Be wrong!

I love this comic:

About a year ago, Ivy asked me how to get more comments on her weblog. I replied, “Be wrong.”

She laughed, but it’s been my experience that the fastest way to get comments on this weblog is to be wrong — even faster than if I ask a question. The only way I’ve gotten them faster is when I posted on another forum, “Would someone mind commenting quickly as a mercy, so I won’t get flamed right out of the gate?”

On Thursday, I posted about capitalism not being an infinitely sustainable system, and I got a lot of posts correcting me, some correcting me about things I hadn’t even said — but regardless, the fact is, people commented because they thought I was wrong. I like that, because it gives me an opportunity to learn. Either learn what is right, or learn the way other people think.Β 

I’m always surprised at the inverse proportionality on the number of comments to the number of page views. Some of my guardian angel posts have had amazingly high numbers of page views but only one or two comments. Some posts I feel are very sweet, touching, or otherwise well-written, and they get no commentary at all.

Part of the web is audience participation. We understand the changed nature of learning and the importance of dialogue. Very interesting to me is how people feel compelled to comment when they disagree but fall silent when they don’t.

What’s the take-away here? I’m not sure. Despite what I’ve said, silence feels like disagreement, and I strongly advocate that for most people, the worst you can do to them is ignore them. (This is especially true about passive-aggressive behavior.) No one likes being ignored. Disagreements may become vigorous, but in the fighting there’s contact. In silent agreement, there’s none.

So my takeaway would be, go to the next blog you’d normally read. And if you agree, post a comment. Tell that blogger you appreciate the fifteen minutes s/he took to write something that touched you, and say thanks. (Don’t do it here — if you do it here, it looks like I was self-aggrandizing.)

But my second takeaway would be this: don’t be afraid to be wrong. We all get performance anxiety, and especially on the web where we feel like we’re “always on,” it’s difficult to go out on a limb and speculate.

Well — speculate away. Someone will be sure to tell you if you’re wrong. And if you’re lucky, that someone will even tell you why.


  1. Cheryl

    You’re WRONG!

    I’m kidding, of course. πŸ™‚ You’re completely on.

    Have a good weekend!

  2. philangelus

    Ooh, I deserved that! πŸ˜€

  3. blueraindrop

    sometimes you don’t even have to be wrong… you just have to be even briefly mentioning a topic that someone is passionately opposed to another side on… which of course gets the other side into the game responding to that person, and then you have a lovely debate to watch and laugh as it has nothing to do with your entry but just keeps getting further and further off topic.

  4. Cheryl

    I can get way off topic without a debate. πŸ˜‰

  5. R. L. Copple

    So it’s all right to be wrong for the right reasons, just not right for the wrong reasons. πŸ˜‰

  6. philangelus

    You just made my head explode :-0 :-0 :-0

    Actually, yes. In Seven Archangels, the Cherubim love being wrong because it means they explored a new idea. They like it more when they end up being right, of course, but they like working ideas against one another until they find an idea they can’t crack. Which they then assume is true. But without debate, they’d never find that idea.

    So it’s not only okay to be wrong, but it’s good because it promotes truth-finding. πŸ™‚

  7. Similar Situation

    Hah. I applaud your social experiment. I followed along like a little sheep.

    As being one of the flock, I’d like to share what urged me to post.

    1) You were wrong (IMHO) πŸ™‚ Which proves this weblog was right.

    2) I’ve been close to the crisis and many friends are part of the job hunt and many people just don’t get what happened. Your weblog didn’t reference the recent crisis, but one can assume that it is what sparked you’re thought on the subject.

    3) I’ve seen an interesting twist on capitalism and socialism in a book I recently read. To make sure I understand, I tried to describe it as well. Teach to learn.

    4) You were wrong
    5) You were wrong πŸ™‚

    I’ve also heard a business psychologist recently say that hearing something that you believe is wrong sparks the same emotion as hearing 3 things that you believe is right. Probably why it’s harder for people to reply to things they agree with.

    Keep up the good fight. and don’t be wrong all the time. You don’t want people to stop listening to you altogether.

  8. Philangelus

    It’s not a social experiment, Scott. More like I’m responding to what happened, and I appreciate the fact that this weblog has become something of a community where people can disagree without fighting.

    I would never INTENTIONALLY post something wrong. But given who I am, it’s going to happen. πŸ˜‰

  9. fwtallgirl

    See, if I don’t comment on people’s posts, including yours, it’s generally because I agree with them. And when you write about guardian angels or other areas of faith, I frequently find myself musing over it for a while, but my own comment (commitment?) phobia stops me from commenting. Evidence the fact that I’ve been reading your blog for several months but this is only my second comment. πŸ˜‰

  10. Cricket

    If I agree totally with something, all I can add is “me too”. After a few strings of those, the entire site becomes bland. So, I save my comments for when I have something more useful to add. Not as good for your stats, but more interesting for your readers.

  11. cathrl

    Well, I came to the wider internet from Usenet and text-only newsgroups. And over there, the “me too” post is seriously frowned on – it stems from the days when people were downloading posts on single-digit baud modems and it was the height of rudeness to add bandwidth unless you had something different to say.

    So I’m even worse. Not only will I not post on things I agree with, I also don’t post on things where I disagree but someone already said what I would have πŸ™‚

    But xkcd is an absolute hoot. His log scale drawing of the universe is in front of me as I type – my husband bought me the poster for my birthday. (Yes, I’m a geek.)