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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Loyalty

What does a writer owe his or her readers?

Anything?

Other than words, I mean.

If you’re a novelist, do you owe your readers anything other than words on paper? The readers buy your books, which hopefully puts money in your pocket – but is it anything beyond a simple business arrangement? They pay, you write. Period. Do you owe them access too?  In the old days, back before the Internet directly connected writers and readers, fans might write authors a letter, and the novelist might correspond – Alice Sheldon was famous for her correspondence with fans - as James Tiptree Jr, she didn’t feel she owed them her real identity. She wrote thousands of letters to other writers, to fans, to people she hated and admired. Some authors are famously reclusive, never responding to fans either in person or via letter.  I think that’s OK. I don’t think they owe the reader anything beyond that.

What about columnists and newspaper reporters?

Sure, they’ve always connected to their readers via easily ignored letters to the editor. Writing for magazines and news media seems much less personal than writing novels and short stories – though upon occasion I find myself connecting to a columnist, say like Leonard Pitts, a columnist for the Miami Herald that I particularly enjoy, or Dr. Jerry Pournelle who used to write a column in the now defunct Byte Magazine (he’s also a novelist and blogger and owner of Chaos Manor, quite possibly the worst formatted site in the history of the Internet. I love Pournelle’s writing, but his site makes my brain hurt).  Do these folks owe their loyal readers anything other than the weekly column and the occasional response to angry letters?

I don’t think they do, owe their readers anything beyond words.

Traditional media isolates the writer and separates him or her from the reader to a great extent. Most people understand that – and in Science Fiction, Horror, and Mystery genres that’s where the conventions came from, at least to some extent, a desire for a closer and more personal connection between fans and creators. And if a writer chooses to attend one of those conventions, well, he or she had better be at least somewhat accessible to the fans. But outside of that venue? Not so much.

But what about blogging?

Blogging is a different form of writing. It’s much more intimate. By design, it directly connects reader and writer on a personal and informal level – at least for the most common form of content and comment enabled blogging.  Do bloggers owe their readers something beyond mere words? Do bloggers owe their readers friendship, or at least what passes for friendship on the web – i.e. the emerging virtual relationships that are taking root in this rapidly evolving world wide community we call the Internet? Do bloggers owe their readers loyalty? After all, readers show up day in and day out, they read the good posts and the bad posts and the posts where you were hysterically funny and the posts where you were just too damned tired to do anything other than put up a picture of your stupid cat. Again. They offer advice and wish your family happy birthday and Merry Christmas, they send you email correcting your spelling and pointing out the stupid little errors you make in a sincere effort to help you look a little less stupid. They try to pick you up when you’re feeling blue and they knock you down a peg when you’re a little too full of yourself. They connect to other readers on your site and sometimes, if you’re very lucky, they form a community.

Do you owe them anything? Do you owe them loyalty, the ones who come back and stick with you through the good times and the bad?

I guess what I’m asking here is this: when do readers become more than just words on a screen? Ever?

Do you owe long time readers your loyalty? Or do you throw them over like a shallow high school cheerleader ditching her friends for a new boy when new readers come along?

Do you, the blogger, the writer, owe your readers anything? Beyond the words?

I think you do.

Unlike traditional media, I think the maturing and yet still evolving medium of blogging is a collaborative effort between writer and readers. No money exchanges hands. Rarely, if ever, does a blogger make a living from blogging. There’s no payoff to blogging. The only reason to do it at all, unless you’re nothing but a narcissistic bastard, is that interaction with the readers. Their comments become part of the article you wrote, sometimes – again, if you’re very lucky - their comments become the most interesting part of the post altogether and take you and your readers in directions you never imagined when you hacked out the piece in the first place.

If you do it right, you, the blogger, become little more than a catalyst for something much larger than yourself.

As most of you know, this hasn’t been the best of weeks for me, online. 

And it got me thinking about loyalty and what a blogger owes his long time and faithful readers.

I think he owes them loyalty in kind.

For those of you who come back here time and again, for those of you who read Stonekettle Station on my good days and on my bad days, and for all of you who offered your support and advice and sympathy and friendship this last week, thank you.

Thank you.

43 comments:

  1. Hmmm.

    When blogs are small, it's easy to know absolutely everyone who reads and/or comments on it, and become friends in solid communities. On that scale, if your commenters are also your friends, you owe them whatever loyalty you would to any of your friends. And as with any community, what you get out of it depends on what you put into it.

    But I don't think friendship is ever "owed." You can have commenters that are just commenters too. They might be loyal to you because they enjoy what you write and so keep coming back to read more of it, but the feeling isn't necessarily mutual because the relationship isn't the same in both directions. Not all of them will have blogs of their own, and not all of their blogs will necessarily interest you, and you may not even like them as people because you find them annoying and borderline troll-like. You might not even know them as people if all they do is comment on a blog about you.

    When blogs are large, and your commenters number in the hundreds or thousands, the proportion of friends to "just commenters" is going to be a lot smaller; I don't think there's any way to get around that.

    Loyalty is kind of tricky. It's natural to want to stand up for your friend when they get into trouble, just because they're your friend, even if they're wrong. It's also natural to want to stand up for your favorite bloggers as a commenter, because you like(d) their past words - but go too far down that route and you end up with sycophantism and echo chambers.

    Loyalty from you as a blogger to a "just a commenter"? There's the rub, isn't it? Should you owe a non-friend commenter loyalty just because they feel some for you? Just because they view you in the friend category?

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  2. I think you run smack into Dunbar's number, even online. Humans can only maintain a certain number of relationships - 150 is the usual estimate. Bigger blogs go way beyond that, and even though the commenter feels connected to that one blogger, there's just no way the blogger can feel connected to the 500 commenters, except in the generic sense.

    I'll be back later, but right now my dog is going to starve to death if I don't get up right now.

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  3. I like this post very much. I need to think on it more. I do have to say that my blog is pretty small so any readership is a grand thing and mostly comes by way of friends from elsewhere. Going through economic hardship and a divorce this last year, there were a few people who I only know over the internet who helped me a great deal with their comments and support. So perhaps the blogger creates a place where community can happen but they are also part of the community and not just the facilitator. They throw the party but attend it too.

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  4. I agree with MWT that it would depend on the size of your readership. However that doesn't resolve any responsibilities.

    If you are a popular blogger who allows comments and wants a particular tone, I think it behooves you to ensure that all commenters are treated equally in terms of warning about taking things personally and ad hominem attacks; not given a pass because she is female and the subject is gender discrimination or because s/he is a writer.

    You can't really stop people from clicking on a link and following back. I am struggling with my impulse to "stick knitting needles in someone's ovaries" myself. We both have to let this go.

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  5. I fell victim this week to a tard commenting on my blog who turned out to be a friend - they commented as anonymous, and left something quite scathing, calling me a pretentious prick. My post was about going apple picking with my family. Of all the posts I have done, this tard picked on the fluffiest one yet, and then hid behind a shield of anonymity. I challenged him to identify himself, which he did. Now I have the unfortunate dilemma of wondering if someone I thought was a friend was having a bad day, or is really a closet tard and finally showed his true colours.

    We put this stuff out there to be read by friends, and hopefully (if that means anything to you), find more people interested in our little world. Like any other media, we can't always predict who will crawl out from under the shit pile and go at you.

    This will get worse before it gets better. We just have to keep our real friends top of mind. They matter most.

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  6. That's it, MWT, I'm striking you off the Friend List (what's the correct online term, unfriending? unfriended? Defreinded?)

    Cass_M, it's not that I can't let this go, I basically have already. It's that it made me think about a number of things and how online communities evolve. Perhaps the title of this post, in retrospect, should have been "Responsibility."

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  7. Also, while the stimulus for this post should be obvious to anybody who is familiar with the whole genderfail thing - it's not the entire reason, or even the primary reason behind the post.

    Information, information management, and the evolution of information taken as a living entity is part and parcel of my professional background, the structure of online communities falls within that area of interest.

    And I wanted to thank those who showed support over the last week - if you'd seen some of the hate mail I received, I think you'd understand my need to thank those readers who expressed support - and without resorting to the lynch mob mentality. And I appreciated it.

    MWT raises a good point - and it should be noted that MWT has an extensive background in online communities and the loyalty and evolution of such - where's the threshold? When do all readers become "just words on a screen?"

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  8. I'm going to have to mull over this one. I think it's a nice idea, except that I can see myself, as a blogger, not necessarily having the wherewithal to be loyal or even responsible to an especially large audience. And I don't mean the people who I've become friends with online--the loyalty and responsibility there has everything to do with friendship and may have nothing to do with a writer/reader (or blogger/commentator) relationship.

    I also have to say--and I apologize in advance if it rankles anyone--but I have to say that I think part of the genderfail issue is that while some of us may have a right to be angry or disappointed, I'm not sure anyone has a right to feel betrayed. Betrayal implies a relationship that I frankly don't think was ever actually there; I don't think a certain blogger-who-will-remain-unnamed who has been active online for quite some time has ever felt like he was friends or buddies with people whose names showed up a lot on various websites. I think he's always seen himself as a bit of a hired gun, actually, and the various websites his name has been attached to as promotional tools as much as anything, whether it's promoting an AOL venture or himself. In some respects, one might compare his personal blog to a caterer holding an Open House at his restaurant or kitchen, offering free samples of the kind of thing he normally gets paid for. The caterer's responsibilities as a host may actually be limited to making sure the snacks stay warm and fresh, not to seeing to it that guests get along or even ejecting someone who's rude as all hell so long as she's not, say, taking her pants off and humping a floor lamp.

    Another point: I see loyalty as frequently, if not always, implying some level of reciprocity. I mean, I guess it doesn't, necessarily: we've all been loyal to people who didn't return our loyalty and perhaps didn't deserve it. But I have to say that one reason I don't expect much from our previously-referenced Unnamed Mystery Blogger is that I don't want to owe him much. If he were to see me as more than pixels on a screen, would I have some moral obligation to routinely visit his website? To do more than scan his posts in my RSS reader, casually deleting some regular features as a matter of habit? Buying more of his books? Buying them new and directly from primary retailers instead of used or from a book club if I do? I'm not the only one who's just pixels on a screen--he's pixels on mine. Given that he's a bit of an ass (and maybe I am, too), I'm actually pretty okay with that.

    Maybe, to paraphrase The Bob, he goes his way and I'll go mine.

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  9. This post makes me think hard, Jim, and that's not nice for a Monday Morning.

    Many moons ago, I was a regular on the personal newsgroup of a writer who has written several Very Very Good short stories and a couple of real turkeys. I indicated that I felt that *this* particular story was one of his turkeys, not one of his good ones, and he cut me a new orifice and wrote a multipage screed on people who visit his newsgroup and rudely discuss his stories. He wanted a 'if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all' vibe in his newsgroup and I was invited to FOAD. I was devastated - I had spent a lot of time participating on his blog, playing blog games, re-assuring him that his Very Very Good stories were very good. I learned a big lesson from that. To him, I was nothing but words on a screen, not a real person at all.

    Now, I generally don't bother building a presence on a blog where I'm merely words on a screen. If I don't see signs that the blogger has respect for the audience, I may comment occasionally, but I don't build any connection in my mind. Thus there are three Big Name Blogs that I love to read, but I comment on only rarely.

    I guess I don't see it as a matter of *loyalty*, but a matter of respect. Respect for my words and the time I took to write them, if nothing else.

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  10. Well... there are different types of blogs, which you also need to take into consideration.

    Neil Gaiman has a blog, but doesn't have comments. That's one type of relationship.

    My blog started out as a writing exercise, and the as a place to hang out with my friends.

    That's another type of blog.

    The third type of blog is essentially a forum, and that's they type we're talking about in this instance.


    Let's look at the second case a little closer. You have people who are commenters, but are not, in fact, people you want to be members of your community. We've all run into those. People who keep coming back even though they may annoy you (I think Eric has a perfect example of this on his site.)

    To expand, does Eric owe you-know-who any loyalty? Eric didn't invite him, he doesn't go out of his way to encourage friendship, so what does he owe this person?

    I say nothing, not even common courtesy. After all, it's Eric's place, and he can be an ass if he wants.

    However, such an attitude will eventually come back to bite you in the ass, which is why although we don't owe our commenters anything, it behooves us to be respectful and even-handed with the members of the communities we create, whether we like them or not, because the Internet is forever, and being an asshat is permanent in that case.

    As I've stated before, I believe that once a blog reaches a certain size, it needs an aggressive comment moderator, and that is where the person who shall not be named has failed.

    By allowing the situation to get out of control, he's essentially allowed individuals to turn his living room into an outhouse. Sure, he can do that if he wants, but it's a dumb thing to let happen.

    So no, I don't think any flavor of blogger owes any commenter anything in the way of loyalty. However, by letting the monkeys take over the fun house, that blogger has essentially destroyed the community he created. Which is a really stupid thing to do.

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  11. There's a lot going on in your post -- but, basically, I think it comes down to owing people what you've implicity or explicitly promised them, and nothing more.

    And the implicit promises are where the trouble starts, because sometimes people believe they've been promised things they haven't been promised.

    An example from the theatrical world. A lot of actors, after a play, will stand by the stage door and sign autographs for fans. Some won't; some will sign a few autographs but not for everyone in the crowd. And some audience members who want autographs and don't get them get pissed off. They start bad-mouthing the actors and the play -- for reasons wholly unrelated to what happened on stage. You usually end up talking them down from the ledge -- pointing out that they bought a ticket to a play; they saw the play; that's all they had a right to expect. The rest is gravy.

    I think authors are the same way. You write a book; you've promised your readers your best effort at a decent book. I don't think you owe them anything other than that, although you may choose to do more from time to time.

    I also think that we can't lump all bloggers together. I've been blogging for more than five years, and I don't think I've ever had a post with more than 11 comments on it. And while I appreciate those who drop by and read, I keep writing it NOT for any community of commenters (which doesn't exist), but because I need it for me. There are often things I need to say, or need to write about, and the online blog is preferable to a personal diary. I like it when I'm being read, but I'll keep writing whether I am or not. (More on that in my blog, tonight, now that I think about it...) And about all I owe my readers is to keep writing on my own sporadic schedule.

    But bloggers who HAVE created a community, and who have encouraged that community, and created rules for that community -- those folks have an extra obligation to moderate what goes on in that community, and to do so fairly. But fair community moderation is an obligation that falls to any message board operator -- or, at least, any operator who hasn't made it clear that their board is a free-for-all -- I don't think it falls upon bloggers as a natural result of allowing comments.

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  12. I guess I missed the genderfail stuff when it went down. I'm sorry about that. Also sorry that some people on this planet feel entitled to be fucktards about their pet issues. I don't know what you said but I don't think it really matters -- when we the people can't be civil to one another in disagreements, we're nothing more than a nation of barbarians.

    As far as this post goes, I tend to agree with Lauren and think the relationship between blogger and commenter is more a matter of respect than loyalty. As your blog grows you're just not going to have time to reply to every comment even if you wished to do so. It's enough that your presence is here in the comments -- it shows us you respect the time we take to read your posts, and sometimes even the thoughts and words we use to communicate back to you.

    Anyway, I'm glad you got your mojo back.

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  13. To quote MWT...Hmmm.

    This entire incident has made me think, too, for similar reasons.

    So far, I've come to a couple of conclusions:

    The people that I like and respect do not have substantive differences between their on-line and real-life personalities. One of the things that I genuinely love about the UCF is that every time I've had the privilege of meeting someone in our community, they have turned out to be essentially the person I thought they were based on our on-line interactions. There's been no nasty surprises, no oh-my-god you are such a pill moments.

    Part of the reason this is true is because members of our group were open to forming a community, and treated all members of the community with respect. We have wildly divergent lives and opinions, but there has always been a distinct lack of screechy monkeyism in our interactions.

    The respect issue ties directly into what Lauren and Michelle said. I do try to treat those who read and comment on my blog with respect. Even the trolls get a first (and sometimes a second or a third) chance to act right when they visit before I break out the Shovel of Doom™. And I choose to moderate my personal space in this way exactly for the reason Michelle outlines - I don't want my virtual living room to turn into a cesspool where the screechy monkeys fling their poo.

    In this aspect, my responsibility to my readers and commenters dovetails with my responsibility to myself. I don't want to preside over a cesspool, and I have the power to prevent it. So the debacle in question would never have occurred in my space (even on the much smaller scale of my on-line home), because I wouldn't tolerate such rude behavior to and from my guests.

    Loyalty? Hm. If I choose to count someone as a "friend," then I believe I owe them my loyalty. In my world, whether you are an on-line friend or a meat friend makes no difference. So there are folks who visit and comment at HCDSM who have my loyalty, because they're my friends. There are some who visit and comment who do not have my loyalty, because they're not my friends. But they do have the normal respect I would afford any visitor.

    This is not to say, by the way, that those whom I count as my friends are immune from criticism if they're behaving like asshats. Loyalty and friendship does not necessitate agreement on every issue.

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  14. This is exactly what I was talking about in the post - your comments (especially Michelle's note that Eric is a problem) are driving me in directions I didn't think of.

    I see that I need to expand this post - I'll do that later. Posting from the Blackberry is a pain.

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  15. Eric is a problem? Really?

    I thought he was an attorney...

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  16. I think the "respect" word is more appropriate. "Loyalty" has a lot of overtones that I don't think work well (you know, I like you all, but if you're expecting me to fly out and be a personal character witness at your trial, that probably isn't going to happen).

    I have respect for all of you. Hell, I even have some respect for Frank (aka CoolBlue). One of my writing buddies (who I'll see this weekend) started out on the opposite of one of my arguments. We still don't agree about it, but I think we came to an understanding of our positions and could accept that.

    However there are the tards and those with an axe to grind all over the place. I've dealt with and have been both of them from time to time. Forgiveness comes just as easy as misunderstanding on the internet. Then there are also those who are spoiling for a fight. Normally they out themselves as trolls quickly, but there are times where they hide their true nature. There's not much you can do with those except define a null-bucket and route those emails there. Those people aren't looking for a discussion, they're looking to be pissed (justified or not, and they need it like a junkie needs their next fix). They can use you as an opportunity just as well as using someone that would be more deserving of their ire. Any attempts to wave them off tend not to work.

    I also value all the readers of my blog. It doesn't matter if I agree with them or not, they took time to read what I had written. Of course this is easier for me as I think I'm one of the ones here with the lowest traffic on their blog. So it's easier for me to give that energy and brain space to everyone who shows up.

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  17. I'm a much bigger problem than John is, thank-you-much.

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  18. At some point, for those blogs which grow up and get lots of hits, there are far more lurkers than commenters. Those who do comment tend to comment on a regular basis -- it seems to be a threshold kind of thing.

    Once you get into a dialogue of sorts, and especially if you meet the blogger In Real Life, you do get a sense of friendship slash ownership, even if it is technically misguided.

    In the long run, this is likely to cause a problem. You go on too long or take something too far, someone nails you for something you didn't do, say or mean -- it's very much like the kind of conversations you have with buddies you hang with all the time. Except this time you have the electronic chasm emphasizing how distant you really are, hence why you feel hurt and betrayed.

    That said, the owner of a high volume blog has, IMHO, a certain obligation to see that his commenters aren't treated badly -- at least any high volume blog that I care to spend time with on a regular basis.

    So... mostly somewhat what Jim said. (grin)

    Dr. Phil

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  19. Eric isn't a problem.

    It's his damned pygmy marmosets that are a problem.

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  20. Jim, I'm not really a member of this blog community yet, so I venture an opinion with some trepidation. I too have pondered the duty owed commenters on a website, for the same reason you have. I didn't like last week's experience, and I was only a bystander, not the target.

    I like what MWT said, and I also like with Random Michelle K said as well. I'm going to try to put them together.

    I think the blog site was started for purposes of exercising the writing muscle, to try things out and see how they looked/what reaction was received. The author has said as much. But that was in 1998 and things have changed since then.

    What has changed is that, for better or worse, whether intended or not, the site has become a community. It gets somewhere between 25,000 and 40,000 hits a day. Considering that my business website is lucky to get 30 hits a day, that's saying something. So all those folks have built up a certain common understanding and -- also for better or worse, whether intended or unintended -- the author has evolved into site host and moderator. And I think he's justifiably proud of his moderating ability -- I think his "racefail" postings were, to a great extent, an attempt to show LiveJournal how it should be done. And it kind of backfired on him, so he had to backpedal on his initial "taunts" of the "tauntable".

    So the site has become a community and the site host is a host in actuality as well as in name. He's law enforcement and judge and jury, just as you are here.

    And he owes his community whatever duties and obligations spring from those roles, which I would assert are primarily those of maintaining decorum and courtesy amongst the partygoers.

    Does he owe certain commenters any more than he owes others? Not if he's to be seen to be fair and impartial. At most, he owes the long-time commenters the benefit of the doubt, because they have proven themselves over time, whereas the newcomers still have a ways to go. (Just like me, here.)

    Much of your angst over last week's crapfest might come from feeling that you would have done things differently because of your background as a leader and your past role(s) in various communities. And perhaps because you didn't feel like you got the benefit of the doubt in the situation, which is what I think you deserved.

    Were the roles reversed, you would have done more than was done for you. You would have taken on the man-haters and defended the long-time poster, because that's who you are. But that's not the author. He doesn't have your background.

    Looking at the bigger picture, I would ask if any commenter is owed more than enforcement of common courtesy? Does a blog moderator or site host owe any higher duty to a long-term commenter? I would say no. The site host doesn't have a duty to watch your back because he has to watch the back of the community at large.

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  21. I don't know what bloggers owe their readers, really, though this has never stopped me from having opinions about anything.

    As a blogger myself, I have to say that I started it for my own amusement and while I welcome visitors and I hope they enjoy it, I also know that a) I get few enough of those, and b) even fewer comment, so if it wasn't for me there'd be no reason for it in the first place. It's my blog. Guest welcome, but remember that you're guests and don't get a say in the running of the establishment.

    That said, I think I do owe those readers more than words. I owe them what goes behind the words - the honesty not to screw around with them, the responsibility to provide what I say I'll provide (i.e. posts, with some regularity, as well crafted as I can manage), and so on. I owe my readers the same respect I demand for myself - that we take each other seriously, accept what we are and how that may or may not be quite different from each other, and the space to share opinions - even offensive opinions - with a modicum of civility.

    I don't owe anyone more than that. I don't see other bloggers owing me more than that.

    BTW, Jim, I saw the post that sparked this, and I got the joke even with the sarcasm html code. Let the monkeys screech, and to hell with them.

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  22. Nick, your thoughts are similar to my own in some ways.

    But again, while this post was inspired by my personal experience last week, overall it's a much broader question - I.e. Are readers more than words on a screen, are these so called online communities really communities or only wishful thinking? If they are indeed real communities what kind are they? Dictatorships? Cliques? Free for alls? Can they be democratic or must they be benign kingdoms? Are there universal truthes and rules that apply to all, or are each unique universes?

    I see the germ of a story here.

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  23. I think readers are more than words on a screen, if only because someone must have typed 'em.

    But seriously, I don't pretend you owe me anything other than what you put up.

    I guess I've never really thought of this much. Hm.

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  24. As someone who's on many an occasion gotten in trouble for offhand smart-ass comments, I am in *awe* of your ability to start an unintentional internet shitstorm. (bows to our esteemed host)

    That said, you ask interesting questions. I agree with many who have commented here, but in general it tends to be site-specific and moderation policies tend to evolve over time with the best leading to an increasing sense of community rather than the opposite.

    Also, the larger the readership the stronger the moderation needs to be to keep the screeching monkeys from taking over and driving off the more thoughtful commentators.

    I'm all in favor of a light moderation hand in general, and it's not my job to tell anyone how to run their own blog, but a light "He apologized, move on." comment might have helped instead of the was it was handled. The more emotional people seem to be getting would tend to have me at any rate lowering my moderation asshat threshold, but I would hope to also be quick to forgive and support those who are genuinely trying to get the conversation back on track after an unintentional derail.

    Anyway, I mentioned this to my wife who's in the process if applying to PdD programs hoping to specialize, in part, in feminist theory. She hadn't read too far down the thread but said, "Hey, I remember that comment. I thought it was funny."

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  25. er, "the way it was handled"

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  26. Jim,

    I appreciate what you write here... and the courage (or craziness) in putting it out there for everyone to see forever. That said, I don't feel entitled but come away satisfied from reading your words.

    And if I wasn't, I wouldn't come back. Simple as that. Its a big internets out there and you CAN find pretty much whatever you want.

    So, only you can feel an innate loyalty to those who read you. Most are your friends, some interloping screechers (easily ignored or perhaps toyed with) and those disrespecting the ownership, asked to leave. At least that's how I see it.

    SP

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  27. I'm a commenter, not a blogger, so can only speak from the audience here. I have participated in online communities both actively and in my current rather inactive mode of reading blogs and occasional commenting. I like blogs where I feel like I am welcome or at least know what to expect from the topics. Size certainly makes a difference- I wouldn't have been joining the cookie and cider brigade at a large blog.

    I personally don't like screechy monkey, talk-radio imitating commenting, and will avoid threads/blogs where that is the norm. That other blog seems to be falling (or at least some topics fall) into the screechy monkey zone.

    I'm glad you're here and that I found you. I'm gladder that you and the gang let me hang out, annoy ShopKat, and eat and drink virtual food with this virtual community.

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  28. I'm gladder that you and the gang let me hang out

    It's not me, you're all just words on a screen to me - but for some damned reason ShopKat has taken a shine to the lot of you ;)

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  29. I've written three comments to you about this post, and deleted them all. There doesn't seem to be anything to say beyond:

    I like being here, talking to you.

    Cassie

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  30. *scritches ShopKat*

    Something I meant to add in my previous post:

    In general I agree with the dictum "Don't be a Dick!"

    It's possible to be a dick by inaction as readily as by action, but the consequences aren't typically as obvious.

    Found this page trying to see who originated the phrase (which I first saw at Wil Wheaton's blog), and it's oddly helpful:

    http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Don%27t_be_a_dick

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  31. Don't be a dick is pretty much the summary of my commenting rules page here on SS. By extension, I try to makes sure it applies to me as well.

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  32. Jim,

    Stop agonizing and parsing and looking for depth of meaning. The simple answer is that you owe me a shot and a beer. I'll let you off the hook until we meet...but not a minute longer.

    See? That was easy. Did I help?

    P.S. All Stonekettle Station readers are hereby on notice that I, Nathan, am now up on points in the "_______ is an asshole" contest. Out-asshole that answer, Mr. Wright!

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  33. Stop agonizing and parsing and looking for depth of meaning. The simple answer is that you owe me a shot and a beer. I'll let you off the hook until we meet...but not a minute longer.

    What is that? Some kind of attack on women and gay men in bikinis? You sexist homophobic bigot, you!

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  34. I also discriminate against Moose-Americans, so PBHBHHTTTTTTT!

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  35. Don't make me turn the hose on you two. I'm warning you.

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  36. That's it, MWT, I'm striking you off the Friend List

    Noooes! Now I'll never be a real sycophant. T.T

    Eric's blog was one of the things I was thinking of when I said "and you may not even like them as people because you find them annoying and borderline troll-like." I wsa trying to be vague in case he comes here too. >.>

    Also, a blog is not a forum. It might look similar to one, but there are important differences that change the group dynamics. In the types of blogs we're thinking of, there is one owner who starts every conversation and chooses all the topics. The commenters might be friends or not, some might be favored and others not, but on the whole they're on equal footing with each other but not the blog owner. Forums might have moderators (and some might have extremely oppressive ones), but anyone can start a conversation topic at any time.

    That's a single blog. A group of blogs where (nearly) everyone has one, and also reads and comments on each other's, that's more of a community on equal footing. On one end of that extreme you have the UCF, which is basically a collection of separate blogs with similar blogrolls and commenters in common (or at least it started out that way); on the other extreme everybody's blogs are actually within the same space on the same site with a unified layout (the late great writing community at Hobgoblin.net was like that). Livejournal is sort of an in-between.

    Every community is different, because the people in them are different. I don't think you're going to find a grand unifying theory of online communities, blogging and/or otherwise.

    As for Whatever in particular: to me, the main detraction is that the community has shifted a lot from what it was when I first showed up there - before he started winning awards and attracting lots of readers from other communities that I like rather less. I liked what was there before. I also know it's not coming back - whether I or the blog owner or anyone else likes it or not, the community isn't going to shift back to the way it was. Unless he wants to start pissing off a ton of socially-weighty people by making them go away, maybe, but I don't see that happening.

    The starting up of the 'e' and then the coalescing of the UCF happened right before things started to really change, or at least when I noticed the change.

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  37. Oh figures. I stop refreshing the thread to write my lengthy tome, and everybody's gone off to hose fights. :p

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  38. Man, sit in a semi-sucky meeting all day and I almost missed the good stuff...

    Eric, RMK, Janiece, and SP (among others) pretty much put it all together for me - and paraphrasing them I can say that it's about reciprocal respect (that I get to pay first, as admission), and that if I've chosen someone as a friend, then they also have my loyalty - though I may not always be in agreement, but that is part of the development of a friendship. Whether the respect is delivered online as part of this loose ruled community or in live space does not matter - it is respect.

    I think a reader is more than words on a screen - since the author is most certainly. If you would be loyal to me for coming back here day after day, reading and laughing along or thinking hard because of what you've written, then I will keep coming back - and I'll try to pay the same respect I see given.

    But, it's your blog - you don't owe anyone a damned thing - though that shot and a beer sound pretty good right now...

    I know I got in late and all, and I'm one of the the new guys, but thank you, Jim.

    Now go get the chicken out of the dishwasher...

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  39. Eric's blog was one of the things I was thinking of when I said "and you may not even like them as people because you find them annoying and borderline troll-like." I wsa trying to be vague in case he comes here too. >.>

    But... but... but.... I COME HERE ALL THE TIME!


    ;-)

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  40. And we established that you were a problem. ;)

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  41. Well the blog I created/ignore/try not to whine about too much was a pure vanity excericse and the last time I looked I still had zero comments so I'm not sure how much I'm qualified to comment on your rather well thought-out points.

    However... I'm really "just a commentator" - not looking for anything more. I've never really thought past that point except to say that just because someone interests me and writes things that I occasionaly try to make semi-intelligent comments on doesn't automatically mean that I want to become their friend. I do make comments on blogs where that is the last thing I'd want to happen. I don't think the blogger owes me anything, I'm just grateful for those people who put themselves out there like you do and create something that I find good to read for all kinds of reasons. I like to feel that if I were to comment to the effect that I disagreed with you on something you'd written about then you would not go completely medieival on my arse about it but also wouldn't question your right to do so if that was your decision. What's the point of having opinions if you're not prepared to A: express them or B: defend them. I am no more a fan of anonymous e-mail haters then anyone but that doesn't make me want to pander to the LCD either just to get me some peace. I hope you continue to be yourself, both in private and on this blog. I know I'll continue to read it as long as it's up here.

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