs from your own blog), you then got people responding by twitter replies, or indeed Facebook comments, or Medium comments/reactions, and increasingly the role of the comment on the blog itself diminished.

    Spending more time in social media and less on the sites themselves is easier, lower friction, and so it becomes the default mechanism. I’m guilty of it – easier to “comment” through a quoted retweet than to go and engage directly. Double purpose is I’m “speaking” to my “audience” of the people that follow me, rather than just as a fairly anonymous voice in the crowd of comments… (but hey, I’m the type that could still drop 500 words on a chosen topic like I was in high school English class.)

  56. Robert Handrow 1 week ago

    I like what Russ Harlan said earlier in the comments: living and klicking in the feedback bubble means little to no actual reading, zero critical thinking — it’s just the feels. This is something that is enabled by two factors in my opinion.

    The most important influence is how we are raised by our parents which reflects in ones individual ambiguity tolerance, which means ability to cope with disagreement. If you are used to a fair culture in your family to express your thoughts and overcome prejudice, then you withstand probably the urge to just react only to outside triggers.

    The second part is how software is designed to support critical thinking and communication. First thing that came to mind is how late in the 2000s I understood the beauty of pingbacks on blogs, not exactly the best example of low-threshold access that social networks establish today. Manton Reece has a micro blog service in the making for quite a time. Last week he wrote on his blog:

    “It’s not easy to build software that encourages good behavior. When I look at my Instagram timeline I see beautiful photos, hand-drawn art, and snapshots of everyday life. I see the very best of the world. It’s not the full truth, but it’s all true.

    Instagram was no accident. The only question: was it unique to photos, or can the same quality be applied to microblogging?”

    http://www.manton.org/2016/11/fake-news-and-instagram.html

    I look very forward to the ongoing process how we take over responsibility to shape fair & critical ways to communicate.

  57. Comments as an author are super helpful. It is one of the few ways to give feedback to a content creator.

    Being able to give feedback to the author and have a dialog (sometimes) is also great as a reader.

    Comments as a reader are hit or miss. Sometimes I read them but most of the time I don’t. The reasons for this is probably more interesting.

    1: the RSS reader I use and the feeds I subscribe to don’t normally include the comments. And I don’t want to leave my feed reader to look at comments.

    2. If I am getting my content through Reddit, HN, or some other social place, the comments in those communities can normally be guessed based on where blog post was linked. The level of echo vs real discourse is low, at least for the places I get things to read from.

    3. Slack is just a better place to have discourse. The trick is avoiding echo chambers. For the most part, in the slacks I frequent, differing opinions are accepted and embraced.

    ————–

    So our brains as humans are wired to take shortcuts for us. These shortcuts, called cognitive biases, help our brains be more efficient.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases

    These biases are one of the many reasons echo chambers/bubbles exists and also partly explain why getting feedback can be painful.

    I have noticed that the more I learn about physiology, easier it is to interact with other humans. People are weird squishy beings but the more I can understand and predict behavior the better I can get communication.

  58. Thanks for writing this. While the need for humans to think critically is particularly relevant to the relationship between social media practices and the political landscape, it most deeply resonates with me on personal and professional levels. I spent years of my career struggling with what I had then considered to be the micromanaging tendencies of my supervisors and peers. But when I began to welcome criticism, the ensuing conversations about what wasn’t working improved my abilities, without diminishing my self-esteem. Those conversations allowed me to come to terms with and accept my imperfection, while resolving to do better.

  59. I’ve found that it’s just too hard to keep up with blogging, but that’s said after I think around 4 years of blogging that I thoroughly enjoyed and a serious decline over 2 more years with very little comments/feedback which significantly reduced my desire to share. With that said, I certainly don’t put myself in any sort of category near you with regards to followers or writing ability (and many other things) other than similarities in profession (which is how I found your blog in the first place – tech).

    I slowly reduced commenting on blogs I followed (which also declined … for similar reasons as my own – they reduced their posts or altogether shutdown their blogs) mainly because I didn’t have much to “give back” … however I was always quick to “share” mainly through my RSS reader du-jour of the time, Google Reader. I actually found that I had a better following on my Google Shared Items (or whatever they called it) than my own blog and these were nearly the same people following my blog. So… why blog? Needless to say, Google Reader was killed (why Google??? seriously) and nothing has really filled its place well in my mind for sharing my likes other than Twitter (meh).

    Other than this comment, I don’t think I have ever commented on your blog because the few times I really do have something to say, I quickly scan the comments and usually found someone has already in-effect said it. Yes I could comment in agreement, but why?

  60. Gweedo 5 days ago

    A lot of the commenting has shifted to platforms like reddit. All comments related to things posted in those forums remain there. Much easier on those platforms to keep track of comments you made, replies, etc. Most blog platforms require yet another sign-up activity. ugh… no thanks, and no I’m not going to sign in with a fb or twitter id. With all the trolls, grammar police, etc. the reward for contributing is usually just annoyance and frustration.