Blog Pile

Warnock’s Dilemma and Variants

By sheer acts of curious link following, I ended up today learning about Warnock’s Dilemma via Classy’s Kitchen:

Warnock’s Dilemma is the situation you face when people don’t comment on your postings:

The problem with no response is that there are five possible interpretations:

1. The post is correct, well-written information that needs no follow-up commentary. There’s nothing more to say except “Yeah, what he said.”
2. The post is complete and utter nonsense, and no one wants to waste the energy or bandwidth to even point this out.
3. No one read the post, for whatever reason.
4. No one understood the post, but won’t ask for clarification, for whatever reason.
5. No one cares about the post, for whatever reason.

The origin of the dilemma is this post to a perl developers list, and Bryan Warnock provides further historical commentary in this later post to another perl list.

I am sure I mostly write in the regions of 2,4, and 5.

The variant is the irony when you labor over a post that you feel strongly ought to elicit a response and gets little (that is Wanock’s) and you write something totally silly without any forethought, and the responses come tumbling in.

Don’t get me wrong, I will drink up feedback like a thirsty dog no matter how/where/why it comes. And I am more than ever confirmed that there is little more re-inforcing on writing than getting an unexpected contact, a pat on the back, even a challenge from “out there”, from someone you’ve not met before. Do not ever undervalue the power of public comments (except from spammers).

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. Your ironic variant is my constant companion. Like most of us, I suspect, I just say “that’s for me” and keep writing.

    I’ll probably never know what it feels like to be independently wealthy, but as a writer, I feel “independently wealthy” when I think about my blog. If it hits me and I have an itch to write about it, I have a place for it to go, a home where it will live. And it’s my home!

    Now to try out that cool cocomment extension. I’ve started tagging my cocomments because I know I’ll want to know what I said/thought/wrote about something the next time I have a traditional writing gig. This online writing really is a personal research/mulling archive for me. Oh, and a very cool place to talk about the future of albums–another thread. :-)

  2. Alan,

    One possibility you haven’t considered is that the reader chooses not to comment because he or she…

    (a) thinks the comment might be too “me, too”
    (b) thinks, in the words of Strunk or White, that the market for the commenter’s opinion is not brisk, and that even if it were, that might not be relevant to the discussion
    (c) prefers one-to-one but either can’t find an email or thinks the blogger gets far too much mail anyway
    (d) means to return to comment but can’t find the post (or the blog) again when that mythical time to reply manifests itself…

  3. Those are all spot on Dave, and I can say I have done ’em all. As a rule I avoid (d)- if I do not comment in the moment, when I read a post and the comment reflex is activated, I must write it then. I would never remember or even bother to go back and comment on a second visit.

    So many blogs, so many ideas, too little time….

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