Thursday, April 10, 2008

My Sandbox, My Rules

Kittywampus is an itty-bitty blog. Maybe a few dozen people people come around and read regularly, and I love you guys for doing it. I love you even more when you leave comments. Others find me through search terms like "natural shrinkage of ovaries" or "attention getter activities for English classes" (which led to the Best Penis Spam post, so it'd better be a liberal school!) or "basement flooding pepper pike Ohio" (huh?!). Most of these random encounters end in one or the other party simply going "WTF?" and moving on.

But the past couple of days have been different. First a client (a certain publishing mega-conglomerate that shall henceforth remain nameless) found a post from a few days ago where I mentioned working on a job for them. In that post I promised I wouldn't divulge anything about the current translating job because it was unpublished, and then I referred interested readers to the public website for the larger project. The client objected - I still don't know why, since I was scrupulous about anything that was even remotely confidential, and the post was snark-free - but I removed it since I wanted to protect the job that shall also remain nameless.

Then yesterday I got a succession of increasingly unpleasant comments. The first took a mildly bullying tone on the Clinton-O'Bleness dust-up. The next took me to task for a spelling error (and for not fully appreciating my mother!) in my post on reproductive rights. The last one, by "John" on my follow-up post to the O'Bleness story, informed me: "You are so full of shit that the best I can offer is a cyber enema." (None of these three commenters had properly traceable IDs. Welcome to Trollville.)

That's not what this blog is about. The blogosphere bristles with rants and invective. So does cable TV. I don't think the world needs much more of that. Call me idealistic, but I don't think democracy can thrive without civil society. As a matter of style and temperament, too, I prefer reasoned arguments over name-calling. I try not to be too dull or pedantic, and while I'm sure I don't always succeed, I don't think potty humor is any remedy. I get enough of that from my beloved four-year-old Tiger, anyway, whose favorite "naughty" phrase right now is "poop on your head."

I'm sure this is just the normal bloggy growing pains that go with wading into controversial topics. Maybe it's also a reflection of the bitterness of this primary season. I'm aware I can be grateful that all I got was some scat and not overtly sexual threats or insults. (Then again, I don't know "John's" preferences; perhaps he thought he and I could have a real good time with an enema? Sorry, buddy. Not my thing.)

But I also don't need to put up with this Scheisse. So, you'll now see a comment policy right below Grey Kitty's picture. I'll delete liberally, if I must; I don't want to impede the conversation by turning on comment moderation. I'm leaving yesterday's comments up for the same reason my brother-in-law used to leave a trail of dead ants on his kitchen counter: to warn the next insects. We'll see if it helps!

Rock iris courtesy of Sungold's garden porn collection. It just finished blooming.


Mollyfa said...

I'm so sorry that you have had to deal with this unpleasantness. I truly don't understand. It's not like you are forcing anyone to read what you have to say, so if they don't like, just move on. Go find a blog that they can relate to.

Everyone is up for a spirited debate now and again, but let's remember to show some respect. We cyberspacers are people too. :)

Sungold said...

Thanks, Molly. I think some people don't want to read and debate and *think* about things, they just want to vent their bile. I've really appreciated having you as a reader, and I do follow your blog, too. So thanks again!

figleaf said...

I can see backing down from mentioning work, and it sounds like you handled that very professionally.

Other stuff? Yeah, anyone who talks about anything political or gender-related is going to encounter trolls.

The good news? It's your blog and you can moderate comments as you see fit. And I mean that with absolute sincerity. If someone doesn't forward the dialogue you're under no obligation to keep them. If you just disagree with them, eh, maybe deleting them would be censorship... but it's *still your blog,* and therfore *still your rules!*

Me? I like your blog, Sungold. I get the impression from other comments that other reasonable people do as well. Let that be the data point you work from when deciding if a critic is in or out of line.

Take care,


Sungold said...

Figleaf, you're a sweetheart. Thanks.

I do know I get to set the rules. But it's nice to know that my reasonable readers won't mind me cracking down.

You know I have no desire to censor just because people disagree. I'm too much a teacher for that. :-) So far, I've only ever deleted spam comments. But when people get abusive, it derails any reasonable conversation.

What I'd really like is the capacity to block certain trollish IP numbers, but I don't think Blogger supports that. Failing that, I might turn on moderation, at least until the trolls crawl back under their dank troll bridge.

The funny thing is that I can handle crap like this in the classroom. There, you can use humor and body language and the basic decency of the the other students to nudge people toward civility. I'm used to being able to make that work, and it's disconcerting that I can't do the same here. But of course I know that the Internet is often the death of civility.

Anyway, I appreciate the kind words figleaf. It means a lot.

SunflowerP said...

I used to moderate forums on dial-up BBS's using the simple core standard, "Debate, including heated debate, is encouraged; bashing and flaming are NOT." Lots of leeway for stuff that contributed to the discussions, very short shrift indeed for stuff (and, when habitual, for users) that didn't.

Some 14 or 15 years later, I'm amused to observe that most of the online places I hang out regularly have policies pretty close to that.


Smirking Cat said...

There's nothing wrong at all with not giving air time to people who are just stinking up the place.

Sungold said...

Well said, Smirking Cat. :-)

Sunflower, you're reminding me of how old this problem is. Well, probably as old as human nature. But I remember BBS from the mid-1980s, when I was in college, and the term flaming had definitely already been invented. It didn't help that on the old mainframes that we had back then, the only unlimited computer time was in the middle of the night, so you had all these exhausted, strung-out, overcaffeinated posters.

Thanks to all of you for stiffening my backbone. I'm lucky to have you as readers.