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2005.11.10

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JM

* stands and applauds for YOU *

Chris Clarke

* stands and applauds for JM's standing and applauding for Rana *

Chris Clarke

However, as someone with marked jerk, blowhard and ideologue tendencies, I have to say that the blogger makes the context. I'm way less likely to even think of flying off the handle here.

Maybe it's your superhero avatar's big ol' stick.

Pilgrim/Heretic

*applauds Chris applauding JM applauding Rana*

I love this place.

Rana

Ah, Chris, you may well be a blowhard on occasion. But then, I can't claim to be immune from that, either. As for jerk-ness, I think we've all had our moments. But acting like a jerk is different than being a jerk. People doing the former wake up eventually and apologize -- the latter do not. You're not a jerk.

I'm laughing at all the applauding of the applauding of the applauding. *grin*

Chris Clarke

Ah, Chris, you may well be a blowhard on occasion.

That's... that's LIBEL!

Your earthly wealth is MINE, Ravens.
I am so suing you.
Right this second.

Rana

*snort*

Ah, but note the clever and careful use of the qualifier in that sentence. "_may_ well be" rather than "are".

Ha-Hah! My weaseling skills/lack of commitment/academic training wins again!

btw, if you want some of this crap I'm saving up to cart to the Goodwill, you are more than welcome to it. Just say the word, and I will send you scary figurines and cat-scented clothes and ugly knicknacks 'til you cry for mercy.

Buridan

Very interesting post. You know, a good book on blog etiquette would probably sell very well. Someone may have already written such a piece, I don't know. You have a good start here ;-)

One of the primary reasons for my blogging is purely therapeutic. It provides a very useful release that I couldn't get elsewhere. I also like a good intellectual fight and in order to "encourage" (it's more like baiting than anything else) others to argue with me, I tend to be far more hyperbolic than I normally would. I would horrify some of my academic colleagues if they read my ranting. I've noticed, for better or worse, that the more provocative a post the more likely you are to get responses. The problem is walking that line between simply being provocative and being a crank - at some point it becomes a matter of diminishing returns.

In any event, I wish I had more dissenting responses on my blog. I have yet to censor anyone, except for spammers. I don't even get trolls for god's sake. For those successful-high volume sites, trolling is a huge problem that does need active monitoring. Such intentional hijacking of threads is far more disruptive than spammers, and I have absolutely no qualms about banning such "attention deficit disorders." Some of the worst I've seen are over at The Panda's Thumb. Oh well, the burdens of success I guess...

Hey it's all about vanity anyway, no?

Phantom Scribbler

*applauding Pilgrim/Heretic applauding Chris Clarke applauding JM applauding Rana*

Thatsa lotta applause.

But you deserve it, Rana. You can take a sensitive issue and discuss it in such a way that the trolls keep slumbering in their caves. It's a real talent you've got. I'm glad to be around to witness it.

ianqui

Ugh. I realized when I started writing for the oil drum that I have NO INTEREST in having a high-readership personal blog. I barely have interest in writing for TOD anymore, since I can't stand the people who think it's perfectly fine to respond to a post of mine by saying "Your post is idiotic. You fail to understand that..." I may be wrong about something, but there are MUCH nicer ways of putting it. I guess I should be lucky that that our commenters are pretty civil overall at TOD, but seriously, I'm that chick that doesn't have the stomach for controversy. (Wasn't this going around last year? Weren't Maureen Dowd and Dahlia Lithwick involved?)

Anyway, great post.

JM

Although my blogging book contains a few pages specifically on playing nice with others, I am going to put a link to this post on the blog for the book. If that's ok w/ you, that is, Rana.

Rana

Buridan -- I know what you mean. A huge part of the appeal of blogging is that you get a response to your words, and another part is that you get a chance to play with ideas and get a sharper sense of what one thinks about an issue. If no one else is interested, it's beyond frustrating! :) And thanks for the book comment; perhaps I'll go digging into my archives and see what I have already -- I've certainly written on blog-etiquette on more than one occasion.

Phantom -- thanks. You have that knack, too, you know. And you displayed it far sooner than I did. (There's ample evidence of bumpy missteps in my archives!)

ianqui -- I very much know what you mean. That's part of the reason why I don't tend to post on contentious issues -- especially ones where I don't feel like I can offer any new insight on them. Otherwise it's just setting myself up to argue with other people who don't want to change their minds, because they already know what they believe and like it that way, and that either gets me really angry, or it makes me bored. Either way, it turns blogging into an unpleasant experience.

JM, you're certainly welcome to do so. I'd be honored. :)

David

Thank you for clarifying some points. Thus far, I've not attracted hate mail and have deleted only spam. Perhaps I'm not trying hard enough!

ianqui

May I add one more thing that's tangentially related?

There are many different "circles" of bloggers--political bloggers, mommy bloggers, academic bloggers, etc. And I've noticed that there are great disparities among those bloggers as to how much commentary they attract. Some people build up a readership such that if they post something like "I couldn't sleep last night because the crickets were too loud", 9 people will comment to either empathize or tell some story about their own bugs, or whatever. Some other blogger in the same circle with at least 50% of the same readers will say the same thing, and get no comments. Why is that? I have my theories, but they're not fully fleshed out.

bitchphd

Thanks for an *intelligent* articulation of this whole issue...

coturnix

This is the best of all commentary on the whole saga (and I've been following it with sick interest).

What book? I am interested.

Rana

coturnix, well, there's at least two books -- there's the one JM's written, and then there's the blog-etiquette one Buridan is suggesting I write. (As I said, it's not like I haven't posted a lot on the topic, so there's certainly material for it.) Thanks for the compliment! (I'm also following it with a degree of interest, though I'm unwilling to go directly to the problem site in question.)

Dr. B, you are welcome -- I don't envy your place in the shitstorm, especially given the fool who keeps shaking the snowglobe. I have my fingers crossed for you!

ianqui -- Yeah, I've notice that, too. It's weird, and it bothers me when I see a nice new blog being ignored. Some of it's probably the written charisma of some bloggers, the knack of others for writing in ways that encourage discussion (and on topics that encourage responses), and, I have to admit, the ease of using the blogging system of the blog in question. I _HATE_ the way Blogger handles comments,* and it frequently discourages me from commenting, and if I don't comment, I'm often less engaged with the discussion, because I feel like I'm listening in instead of participating.

David, it sounds like you're doing exactly the right things. Unless you _want_ trolls? *grin*

* I don't like how it opens a new page before you can see the comments, I don't like how it requires yet another new page to pop up before you can _add_ a comment, and I don't like how you have to then work your way back up the tree to read and comment on other posts. I'm on dialup; unnecessary page loads are a Bad Thing.

Another Damned Medievalist

I posted this as part of a longer comment at Tim Burke's and decided I liked it. It needs refining, but this is kind of what I think.

I think of a blog as a house in a larger Blogtown. All the blogs have big windows, so that their neighbors and any passing person can see what’s going on inside. Everyone is implicitly invited to the party but, depending on the particular house rules, some people may be asked to leave. Those rules may be arbitrary, which can be infuriating and seem unfair. But more often, as Tim says, they are community rules, and the person holding the lease on the Bloghouse is the resident enforcer.

In Blogtown, not everybody is interested in the same things, but as in any big city, you get neighborhoods. We can tell the other people in our neighborhoods by looking at each other’s blogrolls. And the standards of neighborhoods are often an amalgamation of the standards of the individual residents. OK — I just thought of a refinement I’d make if I had time — maybe blogworld with sites like blogger and lj as major urban centers — because those types of blogs tend towards certain community norms as well. But I’m riffing a bit.

The thing is, if you don’t like the neighborhood or the people in it? Just go away. There are lots of nice neighborhoods with communities of people like you. But none of those neighborhoods, left, right, any-other-agenda-driven — wants people to come in, drive over the flowerbeds, and strew litter around.

Rana

I've thought that the neighborhood analogy is a good one, too, ADM. Other variations I've thought of are that some blogs are like public parks, or lecture halls, or like tables in public cafes, and a few are like closed speak-easies where only people with passwords get in.

But you're right; the general rule is to understand what kind of place a particular blog is, and what kind of culture it has, and to not engage in behaviors that are inappropriate. (The sorts of things you can get away with in Kevin Drum's very public, very unregulated comments threads are not what you can do here, much like how you can get all rowdy and drunk and loud during spring break, and have no one turn a hair, but try that at someone's quiet dinner party, especially if you're a total stranger, and you'd be out on your ass before you could blink.)

(Having just made a related comment over at Shakes' Sis about allowable behavior in public/private spaces, I'm inclined to note that blog life is much like non-blog life; one really shouldn't be rude and oblivious to social norms, regardless of where one is. I think it's just hard for a certain percentage of people to even recognize that there are social norms in blogging in the first place.)

JM

"I think it's just hard for a certain percentage of people to even recognize that there are social norms in blogging in the first place."

bingo.

Toast

So much Truth in such a small space. What is one to do?

Here's a thought: The phenomenon whereby the Blogger and the Comment Posse create a "Culture" seems to only extend itself to a certain Blog Size. Take Atrios -- who I like a lot: Too big. No "culture". Just Kool Kidz and Kaos.

Here's another thought: Chick Blogz work. (I'm saying "Chick" Blogz just because I like to maintain a certain bit of Annoying Cred.)

Prior to visiting Shakes' place, I considered the whole "Hmmmm, Why Don't Women Blog?" thing to be the stupidest and least interesting question in life. Then I started hanging out at Shakes Sis. And then I started visiting your blog. And then I started reading Tart's blog.

Well dip me in shit! (Borrowed from Southerners -- I live in CT) It's extraordinary how different a blog community is when women are prominently involved. People actually talk to each other instead of yelling past each other. People try to not step on each others' faces, as opposed to trying to punch each other out. Maybe I'm nuts, but it seems like a different world.

(sigh)

Rana, BTW, feel free to leave a comment on my blog any time...

-T

Pink Cupcake

Such an insightful post. I second (or third?) the suggestion that you think about writing a book about blog etiquette.

*More applause*

Kris

Rana:

Thanks so much for this post. Some friends and I have been tossing around the question of blogging etiquette; specifically, the relationship between commenters and bloggers. This came about after observing an odd (to us) phenomena on other blogs-- commenters who demand content change to suit their own preferences in reading. Comments such as "Please go back to writing about X. I don't like reading aboyt Y and I think you should stop writing about it."

Your entry here has given me some interesting food for thought (and my *goodness* an absorbing set of links to read on a boring day at work).

-Kris

Rana

Toast -- that's an interesting and insightful observation about the gendered aspects of blog dynamics. I don't know that it's gender per se, but I do know that the pundit-type poliblogs do encourage a much more aggressive commenting style (and less sense of "we're in this together" between commenters and blogger), and, for whatever reason, that seems to be a style more favored by men than women. (I don't think it's a strictly male/female thing, or even a political/other divide, because I have plenty of male bloggers I visit who also have thoughtful commenting communities, and some of them also blog frequently about politics.) I wonder if it's because most of the poliblogs that have raucous comment threads generally don't offer up much information about the blogger him or herself. That is, you don't get much sense of them as people, and, perhaps therefore, you don't feel as bad about upsetting or annoying them, because all they really are are content providers, like a newspaper or a tv station.

Pink Cupcake -- thanks!

Kris -- I've noticed that phenomenon too. I've noticed it happening particularly at blogs that started out (or came to) emphasize a specific topic for a while, attracted a bunch of readers, then decided to mix things up. I think this might relate to what I was saying in my response to Toast just now; if one comes to a blog with particular expectations, it can be easy -- especially for recent visitors, who have little sense of the blogger behind the posts -- to assume that the blog exists solely to provide a certain kind of experience. This, I find, is one advantage of having a blog where I toss out all kinds of random stuff. I mean, it's coherent in that it comes from a single mind with a number of favorite topics, but it's not really "An X Blog" of any kind. (Maybe a Rana-blog.) But nobody -- including myself -- knows exactly what will go up on any given day. So if I decide to write about something I've never written about before (like learning Japanese) or if I don't post on a topic for awhile (like yoga) nobody can claim that I'm betraying my readers.

Of course, there are also those readers who, if they are only around for a short while and don't look at the archives, might assume that a multi-topic blog is in fact a single-topic blog, and who post the sorts of annoying complaints you describe. It's rude, of course, but what can you do, aside from gently (or not-so-gently) cluesticking them? (It's not like this doesn't happen in life, either, of course -- like if you meet someone at some kind of topic-oriented group, and they are surprised when it turns out that their all-absorbing passion is only one of your many interests, including some of which they disapprove.)

SocraticGadfly

I'm with Buridan.

Dammit, all you people, go over to my blog and start posting some shit! I've got two other blogs linked from it, so you can post there, too!

Rana

Hey, thanks for the invitation. I'll drop by when I get a chance.

Otto Pohl

Thanks for this thoughtful post. I don't think my blog is big enough to have any collective culture. It is just my random notes. I think I may have about a dozen (at most) occasional readers of which a big chunk are family and friends. I have about three regular commentors. So maybe a neighborhood gathering is a more apt description of my blog. I think alot of smaller personal blogs are of this nature. I am curious about peoples' thoughts on smaller blogs, particularly those that get few comments.

coturnix

You are right about the initial perception of a blog being different from its complete (and historical) opus. Blogs change and evolve over time. I started with about 15 LOOOOOOOONG posts per month, now it is mostly lots of short posts with an occasional long one mixed in. I used to write almost entirely about Lakoff's model, now I blog about everything and different readers ask for "more of" different kinds of posts - some like personal posts, others meta-blogging, some science, some politics... I just write whatever I feel like writing at any particualr moment and keep "last 30 days" setting on the front page (although it slows down 'dial-up' loading) so people can get more of a sense of how eclectic my blogs is and not get erroenous ideas about my blog from the top two or three posts.

Laura

Okay, now that Atrios linked you, I feel safe to. :) Seriously, I'm teaching a class on blogging and I think this is the best explanation of blog ethics I've seen. And it's kind of funny, too, because two of my worker students have been following this whole thing too. How funny is it when you run into one of them and they say, did you see what's going on at Bitch, Ph.D.'s? So I think I'll point them here too. You are eloquent as always.

The Raven

The key idea you've raised here was known in pre-blog days (Usenet and BBSs) as the "signal-to-noise ratio." After all, you aren't really talking about profanity or etiquette as much as you're raising the idea of quality in communication.

A commenter who posts content that is undesirable to is merely generating noise, whether of the four-letter variety or the "me-too" vapidity of the one-line entry that wastes scroll-through and evaluation time. What most blog authors hope to see in their net-full of comments in the morning is a rich harvest of wit. Wonderful if it's humorous, excellent if thought-provoking, superb if it further builds community.

I'll admit to there being exceptions, but in general a blog author wants to make an impact, to see the ripples in the pond of life generated by the tossed stone of a blog entry. I call "bullshit" and "liar!" on the self-professed dilletante who feigns complete disinterest: "Oh, I don't care if anyone reads my blog... it's just some thoughts I pen to myself..." Sure pal. Sure.

Your number of readers is a good benchmark, but even more so is the quality of crowd you attract. And therein lies a point: the level of discourse is proportional to the quality of the blog itself. You want a good crowd? You want great comments? Post good material and attract sharp minds and you'll get what you want.

For the opposite effect, just follow the lead of Little Green Footballs or LaShawn Barber and prepare to monitor a horde of drooling troglodytes.

Rana

Otto -- that's a good point about the "little" blogs (I don't think of them as less important, but rather underappreciated). I've seen a lot of blogs start up since I began blogging, and I still couldn't tell you why some take off like skyrockets within a couple of months, others get up to a medium degree of speed and hold it, and why the rest stay small and less-visited. A few of them are more "clubby" than others, and some seem mostly aimed at family and friends, but that's by no means a hard-and-fast rule. I mean, heck, there are blogs I visit that I like and whose hosts I like as people, and yet they're a hard sell to others, for reasons I just don't get. *shrug* It may have as much to do with some innate chemistry or charisma as anything.

coturnix -- yeah, I was thinking of variable blogs like yours when I mentioned that. My own blogging is following its own odd trajectory; it used to be all academia, all the time as I worked out what it meant to be a "failed" academic, and now, honestly, it's not something that interests me much. I'd much rather write about leaves and ants.

Laura -- thanks. Your students are certainly welcome, along with all you other new folks. I'm amused about your discussing blogging with them. I sometimes catch myself, if I'm talking about blogging in a public space, feeling like I'm involved in something illicit or dirty -- it's weird discussing something that is both highly public, and protectively private (because of my pseudonym). Fun times!

The Raven (nice name, btw!) -- I agree that wanting to see the ripples is at the heart of blogging. I remember that one of the first things I did when I began was run right out and get comments installed. I had a long history of journaling before blogs were invented, so it's not like I am incapable of writing down stuff without public eyes on it, but it is so much more enjoyable when there's something new to read in the comments threads, whether something insightful from a new visitor, or a "Hiya!" comment from an online friend.

I think, in addition to choices about posting, that the way a blogger handles and responds to comments is crucial to the way a community forms around the blog. If you've noticed, I do like to respond to everyone who comments, if I can. I don't want to give lectures and receive applause (or boos); I want discussions and conversation. Partly this is because I spend way too much of my life online and need the social interaction, but largely it's because I enjoy it, and because I was raised to be polite and attentive to my guests. That, and I have all those years of leading and encouraging classroom discussion that ought to be put to some sort of use. ;)

Lisa Williams

Interesting! While I don't think anyone should be forced to have a blog policy (of which a comment policy would be a subset), many bloggers end up in the awkward position of having to make rules retroactively after something unexpected and outrageous happens. The fact is that every blogger already has rules they operate by, and writing them down and posting them doesn't make them or their reader any less free.

I find the kinds of policies bloggers write for themselves -- and how much they vary, reflecting different ideas on ownership and speech -- interesting. I've compiled a big list of examples on del.icio.us. You can find that and audio of a talk on the subject at the Berkman Center for the Internet and Society here. Useful if you're developing your own policy.

Rana

Lisa -- that's a good point, and thank you for the link. I hope I didn't come across as advocating any particular position relative to blogs and comments' policies; I'm more interested in how these things develop -- shall we say -- organically. That many blogs do end up having specific policies is, I suspect, a result of the assumptions held by newbies and the clueless about what the blogosphere is. I mean, in offline life we don't usually go around informing our friends and families in little speeches that we don't like swearing, or that rude people will be shown the door, or that people can only talk to you on the topic at hand, etc.

My blog here doesn't have an official, codified policy as such; it's more that I know what I like and don't like (having experienced both not just here but at others' blogs) and am used to thinking analytically and self-critically about my actions -- so it's relatively easy for me to explain what's likely to piss me off and why. That is often difficult for new bloggers to do, and it's worse if they don't know that they probably need to. That's why I encourage people to think about what they want their blogs to be like, even if they never turn those expectations into a posted policy; it's like asking people to think about why they teach, so that they can be informed as to their own goals, methods and motivations, and thus have control over them, even if their students never know the details.

Yosef

not because I'm homework

Uh, I actually came to read this post as part of an assignment.

Sorry.

Tamaine

Hey Rae, my name is Tamaine, I'm 21 & I'm a Jamaican. I am really, really a big fan of urs. I watch ur shows every day and sometimes if ur shows r not going on on the television I don't watch the tv. U r an inspiration in my life. I admire ur physiques and ur attitude towards acting & singing. U put ur all into what ever u do and I like that. Even though i'm shy I really like to put my all into whatever I do also b'cause of u. Thanks for the courage I see in u I can bring it out in my life. Question, What do u like most about urself and why? How do u feel having ur own show? I LOVE U. keep on doing what u do best and never let people try to break u down.

Tamaine, thanks for the kind words, but you have mistaken me for someone else.

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Ravens