Jun 042013
 

If you have ever written a blog, an article for a magazine, or anything else on the Internet in a forum in which people can comment, you’ve probably experienced the following phenomenon. You put a lot of time and effort into writing an article that you feel is insightful on a particular topic or set of topics. You post that article. You distribute it to a variety of media outlets, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn groups, etc.  Comments start to arise. You’re very excited that someone is commenting, because it appears that people actually are responding to what you have said. Someone is listening!

But then… you read the comments…

Suddenly, you realize that, apparently, these commenters really don’t care about the subject you wrote about at all. They make comments about totally unrelated topics. This is what I like to call blog remoras and redirects.

What do I mean? Well, have a look at the diagram below. In the middle is an orange circle that represents the subjects about which you wrote. For example, let’s say that you write an article about Product Cost Management. Someone comments on your blog site or on a linkedin group where you share the article, etc. They may write about the same topic as the article, but just a different viewpoint on it. Therefore, they’re still in that orange circle However, other people will comment about other topics that I like to call the ring of the adjacent subset and super set topics (shown in blue). For example, using the Product Cost Management example, someone may talk about target costing, design for manufacturing, design for assembly, feature based costing, etc. These are all subsets of Product Cost Management or maybe some would consider them adjacent topics. Then there’s a third level ring around your topic, shown in brown. It’s not directly related to the topic that you wrote about (e.g. product cost management), but it may be related to that second ring of adjacent subset, or super set topics. Maybe the commentor is talking about manufacturing in general, or product design, lean, etc.

Hiller Associates Blog Remoras

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And then, you finally get to the bizarre unrelated topic redirects.  Let’s call these the “asteroid below of totally unrelated topics about which someone wants to talk.”  For example, you write an article called “XYZ of Product Cost Management.” Someone responds with a comment that starts out with glowing praise, such as, “I found this article really insightful. I totally agree and that reminds me about psychoanalytic trouser sprites.” or about “how see CRM will save the world.”

These redirect topics seem to have no apparent connection to anything that you talked about in the initial article. To be fair, perhaps I am not the smartest bear the forest? Perhaps, there are complex connections that my small brain is just too tiny to understand.

However, I think something else is actually going on here. What you’re picking up is a blog remora. This is a person who wants to get their intellectual ideas out. However, they really don’t have the intellectual property developed, or maybe just don’t have the time to write the intellectual property. Therefore, they will attach to your intellectual property like a remora does to a whale or a shark. Some might say they are even parasitically feeding off your work. It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about Product Cost Management or the price of tea in China. These people will redirect the conversation to whatever topic they want to talk about.

This phenomenon is very similar to what you see in political candidate debates. For example, the moderator asks the presidential candidate, “What is your position on the problem of millions of illegal immigrants in the United States?” The candidate smiles, pauses, and says “I’m glad you asked that question, Jim. That’s very important. If in my last four years, I’ve instituted policies to help the economy in order to grow home ownership for good hardworking Americans.” What?! Huh?! What does your home ownership policy remotely have to do with the question that you were asked?  I don’t know if the problem of political candidates not answering the question that was asked and the similar problem of blog remoras, are isolated problems or if it is a sad commentary on our society, in general.

I hope I am not guilty of this problem myself. I mean, I get it. These people want to talk about what ever floats their boat (and, whatever topics are the focus of THEIR product or consulting service) . It’s a goal that we all have. I write articles on Product Cost Management for several reasons. One of those reasons is because I’m just passionate about the topic. But let’s be honest, I also do it because it’s good marketing for my consulting practice. Authors, including people that write blogs, are flattered and glad when people respond with comments to the article’s, even when those comments are disagreements with what the author said. Most authors also are happy to get comments that link the author’s article focus to the blue adjacent topic ring, and even to the brown tertiary adjacent ring, IF the commenter CLEARLY explains the link between the author’s topic and the tertiary ring of subjects. However, it’s really insulting when someone brings up a topic in their commentary to your article that has nothing whatsoever to do with the topic that you talked about and is not adjacent to it.

Shark_and_Remora

Perhaps, it’s not a good idea for me to bring up this problem in the public forum. Perhaps any comment, no matter how unrelated, is a good comment that will help your search engine optimization. However, I don’t see how this helps advance the community knowledge on the topic about with you have written an article, whether that topic is product cost management or anything else. I don’t hang out on LinkedIn groups dedicated to quantum physics and push product cost management.  E.G. “That’s a great point Professor Poindexter on the Higgs Boson. But, what is really important is to subjugate the ideas in your article to Product Cost Management.”  This behavior is just intellectually dishonest and it’s vacuous for me to try to hock my wares in a forum that is completely wrong for the topic.

However, let me pause my rant and open this topic to the general community: I’d like to hear from other people that blog, who write articles on specific topics, and even from those people that are just frequent commenters on blogs or articles.

What do you think about blog remoras and redirects to other topics?

Do you find unrelated commentary useful and interesting, or insulting to the author??

Is there any way to stop blog remoras and redirects?

How do we hold people to a higher standard that helps everybody?

 

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