Tag Archives: Comments

In Defence of the Dark Arts

Nothing brings out the goodwill and joy like suggesting people keep their Christmas lights off until December 1st. If you want to enrage the neighbours all you have to do is go into the Facebook group someone set up for your neighbourhood and put up a post about it. Granted, I was a bit smarmy, but I have perfectly good and reasonable reasons. None of that matters because apparently I’m a Scrooge McGrinch Level 100 troll who has no right to tell people what to do.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=frNRluzraJU]

The first response to my post was, “Why?” Well, I didn’t want to get all in-your-face and ranty about it, so I gave a watered-down response. There was already enough, especially when you factor in the extreme over-commercialization of the holiday that’s happened over the last couple decades. So why not give everyone a break? A bit of a reprieve, if you will.

That just made things worse.

FOR THE RECORD:
I’m a fan of the December joy, I really am. For the month of December, I always strive to be the jolliest asshole this side of the nuthouse(1). I love the snow and the lights and the whole general idea of giving more and not being a total ass to one another. I think it sets a good tone for the rest of the year.

But seriously, it’s getting a bit out of hand.

After Back to School and then Canadian Thanksgiving and then Halloween (stores are even putting up Christmas stuff before Halloween!) and then Remembrance Day (Canada) / Veterans Day (U.S.) and then U.S. Thanksgiving AND THEN December proper and 26 days of Christmas madness we take a (quick) breath and go straight back for more with New Year’s and just when you think you’re done the Orthodox folks jump in with their Christmas celebration on January 7. Oh, and let’s not forget there’s a bunch of other non-Christian holidays in there trying to get air time as well (more on that later).

Did you know that there are governments and military prisons that have used the persistent playing of music as a deterrent as well as torture? Well, welcome to certain radio stations and virtually every store in every mall in North America in December. Listen as they crank out Christmas music until you want to stuff an elf backwards into jolly old Santa’s milk and cookie piehole.

Starting November 25th!

Here’s a pro tip:
There’s nothing wrong with not wanting to be bombarded with Christmas 24/7/365. I am not a Scrooge or Grinch or Troll for having a lower tolerance for all things mistletoe. There’s the song 12 Days of Christmas and turning on the lights December 1st more than doubles the recommended serving of joy. That’s pretty good, no?

I think I brought the craziness to a close on that Facebook thread (at least I haven’s seen many comments since) with the following:

“Wow. I never said I wanted to make it a law. Amazing how quickly cheer turns into hate. Want to see people’s true colours? Challenge them on the internet.” 

Someone on my side (or at least not against me) replied to that with something about not messing with a woman and her Christmas decorations, and I replied with, “WAR ON CHRISTMAS!” It was a joke meant to play on the usage of the phrase, particularly with Tea Party Republicans in the U.S.

I shouldn’t have used the phrase because it’s not a war. It’s not a battle. It’s not a confrontation. It’s not even a heated argument. Hell, it barely meets the definition of a disagreement. Barely. So, to call it a war would be incredibly disrespectful to those who fight in actual wars. Which brings me to another thing: the November 12th People (N12P).

Now, I don’t know what veterans and service people think of the N12P, but I imagine members of the N12P taking in the Veterans Day parade waiting for the float with the replica of the tomb of the unknown soldier pass so they can push a button and have their Christmas lights turn on. That might be an extreme case and I’m certain that’s not what goes down for the majority of the N12P, but the simple fact that they wait until the 12th instead of, say, the 15th or 25th or the 2nd Sunday in November does give me the impression that they’re just waiting to get November 11 out of the way so they can get on with celebrating. Anyhow, that’s just an aside. I’ll let you think about it.

[…]

One argument I hear in favour of an early lighting is, “My kids get so excited!” Sure, Christmas is a wonderful time for kids. You know what, though? My kids used to get excited about having dessert after dinner. Now, for whatever reason they have it every night, and I couldn’t tell you the last time they were over-the-moon excited about 25g of sugar and chocolate.

I’ll tell you one thing, if you want to get someone really excited about something, tell them how awesome it is, and then tell them can’t have it until a certain date. I’m not suggesting we treat the turning on of the Christmas lights like the new Star Wars movie, but there is something to be said for absence making the heart grow fonder. I say make the kids wait as long as you possibly can and then watch as their heads explode with joy when they finally get to experience it.

(Hmm, I think the 40-year-old virgin may have been onto something.)

As an after December 1st argument, I’d also like to bring up cultural insensitivity. Maybe that’s not the right phrase. Cultural Christmaswashing? Think cultural whitewashing but with red and green candy canes and nativity scenes. I don’t know what you’d call it, but hasn’t the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant culture machine saturated the West enough over the last few hundred years? Do we really need to be standing on the rooftops for months at a time screaming, “CHRISTMAS! LOOK AT ME, I CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS! WOOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOO! CHRISTMAS MOTHER*****ERS!”

I’m no social justice warrior but I have to wonder what all this feels like to the new immigrant or someone trying to celebrate their own holiday – or no holiday at all for that matter. I’d love to see some Diwali lights displayed in my neighbourhood but it’s awfully hard to pick them out over all the Christmas stuff. Then again, maybe it just looks like a party’s about to break out at any minute and everyone thinks it’s just fantastic (judging by the number of “likes” on my comment and the number of other people who are in line with my post-November light turny onie decision I’m guessing not).

Also on my new favourite Facebook thread was the comment that I can’t tell people what to do. To be precise:

“You can close your eyes you have no right to tell people when then can and can not [sic] decorate”. 

First, I don’t recall telling anyone to do anything. I posted a smarmy, “How about…? Mkay, thanks.”

But it did get me thinking… What about an individual’s rights? I have every right to question your judgement if you put up your Christmas stuff in the middle of August just as you have every right to put it up whenever the hell you want. But unwritten agreements exist all the time and work just fine without being formalised into law. I simply want people to come to an arrangement. A reasonable compromise that takes everything I’ve just written about into account.

I can imagine the person from the above quote sitting on the porch in their rocking chair with an armful of flashing LEDs, or walking around WalMart with a giant battery in a backpack powering Christmas lights strung all around their shopping cart. When approached and asked about why they’re doing what they’re doing they reply with:

“The 87th amendment to the Constitution clearly states that ‘A well regulated Neighbourhood Community being necessary to the celebration of Christmas, the right of the people to keep and display Christmas lights shall not be infringed’,” and then every argument from then on that even remotely appears to contradict the 87th amendment is met with, “CHRISTMAS MOTHER****ER!”

So there you have it. Do with this information what you will. I’ll be lighting my house and Christmas tree up like a Christmas tree on December 1st and shutting the lights off when I go to bed on December 31st, happy as a clam the whole time and trying not to be an ass to people the other eleven months of the year after that.

As for peace on earth, goodwill to men? All I have to say to that is it’s not gonna happen so long as there is an Internet – and a comments section.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mk74WprmZxY]
(1) My all-time favourite Christmas movie.

~ Andrew

Spam, Spam, Spam, Eggs, Bacon, and Spam

I don’t get a lot of traffic on this blog, but I get enough that I’m not embarrassed by the numbers on a month-to-month basis. Regardless of my readership numbers I’ve always struggled with the best mechanism for managing comments. I have tried a few things ranging from “wide open free for all” to “must sign in with an account” before finally settling on Blogger’s built-in “word verification”. It held up fairly well until one fateful day in May when I published a post about my encounter with Chuck Wendig.

Since the Wendig post my blog comments have been inundated with spam from all directions. Maybe inundated is too strong a word, but it’s definitely a noticeable increase. The good news is the comments don’t make it through to the website, so at least Blogger’s algorithm recognizes that they don’t belong, but the thing is I don’t get a lot of comments (see previous mention of traffic) so I have email notifications set up to send them to me when they come in, which unfortunately includes the spam comments as well.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anwy2MPT5RE?rel=0]

Don’t get the idea that I think this is really that big of a deal, it’s not, but I do find it interesting for a couple of reasons and it poses a couple of questions, the first of which is “What was it about the Chuck Wendig post that brought on the spam bots?” I’ve posted many things that were more widely read and/or controversial and it hasn’t received this much attention. Maybe it was just a timing issue and would have happened regardless of what I posted? Who knows.

All I can say is that it’s all a little disappointing. Not that my spam to actual comments ratio is terrible but rather that the spam itself is terrible. Quite frankly, if I’m going to get spam I’d at least prefer if it was interesting. Here’s a sampling:

  • For the reason that the admin of this web site is working, no hesitation very shortly it will be famous, due to its feature contents.
  • Hello, Neat post. There is a problem together with your website in internet explorer, may test this? IE nonetheless is the marketplace chief and a large element of folks will miss your great writing because of this problem
  • Your mode of describing the whole thing in this piece of writing is genuinely good, all be capable of without difficulty be aware of it, Thanks a lot.
  • Hello Dear, are you actually visiting this web page on a regular basis, if so then you will definitely take fastidious experience.
  • Fine way of explaining, and nice post to obtain facts about my presentation subject matter, which i am going to deliver in institution of higher education.
Of course, each one comes with its own “click this” or “check out my website” link. 
On top of it all there isn’t even a single mention of how I can increase the size of my penis. Seriously, it’s like they’re not even trying anymore.

Check out my website!

~ Andrew

Year In Review / Best Of

As is customary at this time of year a blog post cop out is in order. Rather than come up with something engaging, intelligent, or funny to ramble on about I’m going to do a “Best of” and a personal year in review. I’ll do the “Best Of” portion first because most people will probably enjoy that more, although the year in review piece may be interesting to a few people as well. I’ll let you decide.

Best Of Potato Chip Math 2013!


Most viewed posts:
  1. Size Matters“, August 25
    • This surprise hit of the year was successful for a few reasons. First, it had a very searchable title [smile, wink], secondly it was on a topic that every writer/blogger struggles with at some point (“How many words do I need?”). Lastly, someone else posted this on Reddit in the /r/books subreddit and people clicked the living hell out of it. It’s now my most viewed post of all time.
  2. Raiders of the Lost Art“, September 29
    • This post on the decline of handwriting and how I could care less seemed to resonate with a lot of people. For some reason there are those who still think it should be taught in schools – in English class (I say leave it for art class and teach more useful skills in English).
  3. Your Comment is Awaiting Moderation“, September 1
    • Another successful post mostly because it’s a topic that just about every blogger has had to make a decision on at some point (“Do I moderate the comments on my blog?”). If you’ve read my blog before then you know that I do not, however, please be respectful.

Most commented on post:
  • One of These Facts is Actually a Lie“, March 17
    • The easiest way to get people to comment on your blog is to hold a contest in which the winner must comment on the post to win. The actual contest was secondary to the fun guessing game I put together in order to share a bit more information with my readers.
  • Honourable Mention to “Your Comment is Awaiting Moderation“, September 1
    • Worth noting as it was a non-contest post AND it was about blog comments!

Longest posts:

Shortest posts:
I can only find one trend between the length of my posts and the number of views each receives. My average post was 741 words (including this one) with the median value being 728 (same number of posts with fewer words as there are more words). If I look at the view rank of the posts for above and below the average and median it’s about the same BUT if I look at raw number of views for each half then what I find is the posts below the average and median receive about 35% fewer views. Moral of the story: I will keep my posts around 750 words for better viewing (not sure how a 2,000 word post will do and I’m not sure I want to try).

Least viewed posts:

Reading these back at least two of those thee posts suck outright, with the remaining one in the “not very good” category. That’s okay though, they can’t all be gold. Every artist needs a Gigli on their resume 😉


      My favourite post:
      • Equality Means Equal“, June 29, 10th most viewed post in 2013
        • I like this post because it speaks directly to how I feel about the issue of equal rights for all humans. Equality is an absolute. There is no room for interpretation. Get on board with it.


        WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE POST?

        • Post a link to the title and date of publication in the comments, along with why it was your favourite!

        Now for the Year in Review portion of the show. Back in January I set some pretty ambitious targets. Not necessarily resolutions, but sort of. Here they are along with how I think I did:

        • When one of my kids is nearby I will put my laptop or phone aside, and even if they are not desiring my attention, I will give it to them
          • I did not too badly with this one. The biggest problem is that my kids are growing up and don’t need or want as much attention from me or my wife any more!


        • When asked to do something by my wife, I will do it right then or I will set a reminder in my phone if it needs to be done later
          • Phone reminders help. I think I passed this one more often than I failed, but I’ll leave it to her to decide 🙂


        • I will get out and see my friends. This means one event every now and then as well as coffee or tea with individuals at lunch or whenever our schedules align. This also includes golf 🙂
          • I had tea/coffee/lunch with several friends on several occasions and golfed with several people I hadn’t golfed with previously. Big win on this front, even though it could still be more. I did start volunteering with Ignite Waterloo and that has opened up a whole new list of possibilities.


        • I will buy some local art
          • I totally did. A Jennifer Gough painting now hangs in my living room!

        • I will read more books written by people I know and I will give them honest and constructive feedback. I would be forever grateful if they would do the same for me
          • I did this but could also do more. I read every story in the anthology I was published in plus read books by Tess Thompson, Gordon Bonnet, Robert Chazz Chute. I need to do reviews for a couple of these still, but I will!

        I also had a few very specific writing goals to accomplish. They were stretch goals at the absolute best but I managed to knock off a few. My successes: 


        • Finished the first draft of novel #1 
        • Won NaNoWriMo (for the second year in a row)
        • Started a screenplay
        • Wrote 1 blog post every week for the entire year (plus a bonus post in memory of Ryan)

        That last one was absolutely instrumental in the success of my blog. For most of the year my traffic practically doubled, with an almost 400% increase for a few months near the end of the year as some writing-specific and NaNoWriMo posts got some good Reddit traction. 
        So what’s in store for next year? Well for starters there will be a cop out start of year post but there will also be a few tips in there about a few things I’ve learned. Plus, I think I’m going to do a new weekly feature in addition to a weekly post. I’m still sorting out the details and I might do it in conjunction with another writer/blogger but stay tuned!
        That’s it for me in 2013. Thanks to each and every one of you for reading and I wish you all a healthy and successful 2014.
        ~ Andrew

        Your Comment Is Awaiting Moderation

        Pre-moderating: sensible thing to do or petty censorship?

        When it comes to pre-moderating comments on blogs I have to say that I’m a little bit baffled. If you’re a site for children I totally get it; and the same for a news or media outlet, but if you’re just one of a boat load of blogs out there, from the big name to the small time, what’s the rationale for pre-moderating comments?

        News sites tend to moderate the hell out of their comments. Given that they are in the business of spreading news to hundreds of millions of people it behooves them to keep a tight reign on the content below their headers. The last thing they need is for some wingnut to fly off the handle in front of an audience the size of most nations.

        For most things corporate I understand as well, though I do find it refreshing when the big players don’t turn every web page like a giant legal cover-your-ass exercise. The Google Blog doesn’t moderate their comments – at least it doesn’t pre-moderate them (it’s possible they just delete anything that doesn’t meet their standards for submission after it’s posted). While Google isn’t exactly a small time company they’re also well known for being a little more relaxed about things so I’m taking the absence of pre-moderation of comments for what it’s worth.

        [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8gCV0KYdJc?rel=0]

        As for my little corner of the blogosphere I just can’t wrap my head around the idea that a comment would need my approval before I allowed it on my site. It smells a little bit like censorship, don’t you think? Besides, who the hell am I to say what people can and cannot say about something I fully intended the entire Internet to read (or at least a few hundred people)?

        Back in 2005 I had a different blog and one particular asshole starting commenting and causing a ruckus. For a time I just didn’t allow comments in hopes he would find someone else to hassle but realizing that it wasn’t fair to other readers who did want to comment I turned them back on. It was at this point that I tinkered with the idea of moderating the comments. In the end I chose not to, but had my finger on the “report” button just in case he got out of hand. He never did. Contrary to some beliefs, there are a lot of problems that will just go away if you ignore them.

        A brief poll to a few friends who blog and a little bit of research on the web dug up the following nuggets of extrememly precise data:

        • A large number do not moderate their comments
        • Many only moderate for spam
        • Some use a form of word verification
        It would seem that for those who moderate spam is the biggest concern. No one wants a slew of ads and unrelated links clogging up their comments section and this is where I think the word verification comes in. That was one thing I ended up implementing myself, and as far as a security feature goes; forcing a person to enter in a couple words just so you know they’re not a robot isn’t much, but it does keeps the spam down and in my case also allows anonymous comments (while I prefer people stand in front of their comments by putting their name on them, I can understand that some people may have concerns over privacy and things like that).

        There’s lots of comment plug-ins for the popular platforms like Blogger and WordPress and both have at least a couple variations on moderation. Another one is Disqus, which I used for a while but abandoned for reasons I don’t remember.

        But to the question at hand, is it just best practice or are we making it out to be worse than it is? As far as my blog goes, I’ve decided that until I actually have a problem I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing. I like to think of it as giving the public an opportunity to disappoint.

        So far, they have not (except this person).

        ~ Andrew


        For those interested, here’s a sampling of a few news sites and their moderation policies:

        NY Times
        Click this sentence for just the policy text

        CBC
        Click this sentence for just the policy text

        Huffington Post