Imagine the following scenario: you are a faithful reader of a high quality blog. It’s a multi author blog and most of the articles are brilliant. The blog is more of an online magazine – a news source of sorts – and it is also one of the few you read periodically. Suddenly the quality drops. The authors become lazier, the comments start dancing in front of your eyes and you wonder why.
No, you are not drunk, although as things go on you wish you were. You didn’t take any hallucinogenic substances either. You are perhaps too demanding, because you care about your time, but this doesn’t change the sad truth that the blog in question has something rotten going on. The only explanation I could come up with is the “Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.”
There is a reason for you to keep on reading that blog: some of the authors are still delivering the kind of quality you expect.
But even there you notice a strange phenomenon. I’ll call it patting. Comments patting, to be more specific. This is when the authors of the same blog comment on each other’s entries and engage in internal debates to make the comments box look busy. In my dictionary that translates:
“Look, I wrote another piece of bad literature. But if you pat my shoulder and you make it look interesting, I’ll return you the favor my dear colleague when you screw up.”
Then you assist to the whole process of patting, teasing, taunting, scratching each other’s back. Full comment madness.
You stay in front of your monitor reading the crap and you wonder why not surf away to never return to that URL? Yet there’s something keeping you there like a strange evil force. You want to see what comes next, when do they stop, when do they finally realize their little game is ridiculous and fruitless.
But wait that’s not all! One of the authors even asks her husband to contribute. And imagine this: the lovely pair, sitting side by side comment crazy, typing and sweating their way into spicing up the comments box, each playing a role. It all appears as if two complete strangers (author and reader) debate over a topic of maximum interest. They argue. They agree. She writes a bad article. A real commentator this time wonders what went wrong. That blog used to be good. The husband comes to rescue the damsel in distress. You watch in shock and even see the order of the comments changing at refresh. Someone is covering some tracks here. You know.
It’s entertaining. It’s like seeing Jekyll and Hyde for the first time. A good blog gone bad because the editor just lost it. Because the editor doesn’t care anymore. There are other priorities in life, aren’t there?
Then it hits me! I know what happens with the blog. It is not the editor. It is strategy. The blog lost its quality, remember? Good authors left it for better gigs. So how to keep at least some readers? Entertain them!
Now I laugh. I remember one of Lorelle’s evil entries and I cannot help but quoting one of her “advices” here:
When I’ve published something on my blog, I log out and then leave comments pretending I’m someone else. I say great things about what I’ve wrote – er, the blogger wrote – and stir things up if the post is really boring. You know, like add some jazz.
You know, you can’t write like awesome every time, so it’s important that you get the comments going so people will have at least other comments to talk to. Besides, it like breaks the ice, you know. These dumb twits who read blogs, they need some butt kicking to leave a comment, don’t they?
Sadly Lorelle’s “evil advice” (which was pure parody at the address of the bloggers who really engage in such practices) is the cruel reality that hit the blog we were talking about.