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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Comment Type #37: The Shotgun

THE SHOTGUN

Soldiers sometimes will carry a sawed-off shotgun when they are in cities, the weapon's ability to spray a target and hit without needing much aiming is unmatched. Shotguns are useful for firing at a moving or difficult to hit target because the spray of individual pellets spreads out rapidly.

It is this spray of individual pellets is so distinctive that it is used to describe other phenomena, such as a shotgun formation in football (in that it scatters receivers around the field more), or in this case, a comment type.

The Shotgun comment is one in which the commenter sprays as many topics and points as possible into a single comment. These can be related, but typically are not, and the usual pattern is to throw as many talking points or assertions - undefended statements - out as possible. Sometimes the shotgun takes the form of several rapid fire comments in a short period of time, again usually off topic. On a discussion of the election, you'll see someone post about health care reform, fundraising among the two major parties, fighting terrorism, pulling out of Iraq, global warming, and so on all in one post or in a series of short ones.

This can happen for a lot of reasons. Someone without much patience may have a lot of things they want to talk about but not the inclination to wait until they see the topic come up. They might have a laundry list of things they want to get on record to make everyone see how dumb they are and how very enlightened the commenter is. They might be deliberately attempting to derail the entire conversation and throwing out as much bait as possible hoping someone will bite at least once - this is a type of trolling that can be particularly effective if other commenters lack discipline.

Shotgun posts are usually bad form, because they not only tend to move the conversation away from the main topic, but they lack any substance. In the place of content, the Shotgun offers bulk, it's quantity over quality, where you have many different short points made without anything given that explains or defends them. Anyone can barf a puddle of talking points, it takes some thought and ability to pick one and argue it well. This kind of post almost always is unwelcome because it adds nothing but disruption and strife to the discussion.

The worst kind is the commenter who offers up dozens of these Shotgun "pellets" to overwhelm opposition. There's not time and inclination to take each one of the assertions made and argue them, so the commenter can slip a few, perhaps may by without their being challenged. They later can be pointed to: nobody could argue with my points, I win!

Thankfully most people tend to forget this kind of post, although they do tend to run the comment count up rather rapidly if anyone responds. Shotgun Comments add almost nothing the discussion, demonstrate no particular intelligence or understanding on the part of the commenter, and disrupt discussion. This kind of comment should almost always be avoided.

This is part of the Profiles in Commenting series
*UPDATE as commenter Huck pointed out, there was a burp in Blogger that duplicated the second half of the analysis.
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66 Comments:

Blogger Huck said...

C_T - Is it just me or does section of the post after the jump repeat itself? In any case, I think your analysis of the many different types of comments are great. Your profiles in commenting series should be required reading for any blogger and commenter! And with 37 different types, you might be approaching a small, publishable booklet of sorts.

5:46 PM, July 12, 2007  
Anonymous Christopher Taylor said...

I think its just you, it seems to work well on my end, but then it ought to. But thanks :) Somewhere in the back of my head I have an idea for going around and collecting the best essays bloggers have put out and working out some kind of publishing deal, or at least some of my stuff. But that takes hustle and connections I simply don't have.

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