Wednesday, December 15, 2010

BlogBack #4: The Attack Of The Troll

I've written numerous blog posts with reflections and opinions on current affairs. Part of that reason is I actually like staying informed and reading the news, thus these items are often on my mind when I decide to write on the blog. A lot of the time there will be a news item that triggers certain feelings or thoughts, and my mind won't allow me peace until I've unleashed a rant. The other reason is far more selfish, and that is the fact writing about hot news items will mean my blog does better on Google searches. I've learned this past year that any time I write an article that relates to a major news event, that my traffic increases an incredible amount that day. The blog that I really learned this was, Why I Am On Ann Coulter's Side Regarding Ottawa.

The first several months of this year was pretty crazy for me, but it was also a situation that was entirely of my doing. At the time I was working an absolutely insane amount of hours at the office, while also still trying to get a steady stream of writing for my fledgling free lance writing business. I realize now that our family was not in such dire financial situations that I needed to spend more intimate time with a computer scanner than is healthy for any grown man. It got to the point where I was saying 'BZZT' rather than 'Hi' when greeting people. Despite pulling my 'lawyer hours', I still attempted to do several hours a day of writing query letters to businesses or actual pay copy. Reflecting back now, I'm realizing that 3 hours a sleep was probably a little too minimal and Emily probably deserved a little more quality time than just me buzzing in her ear. On top of all that, I also had this blog that I wanted to start getting more hits, and potentially use as a way to further my name (I will not rest until there is an International House of Spicer at every truck stop along the information highway!). I realized I didn't have the time to do much manual promoting of the blog, especially since I didn't want to add any ads to the site (thus it was not a direct revenue stream -- thus harder to justify putting more work into it than something that did pay for a box of pop tarts). This was my situation and mind frame at the time when I come across an article about Ann Coulter being forced to cancel a speaking engagement due to protesters. I was pretty upset that many well meaning people made the mistake of causing Coulter (one of the most unsympathetic people I know) come out looking like a victim. After some quick viewing of other sites, I realized there was a lot of hot debate going on about the Ann Coulter situation. I didn't know much about it other than the few articles I quickly stumbled upon. I was also incredibly tired after a long day at work, and was planning to get up in a few hours despite not being in my bed yet. It made the most sense to just let the rant stew in my head for a bit, and get some sleep that night before returning to my taskmaster known as the scanner. So of course, I stayed up and quickly wrote the piece instead.

I can claim the reason was because I knew I couldn't sleep with the rant boiling inside me. I would also have to admit that claim would be complete 2 week old cat litter coated in rotting cabbage (so garbage -- or at least, I hope nobody blurted out, "Mmmm, dessert"). Yes, there was an idea there, and if I let it fester for too long then I am sure it would have turned into a black hole that would have instantly consumed me. I could have survived one night or maybe even a few (as you've learned from this series, I've sat on many an ideas for this blog). I didn't because I realized that it was a hot topic on all the social networking sites, and was positive people were Googling about it. It was also a fairly new topic, thus not as many sites on it, but also knew they would start popping up quickly. So, I abandoned the notion of getting better informed, and spit in the face of sleep, so that I could write up my blog on Ann Coulter. I also made sure to compose a title that I was sure would get the attention of people who agreed with her and despised her.

It worked brilliantly. I remember my excitement of checking my hit tracking programs a few minutes after initially posting, and seeing that already over 20 people had wandered over to the blog either by Google or Twitter. Actually, for a short time (I learned the strategy and thus used it many times since) the Ann Coulter article was the most viewed post on my blog. It also was the source of about a week's worth of ego inflation and also some justification for why I spent much time on the site that generates zero dollars (though, I'll always argue it does generate cash indirectly since I've landed jobs with these ramblings).

I was even more excited when only after a few minutes of being posted, that the article received its first comment. The excitement faded when the comment was a mini essay about why both Ann Coulter and I should do some rather physically impossible things to ourselves. At first, I took it as an upper cut to the groin of my ego. Then I was motivated to respond to this colourful commenter, but then I realized there probably wasn't much of a chance for some deep and insightful dialogue. I then thought I'd just delete the comment, but that didn't quite sit well with me either.

As most people who regularly read this blog will know, I am a huge advocate of free speech and expression of one's views. Even though this is my blog and thus not a democracy, I didn't initially like the idea of just scrapping a comment just because it bothered me. I am sure there was the whole issue that it was the only comment on a post that was designed to attract attention, thus I needed evidence people actually read it. After some thought, I realized it was probably just best to delete the comment, because this wasn't an issue of a person trying to add some insight (that I happened to disagree with), but more likely the case of the troll coming out from under his bridge and being rather bored no goats were around. The fact is, his comments actually proved that he likely just read my title (which would lead you to believe I'd endorse Coulter) then ripped into me for having a view he thought he disagreed with. Of course, if he actually bothered to read all those pretty words that came after the title, then he'd realize I was opposed to Ann Coulter and her brood. I recognized since he didn't bother to read the article, he was never coming back and was completely uninterested in ever entering into a debate. Instead, I would have just been leaving on this obscene comment that made this commenter look like an idiot for totally misunderstanding my actual thesis. For the benefit of the commenter and all of mankind, I disposed of his comment. I realized that I do want to encourage comments that disagree with me (because that is how great discussion is formed), but I wasn't going become the proverbial bridge for the trolls to nest either.

The article was a significant one for me because it not only gave me a strategy for gaining some readers, but it also allowed me to deal with my first obscene criticism. I can proudly say that even though I've gone on to tackle even more controversial topic, I've never had the displeasure of encountering another troll. I've had plenty of commenters that have disagreed with me (and I hope for many more), but they've always remained civil and mature. Now of course, if you happen to agree with me or like my stuff, I don't mind hearing from you either.

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