Thursday, February 28, 2008

Comments... I Love 'em (and Hate 'em)

I had promised you today that I would elaborate on some of the comments in yesterday's Marketwatch article on paying back social security. There are now over 100 of them, and I just added my two cents worth. But it would be pointless for me to elaborate on the specific comments themselves, as I would just be rehashing points I've already made. Points about mortality, the "social security is going broke" argument, etc. But reading through them made me realize again what a double edged sword they are.

On one hand, comments are the life blood of blogging. They show people are listening. Through them, you can discuss issues and interests with many more people than you could possibly meet, and learn from one another. This is one of the great benefits of the openness of the internet.

On the other hand, that same openness allows all forms of idiocy to be published on the same plane as the most insightful comments, as some hide behind the anonymity of the internet to allow them to espouse their weird theories, expose their paranoias and neuroses, or worse. There is even an internet term (a "flame war") for the online fights that sometimes break out.

I don't have that many comments (yet) here, maybe a couple a week, but by observation of other sites, I already know what I do and don't want in the "Platinum Years" community as it develops. I DO want the insights, perspectives, experiences, and honest inquiries of others. I love a good discussion, as I can't imagine anything more boring than having everybody agree with me all the time.

On the other hand, I really DON'T want to hear from people who just want to show how smart they are, or who genuinely feel (as many commenters seem to feel, judging by other blogs and websites) that "if you disagree with me, you must be a moron." They generally give themselves away with phrases like "everybody knows," and they switch topics when others pin them down.

Often, the latter group is just looking for attention, so usually the best posture is to ignore them. In chat rooms, there's usually an ignore button that kills that person's comments (Don't you wish you had that power in real life? But I digress) And that's why most blogs are moderated, so that when a flamer tries to stir up trouble, you can reject their comment, and maybe contact them privately as to why.

Thankfully I haven't had to do that (yet) at Platinum Years, but reading through all those MarketWatch comments got me thinking that, as we grow, it won't be long. I guess in the sense that it's a natural result of growth, I look forward to the problem. :-) Bob

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