Skeletons in the closet

I had not looked at the negative consequences of Talkback, and appreciate those who have taken the time to point them out.

Geodog wrote:


But I think of comments as ephemeral, and strongly contextual. Plus, as Gibbon might say, some things are meant to remain veiled in the decent obscurity of a obscure format. The last thing I want when someone puts my name in Google is to have the first thing come up be some stupid late night comment I put on a popular (dare I say A-list?) weblog. So will this cut down on stupid late night comments? Or just increase the number of anonymous cowards?


(<quote> Burningbird is NOT A-List</quote>)

In Geodog’s comments, the question of identify was also raised: if there’s no sign on process, anyone can come in and write as anyone else.

Good points. Ones that John also discussed:


In order for this approach to be more fully developed we would need to implement a security model like PGP, which would allow me to “prove” who I am when posting a comment. While I applaud Shelley’s effort to expose a history of comments, it won’t take long before people start spoofing them. Which is a shame because I’m not sure that level of complex security model will be implemented for some time, and with a network of webloggers like Shelley providing scripts like this for their individual weblogs it wouldn’t take much to build a consolidating engine like Technorati to group them together and give me a global view of my comments across all participating blogs.

If people are uncomfortable about having their comments archived on Burningbird, how about for all sites, forever? Scary.


Dorothea also followed through on concerns about Talkback, but from a different perspective. She wrote:


Irrelevance, impermanence, mortality—these are my feeble defenses against a potentially crippling sense of worthlessness, futility. I cling to a false nihilism to save myself from the genuine article. Illogical, probably stupid, but that’s how I function.

Which brings me back to Shell (who, I feel compelled to say, is of course utterly innocent of any intent to harm, and who has not really harmed me at all in any case). Now my comments, even more ephemeral in intent and execution than my own blog, are becoming solid, persistent, potentially permanent records. I guess I can live with it; I have to. But I’ll still whimper.


About the last thing I want to do is make people uncomfortable with commenting here at Burningbird. Comments are an integral part of this weblog, and I’ve taken care to nurture an environment where everyone is comfortable speaking out. I am extremely hesitant about implementing any technology that impacts this in any way.

But then Monica wrote, in response to Talkback and the posting about spell-checking and writing formally:


To me, both the idea of anyone being able to read all the comments we posted on a site and the idea of spell-checking our writings and even elaborating them, in a way have to do with how we want – or don’t want – to be seen. Half-assed comments written in the heat of the moment are the ones on which we can be seen between the lines.


And Stavros writes:


This latest innovation from her is a really cool idea, and one that might help to combat that feeling of impermanence and evancescence of weblog comments.

Dorothea was right, and I intended no harm to come from Talkback. Another instance typical of so many applications of technology: the social impacts far of a new innovation far outweight the effort to actually create the innovation. However, my intent was to keep the comments — many of which are thoughtful, compelling, and more interesting than the posts themselves –from fading into obscurity.

More than that, though, I wanted a way to introduce people who might be new to this weblog to those others who have been kind enough to come around for some time. You can get a good idea of who I am from my archives, but who are all these strangers leaving all these comments, and what are all these obscure references about? I considered Talkback the digital equivalent of a block party to introduce a new neighbor to those who have lived on the block for a while.

But then, a block party isn’t the same as pulling a new neighbor into each house in the block and shoving their face into the closets to look at all the skeletons hanging there, either. Perhaps some things are best left to accidental discovery over time.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email