Thursday, December 23, 2010

Big Thirsty: Silent Correspondents

I don't think anyone is saying that there needs to be over 100 contributors.  But apparently new people were inquiring, and apparently some spots were forgotten about.  Why was it so wrong for CM to poll the "correspondents" to find out who truly wanted to keep their spots?  To each one reading this who took the polling personally, what was so inconceivable about the idea that ANOTHER one of the silent members might have been willing to make space?  No one said it had to be "you" to any one of you in particular. 

So what's the deal?  Why the indignation over the suggestion that you comment without reserving spots?

And the real meat of the thirsty:

Q:  If you don't want to contribute, why do you want so badly to have a spot?

I have some suspicions that never would have crossed my mind in previous weeks, but after various security related discussions cropped up, here they are:

Some of you don't want to participate at all, but you're real people.  You want to be "contributors" so that you can read drafts and look for what people edit between draft and post so you can try to identify your co-workers, either to satisfy personal curiosities, or to out them to superiors.

Some of you want to participate, but you're not "real people", you're trolls and half of the silent spots are being taken by the same one.  This way you can have "IP evidence" that there aren't as many members as are reported.  I have no idea what motivates that, but clearly saying "One guy writes the whole thing." gets someone off because that notion is proposed with some regularity.


  1. Wombat, the "single person creator" theory of CM is our fake Moon landing conspiracy theory. It's easy to disprove, make no real rational sense, and mostly gives the proponent a kudgel to wallop us with. We have the numbers and we know that this site is doing well, and this person doesn't like it so off we are into conspiracy land. Next we will be told that this site's servers are onboard a UFO built by Nazis in 1943, or that all the content is written by robots and edited by a Nigerian college professor as a social experiment.


    Sparky Electroshock,
    Keeping this up until Xmas

  2. I'm sort of stupefied by this whole issue. Who is Ricardus and why is he so mad about having to post? It's ridiculous. I thought his post was pretty interesting, but complaining about how he was "outed" is patently stupid. Is his screen name so well known?

  3. Two words, my friend Wombat: manufactured drama.

    I've never understood the craving for it, myself, but its pull is powerful in academia especially, so it shouldn't be surprising that it's surfaced here, too.

    I didn't understand the need to post the list. I don't understand where the notion of CM as a sinking ship originated. I don't understand why people wrote to Leslie K to complain about those who allegedly broke the rules in the "Grants" thread; in fact, I don't understand why people write to Leslie K about this at all, unless they've been personally attacked or witness something heinous, like a call to genocide.

    (Seriously, people--running to Mommy? Seriously?)

    I don't understand why people who don't like what they read simply can't move on and read something else or stop reading altogether--and, frankly, their inability to negotiate something as simple as comments on a blog post makes me concerned not just for the state of the academy but for the state of our world as we know it.

    As for me, I'm pretty sure my contributions are fairly worthless, but I get to blow off steam, commiserate with virtual colleagues, and on rare occasion make someone laugh. And--to paraphrase a Seinfeld episode--I'm singular, I'm real, and I'm spectacular.

    The one thing that I think is kind of shitty is the posting(s) of the geographic areas we inhabit. That can contribute to actual outing of people, and that isn't necessary.

    Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to clean and have some coffee, and not in that order. Great Thirsty question.

    P.S. -- Strel, don't go soft on us, buddy, just because some kids in the sandbox can't take it.

  4. I agree with pretty much everything Greta said (except, of course, that her posts are worthless, producing only the occasional laugh; I look forward to them, and laugh regularly). I also agree with Strel that the single-creator theory is too ridiculous to rate much attention (but I've been guilty of taking it on. once. I'll stop.)

    I missed the poll (my internet connection was burpy and rather slow yesterday, which also accounts for more than the usual number of editing errors in comments -- or maybe by "polling" Wombat means the list posted a few days ago?). As I've said in other threads, I wouldn't want to cut off people who post rarely but fruitfully, but something like a once a quarter guideline, with extenuating circumstances considered, makes sense to me. Maybe this won't be true in the future, but at the moment it looks like there's also enough turnover to allow people to get on and off the correspondents merry-go-round, a la Mathsquatch, pretty easily. That seems like another good approach to dealing with varying amounts of time and/or energy for participation.

    I'd noticed that the correspondents can see that each other have drafts up, and had assumed that we might be able to read them if we tried (I didn't, because it seemed rude, and also a bit like opening packages prematurely and then re-wrapping them; it spoils the surprise). I tend to draft in Word files if I draft at all (partly because I don't log on as Cassandra from work -- my own little bit of IP paranoia), so that doesn't strike me as a problem. Anyone who is stalking other correspondents via the drafts folder has far, far too much time on his/her hands.

    I also can't see any problem with publishing the list of correspondents, which was already public. If people are at all worried about protecting their identities, they really should create a separate persona for this blog (and I'm pretty sure it would still be possible to do so; if you changed your name now, when there's a good deal of turnover, it would just look like one correspondent dropped and another added. I suppose someone might make the connection, but is anyone really paying that much attention to anyone else?) I do think we should avoid place-name listings of visitors, even though they're common elsewhere on the internet. The combination of a fairly specialized audience and the existence of some pretty isolated colleges and universities does create a potential for outing there (and I'd guess that some of the faculty in those places need a truly anonymous "academic water cooler" more badly than the rest of us).

  5. The #1 & 2 reasons we have people who are correspondents who don't post...laziness or forgetfulness. No drama there.

  6. Or we just don't have anything to say. AS I mentioned in a previous post, I rather like my current job, and undergrads don't require my services, so I don't really have a whole lot to complain about. Honestly, if the roster is full again by the time BlackDog comes back, I'll gladly give up my spot to her, because I really like reading her work.

  7. @ Great Lakes Greta
    The "sinking ship" first came from Tim (not Jim) and then anonymous (who I think is the same person) began repeating it. We may have a serial troll on our hands, which is not uncommon for blogs, and I wish we could stomp the little mofo.

  8. We really need to ignore these people and get back to reporting our misery.

  9. Well, Mathsquatch, his four graphing calculators, two scientific calculators, and one pocket calculator are all real. But then again, I might just be the ONE throwing you all off! You may never know.

    I agree about the cities thing. Perhaps mentioning only state and/or country would be best...if we need to mention it at all.

    Mathsquatch *The ONE and ONLY ME!* out.

  10. I've only posted twice, ever. I comment sometimes. I'm an adjunct who only teaches one class a year, every January, so I haven't had much to bitch about yet.

    So I probably don't deserve to have posting rights. Every time we've been asked to volunteer surrendering rights, I've offered, and I've been told, "Thanks--someone else gave up a spot, and we'll let you know if we want yours."

    I don't think we're at the point where twenty people are all clambering for spots that trolls or bots won't surrender. It's probably more that we're right at 100, and when two or three requests hit Leslie, she needs to put out another call.

    Still, if someone wants my spot, let me know. I like being able to comment and have my little avatar, but I sure don't want to block someone from posting a nice smackety-smack. After all, that's what I come here for.


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