Saturday, July 18, 2009
Worse than being talked about
Well, that was fun. Contributing an article to an established site is often a bit like dangling your tender parts over a piranha tank, especially when the commenters on said site have a reputation for being a bit handy with their digital fists. But I was pleasantly surprised by the response when my article about the various flavours of criticism appeared on Drowned in Sound. “This is good,” they said. “This is a great piece.” “Yay!” Which is lovely, obviously, and much appreciated. And much nicer than the frightful things they were saying about John Robb’s piece. But hang on: I got 10 responses; Robb got 92.
Well, no real surprises there. People are always quicker to complain and criticise than to praise, especially in an online environment. But at the same time, part of me was bitterly jealous that nearly 10 times as many people wanted to eviscerate Robb than to tickle me under the chin.
But then I looked closer. Most of the comments under Robb’s article weren’t really about what he’d said. They started off that way, but then went down a meandering path of mutual antipathy, with straw men and sock puppets aplenty. And it got me thinking about all sorts of things: about why we measure our online successes in terms of the number of responses; whether it’s better to be hated or ignored; and also about how in Web 2.0, the important thing isn’t the discrete packets of information, but the connections between them.
Which of course got me thinking about Patroclus and her retirement from the blogosphere. I don’t thing she was the first person to comment on this blog, but she was an early adopter. She was the one who introduced me to the idea of the blog as conversation, and to the dialectics and rhizomatics that make it annoy old media hacks so much. Her graceful exit is a bit like Flintoff’s decision to abdicate from Test cricket; a little bit of sunshine has gone out.
PS: The hoo-ha over the Robb article might have obscured the fact that the best article of the whole onslaught was this one, by Chris Roberts – and he’s got the same number of responses as I did.
PPS: Another cracker from the Telegraph obituary barrel: “‘I'm just going for a haircut’, he would declare ostentatiously, before returning with the shorter of his two perouques.”