Singing Loudly: The Futility of Comments

Singing Loudly

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Futility of Comments

Will Baude delivers some of Tyler Cowen's thoughts on comments because Will agrees with the overall theme. Basically it's that if you occasionally use comments, with posts that are more entertainment oriented, you will get better results than with posts on contentious topics.

The basic idea behind this is that comments are more useful on topics that people can google the answers for than on either highly technical topics (nobody posts comments) or topics that are politically devisive (everyone posts the same noise we've all heard before). Specifically, "people are more helpful on questions like good chinese restaurants or continuity in Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

This is almost necessarily correct because all that it takes is a quick Google search and someone can pretend that they have "knowledge" when in fact they found a blog that discussed the good chinese food in D.C. a few days ago.

I think that we see this same phenomenon elsewhere in life. For instance, in The Office we had the boss who wants to act as if he knows something about Dostoevsky to the former TV quiz show champion, so he goes and looks new things up and comes back later. Dostoevsky can be discussed by anyone who has got a few minutes time and a computer with internet. Whereas, if you wanted to talk about the young contemporary writer, Adam Johnson, you'll have a much more difficult time unless you've actually read Parasites Like Us or Emporium. Or, in a final example, you'll always have canned answers for civil procedure classes but you're going to have a difficult time finding canned answers for a class like Art and Antiquities law.

Out of general curiousity, I decided to test the waters and run a quick search on Google so that I could provide some recommendations on Chinese food and offer a little discussion on continuity errors in Buffy.

The first search (chinese food dc) produced a first hit of AOL City Guide giving me this to say,
When I was in DC, I went out to Falls Church and ate at this wonderful place called Peking Gourmet Inn. Great food and especially fun if you're a Republican...Bush 1 made it famous!

Now, that might not be good enough because everyone will find that. Perhaps a little more creativity with my search terms is in order. Searching with a better search ("hidden gem" AND chinese food washington dc) yielded my recommendation:
If you haven't gone over to Bethsheba to try out Mr. K's, you're really missing out. It's sort of a hidden gem that hasn't received nearly the praise it deserves. Take the metro and make it an evening!

Fantastic. All of this in about five minutes.

Next is Buffy continuity discussions. How would I do that? Well, just searching (buffy and continuity) gives you which lets you narrow it down to the season and the episode.


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