TITLE: Fly on the Wall AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: January 02, 2009 10:42 PM DESC: ----- BODY: A student wrote to tell me that I had been Reddited again, this time for my entry reflecting on this semester's final exam. I had fun reading the comments. Occasionally, I found myself thinking about how a poster had misread my entry. Even a couple of other posters commented as much. But I stopped myself and remembered what I had learned from writers' workshops at PLoP: they had read my words, which must stand on their own. Reading over a thread that discusses something I've written feels a little bit like a writers' workshop. As an author, I never know how others might interpret what I have written until I hear or read their interpretation in their own words. Interposing clarifying words is a tempting but dangerous trap. Blog comments, whether on the author's site or on a community site such as Reddit, do tend to drift far afield from the original article. That is different from a PLoP workshop, in which the focus should remain on the work being discussed. In the case of my exam entry, the drift was quite interesting, as people discussed accumulator variables (yes, I was commenting on how students tend to overuse them; they are a wonderful technique when used appropriately) and recursion (yes, it is hard for imperative thinkers to learn, but there are techniques to help...). Well worth the read. But I could also see that sometimes a subthread comes to resemble an exchange in the children's game Telephone. Unless every commenter has read the original article -- in this case, mine -- the discussion tends to drift monotonically away from the content of the original as it loses touch with each successive post. Frankly, that's all right, too. I just hope that I am not held accountable for what someone at the end of the chain says I wrote... -----