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June 30, 2008

Things that ought to be obvious
Posted by Patrick at 02:40 PM *

Persons who are against political censorship and corporate malfeasance are not for that reason obliged to live their entire personal and professional lives in a goldfish bowl. Believing that public utilities ought to be accountable to the public does not make one into a public utility, no matter how hard anyone tries to spin it that way.

Advocating “transparency” for government proceedings, or for the beneficiaries of chartered monopolies and public largesse, doesn’t oblige the advocate to be “transparent” in every personal or artistic decision they themselves make.

This kind of bad-faith attack is common against reformers: “So-and-so claims to call us to virtue, but look, they’re not a saint after all!” is nastily effective, even when the so-and-so in question never claimed to be a saint. Some people will always fall for it, including people you thought were surely smarter than that.

Comments on Things that ought to be obvious:
#1 ::: kouredios ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 03:47 PM:

Similarly, I've specifically seen people try to argue that if you're in favor of tolerance, you must tolerate the intolerant. But that's ridiculous--it's not an either/or situation at all. Tolerance must not tolerate anti-tolerance, just as matter cannot tolerate anti-matter, else it be destroyed, no?

#2 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 03:59 PM:

Patrick, this is the political equivalent of the three-card trick. The whole purpose is to distract you from the main point, which is the issue of public transparency/accountability.

#3 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 04:01 PM:

kouredios, a nice summary of that viewpoint:

"Tolerance isn't a 'kick me' sign, or a 'go ahead and kick whom you want' sign. It's a 'no kicking' sign. Because 'kicking', however defined, harms other people, and harming another person is wrong.

(Posted by Ursula L on May 14, 2008 on the thread "Manifested" at The Slacktivist

#4 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 04:02 PM:

Patrick: Boing Boing has not limited itself to railing against government and corporate censorship. Not by a long shot.

I don't think pointing out the BB is being hypocritical.. and they are..is out of line. They clearly are. Does that negate the good things Cory has done? Of course not. But when you hold yourself up as a friend of transparency and freedom of expression and so forth, as Cory and BB have done, you're going to take big hits when you run your own website like Little Brother.

It's Cory's site, he can do what he wants, but other people are not being unfair when they point out the disconnect.

#5 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 04:06 PM:

Uh, I should put out that I'm not a fan of, nor participating in, what appears to be a bunch of people attempting to slip references to V.B. in to the Boing Boing comments just to see how long they stay before being deleted. Seems a little juvenile.

#6 ::: Shawn Struck ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 04:19 PM:

@#4, David:

Exactly! Pointing out kinda-crappy ethics (and even perceptions of poor overall quality or decision making) is an important component of consumer interaction.

Cory thinks so too:
http://www.boingboing.net/2008/02/26/complaining-about-co.html

In the digg story on this, Zora says something I think bears repeating:
"Last year, boingboing wrote about the Society of American Archivists decision to delete their old listserv archives. They generated enough attention that the decision was reversed and the archives were preserved. If they're erasing parts of their own archive for any reason, it's an act of shocking hypocrisy. If they're deliberately scrubbing specific people from their archives, it's a disgusting reversal of all their publicly stated principles."

I wouldn't go so far as to say disgusting, but it is pretty yucky.

#7 ::: kouredios ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 04:20 PM:

Lila @3: Nice. I'll have to use that in the future.

Oh, so this is about something going on at BB, then. Off to see...

#8 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 04:21 PM:

Could you be more specific in what way Cory (or BoungBoing) is supposedly being hypocritical w/r/t the Little Brother site? I admit it seems unlikely to me.

#9 ::: Mike Harris ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 04:25 PM:

There are a multitude of problems with the rationale behind your argument, Patrick, assuming it's what most people are interpreting it as, regarding Boing Boing's removal of Violet Blue's posts:

Persons who are against political censorship and corporate malfeasance are not for that reason obliged to live their entire personal and professional lives in a goldfish bowl.

The vast majority of commenters on this article not speaking about obligation, i.e., most everyone recognizes that Boing Boing has no obligational requirement foisted upon it. They are speaking about hypocritism as it relates to morality. In short, if you consistently advocate against censorship and for openness and transparency, to engage in clandestine editing of your past (especially when you have specifically argued for the maintenance of archives, i.e. last year's archivsts listserv story) is hypocritical and as such is morally wrong. I do not need to know the intimate secrets of Cory, Mark, Xeni, David, or Teresa. I do expect that if they stand up and say, "An organization should be run in such-and-such a way," that they run their organization in accordance with those same principles.

Believing that public utilities ought to be accountable to the public does not make one into a public utility, no matter how hard anyone tries to spin it that way.

Boing Boing has consistently advocated for private agencies and companies to be accountable to certain things it felt to be morally good, i.e., transparency, openness, and not disappearing things in the middle of the night. As said above, few are saying that BoingBoing is a public utility that is legally required and obligated to keep its archives untouched. If that's all you're arguing, you're merely saying a statement most people already agree with. What the vast majority of the extant criticism is about is that the action of "disappearing" Violet Blue's posts from the archive with no transparency, notice, or openness is an action directly contrary to several principles BoingBoing has routinely advocated and epsoused over the years, and as such is a highly hypocritical action that deserves scorn.

Advocating “transparency” for government proceedings, or for the beneficiaries of chartered monopolies and public largesse, doesn’t oblige the advocate to be “transparent” in every personal or artistic decision they themselves make.

Again, a substitution of a straw man for the real argument. Boing Boing has not, over its past, solely attacked governments, "chartered monopolies," and "beneficiaries of ... public largesse". They've criticized authors, leaders of professional organizations (SFWA, etc.), non-monopoly companies (Apple and MS are big but each is not a monopoly, especially given Apple's relatively small market share), and many others.

Boing Boing has, over the years, earned a great deal of respect, supportive cheers, and agreement for its actions of criticizing all — not a strictly limited subset of individuals legally obligated not to practice censorship, but all — of those who would be opaque and censorious and practice actions that alter records in the dead of night. Yet they themselves are, when it is convenient for them, being opaque and censorious and altering records in the dead of night.

They may not have any legal requirement that they not do what they're doing, but to suggest that what they're doing is not laughably hypocritical nor morally wrong is a highly difficult argument to make, and you've made nowhere near a convincing case here.

#10 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 04:25 PM:

Oh give me a break. That quoted comment from Zora has enough red herrings for a stew. It is such a bad faith argument that it's clear refuting it argument by slanted argument would only generate more variants.

I think I get the idea now, David; you needn't take me up on my request.

#11 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 04:26 PM:

David Bilek, you're being long on assertion and short on demonstration. Exactly what do you think BB has done that amounts to running their web site like a police state?

#12 ::: shmegegge ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 04:31 PM:

Did... Did you just try to spin this? In what way is it strange for people to take issue with what seems to be censorship from an organization that has vocally opposed censorship?

Using the same absurd logic you've just used one could say "Just because you oppose the death penalty doesn't mean you are obliged not to kill anyone if you are not an executioner." (And I'm not even going into the absurdity of your implication that BoingBoing has only ever opposed censorship from the government. How on earth you're able to even type that with a straight face is beyond me.) The fact is that actions invite reactions from one's audience. I'll happily agree that leaping to the conclusion of censorship given the dearth of information is uncalled for, but your response makes it seem like censorship is precisely what it was. If that's the case, how else could you possibly expect the BoingBoing readership to respond?

To put it in terms which more closely resemble your own smug superiority: It ought to be obvious that an organization which vocally opposes censorship will endure criticism when it appears to engage in same, especially when it (so far) refuses to discuss the matter.

There are ways to handle situations like this. One way is with disclosure, honesty and humility. Another is with smugness, obfuscation and spin. That you've chosen the latter is surprising, but telling. One can only hope that you don't represent the viewpoints of all of the BoingBoing staff.

#13 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 04:31 PM:

And Mike Harris neatly demonstrates my point.

BoingBoing's under no obligations, you see, and few people are saying that it's the same as the stuff they criticize, but -- insert handwaving here --- it's still "hypocritism". Because all those differences aren't really differences, and cheap moral grandstanding beats a rational argument.

#14 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 04:37 PM:

shmegegge, you either don't know what censorship is or are deliberately misusing the word (the better to shout "hypocrisy").

(And I'm not even going into the absurdity of your implication that BoingBoing has only ever opposed censorship from the government. How on earth you're able to even type that with a straight face is beyond me.)

Good of you, inasmuch as one can't type an implication (whether with a straight face or curved fingers), or even (as in this case) an incoherent inference.

#15 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 04:37 PM:

Patrick: The "Little Brother" reference was a little bit of an inside joke given that Cory wrote it and you edited it (uh, I think you edited it) but in context I probably should have left it out. This isn't about being a "police state" since the stakes are so much lower and far less important. It's a simple matter of hypocrisy on the part of a high profile website.

I'd prefer not to get hung up on my joke so I apologize for the hyperbole. No reason to compare hypocrisy to disappearing people or whatever.

Others have provided examples of why it is hypocrisy, though, so I won't clog up the space repeating them.

#16 ::: Mike Harris ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 04:40 PM:

Scraps, you neatly changed at least one thing I said 180 degrees. To recap:

(1) BoingBoing's under no obligations.

(2) One of the premises Patrick predicates his argument on is that BoingBoing has preached openness, transparency, etc. only of public agencies, monopolies, and beneficiaries of public largesse.

(2a) They've not. They've preached it of all, including many, many private entities that don't match those three categories.

(2b) Few people are saying BoingBoing has a legal requirement not to practice censorship.

(2c) MOST people are saying that it's the same as the stuff they criticize. Not few. There are no differences between BoingBoing criticizing private entities, people, and blogs for not being transparent, and who they are themselves.

(3) As is frequent in these arguments, one of the lowest-hanging fruit you chose to pluck, even if it really has nothing to do with the argument at hand. I did indeed type "hypocritism" instead of "hypocrisy."

#17 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 04:41 PM:

Patrick: I also wish to point out that I don't agree with everything everybody who thinks BB is being hypocritical posts. I'm sure that goes without saying, but I'm trying not to be acrimonious here even though I disagree with the thrust of your post and some people are being a little confrontational.

shmegegge: Patrick isn't part of the BB staff. It's Teresa who is moderator there.

#18 ::: shmegegge ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 04:42 PM:

Good of you, inasmuch as one can't type an implication (whether with a straight face or curved fingers), or even (as in this case) an incoherent inference.

that's an excellent point, and you've clearly cut directly to the heart of the matter at hand. it's been a pleasure discussing things with you, whoever you are. if you'd like to, feel free to criticize my inappropriately use lower-case letters, since they clearly undermine my argument just as devastatingly.

#19 ::: shmegegge ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 04:46 PM:

shmegegge: Patrick isn't part of the BB staff. It's Teresa who is moderator there.

i know.

#20 ::: colin roald ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 04:49 PM:

I don't suppose someone without an axe to grind could either explain or link to what's being argued about? I feel like I've been airdropped into a flamewar but don't know who the combatants are.

#21 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 04:49 PM:

Regarding the Violet Blue stuff, I don't have any personal knowledge of it, or even a very clear idea who she is, except that I know that the whole fuss has little or nothing to do with Cory. (The assertion above that BB is "Cory's site" is false; it's four people's site. Yes, obviously, they all share some responsibility for it.)

I can think of a lot of reasons I might decide to delete a bunch of old posts having to do with a person I was previously friendly with, and who has since behaved in a manner that made me want to have nothing to do with them. I can even imagine being in situations where I was somewhat enjoined, by legal advice, common sense, or even my own emotional limitations, from wanting to talk about it. Making this sort of a thing a litmus test of "hypocrisy" is silly. People have a right to disassociate themselves from one another.

Mike Harris seems to be sayings that if I criticize a business or a professional association for un-transparent behavior, I'm obliged to live my personal life and run my personal web site by the standards we bring to shared enterprises. I may never decide to cut my ties to someone and remove references to them from my personal site, no matter what the personal circumstances. In essence, Mike Harris wants to impute a false equivalence in order to make sure that people who venture to criticize businesses, governments, or organizations are required to live their lives without the flexibility and slack that get extended to everyone else. This is an excellent way to make sure nobody ever makes any waves.

#22 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 04:51 PM:

Okay, I admit it: when I see a post where people seem to be carefully and conspicuously Not Talking About a particular incident, it makes me go: "Hm, what's up with this?"

Didn't take too long to find out. But I'm still kind of mystified about what would prompt them to do something like that. I don't presume to pry into their personal lives, but when the incident involves the unannounced targeted removal of a lot of stuff that was public for a long time, one can expect the public to have questions about it.

One of our gracious hosts had a useful post back in September called "Talk, don't spin".
She was writing that specifically about "scandals and other PR disasters", but a fair bit of it applies even to *perceptions* of scandals, e.g.:

"Give up all hope of sneaking anything past your listeners... [T]he internet is watching, and behind each and every pair of eyes out there is a person who knows how to Google."

#23 ::: don delny ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 04:53 PM:

Can we start over? This discussion hasn't made a lick of sense since comment #3. (Kudos to Lila & kouredios, though.)

What are we fighting about? Who's on which side? Why did you pick that side? Can someone give me an example illustrating their point?

#24 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 04:58 PM:

Violet Blue? Thank goodness! For a moment I thought you meant V*nn* B*nt*!


#25 ::: don delny ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 04:58 PM:

Ah, thank you PNH (21), that makes more sense now. (Still not sure what points the other folk were making though.)

#26 ::: Phil Armstrong ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 05:01 PM:

Don: fairly long metafilter thread on the subject is here.

#27 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 05:02 PM:

David Bilek, just as you don't want to be hung up on your sloppy imputation that this stuff has some resemblance to the behavior of a police state, I don't particularly want to be hung up on an argument over governments, corporations, associations, and so forth. What I am emphatically saying is that there is a personal sphere within which people have the right to make choices about who they associate with and who they publish, and that a web site like Boing Boing falls completely inside that sphere, no matter how popular it is.

If you disagree, if you really think that every individual web site should be run to the standards we expect of shared enterprises like governments or professional associations, I think the burden is on you to explain how this should work. Or, alternately, if you think Boing Boing's popularity requires it handle its content differently than I handle (say) my LiveJournal, where does this kick in? At what traffic numbers? Why?

#28 ::: Dom ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 05:03 PM:

The only meaning I can glean from this discussion/argument is that the book Little Brother is so bad that the author had to delete comments complaining about how bad it was from his own blog, which made people upset. Is that roughly the situation?

#29 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 05:05 PM:

Anyone ever think it might have been done in fulfillment of a takedown notice? And that there might be some active or potential litigation in progress? There are reasons for erasing things besides trying to pretend they never existed.

#30 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 05:09 PM:
Others have provided examples of why it is hypocrisy

Actually, we're still waiting for an honest example. The closest anyone's managed is "They've preached it of all, including many, many private entities that don't match those three categories." In other words, assertions not backed up with actual examples.

And I'm betting they'll turn out to be parallels as silly as Zora's to the Society of American Archivists, which is no more convincing for being labeled "shocking" and "disgusting."

BoingBoing is a personal weblog. It doesn't become less so for being popular. No one else has any rights to it; it is not a public resource; deleting anything in it, including comments and commenters, is theirs to do as and how they wish, and is neither equivalent to government agencies acting in the night or archivists deleting their archives. And "hypocrisy" doesn't mean "people on record of disapproving of things doing things we disapprove of".

#31 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 05:09 PM:

Dom, the only meaning I can glean from your comment is that you're a jack trying to be inflammatory on purpose, i.e. trolling. Please go back under your bridge now.

#32 ::: Mike Harris ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 05:11 PM:

Patrick, you're being disingenuous in working this latest response off the false precept that BoingBoing is the expression of any of its editors' personal lives, or the personal website of any of the editors.

It's a business. It has hired employees. It sells merchandise. It sells advertising space. Yes, it contains the personal opinions and expressions of its creators. So? Many "old media" publications have opinion columns. That doesn't make them personal and not professional. You and I could quibble all day about the difference between a personal website and a professional website, but when you hire someone to help with your website and you are making a very considerable sum of money from it, I think it falls very squarely into the professional side of things.

There are no doubt great amounts of personal details about the lives of Cory, Mark, David, and Xeni which are and very much should remain utterly opaque. However, removing blog posts doesn't fall into the "personal life" supportive rationale.

You summarize my argument as so: "People who venture to criticize businesses, governments, or organizations are required to live their lives without the flexibility and slack that get extended to everyone else."

In doing so, you substitute two straw men that make the argument fallacious.

People who venture to criticize business, governments or organizations in an online media website business for which they hire employees and make revenue from advertising and merchandise should be considered hypocritical if they don't run that business in accordance with the same principles they believe said businesses, governments and organizations should operate their businesses by.

By the way, BoingBoing has, in the past, quite transparently and openly handled the problem of disappearing one of its posts.

#33 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 05:13 PM:

shmegegge, since you think I avoided the meat of your argument in favor of making fun of the word "hypocritism", I might as well point out that in doing so you neatly avoided the point that you're misusing the word censorship.

#34 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 05:16 PM:

Bah. Not the word "hypocritism", but the typed straight face etc.

Lost my flowchart.

#35 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 05:16 PM:

shmegegge, if you "know" (#19) that I'm not a member of BB's staff, why did you write, addressing me in #12, "One can only hope that you don't represent the viewpoints of all of the BoingBoing staff"?

I can think of a possible answer, but it's not a very nice one. I'd rather think better of you.

#36 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 05:19 PM:

Just in case it's not obvious, absolutely nothing under discussion here has anything to do with Little Brother or anyone's online discussions of same.

#37 ::: Phil Armstrong ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 05:20 PM:

Xopher@29: whilst that is possible, the person in quesion is claiming complete ignorance.

It's all a bit wierd, but reminiscent of the way BoingBoing eliminated all mention of Ursula McGuin after Cory infringed the copyright on one of her works.

#38 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 05:21 PM:

PNH 36: I'm pretty sure it was clear to everyone except Dom, or perhaps one more than that.

#39 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 05:23 PM:

Or, alternately, if you think Boing Boing's popularity requires it handle its content differently than I handle (say) my LiveJournal, where does this kick in? At what traffic numbers? Why?

It's not the popularity; Boing Boing has been extremely vocal about how others handle transparency and censorship. And not just government or monopolistic corporate entities. You keep trying to draw a line between a high profile website like Boing Boing and the types of entities that Boing Boing has criticized in the past. I understand why; such a dividing line is important if this isn't to be viewed as hypocrisy.

Our disagreement is that I don't see that bright dividing line. For example, you call SFWA a "professional organization" and seem to think that SFWA ought to be more transparent than, say, Boing Boing which you call a personal web site. I don't see why SFWA has any more responsibility to be open and transparent than Boing Boing does, and Cory went to town on SFWA's lack of transparency. SFWA is an association of private individuals just like Boing Boing is. Hell, Boing Boing undoubtedly has a rather large revenue stream for being nothing but a personal web site. Who makes more money from their position, the owners of BB or the members of SFWA?

And it's not a matter of "requiring" transparency or whatever. I'm not about to go stand outside somebody's house with a placard decrying their stance. I'm not asking for some sort of intervention. I'm just saying it's hypocritical to go after other private entities for pretty much the same sort of thing you yourself engage in, and I'll take Cory Doctorow's (in particular, as he's been the most vocal) stance on this topic with a large grain of salt from now on.

There are other examples besides the criticism of SFWA. (I'll start: SFWA issued DMCA takedown notices which makes them fair game for criticism while BB has, so far as I know, never injected itself in a legal matter in this way). So I realize you can almost certainly pick apart any individual example because there is never going to be an exact analogy for a site like Boing Boing. But I think that's just splitting hairs; The bottom line is that I don't see the dividing line that you see between the type of organizations that BB has criticized and BB itself.

As to the possibility of some sort of legal enjoinder: V.B. herself is clueless about what's going on and she'd be the only person I see that would instigate such a thing, so that seems a very unlikely reason for the silence on this subject.

I know none of the parties involved and I generally don't even post on Boing Boing. I say this only so I'm not coming across like I believe this to be the BIGGEST TRAVESTY ON THE WEB EVER. It's an interesting intersection between the personal and the public on a high profile website, and for that reason I think it is interesting and even a little bit important.

#40 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 05:28 PM:
I realize you can almost certainly pick apart any individual example because there is never going to be an exact analogy for a site like Boing Boing. But I think that's just splitting hairs;

In other words, whether or not you can support what you say, you're going to keep calling it hypocrisy. Nice.

#41 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 05:28 PM:

David #39: SFWA is supposed to represent a whole lot of people; BoingBoing represents the people who write for it and no one else. That seems a pretty clear difference to me.

I'm completely ignorant of what started this off, except that Patrick's original post seems pretty eminently sensible to me. But how did the angry BB people descend on this thread so quickly?

#42 ::: Grobstein ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 05:29 PM:

Scraps, your point about the definition of "censorship" is purely pedantic and could be dismissed for that reason alone. Whether "censorship" is the right word for what's going on here is immaterial.

You also haven't specified what error you think shmegegge is making. Let's assume you're arguing that "censorship" means only government censorship. Then you are being not merely pedantic but also wrong. The OED gives "censorship" as "The office or function of a censor," and goes on to define "censor" as (among other things):


2. a. transf. One who exercises official or officious supervision over morals and conduct.

I think you'll find this comports with common usage. For example, if a private school screens out certain phrases from student publications, that is commonly called "censorship."

#43 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 05:29 PM:

Oops, a sentence got deleted in my post while I was editing such that the 4th paragraph doesn't make sense.

The parenthetical is simply an example of how you could poke holes in my comparison of the criticism of SFWA with criticism of Boing Boing. I was trying to say that I believe that any example provided would result in holes being poked because there is no such thing as an exactly analogous case.

Sorry for the lack of clarity.

#44 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 05:33 PM:

But how did the angry BB people descend on this thread so quickly?

ethan: I don't think they are Boing Boing people, I think they are Metafilter people. This topic has something like 200+ comments at Metafilter last time I checked.

As to SFWA; yes, that's a difference. As I said, I can give example after example and people who don't see the big deal will be able to find holes in them. You could argue, as Patrick does, that this is because there is no comparison between the type of entities BB criticizes and BB itself. I would argue it is because there are almost never completely analogous cases and that the differences don't amount to a dividing line.

I suspect we aren't going to agree on that last point.

#45 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 05:37 PM:

ethan, #41: There always seems to be a small crowd of people looking for an opportunity to take Boing Boing down. It seems to barely matter how trivial the issue is. You'd be amazed how many people are outraged that Cory Doctorow devotes, why, one in 20 posts to promoting his own books.

#46 ::: don delny ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 05:41 PM:

mfhgh. New record for me, I couldn't even get halfway down the above linked metafilter page.

I now have a dim understanding of what may have happened, and the impression that many, many metafilter posters think Cory's interests are stupid and Teresa's moderation fascist. Which is odd, because I read boingboing because I think Cory's interests are, er, interesting, and Teresa's moderation useful.*

*and occasionally devastatingly funny.**
**if I was brownnosing on this one, I would have done a much, much better job, probably via a lolcat haiku featuring dinosaurs and sodomy. I have already mailed a (flattened, cc-licensed) papercraft diorama of a steampunk surveillance camera at Disneyland being attacked by a trio of open-source
oh nevermind. You get the idea.

#47 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 05:41 PM:

SFWA is a membership organization. Its leaders are elected. That means that the rank-and-file have some control, through their representatives, of what the organization does.

In order to exercise that control, they have to choose representatives according to their behavior. In order to do that, they must know of all the behavior in which the representatives engage that has relevance to the running of the organization, and indeed have a right to that information and an obligation to pursue it.

In addition, since it's a (loosely) democratic organization, anyone (at all, but especially those who are members) must be free to criticize it. Members must be free to criticize it on its own comment pages, because that's part of how democratic politics is done.

Boing Boing, by contrast, is entirely privately owned, has no dues-paying members, and is not democratically run, nor should it be. It makes no pretensions of same. Therefore we have as much right to information about its internal workings, including decisions about content, as its owners choose to publish, and no more.

Still waiting for the honest example of when they've criticized a relevantly-similar organization for doing things relevantly similar to what they've done in this case.

#48 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 05:42 PM:

For the record, I have no particular beef with Boing Boing (apart from what I've posted in this thread) and, in fact, just finished LITTLE BROTHER about 4 days ago. I encourage everyone to buy and read it as well as any book the other people on Boing Boing write.

#49 ::: Mike Harris ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 05:42 PM:

Damn, Patrick, shame you fell to ad hominem so quickly. Now, it's just that we're "trying to take Boing Boing down."

Really, man, you're a professional editor. I expected a hell of a lot more class.

By the way, not a company?

Check the footer of BoingBoing, and look at the last three letters of who owns the Boing Boing trademark.

Happy Mutants ...

... LLC. Limited Liability Company.

#50 ::: Dom ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 05:43 PM:

#31: OK, sorry.

#36: Oh. It really wasn't obvious without further research.

Boing Boing deleted posts referring to a third-party author/blogger, which made people upset, causing them to comment on Boing Boing posts by blogger Cory Doctorow about his own book, which comments were also deleted, making people upset again.

The two separate deletion events make the circumlocutions in this thread doubly confusing.

#51 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 05:45 PM:

Xopher: okay, how about when BB criticized Digg for pulling down the AACS key in response to DMCA notices? Digg was "disappearing" any post referencing the AACS key in much the same way that BB has "disappeared" any posts referencing V.B.

I assume you'll poke holes in this, and the next one, and the next one. Is it really worth our time to go down that round? Either you think these things are remotely analogous or you don't.

#52 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 05:45 PM:
Scraps, your point about the definition of "censorship" is purely pedantic and could be dismissed for that reason alone. Whether "censorship" is the right word for what's going on here is immaterial.

Hardly. The word "censorship" is used because it has emotional power, proceeding from it use by the powerful against the powerless. Nothing going on here is entitled that that emotional power.

I think you'll find this comports with common usage. For example, if a private school screens out certain phrases from student publications, that is commonly called "censorship."

Sure. But I note that you don't explain how what BoingBoing has done fits the casual use of censorship like the example you give. Because, of course, it doesn't. But "actions we disapprove of" just doesn't have the same oomph as "censorship".

#53 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 05:46 PM:

David 44: "Relevantly similar" reverses to "relevantly distinct" too. Give us a specific case, and we'll say how the cases differ, and why the difference MAKES a difference.

Of course analogies are never perfect. It's literally impossible, because when they're perfect they cease to be analogies. But we're not going to say "Aha! This case is different because the name of the website is not a five-letter sound-effect word replicated! Your analogy falls!"

#54 ::: don delny ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 05:49 PM:

David Bilek, 51,
I assume you'll poke holes in this, and the next one, and the next one. Is it really worth our time to go down that round? Either you think these things are remotely analogous or you don't.

Can you make your point without using analogy?

#55 ::: Shawn Struck ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 05:49 PM:

You'd be amazed how many people are outraged that Cory Doctorow devotes, why, one in 20 posts to promoting his own books.

That always made me scratch my head, too.

#56 ::: shmegegge ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 05:50 PM:

shmegegge, since you think I avoided the meat of your argument in favor of making fun of the word "hypocritism", I might as well point out that in doing so you neatly avoided the point that you're misusing the word censorship.

I don't know what you're talking about. I think you've stopped talking about the topic at hand to take the opportunity to snark about grammar mistakes. I've avoided responding to you in any other matter for this reason alone. for the record, though, I have not misused the word censorship, and no amount of you claiming otherwise proves that I have. by all means, go back to your petty grammar snarking.

shmegegge, if you "know" (#19) that I'm not a member of BB's staff, why did you write, addressing me in #12, "One can only hope that you don't represent the viewpoints of all of the BoingBoing staff"? I can think of a possible answer, but it's not a very nice one. I'd rather think better of you.

I can see why that would imply that I thought you were a member of the BoingBoing staff. I had intended it to mean that any given member of the staff might agree with you, but that I hope not all of them do. It was poorly phrased. these things happen.

but for real, now. why are you spinning this? now you've tried to claim that boingboing is a personal web site. come on. you have now backpedaled on your initial post, readjusted your argument and once again shifted focus away from the actual concern that a lot of people have: namely that boingboing appears to be engaging in what they oppose without addressing the apparent disconnect between their words and their deeds. If you want to defend them, awesome, but why claim that it's a personal web site? why claim they only oppose censorship from government sources? why are you twisting this? I can think of a number of reasons, but I'd rather think better of you.

#57 ::: Mike Harris ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 05:51 PM:

Don, he's not making analogies ... he's bringing up examples of prior op-eds in Boing Boing that advocate transparency, etc. that BB is now acting in an opposing manner. You can't prove or disprove hypocrisy without citing to past behavior, since same is an essential component one way or the other.

#58 ::: tim ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 05:51 PM:

I don't have a horse in this race (aside from being a visitor of ML, Boing Boing, and Metafilter)but from an outsider's perspective, all I see is that this discussion is getting bogged down in semantics when the following facts appear to be true:

1. Boing Boing has often commented negatively on obfuscation and "spin" against government, and corporations large and small.

2. Boing Boing is not a "personal website," by any definition I can think of, to wit: each of the 4 main editors have their own personal websites which are largely if not totally unencumbered by advertisements, where Boing Boing has a large number, and from a brief perusal, none of their personal websites claim to be copyright "Happy Mutants, LLC" -- which by definition is a corporation.

3. Retroactive deleting of (nearly) all entries and comments which even make reference to a specific person, and going on 48 hours without so much as a "our lawyers tell us to shut up" smacks strongly of the very types of evasion and obfuscation that Boing Boing has clearly, and regularly, taken a stand against.

4. This behavior by Happy Mutants, LLC is plainly counter to Boing Boing's long-standing opposition, and people have taken notice of this.

Now, whatever argument you may want to make of it, I think these 4 points of fact are accurate.

#59 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 05:52 PM:

David 51: That does sound similar. I don't know enough about the Digg case (or what BB said about it) to comment, unfortunately.

#60 ::: Shawn Struck ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 05:56 PM:

Well, here's another example:
http://www.boingboing.net/2006/01/26/carlo-longino-uses-g.html

#61 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 06:01 PM:

tim 58: One quibble. An LLC is privately held (and not a corporation: the 'C' stands for 'Company'). If they were a public corporation, they would be accountable to their stockholders and potential stockholders (i.e. the public). An LLC has different rules. IANAL but I believe the requirements of public disclosure are much less. And the legal requirements are to enforce a moral one; the stockholders own the corporation, and the potential stockholders are potential buyers of the corporation. Happy Mutants, LLC is owned by its four principals, who are accountable only to each other.

#62 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 06:02 PM:

Mike Harris, you called Patrick disingenuous, and now you're crying ad hominem when he points out the obvious fact that there are a bunch of folks out there who look for any opportunity to attack BoingBoing (and Cory) and aren't especially scrupulous about it?

The outrage over this -- witness the quote from Zora for real disingenuousness -- is transparently manufactured. I believe the sincerity of the people who are arguing politely that BoingBoing is guilty of hypocrisy -- I believe your sincerity -- even while I think it's a damned silly argument. But I think the outraged are just posturing trolls.

#63 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 06:03 PM:

Xopher: Thanks for the open mind. I'm not trying to back out of this discussion; rather, I'm trying to avoid dominating it and coming across as having a generalized beef with Boing Boing.

I'll help poke holes in the example since you aren't familiar with it: I'm not sure Boing Boing specifically posted criticism per se with regard to the Digg AACS case. They linked approvingly to criticism about it and talked up the case but I don't recall seeing any direct commentary from the owners of Boing Boing.

That's why I think providing examples is unlikely to change too many minds; there is always going to be wiggle room if you are inclined to find it.

In any case, I'm happy to talk about this forever but I'm sure everyone's eyes are glazing over. I hope you can see my point of view even if you don't agree with it. I'm not calling for a boycott of BB or anything, I just think they're being hypocritical.

#64 ::: Mike Harris ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 06:04 PM:

Mike Harris, you called Patrick disingenuous, and now you're crying ad hominem...

Ad hominem is attacking the person and not the argument. He's now attacking the people making the argument, and not the argument itself. So, yes, he's making an ad hominem argument.

#65 ::: Jerry Yeti ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 06:07 PM:

"Happy Mutants, LLC is owned by its four principals, who are accountable only to each other."

What about their readers? They don't owe them any accountability?

#66 ::: tim ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 06:10 PM:

Xopher 61: Fair enough. I believe my point stands, though. Even though an LLC is not publicly held, it is a for-profit corporate entity, and thus Boing Boing is not a "personal" website, but a corporate-owned (or for-profit company-owned, if you will) website.

#67 ::: don delny ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 06:11 PM:

Jerry Yeti, 65,
"Happy Mutants, LLC is owned by its four principals, who are accountable only to each other." What about their readers? They don't owe them any accountability?

No, I don't think so. Their fans, yes, some accountability. But their detractors? I don't think it works like that.

#68 ::: Shawn Struck ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 06:12 PM:

I'm not calling for a boycott of BB or anything, I just think they're being hypocritical.

Same here. I like the site, I visited at least twice a day, I promoted the heck out of Little Brother to friends and acquaintances.

Also, I don't know what the heck happened to my previous post-- it look okay in preview, but there seems to be a paragraph cut off. >_

Same here. I like the site, I visited at least twice a day, I promoted the heck out of Little Brother to friends and acquaintances.

Also, I don't know what the heck happened to my previous post-- it look okay in preview, but there seems to be a paragraph cut off. >_

#69 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 06:15 PM:

shmegegge, misusing words is not a "grammar mistake". And if you think BoingBoing is engaging in censorship, you are misusing the word. Not in its pedantic sense, but in any meaningful sense above the junior high school level.

But your whole "Wow, why are you spinning this" paragraph makes it clear that you are only in this for the demogoguery.

"I'd rather think better of you"

Who do you imagine you're fooling?

#70 ::: shmegegge ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 06:16 PM:

I'm sorry, did you say something?

#71 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 06:16 PM:

#37, Phil Armstrong

reminiscent of the way BoingBoing eliminated all mention of Ursula McGuin[sic] after Cory infringed the copyright on one of her works.

I saw this statement at metafilter too. Where are you getting your info? Because it looks to me like your source is wrong. You may think the apology is too little, too late, and any apology that includes justification doesn't deserve the name (criticisms I've seen of that post) but saying that the post doesn't include any mention of Le Guin is pretty silly.

Unless, of course, you're doing a Google search for Ursula McGuin, and then yes, I can see that you might think all mention has been deleted.

#72 ::: Josh Millard ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 06:24 PM:

But how did the angry BB people descend on this thread so quickly?

Someone else has already pointed out that several of the commenters here are via the Metafilter thread. I recognize some names, both of folks actively commenting in that thread and from the site in general. I also see some unfamiliar names, of folks who seem to have gotten here by their own means and who I presume have nothing to do with mefi.

I'm "cortex" over there, one of the moderators.

Angry, I don't know. Taken aback? Squicked out? Bothered by an apparent disconnect? I think tim at #58 laid out fairly well the shape of the thing that's bothering a lot of people, and it's got very little to do with folks who do or don't like Cory's books, etc, as vocal as those folks might be amidst the more substantive discussion going on.

But regardless of who and how, I think the "why" of the question -- why did people end up here so quickly -- is pretty obvious:

There's a news going around on big bloggish sites today about something that happened on a very big bloggish site, and this thread, oblique as it is and posted by someone who is merely (as he points out) personally rather than profesionally connected to the site involved, is as close as we've gotten to discussion of the issue from a principal at BoingBoing.

People want to know what's up. This thread obviously wasn't intended as a clearing house for info from BB, but it's the closest thing to someone addressing any of the issue, even if only from an associative step away from the folks at the center of it. This thread probably wouldn't be nearly as busy if there were a discussion being facilitated by BoingBoing itself.

#73 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 06:25 PM:

Mike, I was pointing out the you used an ad hominem on Patrick before the one you pointed out. And that his is demonstrably true -- he said it of some, not all, and it is clearly true of some -- while yours requires mind-reading.

3. Retroactive deleting of (nearly) all entries and comments which even make reference to a specific person, and going on 48 hours without so much as a "our lawyers tell us to shut up" smacks strongly of the very types of evasion and obfuscation that Boing Boing has clearly, and regularly, taken a stand against.

Tim, I wouldn't call that a fact. I don't think it smacks of any of the kinds of behavior they've taken a stand against. They have taken an action that some folks don't like. Apart from vague words like "evasion" and "obfuscation" that don't seem to me to apply here -- why do they owe uninvolved parties any explanation? -- how is it similar to things they've criticized?

On a really basic level: What harm has been done, and to whom? Not abstractions, here, but actual harm? And compare it to the things they've criticized. Where is a real parallel?

#74 ::: language hat ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 06:26 PM:

Retroactive deleting of (nearly) all entries and comments which even make reference to a specific person, and going on 48 hours without so much as a "our lawyers tell us to shut up" smacks strongly of the very types of evasion and obfuscation that Boing Boing has clearly, and regularly, taken a stand against.

This is the heart of the matter, and I would greatly appreciate it if the defense team could focus on it rather than nitpick about grammar or analogies or try to smear critics as "a small crowd of people looking for an opportunity to take Boing Boing down." Come on, Patrick, that's unworthy of you.

(Preemptive note: "Defense team" is a jokey reference to those defending BoingBoing's behavior. I do not imply, nor do I believe, that such people are actually an organized team, still less that they are claiming to be lawyers or are in the pay of Happy Mutants, LLC. Thank you for your attention.)

#75 ::: colin roald ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 06:33 PM:

xopher@31: I think you're being too hard on Dom@28. The *first* mention of a proper name in this thread, ie, the first remote clue as to what anyone was talking about, was David's comment #4, which finally mentions Boing Boing, Cory, and Little Brother. If you assume we don't read Metafilter or Valleywag or whoever the heck else has their knickers in a twist on this, Dom's guess was pretty reasonable. It was also my first mystified guess, anyway.

#76 ::: Phil Armstrong ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 06:34 PM:

RM@29: My understanding was that they'd eliminated any posts mentioning her, apart from the apology you link to. I'm happy to be corrected on that score if it's untrue.

The fact that BoingBoing is in general trigger happy with the delete button on perceived criticism is uncontroversial I think. It's their right to be so of course.

#77 ::: Phil Armstrong ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 06:35 PM:

That post should be addressed to RM@71 of course.

#78 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 06:38 PM:

Thanks to those who pointed out that BB isn't a personal site, it's a for-profit corporation. I brought up their revenue previously but I hadn't done the research to realize they were officially for-profit.

I think the for-profit nature of BB changes matters and makes Patrick's objection to this level of scrutiny for a "personal site" moot.

#79 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 06:40 PM:

David's comment #4, which finally mentions Boing Boing, Cory, and Little Brother.

I already made it clear, but I'll do so again; I was making a joke since the name is (intentionally) reminiscent of big brother and Patrick edited it, but it has nothing to do with any of this and I'm sorry I even mentioned the name of the book.

#80 ::: Mike Harris ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 06:41 PM:

Scraps: I really don't see "disingenuous" as an attack on the person. I've always seen it as more of a debate technique ("giving a false appearance of simple frankness").

#81 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 06:41 PM:

#76, Phil Armstrong -

Deleting all posts relating to her except the one linked isn't deleting all mention of her. I don't know how often she was mentioned prior to the incident. If she had been a topic of praise and then that was deleted, then that does possibly bear relevance to this discussion, but overstating the situation doesn't strike me as useful. I did google, and she only turns up in that post and in comments. (I'm torn about whether or not the comments count for "deleting all mention of her" or not.)

Do you recall one way or the other?

#82 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 06:43 PM:

language 74: Cross-posting sucks, doesn't it? I know I hate that part.

colin 75: Hmm, perhaps. It depends on how you read 50. I read it as distinctly sarky, but looking at it again I can see an alternative reading.

Dom, if you weren't being sarcastic and inflammatory, I apologize.

#83 ::: Eric Boyd ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 06:47 PM:

language hat, at post #74, expresses my sentiment precisely. I've read BoingBoing for a long time and come to trust them; this feels like a loss to me. I expected a reasonable level of transparency. Now, to link to any content from BoingBoing, I have to wait until it hits the Google cache or archive.org.

And that's the other thing: BoingBoing has been a place that champions the fact that clamping down on information just draws attention to it- see the DeCSS debacle. I'd think they'd have the savvy to figure out the inevitable reaction to something like this.

Does anyone have the full set of redacted posts, or links to them on archive.org?

#84 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 06:47 PM:

...Huh. I was figuring some Republican hack somewhere was crying that Obama hadn't presented his medical records or the report cards of his daughters or something; and then I came back and saw that the post had gotten 80-some comments in like two hours, so I checked to see what the flame war was.

From what I see here, tim at #58 has it right.

My thoughts: 1. it is too bad when you find that someone has feet of clay. As much as "hypocrite" is an ad hominem, ad hominems are powerful arguments for some real reason. I have not yet chewed over whether I think this is a good or bad thing.

2. Violet Blue? I'm looking forward to seeing the story come out, because she's a classic San Franciscan with the hair and makeup and talking about sex stuff, and I feel slightly fond of her for that.

3. It does suck when you write something and then that something vanishes. I prefer the Macdonald "guns" approach of shifting all the offtopic red herring comments to their own thread.

#85 ::: Ben Burgis ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 06:48 PM:

Mike Harris, 64:

"Ad hominem is attacking the person and not the argument."

No, it's not.

It's claiming that the argument itself is refuted by citing (irrelevant) facts, real or otherwise, about the person making the argument. ["Irrelevant" is important here. If Dick says that Jane was the one who killed the professor, and that he knows it because he saw it happen, pointing out that Dick is prone to vivid visual hallucinations would not be fallacious.]

Saying negative, or even insulting, things about the person making the argument doesn't add up to committing the ad hominem fallacy unless you suggest that inferential link. Particularly when you first systematically take apart an argument, and then go on to say critical things about the motives of the person making the argument, you cannot in any way be accused of ad hominem reasoning.

Idiot.*

*Just kidding, but see, if I had just called you an 'idiot', it would have been mean, but it wouldn't have added up to my engaging in an ad hominem argument.

#86 ::: tim ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 06:48 PM:

Apart from vague words like "evasion" and "obfuscation" that don't seem to me to apply here -- why do they owe uninvolved parties any explanation? -- how is it similar to things they've criticized? -- Scraps #73

They have removed from their website the factual account of the history of the postings. Without a response from Boing Boing, it is not reasonable to infer specifically why that is. The act itself is an act of obfuscation of the facts of the site's history.

It has been a couple days since this deletion has come to light.

The site has proceeded, both in making posts and in moderating comments, without responding to explicit questions both by commenters and (according to anecdote) emailers asking the reason for their actions. That is evasive.

I contend that simply being obfuscatory with respect to the previous posting history and evasive when asked via both email and comments (which were either disemvowelled or deleted) is behavior that, if it were done by someone else, for example, Digg, would receive a at least an observational response by Boing Boing, if not implicit or explicit criticism. This is the disconnect I am seeing here.

But does Happy Mutants/Boing Boing "owe" anyone any explanation? Of course not. That was never my point. But I do think they should be very, very careful, as their current behavior (which I wager many people consider to be evasive and obfuscatory) is a short road to lowering one's "brand equity" in these here Intertubes. And in a marketplace of ideas that moves so quickly, reputation is everything.

#87 ::: Phil Armstrong ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 06:49 PM:

RM@81: sadly not. And archive.org doesn't do text searches...

Scratch that example then.

#88 ::: Erik Olson ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 06:49 PM:

What about their readers? They don't owe them any accountability?

In fact, not one bit. Now, you might think that accountability might help them *keep* them as readers, and that this would be a good thing.

I'd probably agree with you.

But "owe?" No. There's no debt incurred. There's no cost to read the site, there's no obligation -- to reader, or to author -- incurred by doing so.

Unless you have a contract or other legal note of obligation, the editors of "Boing Boing" owe you nothing. And a large part of this whole episode is people trying to assert debts that simply do not exist.

Or, quite simply: It's just a weblog.

Thanks to those who pointed out that BB isn't a personal site, it's a for-profit corporation

Changes nothing. If it was a publicly held for-profit corporation, then they would have obligations to the shareholders. A private for-profit corporation has obligations *only* to the owners, and those who it holds legal contracts and such with.

Indeed, if this bothers you, you can stop reading, and *actually hurt their bottom line."

#89 ::: Eric Boyd ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 06:51 PM:

#81: See http://web.archive.org/web/20060926103226/boingboing.net/2006_09_01_archive.html

and search for VIOLET.

"BoingBoing pal and intrepid sexblogger/podcaster/author Violet Blue today made her debut..."

#90 ::: Phil Armstrong ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 06:51 PM:

There is the fact that Cory claimed to have done it of course:

"I heard from SFWA President Michael Capobianco, who informed me that Ms Le Guin had contacted him asking to have the whole work removed -- I did so immediately, also removing all other quotes and references to Ms Le Guin from Boing Boing's archives."

http://www.boingboing.net/2007/10/14/an-apology-to-ursula.html

#91 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 06:57 PM:

A search on BoingBoing for "Ursula Le Guin" yields 20 results, mostly linking to comments rather than main posts. I haven't the time to go through the Wayback machine, but I never had the impression that she was much mentioned on BoingBoing; the result count feels about right.

Reading the MeFi thread, I see the commenters are about as accurate as I'd expect for a big site at a fast pace, IOW, not very much. Someone, for instance, seemed to translate my plaintive request for more egoboo (trans: praise, strokes) on my fifteen minutes of fame into moderator-speak for criticism.

Check your facts, guys, before repeating them.

#92 ::: annalee flower horne ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 07:07 PM:

I heard this reasoning as an argument against open source recently: "well if you're in favor of open source, you shouldn't care about border guards looking at your laptop because all your information should be free and open to the public!"

Ah, not so much, no. My files aren't proprietary; they're personal.

#93 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 07:13 PM:

The reason that the meaning of words and the precision of analogies are disputed is because the entire case being made against BoingBoing is built on words and analogies that seem to many of us suspect. The accusation of hypocrisy has analogy at its heart: "they're doing this thing when they've decried this other thing that's just like it!" If the issue is hypocrisy, than the validity of the analogies is going to be central to the case.

In particular, discussing specific positions BoingBoing has taken is crucial to making this case, because in those specific cases we can examine who has been harmed by the behavior and in what way, and if it is in fact similar to any harm that can be argued about BoingBoing's behavior. (And outside of Violet Blue, who has been harmed? Again, not abstractions like [say] "the discourse"; how has harm been done to any of the people making complaints?) Is it disputed that BoingBoing's past positions to which people are making (general) analogy are ones in which people were harmed in explicable ways? Despite some people saying that anything can be nit-picked, etc, good parallels ought to be specifically arguable; when an anti-abortion activist hides an abortion, the hypocrisy is clear and no honest person can "nit-pick" the parallel away. Given that hypocrisy is a very serious character charge, I think that people making the charge ought to go to some trouble to make the charge specific, focused, and strong against nit-picking.

And Tim, I see what you're saying, but to me, not responding isn't the same as being evasive. (Words again!) Especially if the person asking isn't owed an explanation.

#94 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 07:16 PM:

The reason that the meaning of words and the precision of analogies are disputed is because the entire case being made against BoingBoing is built on words and analogies that seem to many of us suspect. The accusation of hypocrisy has analogy at its heart: "they're doing this thing when they've decried this other thing that's just like it!" If the issue is hypocrisy, than the validity of the analogies is going to be central to the case.

In particular, discussing specific positions BoingBoing has taken is crucial to making this case, because in those specific cases we can examine who has been harmed by the behavior and in what way, and if it is in fact similar to any harm that can be argued about BoingBoing's behavior. (And outside of Violet Blue, who has been harmed? Again, not abstractions like [say] "the discourse"; how has harm been done to any of the people making complaints?) Is it disputed that BoingBoing's past positions to which people are making (general) analogy are ones in which people were harmed in explicable ways? Despite some people saying that anything can be nit-picked, etc, good parallels ought to be specifically arguable; when an anti-abortion activist hides an abortion, the hypocrisy is clear and no honest person can "nit-pick" the parallel away. Given that hypocrisy is a very serious character charge, I think that people making the charge ought to go to some trouble to make the charge specific, focused, and strong against nit-picking.

And Tim, I see what you're saying, but to me, not responding isn't the same as being evasive. (Words again!) Especially if the person asking isn't owed an explanation.

#95 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 07:19 PM:

The reason that the meaning of words and the precision of analogies are disputed is because the entire case being made against BoingBoing is built on words and analogies that seem to many of us suspect.

While that's a fair point, I think it might also be because some people are telling lies, and other people are telling the truth.

Lying is bad. Liars are bad people, like George Bush and Dick Cheney.

#96 ::: Phil Armstrong ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 07:26 PM:

Scraps@94: Speaking personally, the actions speak for themselves. The implied hypocrisy just makes for a higher quality of snark.

On that topic however, this BB post (via the metafilter thread) has some relevance to this discussion.

#97 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 07:31 PM:

While that's a fair point, I think it might also be because some people are telling lies, and other people are telling the truth.

Such as? I haven't seen anybody lying. Having differing interpretations of Boing Boing's actions, sure, but it seems to me that implying dishonesty on anyone's part here is over the top.

#98 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 07:31 PM:

Scraps:

The more important question is what effect this action has on the community of boing boing readers; does it make the site less interesting or valuable to them? For example, I really like the history available on ML, and I'd hate to see genuine posts/posters airbrushed out of the comment threads months or years later.

Now, I'm not a boing boing reader, so this isn't something I feel strongly about. But I think the language of legal or moral obligations is probably wrong for this kind of situation. The issue isn't really even hypocrisy. The issue is, does this make the readers and participants feel more or less like a community? Does it make the website more or less useful, more or less a place they want to spend their time and energy?

#99 ::: zota ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 07:35 PM:

[Edited to add: IP address evidence suggests that this commenter forged message #167 from "Xeni Jardin." -PNH]

"So-and-so claims to call us to virtue, but look, they’re not a saint after all!"

Let's give that strawman some more accurate and relevant wording:

"So-and-so calls for the preservation of archives, but look, they’re deleting their own archives!"

Look. I don't expect those who are against censorship to live their entire lives in a goldfish bowl. I expect those who use a prominent public venue where they loudly rail against obscurity and censorship to conform in practice to the values they clearly state.

As for obligation, hypocrites are not "obliged" to adhere to their advocated principles. Of course they are are free to cast aside the trust which has been mistakenly placed in them.

But I personally feel that hypocrites with good manners would at least state this fact in clear terms to those they have betrayed rather than cowering in obscurity and silence. Is a "Sorry I'm a hypocrite" card really too much to ask?

#100 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 07:37 PM:

Albatross, I agree that's a more interesting potential conversation than BoingBoing's supposed hypocrisy.

#101 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 07:39 PM:

#90, Phil Armstrong -

Okay, I can see where that would get quoted as "all references have been removed," but no matter what Doctorow said, there's still one reference to her at Boingboing, a big one that includes the fact the Le Guin was angry at Doctorow for something Doctorow did. I think that's part of my problem with the way it has been stated in the places I saw it. Saying "Boingboing took down all references to her after Cory infringed on her copyright," makes it sound like they did it to hide the infringement, and that's clearly not the case. Removing the infringing post was what Le Guin wanted and the right thing to do was to take it down. Removing the others (and there must have been others from what he said) is a bit more iffy, but he told us he did it and sort of why.

The way it was done was (I think) the way a lot of the objectors to this situation wish this situation had been handled - in public and clearly. I don't think it is an example of previous bad behavior of the type being currently discussed.

Thanks for digging out the source of "it all got taken down" concept.

#102 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 07:42 PM:

Zota, so you're going to pretend that calling for preserving a specific set of archives means one must be in favor of preserving anything anyone can call an archive? I say "pretend" because I take as a given that you're intelligent enough to not actually believe in the analogy you're trying to pass off with a loosely used word.

#103 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 07:47 PM:

Scraps: Are there any circumstances under which you'd accept that BB's actions were anything less than stunningly wonderful? Because I'm getting the strong impression that there isn't.

#104 ::: Zack ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 07:51 PM:

Erik @88: In the general case I disagree on principle. A person, or a collective entity, may have responsibilities toward other people, or groups of people, that they should be held to by force of argument and public disapproval, even though one could not persuade the state (via the legal system) to compel them. I consider it one of the great failings of the age that some people and organizations act as though their only responsibilities are those that have the weight of law behind them.

We really don't have enough information to throw mud at Boing Boing for what they actually did. I'm happy to assume that it was the least bad option they had. However, whatever their reasons, they've broken a cultural norm - URLs are supposed to remain live, especially those labeled out as "perma(nent) link"s - and so they have a responsibility to acknowledge the action and provide as much of an explanation as they can under the circumstances.

Silence also makes the action look worse than it probably was, because it is human nature to speculate madly to fill up a vacuum, and so for purely pragmatic reasons they ought to have said something; we probably wouldn't be having this argument if they had.

#105 ::: Phil Armstrong ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 07:59 PM:

#101 RM: I agree entirely. A little up front public acknowlegement would probably have headed off a lot of the criticism that's been levelled at BoingBoing.

Dropping people down the memory hole is just rude. It may be justified, but people are naturally going to assume the worst in the absence of an explanation, especially when requests for one are treated in exactly the same way.

I know BB has gone down in my estimation as a result of this kerfuffle.

#106 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 07:59 PM:

Speaking of evasions.

David, I've said that I think making a case for hypocrisy depends upon good specific analogies. I believe you have said that any example you can give would be nit-picked. It seems odd for you to then accuse me of being the one who won't accept anyone else's argument.

And you don't know me very well. I find specific things in BoingBoing annoying with some frequency, and on occasion I think one or another of them is a ripe asshole. I don't know enough to have an opinion about this particular action; might be assholery, might be a falling-out, might be legal issues, who knows. I doubt I'd find it very near stunningly wonderful. It's not my business, certainly.

But I know what I think of opportunistic blowhards like Zota yapping buzzwords like "betrayal" and "hypocrisy" and making personal hay out of someone else's issue with a pretense of public advocacy.

#107 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 08:02 PM:

David Bilek @ 78:

"I think the for-profit nature of BB changes matters and makes Patrick's objection to this level of scrutiny for a 'personal site' moot."

Bah. I could very easily put ads on my personal site and make it for profit. It wouldn't make it any less of a personal site, because the person who runs it and controls it and has say over what goes up on it is me, personally.

In other words, "personal" is not synonymous with "amateur."

#108 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 08:10 PM:

David Bilek said:
I haven't seen anybody lying.

Yes, you have. But you like their point of view, so you pretend that you haven't noticed.

To be specific, the whole thread is about censorship, yet there is no censor. All lies.

#109 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 08:16 PM:

To be specific, the whole thread is about censorship, yet there is no censor. All lies.

Do you consider it lying when Boing Boing uses the word "censorship" in exactly the way the people in this thread are using it? Colloquially, that is, not meaning government censorship. I'd be happy to provide you as many examples as you care for of Boing Boing referring to actions by private entities as "censorship".

I think you're off base here. But if you disagree, how many examples would you accept? 5?

#110 ::: Roz Kaveney ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 08:21 PM:

Transparency in personal matters is often a good idea if one is going to be active politically. When I was active in NCCL, and particularly once I was Deputy Chair, I gave up all recreational drugs save coffee, and was painstakingly out about the more disreputable bits of my past. I mean, it was a long time since I had turned tricks, but I was having to deal with the organization's positions on sex work, and that meant being out - same with my past in the SM community, during the long battle for the Spanner defendants. If you are not ashamed of your past, there is no advantage to hiding it; and you need to come to terms with those bits of your past you are ashamed of, because sooner or later they will bite you on the bum.

#111 ::: Erin Kissane ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 08:25 PM:

Like several others here, I don't think the Boing Boing crew has any *obligation* to conduct their business transparently. I do, however, think that they've built a reputation for being open and forthright about their dealings, and for advocating such behavior elsewhere.

So this -- and by "this" I mainly mean the radio silence about the deletions -- makes me sad and uneasy and...sad. Any explanation, even one that said "We've deleted some things for business/personal reasons that we can't/would prefer to to discuss," would have felt Boingier than this.

Do they owe me anything? Obviously not. But I still think their choice to clam up sucks and am therefore inclined to steer clear of Boing Boing after all these years of reading it.

Note to those with uppish backs: This is not an attempted rebuttal to Patrick's points. It's just a statement about the specific events that led to said points being posted.

#112 ::: zota ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 08:25 PM:

[Edited to add: IP address evidence suggests that this commenter forged message #167 from "Xeni Jardin." -PNH]

"opportunistic blowhards like Zota"

Scraps, I simply suggest that people who publicly advocate for a particular stance might want to adhere to those principles in their relevant public actions.

And rather than debate your personal insights into being an opportunistic blowhard, I'll allow the self-contradictions inherent in your rhetorical tactics stand on their own merit.

#113 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 08:25 PM:

John Scalzi @107: Each of the owners of Boing Boing have their own personal sites, linked at the top of the homepage; BB itself is not a personal site in any real meaningful sense that doesn't make a mockery of calling it a personal site.

But that's immaterial; I think they're screwing up here regardless of whether it is a personal site. They handled this very poorly and should probably know better. If another site acted in the same manner they are acting, they'd call them out on it. And they have, as in the Digg case.

#114 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 08:29 PM:

David, I'll accept one. 1. Ein. Uno.

Go for it.

#115 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 08:31 PM:

David Bilek @ 113:

I'm not aware of the Internet law that says that because one has more than one blog, that only one is allowed to be personal. Please point out that law to me.

In the meantime, know that our host here has both this blog (which is, technically speaking, a group blog which accepts ads, just like Boing Boing) and a LiveJournal. Will you argue that because PNH has a LiveJournal, that Making Light is now not a personal blog for him?

Likewise: I have my personal site, and a LiveJournal, and a Blogger site, and a Vox site (not to mention a MySpace and a Facebook account). Please inform me which of these is to be designated my "personal" site, since you seem to know these things.

"But that's immaterial"

Funny, you didn't seem to think so just a few posts ago.

#116 ::: Eric Boyd ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 08:38 PM:

Niall #114:

http://www.boingboing.net/2002/08/08/censorship-in-dc-com.html

http://www.boingboing.net/2006/03/21/south-park-petition-.html

http://www.boingboing.net/2003/12/15/virtual-hooking-real.html

http://www.boingboing.net/2006/06/20/la-times-censors-new.html

http://www.boingboing.net/2006/02/27/stick-michelangelos-.html

#117 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 08:41 PM:

David, people are using "censorship" here to mean the unexplained deletion of comments to and posts in one's own weblog for no evident reason. Are you sure you can find examples of BoingBoing using the word in that way? Because I doubt you can*; I don't doubt that you can find examples of them using the word censorship when the deletions were done with an evident or arguable reason. As it stands, what a few people are calling censorship doesn't even come as close to actual censorship (either the formal or the casual meaning) as disemvoweling does.

*I know, I know, I'd probably just nitpick your examples.

#118 ::: zota ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 08:47 PM:

[Edited to add: IP address evidence suggests that this commenter forged message #167 from "Xeni Jardin." -PNH]

John Scalzi @107:

"personal" is not synonymous with "amateur."

I agree. Professional enterprises are run on the basis of personal decisions. And I don't think anyone is arguing that the people who run Boing Boing don't have every right to make this personal decision.

But this was a very amateur move. Especially for a business that's based around public distribution of of information and opinion by personally trusted voices. They are free to run their business any way they choose. But as someone once said, complaining about companies is part of the market. That's why we complain in public -- to help companies make better decisions.

Just trying to help...

#119 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 08:49 PM:

John Scalzi: I only said that because I don't think whether or not Boing Boing is a "personal" site is something we can approach definitionally. What exactly do you consider a "personal" site?

Boing Boing is incorporated. That's a pretty good sign it isn't a personal site, isn't it? Being owned by a corporation? It sells merchandise, has advertising, is hugely high profile, has one of the largest page views of any blog if not the largets. Did I mention it is owned by an LLC?

What is your definition of a personal site that includes all that?

#120 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 08:51 PM:
Scraps, I simply suggest that people who publicly advocate for a particular stance might want to adhere to those principles in their relevant public actions.

Really? That's a surprisingly polite way to reword what you actually said. And of course, you're still pretending that there's any real parallel between the action being discussed and past things they have said. Which you're not going to elaborate on with specific examples, because then your hollow rhetorical structure goes poof with a poke.

I'll allow the self-contradictions inherent in your rhetorical tactics stand on their own merit.

Contradictions? I never said everyone and every argument deserved respect. You're a shit-thrower wearing an ill-made mask, and you think you're cleverer than you are.

#121 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 08:53 PM:

Following up

Jscalzi: I see that on metafilter you seem to define a "personal" site as one in which someone runs it however he or she pleases and isn't beholden to anyone else. If that's the case, fine, then I'll grant you it is a personal site and say I think we're perfectly free to call out extremely poor judgment on high profile sites of that sort which make a habit of injecting themselves into the public discourse as Boing Boing does.

#122 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 08:53 PM:

There. David is right. I was wrong. Patrick?

#123 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 08:53 PM:

David, BoingBoing isn't owned by an LLC. The LLC is owned by the proprietors of BoingBoing. You might as well say Robert Silverberg is owned by Agberg.

#124 ::: zota ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 08:58 PM:

[Edited to add: IP address evidence suggests that this commenter forged message #167 from "Xeni Jardin." -PNH]

You're a shit-thrower

And you're Hitler.

So... I guess we're done here?

#125 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 09:01 PM:
high profile sites of that sort which make a habit of injecting themselves into the public discourse as Boing Boing does

Does that mean anything more than "sites that have attracted a large audience"? I mean, how did BoingBoing "inject themselves into the public discourse"?

Certainly we are free to "call out poor judgment" -- we always are, after all. If that were all that BoingBoing were being accused of, we wouldn't be arguing, or hearing talk of hypocrisy and betrayal.

#126 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 09:05 PM:

David Bilek @ 119:

"Boing Boing is incorporated. That's a pretty good sign it isn't a personal site, isn't it?"

No, not actually. I've got an LLC too; if I run my personal site through it for business reasons, it doesn't make it less of a personal site.

Ah, I see you saw my discussion about it on Metafilter, to which you comment:

"If that's the case, fine, then I'll grant you it is a personal site and say I think we're perfectly free to call out extremely poor judgment on high profile sites of that sort which make a habit of injecting themselves into the public discourse as Boing Boing does."

That is of course fine, but then we're back to our host's original point, to wit: "Believing that public utilities ought to be accountable to the public does not make one into a public utility, no matter how hard anyone tries to spin it that way."

Which is to say that you're perfectly free to bitch, but they're not obliged to listen, or care.

#127 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 09:14 PM:

John Scalzi: Boing Boing isn't obliged to listen or care. I feel like we're agreeing... vehemently. They can do whatever they want. I think what they did was handled badly and hypocritical. They have no reason to care what I think.

I'm not sure what we're disagreeing about at this point except that some people don't think they did anything hypocritical and some people, including me, do think so.

#128 ::: Jerry Yeti ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 09:21 PM:

Erik (88) "Now, you might think that accountability might help them *keep* them as readers, and that this would be a good thing."

Agreed. As much as I like a lot of Boing Boing's material, I'm not sure if I can trust a site that so willingly expunges and redacts it's archives while decrying similar practices elsewhere. We put our trust in sites like that to be honest with us, to report on events in a truthful manner, and -when they get facts wrong- to correct them. If they don't have to be accountable, then they are no more righteous than those they condemn.*

(*) personal/corporate, public/private be damned. I've not speaking legally of course. They don't legally owe us anything. But that doesn't free them from morality.

#129 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 09:21 PM:

David 119: No, Boing Boing is not incorporated. It's an LLC. You're claiming that the fact that it's an LLC is relevant, but that the difference between a corporation and an LLC is not. This is nonsense.

zitzota 124: You forgot the part of Godwin's law where the first person to mention the Nazis is the loser. We might not be done here, but you are.

#130 ::: sexyrobot ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 09:27 PM:

Indeed, if this bothers you, you can stop reading, and *actually hurt their bottom line."

It's even more effective if you write directly to their advertisers...they're easy to find...they're slathered all over the page.

#131 ::: Mike Harris ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 09:29 PM:

Actually, Godwin's Law just says that the longer an online argument rages, the more likely someone is to bring up Nazis.

#132 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 09:33 PM:

Xopher, are you seriously going to ignore everything because I referred to a corporation instead of a company? Even after I stipulated that if we accept John Scalzi's definition of "personal site" that I don't think it makes a difference? Such that the entire discussion of LLC is irrelevant?

#133 ::: Zack ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 09:33 PM:

Yes, public utilities/commercial entities/whatever are reasonably held to a higher standard than nonprofit/personal/whatever, but ...

I, and I think others on this thread, are starting from the basic premise that breaking permanent links is a Thing Which Is Not Done, regardless of who you are. It doesn't matter to me what sort of site BB is nor does it matter what their opinions are. It is a basic principle of the Web that you keep your URLs valid and you don't vanish the content behind them.

(See for instance http://www.w3.org/Provider/Style/URI)

Now, like all things which are Not Done, sometimes it is necessary to do this. But then the community, which was relying on the URLs to remain stable, is owed an explanation. [I am using "owed" in the Liaden sense.]

#134 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 09:37 PM:

Mike 131: True. But I was hoping I could rid us of a particularly nasty specimen of trolloid.

#135 ::: zota ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 09:39 PM:

[Edited to add: IP address evidence suggests that this commenter forged message #167 from "Xeni Jardin." -PNH]

Actually I was invoking the Socrates Parachute Clause of Godwins law in which Hitler is deliberately invoked in response to idiotic playground taunting as a means of signifying that the alleged conversation has already lost any pretense of rational debate leaving suicide-by-Godwin as the only honorable thing to do.

#136 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 09:44 PM:

David 132: If the difference between a private site with an individual owner and a site owned by a corporation isn't relevant, then of course the difference between a corporation and an LLC isn't either.

#137 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 09:53 PM:

Xopher, if you think I'm a trolloid you need to recalibrate your... well... everything. And you haven't been paying attention Disagreeing with you is not a crime, nor the mark of a troll. I've been discussing things (off an on) with pnh and tnh since RASFW and, particularly, RASFF for something like 15 years now. You?

#138 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 09:55 PM:

Xopher, an LLC is a corporation. It's simply one particular incorporation model, lighter on some types of paperwork.

As John Scalzi points out, many of us professional types have our own personal corporations, and that doesn't make what we do as people less personal or more corporate; but it also doesn't make an LLC not a corporation.

As to the rest of it, I'm neutral on all this until I know some more about what's going on. The factoids and characterizations posted here by various people could apply to any of several widely varied situations.

#139 ::: Emily ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 09:55 PM:

David #137, I think Xopher was specifically talking about zota at #124 who brought up Hitler.

#140 ::: zota ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 10:03 PM:

[Edited to add: IP address evidence suggests that this commenter forged message #167 from "Xeni Jardin." -PNH]

Hi. Yes. I'm the trolloid. I raised what I though were a few good points and got called a shitthrower for it.

I'm tagged out now. Please carry on.

#141 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 10:14 PM:

... actually, I'm going to nitpick myself to save someone else doing it for me.

Strictly speaking, an LLC is neither a corporation or a partnership, but has some aspects of both. However, in the degree of formality required to set it up (formal articles) it's more like a corporation and in its legal operation it can only barely be distinguished from a subchapter S corporation.

There, I just saved you all several posts correcting me. In my humble opinion, it's a distinction without a difference.

#142 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 10:17 PM:

David, Emily is right. I do not remotely, vaguely, slightly consider you any type of troll or any related species. We have discussed things quite civilly, I thought. In fact I'm not quite sure how you could possibly have thought I meant you, when I specifically addressed the person I meant.

At any rate, sorry to have (however it happened) given that impression. I certainly had no such intention.

#143 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 10:24 PM:

So if I understand the situation correctly...

Boing Boing's folks have removed pages referring to sex writer Violet Blue. They haven't, at least not yet, said why. We are therefore in the absence of actual information speculating wildly and in some cases maliciously.

Does that about cover it?

#144 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 10:44 PM:

Bruce Baugh @ 143: I think so, with the additional note that Violet Blue says she doesn't know what's up, either.

I, too, find the disappearing of permalinks to be at least a little weird. However, I don't like people using that weirdness as an excuse to bash Cory Doctorow's fiction, having just gotten around to Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town this weekend and having been left completely stunned by it. He's a hell of a good writer, whatever the story behind this event is.

#145 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 10:48 PM:

I just have a few general observations to make, and it's up to everyone else decide how much they apply.

It seems to me that most people intuit censorship to cover any situation in which someone uses their power to suppress something said by another. When the suppressed material is (or is thought to have) negative consequences for the empowered, this is perceived as an honesty issue. The nature of the power and the empowered doesn't figure in this.

Deleting blog comments is bound to be perceived by some as a falsification of the discussion, and appeals to rights don't trump that. The whole point of rights is that they relate to things that someone feels are "bad". Blog owners have the natural right to delete any material, but that's a consequence of power, not of moral justification. Furthermore, anything that looks like allowing opponents to reply only when they are losing is bound to be interpreted as cheating.

The precise sense of the word "censorship" may (depending on one's point of view) represent an inaccuracy; but the sentiment cannot be refuted by pointing out that inaccuracy. That simply isn't how people think; they are drawing an analogy with the strict legal sense, and if one stands on the strict sense, one is one the quick route to being taken as the (unscrupulous) analogue of a lawyer.

#146 ::: Eric Boyd ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 10:51 PM:

Bruce@ 143: I'd also note that the posts weren't taken down all at once; there was one last Violet-authored post that lasted at least a day longer than the rest. Violet reported this a week ago on her blog; Valleywag picked it up two days later. BoingBoing has not commented on this yet. From what I hear, comments on BoingBoing mentioning Violet Blue are getting deleted.

#147 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 10:52 PM:

Erik Olson @ 88: "But "owe?" No. There's no debt incurred. There's no cost to read the site, there's no obligation -- to reader, or to author -- incurred by doing so."

Yes. Boing Boing doesn’t "owe" us anything more than a web site we’d like to visit, and they don’t really “owe” it as much as they would really really like to give it to us, since that’s how they make their money.

Boing Boing is a business, and the service they offer is a clearinghouse for anti-censorship/Creative Commons news, random neat stuff, steampunk creations, etc.—basically anything they find interesting enough to post. When they act in such a way that their anti-censorship cred is cast into doubt, they are in the same position as any other for-profit enterprise who offers a product its customers don’t want: their customers complain, get irritated, and possibly walk away. It’s absolutely true that they are not obligated to provide anything in particular to their readers, much in the same way that a computer manufacturer isn’t obligated in any way to provide high-quality equipment to its customers. However, if they don’t provide what their customers want, then those customers are perfectly entitled to walk away, and be just exactly as pissed off (and loud about it) as they want.

While there are no small number of people out there using this incident as evidence of BB's profound and long-lasting perfidy, there are many more (like, say, me) who are rather shocked by this precisely because we expected better from them. And it's not the deletions--like others have said, it's the silence that worries. There might be a good explanation for it, but I'm not going to invent one for them. As is, there isn't a clear favorite between "Boing Boing f-ed up" and "Boing Boing's actions are perfectly reasonable."

John Scalzi @ 107: "Bah. I could very easily put ads on my personal site and make it for profit. It wouldn't make it any less of a personal site, because the person who runs it and controls it and has say over what goes up on it is me, personally."

And if I run a consulting firm out of my basement, it is still a business. Many businesses are largely run by single individuals; it doesn't make them any less of a business. It doesn't matter whether or not Boing Boing is a personal web-site. The important distinction is whether or not it is a for-profit business, and I am pretty sure that it is.

#148 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 10:57 PM:

heresiarch@147:

"The important distinction is whether or not it is a for-profit business, and I am pretty sure that it is."

Why is it an "important distinction"? People keep suggesting that this matters somehow. I'm not seeing it.

#149 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 11:00 PM:

Bruce:

AFAICT, yes. However you left out "and in some cases even counterfactually", given that a quick Google on my part for "Le Guin" turned up 31 references on Boing Boing, some in comment threads and some in posts.

#150 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 11:00 PM:

Boing Boing's folks have removed pages referring to sex writer Violet Blue. ... Does that about cover it?

I confess to only skimming the first 143 posts, but yeah, that seems to be what has everyone's undergarments in a collective bunch, saying its censorship equivalent to a national newspaper blocking web access to all of its reporters.

Anyone who can't tell the difference between (1) "I'm not going to endorse (insert topic), but you can look it up on the net if you want to" and (2) "while you're working for me you can't surf over to (insert URL) dot com" needs a kick in the head.

Supporting the idea of Free Speech means you believe that it isn't the government's place to restrict or inhibit or shut down the expression of dissenting opinions. Supporting Free Speech means you might actually support it in defense of someone who is expressing an opinion you don't agree with.

But simply because you support Free Speech doesn't mean you must now become a mouthpiece for opinions you personally do not support.

Anyone who says otherwise isn't arguing from the position of becoming a potential mouthpiece. They're arguing from the position of wanting to use someone else as a mouthpiece.

#151 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 11:09 PM:

OMG it's Linda Kaplan and the Tape Head Cleaner. Everything old is new again.

#152 ::: Emily ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 11:13 PM:

Greg, in your skimming you seem to have missed the part where "censorship" was defined not as exclusively government action but also as the colloquial definition. Aside from even that, definition is not meaning; nobody thinks that BoingBoing deleting posts means that Violet Blue is going to have trouble getting published, or that her blog will get shut down.

They are censoring the posts that concern her. They are removing them. That is bizarre behavior, and I don't see why it doesn't warrant another glance.

But hey, feel free to continue to teach us about the First Amendment. I'm sure someone here learned something from that.

#153 ::: Spirit Rapper ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 11:14 PM:

Just sticking with the point of PNH's original post, did Cory Doctorow never claim to be a saint? That's perhaps technically true, but he certainly enjoys the XKCD image of himself as blogosphere superhero and makes a public (not to mention self-righteous) issue of his personal choices all the time.

He doesn't just report on memory holing, closed archives, and covert editing/censorship--he puts himself right on into the goldfish bowl and reports from it. He so frequently makes himself and his friends the main story that I'm genuinely surprised he hasn't already written this up for BB.

Certainly he can do what he likes, but it's far from being a bad-faith attack to point at laugh at hypocrisy.

#154 ::: Erik Olson ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 11:17 PM:

The important distinction is whether or not it is a for-profit business, and I am pretty sure that it is.

How so? How does it being for profit change what they might do? Unless they're a publicly held company *and* you are a stockholder, in which case, you can bring this issue to the board of directors.

Hint: There are lots of reasons to form a company. By default, any company so formed is a for-profit company. What "Not For Profit" means is "Not *taxed* as a profit making company." That's it. Because the Feds are the Feds, you have to file a bunch of paperwork to justify why your company should not be taxed on your income. Most companies don't qualify, but that doesn't mean they're not a good ideal to form -- even if the company never books a dime in true profit.

Why is the fact that Boing Boing is a *taxable entity* change anything? I'm a taxable entity. Most posters here are. Mr Scalzi certainly is -- what is the magic state change on his weblogs if he should have Scalzi LLC or ScalziCo be the taxable entity rather than J. Scalzi, Esq.? Hint -- if he sells pictures of bacon taped to a cat, and pockets the money, does it matter *one bit* if the shipping address is ScalizCo or J. Scalzi, Esq.?

Again: Why does *paying taxes* and *making money* make Boing Boing, LLC different than it's members (who also, presumably, pay taxes and make money.)

As a matter of fact, I want to know. Are you making money? If so, who are you to complain! I want to see your financial records for the last decade, and, if in fact, you haven't made any money, and aren't paying taxes, then I'm willing to allow you to assert that the mere act of *not filing for non-profit status* means that the editors of Boing Boing cannot, in fact, do whatever the fuck they want to With Their Own Blog.

#155 ::: Andrew Wheeler ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 11:20 PM:

In the interest of determining what may be considered a fair view of Boing Boing's opinion on similar matters, here's one possible parallel:

Cory Doctorow, at Boing Boing, posts, approvingly but without commenting himself, a message from "JFarber" complaining about The New York Times, a privately owned media company, changing their web archives without notice or explanation.

Boing Boing is a privately owned media company which has just changed its web archives without notice or explanation.

To quote "JFarber" from that post: "Is it common journalistic practice to change old articles like that?"

The way I'd frame this is to say: if Boing Boing wants to operate as a media watchdog, they need to be careful about not doing the same things that they complain about when other media outlets do it. They are a company that puts out a regular media product: yes, it is free (but so is The Village Voice), and yes, it is on the web (but so is Slate). A lot of people, Boing Boing's principals among them, have been arguing for a decade that "blogs" can be just as serious and just as professional as any other media outlet, so hiding under the skirts of "it's just a blog" at this point is, at best, disingenuous.

To quote Teresa Nielsen Hayden (as mentioned first by #22):
"...a section about dealing with internet scandals and other PR disasters. A rudimentary notion of it:

(1.) Get out there and say something, fast.

(2.) Acknowledge that there have been screwups. Avoid passive constructions.

(3.) Explain what you’re doing to help fix the problem. Be telling the truth when you do it.

(4.) Give up all hope of sneaking anything past your listeners. You’ve screwed up, the internet is watching, and behind each and every pair of eyes out there is a person who knows how to Google.

(5.) Corporate-speak will do you more harm than good. Instead, speak frankly about what’s going on. React like a human being. Talk like one, too."

That's good advice. Will Boing Boing follow it?

#156 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 11:39 PM:

I read BoingBoing only sporadically, like it when I read it, like Cory's books, and have read no threads on this topic besides this one. From this point of view, I have to say that I think some of the questions raised here -- or, more accurately, disappointment expressed here -- in comments above such as #58, 72, 74, 83, 96 & 111 -- seem like good points. I'd be interested to hear a direct reaction to them from the defenders of the site.

So far as I can tell -- again, just from this thread -- the issue here is above all one of cultural norms. Putting aside any issue of hypocrisy, or legal status, or personal vs. non personal sites, blogs are -- it seems to me -- a community of sorts, with its own cultural practices. Removing posts from archives without explanation (whether that latter is "lawyer said to & not to say why", or "the archives got messed up when my server crashed", or "Le Guin asked me to take it down and I did", or anything else reasonable doesn't matter) is a violation of those norms. And people in a community get upset when their cultural norms are violated.

Now, sometimes cultural norms are wrong and ought to be changed. I'd be interested in an argument to that effect. But I haven't seen one.

I think the personal/corporate/hypocrisy stuff is distracting. It looks to me like people want to know why their cultural practices aren't being followed. And that question applies to personal people operating in personal capacities just as much as anything else.

Which, again, is not to say that there isn't a good answer, even a very good answer, to that question. But it does seem to me to be a reasonable question to ask.

#157 ::: colin roald ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2008, 11:52 PM:

Wow, some people have worked up a real head of steam against Boing Boing. Are they all personal friends of Violet Blue? Because otherwise, I am bemused. Do they all really resent BB that much to dogpile like this?

I mean, it even looks like someone at BB did something kind of bad, but the hostility seems so unnecessary that it makes me want to cut them double-extra slack.

'Cause dude, people are pretending to take seriously the idea that BB is as Important and Serious as the New York friggin' Times. Take a step back and have a good gander at that one. *Savour* it. I mean, wow.

So, suppose they are a huge hypocrite sundae with extra hypocrite sauce on top. Worth knowing, I suppose, but I'm still gonna read them. Just like, say, sometimes Kos is the place to go, even if they might be a whole pack of hypocrites over there, too.

I am asking myself why I'm even reading this thread. I think it's because it's been nothing but WTF from top to bottom. *Something* weird is going on here, and I don't get it.

#158 ::: Cory Doctorow ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 12:01 AM:

David Bilek@51: "Xopher: okay, how about when BB criticized Digg for pulling down the AACS key in response to DMCA notices? Digg was "disappearing" any post referencing the AACS key in much the same way that BB has "disappeared" any posts referencing V.B."

BB never ever criticized Digg for doing this. You're making stuff up.

#159 ::: JimR ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 12:19 AM:

Wow...so, What I'm curious about is, why has this been happening to BoingBoing recently? They most definitely take a public position on something--in this case, preserving public information and not changing it without giving an explanation--and then do the opposite.

Can they do it? Of course. They have no legal responsibility to their readers, they can do whatever they want. Should they do it? No, of course not. It means that a significant portion of their readers will have serious doubts about any future comments they make on the subject.
Poor judgment, all around.

This is why I no longer read BoingBoing-- at times, their words and their actions do not jibe in alarmingly important matters.
I stopped trusting the editors after the Microsoft thing, and I see that nothing's improved.

#160 ::: Dan Brockhage ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 12:19 AM:

But simply because you support Free Speech doesn't mean you must now become a mouthpiece for opinions you personally do not support.

I'll bite. What opinions of Ms. Blue's does Boing Boing no longer support?

#161 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 12:23 AM:

Cory - no, you're not providing the entire context. In my very next post I pointed out (to Xopher) the objection that you're making, that there was no actual commentary by Boing Boing (well, you, in this) with regard to Digg's action. Boing Boing didn't say "Digg shouldn't have done this", Boing Boing just "covered the controversy" and brought attention to it.

Like I said, I already pointed this out in my very next post to Xopher.

Then I came back with the idea that I consider this splitting hairs. If you make a reputation pointing out instances of this sort of thing, it will bite you in the butt if you do the same.

#162 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 12:28 AM:

For context, here are a few of boing boing's posts about the AACS case so people can decide for themselves which side of the criticism line boing boing came down on:

http://www.boingboing.net/2007/05/02/digg-users-revolt-ov.html
http://www.boingboing.net/2007/05/03/side-effect-of-aacs-.html
http://www.boingboing.net/2007/05/31/amazing-mystery-of-t.html

and so on. I don't think it is unfair to say that Boing Boing cast the Digg user revolt in a positive light. Choosing what to cover is an important editorial decision in itself.

#163 ::: Shawn Struck ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 12:29 AM:

@158:

Cory, you're an awesome author and blogger and writer and all, but saying that you never criticized Digg for that matter?

Yeah, you kinda did.

#164 ::: Shawn Struck ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 12:30 AM:

David--

Jinx! You owe me a Coke!

#165 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 12:37 AM:

Xopher 142: No, I'm sorry. As I posted a few minutes ago over at Metafilter, I feel like that guy in the Onion article who finds himself vociferously, argumentatively, and passionately defending a band he really doesn't give a crap about. I didn't realize this was going to explode into such a shitstorm or I wouldn't have gotten involved.

So I probably misread you because I feel like I'm taking heavy fire over something that, although I clearly have an opinion on it, really isn't that big a deal to me in the grand scheme of things. So I'm jumpy.

I should probably just go smell the flowers or something.

#166 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 12:40 AM:

Shawn - Heh, nice cross post. Since I'm trying to be fair, I do think (as I posted... twice) that Cory can honestly claim never to have actually posted criticism in his own words over the issue. I just, obviously, feel that what you choose to cover and how you choose to cover it can legitimately be read as taking a stand on an issue.

#167 ::: Xeni Jardin ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 12:42 AM:

[Edited to add: This comment is confirmed as a forgery. It comes from the same IP address as comment #194, from "zota." It was not posted by Xeni Jardin. -PNH]

Oh Cory...

http://www.boingboing.net/2007/05/02/digg-users-revolt-ov.html

#168 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 12:50 AM:

Zack #133 (and many others saying similar things): It is a basic principle of the Web that you keep your URLs valid and you don't vanish the content behind them.

Oh, nonsense. Have you ever read a music blog? Links disappear all the time. Have you ever seen guidelines on formally citing things from websites? You put the URL and the date you saw it, in case things have changed. Websites are mutable, always have been, always will be. Otherwise there'd be no need for archive.org or Google caches.

I have absolutely no opinion whatsoever about BoingBoing's actions in this case, as I have no information about it whatsoever. None of us in this thread do, except for probably Cory and maybe Patrick. What that says to me is that any speculation is ridiculous, and if we are going to speculate, we shouldn't do it based on nonsensical concepts like "it is a basic principle of the Web that you keep your URLs valid and you don't vanish the content behind them".

#169 ::: Dan Brockhage ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 12:52 AM:

No information? The information is BB deleted any and all references to Violet Blue and won't tell anyone why. That's what everyone's pissed off about. What did you think was going on?

#170 ::: Josh Millard ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 12:59 AM:

Oh, nonsense. Have you ever read a music blog? Links disappear all the time.

By design, and generally as a publicly stated and accepted convention of that particular genre. You might just as well cite the Wiki format to defend mass edits and deletions as being standard practice on non-wiki sites.

Despite some established exceptions, it is a general convention that stuff doesn't just disappear from the web without explanation. This doesn't seem like a controversial notion.

If BoingBoing has a stated and accepted convention of nuking swaths of post content after the fact, you've got a point, but my understanding is that that's not the case.

#171 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 01:03 AM:

For the record, I think Scraps has a consistent typo upthread, referring to "Zora". I think Scraps meant the "Zota" who showed up here.

I'm only mentioning it because Zora is an very occasional commenter here, who both Teresa and Charlie Stross know from rasfw and/or Genie, and who I have a major history of differences with - but however wrong I may think Zora may be at times, I think she rarely if ever acts or argues in bad faith. Zota, I know only from what you see here. OK, had to say that.

#172 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 01:05 AM:

I'd like to direct anyone who missed it to Andrew Wheeler's post #155, which says what I have been futilely trying to say. Only he says it better, more concisely, with less rancor, and with examples.

Do you accept work for hire as a blog comment ghost writer? 'Cause I clearly need one.

#173 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 01:15 AM:

Me #168: I cross-posted with Xeni, and did not mean to exclude her from the magical list of people who may or may not have information about this incident. Sorry, Xeni.

Josh Millard #170: it is a general convention that stuff doesn't just disappear from the web without explanation.

Tell that to all the websites I used to read in the 90s. I don't understand where this idea is coming from.

#174 ::: Dan Brockhage ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 01:19 AM:

I don't understand where this idea is coming from.

The idea is coming from websites that aren't nearly twenty years old.

#175 ::: Josh Millard ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 01:27 AM:

Tell that to all the websites I used to read in the 90s. I don't understand where this idea is coming from.

The 90's was a hell of a long time ago in web years. People were stupid or lazy or reckless. News sites have taken a fair amount of rightly deserved flak over the years for the ridiculous fragility of their archives. Link rot, despite how common it is and was on many sites, is considered a bad thing by most people. The situation has gotten better, and hopefully will continue to do so.

I'm not saying crap doesn't disappear these days. But on any site that isn't explicitly taking exception to the general convention of Keeping Stuff Around, it's a symptom of terrible maintenance, technical incompetence, or willful violation of most readers' (and site participants') expectations.

Which is all general talk; unless, again, BoingBoing has an existing policy of nuking dozens of posts at a go, or has at least explicitly and visibly rejected the idea that their archives would stick around, this situation is objectively weird to behold.

#176 ::: Wirelizard ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 01:31 AM:

Cory posts an off-the-cuff remark calling BS, and even one of his own fellow boingers corrects him... interesting.

Xeni's link to the "Digg surrenders" story makes me wonder - how many comments containing the words "violet" and "blue" are being killed off, and how quickly, over on BoingBoing right this minute? When the inevitable climbdown comes, are the Boingers going to be as graceful about it as Digg's Kevin Rose was?

#177 ::: Adam ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 01:33 AM:

Tell that to all the websites I used to read in the 90s. I don't understand where this idea is coming from.

You know, to the extent that this used to be general convention, advocates like Cory Doctorow (and, e.g., Lawrence Lessig) are a significant part of the reason that it's not anymore. That's part of why this is odd.

#178 ::: Gursky ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 01:34 AM:

Thanks, Patrick, for hosting a thread about this.
I haven't even bothered to look at a single BB comment thread since this began because I just assumed they'd be a sea of flame.

Also, doesn't everyone think this thread has been remarkably troll-free and civil (excepting Scraps on occasion)? Remember how full of hate-bots the last thread about Cory's self-promotion on BB was?

I have to agree with Patrick and John that BB remains a personal site, if only because I think the posts themselves have painted such a portrait for me of each of the folks who run it. (Incidentally John, I've had that Doveman version of Footloose in my head all day today.) I also have to agree with David and others that the deletion-without-comment is a bit surprising.

I certainly wouldn't argue, and I don't think too many people have on this thread at least, that it warrants anything other than, well, this sort of discussion. That's why it excites me to see Cory and Xeni commenting here, if only briefly.

I guess all I'm saying is hey, fluorosphere, good job.

#179 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 01:56 AM:

#174: The idea is coming from websites that aren't nearly twenty years old.

OK, I'd like to add a retroactive "for instance" to the end of the comment you're responding to; sorry, it should have been there to begin with. What about, to name something specific that springs to mind, Television Without Pity message board discussions on shows that have ended? More generally, what about blogs whose writers have simply decided no longer represent them? Websites change all the frickin' time.

Also: I said "the 90s", not 1990. 1999, for example, was nowhere near 20 years ago.

#180 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 02:01 AM:

John Scalzi @ 148: "Why is it an "important distinction"? People keep suggesting that this matters somehow. I'm not seeing it."

An interaction between two people for no other reason than they feel like it is different from an interaction where one of the people is making money off of it. In the latter, you have to worry about conflicts of interest that simply don't exist in the former. For example: I have very different opinions of people posting comments because they want to and people posting because they're paid to. Once money is involved, there’s a huge incentive to lie and misrepresent yourself.

I’ll grant you that it’s a matter of degree, though. I’m far more paranoid of situations where money is involved, but that doesn’t mean that’s the only situation where pointing out (potential) hypocrisy is appropriate. Even if this was happening on someone’s no-conceivable-profit-at-all, just-a-hobby blog, I’d still think people ought to point it out.

ethan @ 168: "if we are going to speculate, we shouldn't do it based on nonsensical concepts like "it is a basic principle of the Web that you keep your URLs valid and you don't vanish the content behind them"."

So if you went to check your "view all by" on ML and you saw that every post where you mentioned subject X was gone you wouldn't be the least bit perturbed?

#181 ::: Dan Brockhage ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 02:07 AM:

Lotsa lols all around! I mostly made the 20 year crack because I'm fairly certain I'm younger than you, but someone at the deli thought I was 30 the other day. I have a chip on my shoulder.

My (far more) salient point was that Boing Boing doesn't roll as some incredibly fluid site whose content you can't predict from one day to the next. They had some kind of working relationship with Violet Blue that they didn't want to even hint at anymore. Why? Fucked if I or anyone else knows. So yes, websites change, but they usually let their contributors know when such a change is about to happen. At least, that's how it's been since my balls dropped.

#182 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 02:15 AM:

This is, ah, on the front page of the LA TIMES website now.

#183 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 02:16 AM:

heresiarch #180: I might be a little perturbed, yes, especially if I found out it wasn't a repeat of The Great Making Light Info-Loss Fiasco of Y2K8, but I also don't rely on ML to be a record of my every thought, and don't expect everything I say on it to remain preserved in amber to be cloned later. I really don't get this issue.

Dan #181: I'm fairly certain I'm younger than you

Tell that to Serge. He keeps telling me I'm a youngun (young'n? how the hell do you spell that word?). But anyway, no, I never said BoingBoing was "incredibly fluid". I just don't understand this concept that web content is, should be, has ever been, or has ever been treated as if it were, carved in stone.

Also: this is a minor issue, and it's really just my own personal confusion about it that I'm trying to work out. I'm sorry to be taking so much space up with it.

#184 ::: Dan Brockhage ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 02:21 AM:

Shit, I mean, I'm mostly just joshin', but I think it's pretty shitty what Boing Boing pulled. It's not that the shit she wrote is carved in stone, it's that disappearing her with no explanation is incredibly fucked up.

(It's young'n, by the way.)

#185 ::: Bacchus ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 02:28 AM:

I think it's important not to confuse the inevitable vanishing of things from the web with the deliberate destruction of them.

In my own space, I've compared the deliberate destruction of one's own blog archives to vandalism. The internet, conceptualized as a huge and intricate construct of information and connections, is fragile, and vast swathes are smashed every day. But that doesn't make it right to smash the tiny chunk that each of us "owns". Sure, we have the power to do so, we have the legal right to do so, only a moron would call it censorship when we do do so, but we're still damaging the greater whole when we smash the part that's "ours". It's good to have a reason, and reasonable of others to ask (though we don't have to answer) what that reason is.

If you chop down your own landscaping and pave your front yard, well, that's your right. But your neighborhood will still be uglier and poorer than it was. And if you've been a passionate advocate for green communities, your friends and your enemies will be asking "Dude, WTF?"

I don't think them out of line to do so.

There may be a good answer to the "Dude, WTF?" question, and there may even be good reasons why we will never learn that answer. But Patrick's snarky accusations of "bad faith" and lack of smartness aside, asking the question is not bad faith, it's not an attack, it's not nasty, and it's not a sign of low intelligence. It's keeping the people we care about (and I wouldn't have linked to Boing Boing for five years if I didn't care rather a lot) honest.

#186 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 02:49 AM:

Here's the part I don't get.

A set of posts from Boing Boing are now down. We don't know why. These things are worth noting.

But anything beyond that? I don't see it. I really don't see the point in some of the wilder things I've seen today, like the accusation that Cory and/or all of Boing Boing is sexist because he/they'd never do that kind of mass removal of posts relating to a male author. That's just dumb. But even the milder accusations strike me as having a profound pointlessness. What we know is that we don't (yet) know.

And it's not like there's a need to know. I will provide $20 in Powell's City of Books credit to the first person who can show an actual need for anything in any of those posts between now and the 4th of July. Assembling a bibliography, writing a scholarly paper, anything'll do, it just has to be something that requires those posts and can't wait until after the holiday.

In the absence of need, it's likely wise to cultivate the virtue of keeping cool. I approve of Teresa's principles of PR management that Andrew Wheeler quoted up above. But it's worth keeping cool even if Cory et al do nothing like them. Because, you know, we don't actually need it this moment. The very fact that it is so unusual a step for Boing Boing means there's stuff we don't yet see. Chill. "Don't just do something, stand there."

#187 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 02:52 AM:

Bacchus@185: I think it's important not to confuse the inevitable vanishing of things from the web with the deliberate destruction of them. That's the kind of thing I meant in my #186, actually. We do not know that anything's been destroyed. We know that there is currently no outside access to some posts. "Destruction" suggests, to me at least, the full purging of backup copies, database cleansing, and stuff like that, and I'll put another $20 of Powell's credit up against the possibility that you know anything like that happened. Removing from the online copy of the database isn't destruction, and (as nearly as I know) there are no grounds on which to believe that anything more happened. Or that anything more didn't. Or anything at all. There are no grounds for your claim, or any other claim that goes beyond what we can see.

#188 ::: Dan Brockhage ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 02:55 AM:

I will provide $20 in Powell's City of Books credit to the first person who can show an actual need for anything in any of those posts between now and the 4th of July.

Ok, so now that you're done telling everyone what side you're on would you care to write a sentence that actually makes sense? A need for anything you say? Is it possible that Cory Doctorow does not need water like us mere mortals? Reading BB you might think it is true, but I think that he's just a chump like the rest of us.

#189 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 03:02 AM:

Dan, I'm actually not that big a fan of Cory. A lot of people I like respect his work and style more than I do. Just one of those things.

No, I'm talking about the hysterical spreading of really ghastly charges and speculation dressed up as fact, in the absence of anyone actually being affected by it. My wager is just a way to underscore the point - this isn't something that actually matters in a way that demands real-time outrage, so nearly as I can tell. Nobody's (to the best of my knowledge, and I'm willing to pay up if I'm wrong) suffering any real inconvenience from this. It's a curiosity, which we'd like explained, and nothing more on the available evidence.

Engage, congratulate, moreover state, abysmal fairground, though, since you're already not finding much sense in my writing.

#190 ::: Andrew T ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 03:25 AM:

Bruce @186, I'm guessing the accusation of sexism you're referring to is here, previously linked in #155. While I don't agree with Joanne that BB is being sexist, I think she proposed an interesting viewpoint.

What would our reaction be if BB scrubbed all mention of William Gibson from its posts and comments?

I think we'd be puzzled, and curious, but in the long run, there would be more amusement than indignation. What sense is there in pretending William Gibson doesn't exist? It would be funny because Gibson is bigger than BoingBoing. He's got more mindshare, or celebrity, or whatever you want to call it.

But BoingBoing is bigger than Violet Blue. Disappearing her seems like the big picking on the small. The imbalance in leverage of the two parties gives BB's actions the appearance of petty cruelty.

It's that emotional tone that I think may explain some of the reactions people are having. For some of us, it may seem like a trusted friend is acting like a bully and not giving us an explanation. Some of us may have an ingrained bias against powerful actors, and may see this as evidence that sure enough, everyone's a bastard when they get to the top. And some of us, sensitive to the intersection of power and gender, may see a powerful, 3/4 male blogging collective erasing a less powerful, female blogger from their archives as a sexist act.

#191 ::: Bacchus ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 03:30 AM:

Bruce Baugh #187, I'm not making a claim about the "deliberate destruction" of anything at Boing Boing. (Although I do confess I am hard pressed to find any other implication in Cory's #158 denying ever having criticized Digg for deleting stuff.)

But no, I'm responding to the comments, like Ethan's, attacking the very idea of link stability as a good thing. People who love the internet -- a camp in which I'd expect to find all present and everyone at Boing Boing -- like it for its links as well as for the things linked to. That these are often broken is no excuse to break them deliberately or capriciously. I agree with you that we don't have evidence of deliberateness or capriciousness yet, but the "what's the big deal?" argument is already in this thread. My axe to grind is with that argument. It's a big deal every time it happens. The sound of broken glass hitting pavement is almost never good news for society, no matter who broke it or why.

#192 ::: nym ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 03:33 AM:

"Cory" and "Xeni" in this thread aren't real, folks. Those are fakesters.

#193 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 03:49 AM:

Andrew T: And this is exactly why I urge keeping, or regaining, one's cool. Obviously we need info we don't have to form a judgment...so let's not form judgments that would take info we don't have.

I might be less insistent about this if I know something like, say, an ongoing argument between Cory or someone else at BB and Violet Blue. I don't, but that only means that I don't - if I missed context, I'd welcome the clue. But even so I'd be saying that it's best to wait and see about what all's up with this.

Bacchus: I may be splitting an unnecessary hair. (Not like it'd be the first time.) But to me the difference between "we do not currently have access to X" and "X has been destroyed" isn't just a hair but a big ol' rugose tentacle.

#194 ::: zota ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 03:50 AM:

[Edited to add: IP address evidence suggests that this commenter forged message #167 from "Xeni Jardin." -PNH]

Bacchus and Andrew T make a very important point. Some people may be jumping on this because they don't like Boing Boing or Cory or steampunk or whatever. But I think a more people are confused and upset because we've long admired Boing Boing for highlighting issues exactly like this when other organizations have done similar things.

They developed a community around some of these issues -- transparency, openness, preservation, fairness. They've been our ally in fights around these issues. In 2006, they even fostered an discussion specifically about the mysterious erasure of Violet Blue's blog from Google's index. Those posts and their extensive comments discussing Google's lack of transparency are among the ones that have been disappeared...

That's why I said this feels like a betrayal. Yes they run a private company. Yes they have every right do do whatever the hell they want. But on a personal level, I just really don't want them to be hypocrites. They've been one of the most visible and outspoken proponents for an array of issues that I genuinely care about. And right now -- after nearly a week of silence and with Boing Boing still actively scrubbing comments that so much as reference the colors of the frigging spectrum -- I feel like I might be losing an ally.

#195 ::: Elusis ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 03:57 AM:

Bruce:

I have a class on feminist therapy that begins on Monday, July 7th.

In the next day or two, I was thinking of sending my students some links to online discussions of sex and gender for them to read prior to the first class, so they would come in primed to discuss what their take is on contemporary feminism. Having access to a selection of Violet Blue's posts might have been helpful.

You can send my credit to my username at gmail.

#196 ::: Dr McNo ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 04:02 AM:

LOL@the metafilter morality police here.

Boing Boing is hypocritical for sure, and a website I don't like that much. But metafilter? What a joke. Yeah, your links are nice, and askmefi is useful, but the discussion and core community is like a pack of marauding, shrill seagulls descending upon a sole chip. Perhaps you all should go back to reveling in your smug echo chamber of outrage.

#197 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 04:26 AM:

Blogs have been known to to delete posts:

  • at the posters' request ("could you remove my duplicate post, please?");

  • because of policy violation (spam, libel, obscenity);

  • because of sheer infuriating trollishness, etc.
This is neither new nor controversial. The blog-runner sets the rules.

But somehow it becomes controversial when someone other than the blog-runner wants to override the blog-runner's judgment about what appears on that blog. (That blog, mind you, not their own blog.)

Then it becomes a matter of "censorship" against their "free speach".

Hey, go get your "free speach" on your own blog. Set your own rules there.

#198 ::: Phil Armstrong ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 04:32 AM:

Dr McNo. If you think all this is "a pack of marauding, shrill seagulls descending upon a sole chip" then you haven't seen 4chan in action, nor the SomethingAwful people.

The idea that metafilter is some hotbed of rabid activists dying to jump into any controversy is laughable in itself of course & anyone familiar with the site would know that.

Pyre: Nobody is arguing that they should be able to override BoingBoing's choices in this matter. Some people (including me) think their behaviour is rude & disappointing for a site which made a point of calling out similar behaviour by other websites. That's not the same thing at all.

#199 ::: Bacchus ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 04:36 AM:

Bruce, I don't think you're splitting hairs or tentacles, but I do think you're using a different mental construct than I am about what the internet is and what makes it valuable.

Some people think the Internet (esp. the web) is just a big pile of documents. To them, it's the documents that are valuable.

Some people, and I'm one, value the documents a lot, but what we think makes the internet humanity's brightest jewel is the linkage between the documents, the concretized indicia of the collective wisdom of a great many people with respect to what is valuable, interesting, and worth somebody's time.

All links to the Boing Boing posts in question are already broken. They are broken now. To you, it seems important that the linked documents might still exist in somebody's database, even though nobody can see them. To me, that's not really the point.

#200 ::: CCBC ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 04:54 AM:

But none of this (including Cory's contribution) answers the question: WHY? Why did BB delete not just stuff from this person but anything mentioning her? Does it have something to do with tm or copyright? If so, why not talk to her first? If you did, why not say so? Surely the folks at BB can come up with something to tell us.

#201 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 04:58 AM:

Elusis: If you'll drop me a note at bbaugh@mac.com I'd be happy to discuss it. (This is emphatically not me trying to suppress the exchange, but I see you're using a handle and I've read enough discussion by academics about blogging and its potential pitfalls for them that I don't want to assume you'd be willing to identify yourself more fully in a public venue.) Mostly I just want to see what the course and do a quick e-mail exchange to confirm it's you. Then I'll cheerfully pay up, as it seems like youe met my criteria dead-on. Out of curiosity, what will replace those links?

*pause* *blink blink*

Okay...I got curious and tried throwing this at Google: "violet blue" site:boingboing.net

Comments #1 and #4 mention Violet Blue, including the opportunity for confusion about who the handle is pointing to

Comment #6 mentions Violet Blue

Comment #2 mentions Violet Blue

That's out of the first five responses to my search. Tomorrow Museum is significantly inflating the truth, and so are others. Yes, Violet Blue's posts aren't accessible, and as nearly as I can tell, her comments aren't either, but references to her by others remain in place.

I still have no clue what's going on, but this smells to me of action taken in response to somebody's legal action. I hope I get to find out what the story actually is someday.

#202 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 05:24 AM:

Bacchus, what I'm getting at is simply the distinction between temporary and permanent situations, and the reasons for actions in either case. Since we don't yet know why the pages were taken down, we don't know how long they'll be down. We have, as yet, no reason to believe either that they'll stay down or that they won't. We have a mystery. Considering cases is good - in fact I highly endorse it - but not a single one of them can be considered either supported or undermined by the evidence to date.

#203 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 05:33 AM:

(As a for-example to my #202: A lot of people will have grounds to look foolish if the pages are all back in a week or two, accompanied by a good explanation. And that's just as likely an outcome as any other right now. Silence isn't proof of anything but silence, and only for the moment at hand.)

#204 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 06:11 AM:

I went to my friend's house to listen to some FOLKsongs.

#205 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 06:19 AM:

Bruce Baugh @ 203: I think there very well may be a good explanation, and the speed with which people assume the worst is sad. It'd be better to have it heard sooner than later, though.

#206 ::: Dr McNo ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 06:31 AM:

LOL@Phil Armstrong. Dude, you obviously haven't seen the 500+ comment thread of your beloved green swarm of snark. Nor have you seen the denizens of metafilter when they get a whiff of blood in the water.

I also like how you brought up the idea of metafilter 'activists'. Your words not mine. But it is a touching metaphor. Many of the Metafilter posters on the thread (and other threads) remind me of Evariste Gamelin: Idealistic hot heads who -- if given the chance -- would reign destruction on those they hate.

#207 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 07:05 AM:
I'm just doing my gigs
And I'm on and off the road
Everything I say is not meant to be set in stone
Just because they call me a celebrity
That does not make it true
‘Cos I don't believe in the myth people
So why should you?
#208 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 07:29 AM:

John A Arkansawyer@205: No argument there at all.

Now of course my own train of thought is like this: "It's unusual for Boing Boing to delete all posts and comments by anyone. And they have Teresa on hand as a moderator and advisor, and I think there's literally no one better for good advice about dealing with such things - as good, yes, but nobody better. They are not following the sort of excellent advice she has given in the past. I therefore conclude...that there's a reason they're not doing that. I can't guess what it is from the information available. So I am mystified. I will wait for an answer, and in the meantime re-read more Abe Merritt or something."

But that's me.

#209 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 07:55 AM:

197: Bloggers set the rules that they follow, but they cannot set the rules that everyone else expects them to follow. And having set forth principles, they are obviously vulnerable to accusations that they aren't playing even by their own rules.

#210 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 08:15 AM:

Message #167, supposedly from "Xeni Jardin," is from the same IP address as message #194, from "zota."

Needless to say, "zota" is banned forever from commenting on Making Light. More to the point, though, this thread is closed. I apologize in particular to those people who were disagreeing with me without resorting to identity-hacking and other species of malicious fraud. Shutting down this discussion is unfair to them. But I don't have the resources to deal with the kind of utter pigshit that seems to pop up whenever a controversy erupts around Boing Boing. I'm sorry I said anything. I'll remember next time.

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