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So Crowded That No One Goes There Anymore

August 3, 2016

I like to talk. You might have gotten a hint of that by the fact that I scribble down some thoughts here every day and throw it out into the void. As a manager I practiced “Management by walking around” before I even knew what it was. I loved to talk to my team. 

And while it never shows up here, I absolutely love to discuss politics. But, it’s tough to do on the Internet. Talking is easy. Having a discussion is not. Especially online.

Captain Davenport: They’re pinging away with their active sonar like they’re looking for something, but nobody’s listening.

Jack Ryan: What do you mean?

Captain Davenport: Well, they’re moving at almost forty knots. At that speed, they could run right over my daughter’s stereo and not hear it.

(Hunt for Red October)

I remember the first time someone stopped me and asked for an autograph. I’d written a book on Microsoft Exchange and I was presenting at a conference.

Rodney, I don’t want to bother you, but would you mind signing this copy of your book?

Well, twist my arm why don’t you! Authors and writers love feedback. Sure, there’s the occasional J.D. Salinger, Emily Dickinson types who just wants to write and never hear from anyone. But, the rest of us are thrilled to hear from fans and readers. 

What do all these disjointed thoughts have to do with each other? The idea that talking only works if someone is listening. And, as my teenagers will tell you,  a discussion is much more fun than a lecture. 

Yogi Berra was not a cartoon bear at Jellystone Park. He was actually a hall of fame catcher for the New York Yankees. I’m not a fan of the Yankees, but as a baseball fan and as a writer, I adore Yogi. He was known for mixed metaphors and malapropism. In other words, he tripped up his words. Catchers are typically the smartest players on a baseball team. They, not the pitcher control the game. Yogi worked very hard to single-handedly destroy that image. 

He was once asked about a popular restaurant. 

Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.

Yogi would have appreciated the comments section of most internet articles. On Facebook, for example, you will often see a popular story or meme passed around. It might have 20K views and 1.2K comments. 

The views I can understand, but for the life of me, I cannot fathom why anyone would comment on a story that has more than a few dozen existing comments. When the comment count gets up above about 100, the commenters remind me of the Soviet ships referenced in the Hunt for Red October quote above. They are pinging away with their active radar, but no one is listening. 

Like Yogi said, once a place becomes too popular, people stop going. When talking about a restaurant, we can laugh at the contradiction. But, Internet comments last forever. Some threads really do become so popular that people stop posting. 

I was once part of a private political discussion group on Facebook. I started a comment thread talking about breastfeeding and guns. (Yeah, I mixed topics there too.) It eventually became the most popular topic in the history of our little debate club with over 500 comments. I won a coffee mug for it. But, it was the exception not the rule.

Most of my posts generate a handful of comments. Occasionally, a topic will generate a couple dozen comments. I can easily follow the thread and talk to the posters. 

As a writer, I guess I’m supposed to hope that my posts go viral and generate crazy numbers of views and comments. If that happens, I just hope they don’t become so popular that no one follows them anymore. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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