The return of noteworthy comments!

July 12 2013 | arielmstallings
Recreating the corporate head shots I am taking today…
Welcome to the READER insights center!
Based on the fact that they weren't getting much traffic or many comments, we stopped doing our favorite comments series a while back… but then in the span of three days, I heard from two different readers who said they really missed them, so we'll bring the series back on a semi-weekly basis. Although with a different name. (More on that in a minute.)

And actually come to think of it, I'll be on vacation a bunch in the new couple weeks, so things may be generally sparse on Offbeat Empire, but we'll be doing comment round-ups more often I promise!

Ok! So let's take a look at some notable comments across the Empire this week…

Offbeat Bride

So first, you'll notice that I said NOTEWORTHY comments, instead of favorite comments. This is in part the results of an interesting discussion about the word "FAVORITE" on Offbeat Bride yesterday:

I'm turned off by the language of "favorite" Offbeat couples. For me, it turns offbeatness into a contest – who's the most popular, who's the best at being offbeat – which goes against the "your wedding is not a contest" mentality that you've tried to emphasize. There's enough wedding insecurity as is and I think that the "favorite wedding" language further promotes this … I guess bottom line is I can see how this feature could turn out to be positive, but I see a lot more potential for inadvertent bride/newlywed shaming.

As I replied, it was fascinating to how asking readers to link some of their favorites became a situation of SHAME. I thought about this comment a lot yesterday, chewing over whether the response of "not being a favorite = shame" might in part be a generational issue — millennials DO love their participation trophies. Or perhaps I've just officially painted myself into a corner, where "your wedding not being a contest" now means "no one is allowed to have preferences or else SHAME."

This concept of not being allowed to have favorites is extra weird for me as an editor an publisher. I mean, my job is all about judging content and selecting what to feature. Yes, Offbeat Bride's brand is supportive of all the things, but professionally, I make choices every day about what I like (… and don't like). I'm reminded of this very much releated post: Why didn't you feature my wedding?

From a pragmatic stand-point, asking readers to list their favorites was a way to make sure we represent a wide range of tastes — not just MY favorites (which are already pretty varied, ranging from a super evangelical punk wedding to a crazy simple non-decorated secular elopement, and everything in between) but a wide swath of people's favorites which could include almost anything.

I also re-read Seth Godin's piece about Getting picked (need to vs. want to) through the lens of this "favorite" issue:

Sure, it's fun to be picked, anointed, given social approval for what you doβ€”the newspaper writes you up, you get invited to speak at graduation, your product gets featured on the front page of a website or blog…

The thing is, it's really difficult to get picked.

If you're frustrated that you're not getting picked, one plan is to up your game, to hustle harder, to figure out how to hone a pitch and push, push, push. But in the era of picking yourself, it seems to me that you're better off finding a path that doesn't require you get picked in order to succeed.

That said, I also went back into my post and minimized the emphasis on "favorite," opting instead for language like "resonated most with you." And I'm changing the title of this Empire series from "Favorite comments" to "NOTEWORTHY comments." Trophies for all!

Offbeat Home

On Why I ditched the "American dream" and became a Park Ranger, NatureGirl said:

It's nice to hear the male perspective of "self-care". It's not just women who get wrapped up in family and other things and lose sight of what they truly want; it happens to men too, but we seldom hear anything about it. Thanks for sharing!
Good for you for believing in yourself, taking a risk, and following your heart!

Offbeat Families

AND SPEAKING OF THE MALE PERSPECTIVE, on A guide for families watching the Tour de France together for the first time, Jeff said:

We make le Tour fun for my son by coming up with fun nicknames for the riders. You'll often hear him shouting "THOR, GOD OF THUNDER" or "Chris Vroom VROOM VROOM!" in our household. Names like Cuddles, Nibbles, Swiss Miss, Chava, Fat Albert, and HoneyBadger all stick and have carried over from year to year. And add some drama. Pick out a rider that can be the villain. In our house, any time Contador is mentioned, my son will boo and hiss.

From now on, you'll often hear ME shouting "THOR, GOD OF THUNDER"!

  1. I do like the "noteworthy comments" rename! I totally end up with favourites and my criteria is going to be way different than that of other people but a tiny part of me had that "did anyone pick our wedding?" questioning hanging in the air.

    The issue of "favourites" as being shaming, though, totally resonates when I apply it to something like parents having favourite children. You're not supposed to, right? It's supposedly scandalous, as you see in any television show that includes a parent admitting that one child or another is their favourite.

    We are somehow being trained that for someone to have a favourite, it means there is something wrong with all the others not chosen. In reality, when I think about my favourite things (raindrops on roses and all that), it's completely about me. My taste, my priorities. Sure, not being someone else's favourite can feel like being the one not asked to be a bridesmaid, but we can't all be bridesmaids for everyone (or even anyone). I like the quote about picking yourself being an important value.

    • Yeah, I absolutely understand the "but wait, wasn't MINE anyone's favorite?" which is why I feel good about changing the wording. But as you point out, what classifies as any given person's "favorite" depends deeply on the chooser's priorities… my favorite vows? My favorite decor? My favorite sentiment? Favorite venue? So many options!

      Ultimately, however, I think there is a larger issue at play here… having to do with how Offbeat Bride's "we support everyone!" ethos can be taken to such an extreme that suddenly it can feel difficult to do my job as an editor, where I'm having to choose specific people to support (via attention) more than others. As a "picker," it's an uncomfortable responsibility… and I'm not totally comfortable with the idea that my not publishing something is "shaming" of something that's not published.

    • I found myself scanning the comments to see if anyone was picking my wedding. And then I went, uh, this is the most pointless thing ever. While it would be fun to be featured (again) does it make my wedding any less AWESOME if it isn't picked for this feature?

      Maybe it's because I'm a millenial. Yeah, let's just blame it on that…. πŸ™‚

  2. I LOVE Noteworthy (or favorite) comments on the empire. I check the empire blog for updates every day I'm on the other sites because I love the behind the scenes. I love that you explaing WHY decisions are made, and it makes me feel like a part of the community when I write for your blog, or get in comment discussions.

    Thank you, for caring so much about this community. I really means a lot to us regular contributors/readers!

    • *fist bump!*

      Keep commenting on these posts if you love 'em! The last few we'd published didn't get much of a response, so I was like…. meh, people aren't really that into the posts. Comments let me know you are! πŸ™‚

      • I missed the comment roundups too! Sometimes there just isn't much to say about them, especially since the conversations around them are happening on the other sites instead, but I enjoy reading them.

      • I love the noteworthy comments too! I usually don't comment though because it's like commenting about a comment? A lot of times the comments are funny/insightful on their own. If it's something that makes me curious about the article or thread, I go to that post and read it and if I have something to say I comment there….

  3. Dont take a few people's extreme sensitivity to every-damn-thing as an earmark of a whole generation- I'm so tired of the internet ragging on millenials and making out like we are pathologically incapable of dealing with non-special-snowflake status (or in one case, completely incapable of empathy- every one of us, born in a 20 year window. Yeah. Um. What?) Honestly I see more of that behavior from our parents' generation- after all, aren't they the ones who decided that self-esteem was delicate and precious and needed constant protection in the first place? (I could be biased, though, by the fact that I'm on the older end of millenial and don't recall getting any trophies I didn't actually win.)

    Getting ones panties in a bunch because you're not someone's "favorite" is damn silly, I'm sorry. I notice a frequent logical flaw happening among people who are offended by things like this- "If they're not saying that I'm A then they must mean I'm opposite-A." If I'm not a favorite, it implies that I am crap and should feel shame. If you disagree with me, you are calling me stupid. If you don't give me the sort of validation I crave, you are rejecting and insulting me. How long til someone's claims that "noteworthy" suggests that someone else's comment wasn't worth noting? The euphemism industry is booming but we're bound to run out of words one of these days.

    • I'm with you 100% on all these things, including not ragging on Millennials. That said, there are certain commenter behaviors that I see repeatedly from folks in certain age groups, and I can't ignore patterns.

      As for the era of euphamisms: yes. So much yes. We are in an intense era for semantics and rhetoric, and I'll be curious to see how it plays out in the next 5-10 years.

      • "That said, there are certain commenter behaviors that I see repeatedly from folks in certain age groups, and I can't ignore patterns."

        I am curious, what do you see in commenting trends from Gen-X folks?

        I always loved the comments of the week feature, partially because if, SOMEHOW, I missed a post, I could go back and read it from there. But I never commented on these post, because commenting on comments seemed too much, like a previous poster mentioned.

        • When it comes to commenting bad habits from Gen Xers like myself, patterns tend more toward:
          * Contrarian
          * Defeatist
          * Dismissive

          Both Gen X and Millennial commenters tend toward Special Snowflakeness, but Millennials seem generally more sensitive to perceived slights, and invested in semantics.

          Obviously, these are all generalizations. Like any armchair sociologist, I look at huge blobs of behavior data and cluster things into anecdotal patterns. I also don't always know the age of commenters, so my methods are completely unscientific. Basically, I'm a people-watcher and a story-teller. πŸ™‚

          • Ahhh, that would make sense, because, from my also totally unscientific survey of Gen-X people(like me also), contrarianism runs deep down to the bone. All those question this or that(authority, dominant paradigm, reality) bumper stickers seemed to have creeped into the collective Gen-X conciousness.

            The similarities and differences between the two generations are super interesting.

          • Umm, excuse me!?! Gen Xers are not contrarian.
            There's no point to even commenting anyway. . . .
            This whole website is dumb.

            But really, I don't fall under any one category, because I was born in 1980 right between the two, so I'm a little hurt that you'd label me / negate me.

          • I can't reply direct what with nesting, but Sara B, you just made me snort my coffee with laughter πŸ™‚

  4. Glad to see this feature back, under any name. I'm not bothered about the whole "favorite" thing, so either name works for me.

    On the whole "millennials" issue: I agree that not all millennials are like that, but it is a thing with some people in that age group. I do wish that the term "millennial" was more narrowly defined. As someone born in 1982 I do not feel that I should be considered a member of the millennial generation along with people born in in the 90's and 00's, yet some definitions say the millennial generation began in 1980 0r 1982. I think someone born in the 90's-00's will have had a very different life experience from someone born in the early to mid 80's. Then again, other generations are very long and must have the same sort of issues. Ah well, hopefully something in that rambling made some kind of sense.

    Yay for this feature being back!

    • I completely agree!

      As someone born in 1982 with a working class background, I grew up without participation trophies or reward charts. If I was going to learn to do something, I was going to have to do because I had the internal motivation to succeed and because I enjoyed the learning process. There were no shiny somethings to keep me going.

      I credit my career success to my early 80's, working class upbringing and I do not associate myself as a millennial. Many of the people on my work team are from the true millennial age group. Although this group of people bring a sense of fun energy to the team, there is also an overwhelming sense of entitlement. Of reward before work. An expectation of praise before performance, and recognition before completion of a project. I find this group are 'starters' who are great at coming up with new ideas, but they don't have the same stamina or stick-ability to see a project through to a successful completion. I also find that this group are not solutions focused – the problem is not owned by them but is outsourced for someone else to fix. Further to that, the sense of respect for authority that I learned and still practice, is not there in the millennial group.

      These are incredibly broad sweeping statements! But it is the general sense I get from my interactions with this generation of people.

  5. My favorite thing is noteworthy comments. Double combo across the sky!

    I think if YOU were putting things on the site that were ONLY YOUR favorites, there would be a bigger uproar because it is only YOUR favorites. Because we see such a wide variety of things across the blogs, it never feels like *this* or *this* are the only things allowed. When you open up the floor for others to suggest THEIR favorite, it is inclusive of all involved; not just one person.

  6. Yey comments. I really enjoyed the fav comments thing in the past (though the rename is good too!) but I didn't think to point out I missed them because I don't keep track of how often these things get posted.

    I check the sites most days, but got to be honest, it just didn't occur to me that you had stopped them! I figured you just had other stuff to post at the mo- must pay more attention!

  7. I didn't read the post it originally came from (over a year married…thought it was time to put away the wedding porn)…but really??? This sort of reminds me of the privilege checking post in that you must do an amazing word tango so that no one is ever offended! I think next someone will say "but why wasn't my wedding noteworthy? The use of 'noteworthy' makes me feel shame!"

    And I love comments of the week! Thanks for bringing it back! I rarely comment because mostly it would just be "I about spit something on my computer, that was so damn funny." But I'll make sure to report in next time that happens…

  8. Oh, I'd much rather be Noteworthy than a Favourite. Favourite, as mentioned, only implies that you met an arbitrary preference. Noteworthy suggests actual importance. πŸ˜‰
    (Words, and the implied meaning we give them, are so much fun. Except, of course, when we disagree about what words "really" mean. I'm probably not helping.)

  9. I think it's just a matter of the old saying of keeping up with the Jones'. That saying has been around a long while, not at all a new phenomenon. People have been using others to validate themselves for generations. Christmas Cards used to be how people showed off talking about the family. Now social media does it instantly. People compete to be the most offbeat, or the latest with technology, or even hell even who's life is most miserable.

    I feel like this goes back to the whole liberal bullying thing too.Can't we all just get along and hate on rapists and other abusers or is that being too exclusive too?

    And yay for Noteworthy Comments πŸ™‚

  10. I'm glad you're bringing back the favorite/noteworthy comments (I'm cool with them being called either). Sometimes there are so many comments on a post I don't have time/desire to read through them, and this way I feel like I get at least a highlight.

  11. Note to self: If you ever find anyone foolish enough to marry you, every guest gets participation trophy.

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