Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Temporary Cease Fire?

A number of people from the site, both actual CM correspondents and longtime readers/commenters, have emailed me their thoughts about the "appropriate behavior" issue. One writer wrote, "I'd prefer to just let you know my thoughts on the issue via email, because I'd rather not make myself a target for some of the casual abuse some commenters seem to think is the height of discourse by posting on the site."

The critical mass of what I'm hearing so far is that bad behavior should not be tolerated as it risks harm to the longterm health of the site.

Since most of this has occurred over the last few hours, I'd like to assure ourselves a chance to hear from as much of the CM community as possible before anything happens.

So, may I suggest a cease fire for the next 24 hours?

By all means make your feelings known about the issue in the comments to this post and the earlier one,

If we could just behave as if my mom was in the room with us. I don't know about your moms, but mine used to smack me when I swore, and if my FRIENDS swore, she'd smack me later on, on account of the "poor choices" I'd made of friends! God love her. She's 75 and exactly the same to this day.

Let's let 24 hours pass and see where we're at.

My thanks,


  1. My favorite posting rules on the web.

    This is your "personal playground," Fab Sun, as much as you don't want it to be. I say ban who you want, if and when you feel like it, and apologize to no one. You obviously don't want to, so I, for one, have complete trust in you not to turn this site into the Chronicle Forums.

  2. I have NEVER seen funny....

    Thanks, Cleo...

  3. OH GOD. I will never curse again, I SWARE, just please, take back that vile comparison. Chronicle forums make me gag. We are so much spicier than that saccharine pile of entitled silverbacks.

  4. For some insightful, well annotated thoughts on comment moderation see this post from Making Light in 2007. Be sure to read the comments.

  5. Yeah, my Mom used to do that too, and she would have been 95 in September. You should have seen what she did the time my friends and I figured out how to play polo on bicycles, with her golf clubs...and despite all of it, bless her heart, I think kids turned out much in her day than today.

    (Of historical interest: she never regarded Rock 'n' Roll as anything other than a fad that would soon pass. She didn't like Austin Powers because she was already over 30 in the '60s and so didn't get any of the jokes.)

  6. Penny Arcade is wonderful!

    I think all we need is one simple rule: "No Assholes" ( We all know what they are, we all know what that means. Offending posts and comments to be deleted. Three time offenders to be banned permanently, or until they come up with another ID, at which point they'll have another 3 chances, and then be banned permanently again. Eventually they will get bored and go away.

    You obviously have better things to do with your time than police this, Fab. I suggest that those who are willing to put in a couple hours 1 day a week scanning and deleting offensive comments (if there are any) should email him to volunteer.

    This is, as someone pointed out, NOT the NFL. This is academe. There is a difference between free expression of opinion about our work, and abusive assaults on other posters. There is never any reason or any place for the latter, and we should not have to waste our time reading it.

  7. If someone other than Fab or Calico are going to have access to the site for the purpose of comment moderation, I'd like a head's up so I can re-do my log in. I currently have my own personal email address, and while I'm comfortable now, I'd rather change it to something in case others whom I don't know have access to it. Can you please let us know, Fab, if you do this first?

  8. I second what Darla said, and, by the way, dear, put on some long pants!!! :)

  9. Darla's and Bernice's requests are fair - for that matter, I'd want to redo my login, come to think of it. I'm just thinking that the amount of work necessary to run through a couple of times a day to delete the assholes (it's a technical term) is not much for 7 people but it's more than we should be asking Fab to do, day after day. But there are implications.

    These thoughts on moderating communities from Making Light are also useful.

    I found these 2 bits from "Making Light" particularly apposite:

    "The problem isn’t commenter anonymity; it’s abusive behavior by anonymous or semi-anonymous commenters. Furthermore, the kind of jerks who post comments that need to be deleted will infallibly cry “censorship!” when it happens .... Commenters who are smacked down for behaving like jerks are incapable of understanding (or refuse to admit) that it happened because they were rude, not because the rest of us can’t cope with their dazzlingly original opinions. It’s a standard piece of online behavior."

    "Anonymous nastiness is easy to write, and will always find an appreciative audience. I don’t care. It’s not a manifestation of the free and open discourse of the internet; it’s a thing that destroys that discourse. To be specific, it’s the same old trashmouthed bullying we all know from junior high and high school. Putting it on the net doesn’t cause it to develop any novel complexities or interesting emergent behaviors. It’s just the same old sh*t."

    "If you have a weblog or live journal, or you administer a website that has comment threads, stand up for yourself and your readers. The jerks are never going to like you, or praise you, or admit that you’re doing the right thing."

    We don't need to let this go on here. If Fab can handle it by deleting abusive comments when he sees them on his own, that would be great, but if he needs some help, then - subject to the anonymity of posters being preserved from the mods somehow - let's do that.

    Because if we can't do that we're going to have to close this blog down. I know I'm not signing on here to read gratuituous, personally abusive attacks on other posters.

    The argument " but this is the Internet, suck it up" cuts no ice with me. That is no excuse for incivility. This blog is what we make it, and we don't need to make it - or let it become - a forum for abuse.

  10. I am opposed to the "No Asshole" rule; it will push vendettas, and I've seen how bad it can get on other message boards and blogs...Lenin of Lenin's Tomb constantly slamming a troll named Mike, the "Forums Cancer" of the Something Awful forums (for piddling shit.) So we have Jim-Tim-[insert name here] as the board bastards. I say ignore them and they'll go away.

  11. I just ignore Jim and the other one.

    This is a good place.

    Thanks, Fab.

  12. Southern Bubba and Strelnikov - I wish we could. Ignoring him/them was my first approach also. But you aren't being attacked.

    I'm sure you've noticed the misogynistic language of the abusive comments. (I've also noticed a tendency to attack primarily female posters, but that might be a sampling error). Until the advent of the assholes (technical term), this was a forum in which everyone was equally an academic, equally deserving of respect and a forum. Now, suddenly,we're not all equal anymore. Now suddenly humanists are stupid, "pussy" means "bad", and emotion - including objecting to being attacked = "not being able to take it".

    This is not the forum I was enjoying being part of, only a few days ago; because now there are people on it saying that I don't belong here, because I'm a stupid female humanist, and I should suck it up and accept being bullied because this is the Internet, no pussies allowed.

    We have the opportunity to make it damn clear that this sort of comment is not acceptable here.

    If we don't make that clear, I'm afraid that means that this sort of comment IS acceptable here. Is that what we want to say?

  13. A reader who did not want to comment publicly sent this to me to post in these comments section:

    "So, I like the idea of open comments, I think that there's a very vocal crowd that hangs around your the new joint (I certainly remember them from the old pad) that don't care a whit about free exchange of ideas and are eager to shut up anyone who offends them. These folks should be resisted. But at the same time the trolls are a very real threat to the place's continued thriving as a usually somewhat civil place to vent and whine and smack and share. That said, recognize that the bulk of visitors to the site will hardly ever venture into a comment thread. The problem, as I see it, is you're left with two very vocal minorities who want it to be a sandbox of their own making, in their own image -- free and firey, or policed and quiet. Why not make them both happy be leaving it up to them? My worry about all this is that it was exactly this sort of grind that left a half-dozen or so mods dispirited and eager to be rid of the compound. Dealing with that sort of shit day-to-day is bound to leave even a heavily invested mod sucked dry. That's the brilliance of the new setup: it devolves that dirty stuff to the mob. Do the same thing with comment threads. Make it the policy that the poster is the owner of the thread, to moderate the discussion in whatever way they see fit. The flamers can flame where the poster says it's okay, and those more delicate souls demanding nicer language can demand it and enforce it on their own threads. It's the only answer that's in keeping with the new ethos, and that's likely to keep this dingy little dream alive."

  14. Merely Academic,

    I am 100% with you. Your concerns in the last part of your comment are exactly what I'm feeling. I sent a private email to Fab and Calico earlier today and they promised me they aren't going to let this go on in the current form.

    If what happens on the page actually DRIVES people away, that's not good. I trust that they will handle it. Hang in there, and let's see what tomorrow brings.

    CM is just too much fun to let it be taken over.

  15. ... and, are so FUNNY. I think I know you from another blog...are you seriously nutty chef like me? does raspberry sorbet explosion sound familiar?

    I knew you were also a proffie, but am finding it hard to believe we BOTH are here and there. let me know...

  16. Wow, I missed everything again.

    RYS had too much dickswingery for my tastes. When I see it come back on CM, I'm bummed. You can put people down without all this pussy/grow a pair shit.

    The women are funnier anyway. Not me, cuz I have lost my sense of humor completely these days, but Darla, Anastasia, Stella, Greta, WhatLadder, Isis, Merely, and others crack me up regularly. Thanks, ladies. My misery right now is nonacademic and therefore not relevant, but you give me a lift.

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  18. Wow, I went back and read all that stuff. I tend to comment (increasingly incoherently and typo-filled, it seems) early in the morning and missed the fray. But now I need a shower.

    Jim, somehow you've made this blog all about you. That's the first sign of a troll. The second sign is someone like Tim, who resorts to misogynist or otherwise offensive personal attacks. Perhaps you are the same troll. Who knows. All we can do is write around it. There are good people here-- smart, menschy, witty, in control of themselves even while venting, willing to apologize -- lots of them. Not being one of them only makes you look bad.

  19. Folks, we are all supposed to be the adults in the student-professor relationship. Our new trolls are most likely snowflakes with a grudge. Look how they get us to gnash our teeth and turn on each other.

    It's easy -- don't feed the trolls. When you see the name Jim or Tim or whoever they decide to be next, just skip past that post. If you don't read it, it can't piss you off.

    The pressures of moderation is unfortunately one of the straws that broke RYS's back. Don't kill off Fab for being a nice guy.

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  21. The cease fire has worked beautifully. :(

    And to is ME, from the chef's blog...I recognized you from your earlier posts and I've been trying to find a way to let you know it was me.

    Did you SEE that recipe for Polynesian Chicken? I think my mom made that in 1975, but it all comes around again.

    So neat to see you here!

  22. What a bunch of fucking horseshit. How did Fab's mom like that?

    This is what's wrong with academia, all the whining, complaining, and the freaking out when someone smarter than you takes you to task for being weak or stupid.

    You don't want to play on the varsity, then go back to the pool and swim laps or something. (Or better yet, head over to the Chronicle Forums which I left - on my own - years ago. In fact this place reminds me of that, so gentle and supportive.

    We're not going to accomplish anything without rolling our sleeves up. And if some womyn feel I'm using football terminology too freely, and that it makes them uneasy, then try this: You don't like the heat, get out of the kitchen.

    And he's a misogynist, too, but still sharp enough to overwhelm all of you dullards.

    I don't give a fuck if you impose some moderation. This place has ridiculously light traffic anyway. By the time all the girls run off because of some bruisers, you won't have 10 hits a day anyway, so what's the concern.

    I only am sticking around now to see who cracks first. Who's going to post a giant whine-fest tomorrow morning (early before the meanies wake up) that says how offended they are and how they won't be back, and what a shame.

    What a crock of shit.

    It's the Internets, people. And some of us are simply more prepared to debate than others. Whining away to Fat Sun (typo, but it stays) because someone hurt your feelings is so middle school, and you've been calling me and Jim names more often than not.

    I am not Jim, and this is not the same person writing all of those posts. But I understand his point of view, and if a few more people would join us, we could actually have some debates and discussions that would be worth a shit.

    But I predict the crybabies abandon ship tomorrow, and that poor earnest Fab closes the page before next Monday.

    I've got a six pack of Negra Modelo I'll wager I'm right and you're fucking wrong.

    Tim (and, by the way, that's my real name. I'm a chemical engineer, and I fucking rock.)

  23. Everybody hang in there. I've exchanged some emails with both Fab and Calico (who many of us remember from the last few years of RYS).

    They tell me the mail is blowing up, and that lots of folks are concerned and ready to help the page make modest changes to avoid the kind of "dick-waggling" that seems to have plagued the last couple of days.

    I have no doubt that by tomorrow night we'll be back to normal. We can ponder how Yaro is able to get through the modern world with his equanimity and humor so vivacious and windblown, and we can start begging Beaker Ben for one of those top ten lists that he's a master of.

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  25. My God, Jim, that one comment alone makes it obvious you've never been to a faculty meeting.

  26. To sacrifice clarity for courtesy is far better than the opposite. As mean as I can sometimes act, I believe that people are far more important than any idea or argument. To belittle entire groups of people to be "clear" is, well, clearly idiotic and it only makes you look like an ignorant a-hole.

    Mathsquatch out.

  27. Plus, clarity and courtesy are fully reconcilable. I've never noticed any lack of clarity around here.

  28. So as noted earlier, I'm crazy. Like Crazy Train crazy. And consequently, I participate in an online community of crazy people. We have our share of the nasties, which of course can happen when you put folks who are pathological whiners, prostelytizing Christians, delusional folks, and people with bad self-esteem problems in an online forum. (No, I am not describing a faculty meeting, but boy I could be.)

    Frankly, what's happening here is mild compared to what's happened over there. I don't much care for the nastiness, but it's something that I confront in my day-to-day life anyway. As a social scientist who "consults" on the projects of health and development folks, I have to defend my discipline often. I've arrived at a point where I can say "well, we have a difference of opinion here" and then I can go to kickboxing class.

    But that's me. I certainly recognize dick-swingery when I see it, although I wonder what the girl-bits version is...pushy pussies? However, I feel that wiser minds than my own should make this decision about moderation because while I've (mostly) worked out how to deal with this in my day-to-day life, my solutions might not work for everyone.

  29. ps: I should say, also, that I don't think I've ever been directly attacked by the nasties, so my perspective is informed by not having been the target of their wrath.

  30. I tend to be of the "sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me"/"ignore them and they'll go away" school. For that reason, I suspect that the "nominee for comment of the year" post was a mistake, since it seems to have raised the temperature (but I realize the problem was already simmering, and I understand the motivation -- if we're calling out students' stupidities, then calling out our own/each other's too seems reasonable enough).

    However, I have not (that I've noticed) been the target of any of the attacks, and I haven't spent time writing or moderating a blog. As a result, I'm inclined to defer to those with more direct experience (of moderating, of the attacks, or both).

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