Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Doing Homework or Excluding the Hurried?

I was recently reading a blog that I follow, written by someone I respect. (I’ll refrain from naming him here, as his identity isn’t actually germane) I frequently do not read the comments on this blog: I don’t have a lot of time, and frankly, I go there to read what he has to say, not his commenters. (Dangerous to say, given that I’m curious what my readers think, but I tend to think of Internet comment threads as a pox on civilization)

This morning, though, the post was specifically about the response to an earlier post, so I skimmed the comments a bit. In them, someone asked a (I thought) relevant question about a somewhat unwise use of slang in a quote from an older post that was relevant to this one. The blogger responded, answering the question, but then taking the commenter to task, saying “Forgive my annoyance, but this was explained many times in the comments for that post. It's just a matter of scrolling down and reading the conversation, if you are confused.”

This struck me at first as patently unfair. In the post being referred to, there are pages of comments, more text than the original post. And frankly, I find that many comment threads put me off my feed: there’s a lot of stupidity out there on them thar interwebs. It’s usually safer not to read them. However, this is someone whose courtesy and thoughtfulness I have rarely had cause to question.

So now I’m wondering: what’s the etiquette here? To what extent is it reasonable to expect someone to read through a comment thread before asking a question? To what extent is it OK to chide someone for not doing so, versus simply not answering the question, or answering the question without further comment?

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