Comments are not always a joy

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

It wouldn’t be fair of me to push both comments and trackback without mentioning the downside of both. Well, the downside of comments primarily.

It’s funny, but people think that comments are nothing more than a way for yay-sayers to stroke the weblogger, and this can be true with some weblogs, but not most. The stronger the weblogger’s writing, the stronger the comments. The more controversial the opinion, the more controversial the comments, usually. But if you write a certain way and say certain things then a bit of magic occurs and you can get some phenomenal debate within your comment threads. Some of the best writing at this weblog was from my readers.

However, comments are also a way for people to dump their passive-aggressive nastiness behind the cloak of anonymity. This happens occasionally in my comments, but not often. I’m lucky in that regard. Most people, regardless of what they say, leave their name and usually a web site link. Sometimes I’ll get an anonymous person, but that doesn’t mean they’re nasty — just that they prefer to be unknown.

But if the circumstances are right, comments can become your worst nightmare.

When I wrote Parable of the Languages and it was Slash Dotted, I knew my server was going to get hit, and it was. Over 100,000 unique visitors hit the server in a two-day period. Parable is still one of my most heavily hit posts, and I’ve lost track of where all it’s been linked. I do believe it has been linked now by every major college IT department in the world.

I also had close to 600 comments with Parable (300+ here plus additional 234 comments at, the vast majority of which were complimentary, or downright hilarious. But there were some nasties.

I used to have HTML enabled for comments but Parable changed that when a person embedded HTML and a little custom CSS that basically disfigured the page. Made me realize how utterly dangerous it is to allow HTML, and I don’t care what kind of sanitation plug-in you use. End of HTML in my comments.

When that failed, a hacker — a real one — added C code to my comments that was a virus. An honest, genuine piece of code that would allow anyone to crack into a system and do damage. Why? I don’t know, it’s a Slash Dot thing.

Oh, don’t bother looking; I deleted the code.

Now, this weekend, wKen, who is running a monthly photo contest, was FARKed from This is worse than being Slash Dotted, believe me. The reason he was FARKed is because some of the photos are nude studies of sensuous, beautiful women. And they are lovely photos and not deserving of the events that transpired. In fact, all of the photos submitted with the contest are excellent, because they’re all pictures representing each submitter’s love.

I didn’t see the comments that were left. I guess wKen’s server eventually crashed under the hits, but not before every juvenile idiot left what sounds like the worst form of demeaning weblogger graffitti.

wKen writes:


I was (and still am) trying to make a point about the increasing level of meaningless anger and hatred that I see on some web sites. It’s like an angry mob that seems to feel justified in not only stating their opinion, but damaging other people in the process. There are real people with real feelings in the photos on the wPhotoBlog, and the things that a group of idiots not only said but also did to ridicule and debase those innocent people is very sad.


I won’t get rid of comments — the good exceeds the bad by a wide margin. And I’m willing, as wKen is, to take the risk in order to foster communication and connectivity with my readers. To make this experience richer for us all.

But, oh, I wish sometimes there was enough AI in the world to detect when someone is being a passive-aggressive coward and writing nastiness into my comments. I could then catch the person in the act, while they are still linked to the IP address of their connection. Because, you see, I still have that little C code application that hacker wrote….

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