« Disaster | Main | Pirke Avot chapter three, verse 9 »

Not a Book Report, go elsewhere

Your Humble Blogger should probably stop calling them Book Reports. Book Notes? That seems kinda cutesy-cutesy to me. Book log, I suppose.

Somehow, this Tohu Bohu has floated to the top of searches for book report and certain titles. This has lead on at least three occasions, twice this week, to odd little comments on my blog asking where the actual book report is. I assume that these comments are from young persons who are tasked with writing a book report and are looking for assistance, or possibly for somebody else to do the work for them. Alas, I cannot help these people. Or at least, I won’t help them, and certainly what I write in this blog isn’t going to help them at all. Of the two newest seekers, one found a four-sentence note that just counts up the Dick Francis novels by tally, and one found a note (also found by someone else last Spring) that describes the subject as more like Charlotte’s Web than Treasure Island. I don’t know how a sixth-grader would make use of that.

Our Library is not the only person to use this phrase, but it’s something that we use as part of our introduction to internet research: on the Internet, nobody is in charge. I can post my Book Reports, and they will be utterly worthless to you, and there is nobody to complain to. I mean, you can complain to me, in the comments, but what do I care? I’m the one who is posting them. I won’t care. You can complain to Google that their search engine isn’t helping you, but (a) they really don’t care, either, and (2) they will point out that with just a little more work, you can get what you want and not what you don’t want. But you have to be in charge, because nobody is in charge. I am perfectly capable of writing a straight-faced Book Report that is utterly false in every particular (note: Alfred Nobel was not, actually, a hideously deformed monster who kept little boys in a cage to fatten them up for the stew) and ha ha on you, seeker after proper book reports.

No, dissatisfaction with my Book Reports among the non-GR populace does not lead me to rethink the whole Book Report thing I do the way I do. There are a handful of reasons I do Book Reports at all, and do them the way I do them, and assistance for elementary school students is not high on that list. It does, however, make me think about my comment-moderation practice.

My policy, as I have (I think) posted here before, is that I will happily delete and filter for spam, which I have some difficulty defining but the bulk of which I have no difficulty recognizing. I reserve the right to delete and/or edit for offensive content, but (a) I promise to indicate that I am doing so, and (2) I have not actually done so as yet. I don’t want to, either. My preference is to have more comments than fewer, and to have a wider spread than a narrower.

And, in general, I feel that I need some reason to delete a comment that is more than my dislike for it. I do refuse to be used as a tool for other people to make money by influencing search engine, and I don’t mind deleting messages that are gibberish, machine-generated, or pure advertising from outside the group. But attempts at communication, well, those I don’t want to delete.

On the other hand, there is no benefit to Grs, or to me, in having a comment that simply says where is the book report at the end of one of my notes. I don’t expect the commenter to come back and find out my thinking on the topic; perhaps I am wrong in that, but it’s hard for me to imagine the thinking that would bring the poor saps back to this Tohu Bohu. So responding directly in the comment thread seems to be like talking into a disconnected telephone. It just makes me feel foolish. And leaving the comment unanswered also seems foolish; the individual entries are, at least to my eyes, diminished by that line at the end. Not that those entries were so much before the diminishmentosity, which I suppose makes it worse, from my point of view. Those notes served their purpose, and I wouldn’t have gone back to them, if it weren’t for the kids and their lousy search skillz, and going back to them hasn’t been a matter of pride (there are posts of mine I’m proud of, you know, but the Book Reports are mostly filler), which affects my attitude.

And then there’s the whole thing about the audience for the blog in general, a matter on which YHB is still ambivalent. On the one hand, I am actually quite pleased that this Tohu Bohu shows up on the front page of some searches with some fairly common words. On the other hand, you know, ambivalent. I want the kids off my lawn, unless they are good kids, who are welcome to play ball on my lawn and can use my lawn darts (the safe kind). I gripe about the sparsity of comments, but then I get comments and gripe about the quality of them. With each of these notes, I worry whether I will get more of them. And worrying? takes away from the fun of the whole blogging thing.

And, in fact, if I thought that deleting them would lead to less worrying about them, I would probably just delete them. But I can’t decide that without worrying about it a lot more.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


Can you respond to the non-GR reader without posting their comment? I agree with you that irrelevant requests for homework help detract from your blog entries, so I don't see any reason to allow those comments to be posted.

None of the posters so far have left email addies. And if I did have an addy, I don't know if there would be anything gained in using it. To the extent I am willing to imaginatively judge, I think the motive for typing and hitting send is just a frustrated yowl at not being able to find an easy hand on their assignments. I could finger-wag via email, but what would be the point? Still, the point is moot, as I can't send email, and the only finger-wagging I can do is here on the blog, on the off-chance (very slight, I would estimate) the little pishers return.


As a publisher, I've published a few thousand academic papers. One of those articles apparently mentioned a Japanese immersion program at a school somewhere not near here. This article, combined with the publisher address being near Boston, prompted some actual adult to call us up asking about our Japanese immersion program. She could not seem to get her head around the idea that we are not a school, that we don't have a Japanese immersion program, and that we would have no idea where she can find a Japanese immersion program near Boston.

Oh, and the phone number for the White House comments line is 202-456-1111. (In case she continues to use her mad Google skillz and stumbles across this note, and wants to keep calling arbitrary phone numbers mentioned in proximity to her keywords.)

I totally didn't know you were doing a Javanese immersion program. That's so cool! And hard to do without a school, although I suppose you could teach the new dog to bark in Javanese. I'm not so sure about immersing a greyhound, though…


I'm sorry, I think you must be referring to our Java immersion program, where we slowly sink into a pot of coffee. We tried a Javanese immersion program, but it wasn't supported by our browser.

Comments are closed for this entry. Usually if I close comments for an entry it's because that entry gets a disproportionate amount of spam. If you want to contact me about this entry, feel free to send me email.