It’s been almost a year and a half since I started writing for TechCrunch, and a lot has changed since then. I’ve quit drinking, I’ve written another book, Greece and Ireland have both gone broke, the Chilean miners have become international heroes, and Julian Assange has been locked up. Oh, and TechCrunch has been sold to AOL.
And yet, plus Assange, plus c’est la meme chose. Long time readers might recall that in my first column I proposed a few basic guidelines for commenting on TechCrunch.
“Rule One: The next time one of you asks the rhetorical question “why is this news?” I swear to God I will come round to your basement, gather up all of your Wil Wheaton action figures and melt them down into a giant plastic phallus. If you’ve ever seen the Miriam Karlin scene in A Clockwork Orange, you know what happens next. Save us both a trip and next time you find yourself asking “why is this news?”, instead ask yourself “why do I still live with my parents?”. It’s news because people better than you said so.”
…that kind of thing. The initial result was encouraging – for a brief period of maybe 30 or 40 seconds the quality of comments on TechCrunch rose noticeably, including a 20% drop in misspelled name-calling and 35% fewer ungrammatical demands for any given writer to be fired. Since then, though, things have tailed off again – to the point where several of the writers no longer even look at comments, lest they be so disheartened with the state of humanity that they’re prompted to go on a killing spree.
I admit, having in the past few days alone been called a “cock”, an “idiot”, “scum”, a “wanker” (bless) and – worst of all – a “Republican” by commenters, I too am close to installing the TC comment blocker Chrome extension.
But before I take that final drastic step, and because I’m a uniter not a divider, I want to try one last time to restore dignity to TechCrunch comments. I admit, my first instinct was simply to write a post restating my earlier commenting rules, perhaps underlining a few of them that are more important than ever. (“I would rather encourage my only child to trick-or-treat his way down the sex offenders register than to spend one moment in the company of someone who would leave an anonymous comment on a blog. Man up or fuck off.”)
Two factors, though, gave me pause: first – I did a lazy cut and paste column last week and I probably can’t get away with that trick again for at least a month, and second – I remembered another thing that has changed at TechCrunch: we now have a community manager – the delightful Elin – who is working hard to bridge the gap between writers and readers. As such, she might not take kindly to me deliberately antagonizing you
freaks guys. In any case, maybe aggressive rules are not the best approach: maybe like the basement-dwelling, mid-pubescent children so many of you clearly are you don’t respond well to authority. Perhaps engagement is the secret?
It’s worth a shot.
So, in that new spirit of engagement, I’ve just spent an “enjoyable” hour looking through some of the recent (and totally genuine) comments posted below my columns in an attempt to figure out what lies at the heart of your rage. What I discovered fascinated me: a large number of the negative comments on TechCrunch take the form of questions. It also gave me an idea: perhaps if I could answer those questions in a helpful and friendly way, the people asking them – week in, week out – might stop being so angry. Order will be restored! Just in time for Christmas!
As I say, it’s worth a shot. Here, then, is a handy – and very friendly – FAQ for TechCrunch commenters. I hope you find it useful.
Q) Why is this story on TechCrunch?
A) Great question! In fact, this is by far the most common question asked in response to my columns. It’s fantastic that so many of you are interested in the editorial process here at TechCrunch! To answer: generally speaking, a story will appear on TechCrunch because one of the professional writers employed here decided it was something that might be of interest to his or her readers. Also, if you read carefully (or at all), there’s a very good chance you’ll notice that the story involves technology in some way. (That said, other possible reasons include: because the author wanted to take revenge on a hotel company, because the author is having a bad day or because the author is keen to have sex with a particular PR person. That’s how journalism works, kids.)
Q) Do you actually get paid to write crap like this?
A) Another common question – but non the poorer for it! The answer is yes. Which makes one of us. Now, pray, what brings you here?
Q) How can you say [opinion X] in this post when TechCrunch previously said [opinion Y]?
A) Because there are multiple writers at TechCrunch,
you fucking imbecile curious reader. Also, to further confuse matters, I suffer from multiple personality disorder. As do I.
Q) Seriously – more link bait crap?
A) I admit, cherished and loyal correspondent, that this question is somewhat irritating as it operates on the assumption that we are directly rewarded based on the amount of traffic our posts get. Fortunately for me (and unfortunately for Jack McKenna) that is not the case. In fact our compensation is inversely proportional to the average IQ of the commenters we attract. This is why I’ve taken to writing about Sarah Palin with such frequency.
Q) Are you on drugs?
A) This one has cropped up on my posts with alarming regularity of late, which makes me worry that maybe I am on drugs. Alternatively it might just be a handy fall-back question for commenters who disagree with a point I’m making but lack the rhetorical skills – or basic intellect – to explain the basis of their objection. In that regard it’s the commenter equivalent of a girl shunning your romantic approaches, and you calling her a lesbian.
Q) No, but seriously, are you on drugs?
A) Yes, I am on a cocktail of very strong drugs.
Q) Is this what happens when you get acquired by AOL?
A) A relatively new entry to the comment hall of fame, this one takes a variety of forms – often appearing as a statement: cf. “Clearly this is what happens when you get acquired by AOL”. Either way, no matter what the editorial position – that Sarah Palin is a bad parent, that Wikileaks is a net negative to the world, that content farms are evil, or that AOL is the killer of all things good – you can be sure to see a comment from someone suggesting that our new corporate owners somehow had a hand in it. Moving to Discus? AOL. Favourable coverage of Yahoo? AOL. Jason Kincaid writing about Android? AOL. MG buying a Macbook Air? AOL. 9/11? AOL. For the avoidance of doubt there is actually only one question relating to TechCrunch to which the correct answer is “because TechCrunch has been acquired by AOL.” and that’s “Why the hell does TechCrunch have all these bottles of shitty AOL branded wine around the office?”
Q) Is this TechCrunch or Huffington Post?
Q) Is this TechCrunch or Politicrunch?
A) TechCrunch. (Also, there is no such site as Politicrunch).
Q) Is this TechCrunch or Mashable?
Q) Is this TechCrunch or Valleywag?
Q) Is this TechCrunch or Fox News?
Q) Is this TechCrunch or Faux News?
A) Kill yourself.
Q) Serious Arrington, will you please fire this guy?