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August 2015
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
There's None So Blind...
Roger Skoff writes about writing on the Internet.
Article By Roger Skoff

 

  If you go back and take a look at some of the comments that people have made about articles I've written, whether they're appended at the end of the article, itself; in published follow-up commentary; or posted on the internet pages of various audiophile groups or individual readers, you'll find something very odd: Much of the commentary has absolutely nothing at all to do with the subject of my article; much of it is on the right subject but makes it obvious that the person commenting has either not read or not understood the article; and only a small portion of what people have to say about what I have written is whether to laud or to attack me ever actually on point.

 

Trying to communicate with people is always difficult, and can easily become impossible when the subject matter is technical, theoretical, or even just more than normally complex. That's why, in writing, I always try to put my ideas across as simply as possible and, where numbers are necessary, to never use anything more than just the simplest backyard arithmetic. It's also why I try never to make absolute statements, but will always say something like "it seems like..." or "some people believe that...", and when I do say something that I think might be controversial, unorthodox, or uncertain, I will also, by way of footnoting it (if only for my editor), cite a source or put in a link to a reputable authority to support my position. And, when something IS my own opinion, supported only by my own research or experience, but not by any other source or authority, I will identify it as such. Finally, as those of you who follow these articles have regularly seen, when I'm saying something from memory and that memory (especially about issues of time) may or may not be correct; I will always let you know.

That's what I do to make sure that what I write is correct and comprehensible from a reportorial standpoint. There are, of course, things that I don't tell you, which may be for one or more of any number of reasons: Maybe the uncommunicated information is something that it's reasonable to assume you already know: I'm not, for example, going to explain in every article I write to a group of presumed audiophile readers what an LP record is. Maybe the information left out is something that you may not know, but that's not necessary to the point of the article: Using that same LP example, there's simply no need to tell you, in an article comparing analog and digital sound, what the operating principle is for every different kind of phono cartridge let alone all of the various digital recording/playback systems. Or, maybe the unwritten information would be worth including, but there's simply no room for it in the space or word count allowed by the publication. And maybe the information especially when I'm writing about a technical subject -- is (like the field theory math that I developed for XLO) among the things that I have held as trade secrets; not patenting them because to do so would require disclosing information that could be of value to my competitors and work against me if (as may be possible) I ever decide to get back into the industry.

Granted, what I write could be more complete; more detailed; broader in scope; more fully annotated; and even more academically written, but neither providing a technical education nor proving a point is the purpose of these articles. And, besides, if I wrote that way, would you (or anyone else) read what I had written? People have already told me that my sentences are too long; that my vocabulary is sometimes beyond my readers' grasp (especially those poor souls in other countries who may have to read my articles with a dictionary close at hand); and that my punctuation is overly florid (see, there's that vocabulary again). There may be other shortcomings on my part as well, but I don't think that it's my writing that's all of the problem. If it were, people would simply not read my articles. What I think is really the problem is something not about me or what or how I write, but about some of my readers.

People who read articles like mine seem to fall into a number of fairly broad categories: There are those like you, oh gentle reader, who read everything; take the trouble to understand it; and, when you feel a comment is necessary or appropriate, write something that, whether I agree with it or not, I can see to be the work of someone who has actually read and understood what I wrote and has responded to it thoughtfully and from knowledge or personal experience.

Others, though, remind me of those people we've all met, who don't really converse but keep silent while another person is speaking not to hear what he's saying but simply waiting for him to finish so they can respond. In a recent article in another publication, I used the double overhead cam engine as an example to prove an audio point. My actual words about it were "It's a special type of internal combustion engine that has a system of valve actuation that allows it to make more power by turning at higher engine speeds (more "RPM") than a conventional "pushrod" or "single-overhead cam" engine can. Because they can be more complex or more expensive than other designs, DOHC engines are usually found in racecars, racing or super-sport motorcycles, and other ultra-high--performance vehicles." Most people who responded to that article wrote about engines instead of audio, mostly to accuse me of knowing nothing at all about engines, and missed or ignored the audio point, entirely. And when I posted this quotation, "The OHC design allows for higher engine speeds than comparable cam-in-block designs, as a result of having lower valvetrain mass. The higher engine speeds thus allowed increases power output for a given torque output", and its source at Wikipedia, as proof that what I had written had been exactly correct, no one responded or apparently even noticed.

 

Except, of course for the trolls. They continued their attack, proving, as we've all suspected that that was what they came for, and that neither the facts; the point or intent of the article; nor anything else, was of any interest to them.

I can sort-of see why some of the people who respond off-point do so: In their eagerness to share in the fun or to show-off or share their knowledge or experience, they may simply lose track of the subject under discussion. Or, once the discussion has gone off-track, as it did with the car engine thing, they may just like the new direction better than the subject of the article, and follow it, instead.

 

The trolls are a little more difficult to understand: Like the guys who write computer viruses to anonymously destroy other people's work or property, maybe they get a feeling of power or of self-aggrandizement from by playing the comic book villain and lurking in the shadows to attack whatever comes along. Or maybe they're actually trying to give me or any other writer they attack some kind of weird compliment (praising by faint damnation, as it were) by recognizing us as authorities and then challenging us as a demonstration of their own qualification, just as young apes might challenge the leader of their troop to show theirs. Or, maybe they're just a**holes.

 

Whatever it is, on reading their sometimes impassioned; sometimes vituperative; often just plain wrong comments, I usually find myself wondering why, instead of spending so much time on fruitless challenge, they don't simply put a disc on the system, lean back, and...

Enjoy the music.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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