No comment: the hidden face of feedback

Photo by Flickr user AJU_photography

There are many names for people who read blog posts but don’t comment on them: internet introverts, digital wallflowers, the silent majority…

The CBC’s Jim Lebans lists all of these nicknames in his short essay “In defense of lurking.” In it, he explains why he doesn’t chime in at the end of articles, despite having reasoned opinions.

Of the few comments following his piece, this was the most telling:

But I’d venture to guess that, unlike Jim, most don’t decide not to comment–they probably just don’t think to. Others just don’t want to: they may have something to say but, all things considered, it’s way easier to scroll down and roll out.

(The opposite of a “lurker”, by the by,  is the infamous troll, who I mention for the sole purpose of plugging this College Humour video.)

The rarest kind of reader, in my experience, is the one who writes something thoughtful, attaches their real name to their statement, fills in their actual email address and maybe even checks back to see if the conversation has moved forward.

But what about the online conversations that happen because of, but outside of, the original blog post?

In my case, most of my feedback comes to me through Facebook. Sometimes the links I post spark long and complex debates. Often, the people participating don’t even know one another and yet manage to engage in very critical yet respectful conversation.

Meanwhile, the original blog post is surrounded by singing crickets.

By way of example, I recently posed a question on this blog as well as the a Toronto Star blogShould reporters be allowed to protect whistleblowers?

If you check out both posts, you’d think only two people had thoughts on the matter. Well, today I am bolstering the numbers by ousting a few of my Facebook friends.

Their responses ranged from the curious to the impassioned, but they all took the time to think through the issue through and engage with others. I think it’s a shame that the resulting discussion should remain locked behind the gates of my Facebook privacy settings. (At least, in theory.)

What follows is a comment thread you were never intended to see. Hopefully, its content will inspire some more of you “eyeballs out there” to activate your fingers and get in on the conversation.

Here’s an experiment for after the fact:  I (perhaps ironically) invite all you “lurkers” out there to respond to this post and let us know why you tend to pass through so quietly.

Feedback on “Should reporters be allowed to protect whistleblowers?”

Original article posted both in the Toronto Star Intern blog and the Fab Files

Thanks to those named below for allowing me to re-post their comments attached to their full names.

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