There will be bad blood
Let’s get meta.
Oh how I love meta discussions about community, community standards, and discontent. Nothing like addressing the ills of an online community to get the blood boiling.
We’ve had lots of squabbles, bad blood, and old feuds bubbling up around the site for the past few weeks and months, and things have heated up quite a bit in the past few days.
I’m almost as tired of these as I am of politics in general. As much as this election cycle has killed my ability to write about the latest Romney gaffe, the politics of this website have made going into the combox more of a chore than a pleasure. I’m sure I’m hardly alone in this.
To preface some of this, the last time I really got involved in the comment threads here it was when we were having a bit of a troll problem. The light sprinkling of trolling quickly turned into a raucous downpour. This left me feeling somewhat jaded, perhaps unrealistically so, and I’ve taken a much gentler approach since then, distancing myself from the combox as much as possible. My tendency to swoop in with a big “fuck you” at my fingertips, and a banhammer close behind, led to several people asking if maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t being reactionary and a little bit of a jerk.
And I probably was, truth be told. Cultivating a good comment culture is difficult. Since we’ve taken a historically laissez faire approach to this sort of thing, each ban has carried quite a bit of weight. Each time one of the principals of this blog need to get involved and crack down has been undertaken with great care or, paradoxically, with great spontaneity. I can still count the number of actual bans on my fingers, and several of those were almost certainly the banning of the same sock-puppet.
I’ve read a lot of comments and even some posts recently that get into the meta-weeds about what sort of standards this blog should uphold. With so many writers and so many different ideas about what this space ought to be, it’s a bit hard to untangle all the conflicting notions.
But here are some of the conflicts I’ve noticed:
1. Tom Van Dyke
Tom has inspired more controversy at this blog than anyone since one-time commenter Bob Cheeks (though we had quite a bit of controversy surrounding the brief merger with Positive Liberty as well.)
It seems half the comment threads I’ve read lately have dealt with TVD in some fashion, though this has been going on for some time. I had hoped that all parties could conjure up the resolve to simply walk away, but that appears to be Utopian thinking at best. Cooler heads, it appears, will not prevail.
We are reviewing the issue behind the scenes. I won’t say more than that, other than to ask that front-page authors at this blog refrain from discussing it in posts as much as possible. Everyone saw how well Kazzy’s last post went in the comments, devolving into such a bloody mess they eventually had to be shut down entirely – something that probably should have happened hours before it did.
2. Inclusion of women at the site
This has been a long-time problem at The League, and one that is both bound to its origins as an all-male blog and that is baked rather firmly into the title of the site. While the site is an obvious play off of the Alan Moore comic, I’ve heard from many people that it serves also as something of a disincentive for women to participate here. The old boys’ club aura that surrounds this place is due, I believe, largely to its name rather than to its contributors, and I doubt we’d have seen the sorts of critiques of this space we have seen had we a more inclusive title (whether or not more women participated here.)
This is also being discussed behind the scenes.
More importantly, the concern that women are being discussed rather callously in the comments by both writers and commenters has become an issue, especially recently. I think opening the floor up officially to this discussion is worthwhile and important, and I’d especially love to hear feedback from regular female commenters and readers (even those of you who don’t normally comment) as well as from Rose. If you happen to not like commenting, but would like to offer feedback, please shoot me an email at erik dot kain at gmail dot com.
3. Closing threads, deleting comments, and the expectations of authors as moderators
Our long-held philosophy is that deleting comments should only happen if A) the commenter is an obvious drive-by troll or spammer or B) if the comment is so horrendous that it merits an immediate deletion (i.e. it’s threatening or contains gratuitous language, etc.) If there is any doubt as to a comment’s merits, an author should contact either myself, Mark, Tod, or Jason, or at the very least chat with some other author at the site.
If a comment thread, on the other hand, is simply devolving into madness, it should probably be shut down by its author (rather than a spate of deletions.) If the author is out of commission for whatever reason, someone else can shut it down after contacting one of the site’s editors. If commenters feel that a thread is out of control, they should feel free to contact one of us or the post’s author.
4. The floor is open
What other issues are plaguing your enjoyment of the site? What changes would you like to see? There will be big changes coming, and any feedback while we’re undertaking this process would be very helpful.
Consider this an open-meta-thread.
P.S. To anyone who has spoken with me about the possibility of a new sub-blog, please be patient. No new sub-blogs are being added until other major changes are made to the site.
P.P.S. The LeagueCast seemed popular, but it was very inaccessible and I think overly long. Any ideas you’d like to see discussed in this format are appreciated.