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Nov 09 2012

If

If your website’s full of assholes, it’s your fault, says Anil Dash.

…as I reflected back on the wonderful, meaningful conversations I’ve had in the last dozen years of this blog, I realized that one of the reasons people don’t understand how I’ve had such a wonderful response from all of you over the years is because they simply don’t believe great conversations can happen on the web. Fortunately, I have seen so much proof to the contrary.

Why are they so cynical about conversation on the web? Because a company like Google thinks it’s okay to sell video ads on YouTube above conversations that are filled with vile, anonymous comments. Because almost every great newspaper in America believes that it’s more important to get a few more page views on their website than to encourage meaningful discourse about current events within their community, even if many of those page views will be off-putting to the good people who are offended by the content of the comments. And because lots of publishers think that any conversation is good if it boosts traffic stats.

Well, the odds are I’ve been doing this blogging thing longer than you, so let me tell you what I’ve learned: When you engage with a community online in a constructive way, it can be one of the most meaningful experiences of your life. It doesn’t have to be polite, or neat and tidy, or full of everyone agreeing with each other. It just has to not be hateful and destructive.

Makes sense to me.

H/t Chris Lawson

33 comments

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  1. 1
    Lofty

    Moderating behaviour on blogging websites works, because it makes a safe place for constructive debate. Hate fests are only useful for idiots.

  2. 2
    notsont

    A year ago I would have disagreed and been a no or minimal moderation advocate, not so much anymore. I have come to realize my favorite sites are where people can actually have a conversation without being bombarded by over the top nastiness.

  3. 3
    Argle Bargle

    If your website’s full of assholes

    I had a quick flash of the movie 2001 with Keir Dullea’s character saying: “It’s full of assholes.”

  4. 4
    left0ver1under

    So, does that mean Dash is at fault if people start trolling his website?

    The only websites that will be free of trolls are:

    * sites which don’t allow posting at all,
    * sites which heavily censor posts, or
    * sites so sapless and banal that trolls don’t go there.

    Site with abusive jerks are run by people unafraid of those who disagree with themselves. To paraphrase Ben Franklin, he who sacrifices free speech for security deserves neither.

  5. 5
    julian

    To paraphrase Ben Franklin, he who sacrifices free speech for security deserves neither.

    Aye All those kids who’ve were called faggot, queer, dyke, they shoulda just toughened the fuck up. Ben Franklin said so.

  6. 6
    adriana

    I came to the conclusion a few years ago that moderation on websites, blogs, social networking site is a necessity. Of course, there is sometimes a fine line with moderation, too much maybe counterproductive, but too little or none, is positively DISASTROUS. Those sites end up often being overrun by trolls and bullies, and they stifle any interesting discussions. I ended up leaving a couple of sites before because I thought the moderation was either extreme or knee-jerk, and others because the moderators let the nastiness fester and then added some of their own. In the end, a few friends and I created our own atheist social networking site to avoid badly moderated or non-moderated sites (you can check us out if you want, it’s atheistuniverse.net; I hope Ophelia doesn’t see this as shameless self-promotion!). And contrary to left0ver1under, we do not sacrifice free speech, quite the opposite, we allow for people to feel comfortable and safe in expressing their opinions, which promotes good discussions.

  7. 7
    Anthony K

    Whenever someone quotes Ben Franklin or any of the other saints in the American pantheon, I cannot help but feel a surge of gratitude for being born in Canada.

  8. 8
    Anthony K

    Trolls are funny little creatures. Terrible, repulsive, utterly-useless-as-anything-but-hot-dog-filler funny little creatures.

    If you saw a bunch of people having a spirited discussion in a pub, would you jump in and start screaming that democrats are murderous liars just for the LULZ? Would you start yelling slurs, just because you can? Would you decide one of them was a feminazi slut, and chant that at her like it’s a poem by Yeats?

    If not, you’re making Baby Liberty cry, I guess.

    People who just want to have a normal fucking conversation for once in the history of the fucking Internet must all be Stalinists at heart.

  9. 9
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Site with abusive jerks are run by people unafraid of those who disagree with themselves. To paraphrase Ben Franklin, he who sacrifices free speech for security deserves neither.

    Piss off. You’ve been commenting around FtB long enough to know better. If you can’t parse the difference between robust debate and abusive, toxic environments then it is because you are willfully choosing to ignore what people have been talking about for at least two years.

  10. 10
    julian

    And contrary to left0ver1under, we do not sacrifice free speech, quite the opposite, we allow for people to feel comfortable and safe in expressing their opinions, which promotes good discussions.

    Exactly. And that’s something a lot of atheists (Al Stefanelli, Thunderf00t, ect) refuse to recognize. Abusive speech, harassment, slurs, they’re silencing tactics. They hinder the free expression of others.

    Of course according to people like lef0ver1under, they’re cowardly and unbefitting of free speech or their security.

  11. 11
    Ophelia Benson

    To paraphrase Ben Franklin, he who sacrifices free speech for security deserves neither.

    Nothing to do with me, because I’m not a “he”.

    Anyway, same old bullshit. Editing is not “sacrificing free speech.” Also, name-calling, stalking, lying, and the like are not “disagreement.”

  12. 12
    Ophelia Benson

    adriana – not a bit of it. Feel free to leave a real link if you want to.

  13. 13
    jenny6833a

    Ophelia Benson says, in response to “To paraphrase Ben Franklin, he who sacrifices free speech for security deserves neither.”

    Nothing to do with me, because I’m not a “he”.

    Be aware that Ol’ Ben spoke standard English.

    Anyway, same old bullshit. Editing is not “sacrificing free speech.” Also, name-calling, stalking, lying, and the like are not “disagreement.”

    Bald assertions without an iota of explanation are not considered good form in civilized discussions, BECAUSE such assertions contribute nothing of value and change no one’s mind.

  14. 14
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    You know, jenny, that bolded BECAUSE doesn’t make your assertion any less unsupported. Especially since the unsupported assertion follows the BECAUSE.

  15. 15
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    (considering that you’re obviously referring to Ophelia’s words)

  16. 16
    rosiebell

    Bald assertions without an iota of explanation are not considered good form in civilized discussions, BECAUSE such assertions contribute nothing of value and change no one’s mind.

    What an odd statement. In “civilised discussions” you can say:-

    Editing is not “sacrificing free speech.” Also, name-calling, stalking, lying, and the like are not “disagreement.”

    and people will know what you mean and nod their heads and agree “Same old bullshit”, if they’ve come across such things – which, if they’ve been on the internet for any time, they will have.

    It’s like saying:- “A bunch of people gate-crashing a party are not ‘engaging in their right to free association’.” It’s an assertion, bald or otherwise, which doesn’t need further explanation.

  17. 17
    Ophelia Benson

    Standard English? Wut? Standard English required Benjamin Franklin to say “he who sacrifices free speech for security deserves neither” and not “one who sacrifices free speech for security deserves neither”?

    Nonsense.

  18. 18
    adriana

    Brownian, I don’t know you but after your comment #9, the Baby Liberty bit, and the pub examples, you are my friend, because you MADE MY DAY. Perfectly said.

  19. 19
    No Light

    Psst, Jenny, your privilege is showing, cover up.

    Brownian and Josh – +1 and infinite cakes to you both.

  20. 20
    tigtog

    Jenny and leftover,

    much as blog owners/moderators might like to fantasise about the comments we decline to publish never seeing the light of day anywhere ever again, we all know that the authors can and usually do simply publish them somewhere else where they are considered appropriate content (their very own blog/tumblr/twitter, if nowhere else).

    Freedom of speech is never abridged by a publisher declining to publish certain words using the publisher’s resources. Other people’s freedom to speak does not create any obligation for publishers to disseminate that speech on their behalf.

    Publishers create a platform for sharing opinions for their own reasons, to further their own goals. Publishers who wish to hold to certain standards, for the benefit of themselves and their readers, can and should curate submitted content and decline to publish any content they find unacceptable. Otherwise they are allowing themselves to be bullied into hosting content which does not meet their standards. Why should any publisher do this? Why should anybody expect them to put up with having their platform hijacked?

  21. 21
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    #8 Me too. By the way, I’m going to poach that Baby Liberty line should an appropriate occasion arise if you let me.

  22. 22
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Don’t bother with JennyNumbers unless you’re exceeding bored. Drive-by misapprehensions and lying are her calling card. Too much gristle, not enough meat.

  23. 23
    tigtog

    Josh, I’ve danced with JennyNumbers before. I’m not doing it for her benefit, I do it for the lurkers. I love lurkers.

  24. 24
    jenny6833a

    I think tigtog (#21) is trying to say that freedom of the press is limited to those who own one.

    That’s not a new idea.

    titog’s claim that one can always publish somewhere else is, of course, true. However, it’s ludicrous to imply that a response to a comment to a blog can be meaningfully published any place but in the comments section of that blog.

    I agree that there are categories of comments that need not be printed. One such category would be comments by members of the blogger’s fan club which vilify anyone who, however politely and accurately, identifies a flaw in a statement of the revered personage.

    Obviously, the decision maker should not be the blogger her/it/himself. Self-interest corrupts ….

    That’s not a new idea either.

  25. 25
    tigtog

    Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are not the same thing. Pick one and argue your case, conflating them is misrepresentation. In the age of the internet, anybody with internet access can own their own press: it still stands that no press owner is obliged to publish content which does not meet their publication standards.

    it’s ludicrous to imply that a response to a comment to a blog can be meaningfully published any place but in the comments section of that blog

    Way to ignore basically the entire history of blogging. This is what trackbacks/pingbacks are for.

    As to your poisoning the well effort regarding who makes these decisions, you are holding self-publishers to a much higher standard than any commercial publishing house, and that’s just unreasonable.

    Blogs are mostly, and certainly here on FtB, basic self-publishing. Ed has set up this particular installation of open-source software which allows multiple blog owners to self-publish on the FtB platform, but I’m not sure where you imagine the budget might be for any kind of licensed-impartial moderating service, even were such a thing to be an actual existing entity.

  26. 26
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    Ophelia, I want a member t-shirt. If I don’t get one, I’m out of this sham of a fan club.

  27. 27
    EllenBeth Wachs

    @Number5 I have seen a variety of paraphrasing of that quote from Benjamin Franklin. NONE of them use the phrase “free speech” in it. While you can certainly take some liberties in paraphrasing, generally you want to get the correct gist across.

    The actual quote is, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
    Memoirs of The Life and Writings of Benjamin Franklin
    http://books.google.com/books?id=W2MFAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA270&lpg=PA270t#v=onepage&q&f=false

  28. 28
    TillerPhish Hosting

    Hey there, You have performed an excellent job. I will definitely digg it and in my opinion recommend to my friends. I am sure they will be benefited from this site.

  29. 29
    Anthony K

    Thanks, TillerPhish Hosting, for making Jenny’s point better than she ever could.

  30. 30
    lpetrich

    I’ve experienced what happens with lack of moderation of trolls and jerks, and it’s not pretty. They drove many of the nicer people away from a messageboard that I’d been at.

    Another thing about trolls: they feel very grievously wronged by attempts to interfere with their activities, like banning them or blocking them. It is as if they have an absolute right to be around people who consider them unwelcome. The trolls I mentioned earlier are typical of that, moaning and groaning about board managements that they consider “authoritarian”.

  31. 31
    Anthony K

    Another thing about trolls: they feel very grievously wronged by attempts to interfere with their activities, like banning them or blocking them. It is as if they have an absolute right to be around people who consider them unwelcome. The trolls I mentioned earlier are typical of that, moaning and groaning about board managements that they consider “authoritarian”.

    Hmm. That’s an interesting observation, and one that’s pretty consistent with my experiences. I wonder what psychological tendency accounts for that feeling of entitlement.

  32. 32
    wowruler

    interesting is the lady never bothered to seem in court, and the damages amount Its the minimum required by legislation!

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