Ficly-tiquette: Comments

I thought I’d get this topic out in the open for some discussion…via comments, which seems a bit circular but unavoidable. Putting some thought into it I’ve come up with 10 types of comments. There may be more, but these came to mind as common patterns. I don’t bring these up to make any definitive statement about any one of them, so please don’t read into the description anything other than it being my best attempt at describing a phenomenon. What I leave for you, dear reader, is to leave your opinion on the different types. My hope is that this will encourage “good” comments and discourage “poor” comments, based primarily on what the majority of you feel about each type.

1) The Drive-By: This one consists of 1 or 2 words, three at the most, usually to say, “I read this,” or, “Interesting.” It conveys usually a brief opinion one direction or the other, though it’s primary point seems to be just that the story was read and noted.

2) The Technical: Here we have an earnest effort to give some grammatical or thematic critique. That’s a run-on. This is a comma splice. You forgot to carry the 2. I do that last one a lot, really mucks with the final lab results, believe me.

3) The Rambler: Of this one, I’m particularly guilty. The reader plunges into some deep train of thought loosely inspired by the ficlet, nearly writing another ficlet in the process, only it’s down in the comments section. These tend to be somewhere uncomfortably between gushing and being pompous.

4) The Advert: The standard goes like this, “Hey, I liked your story about X. Please come check out my stuff!” Insert appropriate emoticons here.

5) The Debater: Another one I’ve done at times, this one is all about taking exception not to the method but the moral, point, or insinuation of the piece. It’s about discussion and thought, but can be a little challenging.

6) The Slam: Beyond critiquing, I’ve seen a few comments that just plain spell out how bad a story is and why. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does, flame wars usually follow.

7) The Bounce: Somewhere between the Drive-By and the Rambler, this one poses an opinion or thought, usually a little more spelled out but without dwelling on the point or beating it into the ground.

8) The Puppy Eyes: I know the title is a bit obscure for this one, but maybe this will ring a bell, “Ooh, ooh, write a sequel PLEASE!” It’s one part flattery, one part abject begging, and two parts cute puppy dog eyes to drive the point home.

9) The Doh: Here is when you read something thematically similar to something you just wrote, having realized you either look like a plagiarist or at best a follower. It’s a little bit of ‘How could you?’ but mostly ‘Aha, great minds think alike, right? Right? I swear, I didn’t just copy you.’

10) News of the World: This covers those comments meant not as a critique, praise, or slam but merely informative. For example, ‘I just wrote a sequel,’ or, ‘Someone wrote a sequel to the sequel,’ or, ‘My house is on fire.’
Did I miss any? Do you have any of these you like or loathe getting? Or is it just great to get any kind of comment at all? Feel free to chime in using whichever style you prefer.

39 comments Posted 2009-06-18 Author: THX 0477


  • Textual Phoenix



    Seriously, though, I think you pretty much nailed it. Going any further would probably just fall in the “variations on a theme” concept. Although, there is the old “Yes-Man” concept – where the critique/review/whatever is more or less “I totally agree with what (insert name here) said!”

  • Xanathael

    I totally agree with what Textual Pheonix said. Those were some great points, THX, and all the ones you wrote were there! 5 out of 5!

  • g²LaPianistaIrlandesa

    You did nail it, I’d say. I’m glad you addressed this, because commentage is what I think makes the community so tight here. Not only is it a courtacy to share your thoughts on the pieces you read, but also to really put some thought into them. That was one of the beauties of the LoA parameters: it challenged people to raise their commentage to the level of an artform. It’s challenged me, anyway.

  • Elisabeth L. Davis(LoA)

    Oh, my. I’m guilty of the Drive-by, because I usually don’t have a whole lot of time to flesh out a comment and explain why I liked it. Usually it’s something like “haha, brilliant.” or “What a.. strange? last line.”

  • Stovohobo

    I’ve been trying to inject some more helpful criticism into my comments since the late days of ficlets, but it seems to come off as more dry and much less fun to read than the inside joke/“hilarious!” comment. I think I’m probably between the Bounce and the Rambler.

    And while Ads on Ficly don’t really annoy me, they remind me of the ad comments that do (like the ones on YouTube, DevArt, etc.). Meh.

  • wytherwings

    wow, I think you pretty much have it covered. I’m really glad that there’s way less Advert and Slam comments on Ficly compared to say, Youtube or some bigger websites. Hopefully it stays that way.

    hmm… I think I usually do The Bounce, but I’m also guilty of The Drive-By

  • bluefish

    There’s another kind of comment I’ve seen: the Mini-Sequel. Someone who uses a comment to add a detail, tangential plot point, or dialogue, usually for the sake of being witty, without actually writing a fully thought-out sequel.

    Then there’s also the Researcher, who asks for clarification or elaboration on something mentioned in the piece.

  • JimF

    There is far too little criticism in the comments. While I’m a big fan of encouragement, you do someone no favors by telling them you ‘liked the descriptions’ or ‘great sequel potential’, when really it was a kernel of a good idea covered by a big steaming turd of technically poor writing.

    That said, when the writing is good but the idea is poor (or at least one with which you disagree or find offensive), the more constructive route is to write a sequel making your point rather than a comment.

  • Sneaky"LoA"Cleazy

    you and bluefish got it pretty much locked down..!

  • Music-Hearted

    I typically try to go for the Bounce, although I am guilty of both the Driveby and the Rambler, respectively. On point as always, THX.

  • John Perkins

    I usually try be a technical commenter, but I’m always afraid that I’ll come off pompous, or overly critical. In these instances I usually turn into a drive-by kind of guy.

    I think the most helpful, and therefore “good” comments are the ones that are constructive either in their praise or criticism. However, these are the most difficult to write. It requires that we peruse (using the correct definition of the word) the ficlet, and actually think about the grammatical structure along with its theme and how it all works as a cohesive piece. There is almost as much effort on the commenter in this instance as there is on the ficleteer. Most of us don’t have the time, patience, or even skill to do this on a regular basis; so it becomes a rarity.

    My main reason for trying to be a “technical commenter” is that I feel putting that much effort into not only helps the ficleteer, but it helps me become a better writer by learning to recognize what works, and what doesn’t.

    I turned this comment into a rambler.

  • jesteram

    How about The Joke? I’ve left one or two purely goofy comments. Also, a sub-category to many would be the Ill-Read Commenter. I wince when I see someone miss a detail or overlook a challenge constraint and then call the writer out on it. I think I’m a Bouncer, but I do intentionally Drive-By often, just to let far-flung writers with sucking voids on their stories know that someone did more than view the lead before clicking elsewhere. I also try to point out a turn of phrase or descriptor I particularly liked.

  • dkscully

    As a writer, I’ll take any comments that are going. Having thrown a bit of my soul into the void, it’s nice to see someone cared enough about it to say something. If you also manage to offer constructive criticism, that’s a plus.

    As a commenter, I’m short on time, so I often just Drive-By. If I can, though, I’ll Bounce.

  • ALRO613 (LoA)

    Yip.. one that i get a lot is:
    THE PREDICTOR! When a reader puts down thoughts of how they think the story will/should progress.. A ‘wondering out loud if Kimberly is REALLY an alien – or does she just want to be one’ type of thing. I love those!

  • OrangeOreos (LoA)

    Yeah, ALRO! I think I’m guilty of a few of those… And a whole bunch of “Yes-Man”s… And I think I’m one of those that glaze over the turdy ficlets, John. I guess my fault is that I try to look at the better side of things. Maybe I’ll try critiquing more in the future.

    Great post Kevin!

    (Brought to you by a crossed-species comment)

  • ElshaHawk (LoA)

    I am a predictor. I try to give the author some ideas for sequeling. Guilty. I also drive-by to say hi, and occasionally Bounce. When I do critique, I sandwich it to keep things positive, which kind of a critique in a Bounce. I appreciate all comments!

  • lastsyllable

    I think any comment is a good comment. Some are more helpful than others, certainly, but even “I liked it” or “I hated it” is better than nothing at all. Discouraging vague or short feedback will only end up discouraging feedback in general, I think, because it takes longer to provide a detailed critique and not everyone has the time or energy to devote to that. At the same time, people who give good feedback are likely to get more views on their stuff, so that kind of positive reinforcement should help.

  • lisaG

    I’m definitely guilty of the drive-by, but I prefer to say something rather than nothing at all. I know as a writer I really love to get any kind of feedback on my stuff, even if it’s just “I liked it” or “I hated it”.

    The longer more constructive comments are always the most welcome though and I do try to leave those whenever possible.

  • Beastie

    I really don’t write comments when I read the stories. I read them, but I don’t think one more person saying ‘It was good’ is really helpful, and my critiques aren’t exactly the best either. I mostly try to read things, and think of good things to say, but then end up saying nothing at all and just clicking away from the story without leaving a comment.

  • Trann

    I am definitely a Bouncer/Joker in most regards. I try not to Drive-By as I feel it doesn’t contribute much (isn’t that what votes are for?); I strive to be Technical but am unsure my experience warrants it. That said, pigeonholing comments (or commenters) may not encourage open rapport. I like votes for their directness and comments for their free form.

    In a bit of Ficly-tiquette irony, a comment you left recently started with an appreciative Bounce and concluded with a Joke which happened to illustrate an flaw in the story, making a correction possible. Do away with the open commentary and such (unintentional?) insights may be lost.

    And I’m also a Rambler, it seems.

  • Laine Grey

    Hehe. I’m so glad you touched on the whole advertising thing. If you leave a comment it should have to do with the Ficlet (can we still call them that?); if the author feels like returning the favor and reading your stuff, then so be it. Otherwise, you sound desperate.
    I definitely think I fall into the Bouncer category.

  • Lone Writer

    I think Agreement Comments should be a Category, when the Commenter basically agrees with everyone else… (I do that a lot)
    Otherwise awesome. :p

  • Hurdler123

    Hahahah Lone Writer has a point. I definitly do that A LOT.
    but I think other then that you covered pretty much everything =]

  • NinjaChicken

    This is great! Ficly etiquette, much like Netiquette in general, is focused on the “What not to do…” But what alternative strategies for the ham-handed members? That is — what about strategies to encourage others, create friends, and inspire a sense of unity and esprit de corps? My guitar instructor, for example, told me there is no such thing as a bad musician — everyone has something to express or say with their instrument, though some are more naturally gifted / trained than others. The same is true here, methinks… Just my 2 cents!

  • blindeinstein

    I’d really like to see The Drive By replaced with a quick rating. Well thought out criticism or encouragement takes time to write, but if you have time to read the story, take the 3 seconds it takes to tick 1-5 on the rating. I really hate seeing one of my stories getting 20+ reads and no feedback at all. Comments are great, but at the very least rate the stories you read.

  • blusparrow (LoA)

    I like al’s, The Predictor. Also I am thinking The Lover or The !ers. You know the people that go ‘I LOVE THIS!!!’ or ‘THIS IS AWESOME!!!" (aka me lol). lol i am a lot of these though. I am a drive-by, puppy dog eyes, rambler, predictor, and lover. haha I’m all over the place. haha the “my house is on fire” made me laugh.

  • jesteram

    I’ve noticed an uptick of what I’d call excessively harsh comments lately. I know that publishing to an open forum carries that risk, but I’d imagine that people of all ages and talents write here looking for constructive feedback. I don’t think referring to someone’s work as a “sort of prosaic midterm abortion” falls under the category of constructive. I’d hope the attitude here is to encourage, not trample.

  • jesteram

    Seriously, I just read a comment in which one writer said to another, “Get an editor.” Shouldn’t this be fun in addition to being constructive? What purpose does such a comment serve, besides diminishing the author?

  • A Dabble of Thelonious

    If I like a story, I’ll rate it. If I really like it, I’ll comment as well. I tend not critique. Same goes for the reverse. I try not to just crap on peoples work though.

    That being said, that dudes music teacher was wrong. There are bad musicians ad there are bad writers. It’s harsh, but it’s true.

    Sidenote. What’s with all the multipart stories by the same author? It’s like people can’t fit a story in under the limit so they just hit sequel and keep right on rolling. That’s not a sequel, mate. That’s a story that was too long for the site. Those I have commented harshly on. Sorry if I upset anyone doing that.

  • A Dabble of Thelonious

    I really need to proof my comments.

  • jesteram

    Yes, there are bad writers, but they can still be guided by better writers, not told that their ideas, execution, and stories are worthless (which has been done in some comments I’ve seen). As a week-old Ficly participant, I’ve already been mortified and embarrassed to see how poorly fellow writers have treated those among us with more to learn. I checked “About Ficly.” The creators of this great site wrote: “All you have to do is write one kilobyte of something – something fictional. That’s all.” They also wrote: “Ficly was built with love.” I don’t think anyone can find that spirit in comments like: “it’s a poor execution of a pointless idea” or “Everything superfluous needs to go, and right now all your writing is superfluous” or even “Try reading some of the other stuff on here to see what sort of formatting and storytelling this site is intended for.” Who are individual members to dictate to experimenting writers what this site is or isn’t intended for? I’m not advocating hand-holding, just some tact.

  • Marli

    Nice to get a comment
    Better to get a rating
    Good constructive criticism
    Serves better than a baiting.

  • A Dabble of Thelonious

    Good points Jester. I personally prefer it if people point out flaws in my stuff, harsh or otherwise. To me it’s better than just rating it low or not rating it at all. I try to at least rate everything I read.

    However, I agree that just saying something is terrible isn’t helpful.

  • OrangeOreos (LoA)

    Ah, personally, I try to comment almost everything I read. It just seems that much more personal than a simple rating.

    And the sequel-strings… As I’ve already commented someplace else: “Everyone uses this website differently. For some, it’s to show off their own writing, or to read others’ writing, or to collaborate. For most, it’s a mix.”

    Sometimes, showing off your writing demands more than 1,024 characters, and some people want to write a story by themselves. The way you use this website is different for everyone.

  • A Dabble of Thelonious

    True enough, Oreos. I guess it just struck me as odd that a site featuring a 1024 character story limit is where someone would choose to write a 9,000 character story. :)

  • Spiderj

    I like the 1024 character limit as a catalyst for experimentation and to bring about condensed narrative. I find that fascinating, both as a reader and a writer. And it’s something I don’t see anywhere else.

    So I’m not particularly interested in the multipart stories. But I know that already so I just don’t click on them. I’d have no valuable input because it’s so far from the style I write myself, any attempt at constructive criticism would come off as an attempt to turn the story into something it was never meant to be. I don’t expect everything here to be valid to me.

  • Spiderj

    Oh, and I forgot to say I like the idea of ‘the signpost’ as a comment. Kind of like saying:

    “If you enjoyed this, you might also dig this.” Whether the latter be something in the external world (movie, book etc) or, even better, another story on Ficly. There are clearly distinct groups on here (I’ll avoid the word cliques), which is perfectly natural, but it’d be great to have a large degree of cross pollination between groups.

    For instance, I read this by following the ‘creepy’ tag from this story Would never have seen 2012 otherwise. And it’s relatively unseen.

    I think some of my issues with getting word out about good stories would be solved if there were forums on here…?

  • jesteram

    Forums would be great. There’s a lot of great material that gets swept off the home page and never seen again, and forums could be a great way to alert others to good stories. Plus, I’d like to be able to connect in discussions beyond the current blog post or list of friends.

  • SaveTheUnicorns

    On ficlets, I was guilty of being an Advert, but I have since evolved as a writing community member. Now I understand that I can grow as a writer not just by asking people to read my stories, but by absorbing their own eloquent words, pondering them further, and providing encouraging insight and praise. And, I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a rambler, but mostly because I want people to know that I’m truly interested in their story. __
    The one thing I’m afraid to do is critique, especially if a bunch of other people have commented previously saying that the story was outstanding. I’ll admit, I don’t take critisism very well either, and I don’t want to crush anyone’s spirit. But I sure hope I’ll get over my critiqueophobia!