Monday 5 December 2011

The End of Free Speech

I really enjoy blogging. For starters I like writing, pretty much a prerequisite (imagine if you didn't, and were made to blog daily?!) I also like taking photos and boring people with them. Perfect. What started as an unadvertised toe-dip has morphed into what sometimes feels like an obligation. I'm approaching three years behind the keyboard, and amazingly still have not run out of things to say, though I reckon some people wish that I had. Perhaps I have a very active mind, but I find myself mentally composing blog posts at almost any time of day. Driving, shopping, commuting, you name it. I get home, and it just trips out, just as this one is now doing, for I have been thinking about it on and off all day, as well as part of yesterday. Often I have several thoughts on the go, so sometimes they become one horribly rambling post. Sometimes they stay separate, but many times they just go nowhere. Something else catches my attention, and so a 90% formed blog post about some tiny and meaningless aspect of my life gets cast by the wayside. Drivel that never was. And then sometimes, just very occasionally, I decide that I just cannot be bothered to write anything at all. Sometimes reader, you don't realise just how lucky you are.

When this happens, I wonder whether people will be disappointed? Whether my inconsistency will put people off? I read somewhere that the most successful blogs always post at the same time of day. Regular readers know when that is, go and check it, and hey presto there is the next installment. I am all too aware that it must be horribly frustrating to keep coming back to a photo of a strange-looking Common Gull for days on end. But that's just the way it is. The Fatbirder counter, shrouded in mystique though it undoubtedly is, is a chronic nag. Anything below 150 and I realise I must pull my socks up. The dizzy heights of double digits and I am in a frenzy of wishing to keep my spot. All ridiculous, but then when you think about it, that's blogging. Ridiculous. There are some blogs out there that actually serve a purpose, where you can actually learn stuff, guru Mattanganna's Birding Frontiers perhaps being the best example, but by far the majority are waffle. Padding. This blog is padding par excellence. I am gratified that people continue to read it.

I've never been much good on the stats element, I just forget to keep track. Every now and again I remember that there are stats, but because it will have been a couple months since I looked at them, I never really build up a picture. Instead I judge the success or failure of a post on comments. All bloggers LOVE comments. Don't pretend you don't. They are valediction for our efforts, and we relish their leaving. There are some blogs I read that within half an hour of having been posted have attracted thirty or more comments. Mrs L reads a knitting blog that is guaranteed to get over a hundred every single time. A few days ago one post had 634!! Were it me, I would read each and every one of them. Twice, probably. Luckily I don't have that problem. My average number of comments is about three. If you take my replies out, probably about 0.3, but nevermind, I love each and every one of them. Almost.

Although bloggers live for comments, there are some that I would gladly do without. I deleted one such comment just yesterday. Zapped it, just like that, which is what made me write this post. Normally I'd say that for the sake of free speech, people should be allowed to say what they like, generally it works better like that. As such I've never moderated comments - I don't review them before they get posted, they just go straight on, easier all round. But this particular comment has made me change my mind. There was no swearing, no abusive language, but the comment was left with the sole intention of belittling, and of winding me up. On this last part it has succeeded admirably. Naturally it was left by "Anon", they usually are. I read it, and my immediate thought was "You swine". I devote a great deal of time and energy to writing this, to trying to make it vaguely entertaining. I do it because I enjoy it, I am not so grand as to think I am providing any kind of service to the birding community. I do it for my own sake, I don't ask that anyone read it, though I am pleased when they do. And Anon, whoever you are, you see fit to post a snide, rude, very clearly designed-to-insult comment. For what reason exactly? I wish now that I had kept it, as I am struggling to remember exactly what it said, and it would help explain, but it's too late. Zap, gone. There might have been an element of sarcasm buried within it, but no amount of smilies would have made it benign. So now there is a new policy on comments. Until I start getting 634 per day, I'm going to moderate them, and I am only going to publish glowingly positive, gushingly feel-good ones. 

Not really. I expect I'll wave most of them straight through, as many times the comments are far more interesting than the original post. They allow for discussion and the development of ideas, and they're often extremely amusing. But the anonymous 'grudge' ones like I got yesterday will be going precisely nowhere. I am currently preparing my vast ego for the inevitable decline in the number of comments that this will unfortunately result in. I suspect I'll cope.


  1. I just stopped posting Anonymous comments J; anyone can pretty much say what they like to me as long as they're prepared to have the balls to say who they are and accept that they may have to look me in the eye at some point.
    I used to care about the stats, the comments, the fatbirder ranking, frankly now I couldn't give a damn, I write for me now, an on-line notebook and jotter.

  2. Heres a comment for you Jonathan. I have been blogging since July 2006. Over the years I have had the odd 'anon' abusive comment and , like you, I deleted them. Its the only way really. Dont let it get to you though, it will be somebody with a meldrew-esque streak mixed with a hint of jealousy.

    Keep up the blogging for as long as you enjoy it. Those who are bored will drift by the wayside and new readers will appear I'm sure.

    All the best with the blogging and I wish you a comment filled new year!

  3. It wasn't me Jono.

    I like to sign my anonymous posts so you know it is me that is trying to belittle/wind you up.


  4. This is far and away the most entertaining of all the birding blogs I read, which is a fair few of them, and is the first blog I go to of an evening. When I first discovered it, I spent three whole evenings reading every post. For that reason, and for that reason alone, I shall sign this comment 'Anon'. Looking forward to many more fun-filled posts *insert winking smiley*

  5. I wouldn't worry too much you will always get some troll who puts shitty comments up and they always pathetically hide behind the cloak of anonymity. Just think of them as one of lifes losers because that is all they are.
    I enjoy the blog fwiw

  6. In Blogshere there's power in the line 'your comment will be visible after approval'. It really means,'here is the the universe and I'm the master of it', not you.

  7. Don't let the trolls get to you, I know i'm not alone in really enjoying this blog (even if it is rarely about birds) Like 'anonymous' above, I too spent a couple of evenings reading through from the beginning when i first discovered this a few months ago. The subtle humour in things like planting Hawthorns and Mice make this one of the most entertaining reads around. That and the brutal sarcasm.
    Cheers Mr. L, keep it up

  8. Well, you've already got 6 comments, and they've pretty much said all that I was going to, so here's a comment merely for commenting's sake.

    Keep it up. There's some cod Latin phrase to do with carborundum and illegitimi that might be appropriate...

  9. Lord of Blog, Master of Universe, One with Password6 December 2011 at 19:54

    I wish now that I had kept the comment in question, but for those of you who enquired, in summary it said "you're a t***". This may be indeed be the case in some people's eyes, however to add this as a comment on my own blog I felt overstepped the mark. My immediate thought wasn't actually "You swine", it was more along the lines of "Well, f*** you then". I put a lot of myself into this blog, and I do not deserve slagging off for it. Despite having no clue as to who my admirer is, they are not going to get any airtime on here. Whoever put the latest comment about me being master of the universe is spot on. It is only a small universe, but yes, I am. I also think Alan's point extremely valid, and if I get fed up with comment moderation, I may go down that route. Half of what is posted on the internet would never be said face to face, or eye to eye.

  10. Well this should sort out your "need" for comments.LOL. Personally I love comments but there are some you can do without. Guess what they are always anonymous - I sometimes post as anon but always sign my name- thats cos blogger screws up sometimes.
    I had a serial anon who was so nasty and tried to wind me up - fortunately I have enough birding friends who made me realise the other must have been jealous or twisted.So not worth worring about.
    I feel sad when an interesting blogger stops due to rudeness and anon posters who hide behind
    the cloak of mystery when they are just nasty individuals!
    Blog on Jonathan plenty enjoy your blog!

  11. Wow. That got you more comments than usual. You might even equal the 600 odd one day, she has been doing it a long time.

  12. Jono.
    At least you don't have the Chinese spammers. I posted about Cranes and got a load of comments offering to sell me anything from a dockyard crane to a tower crane. All from China.

  13. Hi Jono
    Don't let the (anonymous) bloggers get you down, just look at all the positive comments your latest blog has engendered. Like some of the above, I almost always look at your blog first, and sometimes even enjoy it. (That last bit was a joke - don't delete me please!). As long as you still enjoy it, keep writing this blog - there's plenty of us out here who enjoy reading it.

  14. I posted some time ago to ask for the old Jono back on this website, the one who didn't take his twitching/birding quite so seriously. I keep meaning to post again to say that he's been back for a while now and the blog is even better than ever. Ignore your detractors, you're a highly entertaining birding blogger. Keep up the good work!
    Matt Evans

  15. Only 619 comments to go then, Jono. There will always be a few idiots looking to offend, which is why I moderate comments on my blog - though thankfully most are positive or constructive in some way. And yes, inevitably the offensive ones come from 'Anon, for the obvious reasons that a gutless loner with no social skills (or life) would have for not leaving their real name. But don't let them rile you - it's not worth it.