Thursday, March 20, 2014

What is a comment? A miserable little pile of words!

A few weeks ago I tried an experiment.  I tried to comment on at least one test-related article or comment every day of the week.  I tried this for about a week and a half.  It was tiring, but interesting, with a result that made me sad.  I didn't do wimpy non-comments like "Great job".  I did in depth, well considered comments, that often took me an hour to develop.  And I got nothing back.  It gives me a new respect for people like James Bach who seem to be all over the Internet commenting all the time and doesn't seem to feel defeated.  As a consultant and trainer, that is a method of advertisement, but I do believe James Bach genuinely cares too.  However, my concerns with comments were developed much earlier...

I am a big fan of  Code Horror by Jeff Atwood who influenced my choice to do a blog in the first place.  While I don't always agree with him, I love his views on commenting.  In fact, he and James had a 'chat' about comments some years ago.  To summarize, James Bach had noticed a major flaw in Jeff Atwood's blog post and wrote his own post on it.  Jeff wanted to continue the conversation but couldn't because James didn't allow for comments.  Now that was years ago and once again, to Bach's credit, comments are enabled.  Victory.  We are all done.  Except...

Cranky Old Man

I still have complaints about how our community uses comments.  Certainly we have useless 'great job' comments without any critical thinking involved.  You can see them in even some of the bigger venues.  Even if you think the blog post is great, and you're their new biggest fan, that sort of comment helps no one.  I won't think about you, my biggest fan.  If you hate my work and yell at me without any particular logic, you're no better than the old man to the left.  However, as a blog writer, am I just a cranky old man yelling at human nature?

I don't think so.  Often Slashdot's comments are valuable and well thought out.  Bach's comments section is curated, often insightful and from some reports perhaps even censoring, but that is a different issue.  I think there are a few issues with our community.  The first is that we write too much.  You heard me.  An author says we write too much.  Ha!  I can read about 5x more than I can write.  When Markus Gartner on a nearly daily basis writes a 1-2 page blog, I think it is nearly impossible to have a conversation about any topic he brings up.  In two days Markus is off into the next subject.  Being 12 hours away doesn't help the conversation, but in the world of twitter, where detail doesn't matter but lip service is paid, you can't develop consensus or new ideas.

Why can't we slow down and as a community genuinely talk through issues?  I am amazed at those whom write daily, and I get that people like Matt Heusser who suggest writing at least 2000 words twice a week.  It isn't an invalid idea for improving writing, but that doesn't mean everything you write is worth posting.  I currently have some 2120 [this article is now published!] articles in draft format, including this one.  Not all of them make it out to you, the public.  I want to give you quality work, and hope to get quality comments back.  I don't write too much, in the hopes that I can learn from the community as I write articles.

But Wait...

What about all those spammers....?

Well to be honest, I rarely see them here.  I think Jeff Atwood might have a solution for bigger blogs, but I am reserving judgment for now.  Truthfully, that would be a good problem to have, as that would mean there are a lot more people caring about QA. 

What if I don't have anything to say?

Really?  You read a 1-2 page article, and found nothing of value to say? Nothing was added to your mental model?  You didn't see any mistakes, any logical leaps too far nor anything understated?  The blog post was so dull it would have been better off being ignored?  Which leads me to...

What if what I have to say is too mean?

Well, for this blogger, I give you permission to write mean things about my, JCD's blog posts.  In fact I WANT you to.  Please, say you hate it and then justify that opinion with facts.

...and if you do write a comment, with insight, which pushes me to write a response, I will try very hard to reply if not write an entire additional blog post on the subject.  So please do!

* Title with apologies to André Malraux.

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