Go to previous post:
All tomorrow’s paracletes

Go to Electrolite's front page.

Go to next post:
The stories we tell ourselves

Our Admirable Sponsors

August 2, 2002

Film at eleven I have become cranky in the comments section of Charles Kuffner’s fine Off the Kuff. Not at Charles, but at certain attitudes on display in some “liberal” or “left” weblogs.

In another stunning newsbreak, the sun set in the west this evening. [11:14 PM]

Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Film at eleven:

Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2002, 12:32 AM:

And you were surprised that Sturgeon's law applies to liberal weblogs too?

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2002, 12:52 AM:

Surprised? No. But observing that Sturgeon's Rule applies isn't the end of discusion, or at least shouldn't be. Sometimes it's worth going on to remark on the particular kinds of crap to which the 90% tends.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2002, 11:52 AM:

The first is that the writer isn't interested in conversations, he's interested in emptying his vessel of "progressive thought" into the waiting minds of his readers

See, this is what makes me uncomfortable about the whole blogging thing in general. Yeah, yeah, there's the comment facility, but all too often I think that the above is what motivates most bloggers. I feel like I'm back in college in one of those gigantic lecture rooms with the teacher up front lecturing and an occasional question from the floor. I always liked the small-group discussion classes best. Grump grump snarl.

MKK

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2002, 12:09 PM:

Maybe, but one difference is that nobody will put a Mark On Your Permanent Record if you just walk out.

I think most bloggers are driven by a mixture of motives -- partly to hold forth; and partly to converse. For instance, Jim Henley refuses to put a comments section on his weblog, but he prints lots of email from his readers, he responds to other email, and (most importantly) he uses his blog to pursue conversations with other blogs. It helps that Jim is notably good-humored and courteous in dealing with people of very different views. But what's notable is that Jim isn't unusual in using his blog to talk with other blogs, and with non-blogger correpondents like Kevin Maroney. It's SOP to act like this in the blog world. Famous-journalist bloggers like Josh Marshall are widely read and often admired, but they lose some points with the weblog subculture for not really playing with us. In other words, the "lecture hall" model is definitely a minority; most people are here as much for conversation as for anything else.

I was probably a little unfair to Lean Left over that subtitle, but good gravy, I found it offputting. Likewise, I understand there's good stuff on a blog called Right Wing News, but I just have a hard time getting past such firm declarations that the writer's mind is made up and that all that remains is the lecture. People will alway have political, social, aesthetic, and religious differences, but I'd like to discuss them at least to the point of progressing to a more interesting level of disagreement. As opposed to simply taking my own positions and entrenching them.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2002, 10:10 PM:

I dunno Patrick--I just feel uncomfortable about the whole thing. But I continue to read some blogs because people like you and Avedon have left the environment I find most congenial, Usenet. Which is completely your right of course, but I suspect it may lead me to be less than fair to the Blogverse. Which, I do think, tends to be one to many or one to one rather than many to many. I know that I do not have the feeling of community in blogdom that I see in some Usenet groups. Maybe I'm just not connected enough.

Also, particularly in the more political blogs, discussion tends to stay pretty seriously on topic, not much casual/friendly sort of conversation. Which is, I think the sort of thing that can help to render politics or religion or other hot button issues a tad less fraught and more likely to be civil. (Would you believe there's actually a civilized Heinlein/Starship Trooper debate going on in RASFF now?) Of course, as always, Teresa's blog is an exception, but it doesn't tend to be awfully political. And as I said, maybe I'm just not connected enough.

MKK

Avedon ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2002, 11:48 AM:

Yeah, Mary Kay, but I have little to say about cats, food, and like that, and politics has always been what I want to talk about. And whenever an interesting political thread starts on rasff, there's always someone trying to stop people from talking about it. It's dispiriting. Having a weblog is a way to be able to discuss politics without having to deal with the trolls - they can send me mail, but I can ignore it and my readers don't have to be subjected to it.

The thing I love about blogs is the thing I loved about fanzines - the way we talked to and about each other, building each other up, exchanging ideas, etc. Usenet groups are so huge now that there's no way to keep up, so this actually works closer to my pace and makes me able to figure out who people are. I just can't keep track of all the new people on rasff anymore; I know who Jim Henley is in a way that I don't even know some of the people on rasff who I physically know in person.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2002, 01:00 PM:

Oh, good. I hit the wrong button and my reply to Avedon didn't post. I've been worrying about it ever since I did. I'm starting to sound whiny and I think I know why and it's not a good reason. Mary Kay shutting up now.

MKK

Derek James ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2002, 02:58 PM:

I prefer the analogy of the weblog to a soapbox (or maybe a stump). You can stand up there and yell about whatever the hell you want, be it religion, politics, or what you had for dessert last night (raspberry-lemon cake).

People are free to wander by and engage in conversation if they choose. If you don't like what's being said, as Patrick mentioned, you don't get a bad grade for passing on by.

(and speaking of subtitles...): I noticed in the discussion over on Kuffner's site that Patrick took exception to what he perceived as a pretentious subtitle. My subtitle reads "A Lone Voice of Reason", which is obviously quite facetious. I'm not sure I'd take these subtitles too seriously, unless they're blatantly offensive.

Avedon ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2002, 12:16 AM:

I went in the other direction - I have an ego the size of a house but my title and subtitle are so modest - just another sideshow, y'all. :)

John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2002, 09:07 AM:

Patrick, I'm glad you brought that up about Jim Henley. I can't see from his blog who "powers" it, but I'm thinking Blogger doesn't support comments. Did you move from Blogger to Movable Type for that reason? (Not that I'm getting any sort of traffic yet to warrant comments--but it would be nice to know I can...the Blogger techies haven't answered my query...)

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2002, 09:19 AM:

As far as I know Blogger has no comments function built in, but Jim uses Movable Type, which does. He just doesn't enable them. I cited Jim specifically because he's a blogger without a formal "comments" section who nonetheless clearly interacts a lot with other participants in blogging. My point was about the subculture; Jim was used as an illustrative example.

I moved from Blogger to Movable Type because Movable Type works better. For one thing, you're not dependent on someone else's server with Movable Type. (Even Blogger users who host their own blogs, rather than using Blog*Spot, are still dependent on Blogger's overloaded central database.) As for comments with Blogger, there seem to be a bunch of third-party services that Blogger users can sign up for in order to add a comments section.