To The Commenter Currently Languishing in My Moderation Queue, and Soon to Be In My Trash Bin

When the first words of your comment are “Apologies for an off-topic comment, but…,” followed by a rather lengthy comment which is indeed entirely unrelated to the comment thread at hand, you are signaling two things:

1. That you are in fact not in the least sorry for your off-topic comment, just like someone who writes “not to be pedantic” is entirely happy to be pedantic, or the person who says “I’m not trying to offend you” is in fact trying very hard to do so;

2. That you may be a bit of an asshole, because what you’re really saying to everyone is “wow, let’s all turn away from the completely irrelevant discussion you’ve been having, and make it all about me and what I want to talk about.”

These two things being thus signaled, you should be glad that WordPress caught your act of unapologetic assholery and punted it into the moderation queue, because that way the only person who knows for sure what you are is me. And I’m not going to tell on you. Today. But if you do it again, I might! So that’s your friendly warning. I understand you may not have intended to be an unapologetic asshole, but of course, comparatively few of the people who are, do. Please keep this in mind.

For everyone else who might be tempted to post an off-topic comment, please, ask yourself: Is today the day you want to be revealed as an unapologetic asshole? If it is, then of course go right ahead, and delight in the recognition you have as such, until the time I get around to malleting the comment. If it’s not, then, please, I implore you, keep your off-topic comment to yourself, at least until such time as a comment thread that it is on-topic for becomes available, when you can post it there. And it will be admired! Because it is on topic. See how that works.

Thank you.

66 Comments on “To The Commenter Currently Languishing in My Moderation Queue, and Soon to Be In My Trash Bin”

  1. I LOVE the mallet. But I vote for taking the gloves off and having a public malleting. I mean let’s call some people out. Let’s really clean things up. The trolls have way too much liberty in the blogging world. That’s right, I’m calling for: – Public Troll Malleting. I mean apparently we can’t mallet our elected representatives in Washington, so let’s take it out on the trolls. Everyone will feel better.

  2. Brett:

    I don’t believe this person was trying to be a troll, actually; they were just excited about something and couldn’t wait to share, and I suspect unintentionally ended up being a bit of a jerk for it. The hope is that the commenter will be enlightened and will thus sin no more. With trolls, that’s not an option.

  3. Apologies for an ON-topic comment, but…

    1. If you want to talk about your crap, blogs are free and sort of like a$$holes: everyone can have one and they mostly smell like poop.

    2. When you’re on someone else’s blog/website, you talk about THEIR crap, the same way that when you’re on your blog/website you focus on YOUR crap.

    Note that I used ‘$’ for ‘s’ because it isn’t my house and I’m usually aiming for being one level more polite than required, because ‘better safe than sorry.’ Also, I wan’t to derail this whole thing to talk about how much of a bad idea it is to try to read “Zoe’s Tale” so soon after reading the other three books in that series… but I’m totally not going to, because I’m already being sort-of meta, and if I go much further I’ll be meta++

    Time to watch Robocop again. :)

  4. I have trouble moderating the message board of a Fantasy Football League with 11 other participants. I can’t imagine the sheer volume of excrement you must wade through, John. I do wonder, though: there must be a sort of critical mass that a comment thread reaches where you stop being overtly attentive, either because of a lapse of time since the original post, the sheer number of comments or (related to volume) the repetitious nature of the opinions being expressed (i.e. “I totally agree with #172, and here’s I choose to reword that statement”).

    Have you ever come back to a thread you believed was “dead” and done some back-end mallet-ing?

  5. @Improbable Joe #9: Wish there was a thread to talk about the Zoe’s Tale thing because I had a totally different experience.

    @Andy #11 In the sense that “meta” means self (or self referential as I think that Justin in comment #2 meant) it seems to be an appropriately used term as valid as relevant.

  6. John: this is why, when I’m at a con, I always like to come the the panels that you’re not only on, but also moderating. You’re quite talented at keeping the panel on track and on topic (panelists and audience alike), and when it’s time for questions from the audience, you’re especially good at smacking down the a$$holes who try to hijack the panel by prefacing their “question” with “More of a comment than a question…” and then want to drone on for 10 minutes about whatever (s)he wants to talk about.

  7. @adelheid_p #15: Yeah, about the time I walked away from the keyboard I thought, “Hey, maybe John is writing that from the point of view of the off-topic person.” And them I came back to find my mental processes confirmed as slow.

    And then he said as much in #12.

  8. @hugh57 — the mighty Scalzi smackdown of the “not a question, more of a comment” folks was the first thing that sprang to mind when I read this post.

    (That counts as on-topic, right?)

  9. But given the topic of the blog post, wouldn’t off-topic comments then be on-topic? (Or maybe it’s just talking about off-topic comments that is on-topic. Oh great, I’ve confused myself.)

  10. @hugh57, @Sheila O’Shea — I once saw him tackle an audience member for the “not a question, more of a comment” thing. It was epic. The panelists shouted, “Get him, Scalzi!” and Scalzi got him.

    No, really, it’s all true, I swear!

  11. @hugh57, @Sheila O’Shea, @Darice Moore: Anyone have a clip, or a least a paraphrased transcript? This sounds like a technique which could be helpful to the world at large.

  12. I’m a member of a local computer users group that, on occasion, suffers from the same problem.

    Our horrible case was when someone was invited in to do a talk on the state of Java. Lots of visitors, and such, and one of the leaders went off on a rant about how Perl 6 was going to be so much better. (Observers of Perl will sigh and shake their heads; some kind of entertainment could be had from the fact that the talk was in 2002.)

    The technology is pretty irrelevant to the matter, the trouble is of people that so need to be heard that they have to hijack someone else’s topic.

    The answer tends to need to be to have someone willing to wield the Loving Mallet of Correction to shut the offender up.

    This is an entertaining aspect of politeness… Most people, when confronted with such a situation, are sufficiently “polite” as to feel that they mustn’t barge in.

    But really, the needful form of “politeness” in this case is more along the lines of…

    Yo dude, and imma NOT gonna let you finish, but our kind presenter is here to talk about (Java|Old Man’s War) and since you’re distracting us from that, you need to pipe down. I’m holding here a Mallet of Correction. Do you need any love from it?

  13. >>Is today the day you want to be revealed as an unapologetic asshole?

    My cat’s breath smells like cat food.

  14. “I don’t mean to be (fill in the blank) but…” It does seem to be a weird correlation that the very thing you claim not to be trying to be, you almost always actually are.

    Maybe it should be a universal law or something, sorta like when you bring up Hitler in an argument or debate, you automatically lose said argument or debate. So in that vein, I got to thinking about funny I don’t mean to be’s.

    I wonder what certain people would say as their “I don’t mean to be a (fill in the blank), but…” For example, what would Momar Gaddafi’s “I don’t mean to be (fill in the blank), but…” be? Maybe this could be a drinking game…. To name popular figures and figure out what their “ I don’t mean to be’s” are.

    Hope I’m not too off topic with this… I don’t mean to be a jerk, but….

  15. Borders. Only one Scalzi book left in Fresno. None in Visalia of course. Would have bought the one in Fresburg but have two copies already…..

  16. So, anyway, lovely weather we’ve been having isn’t it!

    Sorry, I couldn’t help myself :-)

  17. One reckons that “I’m not trying to be to be an x, but…” is roughly equivalent to “I don’t see an x in the mirror, but…”

    Of course the latter is never actually stated for any of a heap of reasons.

  18. So when exactly is the best time to approach Zoe’s tale?
    And don’t say, “When you’re a preteen girl!”
    I mean relative to the other books.

  19. Is it just me, or did anyone else imagine Clint Eastwood speaking that last paragraph? “…you’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?”

  20. Is it me or is anyone else mildly curious as to what was so important that got this thing going in the first place. I know once I hear it that I would be immediately bored, and that if I had read it in a thread about something else that I would be mad that they had inserted themselves into something off topic but now I’m mildly curious. Very mildly but still.

  21. The post reminds me of one of Scalzi’s one-liners which I use fairly often (there are a number of these – can we call them Scalzisms?). I suspect that often times, off-topic commenters are trying to show off how clever they are, but as we all know: “the failure mode of clever is asshole”.

    Yay! I stayed on topic, and I didn’t even mention badgers!

    Except I just did.


  22. From now on I will preface all my statements with “To be as offensive as possible…” or “I’m really being a jerk about this, but…” as the situation requires. This way I’ll avoid the irony and just admit my offense of Wheaton’s Law up front and hope the judge will be lenient in my sentencing.

  23. I think an actual Mallet should be made of some dense, strong wood (ash, for example) and showing signs of use.

    In the IT field, we call that a LART: Luser Attitude Re-adjustment Tool; anything blunt, heavy, and painful.

  24. @Steve 43 – I actually have one of those. They can be VERY therapeutic, and have been the one thing that kept my laptop from being flung across the office more than once.

  25. I was going to poke you, John, but I don’t like being malleted…of course, it was “Apologies for being of topic, but I’m an unrepentant asshole…oh wait. That’s on topic here”.

  26. Nigel:

    I’m having trouble picturing a user who’s not a combination of all three. Never been hit by a flying human?

  27. Pedantically: isn’t an off-topic jest actually on-topic in a thread about topicality?

    As for “I’m not trying to offend you”, I don’t think that always means someone is trying to offend. There is such a thing as an offensive truth, and sometimes such a truth may be on topic. Certainly I see no need to preemptively disclaim the truth regardless of it social acceptability, but if someone takes offense loudly, the disclaimer of offensive intent may be helpful in response.

    I’ll agree, though, that not to offend you but always deserves a mallet. The construction, [disclaimer], but X is inherently annoying, at least if meant seriously; if you want to say X, say X.

  28. @30:

    Didn’t someone coin a law recently for that phenomenon? It might have been here, or perhaps over on Pharyngula (I read both regularly, and there’s some clear overlap of audience, so I could easily be confused about which venue had that discussion.)

  29. My favorite Whatever discussions follow posts about:

    1) Pictures of Cats
    2) Commenting Offenses and Malleting

    Is that wrong of me?

  30. Wow! What’s happening in the Middle-east is crazy!!! Anyone have any comments? I know, I know, I’m an asshole, but man I’m smart! Don’t you all think so?? :)

  31. It was good – if entirely predictable – to see so many off-topic posts. Keep the faith!

  32. I wish Scalzi had been moderating some of the panels I attended in Reno last week. Had a couple where people in the audience tried to promote their upcoming work as a “question,” and they weren’t even quick about it.

  33. This is an area where discussions on a blog are much better than in person. Here you can just skip over fools. In person polite society generally requires you to suffer them. I’ve found a real mallet does not go over very well.

  34. I admit: I am convinced by the financial doom-and-gloomers regarding the economy. Has anybody discovered a ray of belief throughout this “downturn”?

  35. I can’t believe nobody said it, yet… so I will: “Imma let u finish, John, but first…”

  36. I agree with Leonard (no relation) about “Not trying to offend you, but…” Sometimes we need to say something to someone, and we know them well enough to know they may be offended by what we are about to say, though sometimes we can manage to quell the potential offense if we let them know in the beginning that we are not intending to offend. For instance: “I don’t mean to offend you, but maybe if you went for a walk with me instead of watching TV all day, it would help you feel healthier.”

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