My Comment on a Comment on Your Comments

 By Shamus Jun 20, 2008 58 comments

This is the nicest compliment I’ve seen in weeks. Someone linked to one of my posts on Hellgate: London, and the second person in the comments has this to say:

The strangest thing about that article is the comments… comment after comment of coherent English and paragraphs.

I rarely draw attention to this, lest I upset whatever alchemy has created this rare oasis of wit and civility. The comments on this site stand in stark contrast to the childishness and idiocy that flourishes elsewhere on the net. I know it, and I know I’m fortunate in this regard.

It would be arrogant to the extreme for me to try and take credit for the quality of the comments on the site. (Aside from, you know, the ones I wrote. In which case I must accept both credit and blame.) As much as I’d like to believe that my writing has drawn in an unnaturally rich supply of clever people, I know the truth is that I’m in debt to all the nice people who take their time to be thoughtful, articulate, and witty in the comments.

For this you have my heartfelt thanks.

20201858 comments. It's getting crowded in here.


  1. Solka says:

    WTF? Beh, heza noob!

    /joke

    All right, I agree with you, Shamus. On the other hand, I frequent forums that all have the same general quality (giantitp being the main one). I am usually repulsed by bad and stupid grammar/comments by the posters. Perhaps other people like me are also non-repulsed by the same thing, and we ended up in your blog.

    But on the other hand, I don’t know why your blog hasn’t attracted stpidz n00bs, and ruined our day. Perhaps they are intimidated by all of us? Or maybe your posts about video games and gaming in general is an intellectual step higher than what they are used to. Your game reviews are not like the general ones:

    “The graphics are amazing, blablabla, multiplayers”, while you go toward the actual playing experience and gameplay feeling you get out of those software.

  2. Jeremiah says:

    It’s funny because I’d never really thought about it either. I guess I just don’t tend to frequent sites where coherent writing is the norm.

    So, if that puts you in debt to all of us, do we all get a cookie? :)

  3. Hal says:

    I expect my protectionappreciation money is in the mail, then?

  4. Derek K says:

    I’m doing my best to prevent the above….

    But really, I think it’s mostly a case of content. The stuff on this blog really doesn’t appeal to the average jerk. There’s nothing about new games – you’re reviewing Hellgate and Guild Wars right now, for gehods sake, and we spent weeks on Deus Ex and Indigo Prophecy! Those are, like, before they were born! ;)

    Note that, lest you read that as a critique – note how many of us are talking about them too, or picking up Guild Wars now. ;)

  5. qrter says:

    I guess this is a case of reaping what you sow, in a positive sense.

    I (and I think most of us) always enjoy reading your insightful and intelligent blog posts, Shamus and I do think that attracts insightful and intelligent comments. :)

  6. LazerFX says:

    They’re all scared off by intelligent, consistently high-quality posts. They can’t handle it, being brought up on a diet of NeoGAF, IGN and Gamespot…

  7. Joshua says:

    I think you’ve got a good mix of content and subject matter that interests more coherent English-speakers than (if any) language-pwners and idiots.

    Firstly, you review old games and games that require (at least some) rational thought and all that other stuffs that the smart peepl liekz. Not many idiots play D&D, or other tabletop RPGS, and most of their players are witty people.

    Secondly, you use above-average wording and language: “stark contrast to the… idiocy that flourishes elsewhere”

    I know a few people who would think you weren’t speaking English if you said that to them.

    And because your site doesn’t tend to come up in searches concerning Halo or T3H 4W50M3 PWNZ0R!!!11one!!1BBQ1!#$$@@ or such stuff like that. It will, however, come up in searches concerning language and correctness thereof, because it has come up in conversation multiple times around here.

    All this has made it into a haven for the few people left who can think rationally and clearly write their thoughts and ideas in an entertaining way with each other.

    I like it.

  8. Grant says:

    I have to admit, I have this site on my RSS feed list and I visit every time I see you have a new post up Shamus. It’s interesting, I tend to come, read the article, and then spend the next half hour reading through the comments. I don’t have any other sites that I do this at, in part because of the nature of their comments. While comments here have immaculate grammar and everyone is civil to one another, most places have comment threads that are filled with flaming and pointless one-word comments. It’s such a refreshing change and I greatly appreciate it.

    Additionally, I think the fact that the comments here are as good as they are surprises people in part because you don’t have what most people consider necessary for a comment thread: a Captcha system. Most places require registration or a Captcha input or somthing of that nature to police their comments and still wind up with junk. You, on the other hand, don’t require any registration or Captcha system. Anyone who wants to can post in the comments, and you still have less issues than most other sites. If you could figure out the exact cause behind it, you could sell the secret to other blogs and make millions.

  9. Mari says:

    I was on a forum not too long ago when your blog came up, Shamus. I got all incensed when somebody referred to the comments as “the usual” because I’ve not found them to be at all usual (aside from the occasional “who’s first” attempts). This blog is one of two where I read the comments expecting to find interesting, stimulating thought instead of random idiotic nonsense.

    Honestly, I think your writing does have a lot to do with it, as does your subject matter. But I think it helps that you take a really active role in keeping comments here up to a certain standard. I’ve seen you moderate comments when things went too far afield, turn off comments when you knew it would only spawn problems, and actively read and participate in comments daily. The result is that this blog feels like you’re actually fostering a community instead of just airing your thoughts to the world at large and to hell with what anybody thinks about them.

  10. Alexis says:

    Boobies!

    IMHO there are a number of things you have done to help create this atmosphere. Luckily they all seem to be natural to you.

    1) Your post style is largely nonsensationalist, accepts multiple perspectives and based as far as possible on facts. Opinion is presented as such. AKA, yaaaaaawn for the undesirables.

    2) Lurkers get as much content as nonlurkers. This is in contrast to MUDs or support fora, where lobbying can be effective.

    3) Firth post etc mocks wannabe trolls. Inobtrusive moderation turns off their limelight. These are incredibly effective techniques.

    4) You have a core group with a strong sense of identity. Overnight success has drawbacks you have circumvented.

  11. Aelyn says:

    UR DOING IT RONG!!!!1!

  12. Nixorbo says:

    I knew there was a reason I kept this blog bookmarked after DMotR ended.

  13. onosson says:

    It’s the inverse of “garbage in, garbage out”, whatever that might be. Pat yourself on the back, you done good!!

  14. Kevin says:

    Yeah yeah, we’re all wonderful, you’re wonderful, everything is wonderful…

    but I’m the MOST wonderful.

  15. Haviland says:

    Your views are interesting, erudite and amusing. I’ll confess, I first visited for DMOTR and then just sort of kept lurking.

    If you write well-formed English, then it’s simple good manners to reply likewise. That sort of thing can be contagious.

    While I can translate B1FFspeak as well as the next 47 year old (47! Oh noes, what happened to my youth?), my English teachers back in the 70′s taught me well.

    If I want to read semi-literate flames and abuse, I’ll visit any class forum of any MMORPG.

  16. Tango says:

    Does this make us commenters part of the attraction now?

  17. I know a subset of your readers also post on my side of things, but I think we tapped in a good vein of interesting, respectful geeks.

    I too am riding this cautiously.

    One thing that I see you do different than several North American blogs is that you don’t spew hate.

    You are critical, you call a spade a spade, you are vocal about your pet peeves and you re-visit things that annoy you because you’d like them to change, but you still don’t spew hate at them.

    That has an effect on the readership you cultivate.

    I try to do the same.

    Excellent work Shamus, I know this ‘job’ of blogging is not for money, so I give you the only payement I can (other than clicking your ads) and that’s giving you praise.

    Now go kick the $#17 of of all doz n00bs

    :)

  18. JFargo says:

    As a few people have already said, this is one of the few sites where I come to the site via my RSS feed, read the article, and then usually read what everyone else has to say. The people here seem to want to participate in a discussion, and because of that they seem to realize that the best way to get attention is to be as well-written as possible.

    It also might help that you have previously mentioned your distaste for web-speak, or at least I think that was you?

  19. DaveMc says:

    Group hug! (Also: my immediate impulse upon seeing this was to make *exactly* the same joke that several of you made, above. LOL.)

    It’s interesting that this didn’t happen instantly at the start of the blog: I’ve been reading some older posts from the archive, and as you go back in time, the comments become sparser and more like the typical forum fare. I suspect there are probably two significantly different eras: pre-DMOTR and post-DMOTR.

    I notice that when I submit a comment, it says that it’s “awaiting moderation”. Do you have to approve every comment, Shamus? [Hmm, except this time it doesn't say that . . . Now I'm just puzzled.]

  20. folo4 says:

    part of this coherence in english found in this blog is that the number of people who comment are not as big as say, Kotaku.

    Mark this well; enjoy the coherence while we can, for Shamus’ continued critical analysis of games will attract all sorts of colorful commentators. And it will get ugly.

  21. Rod says:

    Besides illiterate trolls, twentysided is also generally lacking in pedantic grammar nazis who might feel compelled to point out the difference between complement and compliment.

    ;-)

  22. Jez says:

    I don’t always have time to read the comments for each post, but as others have rightly noted whenever you do it is both rewarding and refreshing. Your blog of sorts is generally very well written and thought-out, and refrains from the oversimplification of issues that lead to most flame wars. The comments here reflect that one does not have to be disagreeable to disagree.

  23. SiliconScout says:

    Personally I think it’s the way you write.

    In general you are thoughtful and articulate in your writing and you like to use more robust language. I see this having 2 positive factors. 1 it encourages a similar response lest the writer look completely uneducated and a mental midget. And second the average “fan boiz” out there probably don’t even really understand what you wrote!

    Thanks, I agree with that comment and appreciate the site for what it is.

  24. krellen says:

    I blame gaming.

    Your blog is, primarily, a blog about gaming, even if you spend most of your time on video games and not the tabletop variety. Even when you do that, however, it’s usually an RPG you’re talking about. Your site naturally attracts those interested in role-playing. That subsection of people are simple of higher calibre than the populace at-large.

    I’m not going to claim that intelligent people are naturally attracted to gaming, though. My experience points to the opposite route: gaming makes people more intelligent. One of my brother’s friends in elementary school was a fairly typical kid, and a twin to boot. After knowing my brother a few years, he started gaming with us; his twin did not. A decade later, he is by far the more erudite, eloquent and articulate of the two, and I attribute that to gaming and the influence we gamers had on him while growing up. Most of my other acquaintances I have introduced to gaming have also come out of it with better critical-thinking, creativity, and communication skills.

    In short: gaming is good. Teach your kids to game.

  25. GreyDuck says:

    This is part of why I’m not in a hurry for my little anime forum to “get noticed”: I don’t want to deal with an influx of illiterate losers.

    Then again, the forum’s predecessor and the current incarnation both bear the slogan, “Eschewing the kiddies.”

  26. scragar says:

    ur coments r teh r0xx0r
    gud spelin n grama ftw

    And now that’s out of my system, I’m forced to agree with everyone above really, it’s partly down to the comments themselves, taking that extra time to check their messages, partly your writing style, being written in a logical and concise fashion, but mostly I am suspecting it is the topic of the conversations, you talk of RPG and older games the average gamer would never have bought anyway(think about it, if they are busy playing halo will they have time to play indigo prophecy? <– slightly offensive, maybe).

    So 2 hurrays to you, 1 to the commenters.

  27. Derek K says:

    “grammar nazis who might feel compelled to point out the difference between complement and compliment.”

    One has more e’s.

    I fully admit to being a post-DMoTR person. I honestly didn’t know there was a blog here until DMoTR finished, and I kept coming back to the page to see if maybe something else had come up. Then I said to myself “Well, I’ll check the news thing. Maybe I’ll find something there?”

    And then hey, look. There was. ;)

    I’ve seen Twenty Sided get mentioned a number of times lately in smaller gaming news sites – Massively.com, Rock Paper Shotgun, etc. I think the word is spreading slowly, and eventually, more people will show up.

  28. I agree with Mari–and plus I know from experience, you spend a lot of time making sure the comments on your site are up to par. Plus, as someone who knows you irl, coherent conversation is a must and keeping the language up to par naturally attracts others with the same preference (plus plenty of grammar nazis to check you when you get it wrong.:))

  29. ngthagg says:

    A few people have commented above on how the comments usually contain good discussion. I think it also helps that you post regularly, and don’t comment on your own posts very often. I find that by the time I’ve made a comment or two on a particular thread, you’ve made another post and interest has moved on. This pace of fresh content avoids the stale discussion of a forum, where any comment bumps the thread back to the top. Discussions don’t escalate into arguments, and no one has time to rehash their point over and over again. No one can camp a thread, or become the dominant authority on a particular topic, because nothing stays around that long.

    The only idea I have for how you attracted this crowd is that your comic appealed to people who could both love LoTR and make fun of it at the same time. That kind of cognitive dissonance is beyond some people.

    As a sidenote, I think your ability to attract an intelligent audience is half of what has earned the anti-DRM crusader tag (along with your regular anti-DRM posts, of course).

  30. pdwalker says:

    FIRST POST!

    oh, wait a moment…

  31. pdwalker says:

    (yeah, there’s an idiot in every crowd)

  32. lebkin says:

    Your tone and topics are big part in the intelligence response. In particular, you do not succumb to the fanboyish “what I love is better than what you love” sort of attitude the prevails over the internet these days. This is in part due to the types of games you talk about. PC games don’t have the same crazy following that consoles games do. Even if they did, you wouldn’t support that mindless following.

    There is also the fact that you focus on things that are “old.” And by old, I mean not on in the last week. Video game news is entirely focused on what is here now, and what is coming in the future. There is no interest in anything that has any age. Your blog appeals more to those of us who don’t constantly stay on the bleeding edge of gaming. I tend, at best, to be six months behind the general gaming trends. At “worst,” I am playing games that are nearly as old as I am. I believe that gamers like me are less inclined in “winning” video game wars, and more interested in just talking and discussing games. Your blog appeals to this kind of gamer.

  33. Deoxy says:

    Heather Young:

    Plus, as someone who knows you irl…

    Wait, you know this guy in real life? Who knew? :-)

    (For those who might not get the joke, Heather Young is Shamus’ wife.)

    As to the original post, well, I don’t have much to add beyond general agreement with many of the “tone and vocabulary” posts, except to heartily second everything ngthagg said, which was perfect.

  34. General Karthos says:

    Another thing is that you take on a subject that people, while capable of disagreeing with you, won’t disagree so strongly with you as to begin an argument the likes of which I have seen on many, many forums and blogs before coming here. Plus you acknowledge fully that there are other views, and you make it clear that it’s just your opinion on video games.

    You avoid the deadly two of politics and religion, for which I can’t thank you enough. I’ve watched more than one blog go down because the owner decided “I’m gonna take a break from video games and other stuff to talk about my religion/political views”. Enough to say, “Well, it’s time to move on” when a post like that comes up, because it inevitably transforms the fans into argumentative whatchamacallits.

    And finally, I think when there is a disagreement, people stay relevant to the topic, and continue using correct grammar precisely because everyone else does, and that drives away the morons who only know how to insult other people’s opinions, rather than defend their own.

  35. Miako says:

    It has to do with age groups. I hang on a horse website that attracts plenty of … little kids. and I mean really little, seven or eight. They can’t type, they can’t read, and half the time I have to explain to them what I’m saying.

    I write on DailyKos, which has an average age of over forty. Most people there right very cogently.

    Your blog is filtered, so it cuts down on the swearing. Not that I mind a judicious use of the AngloSaxon vernacular…

  36. Rubes says:

    I agree with others…this is one of the few sites I read consistently, including all of the comments.

  37. Meta says:

    Doesn’t blogging in general require too much… Reading to be of any interest to the idiots?

  38. Derek K says:

    “Your blog appeals more to those of us who don’t constantly stay on the bleeding edge of gaming.”

    When I began discussing Oblivion with my friends, the first response (on our personal forums) was something like “Uh, welcome to two years ago….”

  39. Spam says:

    I am an infrequent gamer myself, and cannot stand it when I look into some forums on current games, and all I get is leetspeak. See, I even spelled “leet” like a normal person…

  40. Tryss says:

    birds of a feather..

    Besides, after one of your rants on “how is babby formed” I think your readership got an idea of how you feel about use of language. That animation never ceases to make me laugh.

    Also, you missed the O.o at the end of their comment. (grins)

  41. Sitte says:

    I’m rather curious how many people’s first reaction when they read this post was “I would love to leave an idiotic reply with no real English words, but I’m sure the first guy to post already did that.

    The fact that the first guy DID at least start his post that way means I know I’m not the only one.

  42. Jabor says:

    I’m rather curious how many people’s first reaction when they read this post was “I would love to leave an idiotic reply with no real English words, but I’m sure the first guy to post already did that.

    *raises hand*

    Guilty as charged, I’m afraid.

  43. AndrewNZachsDad says:

    To continue the meme, did anyone else’s thought process lead down the following path?

    1. Huh, Shamus is posting about the high quality of comments on his site. I should start a comment with some lolcat or leet-speek… that would certainly be ironic!
    2. Heh, I’ll bet someone already did that…oh, look…they did. 1, 2 (yes, First-Posters count, even if they aren’t first), 12, 13…
    3. Notice how nearly everyone actually apologizes for going for the cheap laugh.
    4. I wonder how long it will be before someone comments about wanting to go for the aforementioned cheap laugh but then decided not to…
    5. Thank you, Sitte.
    6. Now that I’ve put these thoughts down and so lovingly numbered them, I wonder if anyone else will continue this bulletted monologue with some clever riposte, continuing with the same number theme?
    7. I wonder how long before someone throws in “n” as a number, or some obscure mathematical reference? Or, better yet, a link to an xkcd strip…

    I’m gonna stop now. this could go all night! :)

    I’ve said it before, Shamus, and I’ll shout it from the rooftops until the neighbourhood watch catch me: your blog is fantastic fun; definitely that lush island paradise in the midst of a seething ocean, teeming with illiterate (or, at best, icon-erate) sharks. Keep up the good work.

  44. Cuthalion says:

    @Sitte

    Guilty. Kind of. I got here with 45 comments already, and I read all of them. I waste way too much time reading comments here. Why do I do it? And when I finally post, it’s old news. Like right now.

    But thanks.

    A complement is something that completes, like a complement of sailors or a complementary angle or whatever. A compliment is what you give someone when they do something well.

    I feel happy inside. ^_^

  45. Estelyn says:

    The literacy here could be the answer to my question why a non-gamer like me continues to read here after DMotR is over. Yes, that brought me here – I’m a Tolkienista, and much of what has been said in these comments reflects the attitude of the Tolkien forum on which a good deal of my life online takes place. (wwwdotforumdotbarrowdownsdotcom, if anyone really wants to know) A good example is one important component – like your entries here and the erudite posts of old-time members on the above-mentioned forum. Tolkien himself was the very best example, and respect for him motivates us to keep posts on a high level linguistically speaking. A certain amount of friendly moderation is another component; I shudder to think of the now-defunct forums that were overrun with Legolassies back in movie days. I also agree heartily that politics and religion can be the ruin of a good blog or a good forum, as those topics seem to encourage tension and flaming.

    I don’t read every gaming post of yours, Shamus – the last PC game I played was a roleplaying game, “Monkey Island”, and I have wistful memories of “Loom” long ago. And the comment lists are often too long for the time I can take to read them. However, I do look in regularly and I do read those contributions and comments that interest me – such as this. Keep up the good work!

    (It would interest me to know if international commenters here experience the same positive effect we’ve had people mention on the Tolkien forum – that the quality of the written English used there/here has brought them to improve their English significantly.)

  46. kamagurka says:

    This may be the only site that talks about videogames where I regularly scroll down to the comments. ‘Tis a strange and wondrous thing, but I feel you are doing yourself an injustice in not accepting any credit for this. With the quality of your posts it doesn’t surprise me that the quality of the comments is above board, as well. Thanks, Shamus.

  47. Nanja Kang says:

    Again, I am another person who visited here for DMotR. And then I read your short story, and now I browse here. And the coherent English found in your writing and the folks that comment here is simply because like minds come together and now that this is an established website (and has been for sometime) the site itself has formed a foundation and almost an etiquette for how one should conduct themselves on this website. (Except for my run on sentences.) :)

  48. Miral says:

    Ditto. I almost always read all the comments on every post here — even sometimes for the posts I’m not interested in at first. Somehow after reading through it any topic just seems interesting afterwards, and it’s also interesting to see the different perspectives that come up.

    I do sometimes read all the comments on other blogs, but with nowhere near as much frequency.

    (My own blog is also devoid of kiddie commenters, but I suspect that’s mostly just because nobody knows about it.) :)

  49. K says:

    I wanted to write something along the lines of “ZOMFG NOOB L2P” or other, but sadly, I’m 52 posts too late.

    Well, this is one of the few pages where I actually bother to read comments…

  50. lplimac says:

    I blame my coming here on Mr. Den Beste, of USS Clueless fame. I first found the link to your site on his blog and kept coming back. This was before the days of DMotR so it’s been awhile. Pretty much the same style (well though-out, well written and humorous at the right points) keeps me coming back. And It’s one of the few game-centric sites that’s not blocked by my works firewall :D

  51. ArchU says:

    For my insignificant contributions, you are welcome, Shamus ^_~

  52. Colin Lacey says:

    I think your website is the first and only site I’ve ever commented on. In retrospect, this was probably due to the level of class and ability to formulate a coherent senence exhibited by your various readers.

    And so, here’s to Twenty Sided, the last great bastion of Anglo purists on the internet!

  53. Andrew says:

    I’ve always thought it to be pretty simple. A mature approach to topics, along with mature discussion of said topics, and a general avoidance of overly controversial issues. The first few times I ever tried writing a comment for this site, I ended up deleting it after 15 minutes of trying to edit it to my liking, because I could sense it didn’t fit with the general atmosphere of the site. It was only really after reading quite a bit of your old stuff, along with what must have been thousands of comments, that I actually started posting anything at all.

  54. Scerro says:

    I just found the site tonight when someone from my facebook linked to to an article of yours, and I find your posts to actually have thought put into them. Thus, it draws people who actually care about the idea of the post, and not so much the little tidbits of gaming news or stuff like that.

    Or something.

  55. I’m gone to tell my little brother, that he should also visit this website on regular basis to obtain updated from most up-to-date gossip.

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