The psychology of rude commenters on technology news and information sites


I often read technology news and blogs and occasionally wander over to the comments section to see people’s real world experiences. You are always confronted with caustic comments that regularly include profanity aimed at the writers, those who choose the technology or service, and others who have posted.

Why would anyone read an article about a product or service they may have never used, then leave some off-topic caustic comment? While we might never know because they are almost always anonymous, psychologists can make some guesses based on patterns of this rude and socially deviant behavior.

Disappointment with where they are in life is the underlying cause. Naturally, they would protest and say, “No, I’m not.” Deep down, however, there is a burning dissatisfaction with how they are treated in real life, the position they hold in society, their salaries, and lack of recognition. They often feel they are disrespected, which is largely imaginary, but real to them nonetheless.

Displacement is taking out your anger or frustration on a non-threatening target. Tech writers, who are perceived as knowing less than they do, are a favorite target. The comments about female tech writers are particularly abusive. Other targets might include commenters who remind them of their dad or boss.

Often you will see wholesale attacks on entire user groups such as those who use Macs. Probably, the “vile executive who keeps putting me down” uses a Mac, so all the millions of people who use one are just like him. Or, the “rich girl at college who wouldn’t give me the time of day” used a Mac, so all Mac users are like her. Remember, this is not intellectual, this is emotional. Emotions are often messy and often don’t make any sense to outside observers.

Should we ignore them? Absolutely. Bitter people rarely become better people, so leave them to their own misery. They have grown attached to it.

Is PowerPoint 2013 now better than Keynote?

A year ago I would have accused you of technology sacrilege and lacking in the nuances of presentation design if you had said that PowerPoint 2013 was better than Keynote. While both are available as web apps, the comparison may seem strange because PowerPoint 2013 is a Microsoft Windows product and Keynote lives on Apple products. However, I think a number of professionals live in both worlds, having a Windows desktop and an Apple product such as a MacBook Air or iPad.

For four years I always picked up my MacBook Pro or MacBook Air to design a presentation. I didn’t even think about it. A few weeks ago I was designing a presentation and needed to group a text box with a photo so they appeared together at the same time. Keynote wouldn’t let me do it. Grouping was grayed out (probably some kind of glitch in the newly updated Keynote software).  I also needed to graphically demonstrate a process, which is possible in Keynote, but easier with PowerPoint’s SmartArt features.

So, I did the previously unthinkable and used PowerPoint 2013 to design my presentation slides. At times this was painful, because PowerPoint does require an extra step or two (or three) for some tasks that are just drag and drop for Keynote. I noticed that PowerPoint does have some new modern looking templates with modern fonts. This is a nice change from the 1992 templates that I often see in PowerPoint users presentations. Keynote handles video better, and slide transitions seem more seamless and professional.

All of these issues and which software to use come down to presenter choice, style and what kind of information you need to communicate. While I am not ready to switch completely, the choice of which software to use is not as easy as it used to be.


It’s not always about the technology

This weekend I was in an Apple Store, which was full of people. Kids were playing with iPads (primarily iPad minis), parents were buying their college students new MacBooks, and some people were just there playing with the technology. The children were taking pictures of each other with the iPads and playing games.

I was also in Staples, and went over to look at two Microsoft Surface tablets on display. There was no one around. I clicked on an Office app, which asked me to sign-up for a SkyDrive account before it would work. I set it down and walked away.

What felt almost offensive to me about the Staples experience is that I know that thousands of people worked on the Surface, which seems to be a great product. Billions of dollars were spent on research, design, and production. Yet at the end, how much thought was given to customer experience?

In a time where people are doing much of their shopping on the internet, the store experience had better be something that is hassle free and adds value, like friendly and experienced staff who are readily available and know what they are talking about. If Saturday were any indication, Microsoft better hope that people are just going to the web and buying the Surface, not stopping in Staples before making a decision.

The real truth about my day

I had the health and strength to get up early this morning, get ready, and drive myself to work. There are millions of people who are struggling with disabilities who find this difficult, or impossible. 

I will spend the day in the luxury and privilege that is middle class America. I have an abundance of fresh food, clean drinking water, and live and work in an air conditioned building. There are literally billions of people who would trade places with me, in a second, with no questions asked. 

Don’t worry, though, I am sure I will be uncomfortable for five or six minutes while my car cools off, or be inconvenienced by some advanced piece of technology that doesn’t work for a few seconds, or be irritated by someone who doesn’t do or say exactly what I want them to. 

By lunch I will have forgotten about paragraphs one and two, and might even post some vague and petty problem on Facebook so people can affirm me.

On JRR Tolkien’s 121st birthday

This excellent quote from Tim Keller on Tolkien:

“Tolkien has helped my imagination. He was a devout Catholic — and I am not. However, because he brought his faith to bear into narrative, fiction, and literature, his Christianity — which was pretty ‘mere Christianity’ (understanding of human sin, need for grace, need for redemption) — fleshed out in fiction, has been an inspiration to me.

What I mean by inspiration is this: he gives me a way of grasping glory that would otherwise be hard for me to appreciate. Glory, weightiness, beauty, excellence, brilliance, virtue — he shows them to you in some of his characters.

When people ask me how often I have read The Lord of the Rings, the answer is, I actually never stop. I’m always in it.”

Look Dad: I took a bath all by myself.

One of the things in life that really bothers me is our expectations for teenagers. Actually, there are no expectations for teenagers. Most of us probably have two requirements for our teens: 1) Don’t do anything to embarrass me 2) Don’t do anything to cause me any inconvenience. So, basically, if you get out of bed, bathe yourself, and stay out of trouble, we’re good.

I also think the period of adolescence has been extended through the college years now. You are not expected to engage your community, to really contribute or take on serious responsibilities until you are ready—maybe about the time you hit 30 years old.

Last month my son Chris (who is 17) and I went to the “Do Hard Things” Conference in Gaithersburg, MD at Covenant Life Church. There were 3,200 people there, both teens and some parents. The theme is to rebel… rebel against low expectations and start doing something with your life now. I was encouraged that so many came out to join this new national movement. You can read more here.


Who has your loyalty?

From Andy Stanley:


We give our loyalty the most to those who give us loyalty the least (our employers). Most of us are two or three major mistakes away from a pink slip. Then, we will go home, to those people who we gave our least loyalty to, because they are the most loyal to us.