Friday, March 30, 2012

Web Demands? Where Are the Comments? Don't Trust Computers

Although the formatting has deteriorated since it was an active blog, here's my idea of what a blog should look like: What makes this one such a fun (if time-consuming) blog to read is the online conversation among the commenters, some of whom have discovered each other as e-friends through the comments.

It's discouraging not to see that kind of conversation here. As editor I enter this web page through a "dashboard" page that shows which posts are being read, and in which countries. Sometimes I wonder whether anybody actually likes what they've read. Certainly I miss the (informative, not commercial) links, the stories, even the poetry people share as comments on the Ozarque blog.

(Yes, it's fine to post comments that include links to Wikipedia, Amazon, official government or university information pages, etc., here. What I remove are comments containing unpaid ads for commercial sites. If advertisers don't work with us, as directed here, I don't trust them.)

So it was at least enlightening to receive an e-mail reply to a review of The Dog with the Chip in His Neck I posted earlier this week.

I try to contact authors who have web pages about adding their books to the Books You Can Buy From Me list. Sometimes I don't get through. If you're an author whose book has turned up here, and you've not seen an e-mail from me, please notify

Here's the message I posted at Andrei Codrescu's web page:

"Belated thanks for "The Dog with the Chip in His Neck." In the course of spring-cleaning I've just replaced and discarded a copy and added it to my online bookstore. For years I'd fantasized about an online bookstore that offers royalty payments to the living authors of secondhand books; now I have one, at Author comments are always welcome."

Here's the e-mail reply:

"Priscilla, I tried adding the comment below to your fine review, but I couldn't make my way through the thicket of web demands. Thanks anyway. You can add it yourself if you want. Andrei

Well, what do you know? I get a dollar from someone who reviewed my book intelligently, which is more than I made from the original publisher who pretended to read me and forgot to pay me. Like we used to say in the old commie fiefdom: "We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us." This certainly isn't the case here. Thank you, Priscilla. Andrei Codrescu."

Nice. Now will someone please buy the book online so the nice man will get his dollar. But...what thicket of web demands? I tested the comments system before I posted much here. It seemed to be working. But wait a minute...when I log in, the system recognizes me. I asked an e-friend to post a comment. The system didn't recognize her.

How typical of automated "security" measures this is. Several spammers who've created Google accounts, either for the purpose of marketing businesses that may be real but are trying to cut corners, or for the purpose of venting hate and anger, have posted comments here. The system thus "protects" me from receiving comments from friends and subjects me to comments from trolls.

The lesson to be learned here is that we should never trust software to do any of our thinking for us.

If you would like to post a legitimate comment here and encounter a thicket of web demands, please e-mail Saloli. (E-mails containing commercial links or hate spews will be reported as spam.) The Internet is inherently attractive to people with bad intentions, but we try here to make things easier for people with good intentions.