Comment Degree Zero

Eyewear gets around 3,000 pageviews a day, on a good day.  On a bad one, closer to 1,500.  Okay - so, here's a question for you - why does almost no one leave their comments?  This absence is depleting the value of the blog, I feel, and leading me to, again, think of shutting shop, or eye, as it were.  COMMENT PLEASE!  There, I've shouted it.  Cheers.


OK, I've commented. But I don't really agree that it depeletes the value. I don't usually want to read comments. For what it's worth, Intercapillary Space doesn't get any comments either. It doesn't mean people don't appreciate us. It's kind of a mystery to me, but I think people start commenting when they think they've got something to add, as I am doing now. They comment, perhaps, in response to a question or an admission of ignorance, or a betrayal of ignorance, or even some kind of implicit signal of receptiveness. Writing that comes over as definitive or scarily-well-informed maybe deters that. So what? I like definitive well-informed stuff too.. And can you name a single comment stream, even Language Hat, even Bebrowed, even DC's, that is really essential daily reading for its own sake, aside from the head-posts?
There are delicate issues of courtesy too.

No-one chooses the empty restaurant in the street to eat in.

To comment in a place where there are few comments requires a certain insensibility. We've all experienced that familiar web presence, the deadly over-commenter who comments excessively in proportion to what s/he's got to say, whose voice is heard too often - so that it threatens to compete with the blogger her/himself. That effect is magnified on blogs that attract few comments. Most of us are terrified of being that deadly person. I'm on my second comment, and I'm definitely in that uncomfortable zone right now!
Anonymous said…
I wrote this comment and only on trying to post it saw it went over the word-count. I had to split it in two, but no probs if you don't publish them.


'why does almost no one leave their comments?'

I don't know, is the honest answer.

However, speaking from my own, admittedly atypical perspective and experience as a language lover schooled in the medium of extemporized online debate; the pre-moderation of comments, I have always thought, is a not insignificant reason for potential contributers feeling put off commenting.

For example, George Szirtes, a world-class old pro who, in the normal run of things, one would assume, is of the stature that automatically means he's gonna have a pre-screening of comment facility in place at his blog. That he doesn't is very telling. He doesn't have one because he is comfortable in his own skin and has not been distracted like the rest of us, into thinking we simply must have it to guarantee a civlized tenor in the debate. Like airport checks, the blogosphere is contiguous with the rise of the War on Terror, and this dominant background norm of suspicion and fear, has, I think, gradually fed into all areas of our lives, including talking about poetry, to such an extent that we went over the top with 'security' measures, on blogs that discuss poetry.


Online, pre 9/11, the great new cyberworld was pregnant with possibility and potential. The artist had a free canvas on which to learn, make our mistakes, look idiots as we did so and maybe even gain a readership, should the gods decide it.

Slowly though, this beau ideal broke down as the temperature of the time made itself felt across the virtual realm. We arties, without any real-world danger and only words with which to get upset by, progressively assembled ourselves into, what became, the silent herds we have today. A large part of it, I think, came about because in the wild west atmposphere of an unregulated noughties poet-forum-war, the forums that were set up inevitably turned into one person power-bases, where the editorial decisions were made, not with an eye to fostering open and free speech, creating the happy clappy artistic realm we hoped for pre 9/11, but on making our poetry-power-grabs, appointing ourselves sole Moderator of forums where our talk policies merely reflect a desire to limit what others have to say, framing the rules as somehow being there not for the beneifit of ourself, but for a 'community' on whose behalf we volunteer ourselves up as selfless facilitators of sheer poetry hugs and positivity.

Obviously I am only speaking from my own experience here, but the problem, to my mind, is that this decision to screen comments on the grounds that not doing so means any potentially foul-mouthed effer and/or mental-case may come in and ruin it for everyone else; whilst on the face of it seems an acceptably intelligent (if somewhat over-cautious) reason for pre-moderating comments, is a reason that can all too often, I suspect, be used as a cover and convenient excuse to keep from the debate any text that comes into our in-tray which counters our position and/or makes us look silly, foolish or what have you.
Anonymous said…
It's taken a few years for things to work themselves out and for clarity to settle on this question of online poetry debates, and there has been something of a herd mentality to it all in the resolution; with people following and copying one another in both obvious and subtle ways. For example, I noticed (online) when you first appeared on the scene in Britain, popularizing the use of the word 'sharp' in relation to the start-time of poetry events (beginning, for example, at '7pm sharp'), that Poetry Ireland started using it a few months later.

The small team there borrowing (shamelessly stealing) what they obviously thought was a 'cool' tool to use as the arresting word in the copy and blurbs advertising the start time of their gigs. And sure enough enough people also began using it soon after for the alert to notice this cultural copy-catting. Like most things of this nature, it gradually fell out of use and all but disappeared from view a few years later, after this small and poetically informative cycle centering on the word 'sharp' ran its course, reaching an identifiable poetic completion.

So to the pre-moderating of comments. When the blogosphere first appeared with, for a short while comment moderation was the exception rather than the rule. The entire goal of us inchoate bloggers desperate for a community and audience (much as the goal on Facebook was getting the greatest number of 'freinds') was comment-count. Quantity rather than quality. Until bloggers like yourself took the lead and turned the premise on its head, by making an editorial decision to pre-screen comments, not, I suspect, because you had much concern about trolls, but because it was the most instinctively poetic turn to take, going against the grain. Standing apart from the rest.

And as your reader figures here testify to you being the democratic 'winner' of the online poets'-audience-gathering-competition, in short having a cachet of cool amongst your peers, following your lead, it became de riguer to have comment moderation turned on, because doing so (the theory goes) meant one was more concerned with exclusivity and our sites being forums for quality debates, rather than the less immediate but more tacky goals of then compeers and fellow competing poet-bloggers all chasing what you now possess.


Please don't mistake this as a call to turn off comment moderation. It is merely an extemporized response to your post, based on my own time in the field as a harmless effer and occassional creator of beauty and eloquence in Letters. This after all is our goal, to write and be read.

Peckham in Furs said…
I've long thought it mysterious how much attention this blog gets, but the truth is many of your "fans" are intrigued to an obsessive point as to what concoction of bollocks you will come out with next. I am not.
Anonymous said…
I would guess that you get comments that you choose not to put up. I've just read quite a lot of your blog. It seems to me that you are self-regarding to an almost pathological degree and I wonder what your psychological motivation is for keeping this blog at all; it seems to me to be nothing more than attention seeking for its own sake and a craving for recognition. There is subtle and not so-subtle boasting there that I find distasteeful. I must say, and I'm being dispassionate as I can, that some of what you have written is rather stupid, and I would find it hard to take seriously the poetry of someone who write, say, the little piece you wrote on Amanda Knox. Like several other pieces it is no better than what one would find in the opinion pages of a mid-market newspaper. This is perhaps why some people choose not to engage with you; none of it seems to me to call for any serious intellectual engagement and there is neither humour nor anything particularly stimulating. YOur target audience are readers of serious books. I did seriously give your poetry a chance, but I'd afraid it seemed to me lackingin sincerity; again, what is your motive? Why should anyone really care about what you think about anything and why do you want them to?
Paul Sutton said…
My problem with this blog is, essentially, ontological. As long as I believed that your inane and self-regarding obituaries, your witless and conformist reviews of books and records and your incessant whining about not being invited to be a fatuous pundit were the work of a Ricky Gervais-style sitcom monster, I was heartily amused. However, when it dawned on me that you were, in fact, real, the laughter turned to ashes in my mouth. You don't know how lucky you are to have failed in your desperate quest for fame; if you were famous it would only be as a laughing-stock. Oh, and get rid of those ghastly portraits (sensitive poet snuggling on beanbag etc.); they put me off my dinner.
Frances Kruk said…
The combination of poetry and pop culture - that just blows my mind, man. Why doesn't anyone else do this? Why has no one ever done it before? Everyone has their preferred newspaper, but I just go straight to Eyewear, where I can find all the news that matters to ME. I needn't leave many comments because too often I firmly agree with everything written here. Should I comment more often? It saddens me that such a truly remarkable and innovative blog suffers a lack of input from its loyal readership.

(The only thing that frightens me is that, come the revolution, I'll be shot for my loyalty to what some would consider to be the deeply reactionary nature of Eyewear. But I shall stand firm and, as I am led to the wall in my blindfold, I shall proudly declare my passion for the blog that has so enriched my life.)