Saturday, March 14, 2009

Post No. 94: Rarely Does a Man Love His True Self (or, How to Discourage Comments to a Blog Post)



© 2009, the Institute of Applied Common Sense

The Laughingman was first amongst us at the Institute to blog - and suffer the accompanying abuse.

When the Logistician entered the blogosphere, he noticed some of the Laughingman’s posts generated tons of comments and others zip. He asked the Laughingman, “Why the difference?”

In characteristic fashion, the Laughingman replied, “I have no idea.”

What the Logistician took that to mean was, “Figure it out for yourself, idiot; it’s better that you do it that way.”

(The Logistician asked him what would drive more traffic to the blog, even if no comments were left. The Laughingman replied, “A picture of Jessica Alba; preferentially naked.” This, the Logistician understood.)

Having engaged in this adventure since April, the Logistician, in response to a recent similar inquiry from a new blogger about increasing comments, remarked, “I have absolutely no idea.”

For the Logistician, unless the topic is abortion, gay marriage, stem cells, welfare, drugs, illegal immigration, government bailouts, or Obama, this was the truth.

Additionally, we learned early on that taking a position down the middle of the road, and citing the good and bad points made on both sides of the debate, simply yields attacks from both sides, and praise from neither.

On the other hand, when responding to the suggestion of a fellow blogger that a lack of comments reflects a lack of interest on the part of the readers, we questioned that assumption. In fact, we felt that when we posted our best written work, we actually received the fewest responses. Regardless of the subject.

Nirvana in the world of writing is attained when you strike a chord with 95% of readers. The Logistician, who conducts motivational workshops, refers to this as the “room head nodding response.” He knows he’s reached his audience when at least 95% of the participants all nod, as if on cue, at the same time.

Still we wondered how one gets there. How one identifies that “it.” We think we may have stumbled upon it.

We noted the paucity of comments to our last post, which piggybacked on Pablo Neruda’s “You’re the Result of Yourself.” We suggested that everyone dissatisfied with life, if they were truly honest, would admit that their condition is due to their decisions made during their lives.

The notion first began to take shape when we referenced a quote from a classic movie about most humans living inconsequential lives.

It took on more shape yesterday, when a colleague quipped about our discomfort viewing what we see in the mirror when we look at ourselves.

Finally this morning, things crystallized when we heard a historian quote the phrase, which serves as our title to this article, “Rarely does a man love his true self.”

On the right side of our blog, under the heading, “Who is encouraged to participate,” appears the following:

“Solution-oriented individuals… who, unrestrained by political correctness, are willing to ‘dig deep’ in an effort to understand and explore the underlying root causes of problems, rather than merely focus on the symptoms.”

A further explanation of the goals of the Institute suggests that “…by avoiding subjective and partisan approaches… the analysis will improve …. [We seek to avoid] being distracted and sidelined by symptoms. We can thereafter craft better solutions.”

There is no easier place to start addressing any problem than one’s self.

We think that this is a principle which can be applied to our nation.

In order to address this very uncomfortable place in which we find ourselves, and about which we hear so much barking today, we need to pick up a huge mirror and check ourselves out.

There’s lot of talk about the dangers of centralized governance, which has been renamed “socialism.” That may be the case. At the same time, we need to recognize the limitations of the “let the market determine” or “herding cats” governance model.

That doesn’t mean that we need to relinquish freedoms. It’s just means we need to recognize that with freedom comes responsibilities, on the part of us all.

Simply put, we need to remake our true selves so that we can love ourselves again. (If we ever did.)

As one of our regular readers commented, “One of my favorite lyrics is, ’He’s a walking contradiction, partly truth, partly fiction.’

It’s never too late for us to be what we might have been.

© 2009, the Institute of Applied Common Sense

25 comments:

  1. "a lack of comments reflects a lack of interest on the part of the readers, we questioned that assumption."

    I think often people confuse silence with lack of interest or lack of understanding. Sometimes silence is just that, not responding.

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  2. Holly is correct, often. She's wrong, often. Sometimes, I think, people do not comment because they feel there is nothing of importance to say. It might be that the post gets that collective nod rather that that scattered applause. I note that blogs rarely get that standing ovation. Some blogs just invite participation even though they don't specifically ask for any. I refer you to "Pearl, Why You Little..." for a good example of this type. Her style, her humor, her friendliness all combine to attract comments. Mostly because she attracts a lot of readers.
    Pearl is special, she is a true creative writer. Most of us are dabblers in the art.
    I read this blog because you give me things to think about. I comment because I think about them. I comment more when I see what seems to be something I disagree with. But that is my nature.

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  3. We agree Holly that silence can be simply that. Unfortunately, if one is interested in producing high quality content and communicating a message to readers, then the nature and number of comments are ways to do so. Are they the only ways? Of course not.

    Fortunately, you are one of the people who takes the time and energy to provide us with insightful comments. If no one did so, we'd just be floundering around engaging in self-flagellation.

    We, in theory, would like everyone to express themselves in comments, since to do so would permit all of us to engage one another and thus learn from one another. However, that is not going to happen in reality.

    We recently read an interesting book. “Click – What Millions of People are Doing Online and Why It Matters” (http://books.google.com/books?id=LigfLgAACAAJ&dq=%22bill+tancer%22&ei=OpWHSfyAD5K6M_OW9fYN) by Bill Tancer. 2008, Hyperion Press.

    Tancer is Gen Mgr for Global Research for Hitwise (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hitwise). Provides an interesting analysis of who is online.



    Per Stephen J. Dubner, co-author of “Freakonomics,” “Bill Tancer is the king of measuring online research, and online research is the main street of the new world, which makes Bill Tancer King of the World, or something like that…”




    Thanks, as always.

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  4. It takes a life time to finally come to terms with who you are, and who you wanted to be and aren't. Then if you are to find some final contentment at long last you have to take a tally of what you have accomplished that you are proud of and stack it against the shameful deeds. Be ruthlessly honest because no one is listening but you and God! If you are EXTREMELY lucky the shameful deeds will be the shorter list. BB

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  5. Douglas: The Logistician thinks that there is no better food in the universe than pure, raw fish - sashimi; with nothing but a "splash" of soy sauce. Not everyone is so willing to consume this "________," even if he offers it up for free, or agrees to pay the tab.

    You've pretty much hit the nail on the head in terms of the wide and varying nature of our reading audience, and their interests.

    This blog is not for everyone. It's not a massive consumption blog (although we have discussed whether that is the way to go). We describe the types of people, a relatively small segment of society, who we suspect might find it to be of some interest.

    Last year, when we started the concept, we initiated a modest marketing campaign, wherein we told college students that we were interested in stimulating thought and challenging long-held assumptions.

    A fairly large number of people told us that they were not interested in revisiting the bases for their thoughts and beliefs, and did not want to challenge them. Some students told us that they were not interested in having their thought stimulated, and that they simply wanted to be told what to do.

    (Some recent marketing research supports this notion for the current Millennia Generation. Generalizing, which always has its problems, they do not want to be subjected to the Socratic Method of learning. They view it as inefficient and ineffective. They simply want things pointed out to them.)

    We always envisioned this blog to be a forum for the exchange of ideas, and that people participating in it would learn SOMETHING NEW EVERYDAY from the positions and comments of others.

    We think that the world is better off when led by a generation of pragmatists capable of thinking through complex problems, not ideologues who simply apply their rigidly held views to all problems no matter what the nature. We'd rather see leaders with 28 arrows in their quiver, as opposed to just 14.

    Yesterday, we heard a historian discuss the manner in which warring countries engage in peace negotiations. He said that no one enters a negotiation with a blank slate or mind. All of us come to the table with our own baggage and collection of past experiences.

    However, in order to achieve peace, one has to enter the negotiation with an "open" mind, open to the views of others and how they might contribute to the benefit of all.

    Quite frankly, although we have witnessed some rigidity on occasion from transient readers, we strongly suspect that most of our regular readers have at least learned to appreciate, and entertain, some "other ways to view issues."

    That's our simple goal at this point in the maintenance of this blog.

    When we carry the concept onto college campuses, we expect to draw a certain type of student - those interested in tackling the complex problems of the world. Common Sense dictates that they have as many weapons and tools in their arsenal as possible, not just the ones with which they feel comfortable or like.

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  6. You're simply marvelous Brenda!!! YES!!! YES!!!

    The Institute is comprised of Baby Boomers. When we take this concept of personal responsibility “on the road,” our target audience will be high school seniors (about to enter college) and college students. We wish to share our insight and experience so that others might not travel down the wandering, non-goal orientated, complicated path down which we traveled.

    Some might suggest that we primarily learn from experience. However, one of the great beauties of the human species is that we can pass on knowledge to succeeding generations, and they do not necessarily have to suffer the consequences of bad choices, and poor decisions.

    Consistent with our view of the importance of being pro-active and addressing things on the front end, what better time to start stacking up the chips on the “proud” side, and minimizing those on the “shameful” side, than in one’s “youth.” It’s better to be “forewarned.” We’re just trying to help with the difficult stuff.

    More importantly, we are individuals who accept 110% responsibility for all that has happened to us, and do not view ourselves as victims. Thus, we try to avoid barking like Dobermans, by slipping an occasional constructive note now and then, here and there.

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  7. I believe lack of comment is not always lack of interest. Lack of followers would be. I comment when I think I have something to add
    Blogging to me as many fronts, all about sharing, a story, a fact, an opinion, art, music etc...
    A comment does say "this is interesting" but sometimes I prefer to read, think, and keep comments to myself, or just enjoy

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  8. Neo said: but sometimes I prefer to read, think, and keep comments to myself,

    Sometimes I do not wish to engage others who visit a blog if they are abrasive or confrontational. However, it does not mean I am not interested in what the author has to say, or even what the visitors have to say. It just means that I will not be pulled into a verbal confrontation that will not have a satisfactory resolution for any of the parties participating.

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  9. I concur with neo...a lack of followers would be the ultimate indication of lack of interest. I agree with holly as well. I also believe that people who step out into the vast blogsphere with the intent to share their thoughts, philosophies, beliefs, etc., have a healthy amount of self confidence, and are therefore almost impervious to the pain of rejection or dissenting opinions. I realize that what I just described would at least be more acceptable to said bloggers, than dead silence. So at the heart of this concern, it seems, is silence may equal indifference or disinterest. And if that be the case, I submit that in this world of endless topics for discussion, the "trick" (if I may call it that) would be to find the topic that would spark 100% of the respondents one is seeking. Just my opinion, of course.

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  10. Thanks much Neo. We always look forward to your visit, regardless of whether you decide to comment. You are correct that the lack of visitors and repeat followers would be far more troubling.

    We would be curious as to how many people read a post, sit back and await the comments of others, consider what has been said, and THEN formulate their thoughts which are expressed later in a comment.

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  11. Thanks much Holly for mentioning how the tone of a comment can affect a reader. Not only does a confrontational tone discourage engagement, it may suggest that the writer is not open to hear the views of others. Virtually any argument made in a confrontational style or tone, can be rewritten to communicate the same message. Plus you are far more likely to get others to appreciate your point of view, and possibly join forces with you.

    As we expressed in an earlier post, nastiness is little value other than perhaps for the person spewing it.

    We like to reference Michale Jordan, the great basketball player. He indicated that getting angry gets one off his or her game, and makes them lose focus.

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  12. Thanks much Bridgette for joining the discussion. In our view, everyone is correct, to some extent.

    We often receive comments by direct e-mail which you folks do not see, since we only occasionally post them.

    Here's a summary of some of the thoughts (paraphrased) expressed by readers:

    1. The vast majority of the comments are far too liberal. No one expresses my point of view, and thus it is a waste of my time.

    2. The vast majority of the comments are far too conservative. No one expresses my point of view, and thus it is a waste of my time.

    3. I am afraid to express my true feelings. They may come back to haunt me. I can't afford to let the public know what I truly think.

    4. Even posting anonymously does not afford me the level of protection which I need to feel comfortable expressing my views.

    5. Some of the comments look like angry rants, as if the person had climbed up on a soapbox and wasn't going to climb back down until his/her point had been agreed to by one and all.

    6. Some of the comments, as near as I could tell, made no sense whatsoever; to be completely rational and fact-driven when discussing political issues, for example, is illogical.

    7. You need to be careful as the moderator of the forum, and ensure that the angry people do not take it over, and thus discourage the thinking people to participate.

    8. What went on in that person's life to make them so angry?

    9. Logistician, at some point, you have to stop being neutral and receptive to all views, and draw a line in the sand.

    10. I'm not willing to post a comment which is not thoroughly researched and backed up by facts, since I expect to be attacked, and my name is associated with it.

    11. You're going to arrested and have some violence directed toward you. You need to be careful.

    12. You must tell it all, as it really comes in. It's the only way that the thing will have real value and credibility. Let the chips fall where they may.

    13. Thanks Logistician for joining our forum. It was becoming a collection of similarly thinking people spouting the same message as if it is a chorus.

    14. You are either a very brave man, or a man full of that substance that makes us all better drivers, to take this subject on.

    We have the ability to "moderate" comments and only allow them to be displayed after we have reviewed and approved them. IF we used that feature, would you feel differently about participation in this forum?

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  13. I am reminded of the average classroom where the teacher asks a question and the usual hands, and only the usual hands, pop up. This is how blogs are, I think.

    If I may... you wrote:

    "A fairly large number of people told us that they were not interested in revisiting the bases for their thoughts and beliefs, and did not want to challenge them. Some students told us that they were not interested in having their thought stimulated, and that they simply wanted to be told what to do."

    That both disappoints and scares me. It is how liberty is lost.

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  14. Douglas: You commented on how the lack of motivation or desire of some of our citizens to think through issues, and have their thoughts challenged, potentially risks the lost of our liberty.

    We suspect that this segment of the population may be larger than we realize. During his workshops, the Logistician refers to the concept of "muddling through." He argues that there are many who prefer the simplicity of not having to entertain challenges to their basic assumptions, which allow them to function just fine.

    Their approach might be summarized as, "Why make stuff complicated if you don't have to?" It works for them as long as they do not have to venture too far away from their comfort zone or fellow comrades in thought.

    Earlier today, we heard a discussion on CSpan2 Book TV about possibly restructuring our governance model so that only the educated and enlightened would make the important decisions. Their position is that governance issues are complicated, and that the unsophisticated should not be permitted to screw things up for the rest of the population.

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  15. Log. was all over the place with this post (as he usually is with his 2, 3 or 27 views) so in my first comment I responded to his "rarely does a man love his true self" . Now I will give a few of my own views on bloggers commenting.

    If counting the number of people I get making comments on my blog I would feel that I was talking to myself, so thank goodness for Blog Stats as they have saved my ego. :) Really tho I get few comments and I really do enjoy them because they usually bring out another thought on the subject, or make me give my original thought more consideration and either back up or try for clarification of my original thought.

    I made it a rule never to draw first blood, so to speak. But after another blogger attacks me I feel justified in any decision I make in response. Usually I will wait since everyone has bad days, or maybe my outspokenness just hit them wrong on that particular day. Give the benefit of the doubt. If however I become too disgusted with the nasty one visiting my site I do not fool around, but go for the jugular. My aim at that point is to get rid of the person not carry on a running dialog of snark.

    Why do I blog? I guess for much the same reason Log gave: to give younger people the benefit of my mistakes. I always tell them that if I can help them not to make the same mistakes I have then I have done well. And they are not to worry because there will still be a multitude of mistakes left out there for them to call their own.

    Last I will pass on the best compliment I have ever gotten concerning my blogging. A young man told me that he doesn't comment because I have said it all as far as he is concerned at the time of reading and he has to take it away and think about it some. Then he went on to say he comes to my site mainly for information which he usually gets, or for a good laugh as I sometimes throw out there little ditties I get from email friends. Finally the best of all is when "You give me both information and humor because you sure do have a way with words." LOL I am so happy to be thought of as having a "way with words" when all along I have thought of it as being my "wicked tongue" and have spent a lifetime trying to tame it! BB

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  16. You keep us smiling Brenda. It is clear that you care, since it is apparent that you put a lot of time and energy in your comments. In fact, you sometimes put more time in your comments on other blogs, than you have to devote to your own posts. That let's people know that you are engaged.

    At some point, we would like for our blog to be "self-executing" meaning that we simply place a topic out there, and the respondents carry ball throughout the analysis and counter-arguments, with our throwing a wrench in the mechanism periodically.

    As we've said before, you're always welcome here. We've learned a lot from you.

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  17. A lack of comments does not necessarily reflect a lack of interest on the part of the readers. That may be true for some it does not apply to everyone. I am one of those persons that read but hardly ever comment, and that for different reasons. Since English is not my native language I know it's hard for some people to accept my bad grammar, spelling and writing style. If I do get the impression that the author is just trying to feed me his or her opinion and is looking for agreement I shall refrain from commenting.At times (not often) my assumptions do stand in the way.
    Your blog is far to thought provoking, to not give it a try.
    I can imagine, that if I was to attend one of your motivational workshops that I would be one of the head nodding participants. I have to be honest and say that I have attended meetings and lectures where I've been nodding my head, only to appear awake, while I was half asleep.
    A lot of us are conditioned early on to just absorb the information that we are being fed by family, school,media and government. It would be beneficial (not only to the individual) if our schools would spend time on developing or cultivating skills & abilities such as critical thinking, problem solving and empathy.The lack of those skills & abilities is what is keeping people from looking within and from being responsible.That makes it really easy to blame others or simply to resign I could go on and on here, but... am I making sense?

    We have to realize that we are free first, to feel responsible.

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  18. Thanks much WSteffie for visiting our forum and taking the time to digest the post and accompanying comments.

    You expressed an interest in exploring and challenging your own thoughts, and the notion occurred to us that someone whose native tongue is different than that of the environment in which they currently live, might conduct that exploration and challenge more so that those of us who have lived in one country all of our lives.

    That process might also be akin to that undertaken by those of us who choose to visit or have visited other lands and cultures. Those experiences would seemingly encourage a re-examination of our settled assumptions and thoughts.

    We're just rambling here because you made us think of some new explanations for "the way things are." Thanks for that.

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  19. Thanks so much for reading and replying.:-) The interest in exploring and challenging my thoughts only developed developed in the last years. Growing up in Germany during the peak of social democracy did not require much thinking at all. Vacationing in the US and other countries did not help to change my thought process or views either, as I mostly interacted with natives that worked in the tourist industry. What helped was my move to the US in 1984. I was fortunate to live there for 12 years. Living back over here in Germany now, interacting with people from the US as well as other countries is what helps me to shape/re-shape my views.
    If you do not focus on the language/cultural differences you will find that people in democratic countries often have the same concerns and problems.

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  20. Thanks again wsteffie. There is a huge difference from visiting a place and living there for a short, medium, or extended period of time.

    We often find ourselves "mesmerized" by people who claim that their city, state, or nation is the center of the universe, or the best in the world, not having visited even a small number of other places.

    Guess that's just part of the deal.

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  21. I like your choice of words, the term mesmerized makes me smile. There are plenty of those people over here, mistaking self-righteousness with righteousness.

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  22. Wsteffie: During the past two years we have maintained this blog, we have learned that many people are more concerned about being "right" as opposed to be "accurate."

    It seems to us that those interested in accuracy will constantly question their position and its basis, and affirmatively seek other explanations on a daily basis, and never really be satisfied with the "completeness" of their information. Those interested in being "right" appear to have a different approach, which we have not quite gotten our arms around.

    Check out some of our posts in early 2009 and the comments generated.

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  23. Sorry for the late reply Inspector Clouseau. my computer was broken. I tried to patch it up unsuccessfully for the first week as I thought it was a software problem. Turns out that it was a hardware problem and I had to take it to a shop for repairs. I'm not blaming the government for setting a bad example in terms of patching up things though. I take full responsibility for my own stupidity here

    In reference to people that feel the need to be right, I've noticed that some of them are just covering up what they feel inside. That could be anger, disappointment, discontentment or even the fear of being wrong.

    I will go ahead and post some of my thoughts to your most recent post and then I will start (whenever I have time) to read the older posts.

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  24. I like your choice of words, the term mesmerized makes me smile. There are plenty of those people over here, mistaking self-righteousness with righteousness.

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"There Are More Than 2 Or 3 Ways To View Any Issue; There Are At Least 27"™

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