Recently, on the Whatever, the topic of thread etiquette came up. Since many of us are already professionals, I thought it would make sense to post a HOW-TO for those not so enlightened.
1) Be a Regular. This is not to be confused with being regular, because how boring is that? Rather, I mean be a regular to the site. Hijacking is much easier to accept from someone that commonly posts comments. For example: If an unfamiliar commenter on my site were to leave a comment offering to sell me something that will keep my wife satisfied all night long — I’d immediately delete it. If one of my regulars posted such a link, however, I would probably assume it was a link to a house cleaning android sale. Basically, you gotta build up your street cred to get away with off-topic stuff.
2) You Need a Hook. Except in some specific circumstances, even off-topic comments need to tie in somehow. For example: If I post a story about a cell phone, you could easily get off topic by saying, “I was talking on my cellphone yesterday, and guess what happened?!?!”
If you don’t have a hook, it has to be really creative. You have to pull off something so interesting and/or funny, that no one notices the hijack. I can’t really give you an example here, because it’s different for every blog post. This is a difficult skill to master, and leads us to…
3) It’s Hard to Smack Down a Funny Comment. If you hope to steal the conversation, you must take everyone’s interest off topic. Especially the author’s. Really, humor is the only effective way to do this consistently. And it must be genuinely funny too. You can only get away with a, “That’s what she said” or a really bad pun after you build up your humor cred.
Along with this, it’s important to know your audience. It’s unlikely a quippy quote from, “The Holy Grail” will score many laughs on a NASCAR blog. (Are there NASCAR blogs?) The opposite is true too. If you say something like, “Yeah, that’s like Earnhart driving the Pepsi car” on my blog, I’ll give you a blank stare. And then delete your comment. (Or make fun of you, depending on how inadvertently absurd you sound)
4) Some Hijacks Don’t Work. You have to be smart when you try to hijack a thread. If you see your favorite blogger post a picture of his cat doing something funny, or her family at Disneyland — thou shalt not post a comment linking to a political issue. Guess what? We post pictures of our cats because we don’t want to talk about the reality of politics and such at that time. There are some exceptions, like if I post a picture of my cat in a cape with the caption, “Super Tuesday Kitty”, yes, you may leave a political comment. (Unless it’s not actually near the Super Tuesday caucuses, so this really only works every 4 years or so)
5) Use Your Real Name, or a Rational Pseudonym. I will never follow links from jH0nn33-h34R7BR34|<3r. Even if you show me a driver’s license with that name on it. I will simply slap your parents, and move on. Don’t get crafty either, and think it’s funny to use the name, “Click Here for Naked Pictures of Hilary.” It’s not. (I don’t want to see the Google hits that gets me…)
6) Or Just Go Home. Look, the best way to hijack a comment thread is not to do it at all. Get your own blog. They’re free. If you have something interesting to say, people will come. Or, if you just want people to come, type the names of celebrities and the words naked pictures. You’ll get traffic. They will probably hijack your comments too. You’ll have to post something like this. And the circle will be complete.
7) Secret Email Address of Successful Bloggers. Successful bloggers have a secret address they give out to people they want to hear from. It’s an address pro bloggers use to get the inside scoop on off-topic issues. Did you think successful bloggers just wrote well?!?!! The address is an acronym for “Supremely Pertinent Abstract Message” — and your favorite blogger would LOVE to hear about your Aunt Ruth’s knee surgery, or how Ron Paul secretly eats kittens. Go ahead and drop a message to the acronym address, “firstname.lastname@example.org” NOTE: This address is super secret, and it’s unlikely you’ll get a response. That’s just because we want to keep it a secret. DON’T TELL!!!
So there you have it. Now go comment away, knowing that you have the keys to the kingdom.