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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Blogging on a Beautiful Spring Day

The blogger is walking alone down the street. Let's say—my street: tree-lined, with older houses, modestly generous yards, street lamps. It's April, and new leaves are on the trees. The new leaves have that peculiar delightful green color, delicate yet bright. Musing aloud, the blogger says to himself, "My, that's a beautiful green."

Immediately, three people pop up at one side of the street (the virtual world is like that), cooing approval of the blogger's opinion. "It certainly is," says Coloratoora; "Right you are," agrees BornOnTheFourth; "You've very perceptive," chimes in Xtalk, "I wouldn't have noticed that if you hadn't mentioned it."

The three of them murmur to their invisible friends—"hey, come look at this"; "check this out"—who pop up alongside of them. Some offer their own opinion on the matter of green. NdlssLv tells a story of his own experience of green, years ago; Imjason recites his opinions on green, sleep, the evolution of beetles, and the proposed new one-dollar coinage. Before long, a warm knot of people have gathered, all united happily in their love of green, and, by association, their admiration of the blogger.

The crowd swells. The blogger feels good, and a little full of himself. Suddenly, attracted by all the hubbub, a lone individual pops up on the other side of the street. Everyone looks at her.

"What's wrong with blue?" she says. "I like blue."

Murmurs of assent from the blogger's left. Blue is nice. They like blue too. Blogger feels expansive. Yes, blue too! he thinks. Blue and green! Look at me—I'm all about blue and green!

Two more people pop up on the blue side. "Look at that sky!" exclaims Jean2U. "It's a beautiful shade of blue."

"Your blue shirt is nice," someone says.

MainMan, on the green side, unbidden, begins a long disquisition on hue. "Blue is monotonous. Green can vary in hue. The blue of the sky is actually always the same shade, just lighter or darker...."

"Pardon me, but that's wrong," comes a voice from the blue crowd. There is a grumble of agreement.

MainMan pauses. "Are you calling MainMan wrong?" asks MainMan, sententiously. "How could you be so rude? MainMan is not wrong, MainMan is a KING, sitting in his Kingdom, surrounded by his mighty peripherals blinking and flashing like the cockpit of a Jules Verne submarine. You've assaulted MainMan, is what you've done, and I'm very close to MainMan, for MainMan is me...."

"We were talking about green," says L8rJ, from the green side.

"Yeah, shut the hell up, MainMain," says Nordus.

"Nobody tells me to shut up!" cries MainMan. "I'm leaving this blog and never coming back!"

"Blue is nice too! Everybody agrees blue is nice!" interjects LuLufromOz, hysteria in her voice.

"Blogger's post said nothing about blue," several people say, their voices rising. "We can quote him! Look, here it is, he said, 'My, what a beautiful green,' emphases ours...." "Yeah, GREEN," adds Nordus. "No," says another, "he said THAT'S a beautiful green, not WHAT a beautiful green, you insipid cretin. Can't you even cut and paste?!?"

At this point, sensing tension on the rise, the blogger assays his own comment, feeling (without, actually, a whole lot of justification) that he must somehow still be in control of the matter, since he brought it up. "We all agree, and we can all get along," he says soothingly. "I like the green of the new leaves; I also like the blue of the morning sky. The green of the new leaves and the blue of the morning sky go together, and are both nice." Nods from many individuals.

The street is very crowded now. Expectancy is in the air, although of what it's hard to say. More and more people are popping up on both sides. Suddenly, a large, truculent-looking individual looms up from the back over the heads of the admirers of green. "You know, I never fuckin' liked you blue jerks. Blue people reek. Bugger off, blue buggers! This was a thread about green!"

"Hey, it's my thread," says blogger weakly—but he's shouted down from the blue side. "Who says we can't talk about blue?" "Green makes me sick to my stomach!" "Don't you know green is evil? Here are eight links that prove it!" "Who died and made you the thread policeman?"

"I'm with TrucuL3nt!" screams coatolder, from out of the mass on the green side. "This was about green! Green! Blue people go to HELL!" "GREEN—GREEN—GREEN," chant the green people.

Shouting becomes general. Off to one side, green people are beseeching blue people to abandon blue and come over to the green side. A commenter named Zizzyman jumps from green, to blue, and then back to green again, welcomed with open arms each time he switches sides. Even the formerly peaceful people are angry and unhappy now.

The blogger never sees who throws the first rock.

Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Rocks pop into the hands of many of the more vocal individuals on both sides (you can find anything on the internet). Before he knows it, rocks are whizzing back and forth past blogger's head. One smacks into his shoulder; another hits his leg. "People! People!" he cries, his voice drowned out by the melee. "Keep your sense of perspective! It's just a nice Spring day!"

"Shut up, idiot!" comes the chorus. "You knew this was going to happen—you knew it would bring traffic to your blog when you started militating for green in the first place!"

"Yeah! That's why you did it!"

"Yeah! This is all your fault!"

"OW!" cries blogger.

Inexplicably, a lull—and the blogger is aware that the already huge crowd has suddenly achieved a whole new dimension; it has magnified exponentially. Behind him, an enormous mass of people have materialized. They are armed with cudgels, verbs, spikes, bricks, epithets, all sorts of things. And they are looking menacing. A wave of fear travels up his spine.

"Who are you?" says the blogger. "What do you want?"

"We don't much care about that whole crowd of stupid cool-colors people," growls the burly ringleader of the new mob. "We're more concerned with bastards like you who go around deliberately promoting green...."

"But who are you?" says the desperate blogger.

"You've been linked over at,,, over the place...and nobody is happy about you!" comes the answer. "If this isn't obvious to you yet, we're the red people...."

Posted by: MIKE ("It's Just A Nice Spring Day") JOHNSTON

*Satire alert


Blogger Robert Roaldi said...

Do you happen to know if sociologists or psychologists have a name for the kind of web debate that you just satired? It seems to me that they should have by now. Communications experts should be researching this because it is becoming pervasive and probably already clouds and colours real world debates.

It seems to me to be similar to but sufficiently different than the debates that go on in real life to merit deeper analysis (deeper than I can manage). In real life, except for very important topics, people get bored and go to a pub for a break if the argument goes on too long. On web forums, they can keep adding less and less relevant paragraphs for weeks that fewer and fewer people read, let alone care about.

This is a distinctive form of social interraction and experts should be studying it, it seems to me.

Maybe it's a form of flattery, though, that you can cause it to happen. I've never managed to do so. Anyway, I feel sorry for you having to slog through all the comments when it happens. There are better ways to spend one's day.

10:42 AM  
Blogger Ira Crummey said...

The Virtual mob! Some live in a virtual world where they interact with their virtual friends, climb onto their virtual bandwagons, brandish their virtual weapons that are extensions of their virtual egos. They cyberchat, play cybergames have cybersex and live cyberlives at cyberhotels.

Involvement for the uninvolved. We don't have to chase sirens and find riots anymore, we can sit quietly in our darkened rooms and experience them all virtually.

Now if mom would only get on the ball and pass me down my coffee and some clean underwear I could get back to that blog and give him a piece of my mind.

Yes, I responded to the Best photog post but I think I left my virtual sticks and stones in my other hard drive.

robert roaldi, well put.

Mike, I guess we all just have to learn when to virtually duck.

Ira - yours (virtually)

12:13 PM  
Blogger dasmb said...

Ah, the pains of online success. Combining anonymity with easy commenting is a recipe for heightened stupidity and rudeness even among the most civil of readers. Take a hint from your camera and turn down your sensitivity, man. Let the negativity roll off your conscience like so many undetected photons. This is your web, we're just swimming in it.

Incidentally, this is why I like the Slash system of user moderation. Let your most trusted readers comb through posts as they're reading, marking the ones that are rude, offtopic, or inaccurate, and they disappear from the default view. The result is a pleasant thread of only those comments others have found interesting and the ability for anybody to look at the comments that didn't make the cut, if they have the time.

Somebody want to poke the folks at Google and get this added to the Blogger feature set?

1:34 PM  
Blogger Eolake Stobblehouse said...

LOL. One of your best articles yet on this blog.

I know how you feel. Not long ago, I posted a B/W photo of mine, featuring two white girls and a black boy, talking and flirting on a street. I named the post "It's All Black and White". I thought it was a cute pun on the picture being Black/White.

Before I knew what happened, I was being pummeled for being racist. Several please from me and others provided no explanation as to this rationale, but I am still apparently accused in some quarters out there for being racist: a commentator who calls himself "Proud Black Man" popped over just to see if the rumor was true...

Gee whiz! :)

2:52 PM  
Blogger Michael Canyes said...

What really scares me is that these are the same people that you walk around with when shopping, or drive next to on the road. I don't even blow the horn at anyone anymore.

I doubt if things are any different now than they ever have been, but the anonimity of forums and blogs makes it much easier to be one's real self and spray this venom around on the rest of us.

3:14 PM  
Blogger Scott Kirkpatrick said...

Be careful. You know that Life, for lack of better things to do, imitates Art. Apropos of that, did you hear that Seal (perhaps) popped up at the Leica-Camera-Users forum for the first time recently. Quoting from a month-old post, he took a few swings in this new ring at Sean Reid for Sean's persistent disbelief in Seal's celebrity reality. His parting shot was something like "I don't come here to tell you I am a celebrity, millions of people will tell me that any time I ask. I'm just a geek."

Maybe Life doesn't imitate Art. Maybe it is a competition. What's Art gonna do next to compete?


3:30 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

The next iteration of virtual crowds....real crowds with matter transporters:

7:36 AM  

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