February 13, 2005

I Suppose I’ll Reply Here

Posted in General at 5:09 pm by Ian

I’ve now twice been involved in discussions of posts on other blogs that have been arbitrarily removed or restricted by the site owner. In the first case, after speaking with the owner, we reached a compromise: the comments were reposted along with a note that requested no more comments on that topic, and future posts on which no comments were desired would be marked as such. I had hoped that this was an isolated event, but now that the second case just occurred on another site, I feel I must subject you all to a brief tirade on the subject of proper commenting manners (attempting to channel Judith Martin, except of course that she would never foist her opinion on others without their request):

While excercising editorial control over the content of your websites is entirely your prerogative, it is incumbent on you to make these editorial policies clear. While you are certainly empowered to surround yourselves with sycophantic posters, kindly inform your readership of this before starting, as some of us would prefer not to play that role. Removing comments that are abusive or spammy elevates the level of discourse, and is encouraged. Removing or restricting comments because you don’t agree with them is intellectually cowardly. Posting a response yourself and then removing the ability to comment is the blogospheric equivalent of sticking one’s fingers in one’s ears and singing: “La la la, I am not list-en-ing.”



  1. Evan said,

    As one of the odious malefactors responsible for the above tirade, I feel a response is needed here. In a post on this page called ‘peering into the abyss’, I was writing about myself. Somthing someone had said to me resonated in such a way that I needed to write it out. This decision wasn’t arbitrary, or made with the goal of creating ‘sycophantic posters’. I did it because it was, for me, the equivalent to thinking out loud. For further and more detailed background on the issue at hand, see the comments section of the post “milkandcookies apple switch ad”. I do, however, understand Ian’s point about fingers in ears. If the intent of a blog is to invite comment, then editing comments you don’t like is dumb. As a reader, however, make sure you’re not foisting your opinion on others without their request, something Judith Martin would probably appreciate.

  2. Ian said,

    Thanks for the response. I figured that you and the other blog owner would respond here, but I didn’t identify you because the purpose was not really to point fingers at you specifically but to point out what I saw as a disturbing trend.

    I agree that comments should not be posted if they aren’t wanted. But the burden doesn’t fall on the reader. A link that says “Comment on this” at the bottom of a post and a history of comments being openly accepted is all the invitation one needs.

  3. Evan said,

    While I agree with your statement that a history of comments being accepted is a strong invitation, stating that “the burden doesn’t fall on the reader” might be overstating the case of the reader. While it is the blogger’s responsibility to make clear their intentions, especially if they should change (which I should have done and didn’t do), it is also important that the reader, especially of personal blogs instead of mass online publications, read with a sense of context. No-body (-blogger?) is perfect, as no reader is perfect. Any community can only thrive when there is a shared responsibility for tenor and direction of interaction, be it online or in person.

  4. Evan Doty said,

    I must agree that the (entire) burden doesn’t fall on the reader; in fact, most of it is on the blogger. Especially in the case of a change or deviation from standard posting/commenting proceedure (something I should have done, and didn’t.) At the same time, there is an element of responsible readership involved. When a post obviously isn’t a discussion oriented post, or the replies to the post aren’t relevant to the full subject of the post, then the reader has violated the implicit read/response pact. Foisting all responsibility on the blogger is dodging any personal responsibility on the part of the responder.

  5. Ian said,

    Willfully disregarding a post that obviously isn’t meant for comment is definitely asshattery on the part of the commenter. But I’m pretty hard-pressed to say what “obviously not meant for comment” is, unless the blogger says so or disables comments.

  6. Evan said,

    I think that a request for-comment-post and a not-for-comment post are substantively different, but I can see how there would be confusion. I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree, as per the usual. -smiling- And I’ll have to be more explicit in my posting.

  7. Mama said,

    Whoa don’t mess with you. I, myself tend to put my fingers in my ears and sing La-la-la I’m not lis-ten-ing. I am such a coward. It is so tough to see it in print. On the other hand the first step in solving a problem is recognizing it. Well written. Love ya, Mama

  8. Dan said,

    Anyone who would like to can read the discourse which was referred to, and decide for themselves what was/was not “intellectually cowardly”.

  9. Ian said,

    Thanks for the invitation and link.

    To be fair, though, I compared your behavior to “sticking one’s fingers in one’s ears and singing: ‘La la la, I am not list-en-ing.'” 😉

  10. Victor said,

    My 2-cents:
    Ian, you should remove whatever’s stuck up your ass. From reading Dan’s entry, my conclusion is that the main point was on how people get worked up over small issues and ignore the bigger ones, which I think you demonstrated quite nicely by lambasting Dan on a minor point. I saw no significant difference in opinion between you two and yet you insisted on arguing with him. Dan’s point about how you ignored 90% of arguments is valid and I think he had a right to end the discussion on that point.

  11. Ian said,

    Thanks for your input.

    I’m not sure what you mean by “minor point” though, and the 90% figure is pure hyperbole. Do you really think my three paraphrased points didn’t capture most of his argument?

    And I have no idea where you got the idea that we have no difference of opinion on this. We have a huge difference of opinion.

    Anyone else want to weigh in.

  12. Kyle said,

    My 2 cents:
    Although in general I would agree that blocking future comments in a thread that has turned into a debate like this seems cowardly, in this particular instance it seemed a logical thing to do. Neither of you were convincing the other, nor would you let the thread die for fear of the appearance that the other one would appear to have “won” the argument. The only real thing to do in this instance – where you both seemed to rephrase your initial argument several different ways and get pretty much nowhere – is to say exactly that: this is getting nowhere, there’s no point in continuing.

    Maybe blocking future comments was a step too far, simply not bothering to respond any further might have been a better option, but I certainly don’t see what happened as something to be upset/disturbed/whatever about.

  13. Ian said,

    I sorta thought we were just getting started. But, then, I’m sort of used to message boards with 100-post debates.

    The lack of anyone stepping up to support my opinion is pretty telling, though, that no one agrees with me on this one. I think that’s unfortunate, but I’m not sure how to convince you otherwise. Clearly debate won’t do it 😉

  14. Adam said,

    For what it’s worth I actually agree with you (original argument), but in arguments like this (expecially where the groundwork has been clearly laid on both sides) there is little chance of convincing the other person. So further argument serves little purpose once you’ve that point.

  15. Victor said,

    Not sure if this is still relevant, but

  16. Ian said,

    What a bizarre ruling. As though there were a non-“overtly religious reason” to display the Ten Commandments.

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