Monday, December 05, 2005

Bloggers to commenters: Drop dead!

The bloggernacle has gone censor-happy. Feminist Mormon Housewives are discussing troll-prevention, while Rusty has thrown down the gauntlet: If I don't like what you say I'll ban you. (For the record, I am 100% behind Rusty. He has been more than patient dealing with obnoxious trolls, and even more to his credit, he left up the original offending comments for all to see.)

The previous examples represent the reasonable wing of the bloggernacle. Meanwhile, an anonymous e-mail tipster (thanks!) pointed me to the first installment of M*'s Rough Stone Rolling reading group. Comments have been disappearing from that thread faster than they appear. I've read some of the comments that Geoff B felt the need to censor (he even deleted one of his own!) and I must admit I'm mystified. They were neither vulgar, abusive, or off-topic. It seems that Geoff simply deletes whatever doesn't strike his fancy. After all, some things are true, but not useful. I applaud commentator Eric S. who continues to post comments, even after getting quite a few deleted. I wouldn't have the patience. Reading M* is kind of like what I imagine teaching history in the Soviet Union was like: you have to be prepared for everything to completely change at any time. I will give a plate of nachos (Flanders style) to whoever can create an M* mirror site that simply posts all deleted comments. Now that I would read regularly!

Over at the Bloggernacle Times, Grandpa Dave (as Ronan calls him) has seen fit to do some major surgery on a minor (and fairly innocuous) threadjack. For the record, I love Dave, but it is beyond bizarre that he feels the need to delete 10 comments about English-bashing on this thread, but allows these two train wrecks to plow on unimpeded.

Of course, perhaps I am asking too much of the man who first introduced the hated comment moderation queue into the 'nacle. I still read DMI (it has some great stuff), but I rarely bother commenting any more. Putting all comments into the queue is like calling someone on the telephone but making them send their replies to you on a postcard. Sure, I know my comment will turn up there in a couple hours, but by then five people will have already said the same thing. It's hard to have a dialogue on a tape-delay.

Of course, the dubious honor of King of Comment Deletions goes to T&S's peevish Adam Greenwood, who famously censored two of Ronan's comments. This prompted Ronan to complain publicly on his blog. Why don't I link to Ronan's complaint? Why, Ronan deleted it, of course.

75 comments:

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Randy B. said...

I had to pick myself up off the floor when I saw the first 10 comment deletions. Well done Ned.

Rusty said...

Ned, your [comment edited] was very [comment edited] though I must say [comment edited] and [comment edited] have nothing to do with [comment edited].

Geoff B [comment edited] Raquel Welch and the Pope [comment edited] out on the ocean [comment edited] "Those aren't buoys."

nomdujour said...

holy cow, this is the funniest post i have ever seen. I happen to see the mess over at Millenial Star in advance of this post.

If it was possible for me to match the first 12 posts of this thread I would make a an effort.

Top o the mornin' to you ned flanders and Rusty. This was incredible. Well done.

Anonymous said...

Ned, I agree with you that it's troubling. I hadn't been following that thread at M*, and wasn't aware it was going on.

A question: why is Rusty's policy of deleting any comments he doesn't like different from what's happening at M* or the others?

Davis

RoastedTomatoes said...

We love our open forums in the Bloggernacle. As long as we can make sure that DKL and the ex-Mos aren't allowed to enter!

NFlanders said...

Good question, Davis. I suppose the cynical answer is that I like Rusty better than M*. But in truth, I think there a couple of differences.

Rusty left up the annoying posts (they're still up on his site) so we can read them and understand why he eventually gave up. M* tries to pretend that nothing has happened and deletes any posts that refer to the deleted ones.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think M* has a duty to keep up offensive or abusive comments, but they seem to have a much lower threshold than anyone else. They delete anything that they suspect isn't 100% faithful Mormon.

Randy said...

Well, I'll be [edited]!

Ben S. said...

"They delete anything that they suspect isn't 100% faithful Mormon."

Ain't true Ned, but that's the caricature.

Rusty said...

A question: why is Rusty's policy of deleting any comments he doesn't like different from what's happening at M* or the others?

Not much difference except that I think I tolerate much more. Until the Monsters thread I don't think I ever deleted a comment or banned anyone, ever. And I let the trolls stay for a long, long time.

All I was saying with that "comment policy" was that I was sick of trying to justify my position as if my blog were a public domain. The truth is that I'm VERY lenient... those guys just went way too far and I was sick of it.

Ben S. said...

For example, see this thread for Ed Enoch's 100% faithful evangelical comments.
http://www.millennialstar.org/index.php/2005/02/21/belief_knowledge_and_community

Rusty said...

RT,
I wish you could experience what I've had to deal with to understand why I reacted the way I did (regarding DKL). It's really easy to say we should have open forums until you have to deal with a quagmire that someone like DKL or other trolls produce. Not only on the blog itself but emails that try to continue the conversation (insults).

I'm not interested in letting someone else have control of my blog (or my email inbox).

NFlanders said...

Careful, Ben, I'm this close to banning you.

Ha! Just kidding. I should have said that the relative harmlessness of the recently deleted comments lead me to believe that lately, anything suspected to be less than 100% faithful is potentially on the chopping block.

Anyway, wasn't Ed Enochs eventually banned at T&S?

Anonymous said...

Ned, i love you man, but I want to correct you just a bit. Here is another active thread at M*. This is an example where the poster that had a contrary opinion had posts left up, but the poster that incited the comments had their posts conveniently removed.

Its called 4M*Q: Progeny
Matt's Monday Morning Millennial Star Question: Progeny

http://www.millennialstar.org/index.php/2005/11/21/matt_s_monday_morning_millennial_star_qu_2#c27370

Ned, those ten posts at the beginning of this are making me laugh.

Anonymous said...

Ned, it's not until a blog gets enough traffic and attention to develop a persistent "troll problem" that comment management becomes an issue for the person running the blog. So it's not surprising that it's primarily the group blog (high traffic, lively exchanges) and their admins that have had to actually do something about the troll problem ... as opposed to just mouthing off from the cheap seats.

Censorship is a misnomer, as you ought to know. Deleting a blog comment doesn't shut anyone down, it just means they have to voice their opinion at one of hundreds of other alternate forums. In other words, NO ONE IS CENSORED. Did I say opinion? Deleted or edited comments aren't generally voicing any opinion at all, just throwing insults around or stirring up trouble. That's the whole problem. And for those on the receiving end it is a problem.

Finally, you ought to recognize that allowing abusive comments to proliferate has its own "censorship" effect by driving away other commenters who just want a friendly exchange of comments or ideas. What average Bloggernacler is going to leave a comment when there's a fair chance they're going to get a response like: "That's just the sort of stupid fucking comment I would expect a Mormon like [insert your name here] to make." What average blogger wants to spend thirty minutes or an hour writing a post, then see an assortment of random insults and gripes bounce back and forth in the comments?

-- Dave

Clark Goble said...

It's really the question of moderation in general. As you might be aware Ned, we got targeted by some RFD type boards (who then deleted the many of the discussions and other things discussing our blog) The question was how to nip it before it got worse than it did. Up to that point we very rarely deleted comments. Typically just cut and paste "all Mormons are going to hell" tomes and then the regular pornography and gambling spam.

After the targeting of our blog we were much more sensitive. We wanted to keep comments on topic as it appeared like many people simply wanted to get to the topics they wanted. It's the difference between a blog and a forum. Typically I hate reading forums because everything is so freewheeling that you spend time listening to idiots rant, lots of ad homen and so forth. It seems odd that you'd get upset at this given your own rant about the FAIR boards. Exactly how do you think people can keep a board or such sane, without deleting comments? I have to confess that many of the decisions I've made about deleting trolls came about because of your comments. To me, you really pricked me in terms of whether we should allow such things to occur. Now if seems you are critiquing us for the opposite.

I'm not flaming. Far from it. Those who know me know I value open discussions. Indeed until I read the RFD board comments I was the voice against deleting comments. So if you could perhaps outline what you think a workable solution is, I'd be glad to hear it, because I know the same discussions that have been going on at M* about spam and trolls have been going on at BT and other blogs as well.

If someone has a workable solution that is pleasing to everyone, I'd love to hear it. But I don't think it exists.

Clark Goble said...

Whoops. I typed RFD instead of RFM.

Anonymous said...

Clark,
The difference here, is that you did not delete comments that said all mormons are "X".

You deleted comments on the Bushman thread that were actually quite insightful about the topic and the author.

Also, in the Bushman thread, it was the hosts of the thread that threw out a barrage of insults about the other posters.

Millenial Star seems proprietary to you and others. I dont suspect anyone has an issue with that. However, you should make it clear that you welcome insults of liberal mormons or critical opinion, and dont wish to read or host critical opinions or liberal suggestions. I dont think anyone would have a problem with that. Do you?

John Mansfield said...

A few thoughts:
1) In my case, my name is associated with these things, not that of a yellow-faced, four-fingered proxy. "Ned Flanders," "Roasted Tomatoes," et al. have reasons they prefer not to associate their actual selves with their web logs. Fine. Anonymity is a long and sometimes honorable tradition. It's not my choice.

2) I hate songs about being a singer, movies about making movies, and books where the protagonist is a novelist. Likewise, comments about commenting. Rather than distracting huffing and puffing, I prefer soft-voiced big scissors. If "discussion" in itself is the attraction of a web log, then I'd rather read something else.

3) Comments, and posts, are grass. Many things could be done more elegantly by those with the time to burn, but the effort would generally be a waste.

NFlanders said...

".. mouthing off from the cheap seats."

Ouch. Memo to self, don't call Dave "Grandpa." I will be the first to admit that moderating a tiny blog like this one is different from moderating one of the biggies. I appreciate that Dave, Clark, and Ben have to deal with bigger choices than I do.

Dave, I never suggested that one should leave up abusive or obscene comments. I simply critiqued one case where you deleted a bunch of comments that were merely off-topic. As an admin of BT, that is your right. I personally thought it was a waste of time and bit silly compared to real troll attacks. That is all. And I still hate your moderation queue.

Clark, I agree that you find yourself in a tricky position. I just think that you guys went a bit overboard in this case. But I don't think you can blame me and my FAIR bashing.

FAIR was hosting some (in my opinion) truly offensive stuff. The comments that I've seen deleted were not offensive or personally abusive.

Anonymous-- I was going to mention the progeny thread from M* but I forgot. They deleted all of Jack's baiting comments (at his own request) and left the reactions to it. Now the anonymous poster looks even more over-the-top than before. It just shows how editing can distort the conversation.

Once again, for the record, let me state that I DON'T HAVE A PROBLEM WITH DELETING ABUSIVE OR OBSCENE COMMENTS!

nomdujour said...

I was a part of the Fair thread that is referenced here. I see this very differently than Clark.

In the Fair thread, the installed core, specifically Pahoran and Charity, were lobbing some bitter insults at others. It was people like me that finally screamed "Halt." Though you may not approve of the tone, there was nobody from the Fair Boards standing up against Pahoran and Charity.

In fact, the moderators at one point, when confronted on it, defended Pahoran and said he was "better at walking a fine line" when being critical of others. That is clever and it is their right. It is their playground. Specifically, the point that the moderators brought to my attention was that it was unacceptable to use a clever form of the word "ass" (i said jackass) but that "moneygrubbing lawyers" was just a personal opinion and generality and not offensive.

In Fairs defense, they left most posts on and just closed the thread. I will not however defend their strongarming in defense of Pahoran and Charity on that topic. It all stood as a sharp contrast to the debate on this blog and at BCC.

nomdujour said...

correction: I did have some stuff deleted at Fair on the lawsuit thread. I had forgotten about a few posts.

Clark Goble said...

Ned, I'm not blaming you. Far from it. But hopefully you can see the incongruity between your comments here and your comments about the lack of editing in the FAIR forum. I can't reconcile them.

I'd strongly disagree that we simply tolerate liberal (political or religious) bashing or things critical of LDS thought and delete the rest. The question really is how to keep the discussion on topic and avoid flame wars. Given the way the bloggernacle has gone, I'm at this stage more leery of letting flame wars develop.

As to decide what to delete. It simply isn't an easy decision. What is acceptable and what isn't? For instance you critique the Steve Jones thread at BT (also moderated by me). Yet there I've clearly left comments from both the left and right up with your presumably thinking I ought delete them. It seems odd the criticisms here since I'm the same guy moderating at BT as at M*.

The problem that John raises is a good one as well. When you have your name associated with things, it's a tad different. We've actually had people send in emails asking that their comments be deleted or their name changed. Not for any religious reason but because of the issues in academia regarding blogs. Blogs are searched by google and people do make judgments.

There is a huge difference between anonymous blogging and "let the chips fall where they may" and having ones name associated with things.

Clark Goble said...

Nomdujour, actually there was quite the debate going on behind the scenes. Since it was in private discussions I'll not get into it. I'm not on the forum moderator list, but I am a member of FAIR. I and many others argued that we ought just shut the whole forum down precisely because of issues like this. Indeed the whole forum issue which Ned brought up to me highlights the inherent problem with forums. No matter what you do you always look bad. (IMO)

NFlanders said...

Clark--

I see a big difference between the M* and FAIR comments. The M* ones were (at worst) designed to highlight uncomfortable facts about JS, the FAIR ones were glorified name-calling.

I don't think you should start deleting the Steve Jones comments, although I would understand if you wanted to close those threads. I simply pointed out the difference in moderating style between the two threads, which makes sense since Dave was moderating one and you the other.

nomdujour said...

Wow, without revealing details, can you clarify this for my simple mind. were you debating whether to shut down the Forum (as in fairboards) or a specific thread?

Curious minds want to know.

I would love to share my two cents on this topic but I think it would be a huge threadjack.

Clark Goble said...

I disagree Ned. Looking back at your critique, you appears upset that anyone would criticize the decision of the person in that trial. Further it appeared that you were upset at the connection between (what to me) appeared to be overblown criticisms of our liability laws and this case. Certainly there were ad homens, as "nomdejuer" pointed out. And I criticize those. But most of those came out *after* you made your comments.

And, for the record, while I think you went a tad far, I basically agree with the thrust of your comments.

The issue at M* was about more than uncomfortable facts. Since I don't have the deleted comments to reference (and I think I shall start keeping them - at least the ones I did delete) I disagree.

More importantly though, I felt it a case of threadjacking. The discussion was no longer Bushman or the book. That's fine if someone wants to discuss that. But then they can either do it on the relevant post or start their own blog. If you think threadjacking is fine, I can't argue with that. I suspect in practice though when it started to happen to you, you wouldn't. Especially not if you'd started a specific discussion targeting a topic as a reading club. As I said, there's a big difference between forums and blogs.

Once again, I don't mind if you disagree with that decision to ask people to stay on topic. However I would suggest that the way you've gone about it has be a little over the top.

nomdujour said...

Clark,
I dont want to flatter you in any way. I only want to be a bad person :)

However, I appreciate you coming into this mix and stating your case. I dont agree with you on many things, But I have respect for you showing up with the 'nads to defend yourself and your projects.

If nothing else, ned has hosted a great sparring forum. its like olympic boxing or olympic hockey compared to all the nonsense in the professional arenas. Thanks brother.

Now clark, carry on. I want to disagree with you some more.

Clark Goble said...

NomduJour, I certainly argued to shut down the entire forum and replace it with a blog. Others disagreed. It wasn't ultimately my decision. But I strongly feel that in any forum you'll always have "defenders" who get rhetorically out of hand and make you and your organization look bad. Further I think you give voice to people more interested in simply feeling powerful and arguing to argue and cause trouble to cause trouble. I still feel that way and that does guide my moderation policies where I am moderating.

At the same time many felt that it was important to engage with those who disagree with you. To let people know that we actually do listen to their criticisms, no matter how repeated. (And to me such discussions are boring simply because I've had them so often) I can fully respect that perspective as well, as I strongly feel that real discussions are important as is letting inquiry proceed. And that too guides my moderating decisions.

The real issue is how to handle people who always want to take over discussions and make it about their concerns. I've seen it happen over and over again and it almost always destroys inquiry and open discussion rather than improving it. Once again, if people want that, there are places for it. But I think it rather selfish for people to try to turn one discussion into an other simply because that's what they want regardless of what others want. And that will be the guiding light of my moderation.

Eric Russell said...

I disagree with John Mansfield. I think books where the protagonist is an author are awesome.

nomdujour said...

Clark,
the Bushman deletions were not at all off topic. a moderator went a bit nutso over there and made that accusation and then removed his post. He also yanked the responses his post generated.

If I recall, there were a bunch of other posts that he deleted too.

Clark Goble said...

I strongly disagree. Further, the RFM forum which led to those posts forms and important context. They actually were discussing their plans there and were too dumb to realize that links from a forum could be backtracked by the blog software.

Interestingly the owner of this particular RFM styled forum appeared to agree with our interpretation of their comments and scolded them for making them.

After this people then started trying to threadjack other threads to discuss the issue.

The whole issue is one of philosophy. If you think blog comments should be a free wheeling forum-like discussion with no limits except for outright offensive speech, you'll disagree with me. If you think blogs are different from forums and that discussions should stay on topic then you won't.

Clark Goble said...

(sorry for all the horrible typos I've made in my comments - I've been typing fast as I've been doing other things as well)

Geoff J said...

Ned,

Over at BT the editing was solely due to a massive threadjack. You seem to have left threadjacking off your list of reasons to delete comments (along with comments being abusive or obscene). And the decision to edit was made by the group not by Dave alone.

(I mean the BT post was about abortion and it suddenly turned into a debate over the merits (or lack therof) of Great Britain and its people fer cryin' out loud!)

Clark Goble said...

My sense is that the issue really is over whether threadjacking is a valid reason for bloggers to be concerned.

Anonymous said...

Clark,

You are referring to an old conversation of Bushman. There is a newer active thread on the prologue that Ned was referring to.

NFlanders said...

Clark and Geoff-- I think you are right about the underlying issue being threadjacks and how aggressively we should go after them.

I think sometimes just the moderator popping in to redirect the conversation is sufficient. Like me saying here that I don't particularly want to rehash the M* threads.

The bottom line is that each site has the right to determine how aggressively it will go after threadjacks. People can determine if they still want to read these sites with these restrictions. I was just saying that BT being so aggressive turned me off.

Dave said...

Okay, I actually took the time to log in to Blogger this time: a truly annoying feature of Blogger comments. It's so annoying that I generally avoid commenting on Blogger blogs. Plus having to having to pass the "I am a human being" test in order to get the comment posted. And you think a comment queue is annoying? I'll bet your filter has reduced some dyslexics to tears.

I was going to say something substantive, but now I'm so irritated by Blogger comments I don't recall what it was. Something about the fact that I'll always defer to a permablogger's concerns about a set of comments in their post (after all, they do the work to keep the blog forum running!) over some random, anonymous, phony-email address commenter. That's true even if the permablogger is touchier or more particular about his or her comments than is really warranted.

Ned, you're a good sport. I've never seen anything in any of your posts or comments that was ever a problem. I really think the "problem comments" are a very small percentage of total blog commenting, even at the group blogs.

Gunner said...

As someone who has had a comment edited on M* I can say several things about it. At first I was very bothered. I remember saying out loud to my computer(like it could answer or something) that the post asked for temple experiences. So I told of mine. I edited myself in several places because of respect for peoples beliefs about the sacred nature of the ceremonies involved. The thing that bothered me was that those were the parts edited. If you want to only hear nice uplifting stories then ask for that.

But after a day I realized a few things. It is their blog and they can allow and not allow comments at their whim.

I'm rather oblivious to comment wars so I did not know I was walking into a dangerous area due to an upsurge in trolling from other sites. So with the recent history I could see why my comment did look trollish. The truth is at wasn't

Since then the comments have started some rather open talk about preperation to keep bad temple trips from happening. I have also exchanged some nice emails with Clark Goble on the subject.

So as an edited person, I say edit away,

NFlanders said...

Dave is funny.

The important distinction is that you can still comment on my blog immediately even without logging into blogger. The word verification is annoying, but not nearly as annoying as waiting a hour to see your comment. We couldn't have this discussion over at DMI, because there would just be 40 comments sitting in the queue.

And yes, if I had even a modicum of computer saavy, I would ditch annoying blogger comments in an instant. I think part of the reason I rarely have long discussions in the comments of my blog (besides lack of interest!) is the unwieldy nature of blogger comments.

Ben S. said...

Gunner, I sent you an email as well. Did you receive it?

NFlanders said...

I should clarify that I meant lack of interest on the readers' part, not mine.

lisab said...

Well done, Ned.

Geoff J said...

Ned,

If there was somethig to be annoyed with the recent BT threadjack and deletions it is that we waited so long to act. But that has to do with the fact that BT is a newish blog and author was not sure how to handle the situation. After consulting the group he got more "delete 'em" votes (including mine) than "who cares" votes so he acted accordingly. I suspect in the future threadjacks like that will be dealt with sooner and thus will be less invasive/annoying. (At least is was only about 5-10 comments in that case.)

Ronan said...

The irony about the BT thread that descended into Brit-bashing was that the one Brit at BT--me--actually voted to leave the comments up (to stand as a testimony at the last day when God shall be revealed to be an Englishman).

But that's not why the comments were quoshed though. It was a post about muffed-abortions that ended up attracting frivolous comments that the author of the post found to be inappropriate.

Still, I'm in favour of not deleting. (I reserve the right to delete my own junk, however. My outburst over the T&S deletion just seemed like something that didn't need to stand.)

Gunner said...

Yes I got it. Thanks.

Kurt said...

Clark,

The problem at M* (and pretty much any other group blog) is not just threadjacking, its permabloggers playing fast and loose with whatever ruleset they wish to enforce. I've had the pleasure of being selectively banned, edited, and threatened on a number of group blogs, including M*. The situation on M* was preposterous (I am referring to the idiotic discussion-or the lack thereof-of some of Daniel Petersen's cruddy polemical blatherings), and it was in no way a threadjack. I dont believe you were personally involved, as far as I can tell it was entirely Tanya Spackman's handiwork, but the moderation there was slipshod and grossly biased. Various Bloggernakkle old timers got to post substanceless personal attacks while I was threatened by Tanya to not click the post the button.

The real problem with moderation on group blogs is the lack of a clearly defined public rule set and consistent application of that rule set. Granted it is not easy to either develop a good ruleset or apply it. But, that doesnt license people to do as they please without consequence.

Hellmut said...

Great essay, Ned. Since my blog doesn't have an audience, I only get to delete spam.

If the situation ever arises, I am with Feminist Mormon Housewives. Disagreement is OK. Getting personal is not.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Flanders, I don't quite have your back on this one. I don't see the problem with deleting comments, banning people, or threadjacking. Why are people so disturbed by threadjacking? If the topic under discussion was that interesting, wouldn't people stay on it? That said, I have no problem with the deletion of threadjacking comments. It's your space, do what you want. Deleting comments, banning people, these are not real censorship issues--anyone can easily say what they want to say elsewhere.

So my questions are, why do people care if their comment gets deleted, why do they care if their thread gets jacked? (Seems like having someone jack your thread could be a good thing.)

--the angry m

nomdujour said...

Hey hellmut,

Shutup, you *%&#@.

j/k of course. I'll check out your blog.

lchan said...

Interesting post. I'm with the angry m on this one. If it's your space, I think you get to choose what stays up, for whatever reason.

This is part of the reason I have a hard time with staying interested in group blogs - this kind of stuff sucks the fun out of blogging.

nomdujour said...

Clark,

I agree that rfm has some serious issues. I quit frankly find it painful and juvenile. Other than the biographies that are archived I dont see much value.

As a FAIR moderator and member, and based on your familiarity with the posters and topics, what do you suppose the threads would be like if those same posters were to post on the "anti" blogs or websites? (I hate that word by the way)

If FAIR closed the boards, where would the posters go? Have you ever considered taking your points of interest and discussing them on other sites that may be based in an different point of view?

I know John Lynch has been on Mormon Stories podcasts. I have heard he posts at RFM. Why not counter what you see as threadjacks or differing opinion in other arenas?

Just thoughts here.

a random John said...

Basically I think that some of the big blogs throw their comment policy out the window and edit as they see fit at the moment. I was recently edited at T&S because a permablogger didn't want to tolerate differing opinions. This after years of controversy free posting by me at their blog. I couldn't find how I violated the comment policy. None of these outfits are professional enough to bother to stick to their own rules. This is only a problem occasionally, but it makes it messier when it is a problem.

At the very least if a non-spam comment is edited the fact that it was edited should be noted in order to not make the poster appear to be saying something they weren't.

Clark Goble said...

The issue about consistency is a fair one, although I think charges of intentionally ignoring rules is unfair. Generally if someone is banned, let along banned from multiple blogs, there is a good reason and a lot of discussion went into it. That's not to say everyone will agree. But with any comment policy there will be lots of grey and subjective areas.

Further, it's frankly hard to be totally consistent in the sense of applying the rules ignoring context. If someone's brushed up against rules or has been a problem on other boards, I think most people will react harsher than someone who is new. And that's completely understandable. Some people have lost trust with the community.

To the issue of consistency though, I think some threads are handled more carefully than others. Clearly a thread dealing with touchy subjects that most likely would lead to a flame war or drive away regular readers will be handled different from a thread that is more open. And frankly threads with only a few comments in it will probably allow more tangental discussions than a thread with an active discussion or one that is focused on a discussion of a particular point or theme.

Once again I'd merely say that I think most bloggers view their blogs as being closer to a magazine and comments as letters to the editor than as forum software. The common theme in this thread appears to be that people want them to be forums. My rejoinder is simply, if that's what you want, why don't you post in a forum? It's not as if there is a shortage of them - and you can always even start up your own threads typically.

My inclination is that those going offtrack and getting upset about it don't merely want a discussion, they want to force a discussion with people who don't want it at that moment. i.e. far from being censorship it is the opposite - dialog by force. Forgive me for not being sympathetic.

The problem is that many of us have limited time and further, have typically already done the whole debate things about Mormonism. It got old. So we're either sharing points, trying to build people up regarding topics, or are searching for more nuanced and detailed discussions. Surely that's not a sin.

Clark Goble said...

Just for the record I am not a FAIR moderator. I help answer questions emailed to FAIR when I have time, and contribute to their internal mailing list. I also plan on contributing to their Wiki a fair bit.

I rarely read their forum. As I said, I think the forum counterproductive. If it were up to me I'd delete it, despite the positive things it contributes. I think the negatives outweigh it. However the point you raise about having someplace for the discussions to take place where at least knowledgeable Mormons can reply is the reason the FAIR boards remain.

My concern is that there is always the "with friends like these" problem where well meaning people end up hurting what they attempt to defend. Something that I think happened in the particular thread under discussion. However I did a random survey of threads and I think it happens far more often. I think alternative places to raise questions where they can be sincerely engaged with and answered but in a more structured format is better. The signal to noise ration in a forum is too high as is the problem of overly heated and unwise rhetoric.

As for Mormons posting on RFM boards, if the RFM have a comment policy that prohibits them, then I don't think they should. However I don't think most do. Certainly the forums don't. I've been asked not to post on subjects simply because I'm Mormon. I think that a silly policy, mind you. I think that so long as people do deal respectfully and within the limits of the topic that things are fine. I heartedly disagree with people who assert M* has deleted posts for ideological reasons.

nomdujour said...

I dont know if its a sin or not, that is a bit subjective for me.

I agree that the blogs are proprietary. And the moderator/owner has dominion. So be it.

However, I disagree completely with your premise that these are like magazine articles and comments like letters to the editor.

Take M* as an example.

There is an active post that about Beard Cards - The original post is one line long, it merely serves as a basis for thoughts and comments.

The Progeny thread is a request for answers, more like a poll and topic for discussion. The orginal post was an invitation.

The First Bushman thread was about the book and progressed to topical items from the book. The point was to make it a discussion, but to limit it.

The subsequennt Bushman thread is about the prologue and first chapeter, and stands as an invitation for commentary, only ned pointed out it was for the "right" commentary.

It is your blog. And you can make the rules and enforce them as you wish. I will appreciate the blog more/less knowing your intentions and expectations.

a random John said...

I am woking on a post that John Mansfield will hate about the relationship between bloggers and commenters. I agree that some bloggers are looking to simply "publish" their own thoughts and the comments are an afterthought. I think that commenters are more interstested in the interactions and learning from each other than in the posts themselves. The original posts are just a starting point.

For those that want to preach from on high and look down on the comments and commenters, hey, it's your blog and you're free to do that, but over time that sort of attitude will shape who reads (and doesn't read) you blog and how they interact with it.

Clark Goble said...

Note that I was somewhat careful. I wrote, "I think most bloggers view their blogs as being closer to a magazine and comments as letters to the editor than as forum software."

Clearly blogs aren't like magazine. But I think they are closer to that format than to the format most forum based pages follow.

Certainly there are posts where we want feedback. But also clearly we want feedback within the confines of a certain topic.

Now some people want something a little more free wheeling. That's fine. Setting up a blog is easy to do. I think if your blog becomes popular you'll quickly run up against the same issues we have. But it all depends upon what you want. There's no shortage of places to go and discuss. Why try and make every blog into an image of what you like?

Stephen said...

Wow, even with the deleted comments, this is a record sort of comment thread.

I think that if people had more time, and if they were not reacting to specific attempts to set bait, you might see different editing of posts.

As always, context makes some significant differences.

But, let us have some kindness for the lawyers or at least the mediators. ;)

D-Train said...

Not having tons of readers, we don't ever have to delete anything at UoM. We've had some stupid people come by and flame Mormonism in days past. My response was simply to answer the concerns and put up a post that mocked their argumentative inadequacies. I don't think that's a workable strategy for a big blog like M*, just because you'd have to do that a little too much. The guy that came by and zinged us never showed up again after my somewhat self-righteous polemic was posted.

Here's an idea for the M* folk: why not stick all of the deleted comments in one thread/article/whatever that's linked to on the sidebar? If people want a discussion along the lines that M* sees fit, they can read the edited threads. If people don't want to know/care why anything's been edited, they don't have to look. People that are concerned can look and easily see why something was removed and then make their own judgments. If you're planning on keeping those comments, that seems a reasonable way to handle it.

My two cents.

Wendy said...

I just got deleted on Times and Seasons. I didn't know I was so controversial. My offending post, preceded by a quote:

"There are only a handful of majestic, powerful images of Joseph Smith in this book, such as the scene where he orders the prison guards silent on pain of death lest they continue their blasphemy, obscene jests, and filthy language. Why are there not more “faith-promoting stories” in Rough Stone Rolling?”

Bullying and death threats by Joseph are “majestic” and “faith-promoting”? Yikes!

NFlanders said...

You obviously don't know your own strength.

Anyway, I predict they'll keep comments on a very tight leash on that thread, since presumably Bushman could be popping in. (He's got to have better stuff to do, though, right?) This is the equivalent of being asked to play upstairs while the guests are over.

Wendy said...

Well, it looks like my comment was restored at some point. Maybe I'm just on probation. ;-D

Did you see that Julie is back for The Gauntlet 2? Should make for more heartburn-fueled posts. However, she was on her best behavior for the first episode.

Anonymous said...

"2) I hate songs about being a singer, movies about making movies, and books where the protagonist is a novelist. Likewise, comments about commenting. Rather than distracting huffing and puffing, I prefer soft-voiced big scissors. If "discussion" in itself is the attraction of a web log, then I'd rather read something else."

This I wholeheartedly agree with. Like threadjacking, though, this is one of the major points of disagreement.

The suggestion about having a thread for deletions is interesting.

NFlanders said...

I forgot that the Gauntlet is back, Wendy. I'll set my Tivo. Man, I hate Julie, though.

Steve EM said...

Well, M* can't be that bad. They haven't banned me yet, unlike most the nacle. As far as editing/deleting, Snarkey is the most frequent.