Blog Pile

The Place for Short Comments

cc licensed flickr photo shared by JPLatting

from the idle wonderings department…and summoning my best Andy Rooney voice

Did you ever notice…. how short/brief flickr comments are? “nice photo” “Awesome!” “great shot” — heck you could fit 4 or 5 in a single tweet.

Think about it- a good meaty blog post (the kind not typically found here), if read in their fullest take quite a bit of mental fuel to process. For example, if Stephen Downes takes only half an hour to write his deep posts -they might take me 4 times that to read to (partial) meaning.

And such content that takes time to process yields comments sometimes in the multiple paragraph form. I’ve seen blog posts where the comments are longer than the posts.

Yet a photo you can take in within a few seconds or more, is lucky if it illicit a full sentence in a comment, much less a verb.

So do briefly digestible media (not to say all photos can be appreciated in a glance) lends themselves to brief comments? is it a dissonance in responding in text form to a highly visible message.

cc licensed flickr photo shared by Môsieur J. [version 3.0b]

Or even father out on the limb, is it all a giant cinnamon bun roll up of McLuhan-esque medium is message? (what is the medium of a car body mean?)

What’s your theory? Is there a reason? Or do I just need sleep?

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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. The mindless sycophancy of the flickr comments drives me insane. “nice photo.” “ooh. pretty.” “I have sniff-sniff-sniffed out your WON-der-ful photo…”

    It’s a very low level of engagement. Part of it is just simple presence – I was here – but part of it is that people don’t have anything deeper to say. They don’t have time, or the language, or the confidence to say more. So a simple “you have taken a picture” comment suffices.

    I don’t comment as much as I used to, because I caught myself doing the same thing too many times. Inane “I have commented on a photograph that you have taken” comments that don’t add anything, and don’t mean anything. I still Fave a lot of photos, and comment here and there, but the meaningless comments are really getting to me now. I’ve even debated withdrawing from Flickr altogether, but there’s still some baby left in that bathwater.

    1. Okay, joke over.

      I dont get a whole lot of comments, so I don’t have much to complain about. I guess that in itself is a comment.

      It bothers me less, I see no problem with a little acknowledgement, even inane. I don’t have email notification set for comments; I check for the 3 i get every 2 weeks in RSS or the activity stream.

    1. I miswrote- I did not mean to suggest that long blog posts necessarily generate long comments; it was more a tribute to the prolificacy of what you say takes a half hour to write.

      And of course we don’t write specifically for comments, but I think/guess that there is some human desire when putting themselves out there to have a sense they were heard. Acknowledgment/validation are a big deal (to most)

  2. I wonder how much it of the brevity relates to the inability of most people to pick apart a photo and explain why they like it (I would include myself in this category). It’s much safer to say a photo is “gorgeous,” rather than “the depth of field really brings the subject to the forefront, though I would suggest using less sepia next time. Try a different shutter speed as well.”

    It also seems to me that visually-oriented websites such as Flickr and YouTube have a lower level of discourse. I’m not entirely sure why.

    In the case of Stephen’s post, there may be a few different reasons for the lack of comments. 1) they didn’t follow all the arguments. 2) They feel responding would take too much time, and you have to be thorough whenever you respond to Stephen. 3) they spent enough time reading the article and they want to move on to the next thing. 4) They intend on addressing it in their own post (e.g. David Wiley). 5) Stephen gave them a lot to think about and they need time to digest it.

    By the way, I like your photos Alan and D’Arcy so much I want to invite you to my exclusive (INVITE ONLY) group.

    I’m kidding. Don’t ban me.

  3. Thats an interesting thought Seth, but it also suggests photo comments should be on a technical level. Bur it does have me thinking about that there is an interesting challenge in helping people formulate in words what a photograph does to them. Maybe not much? Is it a similar paralysis I feel in a museum when I struggle to summon my own feelings or aim for words that sounds like I think an art critic might?

    And interesting that visual media perhaps stifles our ability to respond in words.

    Furthermore, I only join groups that have clip art icons surrounded by glitter.

  4. I’ve been really mulling this over since I read this post last night — particularly since it intersected interestingly with a presentation I did today. As I was preparing, and copying/pasting some comments from various image-rich social media sites to incorporate, I had been thinking a lot about the brevity and relative simplicity of most of the comments.

    However, I have to say if the comment stream on Flickr photos veered towards lengthly commentary and analysis of the images from a technical or even symbolic standpoint, I’m not sure I’d find it much richer.

    When I leave a lengthy comment on a blog, it’s usually because there is some idea that’s being wrestled with by the author and commenters. There is a kind of discourse that I expect to have in that space, that I don’t necessarily expect to have in Flickr.

    What I noticed as I was reading comments that quite a few were short but still reflected a moment of connection — a person would comment on how an image affected them (“makes me want to cry” or “reminds me of when I was a child”) I know those can be few and far between the “Awesome!!”s and “Great shot!”s. But even those, if only a mere acknowledgement of “Hey I saw this and it caught my eye” signify some kind of connection, don’t they?

    I don’t know. I’m not nearly the photographer that you or others commenting here are, so perhaps that’s why I don’t expect something more substantive in the comments (and, like you, I get few and rarely look for them). Perhaps if I had more skill and was invested in this form I would wish for that more.

    1. Thanks for thinking this out loud (a multi-paragraph comment).

      I’m not saying that short comments in flickr are necessarily bad, and my own admission to myself later is that my flickr comments are rarely more than a sentence- rare maybe even as a complete sentence.

      It just struck me as an interesting situation that media posts generate short comments. I dont have any value judgment on that.

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