Some thoughts on the evil that is… *comments* September 18, 2020 cliffski I think a lot about how I think. I’m ridiculously obsessed with this topic, and it kinda screws up my brain. I often have no idea what I think, or what I want, because I am so busy over-analyzing my decisions. Back when I was super into marketing, I read a fuckton of books about decision making and influence, to see what makes people decide to play, or click or buy. I probably got a bit too into it, because now I find it hard to just *want* a thing and then just *buy* it, without analyzing if I really need it or if its irresponsible, or if its good value, yada yada… Anyway, despite that annoyance, it does yield some benefits in terms of me noticing changes in my own behavior and my attitudes over the years. One of the more weird things I have noticed is how successfully silicon valley billionaires have persuaded me to think differently about information. Back in the pre-internet days, I would read a book or a newspaper, and think about what it said. I would turn the topic over in my mind, dwell on the facts, or the arguments made, consider how persuasive they were, or were not, and think about how this new opinion/commentary/information could improve my life in some minor way. Maybe I just read something about physics. Now I know a bit more about physics! maybe an opinion piece on tax rates…now I have a more refined sense of my own views on tax rates… whatever. I think the important thing here is…the time. The actual reading of new information is only the gateway into learning from/absorbing it. If what you read is good, it will stimulate a lot of thought. Some reflection on what the deeper implications are, maybe discovering links to other views or information in related areas. You have *improved* from reading the information, but also mostly from the post-reading consideration and analysis of it. Say for example you read ‘the communist party manifesto’ by Karl marx/Engels or ‘Capitalism’ by ayn rand. (FWIW I’ve read both! … sort of, got bored with 2nd one) You probably get triggered by the opinions in one or the other of these books, maybe really angry, maybe you think those views cannot hold up to scrutiny etc… But left alone with a paper book, you cannot *react*, you have to consider. You have to analyze, you have to allow deeper thought, and reflection. But not now. Now we read everything online, and even if there are NO comments on the article we read, you can bet a site like slashdot/hackernews/reddit/facebook is where we saw the link, and there will be tons of comments for us to join in with there. There is now NO TIME set aside for considering what is being read. You MUST comment. You MUST read other peoples comments. I feel it too, this is not me being superior, I feel that pull too. I have read something that I have an instant opinion on. I MUST SHARE MY HOT TAKE IMMEDIATELY. In many cases, who really needs to RTFA (read the fucking article) when you can post your half-baked instant reaction simply to the buzzwords in the headline. Do NOT think, COMMENT! Of course this is bad, because it means 5% of what we read is thought-out and researched, and considered, and 95% is hot-takes responding to (if we are lucky) the content of the article. I wish there was a way to auto-track how much of what I read is journalism vs random strangers reactions to journalism. I suspect the ratio is very worrying. (BTW I am not elevating ‘journalists’ here, I am referring to any considered, thought-out piece of writing, and actual *article* instead of a single-paragraph hot take). Much of what is true feels wrong. We tend to overlook this, but some thought shows it to be true. Here are some things that I am led to believe to be true, but which I subconsciously suspect must be wrong, intuitively. The Earth is a sphere.Aeroplanes, made of metal (which is heavy), can fly.Quantum entanglement is a thing.You can raise a tax rate, and then take in less money from that tax.The earth is hurtling through space at an incredible speed. If I was not aware of any of these things, and saw them posted on the internet, I would likely have to fight an immediate urge to respond with my ‘hot take’. “FFS metal is HEAVY, no special shape, or strapping it to an engine will make it fly like a bird. Have you ever SEEN a bird? the article is clearly BS. This so-called aeroplane doesn’t even flap its wings FFS. what bullshit. Downvote.“ Exaggeration for hilarious comic effect indeed. But there is a nugget of truth here. We have been conditioned, by the clickbait seeking engagement-time metric maximising billionaires of silicon valley, to ENGAGE with content, but not to critically consider it, or appraise it. That 95% vs 5% metric is why this is the case. There are simply not enough ad-views generated by reading a single article, but if we can twist that into a 50-page comment thread where people post hot takes, we can get hundreds of ad views of ‘engagement’ for the cost of a single piece of clickbait! Comments are sometimes good, and the point. A forum about a video game where people share feedback or discuss strategies. and make suggestions is good. Thats a deliberate decision to set up a forum to discuss a topic, but comments on the news are often cancerous and awful. Facebook, Reddit, Slashdot and the rest provide ZERO actual content, they just link to other people’s work, and then monetize peoples hot takes, with a built-in voting system to encourage partisanship and arguments. People get so invested in the comments, they forget what the article was about. The article was the hand-grenade thrown into the room by silicon valley so they can monetize the bloodbath it generates. We should fight the urge to comment on everything we see. I struggle with this every day. You can never know the pain I suffer of reading an article suggesting hydrogen powered cars make sense, or that writing your own game engine is pointless. *must resist*. Yet I think its better if we all do so. Do not comment. blog your own rebuttal. Think about it. put the effort in. Generate real content, not hot takes.