The Pitfalls of Polite Commentary

I keep writing blog posts and not posting them. There’s a short backlog – two dreams (waiting to be illustrated) and a couple I wrote while offline. And now this one.

On the arts sites I’m finding more and more that I struggle when answering most of the comments. It’s a very strange, stilted business… maybe it’s just as Geosomin said, that having to make certain social gestures (such as hugging and kissing) because you’re expected to, makes it quite awkward; a bit of a chore. Most interaction on these sites take the following form:

“This is wonderful; I love the colours.”
“Thank you – I appreciate it. 🙂 ”
“You’re welcome!” (Optional).

It can be irritating if you potter along eagerly to see what your latest message is to find that all it says is, “You’re welcome!” So I avoid that myself.

After a little while, if he/she is a regular visitor, you might graduate to:

“This is wonderful; I love the colours.”
“Hi Marie, thanks again! I always appreciate your comments.”

I would be disappointed if nobody was kind enough to comment, and I would be disgruntled if I regularly commented on someone else’s pictures and they never seemed to take note or visit my own page (apart from the most popular ones who get a huge mailbag and you can forgive them for ignoring most of it). I would prefer a visit and a comment on a different topic to just a ‘thank you’ to the first one.

OK, I suppose I have expectations of my own…

In any case, when I get nice comments (always appreciated), I’m worried about my responses. Always afraid I’ll sound too terse, too parrot-like, too repetitive, too bored, too chatty, too gushy, too pushy, too…. something. Too late, sometimes. “Sorry I was so slow replying; I was offline for a few days.” I came back to 50 messages, which is chickenfeed compared to the postbag some receive – and I hope it will remain that manageable.

Some people start threads in the forums complaining that fewer and fewer people are thanking other people for their comments, and it seems rude. At the other extreme are those pleading illness, lack of time, and in general a need for ‘reduced thanking’… I think that makes sense. “Thank you” is not a conversation – it’s the end of one. There are other ways to show interest and start a collaboration. I do not like to think the comments under my pictures will look like this:

“Lovely work.”
“Thank you.”
“Great colours.”
“Thank you.”
“Fantastic texture.”
Thank you.”

(Cringe).

I’ve noticed some members put “you’re allowed to fave and run!” which is illuminating. If someone’s ‘faved’ your work, does he/she have to leave a comment as well? I assume some have said it’s rude not to. I ‘fave and run’, though. Unless I have something to say (and if I say ‘great colours’, it’s because they are…)

In general I try to balance it out… thanking some, and making return visits to others; sometimes easing into it so that they know I’m not ignoring them if I happen not to say ‘thank you’ one day. Some conversations are never exhausting, though – real conversations about the software and techniques we use and what our families think of it all… a little chit chat and a 3-dimensional life, like on the blogs.

Here’s an idea – we could have some parts of those sites automated, so that you go and look at Marie’s picture, for example, and have the following choice:

Press ‘1’ for “This is wonderful; I love the colours.”
Press ‘2’ for “This is amazing – faved!”
Press ‘3’ for “The signature at the top is distracting but it is very nice.”
Press ‘4’ for “You copied this from a book.”

Marie can have certain settings engaged so that automatic answers are sent and she never has to lift a finger. Such as:

(1) “Thank you, it was my own gradient.”
(2) “I appreciate it!”
(3) “Not if you have a Mac. And thanks.”
(4) “So did not!!”

Then we could just concentrate on making pictures, viewing pictures, faving pictures (I’m a terrible magpie that way), and having real conversations round the edges.

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4 responses

  1. I go back and forth with commenting. I feel like it’s rude not to say something when people go to the trouble to make and share something, but I know it can be tedious to get comment after comment that just says, “That’s pretty!”

    I wish I got a little more constructive criticism, something along the lines of, “That’s nice- have you tried doing it this way?”

    There are things I’d like to learn, but people seem awfully protective of their methods. Particularly with Apophysis. I see these amazing, intricate fractals other people have created, but they won’t tell me how they did it. It’s frustrating.

  2. Yes, I like that… the sharing and the suggestions. There are some folks who do seem to, and I came across one the other day. 🙂 [First name on my Recent Watchers list].

    It drives me mad when I see something and think “is that Apop or Ultrafractal?” or “I wonder what the meaning of this picture is?” and scroll down to the description, and all that’s there is “enjoy!” (or worse, three little dots. Or is it two little dots?) Complete waste of a scroll-down.

  3. shussmallworld | Reply

    I’m totally Waaaaaaaaaaaay over here on the amateur side of the subject matter, but on the topic itself, I am SO in agreement. My (stupid!) experience on my mind-numbing game site [pogo.com] is with one of my favorite new games in which every time you complete a certain threshhold, the GAME automatically gives 100 points to someone else in the ‘room’. This starts a round of “TY BigMommasBoy127 for pts”, “yqw MistyDawn323”, “TY PistolPete55 for pts”, “yw SnoopyDog436”, etc etc etc — like it had any personal meaning whatesoever… just ???.

    I know — not the same. However, I did give myself permission to ignore the thanking and the need to thank and just play ‘silently’ on. When it is meaningless, why would one respond? I’d love to say, “Gimme those points back — I could use them more than you!” I like your idea of automated responses! Bet we could come up with a few more!

    Embarrassedly (by my dumb analogy),
    Shu

  4. That sounds just like the same thing, Shu… there’s this feeling that we all need acknowledgement, even if it’s something fairly routine like that. And we do need acknowledgement, but it doesn’t have to be via thanks all the time; maybe something a little livelier and more individual. 😉 Even as I speak, there’s a conversation going on about this same topic on one of the arts sites.

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