5.03.2005

Debate on Earth Goat's future

In case you haven't been following the thread ... a feisty, pseudonymous Synthetic has suggested a different way forward for this blog. I'm fairly sure how I feel about it, but I'd like input from others -- howzabout some of you lurkers? I'm open to changing my mind. (So I guess there is democracy after all -- who knew.) The questions are age-old: Who are we? Why are we here? Where are we going? Who's going with us? Who really gives a flying you-know-what? The story so far:

At 11:15 AM, May 02, 2005, Grendel said...

Synthetic, would you mind emailing me and letting me know who you are, and I can return the favor? I'd be much obliged -- you can get my email from my profile. Most everyone who regularly posts here knows who's who, and if you'd like to be included, the same should go for you, I reckon.

At 7:24 PM, May 02, 2005, synthetic said...

Gee, I dunno, that sounds kind of clubby, Grendel.

At 8:56 PM, May 02, 2005, Roper said...

Putting a name/face to aliases builds trust and respect. What's clubby about that?

At 7:08 AM, May 03, 2005, Grendel said...

It's a collaborative blog -- a community, not an anonymous posting station. You missed the meeting five months ago. All the contributors are to be known to all of us. I don't think it's too much to ask for the identity of someone who posts so much here. (In fact, I am revising the rules in the fine print, the last thing in the right-hand column.) It's a matter of knowing who is regularly saying things on this blog that I started and that will be linked to my and other contributors' names. End of story. It's not anarchy here, nor libertarian utopia, nor commune. It's not even democracy. It's a benevolent, informal Grendelocracy. You don't like, free to get your own -ocracy. So come on, Synthetic, we don't bite, unless roused, and all the kids have done it.

At 10:04 AM, May 03, 2005, synthetic said...

Oh, I don't know. It seems to me that if you want that kind of control, they have things called intranets and private servers and phone calls and gated communities and Team Blog Only. I like Grendelocracy as is, it's on a bench in the Tim Berners-Lee Municipal Park.

If you do go Team Blog Only, though, then in all seriousness I propose changing the name of the blog to "TinPot EarthGoat".

Jane: I've never seen online community need Names! Names! in order to build trust and respect. The quality of posts and moderation determines poster and community reputations. See Slashdot and The Decembrist, both of which remain open and anonymous, because that's how you get smart, perceptive people you don't already know to come and keep things from getting stale and...clubby.

29 comments:

Pete said...

I speak only for myself here, in my capacity as a contributor to these blogs, not as an administrator. And I'm going to be frank.

I'm pretty sure we are a club, aren't we? Not necessarily a very exclusive one, but a club all the same. I don't think calling these blogs clubby is a count against them. These are not open forums and as such, we owe nothing to anyone.

Moreover, I think the "quality of posts" that Synthetic mentions is the real issue here. Maybe it's me, but I don't like it when I'm having a conversation with friends and then a stranger butts in and tells me I'm wrong about everything, including decisions I've made in my personal life. Then, this stranger claims to have a right? Well, yes, I guess they do. They don't have to like me, what I believe, or what I say, and they can say so. But I don't owe them a seat at my table and a glass from my pitcher.

Frankly, I think Grendel was quite indulgent to try to bring Synthetic into the fold at all. And then, when she rebuked him for that, he created this thread! What a sweet, sweet man. Clearly, he's not interested in abusing his authority as leader of this Grendelocracy.

Finally: what's the point? If someone doesn't like what we write or the way we run our blog, why do they stick around? Aside from a modest audience and the mild engagement of some patient strangers, I just don't see the upside.

Jane said...

Sure, trust and respect can be built without names. I've been part of such online communities. But that doesn't mean ALL online communities have to operate by the same rules. If Grendel wants this to be a "closed" (to anyone not willing to be open about who they are) community, I think it's fair for him to make that request.

Hell, I don't care if it stays "clubby." I like the discussions we have here, among friends and acquaintances and people willing to unmask themselves. There are plenty of other places on the web for anonymous discussion.

Is there a Blogger feature that allows only contributors to comment?

gwarbot said...

This indeed illustrates why EarthGoat might benefit from further refinement of its purpose. Anonymity, though, certainly doesn't mean you get more "smart, perceptive people" posting. I just tend to care less about anonymous posts, no matter their quality. The anonymity of the Web has always seemed to undercut creativity. You are anonymous; who cares?

Grendel said...

Just a quick fact re: Jane's question: absolutely there's a way to close it off to just contributors. It's just a button click away.

chad said...

What kind of warning is "clubby?" I'm not entirely sure that much discussion is necessary here--we're all friends. "Poster and community reputations" are firmly established (y'all's my, etc.) already as is the ability to use quotations and...elipses. People who worry about getting stale and clubby ought to.

the plunge said...

Yay! Debate! Now I can sound off on an issue with relatively little lasting import or interest--one of my favorite pasttimes!

To begin:

***A SYNTHETIC GLOSSARY****

Tim Berners-Lee: 'Inventer' of World Wide Web.

Slashdot: Grand Olde Tekky/Open Source News/Discussion website.

Tinpot: Irrelevant, of little use

****************************

Synthetic, a nice-enough seeming fellow (I am avoiding ad hominem here) has drawn--using his gratuitous tekky references--some relatively inaccurate analogies, and, I would perhaps say, may be flirting with the boundaries of established socio-personal doctrine and even, maybe, common sense.

Just because two "things" are "web sites" does not make them any more analogous than two "things" that have feet, or hair, or batteries, electrons, words, images, matter, substance, meaning, sense or clarity. Would you compare Night Train to Penthouse Letters because they both solicit submissions, pay contributors, and provide subscribers with compendia of fictional materials? Fuck no. This web site is nothing at all, even slightly, like Slashdot or the Decembrist. Slashdot was formed for the geek community--a community of untold numbers, whose purview is massive and always-growing--so that it could communicate with and inform itself. It follows open source precepts, which is to say, anyone and everyone who has something to contribute--and even those who aren't, are welcome. That community numbers in the hundreds of thousands. This web site was--I think--formed for a much smaller community, and as Grendel says, it was constituted without any reference to Open Source or any other commy pinko ideology that makes ludicrous claims about the value of volunteer labor and cooperation in the face of corporate tyranny.

Do you really see every web site as a bench in a park, dude? That is SOOOO ten years ago. Things have progressed so far beyond now that such notions belong in historic footnotes, or perhaps, as the name of a thread on Slashdot in which all the posters chide themselves regretfully about the folly of baseless optimism and the weenie park metaphors people use to represent it.

Forget gates--would you come into any community with a mask on and tell the leaders how to run things? History might counsel you against such an action.

But forget history. Let's consider your argument, or at least, my version of it: There is some good in being able to break the common sense rules of a small community of nice people, just to prove a point.

Probably there are cases in which this is true. I would doubt that being able to make silly comments on a thread about gay jew jokes is such a case, but who am I to say?

Synthetic is a provocateur, nothing more. Does he really have illusions of speaking truth to power, here? (Grendy, you da man!) Synthia, baby, it's an effing alumni blog for a writing program. Why don't you take your case somewhere where establishing the precedent would matter? Then you'd really be fighting the good fight.

And lastly: clubby. Need a blog defend a blog's self against such a charge? I am perfectly fine with the idea of a commentatorship limited to people who are members of the community that the blog was created to serve. Does this mean ban all non-workshoppers? I don't think so. To me it means--as it would in a real, live flesh and blood and tears community, that respectful guests are welcome anytime!

And that the dissenting views of dissenters will be considered---on their merits.

chad said...

I totally hope synthetic is sean.

the plunge said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
the plunge said...

Sorry, I made a typo.

Five or six of you have just written to me asking if Penthouse Letters does indeed solicit submissions. Let me state for the record that I did not bother to confirm that fact before I included it in my post, and so I'm not sure if it's strictly true. Sorry for that.

Grendel said...

Plunge, thou art aptly monicker'd. Man, that was funny.

Just to clarify something important: I didn't start this thread to reward Synthetic for her (yes, her, based on certain details ofer her posts ... though again, WHO KNOWS without an 8x10 glossy of his/her nether regions) behavior or posts here or on BAF, which have been, for the most part, rather contentious without having been provoked (or invited) and presumptuous. There are exceptions to that. And little about her participation has made me inclined to invite her as a Contributor. So, perhaps this post should more correctly be called "Debate on Synthetic's future."

No, this thread is here DESPITE that, because "she" -- irrespective of any irritation, irrelevence, irresposibility -- has brought a certain matter to a head. That is, we already closed off Anonymous comments ... do we want to take the final step of closing off all non-contributor comments? It would be a shame to have to resport to this, in my estimation. I would rather not. But I have limits, and when I hear people telling me they are more wary now of posting, less comfortable bein' all freewheelin', being disinterested in having strangers take issue with their thoughts, I can feel the limits approaching. So I wanted a group gut check.

Pete said...

I like non-contributor comments. All we need is a mechanism for that one in a hundred commenters that will be disruptive. Don't throw out the fireproof baby with the asbestos.

synthetic said...

gwarbot wrote:

I just tend to care less about anonymous posts, no matter their quality

All right. Think carefully about that one. Are you saying that when you read a journal, or browse a bookstore shelf, you're more interested in what you already know about authors than you are in voice, subject, and the quality of the mind?

What if you were reading red folders? Would you be more interested in an app from someone you knew?

You might argue that there's already been a filter for bookstore shelves and journals, so trusted sources are recommending the writers to you, while there aren't filters for anonymous posts on the internet. Apart from the problem of inherent snobbery in that approach -- meaning you're relying on someone else's taste -- filters certainly do exist for anonymous internet posts on specific sites. I'm late, but I'll get specific about that this evening.

I'll respond to Pete and plunge too. Plunge, in the meantime, see how far your Slashdot arguments apply to The Decembrist. I don't think they fit well.

Grendel said...

Synthetic, step away from the Kool-Aid(R) a second!

This is not a journal or a bookstore or a red folder or The Decembrist or anything else but Earth Goat. A community, all its own, with its own customs and feel. There's no ground to be gained without accepting that. You're on the verge of forcing people who didn't invite you in to change our customs to be more restrictive, to the detriment of dozens of potential casual posters. Don't you feel the least bit weird about that?

Grendel said...

And if Chad is right, if Synthetic is Sean, I will buy him a fifth of Jameson.

SER said...

I think people are bristling because Synthetic's comments appear frequently and seem contentious. Because we do not know Synthetic, we can't interpret her comments in the context of a larger body of knowledge about her personality, etc. And because Synthetic chooses to remain pseudonymous, she can stick to criticism, since no one can call her on it in the same way that we might be able to call one of the people we know on a string of negative comments.

It's always easier to be a gadfly than to be constructive. We could all poke holes in any argument on any blog, but what of it? Is that the only way to keep the content creative, by having unrelenting criticism of everything that's said? And it's worth noting that there are lots of great blogs that don't accept comments, anonymous or otherwise. Maud Newton, for example, or Talking Points Memo (or, slightly to the right of TPM, Bull Moose).

I'm reminded of a Joan Didion quote from the "Proust Interview" in Vanity Fair a while back. In it, she says that what's often generously called "speaking one's mind" is overrated: "It usually turns out to be a way of aggrandizing the speaker at the expense of the helpless listener." Clearly, she isn't advocating silence and conformity; rather, she seems to mean that the confrontational, scorched-earth, "I was just speaking my mind" approach popularized by tell-all talk shows and anything on Fox News isn't necessarily the pursuit of truth that it's made out to be. I'm not saying that this is what Synthetic is necessarily doing - just that, in the absence of any context of what she's like as a person overall, it seems to be the way that her comments have, in aggregate, come across.

Jane said...

The choice to remain anonymous can't be separated from content. At least not for me. If you choose not to reveal who you are, that colors the meaning and tone of what you write, subtly or not -- whether it's a book, a manifesto, a Penthouse letter, or a blog posting. That goes double in a context where anonymity is not the norm.

Brando said...

It would be nice to keep non-contributor comments enabled. I think most people here behave like adults. Is there any way to ban specific users (not implying that in this case, just a general question)? That way we can remove anyone who takes the governor off their id.

Also, more importantly, Penthouse Forum MUST take submissions, because those stories are all true.

Grendel said...

[Stretching up police tape, strobed in alternating blue and red] SER, Pete, and Plunge nailed everything better than I could have. And yeah, let's pounce on Gwarbot's sensible reflection. Fuck. This wasn't even a debate. How stupid is it that one persistent person can barge in uninvited with such disruption. She's probably pleased to be the center of attention. I blame myself for giving her this one last chance, despite the existing indications that she would blow it, too. It takes a lot to get me to feel like this.

So: I ask that Synthetic recuse herself from further involvement in a place she has managed to thoroughly alienate. Any more pointless or pedantic posts from her, and it's goodbye to the last shred of openness -- at least for a while. Bugger all infuriating people without a sense of class, taste, decorum, neighborliness, respect, or appropriatemess -- for ruining things for everybody else.

Grendel said...

Brando, sadly, no, I've scoured Blogger and don't see any way to ban a specific person. That would solve it nicely.

I'm reminded of the story of the scorpion and the frog. Scorpion asks the frog for a ride across the river. "But you'll sting me." "No I won't -- besides, that would drown me too." The frog decides to be nice. Halfway across, scorpion stings the frog. As they sink, frog gurgles, "But why?" Answer: "It's my nature."

chad said...

At least one good thing has come of all this. I have been thinking of Sean in a blonde wig all day. With pigtails.

Grendel said...

I have it confirmed from the man himself that he is not Synthetic. But that doesn't mean he's not wearing blonde pigtails.

Charlemagne said...

Long live the Grendelocracy! Charlemagne is quite happy living here. The only reason someone would not want to reveal their name to others is because he or she just wants to use their veiled status as a weapon. This Synthetique is some sort of anti-goat sent here to rip us apart. Grendel is gracious enough to host us. If you are uninterested start your own synthetiqueocracy. I started my own. Its called the Holy Roman Empire.

Grendel said...

Long live the Holy Roman Empire! How privileged we are indeed to count Your Highness amongst us. Your couns'l is much to be Sought.

So, assuming that Pete is ready, and I go out and have a drinkypoo & din-din with My Lovely and come back to find a Synthetic tit-for-tat about how wrong we all are, on every point, there will be the practical matter of Contributor swap to attend to, that is, all Babies invited to be Goats and vice versa? Then the yanking out of the Dilithium Crystals in Engine Room 3?

PJKM said...

Synthetic suggests this blog is clubby, but then starts talking about "red folders" - sounds like Miss Syn is already a club member, or at least is keen to show off her grasp of club lingo.

She's like someone who says nothing in workshop but writes mean letters.

synthetic said...

pjkm, does it really matter so much how you get the criticism, so long as you get it, and it's useful or at least good?

Anyway. Clubby, not clubby, I've sent Grendel a long general-response email that he can hit you with if he pleases. Too long for comments, I thought.

No thanks to this unfunny topic, btw, I finished Justine, thought it was very good. Recommend. Had a long marshy psyche-nit-combing section that made me achy to get outside, and it's v. negligent about plot, and come to think of it the characters aren't very pliant either, more like Dickens's one-trick ponies, but the eyes are pretty fine all the way through, and the end is killer in a modernist/Rothko way.

the plunge said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
the plunge said...

Sorry I am drunk and just posted a drunk post and then removed it. Love You!

dunkeys said...

Is that you John Wayne? Is this me?

kclou said...

drunk blogging. why didn't i think of that?