Comments are the lifeblood of TechCrunch, and we love ‘em. But we also get our share of the freaks, conspiracy theorists and jerks out there who have something to say and believe they have a constitutional or God given right to say it, right here. The author thinks they’re funny and insightful, but when we see the same comment over and over (and over) again, we fail to laugh.
Ten of our least favorite comment types are below. Which one are you?
- “Slow news day?” – Typically left on stories that the reader thinks are boring, not newsworthy or off topic. A recent example is the Britney on Twitter story – early on someone made this insightful comment and the story ended up with 112 comments. This comment is left at least once per day on some story, and usually multiple times per day. We usually delete them.
We haven’t had a slow news day at TechCrunch, ever. I always have a list of ten or more posts to write, and am just looking for the time to get to them. If a story is on the site, it means we want it to be there.
- “TechCrunch is really going downhill lately.” – First left in 2005, a couple of months after the blog launched. Seen daily since then.
- [random trolling, often with a wish that we'd die or are unethical in some way] - We get lots of these, and delete as many of them as we can. But first we check the IP address against previous comments left on the site. About once a month we see a really nasty anonymous comment that’s left by an IP address that had always been used by a single named commenter before that. Most of the time we had just posted a critical review of the person’s company right before the comment was left.
We don’t publish the real names of these people, but I do keep a list of people that seem to be really disturbed in some way. It’s often funny to see them at an event, acting like they really think TechCrunch is great.
If you are going to say something nasty, use your real name or learn about the magic of proxy servers
- “SoAndSo already did this” – A comment left when the reader believes that the new service we are describing is not a new idea, and therefore shouldn’t be given any attention. The problem is that there is very rarely a brand new idea. Instead, most of the products we review are iterations on what’s come before. And sometimes a new product tries to tackle the same problem that someone else has in a new way.
While it’s worth pointing out other products that are similar or relevant to new ones, it isn’t interesting to simply suggest they are a copycat of something else. If we’re covering it, we think it’s interesting or unique in some way.
- “Nice journalism…where’s the balance?” This comment, which comes in many forms, criticizes us for writing a one-sided story. People are used to reading old media, where journalists don’t write their opinions. Instead, they get sources to say what they want. I’ve seen this first hand – being interviewed for half an hour or more on a topic and then seeing a single, misleading quote in the finished product.
We don’t strive to be balanced. We strive to be correct. And we don’t try to trick the reader by making them think some source said something they really didn’t.
- “How much did the company pay you to write this post?” This is a conspiracy theory comment, bred in the minds of people who only see evil in the world. Think through this for a moment…if we ever asked for or received payment for a post, how long would it take for someone to talk? We are stubbornly independent, and our opinions are our own. If someone offered to pay us for a post, we’d just publish the offer immediately and humiliate the company.
When it comes to advertisers, we have a strict ethical wall between sales and editorial, just like “real” media. You can buy ads all you like on TechCrunch, but it won’t get you editorial coverage.
- “What’s your problem with [Company X]“ – Often left when we critically cover Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL or Google. Most recently it’s been Yahoo, which has been mismanaged beyond negligence this year. These comments are particularly funny when its alter ego (see immediately below) is written after a positive story on the same company.
I write what I think, and then I write why I think it. If you disagree, great. But that doesn’t mean there is a conspiracy theory to trash a company unfairly.
- “You are such a Yahoo/Microsoft/Google/AOL shill.” – This is Yin to no. 7′s Yang. What’s really entertaining is watching the comments on a negative post on a company and seeing something like this, when a day or two earlier the opposite comment was left on a positive post about the same company.
- “I hope you die/I’m going to kill you” – These comments happen more often than you’d think. More on that in a later post. In one awesome example we got a non-anonymous death threat from a startup engineer. When I sent it to the CEO, he said “ah, that’s just him, he’s a little strange. Hey, when are you going to cover our new product?” To this day we haven’t mentioned that startup again on TechCrunch. There are lines that shouldn’t be crossed, and threatening to kill any of our writers, my dog, or my family is one of them.
- “Unsubscribed!” - A comment left after we’ve expressed an opinion counter to what the reader believes. Saying they are unsubscribing is their way of showing that they think we deserve a decline in readership. Our counter is to ban certain readers, most of whom get apoplectic and fail to realize that we have no way of stopping people from reading the site’s content.
We can live with a few readers unsubscribing out of anger from time to time, it shows we’re at least keeping things interesting. If you really think we’re derailing, leave a reasonable comment saying why you think so. We listen closely to those.
Bonus: “You deleted my comment!” – left after someone has said something spammy, hateful or ridiculously stupid. The reader then comes back and complains that we’ve violated their right to free speech and are censoring them. Besides the fact that they’ve confused us with the U.S. government and their constitutional rights, they’re generally unwelcome and quickly get an IP block.