Fun for Nerds: YouTube comments


We’ve all seen them. The easiest solution to our aching brains would be to simply not look, but it’s like a car wreck that you can’t look away from — like Charlie Sheen. Something just makes your finger stick to the scroll wheel of your mouse and page down to see those hideous words mismatched with lower and upper cases and misplaced commas. That’s right: YouTube comments.  For those of you who may not know, YouTube comments seem to be a haven for the grammar challenged folk amongst us. Everyone who has a computer was not meant to put their opinion out there, and yet they do. To be sure, there are some insightful comments on YouTube videos, but those aren’t the ones that get voted up, are they? No, the ones you’ll see at the top of the stack are the ones that say things like “dis great video, do u make moar?

I saw an interesting post on BoingBoing this morning about these comments that make English majors cringe. It seems that some college professors are putting the dreadful things to a good use. This BoingBoing article states that teacher Andy Selsberg has created assignments that revolve around new kinds of writing that we — the technology generation — encounter in our daily lives. These assignments include writing good tweets on Twitter writing constructive YouTube comments.

The original article from the New York Times that talked about Selsberg includes this amazing quote from the teacher, “My ideal composition class would include assignments like ‘Write coherent and original comments for five YouTube videos, quickly telling us why surprised kittens or unconventional wedding dances resonate with millions,’ and ‘Write Amazon reviews, including a bit of summary, insight and analysis, for three canonical works we read this semester (points off for gratuitous modern argot and emoticons).'”

I think it’s really interesting to see that composition teachers are incorporating writing that we actually do encounter in their classes. It seems like a constructive and innovative way to create a new generation of better writers — by showing them the writing that they do and by making writing more interesting to them. What do you guys think?

Also, for those who are familiar and for those who are not, the phenomenal web comic ‘xkcd’ has two fantastic comics on the subject of YouTube comments. Check them out here and here.

— Jet Fuel Editor, Mary Egan

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