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What are we looking for

By radar bunny in Op-Ed
Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 06:47:07 AM EST
Tags: Kuro5hin.org (all tags)

I've been following Slashdot and k5 and others for a while now and have been an active poster on both. After some time now, I have to ask the question - why do we post comments. What are we looking for?

Ok the whole thing is about a discussion, but what is the discussion based on to begin with? It starts with a story, or a reply to a story and suddenly we are thinking, "oh i have to reply to this."
Stop right there, WHY? Before you post your next comment or even a reply to this article, ask your self what exactly you hope to accomplish. I've been doing this a lot lately and I have come up with the following reasons.

1. Factual response - We are posting to point out a fact that is missing or is wrong.

2. Emotional Response - We feel have taken either offense to the comment/article and need to point this out, or we appreciated the comment/article and want to point this out.

3.Personal Response - We want to supplement something that seems to be missing though isn't a factual mistake. We just want to add our viewpoint or little perspective.

These are the three main reasons that I found myself posting comments. And, I think most people with most post feel this way. Then I had to take it a step further. I asked myself, "Why does anyone care if I liked or didn't like what they posted as an article or comment?" Or, "What point will my perspective make on this discussion?"

It was right after this that I felt the need to ask myself If i didn't just come to these places to tell people what I was thinking, as If what i though actually mattered. After all, in the end it doesn't. I've never made a serious life changing decisions based on anything I've read by someone else so why would it stand to reason that anyone has really benefited from anything I've ever said. So are we just posting to be heard, to maybe convince ourselves that we really matter?

That leads to the even bigger question. If we're doing this just to show we have a voice, that we mater, then is it in the end just an ego trip -- even if only a mild one? I know it sounds like a harsh thing and something normally reserved for megalomaniacs and the like. But, at the end of the day, we're all human, and we all want to feel important. After all, why do we pay as much attention to the replies to our comments and how they were moderated as we do to the rest of the stories?


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


I mostly post to..
o point out a factual problem 13%
o Expres simple agreement or disagreement 10%
o Because I have a point of view that needs to be heard 52%
o To make my Mojo go up so I canbe a "trusted user" 11%
o Just so I can say YHBT 11%

Votes: 76
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Slashdot
o Also by radar bunny

Display: Sort:
What are we looking for | 34 comments (23 topical, 11 editorial, 0 hidden)
I have not replied to this article. (3.33 / 3) (#1)
by puzzlingevidence on Tue Jan 09, 2001 at 08:17:13 PM EST

Stop right there, WHY?

After thinking about it, I decided not to reply to this story. Oh, wait, I already did. Oops. :)

I suppose that #4 should be "ironic response".

A man may build a throne of bayonets, but he can not sit on it. --Inge

the third covers it (2.33 / 3) (#2)
by radar bunny on Tue Jan 09, 2001 at 08:19:17 PM EST

I was goign to put to be funny, but figured most of that falls under the 3rd. after all, humor is based on your experiences and such.

[ Parent ]
or (none / 0) (#34)
by mircrypt on Mon Jan 15, 2001 at 12:58:03 AM EST

knee-jerk reflex or instinctive response might be another category...post because some inner spring of your psyche cries out to be heard? Just a thought.
"Experience is not what happens to you; it is what you do with what happens to you". - Aldus Huxley -
[ Parent ]
Consider the possibility that... (4.57 / 7) (#8)
by elenchos on Tue Jan 09, 2001 at 08:47:14 PM EST

I sometimes actually post because I enjoy conversation for its own sake. I also post because I like the person I am replying to and want to interact with them. One frequent reason is because I want to learn something, or gain an insight and perspective that I would otherwise lack without interacting with other people. Sometimes the truth is staring me in the face and I can't see it so I need to take the problem up with someone else.

Sometimes I just want to win an argument, but such victories are ultimately hollow.


It's the Craic ! (2.60 / 5) (#10)
by Phage on Tue Jan 09, 2001 at 09:08:30 PM EST

All of the above reasons are true. We like to post for the same reasons we like to talk. We have the opportunity the show a little ego, a little opinion, and share time with like-minded people.

Nothing hard about this question. Just ask yourself why you talk to anyone...

I don't find Heathens to be sexy, as a general rule.

Interesting... (4.40 / 5) (#11)
by vaguely_aware on Tue Jan 09, 2001 at 09:09:16 PM EST

I've never made a serious life changing decisions based on anything I've read by someone else...

That's funny because I've always assumed that my life changed (from what it could have been) every time I changed my mind. I can't imagine not reading books because I didn't expect them to have any effect on me, and really those authors are just people like you and me and the rest of K5, Slashdot, whatever.

I suppose the difference is the fact that you may not "know" the people here, but that doesn't change the validity of their ideas. I think it's closed-minded to assume that strangers who write messages in weblogs can't change your life. I changed my career path after reading Eric Raymond's web site, which I was led to by several posts on Slashdot. I guess you could say that I have made life changing decisions based on what someone else wrote. Did they know that I was benefitting from their thoughts and opinions? I'm sure they didn't.

Maybe the problem isn't that our posts have no effect, but in the case of people who've had hurtful things said about them, that we just don't think our posts have any effect...

"...there are lots of shades of brown, but not too many shades of balls. - Kwil
Why? Because you like it. You know you do. (3.83 / 6) (#12)
by trhurler on Tue Jan 09, 2001 at 09:12:50 PM EST

Well, why do you ever talk to anyone? There's no real need for it, when you get down to it. You can survive without speaking to anyone - ever - except under the most dire of circumstances. I know because I tried it for awhile just to see what it was like. You know why we do this, and why we talk to people, and so on? Because we like to. We sometimes have specific motives, but the truth is, we like talking to people and listening to what they have to say.

The obvious reply is, "Why do we like to?" The even more obvious answer is, "Lots of reasons - some good, some bad, some neither." It is like asking why I like to drive a car with a manual transmission on windy roads, or why people are attracted to certain other people but not others. There are undoubtedly reasons, undoubtedly they vary from person to person in character and relative importance, and each of us can find those reasons if we want to, which can be interesting in and of itself. However, those reasons are totally irrelevant to whether or not we do those things - we do them because we like them, or don't if we dislike them. The fact of having reasons is more important in this decision than the actual reasons themselves.

Of course, if you have reason to suspect your motives, then the introspection becomes more important - but the sharing here makes less sense in that case, because introspection is something you have to do for yourself. I for one, having carefully examined the reasons I do most things already anyway, do not bother with such things. I know that some of my motives are upstanding and some I'd rather do away with - and I also know that there's nothing there so terrible that I'm going to turn my life upside down over it. This sort of honest self-examination is an important step in becoming an arrogant bastard, which, of course, is a goal much sought after and seldom attained:) (It may be of interest to note that people go around playing this inane game of humbler-than-thou, which, when you think about it for two seconds, is nothing but an attempt to show how much better you are than the next guy - egoism at its finest, if only it wasn't a deception. Better to be honest.)

'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

You left out the trolls (3.66 / 6) (#13)
by shoeboy on Tue Jan 09, 2001 at 09:16:20 PM EST

Usually I post on /. because I'm bored and want to either provide entertainment for the masses or stir up a hornets nest.

The only thing more satisfying than making people laugh is getting a bunch of slashbots flaming away at a flimsy construction of invalid logic and obvious factual inaccuracies - that makes me laugh.

And yes, it is just a huge ego trip - what of it?

Over here on kuro5hin I tend to post for one of the 3 reasons you mentioned.

No more trolls!
which one? (3.00 / 1) (#21)
by codemonkey_uk on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 10:04:08 AM EST

"Over here on kuro5hin I tend to post for one of the 3 reasons you mentioned." --Shoeboy
Which one? :)

Or does that depend on the situation?
"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]

Why Not? (4.00 / 3) (#14)
by locutox on Tue Jan 09, 2001 at 10:31:40 PM EST

Why don't we look at the reasons we don't write a comment? I'm sure everone here has wanted to post a comment but was scared of being slightly embarrased or loosing their precious MOJO or whatever it is.

To post or not to post, that is the question.

Reasons why I think people don't post
1. They have nothing of significance to say
2. They fear people reading the comments will think they're stupid and get themselves moddem down.

There's probably more reasons, but I suffice to say that those 2 are the main reasons.

I shouldn't make a generalization but at some point we've all found ourselves falling into the 2nd point. I've found that I've left certain discussion or community webpages because I fell pressured to post. Take e2 for example: If you post something and it's good you gain a few points. If not you loose your points and find yourself wishing you have never posted the comment in the first place.

K5phobia perhaps? :)

Effort (4.00 / 3) (#22)
by codemonkey_uk on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 10:09:30 AM EST

It takes effort to post.

When one invests energy into something, it is usually because of a hope of getting something in return.

You ask why not - the answer is easy, people who do not post do not see a reward structure - a return on their investment. But to ask a poster why they posted. Thats is a valid question (with valid replies; this story's full of them!).
"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]

I agree with skinny (none / 0) (#33)
by flowergrrl on Fri Jan 12, 2001 at 09:23:59 AM EST

and will post just because although I wouldnt have bothered before, because someone else has already said what I think, ..... see, I was just about to cancel and not post, which is what I usually end up doing, but now i am just gonna press post!!


Meet my son Dylan
[ Parent ]

or... (4.00 / 3) (#25)
by janra on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 11:31:48 AM EST

1. They have nothing of significance to say

Or they think they have nothing of significance to say. The main reason I rarely post is because I rarely feel I have something to add to the conversation. Usually because the topics that come up are ones that I don't know much about, so I'm more likely to just read. But even if it's a subject I do know something about, I often feel that other people know it better than I, whether that feeling is justified or not.

Discuss the art and craft of writing
That's the problem with world domination... Nobody is willing to wait for it anymore, work slowly towards it, drink more and enjoy the ride more.
[ Parent ]
Why repeat? (3.00 / 2) (#28)
by skinny on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 03:17:26 PM EST

This is actually my first post on here. Most of the time I do not post because the majority of my view on a subject has already been expressed by someone else. For example, the subject on globalization had about 15 responses that consisted of "I'm not against globalazation, I'm against corporate control". Which is how I feel.

[ Parent ]
Ok, here goes... (3.00 / 3) (#15)
by pb on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 12:24:21 AM EST

Emotional response: that's got to be the stupidest question I've ever heard.

But I suppose if I think that, I'd better have a good answer for you.

I guess I like hearing what people think, and having discussions. I feel like I'm doing my part, in some strange way.

...and I'll tell you more if I get through my Cognitive Psychology course this semester. ;)
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
Why? To learn about ouselves by teaching (4.00 / 4) (#16)
by yuri on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 12:33:20 AM EST

There is the old maxim (paraphrased): "you never really know a subject until you teach it"

I think this applies as one of the main reasons that people post comments....they discover more about the topic at hand by trying to make an insightful comment on the topic. In trying to 'teach' or relay some info about about a topic, posters investigate their info for accuracy, analyze their info, and try to add something new to the discussion. The net result is that they have formed an opinion about the topic, hopefully learned more about the topic and relayed that info to the reading masses.

I often comment on a story just to explore my thoughts on the topic. I think this is a major reason for posting.



Why I post (3.20 / 5) (#19)
by ZanThrax on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 01:08:34 AM EST

I post here (and used to post on various other weblogs) because I have a strong need for intelligent discourse. I spend large parts of my concious hours simply thinking, usually either introspective or philisophical, and my ability to come to rational, good conclusions is very important to me. As a human being, the ability to think critically about highly abstract concepts is what seperates me from simpler life forms. While I'm perfectly capable of keeping my thoughts to myself, and working through ideas on my own, (I spent the better part of three years thinking about 1984 after I read it shortly before puberty, especially the idea that people not only can be controlled, but perhaps should be for the greater good) I find discussion and debate both more effective and more rewarding. By subjecting my ideas to scrutiny by those who are better educated, more widely read, and in many cases, more intelligent, I can find flaws in my thinking, and be presented with new ideas that I have not thought of for myself. Considering my opinion that abstract thought is the most important aspect of being human, it should be no surprise that I find intellectual discussion the most worthwhile social activity. And other than late-night college dorm discussions (which are often affected by various perception-altering chemicals), where better to find such discussion in the modern world than something like K5?

Before flying off the handle over the suggestion that your a cocksucker, be sure that you do not, in fact, have a cock in your mouth.

Why? Why? Why? (3.50 / 4) (#23)
by codemonkey_uk on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 10:17:30 AM EST

You state tree reasons for posting:
  1. Factual response
  2. Emotional Response
  3. Personal Response
Before I get to my main point I'd like to point out that 2 and 3 could be considered the same thing.

But I think the question goes further than that. When you post a responce, the question becomes why did you want to make that responce? Why was it worth the efford of you clicking, and typing, and proof reading, sometimes at great length, to correct a fact, or state how you feel? Why did you do it? What did you gain from it? What was the return on your investment?
"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell

2 and 3 not really the same (3.00 / 1) (#30)
by lmnop on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 10:38:55 AM EST

Posting motivations 2 and 3 *can* be the same thing but, it's possible to have an emotional response to something you have no personal stake in.

You may care if your favorite football team wins but, unless you bet money on the outcome it won't affect you personally.

What category does 'nit-picking' fall under :-)

"If all else fails, immortality can always be assured by spectacular error." -- John Kenneth Galbraith
[ Parent ]
nit-picking (4.00 / 2) (#31)
by codemonkey_uk on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 10:47:24 AM EST

"What category does 'nit-picking' fall under :-) " - lmnop
The increasing-your-feeling-of-self-worth-by-pointing-out-the-faults-of-others category.

But seriosly, the persistant nit-pickers get that heady endorphine rush from pointing out other peoples errors because it not only implies that they are better that the persons whos nits are beeing picked, but demonstrates it to a potentially infinte audience!
"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]

You misspelled "seriously". (3.50 / 2) (#32)
by lmnop on Thu Jan 11, 2001 at 11:14:20 AM EST

hehehe ...

I'm just kiddin' around with you now. I was going to respond in agreement with your reply but, the wise-ass in me took over.

I think we can now add 'nit-picking' to the my-spell-checker-is-better-than-your-spell-checker category :-)

"If all else fails, immortality can always be assured by spectacular error." -- John Kenneth Galbraith
[ Parent ]
Opinionmaking (3.66 / 3) (#24)
by Beorn on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 10:47:25 AM EST

Stop right there, WHY?

I only think when I discuss. Most of the time when I write something, anything, I hadn't actually thought about it that way until the moment I wrote it. I don't philosophize on the bus, at most I mentally recreate a discussion I just participated in. Every opinion I have today (there are quite a lot of them) first occured clearly to me after I decided to reply to something like this article, and I don't consider an opinion refined until it's been tried and tested in a heated debate.

After I discovered BBS's, I changed my religion, my worldview, everything, often between the first and last sentence of a message. It's all back there, of course, all the facts, the prejudices, the influences, but it takes a comment like this one to materialize it.

So that's my motivation, that and the egotrip of speaking to and possibly influence thousands of people. And I get courage to step up on the soapbox from my irrational but deeply rooted knowledge that I am always correct - even when I change my mind 180 degrees.

- Beorn

[ Threepwood '01 ]

just love to string them words together (5.00 / 2) (#29)
by anonymous cowerd on Wed Jan 10, 2001 at 07:15:02 PM EST

It used to be I'd post stuff mainly to argue against points of view (primarily political ones) which I considered to be wrong-headed. After all, if you consider usenet and weblogs like this one to be the equivalent of old-fashioned debate halls, and if they're debating politics inside, then my point of view, the correct one, should be forcibly represented there. After a while, though, it began to become clear to me that no one is ever convinced of anything by on-line arguments. That kind of takes the edge off of all that strenuous advocacy.

Another reason I sometimes posted this and that to usenet was in order to share what technical knowledge I had, for what you might describe as a blend of altruistic generosity and self-aggrandizement ("re your post, I hacked this little proggy out for you in five minutes, look how smart I am, oh boy!"). That isn't a blend of two things really, those are just two ways, positive and negative, to describe the same emotion. But when you come right down to it I am not enough of a technical expert at anything to set myself up as Mr. Advice Guy.

Plus about the middle of last year I suffered a bad bout of computer burnout, and it was really getting me down. So I gave up struggling with computers in general for a while - I quit my job as the network administrator at my company, and got transferred back into the field as a land survey party chief, which is what I used to do ten years prior. This may sound like MS-bashing crankiness, but I maybe blame that flaky closed-source crap of theirs as one primary cause of that burnout. My head was too full of voodoo computer lore - you know, the kind of cheesy tricks (install the v.4.1.2 driver off the floppy, not the v.4.2 one off the CD, then rename this file, and reboot twice...) you teach yourself when administering Windows NT systems, which work OK, but you never, never know how or why - and I've been deliberately forgetting that stuff as fast as I can. In the last six months, I've gotten to the point where at least I don't dream about technical problems I was having with the company's servers and desktop machines... Also the physical exercise associated with construction work helps a lot: I've lost about twenty pounds of body weight, my muscle tone is a lot better (still nothing great, though), my respiration is twice as good, I don't get those odd pains in the chest, and my right leg isn't numb all the time.

Nowadays I post, mainly, because I like to string words together. Creative typing is fun. Subconsciously I knew it all along, and so do you. Don't you feel a certain pride when you contemplate a well-written post you wrote - a pride which, viewed objectively along side its cause, is really excessive? I think I first consciously realized how much fun creative typing per se actually is when reading the works of a few of the more imaginative trolls on slashdot (hi guys, you know who you are! - your fan WDK).

One day, it suddenly occurred to me that the best of their stuff, rather than being merely a sort of infantile verbal vandalism, a deliberately annoying affront to the integrity of the dialogue and the sensibility of the readers, was instead a real and well-realized art form. Where before I muttered "asshole! what crap," now I said "bravo! encore!" instead. Suddenly I saw it was no coincidence that "post" and "poem" have the same number of letters and begin with the same first two... Prose is fun! Like singing or dancing or playing a musical instrument. I especially like it when I can get a good rhythm and assonance going in a post, for me that adds a lot of pleasure to any post, even if the content is logically leaky or even downright defective.

It helps, of course, that a lot of times when I post, especially when it's late at night, I'm kind of drunk.

Yours WDK - WKiernan@concentric.net

...hey that reminds me! the sun's down, where's the corkscrew?

"This calm way of flying will suit Japan well," said Zeppelin's granddaughter, Elisabeth Veil.

What are we looking for | 34 comments (23 topical, 11 editorial, 0 hidden)
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