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Debate 2: Lassez Faire v. Big Brother

Smart Bitches and Dear Author has seen it share of fearsome comment debates. Some of the commenting debates are prompted by the blog posts and some by the commenters themselves. We took a look at our positions on moderating blog comments. We would love to hear what commenters think on this issue.

Sarah:

We’d talked about discussing (which is like setting up a task force to form a committee ew ew ew) the role of the Blog Owner when the comments get fractious, especially when there’s a thread that’s on fire, literally. Sometimes there’s heated discussion, and sometimes people don’t argue fairly, and then there’s times when the discussion as a whole takes a right turn in Albuquerque and heads off into directions unknown.

On one hand, my first thought is, “We’ve strayed sufficiently off-topic and this is beginning to disintegrate into bluster and yelling with no one reading and thinking before they fly off and post a comment. Also, I haven’t had enough coffee yet.” Then I ponder whether saying anything is appropriate.

On the other hand, this is not abnormal, as there are those that stir the pot du poop with alacrity and enjoy doing so. And moveover, SBTB’s commenters have often been a erudite, self-policing bunch. However, that self-policing does have a limit, and I wonder at times what the limit is, and when it’s reached.

How far is too far when people stop thinking afore they post? And do we have a responsibility to address the situation when that happens? Do I step in and say “Everyone calm down!” just because a few people are making statements that are bound to make other people see red? Or do I let this play out because, let’s face it, in “real life” few people know how to handle conflict anymore?

I think I’ve mentioned this but there’s a blog devoted to, of all boring subjects, my town in NJ, which gets very VERY heated, and they’ve had to put a disclaimer that says, “YOU are responsible for your posts, and the content thereof.” My reaction was, “You seriously had to TELL people that?!” but it seems the blog owners were repeatedly called out on the site and elsewhere for not appropriately toning the discussions down to a less confrontational level. Jeeez.

The question of how one employs consistency is a big one. There’s often a point in really fractious discussions wherein I think the tone has gotten so cranky on the current thread that most of the regular voices of reasoned debate have gone elsewhere, but still the discussion is still interesting and worth having, if people can keep their cans of whoop ass relatively unfizzy.

There is a fine difference in host conduct, though: am I moderating or am I refereeing?

Moderating to me implies that I’m going to edit/delete/remove posts or sanction the poster.

Refereeing to me implies that I’m going to say, “Foul! Unnecessary use of the word ‘assmonkey!’ Five yard penalty! First down!”

Of course, my analogy falls apart when it comes to throwing a player out of the game for calling the ref a “cocksucker.”

Jane:

Interestingly I was looking at the topic of forum host responsibility this am. The courts have generally said we aren’t responsible so it seems to be an issue of moral correctness. And then I think who am I to be the one to impose my idea of rightness on anyone else. How do you employ any consistency? Is it better to err on the side of laissez faire so that everyone can have their say? Do we provide a docile atmosphere and possibly chill heated but important debate?

I think consistency is the biggest challenge. On the one hand, if your feelings are easily hurt why come and debate. On the other handwhy can’t certain commentors control themselves? I think that no matter what someone is going to be unhappy whether you moderate or choose not to. The question becomes, then, who do you make unhappy?

Isn't it amazing how everyone hates the contentious arguments but weirdly they all get the highest amounts of hits and comments.

For the record, Dear Author has deleted and edited only a few comments. I think it would be under five. We haven’t deleted posts even if we regret them because part of blogging is a learning process and we wouldn’t learn anything if we revised our history.

Candy:
Some people seem really, really indignant that we don’t moderate more; others think we’re malicious biznitches when we disagree strongly with a commenter’s position and highlight as much by using the comment into a separate post. Some clarification seems to be in order, so here’s our not-especially-official stance when it comes to running our site:

Editing comments
We almost never edit comments. What you say, stands. If you said something that made you sound like an asshole, too bad. If you want to take it back, feel free to do so further down the line. You can say almost anything you like here, and that runs the gamut from agreeing with us fangirlishly to telling us bitches WE’VE GONE TOO FAR and need to be banned from the Internets.

Seriously, those of you who cry about how mistreated you’ve been on this board should take a look at some of the things people have said about us in the comments section and that we’ve allowed to remain. When it comes down to it, we don’t believe in suppressing dissent, even if the dissent is phrased as a personal attack. My personal philosophy tends to be this: That the remedy for bad speech (read: opinions I disagree with–or even find downright repugnant) is not moderation, but MORE speech. I won’t shut you down, but I’ll sure as shit talk you to death, or watch somebody else do it.

I do find it ironic that the two people I’ve noticed making the most noise about inadequate moderation and who have advocated that we either pull or heavily edit comments and posts are self-declared libertarian types. What the fuck, yo?

That said, we do occasionally tweak comments for the following reasons, should we catch them:

1. There was bad HTML.
2. There was some sort of egregious grammatical error, and the commenter asked us pretty please to correct it for them. (This is really rare.)
3. Somebody is using us to promote themselves in a completely inappropriate context.

The one time I threatened to edit comments that verged into personal attack? Didn’t get around to it. Dudes, it’s a LOT of work, and I really, really can’t be arsed.

We also almost never, ever delete comments. The two reasons Sarah and I have deleted comments in the past:

1. It was spam.

2. It contained sensitive personal information.

Editing posts
We will occasionally edit our posts extensively. The reasons we have done so:

1. We got something wrong.

2. We accidentally posted sensitive personal information.

3. We accidentally left something important out.

4. There’s an update to events that didn’t merit its own post.

Whenever we do so, we make it really, really clear that we’ve edited the post.

We have never, EVER pulled a post entirely–not even when we feel embarrassed by what we said, or when we were met with widespread disapproval, or even when we’re wrong. This is not to say that we won’t do it some time down the line, but remember what we said above about not taking down comments even though the commenter looks like an asshole? Yeah, that applies for us, too. (More to me than Sarah, because I’m far, far more obnoxious than Sarah tends to be.)

On closing down the comments
Sometimes, the comments section gets fractious. This is not a bad thing. We like fractiousness. That said, Sarah and I have agreed to close comment threads on a couple of different occasions. They were:

1. A couple of years ago, when the Monica Jackson/AAR slapfest started up in our comments board, and really, we didn’t want to take part in that particular trainwreck.

2. The 600+ comment thread on costumes once it was derailed started to get REALLY ugly.

On disagreement and dissent
It’s not about you.

No, really. It’s not about you.

It’s about your opinion. I don’t know you. I’m not, to be perfectly honest, especially interested in YOU, unless we happen to become on-line buddies. I am, however, interested in what you have to say.

I cuss. A lot. Holy fuckmonkeys, do I ever. I’m also not especially kind or patient. I often sound brusque, because I’m short on time and/or attention. But I can tell you this: when I disagree with you, I will address your comments, even if I couch it in personal terms, like “You have a mean way with a false dichotomy.” I will not speculate on your motive for saying or doing something (“OMG UR SO MEAN U NEED 2 GET LAID MORE LOLOLOLOL,” etc.) because that crosses all sorts of lines for me. When I call somebody a douchebag, I am almost always a) addressing a fictional construct, like a character (either in the story or as represented on the cover by a model), or b) talking about an opinion or a type of attitude in general, and not a person in particular.

The one time I can remember breaking this personal rule was during the whole Gail Northman scandal, when people were hysterically bidding us GOODBYE 4-EVA, and I couldn’t resist poking a little fun at them.

Honestly, I really enjoy the fact that we have such a lively community of readers and commenters. Sarah occasionally steps in when things get a little crazy, but given what opinionated bitches we are as a whole, our disagreements have been largely civil, with only a few notable exceptions.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

48 Comments

  1. Jennifer McKenzie
    Sep 04, 2007 @ 06:45:00

    I like how some topics that seem benign, morph into something huge and discussion ensues.
    Frankly, I don’t expect Dear Author or Smart Bitches to moderate my online behavior. If I say something, I’m responsible. And I’ve learned from making online mistakes.
    Okay, I’m going to start breaking into song now–”Don’t go changin’…..”

  2. Erastes
    Sep 04, 2007 @ 06:45:49

    I think a moderator should only step in when insulting behaviour starts. I haven’t read through all of the posts on yesterday’s discussion, and yes, it got a little off -topic but when you have a discussion blog, then you’ve got to expect that. If not you’ve got to draw a serious line in the sand as to what become Off Topic and what doesn’t. I think the questioning of EPIC and other fee-charging Authors “Representatives” was a damned good one because it made me go and look HARD at what these services actually do – and it wasn’t just EPIC which made me realise “not very much actually” and some UK services were 10 times more guilty of that, charging £150 a year for very little.

    Discussion should be calm, as logical as possible and as polite as possible. The moment anyone starts getting personal, or insulting then that’s when they get booted off.

    I encourage healthy debate in my Blog, anyone is perfectly welcome to disagree with whatever opionated clap-trap I come up with, but if they don’t do it politely – along the lines of a school debating club – then they aren’t tolerated, and it won’t be me who slaps the flamers down, more often than not.

    I think that in the case of yesterday, the professionals could have been a little more professional instead of defensive – that would have helped keep matters calm.

    Back to moderation, nah. only in cases of blatent insult and pointless name-calling, or defamatory libel. Not opinions, because that’s all they are.

  3. Nora Roberts
    Sep 04, 2007 @ 07:01:38

    The blogs work. A lot of information, opinion and discussion on both are covered. If any of us screw up and other posters call us on it, we should deal.

  4. Jennifer McKenzie
    Sep 04, 2007 @ 07:13:54

    The blogs work. A lot of information, opinion and discussion on both are covered. If any of us screw up and other posters call us on it, we should deal.

    LOL. Just did that. Sometimes other posters make a comment and I go back and read my own comments. If I think I may have gone too far or stepped over a line, I put on my big girl panties and fess up.
    I like discussion. It usually brings out information. Sometimes I have to wade through the crap to get it, but it’s worth it to me.

  5. Bev Stephans
    Sep 04, 2007 @ 07:29:42

    Voltaire said it best: “I may not agree with what you are saying but I will defend to the death your right to say it”!

  6. Angela James
    Sep 04, 2007 @ 08:14:25

    I really hate this idea that a group of adults (which I’m assuming most of us are) can’t moderate or be responsible for their own behavior. Why is it up to the blog owner to tell someone they’re being an assmonkey or that they’re crossing the line of basic human decency? That gets me as much as someone who lets their kid jump around in a cart at Walmart suing Walmart when their kids falls out and cracks their skull.

    Seriously, I know I’m responsible for everything I say. I’d love to blame it on Jane/Sarah/Candy (or any other blog/message board owner) because they post such meaningful topics that I get horribly passionate about what I’m typing, but the truth is, if I can’t moderate myself, I don’t have any business posting. In the end, only I am responsible for my own behavior, online or IRL, I don’t expect the people who provide the forum for us all to come together and have a conversation to be responsible for me or anyone else.

    *stepping off soapbox* That said, there have been times when I wish a blog/forum owner would accidentally block an IP address or make the commenter just *poof* disappear because I don’t want to have to read one more comment from them. Actually, I’ll bet people have wished the same about me ;)

  7. francois
    Sep 04, 2007 @ 08:15:50

    People go a little nuts sometimes, but thats representative of the real world and I don’t object to it even if I do object to the views expressed. I dislike factual inaccuracies, but that too can be a grey area…

  8. Ann Bruce
    Sep 04, 2007 @ 08:25:53

    Voltaire said it best: “I may not agree with what you are saying but I will defend to the death your right to say it�!

    Hear, hear, Bev!

    We’re adults and as adults we should be able to handle the backlash of our actions–or comments, as they may be. If you can’t handle it, don’t post it.

  9. Jennifer B
    Sep 04, 2007 @ 08:55:45

    Agreeing with Nora Roberts here. No moderation. The blogs work. I appreciate the information, insight, etc. and avoid the bullshit when it flares (or try to, most of the time).

    Despite that stance on moderation, I will say that the flame wars playing out in comments of late have been embarrassing–for the romance blogging community in general. And, as a blog reader, I lose out when they occur–simply because I choose not to wade through the shit. I’m sure I’m missing out on some good posts every time I veer away from a fave blog (under siege) for more than a few days.

  10. Shiloh Walker
    Sep 04, 2007 @ 09:35:01

    I don’t think moderation should be necessary. Most of the people on these blogs are grown-ups and should act as such. A great many of them are industry professionals, meaning they are supposed to be professionals…(cough, cough) and when they comment, they should remember that.

    This isn’t grade school where the teacher should feel the need to watch over every little thing we do. Somebody screws up, they need to own up to it and then move on. Heaven knows I’ve had to do it more than once.

  11. Darlene Marshall
    Sep 04, 2007 @ 10:54:20

    You learn quickly which blogs are worth checking every day and which ones are a drive-by, at best. I believe that in the “freemarket” of blogging the quality will win out at those blogs frequented by bright, erudite people. This blog is an example of how that theory works in practice, and I’m content to let the SBs and Ja(y)nes continue to moderate lightly, if at all.

  12. Charlene Teglia
    Sep 04, 2007 @ 11:39:59

    I’m in favor of non-moderation, except in the case of trolls and spammers, who deserve to get deleted. Angie said it very well, I’m responsible for my own words, not the blog owner.

  13. Octavia
    Sep 04, 2007 @ 12:17:36

    IME as a dedicated lurker at a variety of blogs, the most important predictor of a productive comment section on a blog is the participation of the blogger(s) in the comments threads, not as a moderater, per se, but simply as an active presence on the blog. Having the blogger around seems to encourage voluntary moderation of comments and discourage trolling and flaming, maybe because it reminds people that they’re interacting with other humans, not just pixels on a screen. Plus, it creates the sort of fun collegiality that encourages commenters to stick around and create a self-moderating community. But it does take a lot of time and effort on the part of the blogger to create this sort of an environment, as well as a certain cool-headedness and dedication to fair-mindedness that some bloggers seem to find difficult to achieve. The results are really worth it, though, as shown by the success of this blog and SBTB.

    Also, Candy’s point that it’s not about you, it’s about your opinion, is a really important one, and it’s unfortunate that some commenters seem to have a very hard time understanding that distinction. But as long as the bloggers themselves keep that in mind, things tend to work out in the end.

  14. Jane
    Sep 04, 2007 @ 12:25:22

    Octavia – how interesting you should post about blogger participation because I was actually going to make a quick comment on that. There are days in which we post something and our real jobs interfere with regular participation like today (I only have my lunch period to check emails today before I have to back and do real work) or on Sunday (when I was reading the comments on my phone whilst spending the holiday with family). Because we abide by a somewhat rigid schedule on DA, I wonder if we have an obligation to post topics which may be inflammatory at a time when we can participate on a greater level.

    Of course, it is often hard to say which topics are going to be inflammatory and what are not. I also wonder if blogger participation is in some way a moderation of the discussion in and of itself. I.e., are we influencing the organic development of the conversation by inserting our previously stated opinions? It’s something to think about.

  15. Karen Scott
    Sep 04, 2007 @ 13:01:44

    Moderate schmoderate.

    Who the hell has the time? I blog as a hobby. If somebody wants to pay me to watch over a bunch of adults who should be able to control themselves better, then fine, but until then, people can say whatever they want.

    Having said that, I do delete comments, and verbally smack people every now and again, but that only happens to really, really special people. I generally reserve my ‘jumped up twat’ line for people who personally annoy me, rather than for moderating purposes though, so I’m not even sure that counts.

    I can probably count on one hand how many comments I’ve deleted in the past two-and-a-half years. The most recent being when I was trying to get rid of a particularly annoying infestation that seemed hell-bent on taking over my blog.

    People have to take responsibility for their own comments, and as long as it doesn’t veer into racial abuse/homophobic territory, it’s all good.

    As for the blogger actively participating, it’s great in theory, but hard to adhere to in practice, due to the fact that most of us have lives outside Blogland.

    Personally speaking, I only comment on my own blog if, A, I have time, B, have something to say, or C, if I want to respond to a particular comment.

    By the way, who says moderation always works anyway? I’ve been on some moderated groups that were totally out of control.

  16. DS
    Sep 04, 2007 @ 13:04:42

    Both this blog and SBs are remarkably well behaved for some of the hot buttom topics that come up. I admit to dropping out of the Costume thread before it reached the 600 post mark, but it wasn’t near the Quick Ban Someone stage (up to the point I stopped reading).

    I favor low to no moderation; and I happen to like watching things heat up, even if I don’t have a dog in the hunt.

  17. SB Sarah
    Sep 04, 2007 @ 13:25:10

    Of course, it is often hard to say which topics are going to be inflammatory and what are not.

    This is so true. I know that when I happen to check my gmail account from my phone and see a heaping TON of messages on a thread that I didn’t expect to get so many, I feel kind of bad that I can’t step back in and respond.

    However, I also think much of the time that the commenters don’t necessarily want to hear from me again – unless they ask questions or call me out on something I’ve said – because I already said my piece in the entry itself. Clarification and correction to an entry, as Candy said, I totally do and will mark it as such. But I rarely comment anywhere, including on my own site. It’s bashful habit, but hard to break!

  18. Dance Chica
    Sep 04, 2007 @ 13:25:57

    One of the reasons I'm attracted to the blog community so much is because it doesn't practice active censoring and moderating in the sense that some message boards and other online communities do; I like that it allows one the freedom to say what they like, even if what is said is not a favored opinion, or it makes others feel animated. I don't usually participate in hot debates because I'm just not the type to jump in and swing around my opinions (I much prefer to read and contemplate interesting topics on the sidelines), but I admire those who do and I appreciate the open environment blogs like this one have created for active participants and lurkers alike.

  19. TeddyPig
    Sep 04, 2007 @ 14:01:15

    Nah Angela,

    You and Nora Roberts have the best comments and they are always well thought out, no cussing and hard to disagree with.

    I’d still pay good money to watch you two mud wrestle at the next RWA convention. Sunday Sunday Sunday only. See the well mannered ladies who give good comment duke it out for the title.

  20. Jennifer McKenzie
    Sep 04, 2007 @ 14:22:42

    I'd still pay good money to watch you two mud wrestle at the next RWA convention. Sunday Sunday Sunday only. See the well mannered ladies who give good comment duke it out for the title.

    give good comment. Heh heh. That sounds so……bad. But in a good way.

  21. Gail K.
    Sep 04, 2007 @ 18:26:08

    While I do enjoy visiting several blogs with some regularity and for varying levels of amusement I think the act of starting and maintaining a blog is inherently narcissistic behavior. Blog owners actively court internet traffic. They post entries *in order to* garner attention and generate commentary. If you can’t be bothered to participate in your own comment threads, then what’s the point of having comments open and watching a thread lengthen, silently. More ego-stroking? I’m not for active moderation but I *am* for having a blog owner’s presence be readily visible in a controversy that he/she sparked and was likely very happy to spark, however inadvertently.

  22. Ann Bruce
    Sep 04, 2007 @ 18:34:05

    I'd still pay good money to watch you two mud wrestle at the next RWA convention.

    Cage fighting! And the only rule: THERE ARE NO RULES!

  23. veinglory
    Sep 04, 2007 @ 18:34:50

    I think horrible personal insults should go if only because a thread only goes down hill from there, but that’s about it.

  24. Angela James
    Sep 04, 2007 @ 18:48:16

    I’d totally get distracted by Nora’s shoes, because she’s always got fabulous shoes on (next year I’m doing a days of Nora’s shoes blogging journal at RWA, just wait and see), and the fight would be over in seconds. She’d have a completely unfair advantage ;)

  25. Kat
    Sep 04, 2007 @ 20:54:48

    Blog owners actively court internet traffic. They post entries *in order to* garner attention and generate commentary.
    I don’t think this is necessarily true. Some bloggers just want to say what they think, and it so happens that others like to read what they say, so they build up an audience and word gets around. I question the assumption that higher blog traffic is the goal for all (even most) amateur bloggers.

    I think most blogs with an active community are self-moderating. It’s possible, however, that the majority of readers will be skewed to one side of an argument. Is that necessarily bad? I don’t think so, but if you’re on the disagreeing side, you have to be aware that when you jump in, you’ll be in the minority. Some people seem to deal with that better than others.

    The best moderated blog I read is The Whatever by John Scalzi. I rarely notice any moderation and there’s still a lot of room for debate and discussion. I particularly like his comment policy. Even when I’ve seen him delete comments, he’ll replace them with a one-line explanation with an offer for the commenter to try again if they wish (e.g. “Deleted for being a smart arse. Feel free to try again.” or something like that but much more clever!).

  26. Gail K.
    Sep 04, 2007 @ 21:01:48

    Blog owners actively court internet traffic. They post entries *in order to* garner attention and generate commentary.

    I don't think this is necessarily true. Some bloggers just want to say what they think, and it so happens that others like to read what they say, so they build up an audience and word gets around. I question the assumption that higher blog traffic is the goal for all (even most) amateur bloggers.

    Um, then why don’t bloggers confine themselves to scribbling away in their diaries or whatever for their eyes only, then, if all they want is an outlet for their ideas/opinions. They want people to *respond* to their ideas/opinions.

  27. anu439
    Sep 04, 2007 @ 21:17:57

    And what do posters want?

  28. Kat
    Sep 04, 2007 @ 21:32:35

    Um, then why don't bloggers confine themselves to scribbling away in their diaries or whatever for their eyes only, then, if all they want is an outlet for their ideas/opinions. They want people to *respond* to their ideas/opinions.

    Speaking personally, I prefer to blog because I’m lazy: typing is easier than writing, using Blogger is easier than installing a blogging app on my PC, and I can tell my friends overseas to read my blog instead of having to bombard them with e-mails.

    Yes, I like interacting with people and blogging lets me do that. But the way I “court” traffic to my blog is not by posting controversial topics but by visiting other blogs, commenting and finding people who have the same interests that I do. You seem to be assuming that only the most negative topics will draw traffic. I know that’s not true. The most traffic I’ve ever had on my blog were from posts on JR Ward’s books, an embedded video that was funny as hell, and a link from another blog that is totally unrelated to books (or controversies). So I don’t know–maybe saying that negative posts are courting traffic says more about a reader than the blogger. Because I’ve also seen lots of blog posts with negative/controversial posts that get no comments. Why is that?

    I’m not questioning your assumption that blogging is narcissistic because it probably is (for me, anyway), but to say that our goal is to drive up traffic is, I think, not always true. Maybe if I were earning money off blogging, but not when I’m only doing it for fun (or to break even).

    I should also mention that I’ve seen potentially controversial comment threads die a quick death when responded to in a calm, coherent way. Though this doesn’t happen often enough. And there are a lot of bloggers out there who disable comments, so obviously, they’re motivated by something other than reader responses.

  29. Gail K.
    Sep 04, 2007 @ 22:19:59

    And what do posters want?

    Speaking for this poster only, I want to engage other people in online *conversations* on topics of mutual interest, whether these people share my viewpoint or not. Tone can be warm, civil, sarcastic, humorous, condescending, whatever. I don’t really care. The whole point of being online is to interact with others, no? Which is a two-way street. So that includes, IMO, a blog owner participating in her own comment thread on a topic she has deemed worthy enough to post an entry about.

    My essential take on “high-profile” blogger behavior is this: It is a bit disingenuous of them to cry, oh boo-hoo, woe is me, why won’t people just play nicely in my sandbox, when the very sandbox they’ve set up encourages the rugrats, who for the most part *do* play nicely, to sometimes throw sand in each other’s faces.

    My current favorite blog to read is one that a real life friend is maintaining while she is essentially traveling, solo, around the world. We get to keep up with her adventures and photos and more importantly, know that she is alive and doing well. It is by invite-only and serves a *purpose.*

  30. April
    Sep 04, 2007 @ 22:39:16

    Um, then why don't bloggers confine themselves to scribbling away in their diaries or whatever for their eyes only, then, if all they want is an outlet for their ideas/opinions. They want people to *respond* to their ideas/opinions.

    Kat responded pretty much along the same vein as I would have. I’ve been journaling since I was nine or ten and “blogging” since before the word “blog” was coined, and actually, I started off with the comments feature turned off, turning it on only because many of my readers asked me to.

    I don’t blog for traffic, though the traffic’s nice sometimes. I blog because it’s a handy place to post my creative play, and if my friends and family want to know what’s new with me, I never have to repeat myself; I simply send them a link to my latest post.

    And it’s true that you can’t always predict what will get people to respond. The most comments I ever got (over 60) was on a throwaway post about my hair, while some of what I thought were my best work got no comments at all. Ah, blogging. No rhyme nor reason.

  31. Shiloh Walker
    Sep 04, 2007 @ 22:43:55

    Blog owners actively court internet traffic. They post entries *in order to* garner attention and generate commentary.

    That’s not exactly why I blog. Yeah, it’s good for promo and all, but I mainly do it as a writing exercise. Getting into the habit of some sort of daily writing helps give me more discipline in my work-writing. Something that PBW suggested and it has helped.

    More, blogging can be fun. I don’t know that I necessarily ‘court’ traffic. I don’t post anything controversial because I don’t have the time to keep up with it and still write, plus I’m too lazy to deal with it. I don’t really promote my blog much either.

    There are different reasons to blog~not everybody cares all that much about garnering attention. Yeah, I like commentary but even if I didn’t get it, I’d keep on doing it. I’ve gotten to like it.

  32. K. Z. Snow
    Sep 04, 2007 @ 23:58:11

    Hell, everybody needs to vent. (I suspect even Thomas Merton vented in his own way.) You got a mind, opinions come with it. No blog has ever really bothered me–there are too many other, and far more important, things in life to be bothered about. Besides, the doofuses can be entertaining . . . and, if you’re patient enough to slice through the baloney, sometimes thought-provoking.

    Narcissistic behavior? Shit, yeah, to one degree or another. There’s not much we do that can’t be thus categorized, Nora’s choice of shoes included. (Please, just don’t throw one at me!)

  33. Nora Roberts
    Sep 05, 2007 @ 06:13:14

    Mmmm. Shoes.

    But I’d take them off the wrestle.

    As a poster, I like to read opinions and comments on topics that hold some interest for me. If I have an opinion, I like to add mine. I enjoy the interaction, the different takes on the same topics.

    I have no desire to blog myself–pretty sure it would feel like work, and I get paid when I work. Plus I don’t have enough to say about any particular thing on a regular basis. But I’m glad others blog, so I can benefit from it.

  34. Jane
    Sep 05, 2007 @ 08:19:59

    I think that starting a blog is inherently narcissistic behavior. I know that when I began DA a year and a half ago, it was because I wanted to be heard and I wanted to talk about issues in the romance industry that interested me.

    I think that one reason that a blog owner might not participate to a large degree in the comment thread is a) of skewing the conversation and b) the time involved. I.e., it takes a long time to create an opinion piece, a review or whatnot and by the time that the discussion is open for comments, the blog article author has kind of “shot her wad”.

  35. Gail K.
    Sep 05, 2007 @ 09:27:06

    I think that starting a blog is inherently narcissistic behavior. I know that when I began DA a year and a half ago, it was because I wanted to be heard and I wanted to talk about issues in the romance industry that interested me.

    Thank you, Jane, for saying that. There’s nothing wrong with being narcissitic or a narcissist. Just admit it. I’m probably one too cuz I can’t seem to shut up on message boards for the past 3 months or so. I’m just too lazy to start my own blog. ;)

  36. Robin
    Sep 05, 2007 @ 10:56:27

    Well, if bloggers are inherently narcissistic, I’d submit that so are posters, teachers, television chefs from Julia Child to Jacques Pepin, lawyers, scientists, the surgeon general, academics of every discipline, politicians and elected officials from school board members to congressmen, agents, editors, authors, ballerinas, law enforcement officers, screenwriters, cover artists, graphic artists, fine artists — anybody, really, who plays a role in a public forum, who speaks publicly, who carries any authority, who “wants to be heard.” Psychologically speaking, narcissism is a personality disorder, an excessive level of self-absorption and self-centeredness. Frankly, I think narcissists make some of the worst bloggers, because everything revolves around them, and conversation is difficult to engage. They can also make some of the best, however, if they are clever and entertaining in their self-presentation. I’m not saying that bloggers are inherently free of personality disorders, just that to me desiring or wanting a public voice isn’t inherently narcissistic.

  37. RfP
    Sep 05, 2007 @ 11:54:22

    I think the act of starting and maintaining a blog is inherently narcissistic behavior. Blog owners actively court internet traffic. They post entries *in order to* garner attention and generate commentary.

    There’s certainly an element of narcissism. Obviously so in personal blogs, and even blogs that have an external focus can take on a narcissistic tone. But one could argue that simply participating in conversation is in part narcissistic.

    Some of my reasons for starting a blog:

    • It’s a kind of writing I don’t do elsewhere.
    • I like discussing things.
    • Some of the blogs I comment on have real “communities”. In that setting, it seems only fair to put some of my thoughts out there so anyone who cares can get a sense of where I’m coming from.
    • It gives me a nice place to argue from. I can say “Go here for details” instead of hijacking someone else’s blog with my idea.
    • I grouse about both blogs and print putting a sharp divide between “genre” and “literary” fiction. I read both; I’d like to discuss both. So I should try it and see if there’s something inherently difficult about it.
    • I feel free to set my own pace. I don’t try to post frequently to provide constant diversions for my “readership”. Er, such as it is. (No offense, y’all y’oneortwo. You’re small quantity but high quality.)
    Ironically, I’m a little afraid of high traffic. I enjoy getting comments and discussing topics, but I’m amazed that the Ja(y)n*s manage to have lives, read books, and maintain a site this active!

  38. RfP
    Sep 05, 2007 @ 12:11:16

    Grr. I clicked by accident. What I was about to say:

    Given that I like discussion, I’m mostly for the bloggers participating and against moderating. I’ve seen forums and blogs where one commenter can stifle discussion and drive away others. It’s a pity, but in most cases I’ve found that preventing the occasional bad behavior isn’t worth imposing rules on everyone else.

    There are exceptions–there are plenty of crazies on the internet who can force a site into a harder stance on moderating.

    Some of the moderating style should depend on how the site presents itself. If the site’s all about one person being opinionated, I wouldn’t be surprised by an equally strong moderating style–if I choose to comment there, I can’t really take offense at being moderated. However, if the site claims to encourage open debate, I pay a lot more attention to their moderating style.

  39. April
    Sep 05, 2007 @ 12:17:04

    Exactly what Robin said. I don’t believe that blogging is inherently narcissistic. If it is, then anyone who has ever created anything for public consumption is inherently narcissistic. Or even babies are narcissistic … because even THEY seek some sort of response when they look at their mother’s faces and smile.

    Why can’t it simply be viewed that many of them just want to share? Or to communicate with others?

    I was on the net pre-Blogger days. Many of the bloggers I read didn’t even write much. They simply posted links to other sites. It was really just “web logging” as the original definition implies — where they would log the links on the web that they thought interesting. For readers, it was handy because some people had more knowledge of the web, so you were often introduced to new things.

    Still others, like Jeffrey Zeldman, would blog about certain strides in web standards, about new ways to design a site, et cetera. It was mostly as a service to other web designers … because at the time, only web professionals really frequented the net, and he was considered at the forefront of the industry. When he DID starting writing about himself (I think the first time was mostly to vent), he had such reader response to it (mostly via e-mail), as well as a demand for more, that he started doing it regularly. It made him human and approachable to many of his readers.

    When comments and karma ratings became a standard feature on many content management systems, bloggers realized that they could post more of what people wanted and less of what they didn’t want … because suddenly, they had feedback! They could cater better to those they served. Readers want more links to articles about Cascading StyleSheets? OK, we’ll post more of them then.

    What exactly is narcissistic about that?

    I’ll grant that the notion of blogging is a little different these days. Most people who start up a blog now don’t really do so to edify anyone or to share random web links. I guess many of them have discovered what blogs have been able to accomplish for its pioneers. But there are so many different reasons people blog now that you really can’t generalize it all to narcissistic behavior.

    Call any one of us bloggers narcissistic on an individual basis if you like, but not the entire group of us in a generalization. It isn’t fair to many bloggers out there.

    And the fact is … many of the old bloggers I used to read have actually shut off their comments after a while. As their popularity grew, they were getting far too many comments, and since their original purpose was either to vent anonymously or to publicly share a new way of designing a site, or what have you, and not to have a lively discussion, the reader response actually got in the way. And many of those who had tons and tons of traffic? They shut down after a while because they couldn’t pay for all the bandwidth. They had never intended their blogs to be anything more than what it was.

    Blogging is a medium. That’s all it is. The bloggers behind them are as varied as the people you meet on the street, and their blogs typically reflect that.

  40. Flo
    Sep 05, 2007 @ 12:54:58

    People need to learn to roll with the punches. If you didn’t want to read something that MAY or MAY NOT offend you, you would never open a book or a newspaper or a web page.

    We worry so much that we’ve “hurt” someone or stepped on someone’s “feelings” when in fact people just can’t deal with an opposing opinion anymore.

    You don’t have to hate the person. Just the opinion.

  41. Gail K.
    Sep 05, 2007 @ 14:00:58

    from http://psychologytoday.com/conditions/narcissistic.html

    “An individual with narcissistic personality disorder exhibits extreme self-importance, inability to empathize with others and heightened sensitivity to criticism. Self-involvement and lack of empathy characterize this personality disorder.

    People with narcissistic personality disorder are frequently perfectionists and need to be the center of attention, receiving affection and admiration, and controlling the situation. To get the attention he craves, he may try to create crises that return the focus to him. Like patients with antisocial personality disorder, this person places entitlement issues at the fore. He feels that the world owes him, regardless of whether he makes a contribution.”

    Certainly not ALL bloggers would qualify as narcissistic but reading that definition from above, it strikes me that yes, the narcissistic *would* and *are* drawn to the blogging medium.

  42. K. Z. Snow
    Sep 05, 2007 @ 14:03:52

    Nora, you wouldn’t have to take off your shoes to wrestle–or, hell, even to kill people–if you wore Nikes. You could even match their “swooshes” to your outfits. Ask Anita Blake.

    I agree, blogging can indeed be like work. But for authors still struggling for some shred of name recognition–and in this overpacked genre, that ain’t no piddling task–it’s necessary. Far as I’m concerned, the best way to approach it is to have some fun with it and, most important, try to connect on some personal level with readers.

  43. April
    Sep 05, 2007 @ 14:17:25

    LOL, I’m sorry. Having read that definition, I’m even less inclined to call even some bloggers (OK, maybe a tiny few and maybe even myself) narcissistic. But it’s too much like calling a blogger bipolar if they’re sad one day to lose a job and happy the next day because they were able to find a new one. I find that notion so amusing, I had to laugh out loud. :)

  44. K. Z. Snow
    Sep 05, 2007 @ 14:26:53

    I’ve no doubt blogs draw people with a whole variety of clinically diagnosable personality disorders . . . but no more so than, say, a Wal-Mart store. The term narcissism predates its modern psychological connotations. Traditionally flexible in its application, it can be either more or less perjorative than the “shrink-wrapped” term.

    April summed it up best: Blogging is just another medium. And it’s no more or less rife with narcissists, of whatever degree, than any other medium. People are simply social creatures with a built-in need to communicate.

  45. anu439
    Sep 05, 2007 @ 19:58:54

    Gail,

    I’m gonna flip between a couple of your comments.

    …the narcissistic *would* and *are* drawn to the blogging medium.

    That makes sense. As the medium with the fewest barriers to entry–anybody can put up a web page, blog, youtube vid, etc.—the Web attracts all kinds, and likely the largest percentage of narcissists over other forms of media.

    If you’re using the term in the colloquial sense, though, we’re all narcissists because we all—regardless of who blogs a topic and who responds to it–post on the Web. Or in RL, I assume none of us is sitting in a dark corner too humble to be visible to friends and family. And, the authors! How hefty are their ovaries to believe they’ve got a story worth publishing, much less that readers should plunk done $$ to read! Even your travelling friend—thinking she’s so important that only an exclusive group of her friends are allowed to “witness” her adventures *g*? But you sanction her use because she’s sharing something with you are that you enjoy. That’s no more or less valuable a purpose than these blogs serve. The difference is in tone, degree but the value of either is no less because of that.

    So I think, in the context of the topic, unless you’re talking about the actual diagnosable disorder of narcissicm, the question of ego goes nowhere, particularly considering that whatever narcissism there is certainly isn’t preventing you, me, or anyone else from voicing sometimes unbelievably rude disagreement with the blog owners. To me, that’s what’s important. Disagreement–even or maybe especially rude disagreement–wins against over-modding any day.

    My essential take on “high-profile� blogger behavior is this: It is a bit disingenuous of them to cry, oh boo-hoo, woe is me, why won't people just play nicely in my sandbox, when the very sandbox they've set up encourages the rugrats, who for the most part *do* play nicely, to sometimes throw sand in each other's faces.

    Agreed. This is the eternal free speech vs. censorship debate writ small. Lively, free-wheeling exchange of ideas with little intervention=sometimes things get nasty. If some don’t like the raucous and often blunt tone, well, there are other choices out there. Myself, I enjoy the diversity and wit of the exchanges. I like things put out there to wrangle and wrestle with, over preachings about the Responsibility of the Moderator. A false sense of moral superiority is more heinous to me than a perceived lack of modding.

  46. Gail K.
    Sep 05, 2007 @ 20:13:38

    I think I like narcissism in the Greek mythology sense, the best. The whole staring into water/a mirror so long that the gods get pissed and turn you into a tree. Hmm, maybe that’s Daphne. I’m getting my middle school education all mixed up.

    As for my travelling friend, I forgot to mention another purpose her blog serves. Since her family and social acquaintances comment freely on her blog and she replies, this is essentially a (cheap) way for her to stay in touch, in both the communicative and psychological sense. She makes her blog private because she doesn’t want the crazies out there viewing her journey and possibly stalking her IRL.

    Which is what, in my mind, distinguishes more personal blogs from more public blogs which don’t mind and in some cases, like, attracting the crazies.

    As for moderating I actually thought the whole 600+ thread on SBTB was handled well by the site owners. It was Candy’s post which ignited it and Candy shared her opinions frankly throughout. No issues there.

  47. April
    Sep 05, 2007 @ 21:18:59

    The thing about Narcissus was that while we all look at our reflection every now and then so that we can brush our hair or put on some lipstick, he looked at his reflection endlessly because he was in love with it.

    I don’t know anyone on the net that much in love with themselves. :)

    As for my travelling friend, I forgot to mention another purpose her blog serves. Since her family and social acquaintances comment freely on her blog and she replies, this is essentially a (cheap) way for her to stay in touch, in both the communicative and psychological sense. She makes her blog private because she doesn't want the crazies out there viewing her journey and possibly stalking her IRL.

    Which is what, in my mind, distinguishes more personal blogs from more public blogs which don't mind and in some cases, like, attracting the crazies.

    Well, it’s the crazies that keep most bloggers from posting anything truly personal on their blogs. Some people don’t even use their real names. So really, it doesn’t matter if a blog is set up to be private or not. It’s what you actually post that counts. The very popular Dooce, for instance, doesn’t have her actual residential address on her contact page. She got herself a separate mailing address for all those crazies sending her dead rats and dirty underwear. All this, after she got fired for her blog. If any blogger had good reason to go private, it would be her. But she doesn’t.

    For me, setting up my blog so that it was private would actually be a hindrance in keeping touch with my family, as many of them are not very technically oriented. For a long time, my mom couldn’t even figure out why the front page of the blog kept changing … and where did that post about crocheting her hats go? If I made her have to put in a username and password just to view my site, she would never know that I was alive and posting.

  48. Kat
    Sep 05, 2007 @ 22:01:06

    What April said. The other reason I don’t LJ is because having a public blog reminds me that not everything I feel should be posted on the Internet. :-D Anything truly private, I reserve for IM or face-to-face.

    And to go back to moderation … the one time I do feel it’s warranted is when comments refer to people by name and contain inaccurate or misleading and negative info. Ideally, I’d like to see the blog owner add something to the comment to question or correct the info (note I didn’t say delete, necessarily). However, some platforms (e.g. Blogger) don’t allow this.

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