Grumpy Kvetching of the Day

By Sean Carroll | November 18, 2010 11:56 am

If I ever give up blogging for good, it will be because of comments like this:

I just don’t get it. What a lame blog topic that should have been left on the cutting room floor. There is no science here. Evidently cited just to provide an opportunity to express a personal belief. Why not blog on the news of the day..the successfully trapping the first “anti-atom” and its potential implications? This is real news, real science and in keeping with your expertise. You could teach me something. Instead you give me this?

Obviously the sensible reaction is to laugh and move on, but few of us achieve that level of Zen detachment in dealing with the world. Many of the comments at CV are great, and I’ve certainly learned a lot from the interactions here, but quite a high percentage are of this form. When you put a lot of work into the blog and care about how it turns out, this kind of stuff wears you down. Why are people like this? I understand that not every post will interest every person; is it really more satisfying to take time to lash out in the comment section (when you have never left a constructive comment yet), rather than just skipping to something else on the vast and endlessly amusing internet?


CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cosmic Variance, Personal
  • Mark P

    I think the commenter missed the key point: ” … you give me this?”

    If you go to Language Log, you will occasionally find them offering dissatisfied readers their money back. I don’t always find the posts that interesting, but damn! Sometimes I don’t even find what I say all that interesting. So just keep it up and ignore the ingrates.

  • steve

    People are like this because many folks have started to rely on good science based blogs for our daily ‘fix’ of real useful thoughts and information. Compare it to the teaser and vacuous content of local TV, and you can see why we have come to expect a lot from you.

    Write off the complaint as just someone having a bad day, and realize that folks out here have very high expectations of you. Obviously we think well of you, or we would not have expected perfection. 😉

    Seriously, there is a compliment in there, no matter how badly it was voiced by the commenter. Keep up the good work!

  • Non-Believer

    I think it says something about the human psyche that we do seem to revel in the anonymous anger, criticism and general meanness.
    The safety of not being rejected from the social pool makes it easier. Our culture of self aggrandizement makes it easy to think that our particular point of view should be shared by others and that our particular expectations should always be catered to.
    And then there is the fairly universal feeling of superiority when we get to criticize someone, particularly who might appear to be superior to us.
    Finally, I think the internet’s feeling of separateness, of non-reality makes us forget that there is a human being on the other end of the words.

  • Jdhuey

    Well, for what it’s worth, I thought the topic of the post was interesting.

  • Jack

    Apologies Sean, I did not intend to offend, I just think you are better than this post. I enjoy your posts and I enjoyed your book too. Please keep writing both. Best wishes.

  • Karaktur

    I have bundled all my bookmarks for blogs I visit and the list is long. I almost always visit CV first. It’s probably operant conditioning based on the liklihood that I’ll be rewarded. I haven’t started drooling yet though. Please keep it up.

  • geekGirl

    Well, how about I balance your day by complimenting CV? My friend and I were just lamenting how we feel that science reporting in most news articles / tv segments is somewhat shoddy (reminds me of this more often than not: I mentioned that I probably have higher standards for science writing due to the well-written and informative science magazines and blogs I read…like this one.

  • Phillip Helbig

    “If I ever give up blogging for good, it will be because of comments like this”

    Just think how good you have it compared to PZ! :-)

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  • Mr Z

    Not surprising that an astrophysicist would not be hyper-aware that … well… that people suck in general. No, not when you’re talking to them. Not when they’re your friends… not when your second cousin is dating them… but all the rest of the time? They suck. They push their drama where ever they can looking for an opportunity to feel important or the center of attention. Generally, they mill about trying to find self worth and accidentally suck up all the goodness in life while they are looking. People suck. Don’t worry about it too much. Write because you like to, and at least several other people enjoy reading it. That you have that much is nearly amazing on the wild whack web.

  • tygoef

    Maybe I’m wrong, but I always thought the point of bogging was so that you could write about topics that interest you without having to live up to some odd, “we’re better than this story” garbage?

    I didn’t find the post in question interesting, I don’t find a lot of your posts interesting, but I know I’m not your only reader, and I know you have readers that found the post interesting. I also know that your blog posts more interesting posts than most other science blogs I read.

    I say keep up the good work, if Jack thinks that post is beneath you somehow, maybe Jack can point us to his infallible, always interesting to everyone blog so we can all marvel in his greatness.

  • Brad H

    Isn’t there an intermediate step you could use? Instead of giving up blogging, just disable commenting. Then you could still blog happily without being bothered by internet trolls.
    Another option might be to impose some minimal cost level to a comment – enough of a
    disincentive to drive away the pathetic fools who like to feel important by berating those that
    provide a free service.

  • Jackie M.

    This post is boring! As is Jack’s comment! I’m going away and I’m not coming back until you go back to posting actual interesting content on glowing green peanut-shaped space rocks, and tiny weird microstructures that may or may not vaguely resemble life. SO THERE.

  • Josh Neal

    I agree with Brad about imposing a cost. One system I’ve seen is comment scoring, with the score accruing to the commenter’s overall “popularity” score. uses this system, with good results. I have a hunch that Discover wouldn’t allow it though.

    It’s interesting that Jack immediately asserts that Sean is trying to “express a personal belief.” Well, duh. The fact that he’s upset by this strongly suggests that the post challenged a personal belief of his own. Throw stones much, Jack?

  • ra

    Personally, I enjoy the vast majority of the posts at CV.

    Sean and rest of CV: in my view, this is one of the very best science blogs around!!!. The best thing about CV is that it is not only about physics or even science in general but about how science intersects with other human activities (such as the arts, philosophy, politics, etc). This is what makes this blog truly special.

    To those party-poopers that think that CV’s only function is to entertain them: relax, the world doesn’t spin around you. If you just write to complain about how a particular post does not amuse you, set up your own blog and try to post fun, engaging, thoughtful and thought-provoking posts on an almost daily basis. It isn’t that easy, is it?

    And no, I am not sucking up to Sean and company, I am just a bit tired of reading so many comments that simply suck the life out of any cool discussion going on at CV or any other interesting blog.

  • Razib Khan

    I just think you are better than this post.

    what does that even mean? i’m sure it’s concrete to you, but sean isn’t your personal writer. so how is he supposed to take advertisement of a sentiment from a total stranger out of the thousands who visit his blog every day?

    i empathize, though i probably tell such readers where to shove it enough that they think the better of offering such ungrateful crap up. the most obnoxious was one reader who was pissed that i wasn’t posting enough! he stated that he would stop reading my blog if i didn’t post more.

  • Harold

    You’re the only blog I read, after 4 years of getting into blogs, Mr. Grumpy!

    And it’s OK to feel grumpy. Wasn’t there a saying somewhere that the brightest are the most sensitive?

  • Duncan

    Even TED talks get abuse in the comments… Even TED talks 😉

  • Russ Abbott

    I’ve left what I thought were some very good comments that you have totally ignored. I guess that’s better than saying my comments suck, but it would be even better to get a reply.

  • Sean

    I like the idea of imposing a cost.

    Henceforth, if anyone would like to leave an obnoxious comment, first send me a million dollars.

  • Brandon Swift

    FWIW, most of us understand that it’s your (y’all’s) blog and you can talk about whatever you want. Keep calm and carry on, good sir!

  • Lab Lemming

    Dear Sean,
    I have nothing of substance to contribute to your blog, and I’m too lazy to click on the self-conscious-looking lady with the black tee-shirt ten thousand times to pay you for your work, so I’m just going to complain petulantly.

    Why can’t you blog in a manner that makes up for my unwillingness to figure things out for myself?

  • viggen

    You do a great job, Sean! Don’t let the minority bring you down;-)

  • spyder

    I spend my summers producing music festivals in the Northwest. This sort of comment is much like those that i hear all the time from attendees; such-and-such band didn’t play up to “my” standards of them (and this is usually based on the band not playing a favorite song). It is, as if, somehow magically, the band owes its entire existence to each and every fan.

    I believe Mr.Z makes a point, but i think he might not have gone far enough. People suck energy from those around them, as much as they possibly can.

  • Josh Neal

    So you’re saying Jack is a psychic vampire. I sense a future blog post…

  • Rapguy

    Everybody loves you…are you feeling better? Good…now get back to writing


  • Doug

    Oh no, don’t feel grumpy! I will show my appreciation by clicking on the blinky Donors Choose button. That should lift your spirits about blogging!

  • Eugene

    Pah, I was expecting a snappy repartee in response to Jack’s post, and you give me this? This is real life, real news, and this post is lame.

    I wouldn’t waste my time in this blog anymore.

  • Miss Cellania

    I think there’s something in the air. I’ve had more than the usual problems with commenters at several sites lately, but today took the cake!

  • p c

    This is the best blog on Earth,
    so all of you trolls better go to Hell!

    Seriously, one of the things one learns from the web is that there are people whose only amusement is to annoy other people. DNFT!!

  • SieveMaria

    I often read through the comments first to see if I want to read the post ? Perhaps the very interesting commenters you attract are one of the reason the blog is so popular – It is good fun and nice to be able to say what you really think, *grumpy* can be vy satisfying when you dont get the content you want.

  • uhmmm

    I thought at first it was just someone attempting to get under your skin enough to get you to reduce your blogging and interacting with commenters, or alternatively someone trying to annoy your readers into avoiding the comments like one would avoid comments on youtube. I presumed the someone in question would be motivated by religion or by personal investment in some extremely cranky non-standard cosmology, TOE, gravity that makes the PPNF explode, or whatnot.

  • Roman K

    We love you Sean.

  • Roman

    Sean, you just can’t be like Waters, Gabriel, Ozzy – the whole is bigger than you and you have to carry on. Common!

  • Peter Coles

    So a blog post provides “an opportunity to express a personal belief”.

    Well I never…

    My first reaction to that comment is that it was a cleverly ironic parody of a stereotypical internet troll with no social skills or empathy for other people.

    On second thoughts, though, you can probably delete the “a cleverly ironic parody of” part of that sentence.

    ps. “Grumpy Kvetching” sounds like a bizarre sexual practice involving one of the Seven Dwarfs.

  • psmith

    Yes, that outburst is surprising. I happen to think the article you referenced is seriously interesting.
    But then bad manners and irritability are a cheap and easy response that people can throw out without any thought. But my main criticism is the complete absence of any curiosity that he shows in the subject.
    He claims there is no science. But at the heart of science lies curiosity, a burning need to know and understand. If the science mattered to him I would expect him to exhibit it with an exploratory curiosity.

    As it happens, the subject of curiosity is particularly apposite in this case. The moment autonomously moving colloidal objects are able to show curiosity, i.e. discriminate between conditions in its environment so that it can make choices, then we have life.

    So dare I suggest that our incurious commenter shows an absence of life?

  • Sleeth

    Anyone who puts something out for worldly consumption, be they scientists, artists, writers, teachers, athletes, etc., should expect a spectrum of responses, from adoring cheerleaders to those intent on tearing the ideas down. One should always expect outliers and consider the possibility that the tone of their replies really have nothing to do with you.

    If the author of the reply in question was so interested in discussing CERN’s trapping of anti-matter, then he was free to look for another blog or start their own. Dumping on you tells us more about that person than it does about you. Don’t let the content of other people’s character affect who you are and what you do.

  • John Preskill

    If you ever do give up blogging, I’ll miss your grumpy kvetching.

  • Chris Moriarty

    No! No! Pay no attention to comments like these!

    Trust me, many of your most devoted readers don’t comment because … well … we have our own jobs to do and not much time to spare. But I for one love and value this blog. It’s a cherished part of my daily morning routine. It reminds me that science matters on those days when writing science fiction seems like a totally ridiculous way to earn a living and I start thinking about getting into some useful line of work … like, say, garbage collection.

    I would be miserable if you stopped. And so, I’m sure, would many other silently faithful readers who rarely or never post comments. Keep up the good work, and don’t worry about the occasional flak!

    Your devoted fan,
    Chris Moriarty

  • Stephen Eggett

    Seth Godin, blogger and marketing expert, recently wrote ( about the 2% of people who will be unhappy enough to tell you about it, no matter what you do. Take heart, and know that these few malcontents are in the vast minority. Take the mostly positive tone of the comments here as an example of the fact that most of your readers are satisfied.

    If you need additional comfort, get into contact with the person doing analytics for your blog (if it’s not you). They can give you all sorts of information about the consumption of the information you provide. I wouldn’t be surprised if the rate of commenting is something like 0.001% of all blog viewers. Add to that the idea that you are much more likely to hear from the dissatisfied, and it might be a little easier to laugh off the few discouraging comments.

  • Phil-B

    “If I ever give up blogging for good, it will be because of comments like this:…”

    Please, not!.
    We need you and people like you!.

    I´m one of the ” many other silently faithful readers who rarely or never post comments” (Chris Moriarty).

    From Spain, thanks Sean.

  • Phillip Helbig

    “people suck in general”

    Those who find this to be true are probably happy. How did this get to be a put-down instead of the highest praise? I also always thought that “fuck you” sounds more like a blessing than a curse. :-)

  • Peter Coles

    “people suck in general”

    This is sadly not true. If it were, the world would be a much more satisfying place.

  • Phillip Helbig

    Note that I wrote “Those who find this to be true”. YMMV.

  • Fraser

    Dear Sean,

    I loved your book, I love your blog, and people are fuckheads on the internet. Please keep doing what you do.


  • ian

    Haters hate.

  • Brian137

    Well, Jack did apologize in post #5, in which he then went on to say, “I enjoy your posts and I enjoyed your book too. Please keep writing both. Best wishes.

  • Chris

    People have a bizarre sense of entitlement on the internet. Maybe they also have it in person, but I don’t think so, at least not as much – it seems like something about the actual physical social exchange triggers chemical adjustments of some sort that say “I’m just another guy and fitting in here matters, being liked matters”, and maybe that exchange doesn’t take place when there’s not a voice or a face, I don’t know… There has to be some explanation for why so much internet commentary belongs in a urinal. People just aren’t like this in person. (And sure, anonymity is part of it a lot of the time, but this guy seems to like your site! It’s not like he’s hiding behind some mask in order to attack you. I buy that he doesn’t at all realize what a self-absorbed dickbag he sounds like, and I bet he wouldn’t do it in person in some analogous scenario.)

    Something is happening to derail the thought process that would make people realize that this is just an outlet for a person/a few people, and they happen to do/think interesting stuff so it has some popularity, but it’s still just some folks sharing some thoughts for their own purposes, take it or leave it. Anybody who starts a sermon about “expectations” deserves to spend some quality time with a hot bowl of dicks.

    I mean, “You’re better than this”? Thanks, Dad! Seriously though, isn’t that something a father says to a son who has just called for bail money after getting caught carving up hookers at a rest area on the interstate? Don’t *we* owe *you*? People need to get the hell out of here with “expectations” and “you’re better than this” and similar condescending horseshit.

    I love the blog, and if you decide to post occasional interpretive nude elderly chocolate syrup body art, rock on. Don’t waste any time worrying about the bizarre internet douchebag commentariat.

  • Mike

    I agree with Brian, Jack took it back, come on folks, lighten up.

  • Lonely Flower

    You know Dr.Sean,
    Why do I like your blog?
    Apart of the good scientific and educational content, I feel that you respect your colleagues, you don’t talk about them badly or aggressively when they differ with you, you are one of the most considerate science bloggers I read to them.

    If you want to live in our virtual world(internet), don’t be sensetive.

  • Chris

    Brian, Mike:

    Given that our humble host felt like grumbling about it and how often he gets comments like that, I think it’s worth a little bit of venting on the part of people who *don’t* ever feel that way, who enjoy the blog, and who don’t want to see it diminished because of people who feel entitled to entertainment, and if people who make those comments see a bunch of folks pitching a fit whenever it happens, maybe they’ll be less inclined to do so in the future.

    So goes the hope. Obviously naive, I know the internet doesn’t work that way, but there it is.

    Beyond that, even as he “took it back” (since when does that grant immunity from criticism?) he made comments about how Sean is “better than this post”, which I know would piss me off if it was sewn in with the retraction that doesn’t seem to recognize at all why the original message was aggravating. Maybe Sean was gleeful to see it, I obviously can’t speak for him or read his mind.

    I wonder how many of you telling a stranger to lighten up frequently find yourself and your efforts criticized by strangers? Just a thought.

  • Saturnina Pinkton

    This page Grumpy Kvetching of the Day | Cosmic Variance | Discover Magazine hit the nail on the head. I will be sure to return here often to find out what you have to express. You won a visitor.

  • Douglas Watts

    I always enjoy reading a dialogue between a real guy named SEAN CARROLL who uses his real, actual name when he writes and an “it” who calls itself “Jack” and calls SEAN CARROLL a big fake.

  • JoAnne

    It’s seemingly inexplicable. All of us scientists on CV are tops in our field and when we write on CV, we work really hard to write a good post. Yet some guy called “Jack” can write a spurious commet and get under our skin. We should be above that, but the more “Jacks” we get commenting, the fact is the less we write. We are, afterall, human, and CV is not our main job. It’s our hobby. And if the comments start to seriously detract from the enjoyment of our hobby, then we stop writing blog posts and concentrate on our research. Just sayin….

  • richardtede

    yes agree with you that no every visitors like you every post . people does’nt have time to fill forms and comments on post . its your ability to bring a visitor to your blog and share your info with his network;

  • Mike

    “I wonder how many of you telling a stranger to lighten up frequently find yourself and your efforts criticized by strangers? ”


  • Albion Lawrence

    I thought the point of blogging was that every post doesn’t have to be a gem, but here I don’t even understand the complaint about the post. The article is covering a pretty hot&important topic on the interface of physics, chemistry, and biology (well, it’s hot at places like Brandeis and I think Caltech). Why *not* point out there’s more to science than particle physics?

  • Albion Lawrence

    (The beginning of the above being a point about the informality of blogging, not a critique of the enterprise).

  • JimV

    I like the posts on personal beliefs – much more interesting than the ones on non-personal beliefs, or even some of the ones on science (the ones I don’t understand well). I’ve often considered commenting just to say there should be many more such posts, but then I realize, whoa, probably not cool.

  • LowT

    Jack, I feel for you, man. Slip up once around here and they swarm on you like bees – even if you apologize. Sheesh!

  • George

    I suggest ignoring any comment that has ” you should” contained it it as a comment for what to blog about. You are free to write whatever you please. Readers are free to tune in or out.

    Perhaps you need more folks to simply comment – nice job, keep it up, I enjoy your blog posts and have followed for years.

  • Lonely Flower

    @61 George
    There is a big difference between expressing disagreement polietly and offending and hurting others.

    I am expressing my view as reader, Dr. Sean don’t offend his readers or disrepect them, so why his readers don’t do the same.

    There are blogs, I am really afarid even to comment in it, I am worry that the author may insult me if he didn’t like my post or at least critcize my comment viloently. The author sometimes disribe some of his readers as stubid, non intelligent and worse than that.
    I don’t find that disrespect to me in Cosmic Varience honestly!

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  • John Hawks

    Apparently, commenters also feel entitled to leave open italics tags cluttered about.

  • Mark

    [/i]Please don’t let a vocal minority put you off – lots of people read with pleasure what you write but do not put finger to keyboard. You inspire and care for your subject, which makes you a special blog to read, but also makes it easier to be knocked back by negativity.

  • Alan in Upstate NY

    There seem to be a lot of “glass is half empty” folks in the world, people who simply don’t like much and enjoy complaining. I see the same thing reading book reviews on Amazon.

    I read several blogs. The author decides what to write about. I decide if the entry is worth my time, and sometimes an entry just doesn’t catch my fancy, so I just skip it. It’s easy to do.

    Clear skies, Alan

  • Joe Shobe

    I would feel jilted having wasted the time it took to learn to read should you give up blogging.

  • Kai

    I liked the article very much! But I guess it’s also just human to keep silent (and lurk) if you like something, even if you like it very much and only raise your voice to complain. At least this post ended my (years long and very enjoyable) time as a lurker here on CV.


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Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] .


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