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Sunday, June 05, 2005

Blog Speech

Ancient history and recent posts on a couple of my favourite blogs (Sir Humphreys and Chaos Theory) have prompted this spiel. And it is on my blog, so I don't have to mind my manners or make any sort of sense, and I can completely ignore all points in the relevant posts that I don't feel like addressing. Having the freedom to write complete tangential crap is wonderful ;)

My Commenting Philosophy
Most of the time I am wary of commenting on other peoples blogs. The exceptions are when I know the bloggers in real life. If I know someone in real life then the chances of me getting the completely wrong end of the stick, or saying something offensive are a lot smaller. Besides, we can always clear the air whenever we meet next.

Why am I so careful? Written forms of communication are so easy to misinterpret. Even if you know someone well, it can be all too easy to misinterpret their words. And apparently I have a tendency to be blunt and tactless. Where is body language when you need it? :) ...ahh there it is.

Coffee House
The analogy of a blog being your house is pretty good. Commenters are sort of like visitors. Except how many people leave their doors open for anyone to wander in?

I like the coffee shop analogy even better. Still. There is no coffee at Sir Humphreys and no visual of the group of Shumphs regulars and whether they are grouped around a table with their backs to everyone else being exclusive, or whether there are spare chairs and a welcoming demeanour. Without body language it is very hard to tell what sort of discussion you are interrupting.

Sir Humphreys seems to periodically attract commenters who accuse Shumphs of not being open to debate. Shumphs then say they are open to debate, but only with certain types of people. Or that it is their blog and they don't have to debate anything.

My impression is that Shumphs is not completely open to debate and that's OK (they shouldn't have to be open to debate at all). I think Shumphs are willing to debate with certain types of people, ie people like themselves. People who are intelligent, who have read similar types of material and who debate in a similar manner. Not people like me. Which is fair enough. I know better than to poke my nose in where it is not welcome.

But, the reason why I have bothered saying all this. I think Shumphs write in a way that provokes people like me. I don't know if it is deliberate or not. So what does writing provocatively +
advertising the existence of your blog in places where there are provokable opinionated people + having open comments equal? Hmmm. Well lets just say I am surprised that they always seem surprised and put out by some of the comments and commenters they get. I am not easily provoked, and I am quite frequently provoked by Shumphs.

Anyway, I think the commenters would do better to lurk a while and I think the hosts would find it less frustrating if they were able to make it clear (I have no idea how) exactly what types of comments and commenters they prefer. It is a somewhat exclusive club after all.

The End.

ps I think Zen is writing something about rights and expectations, which should be interesting...

pps Any suggestions for a better and shorter acronym for Sir Humphreys?

ppps Why does provocative have a "c" and provoked a "k"? It makes it very hard to make up words.

I think you mistake our own group conviction that comments should remain uncensored as the reality across blogs in general. We agonise over individual annoyances such as the recently banned troll because we appreciate readers like the ability to give feedback, and if we didn't have such a mechanism then we'd be as bad as the 'MSM'. But we have no intention of ceding the comments on 'our blog' to idiots/trolls.

Quite a few NZ blogs appear to delete comments without warning, notable exceptions being DPF and Rodney Hide. We choose to be much more transparent about the process of banning and/or deletion because we think its important. However Hide had to move to a registration system because of trolls, and many of DPF's posts are non-political anyway and don't attract heated off-the-cuff insults. They both have much more information available to them on the identity of their commenters, such as ISP, IP address, referring webpage etc. SH does not (as you are aware since you use Blogger). From an admin point of view, this definitely lowers our threshold for repeat idiots.

I suspect Zen's point about the coffee house metaphor was more about the politeness one expects when talking in person with people who may not share your personal beliefs - be nice, keep the language down, and don't personally insult people (I could list many rules of thumb here, but you get the drift).

About the 'debateable' thing - 1. We aren't a debating chamber (the blog community as a whole is normally the level of the debate, though you can of course have debates in the comments) 2. When commenters insult us rather than rebut what we have said then they aren't interested in debate. Also - when they ignore our posts and subsequent comments, they are clearly more interested in attacking rather than 'debating'. If they've ignored further information we provided in response to an earlier question from them, then expect us to be annoyed that our extra effort was apparently wasted. 3. We don't have time to run such an open debate service, though I'd be interested in tying in some sort of moderated bulletin board system. Might do something with Bernard Woolley.

Therefore saying something like 'Sir Humphrey's is not completely open to debate' is misleading - it sounds like you are saying we have claimed we are an open debating chamber, when its perfectly obvious we are an opinion blog of a small-Government less corruption more freedom more capitalism persuasion. Anyone is free to debate or criticise our points in our comments or on their own blog, but of course that would require more knowledge and effort than firing off a couple of insults at us. And most of the authors simply don't have the time or inclination to continue the 'debate' when really the disagreement is over fundamental matters of life, such as ones personal regard for the interference of Government in various areas of life.

As for provoking you - provoking you into what? Joy, rage, thought?

And to step aside from the academic discussion for a moment - I think many of your points are entirely theoretical because you have not experienced repeated trolls here on your blog (at least not that I've seen). Just wait and see how you feel when some idiot starts posting gratuitious insults. Also we are a political blog during an election year, so we are definitely going to attract attention from people defending the political parties we are criticising. This activity will increase leading up to the election as certain people attempt to attack our credibility. The recently banned troll attempted to do that by repeatedly misrepresenting and lying about what we had said.
Hi Suze. Good post. Nice tying in Chaos Theory to SH.

I think a big factor in the varied responses we give out in SH is because there are 5 of us posting, and the 5 of us react in different ways to different posters. In the comments section of that post we had Adolf point out he is not interested in debating, whereas I might be.

I think my post made the various points I wanted to make about our reasons for reacting (or over reacting) the way that we do. A couple of people will need to read it twice before they get it.

AL and Ruth are obviously less tolerant of trollsome comments; Ruth to the point she has disabled comments on one of her blogs that tends to make very assertive (argumentative?) statements. That is her right, and I think there is nothing wrong with that approach.

There is a place for all kinds of blogs in the blogosphere.

My main reason for being deliberately provocative is to get people to think. I'm more interested in knowing people might think a little harder about something they may not have given a single thought to. That approach does generate comments that may seemingly be called for, but were not.

I like what AL said : "we are an opinion blog of a small-Government less corruption more freedom more capitalism persuasion"

If people have an expectation that we are aiming to be a debating forum, they soon realise we are not. There is a difference bettwen discussion board software and blogs. That's one of them.

Anyway, thanks for thinking about us. Keep it coming!
AL: I was just making an observation. I am probably mistaken about many things, especially with regard to SH. Provoked into joy by an opinion blog of a small-Government less corruption more freedom more capitalism persuasion? Um. No :-) Mainly frustration and irritation.

I would reply to everything else, but it is all just theoretical, irrelevant and uninformed on my part. (BTW, relevance is subjective and I assume that many of your posts are entirely theoretical in that you have had no personal experience with whatever it is you are talking about?)
Zen: Yes, the 5 different posters lends a varied tone to SH, which is nice. The debateable post was good, but it will get lost off the bottom of the page soon! It is almost a full-time job keeping up with the conversation, which is one of the reasons why I said it was a bit of an exclusive club. If I wanted to debate anything properly I'd have to read most of the posts and comments and links on SH, and quite a few other blogs. And I'd have to keep up with the news. And I'd need to have some sort of background knowledge.
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