Most accurate analogy ever for The Great Internet Commenting Dilemma

Weingarten, preach it: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots." (via Joel Johnson)


  1. For the record, I’d say a lot of the comment interaction here on Boing Boing is very positive, respectful, and brings a lot of joy and knowledge to my life. Some of it is upsetting, but most is good stuff from good people. I like our readers a lot, for the most part.

    But anyone who’s spent any time on the internet knows exactly what this guy’s talking about.

    1. He’s right, Xeni, and the best thing about it is to keep us grounded about the reality of the world out there – 90% unsavoury, ah, but the redeeming 10%!!
      (happily adjust this % estimate if you convince me either way.)

      1. Now, hold on a sec. It’s either the Antinous way OR straight. Can’t be both.

        Darling, you know I love you. *kisses*

        1. When I was teaching yoga at the gay pride center, I had to keep reminding myself to say ‘extended’ leg or my students would chorus, “Both my legs are gay!”

  2. He’s got a good point on the effect of Search Engine Optimization too: no creativity or humor.

    Its as true for blog titles as newspaper headlines. I rarely strive for cleverness or creativity, but just think: hmmm, what will the search engines find yummy.

    Also, BoingBoing is the only blog I read where I click through to read comments with as much anticipation as I do the posts themselves. The moral: strong moderation pays off.

  3. Yes, ignore the trolls and do go read the article – it’s damned funny as well as thoughtful.

  4. Isn’t there a word, like Godwin-ing, for jumping to the most extreme ridiculous conclusion for the sake of baiting others into flame wars and daring the staff to do just the thing they are accusing them of, which they won’t do by letting the comment stand?

    Didn’t think Xeni’s point would be proven right outa the shoot like that. Here. Look no further for the maggots.

      1. The word I was looking for has more to do with bridges, but that’ll do. And speaking of Yoga, you’re in rare form tonight.

        1. *bows* Thank you, Sir (or Madam, but I thought Sir).

          Actually I’m pretty tired and my inhibitions are the first to go.

    1. It’s called “pulling a Dvorak” after John Dvorak’s weekly screed calculated to rile up the techie masses just to drive up visitors/hits.

      1. Works for me. Latin taxonomy seems a bit too highbrow to properly encapsulate the subject matter to me.

    2. Isn’t there a word, like Godwin-ing, for jumping to the most extreme ridiculous conclusion…

      Argumentum ad Absurdam.

      … for the sake of baiting others into flame wars …”


  5. Sometimes when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of awesome hot chocolate cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, which makes the whole thing even better.

  6. Just about every day, as I’m browsing news sites and blogs, I have to keep reminding myself: “Never, ever read the comments (except at BoingBoing).”

    Every time I make the mistake of reading the comments at just about any other site, I end up regretting it. This is one of the few sites I’ve found on the interwebs where the comments are actually worth reading, and often add something of value to the post. The comments sections of most other popular blogs have turned into troll battlegrounds. I’m not sure how BoingBoing has managed to avoid that; but, whatever you’re doing, I applaud you for it.

    Anyway, I loved the Weingarten piece. I think he hit the nail on the head.

  7. The comments here are great! Even when they are maddening.

    The comments on most mainstream sites are dreadful. It’s like someone brought a laptop to a newsstand/corner store and let every chucklehead who is waiting in line for Lotto tickets to air their opinion.

  8. Our local paper seems to breed more mass of maggots than they deliver steak.

    My wife keeps reading the things, but I gave up long ago. Not Worth It.

  9. There’s starving pirate kids in Somalia that would love to have those maggots, you know. Lots of great protein in those maggots. Just eat what we feed you.

  10. We had a patient once who came in to have her leg amputated and it was just a sack of skin filled with maggots. Do not let your children send you to Shady Pines when you get old.

  11. If you want to wade through sewage just go to youtube and read the comments there. Better yet, search some WW2 vids and enjoy the Nazi worshipping racist slobber.

  12. I agree with the post. But let’s not kid ourselves–there are plenty of posts on BB that make no pretense whatsoever of being objective, and are entirely editorial in nature. To that extent, the post simply doesn’t apply to BB. Not that there’s anything wrong with position posts, they’re just different.

    An average day on BB looks something like this:

    “New Widget Released”
    “Try this DIY Project”
    “Check Out Painting By New Artist”
    “X is oppressive, bad, and tramples on rights”
    “1001 Star Wars PEZ Dispensers”

    Notice how “one of these things is not like the others”? Fact, fact, fact, opinion, fact. And yet the opinion post is more or less presented (and more or less accepted) as being equivalent to the others.

    Don’t misunderstand–I LIKE the fact that BB mixes fact and opinion. My concern is that some BB readers don’t seem to understand the distinction. If knowing the difference and occasionally calling it out makes me a maggot compared to the great literary minds behind BB, so be it.

    1. Show me a newspaper, news channel, journalist, reporter, or blogger who DOESN’T throw their own opinion in there somewhere, and I will eat my hat sir/madam.

    1. Oh, go put pickles up yourselves.

      Oh, I see the elderly have arrived. I WILL TYPE LOUDER NOW.

  13. I think the analogy doesn’t work. Gene says he likes comments, but then likens them to a side of maggots. Who likes maggots? Especially when served with food.

    A more apt analogy would be like ordering a nice, professionally cooked steak in a nice restaurant, and allowing anybody else in the restaurant, or even passing in the street, to come in and either add a condiment of their choice to it, or poke it with their dirty finger.

  14. The thing that bothers and bores me about most internet commentary isn’t that it’s idiotic or vitriolic, but that it’s predictable.

    How many times have you been able to read an article and know exactly how the comments section is going to read?

    That’s the boring part. The disturbing part is thinking how many brains simply serve as meme-buckets, storing and replicating what they’ve heard but never bothering to actually think or process the soundbites.

    1. That’s the boring part. The disturbing part is thinking how many brains simply serve as meme-buckets, storing and replicating what they’ve heard but never bothering to actually think or process the soundbites.

      I can has maggots?

      I, for one, welcome our new maggot overlords.

      Mothafuckin’ maggots, how do they work?!

  15. When you say maggots, obviously you mean in the sense John Fowles uses it, right?

    “…as the author explains in the prologue, [of A Maggot, his title] is taken from the archaic sense of the word that means “whim”, “quirk”, “obsession”, or even a snatch of music (see earworm).”

    In other words a positive little thing that leads to inspiration. Even negative criticism can be useful.

      1. Because comments can make people aggressive and dangerous for the people around, can lead to dangerous poisoning and to lethal accidents in traffic? You must be joking.

  16. I used to read Fark comments to work myself into a frothing rage. Now I just scroll down on CBC pages.

  17. The maggot is a noble beast. Without it, we’d have no flies. And without flies, we’d have no maggots, which, as I said, are a noble beast….

    1. Perhaps you meant to write “ignoble”: ‘nobility’ may be a bit too complex an adjective to be applied to maggots.

      Not that it would change the import of your comment any. But the change would IMHO render it more accurate.

  18. BB may have opinion pieces, but it IS a personal blog and has no pretense of being an impartial news source. Isn’t that why we come here?
    A certain point of view with which we usually agree.

    But adding to this all.
    I’ve found that the best comments are generally on the sites with the best content. Shocking, I know, but it seems like the readers may have something in common with the content providers. Ars Technica is another example of a site with useful comments, IMO.

    That said, any site or even individual can have a bad day. Heck, even glorious moderators can be somewhat immoderate from time to time. That shit happens.

    But by trying to keep it civilized we can hopefully see new points of view on topics. It may not seep into our thick skulls WHILE we read the comments, but will hopefully affect our world view in some way.

  19. To paraphrase Mao:

    Let a billion comments bloom!

    To which I add: It’s not like anything’s going to stop them.

  20. I don’t like the maggot analogy — I think it would be better to say the waiter brings a sauce that’s different with every bite, one bite tastes like ashes, one bite tastes like dirt, but every once and a while it’s the best thing you’ve ever tasted.

    I can understand why some people don’t want the sauce (and I don’t always want it myself)’ but ultimately it can really add something you’d never get without the sauce.

    As I like to paraphrase Tolkien: Go not to the tubes for council, for they will both yes and no and fuck off!

  21. On any given day, I’ll usually produce a number of “comments” of varying length, and then engage the lever or pull the chain and send them on their way.
    Then, I go and turn on my computer.

  22. Great. Now I miss the constipated people smoking cigars. What a strange thing I’ve never experienced to go all rubbery nostalgia for.

  23. comment pages are what you would hear if you could read minds. People are, for the most part, fearful. I think a wise philosopher once said, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

  24. My comments always are delivered sans-spit.

    However, I empathize completely. Reading youtube comments causes an instant IQ drop. It’s only out of morbid curiosity that I ever check them.

    He does undercut his statement that he likes comments by comparing them to maggots though.

  25. Hey, maggots are good for you in all kinds of ways – high in protein, and they will clean out the pus in your open, infected wound. Also, works as bait for sport fishing.

    Stake, on the other hand, is just fattening.

    Anyway, Penny-Arcade had this theory way back in 2004:

  26. Sic semper: Quid cominiscere ipsos cominiscare?

    From the Latin commentus, colloquially an invention, fiction, or falsehood.

    1. God how I hate Juvenal. He’s like the Glenn Beck of the Silver Age. (Bizarre – the recaptcha is “arpeggio Loeb”.)

  27. Maggots = comments = good analogy.

    The way maggots can be used to treat a wound, only devouring the rotting dead flesh, leaving the healthy tissue intact and untouched.

    Now, moderation … that’s a different story. ;)

  28. If BB is like a daily newspaper then dissatisfied commenters are tagging the building instead of writing a letter to the editor.
    It’s been worse, though. I reluctantly draw your attention to l’affaire V. Blue, which caused chaos in the maggot markets. Shortage, price gouging, long waits in line for rationed maggots. It was awful.

  29. The thing that bothers and bores me about most internet commentary isn’t that it’s idiotic or vitriolic, but that it’s predictable.

    How many times have you been able to read an article and know exactly how the comments section is going to read?

    That’s the boring part. The disturbing part is thinking how many brains simply serve as meme-buckets, storing and replicating what they’ve heard but never bothering to actually think or process the soundbites.

  30. “For if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog, being a god kissing carrion…”

    And when the gods of Boing-Boing post about dead dog subject matter, none of us should be terribly surprised that unseemly or revolting comments spring from it.

    — MrJM

  31. Weingarten is one of the reasons I get an actually hard copy of the WaPo delivered to (or near) my front door. He’s worth reading, has quite a good range of style, from gritty/sober to completely immature whackjob comedy. More often in not in the OTT comic range. Worth looking up, if you haven’t read much of him.

  32. I respectfully disagree with Weingarten or at least his analogy.

    Most of the best websites have a mechanism that brings brings more helpful or funnier or more interesting comments to the reader’s attention while making it easier to ignore the less helpful, dumber ones. Controlling the quality of your reader’s comments ensures that your steak is served with more potatoes and less maggots to extend the metaphor(which is particularly unflattering to a newspaper and website’s readers). TCC’s point about’s moderation being heavy handed isn’t necessarily inaccurate but he neglects to mention that moderation keeps the vermin away.

  33. Lord, I am so guilty of mistaking commenting for random streaming consciousness/brain vomit. We should all be happy that we don’t have to read four pages of commenting instructions per Gawker/Jezebel.

    That said, Xeni (or maybe it could have been Antinous) could have deleted me, er my comments, sooooo many times and instead graciously did not. So, TCC, what in the world did you say, if indeed this happened? I mean, they have called me a dick (something on occasion I’ve been accused of wanting one), but touche’.

  34. I <3 BB so much. Even though there is a lot of self selection here (kinda have to be a nerdy go-getter), and even though not every article is up my alley (gawd after working in an alt-music-instrument-store no Ukes Evar Again!), I love the fact+editorial vibe.

    And frankly as long as you maintain the same amount of respect your would have as you would in the real world, then your comment wn’t atmtclly gt dsmvwld.

  35. But. . . It’s important that I learn vital new information about how Obama is a Muslim Nazi communist everytime I read a news article about NASA or American history or Lady Gaga.

  36. What is the “dilemma” referred to here? To turn comments off or keep them on? Something else?

    If you have comments on (like Seth Godin doesn’t), then you accept that idiots will post. The best analogy is not maggots, it’s the stock market: if you put your money under the bed, then you’re not going to lose big. But then, you’re not going to win big either.

    Big egos and small minds turn comments off. No dilemma there.

  37. Comments are like every other type of human interaction. 99% rubbish, 1% content. Nothing to see here.

  38. A fine analogy. Except that sometimes it’s like ordering maggots and getting a side-order of sirloin steak.

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