The first blog comment I ever got—on jablog—made me question the whole idea of starting a blog. It certainly affected how much I was going to engage with commentators. Back in the early days of blogging, when you read every kind of blog because there were (relatively) so few, people made comments a lot. Even if it wasn’t exactly on point. A gracious read of white men forever commenting on something they don’t need to comment on or don’t know jack shit about could be they’re trying to show they read the thing. It’s also an incorrect read, but based on those early days, I could see it as a bad defense.
I’ve been thinking about blog comments a lot lately because I just got a number of them. I’m pretty sure there are full years The Stop Button went without any comments. Not three, but maybe two. My blogging style doesn’t promote conversation, which is… what it is. I feel a lot more differently about it now than I did when I started but, conversely, I have a lot less time to watch movies. I’m pretty set in how I’m choosing movies to watch, movies to write about. There was a “Five Favorite Movies of the Fifties” blogathon last week and, while I recommend everyone go and read every post and make a watch list… I still haven’t done it. I don’t have a watch list for movies anymore. Because between my watch list, contemporary releases, contemporary home video releases, direct recommendations, and indirect recommendations I’m… seventeen years behind.
About Schmidt was the first film I remember deferring. Still deferred.
Anyway, at the same time was I getting all these productive comments, I was also getting a little flurry of negative ones. Not on the post for the blogathon, but on random sci-fi movies. The commenter saying they disagreed and they liked the special effects or some such. I get polite, community-building commenting. I don’t get the “thumbs down” posts. I got one years ago on the Alien 3 assembly cut post saying I wasn’t being productive in my post. I responded to the comment saying it wasn’t my goal to make a productive suggestion because no one cares about my suggestions for $49 million dollar movies.
The most famous commenter I ever got was Fred Dekker, who emailed me about my Monster Squad review but left a comment for my Robocop 3 one. He really didn’t like the Robocop 3 one and I took great pleasure in not posting it because he swore so much. In hindsight, I should’ve just edited out all the fucks. But he said something about how I shouldn’t be picking on fifteen year-old movies. I sometimes wonder what kind of comments other people got because, at that time, I seriously got a search engine hit for “Fred Dekker” almost every day of the week. I’m being a little mean but did you watch Predator 4? Also Monster Squad normalizes and promotes the fuck out of homophobia.
In workshops I’ve seen writing students piss instructors off so much the instructor throws an eraser (the student said his work couldn’t be improved on, every word was his exact intention). I’ve also gotten yelled at for arguing about whether or not kung fu is Japanese. That person shit-mouthed me for the rest of the semester, which is hilarious because I was leading a positive discussion of her piece. Me and comments are always on shaky ground.
Visual Reflux is supposed to be all about old time blogging (practice) and part of it is comments.
The funny thing about blog comments is they lead to me and Matt Hurwitz starting “Alan Smithee Podcast,” arguably the highest profile thing I ever did online.
So I don’t know. There are all sorts of tips and tricks to driving comment-based engagement—written back in 2007 or 2008, I’m sure–but I can’t stand even being a little patronizing. Not to drive engagement. To talk shit, sure, but not to drive engagement. Engagement is one of those things I refuse to fret over. If I thought it was worth fretting over, I’d write to encourage it.