Comments and other snowflakes

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I just wanted to point out that I have re-activated new user registration on most of my sites, including RealTech. If you register for an account and I know you, I’ll also give you trusted user status and you’ll be able to comment without the comment going into moderation. You don’t have to use your real name or provide a web site to register.

If you register and I don’t know you, become known (leave comments) and I’ll change your status in time. In addition, for those (hi Bud) who have asked, I am looking at how to provide comments feeds, but so far all I’ve found with Drupal is per-user feeds.

The only reason I have comment moderation on at all is because I still have problems with spammy comments. These are not the automated type; they’re from people hired to hand enter comments into sites, while linking back to a commercial site. I am not going to provide free text link ads in my space.

I’ve been rather fortunate not to have problems with comment trolls, and haven’t since my sites started coming in under the radar. I’m not sure if I’m not getting trolls because I’m not writing on controversial topics, or if I’m doing something that creates an anti-troll defense. Of course, I’m also liberal when it comes to the term troll. For instance, I don’t mind passionate, even angry, disagreement. Anger is not an artificial construct, and I won’t slap a person down if they write genuinely, but angrily. I may not like what I’m reading, but unless it becomes obscene, or I get wet from the foaming-at-the-mouth froth coming through the screen, I figure it’s one of those things. I do mind pat-on-the-head condescension, no matter how politely termed. Nothing will bring out the fire in me quicker than condescending behavior.

Others are less fortunate (or more popular) in their comments, such as Matt Asay at CNet, who does seem to have some trouble determining the difference between using a pseudonym when leaving a comment, and leaving a comment anonymously. Rogers Cadenhead responded in comments to Assay’s post and at his web site, noting this difficulty.

H3h wasn’t anonymous. He referred to his web site ( in another comment on CNET, and that site contains his real name, which is presumably how you got it. Making an example out of him, simply because he posted a single rude comment you didn’t like, makes you look like a noob. To save you time, my name is Rogers Cadenhead.

About negative commentary, Rogers has this sage advice:

If you publish on the web and accept user comments, you’re going to be a punching bag for a steady procession of dillweeds. Your choices are to stop taking comments, pick them off one by one like Asay, or just keep telling yourself you’re a beautiful snowflake and soldier through it.

I will never be able to get “beautiful snowflake” out of my head when it comes to comments, ever again.

I also wanted to point out another comment attached to Assay’s post.

One of the strengths of Ubuntu is the civility (enforced if necessary) of the community that goes with it.

I had no idea that Ubuntu enforced civility in its user community. I thought it was only the Mac that whipped out a titanium hand and slapped you across the face if you behaved badly.

But, I digress. The worst comments I have received over the years were all from people who attached their names to their comments. Most of the time, the comments weren’t even overtly hostile— coached in honeyed terms but with dagger edges, meaning to wound, while seeming to help. An anonymous “troll” is nothing in comparison.

I think anonymous commenter bashing is more of a control issue than a problem, and by that I mean people wanting to control their space to the point where perhaps they should not have comments.

We also have to accept some responsibility for the tone of comments we’re getting. If we make an outrageous claim, or take a controversial stance, we’re going to attract more negative commentary. We’re free to delete the commentary, but we shouldn’t feel victimized because it occurs. For instance, when Asay makes statements such as the following, I find it difficult to feel sympathy:

I mostly have stopped reading comments to this blog because what passes for “discussion” in the comments section tends to be inane, rude, and/or vapid, and often all three at the same time. “On the Internet, no one knows that you’re a dog,” goes the saying. Or that you’re a jerk.

I’m sorry, dear, but if this is the caliber of material you typically write, I’m not surprised most of your commentary is negative. What a condescending, and downright rude statement to make about the people who take the time to register at CNet and leave a comment at your sorry ass site.

How we treat commenters was also an issue related to the recent BoingBoing discussion. What fed the fires at the BB site was how badly even the more mildly censorious commenters were treated by the moderators. If you treat people like crap, don’t be surprised if they act crappy.

Oh, and by the way, Mr. Asay, if you read this, my name is Shelley Powers. Now you won’t have to spend time looking up the obvious.

Just Shelley

The stories this week: killer caught, fireworks over the flood

Recovered from the Wayback machine.

Today is the 4th of July and St. Louis will again have its spectacular fireworks display—considered one of the top ten in the country—over the Mississippi tonight. Unfortunately, the annual summer festival, Live on the Levee is off the levee due to the recent flood. Currently, water levels in St. Louis are at 37 feet, and falling. Flood stage at downtown St. Louis is 30 feet.

I won’t be attending the fireworks this year, but next year I plan on “adopting a shell” (paying for the cost of a single firework), and joining the party.

Other news from St. Louis this week has not been as bright or happy. We’re relieved that a man wanted for serial killing, has been captured but reminded again of the persistent problems we in the Midwest have with meth addiction and methamphetamine labs. Though state and federal officials have mounted a strong effort to fight the production of meth in Missouri, we’re still one of the highest meth producers in the country.

To fight off the challenge from InBev, Anheuser Busch has had to cut salary benefits and bonuses in order to bring the price of the company stock up without InBev’s intervention. Unfortunately, the move may not be enough as InBev begins the process of attempting a hostile takeover. Oh, in case you’re interested, InBev makes both Beck’s and Stella Artois—wouldn’t you rather have a Bud or Corona?

More jobs were lost to St. Louis when Chrysler announced it would be closing its minivan plant here and cutting back the number of jobs at the remaining truck plant. No one was really surprised at the cuts, but many were disappointed, and these are jobs that Missouri could ill afford to lose.

Too bad we don’t have the biotech industry that wanted to open research centers here in Missouri to help offset these job losses. The biotech industry decided not to invest in this state because of recent legislative efforts against stem cell research.

Governor Blunt signed into law a modification of the state’s harassment laws because of the recent events related to Lori Drew, MySpace, and the suicide of Megan Meier. This was an ill-considered modification. I can agree that threats of violence coming through the internet should be treated the same as those coming in via phone. However, the bill also includes under the term of “harassment” any communication that knowingly causes emotional distress. Now, how would you define emotional distress? Most chat in political weblogs would fall under “harassment” if we use “emotional distress” as a guideline.

However, such acts will be a misdemeanor unless you’re over 21 and the other person is under 17, or you’ve been convicted of harassment in the past, so I guess we can continue to battle it out in weblog comments. Both of these caveats would also have meant that Lori Drew still would not have been charged in this state under this law— she did not write the text that caused Megan to suffer emotional distress. Those messages were written by her 13 year old daughter, and an 18 year old employee.

This same bill also provides support for spanking in the school systems, though how such two acts came to be combined is something I guess only a politician would understand. I also find it difficult to understand how the legislature can support a humiliating punishment such as spanking, which causes enormous emotional distress to children, yet seek to limit the infliction of emotional distress via words through the internet. I guess there must be something in the water in Jefferson City, because the logic of our representatives actions escapes me.

To end on a light note, the fireflies are out this week. One can live through any number of hot, humid summers in order to see fireflies come out at dusk. The effect is magical. I have been attempting to photograph these wonderful creatures and will post my admittedly sad efforts in a later post.