Saturday 18 October 2008

On correspondents

A correspondent writes to ask 'Who are these correspondents who always introduce your posts?'

Well, like this one, I have no idea, usually. The cult of anonymity is so strong on the Internet that you can't tell from the e-name, and rarely do people explain who they are. Occasionally they do. Their email might begin 'I am a teacher of English in such-a-place'. But usually I am in the dark. Does it matter? Not really. It would help sometimes to know what the mother-tongue is of correspondents, or where they live, as sometimes their linguistic background is relevant to the linguistic point they raise. And sometimes knowing the level of expertise behind a question would help me understand where a correspondent is, as they say, 'coming from'.

But blog answers are not like email answers. In fact, as we all know, they are called 'posts' - analogous to 'posters' - intended for a general readership. So I cut out all personal details in my responses and try to generalize the point at issue. If people want to personalize their comments to a post, that's fine - as long as they remain polite. No flaming is allowed on this site!

My correspondent asks where people are from. That I can establish, by going to Google Analytics. This tells me that somewhere between 150 and 200 people come to this blog every day, and that (to take the last month as an example) they/you are from 94 countries. The average number of pages visited is 1.51 and the average time spent on the site is 1 min.21 secs. Top four countries of origin are UK, USA, Germany, and Australia.

My correspondent also asks whether I answer all questions that come in. No, life is too short. I can only respond when I'm at home, and that isn't as often as I would like, hence the occasional gaps in posting. Also, some people send in questions which are simply too long to be answered - they are mini-essays. I admire the work that has gone into them, but to answer them would be tantamount to writing a journal article, and that's not what blogs are for. In some cases, I have a sneaking suspicion that the question is from a school or college assignation, where the questioners are hoping to get the work done for them. There's nothing wrong with quoting from this blog, of course, but the quote should always be attributed. And finally, some people have unrealistic expectations: they want an answer yesterday, and get angry if I (or sometimes my office, when I'm away) send an acknowledgement explaining that it just isn't possible right now. They don't get an answer at all!


Chris, The Book Swede said...

As a result of your post on lolcats and Internet language a little while ago, I was going to investigate that more thoroughly for my A-level coursework...

I've got a bit distracted though, and am now investigating the differences between males and females in in text messages :)

I'm not sure whether any previous research has been done on gender differences in non-spoken speech (Labov, et al, I know for "normal" speech): such as use of initialisms, emoticons, non standard, phonetic spellings, but I've ordered your Txting book, anyway!

Just thought you might like to know that your bloggery is very helpful! :D All sources attributed.


DC said...

Yes, the Txtng book has a couple of references, see especially Chapter 5. The Norwegian researcher Richard Ling has looked at gender differences a lot - and there are quite a few.