January 15, 2005

Getting Our Blood Boiling

WE HAVE NOTICED, in the past few days, that certain well-meaning but stupid people are putting really long and really off-topic essays in our comments boxes. Even though such a trend is to be expected under the laws of economics, this is most annoying.

After all, we do realize our comments feature represents an easy and convenient way for readers to post their opinions, and at no cost to them. Sadly, certain people have taken advantage of this in the past few days, and have posted extremely long compositions --- 2,000 to 3,000 words in length -- reflective only of their own warped world view or their own personal troubles. Such people seem to live in a fun fantasy world where actions do not have consequences, and where the costs of an inherent good count for nothing as long as they reap the benefits. Thus, we hope to disabuse them of such socialist thinking.

We would remind these certain few that while The Rant is provided free for the enjoyment of its readership, The Rant is not without its costs. Indeed, aside from the main American office in Manchester, N.H., and our corporate headquarters in Bermuda, we also have satellite offices in Grand Cayman and Chennai, India. We are also mulling the idea of opening an office in Liechtenstein. Therefore, you can see it takes a lot of time and effort to produce The Rant on a daily -- or near-daily -- basis.

It also, of course, takes money. We can assure readers that our costs have tripled since we first began the blog, and costs would increase further if we exceeded our bandwidth allotment. We can also assure readers that according to Ned Henries, head of The Rant's Information Technology Department, our comments feature is quite widely-read -- even if just one comment is posted. Thus, Mr Henries explains, every time a massive essay is posted in the comments, it could be read (or at least accessed) two or three hundred times before IT staff realize it exists. As such, our bandwidth usage increases greatly because of such scheming. Plus, the IT staff must deal with removing the post and spend minutes cursing the writer. As such, this increases our marginal cost of operating the site.

Increasing our marginal cost is bad. However, the business of business is to turn increasing costs into profit; and Mr Henries has discovered a neat way to turn this into a revenue stream for The Rant. While charity forces us to water down Mr Henries' scheme, it remained a good one, and as such, here it is:

People who abuse the comment system -- that is, through posting patently ridiculous essays of at least 750 words on matters irrelevant to the post in question -- may be subject to having their e-mail and other identifying information harvested by our crack IT team. Our crack IT team may then sell this information on the open market to the highest bidder. We might just do it for free, but we'd prefer to get something for our pains.

We would hasten to assure regular and long-time Loyal Rant Readers they have nothing to fear from our new Abusive Comment Scheme. After all, they have been models of decorum and fair play during all of this, and they most of all deserve protection from comment abusers. We're also pretty sure many of them face similar troubles on their own blogs, and have wondered themselves about how to deal with this.

We see this "solution" as a "win-win" for everyone: not only will our regular readers get to enjoy harangue-free comments again, we'll get to turn a real problem into something which "adds value" to our "core business model." Therefore, it seems to us that no one can reasonably complain about it, and those that would should get their own blogs.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at January 15, 2005 12:28 PM | TrackBack


You are actually chastising your loyal readers for taking the time to post their thoughts? And then you are DELETING their comments??? You're not talking about spam, right? Actual users' comments?

Cripes, mate. The so called bandwidth usage for even a 2,000 word comment is negligible. I suggest you eat the "marginal costs" and be a bit kinder to your visitors, lest you lose them for good.

Note that I never leave comments more than a few hundred words long on your blog. I hope this is permissible.


Posted by: Matthew S. Schwartz at January 17, 2005 03:13 PM


Yes, I am talking about spam. It's posted by actual people, not robots, but it's spam nonetheless. And I'm not going to have people's Comment Experiences ruined because someone posted 5,000 words on something completely irrelevant (e.g. their manifesto on the strategic importance of magnesium).

Posted by: Benjamin Kepple at January 17, 2005 06:06 PM

For that matter, I'm not going to have MY blogging experience diminished because someone decided to use my site as a billboard. It's one thing to respond to something I've written or something other people say in the comments (and, obviously, I like it when people do respond to those things). But someone writing an amazingly long essay on something like -- I dunno -- why such-and-such a firm screwed the person over ... that just ticks me off. They can get their own blogs, but they ought not hijack mine.

Posted by: Benjamin Kepple at January 17, 2005 06:10 PM

Ben -- MT-Blacklist. Look into it -- seriously.

Posted by: Geoff Brown at January 18, 2005 05:13 PM

Hi Geoff -- I actually have blacklist and it works perfectly for comment spam. I'm talking about actual people who post these long crazy essays -- like 3,000 words long -- on what have you. I can't detect that 'til it happens!

Posted by: Benjamin Kepple at January 18, 2005 06:06 PM