A Note to the University of Pretoria

So, the mysterious strings of digits that I wrote about the other day seem to be part of a class assignment from the University of Pretoria in South Africa. Students are being asked to go read and comment on blogs, and the random digits are individual student identifiers.

This makes sense given the form and content of the other comments, and makes me sorry we live in a world where my first guess regarding this was that it was some sort of con. But, you know, I was led there by gigabytes of email from ersatz Nigerian widows.

I would, however, like to send one message to whoever it is at the University of Pretoria who's assigning students to do blog comments, which is this: It would be a good idea, in future, to send a courtesy message to the authors of the blogs you're sending students to, so we know what's going on. And it would be a good idea, in the future, for the students leaving these comments to clearly identify that this is what they're doing. That way, I won't spend weeks deleting people's homework.

It's not clear how much follow-up there is to any of these comments, so I'm making this a top-level blog post in hopes of getting more attention. If you're coming here to leave a comment for school, please state that clearly, and also pass along the message to the professor who assigned this. Next time, give me some advance warning, please.

More like this

We really appreciate that you have raised this issue because our comments have been disappearing. We have been asking ourselves a question why it happens and now we know. We apologize for not clearly stating the reason behind what we doing.
It is true that we are given an assignment from the University of Pretoria. And I would like to say that it is going very well as the blogs are very helpful. We find them very interesting and they increase the knowledge that we have. Thank you.


By Elwa Montshiwagagae (not verified) on 17 Apr 2015 #permalink

Bizarre, but thanks for clarifying this!

I am commenting because of the assignment, but also because I also at first thought it was 'bizarre" that thousands of students have to comment of people's blogs. I thought it was absurd to be forced to read blogs for the first time and then be forced to come up with some or other comment that we can turn in for marks. In the end I must say I have grown to like the blogs on this website and in today's world we are so preoccupied with other things that make us so unaware of what is out there in the world. At least I have learned a few things out of the assignment, but I agree that they should have given a fair warning or used blogs connected to the University (blogs written by students or professors).

By Marilyn McDerm… (not verified) on 17 Apr 2015 #permalink

Not as strange as you might think, it's a long standing bit for "Intro to Computing" courses to include a bit about online discussion fora and to have the students participate in some. Twenty years ago you were seeing random posts on Usenet for the same reason.

By Chakat Firepaw (not verified) on 17 Apr 2015 #permalink

Thank you for the heads up sir! I can assure you that some of us aren't here to just leave comments and show it to our teachers

By Thamsanqa Mtshali (not verified) on 17 Apr 2015 #permalink

@ Thamsanqa Mtshali

It is true, some of us have been following these blogs for quite a long time.

By Spooky707 (not verified) on 17 Apr 2015 #permalink

No wonder the blogs I have been following are getting so many comments! It is because of a homework? Anyways I love their enthusiasm and intelligence, it's as though as they've been following these blogs for a long time

Now it makes sense why our comments have been disappearing. We really appreciate that you actually letting us comment on your bogs for our assignment. We legitimately acknowledge it.

By Innocentia (not verified) on 17 Apr 2015 #permalink

I feel privileged myself to be one of the students of University of Pretoria as they introduce us to this type of assignment of blogging, which i must say it is very interesting and educating at the same time.

By Mbiza xongile (not verified) on 18 Apr 2015 #permalink

I'd like to thank the author for posting this blog it's interesting to see what you've thought of this assignment. And thank you for making it a high priority post so that we also become aware of the impression our comments are having on you and the other readers. I have personally found it quite challenging writing comments that I am comfortable publishing, simply because of the fact that I don't feel like I know enough about many of the topics to contribute anything relevant. That, in itself, has been a learning experience - I've realized how important to know what you're talking about before publishing anything on the topic.

With regard to your question about the follow up of these comments - we have to submit a screenshot of our comments on each article along with a reflective essay about our experience as science blog followers. Judging by the number of comments followed by the string of digits, I'm fairly certain that our lecturers will get your note to them.

By Hannah (u15044824) (not verified) on 19 Apr 2015 #permalink

It is very cordial to see students very much interested on their school work. Many people out there do not have the opportunity you guys have. Make sure you get those degrees on record time, and make people around you proud.

By lungelo ndlovu (not verified) on 19 Apr 2015 #permalink

Clearly I am missing something in my teaching methods, never crossed my mind that reading and commenting on blogs is a skill to be developed and nurtured. Next to the rare skills of watching sports on TV and listening to music made by auto-tune aided teenagers.


By Craig Thomas (not verified) on 19 Apr 2015 #permalink

Thanks for clearing that up for us,because most of us including myself have been frustrated about this assignment due to the disappearance of comments and the comments that haven't appeared yet.

Thank you Sir. We will inform our professor. We really thank you for understanding. Yes we are learning how to blog. 15094139

By Silindokuhle Majola (not verified) on 19 Apr 2015 #permalink