Monday, August 13, 2007

Comment Type #38: The Bleg


Bleg is a request on a blog, a beg for money in most cases, although in others it is for information, a picture, or some other assistance. The word is a portmanteau of blog and beg, a new word formed by mashing two previous words together. Blegs are sometimes deceptive, such as if some blogger requests for money to pay for bandwidth (but spends it on weekend excursions), and sometimes valid, such as Ace of Spades asking for a quote.

These efforts apparently are at least in some cases successful because they are repeated by bloggers all around the world. For example my bleg for people to say where they come from got me the most comments I'd had in the short existence of WATN.

In comments, a bleg is when a commenter requests assistance of some sort rather than the blogger or writer of the article. Some of these are sincere enough, such as a request for a link or information - I recently requested data on nomenclature of military items (they don't seem to follow much logic, the M-14 was followed by the M-16, which is being replaced by the M-4). Sometimes they are just for fun, a request for help because someone is losing their mind over a topic.

Sometimes, they are a genuine cry for help, such as someone asking long term commenters that are a community of at least online acquaintances for help finding work or answering a tough question. This kind of bleg is the most plaintive, because the person involved is often at wit's end, looking for information or assistance in every place they can imagine.

Sometimes the bleg is a lie. This is not common on political blogs, but message boards and major publications can find fraudulent requests for assistance, money, and materials. Help us build a new church they say, help me pay for my wife's surgery, help me move my child to a better home, etc. Generally speaking the more anonymous or unknown the poster is, and the more directly they ask for money, the less trustworthy they are. Yet it must work - that Ethiopian Prince email fraud scheme still catches people, for instance.

Blegging should be done only if it is not too much of an off topic comment, and only if it is done sincerely. It should not be done in an inappropriate setting (asking for help finding a job in the middle of condolences, for example), and it should only be done with people you know fairly well or are with folks who are probably there to give assistance. On a help site or a Q&A session, it makes sense. In a deep philosophical study, less so.

Blegs can add to a discussion by making people feel more involved - I'll help you with this information you asked for. They can build the sense of community that commenting can create. But they can be jarring or annoying as well. Never, ever, ever send money to someone online because of a request, no matter how holy, plaintive, or terrible their story. Never, even if you know them.

This is part of the Profiles in Commenting series.

*UPDATE: edited content to be less specific about Andrew Sullivan's blegs.
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Blogger Huck said...

C_T - What's your evidence to back up your contention that Andrew Sullivan's blegs for money to pay for bandwith actually went to pay for weekend jaunts? You didn't provide a link to support this contention. And I wonder how you know this. I know how much you dislike Sullivan, but you should be careful not to let your ASDS (Andrew Sullivan Derangement Syndrome) get in the way of accurate reporting or cause you to make unsubstantiated accusations.

11:15 PM, August 13, 2007  
Blogger Huck said...

Also, C_T, isn't there a difference between a bleg (i.e. a petition for aid or assistance of some sort) versus an invitation to participate? For instance, you request that people identify to you where they come from wasn't really a request for assistance, but simply an invitation to participate in providing information. The same might be said of John Hawkins' Q&A Friday. Is his request for his commenters to ask him questions a "bleg" or more specifically an invitation to participate?

PS: I love your comment types series. It really is a great reference resource and helpful guide on web commenting and etiquette.

11:22 PM, August 13, 2007  
Blogger Christopher Taylor said...

I don't have the stuff readily at hand, but when he did it in 2005, he requested a certain level of help for his bandwidth when it was about 3 times what it actually would cost based on his visitor count. Then he went on a vacation not long after.

However, you're right in one sense: without a specific substantiation of a charge, I should avoid using it as an example. Long time readers of Ace of Spades HQ, for example, would know what I'm talking about but others might not. I've edited the entry to reflect this, thanks for your input.

I'm using bleg here in a broader sense than it's used for an article written by a blogger, rather as a way to describe the way a certain kind of comment is written.

I think people should be hesitant to call different dislikes and reactions "derangement syndrome" ala Bush Derangement Syndrome. Having a poor reaction to people based on their behavior, rhetoric, and actions is different than simply being filled with loathing and hatred toward someone without rational cause.

9:01 AM, August 14, 2007  
Blogger Huck said...

Having a poor reaction to people based on their behavior, rhetoric, and actions is different than simply being filled with loathing and hatred toward someone without rational cause.

I agree, C_T. I have never loathed or hated George W. Bush. Ever. Even with rational cause, much less without it. I have disagreed with him lots and vigorously. But that never stopped people from claiming that my criticism of the man stemmed from BDS.

1:11 PM, August 14, 2007  
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