Friday, December 18, 2009

The end of an irking?

Wow. Just wow. The Marmot has gotten so annoyed with some of the behavior in his comments section that he has shut the whole thing down completely — at least for now. All previous comments — going back years — are now locked out. If you want to put up a comment, it has to go through him first and he might put it up. Wow.
As I’ve said before, I appreciate the overwhelming majority of the readers and commenters I have.

But frankly, people keep pissing on my rug, and I really don’t have the energy or ambition to moderate everything.

I do this blog because a) it’s fun, and b) because it seems people enjoy reading it. I certainly don’t do it to get aggravated.

I’ve had to shut down two comment threads in less than a week, however, and I see the same characters going at it again in another thread. This morning, I get a phone call — at work! — from one of the characters I banned, as well as an email to my boss that accuses me of advocated porn and encouraging hate speech.
Frankly, I don't blame him. I even put up an entire post about the deterioration recently, and after he shut down the first thread, it looked like several commenters were daring The Marmot to ban them. Who saw shutting down the whole readership side of the operation coming?

This sort of begs the question: What is the proper way to handle blog comments in a way that balances privacy, freedom of speech, and civility?

Is a real-name system the answer? Speaking as someone who has had some serious real-world threats made against him going back to the late 1990s, I can understand the desire and preference some bloggers and commenters have to be cloaked in anonymity. Others who mock such decisions not to use one's real name are often people far removed from a situation in which speaking one's mind can get them in hot water or where an online opponent can do them harm.

Should comments be pre-approved before they're posted? This "solution" requires an even greater time input on the part of the blog owner, and it inevitably creates bias when it comes to accepting or rejecting posts, though some bloggers are better at objectivity than others.

Is there a way that people can be guided toward civil behavior on a strictly voluntary basis? If intervention is hard to stomach, is there a way that the hoi polloi can be nudged toward more responsible netizenry?

And ultimately, is a tamer comments section what the people want? I know it is for me, as I prefer a forum where we discuss the issues and try to find common ground, if not solutions. But I've heard again and again (from some readers and commenters) that the outrageous comments are just as much reason to check out The Hole as the posts. Sphere: Related Content

29 comments:

  1. I'm in two minds about this. Personally speaking, when the commenting on blogs such as the Marmot's descends into personal attacks and ridiculous hypocracy, it kinda makes me a little sad inside. I agree with you that the comments section would be better used as a forum for idea exchange and world betterment than a virtual bar-room brawl. But on the other hand, as an anthropologist studying Korean/foreigner relationships, it gives me a good insight into the state of the nation, as it were.

    I'm currently considering starting a blog, myself, and honestly I dispair at the idea of playing host to some of the ill considered, intollerant diatribe that I often see on the marmot, but then, these blogs are an outlet for people to vent thier anger and frustration. And I guess it has to come out somewhere.

    I wish we could all be sensible, reasonable adults and discuss issues in a mature way. But that's not going to happen, is it.

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  2. I'll be interested to see what happens to his hit-count.

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  3. I'll be interested to see what happens to his hit-count.

    I imagine it will come down considerably. But then again, perhaps so will my blood pressure :)

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  4. As for the actual topic here, I don't mock anyone who blogs in anonymity --- unfortunately, in some circumstances, it's necessary --- but I still prefer it. If it's worth saying, it's usually worth attaching your name to it.

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  5. Frankly, I was getting tired of going to the Marmot and reading the same crap and attacks on the expat community from Netizen Kim and Pawi. It was tired and boring and did nothing to contribute to the conversation. Thread after thread had Pawi going "Stupid typical expat, has no argument, should get out of the country". And this from a guy who doesn't even live here. Thread after thread getting lost in the flaming and trolling. I'll still go for the news and articles, but I won't miss their shit ever again.

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  6. Frankly, I was getting tired of going to the Marmot and reading the same crap and attacks on the expat community from Netizen Kim and Pawi. It was tired and boring and did nothing to contribute to the conversation.
    There was a good deal of racism on all sides. And sure, Netizen Kim could be a dick sometimes, but not any more so than some of his detractors, and some comments could be quite thought-provoking.

    That's just My Humble Opinion (tm)

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  7. Robert NOOOO! Where will I now go to find true meaning to life!?

    Seriously though, I will seriously get bored now and will actually have to find something productive to do.

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  8. Dan Luba wrote:
    I'm in two minds about this. Personally speaking, when the commenting on blogs such as the Marmot's descends into personal attacks and ridiculous hypocracy, it kinda makes me a little sad inside.

    I think what annoys me most about that is that it's the same predictable battle lines drawn and virtually nothing new is added.

    To someone coming for the first time, particularly someone coming with an insightful POV on the post's topic, the typical comments section personal attacks and name-calling would be a strong disincentive toward getting involved in a thread.

    I guess one could say, "Well suck it up then," but that begs the question: Why should they have to?

    I agree with you that the comments section would be better used as a forum for idea exchange and world betterment than a virtual bar-room brawl. But on the other hand, as an anthropologist studying Korean/foreigner relationships, it gives me a good insight into the state of the nation, as it were.

    So everyone should be your little guinea pigs then, eh?

    Seriously, though, I'm not so sure if the insight you're getting is really about the state of the nation. Even on an esteemed blog like The Marmot's Hole or Korea Beat, both of which include a lot of original Korean-language content summarized or translated into English, the comments sections are still full of rehashing of what are essentially cognitive distortions of the same reality.

    And that means you can go into any of the heated threads and have the inescapable feeling that you've seen this movie before.

    Heck, that was a main point of my now-infamous "memes" post.

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  9. Dan Luba wrote:
    I'm currently considering starting a blog, myself, and honestly I dispair at the idea of playing host to some of the ill considered, intollerant diatribe that I often see on the marmot,

    Well, if the law is laid down, such bloggers will either go elsewhere or they will learn to tone down their comments.

    I have problems with only the occasional commenter, and as I said elsewhere, I only recall banning two people. I don't have the ability to block IP addresses (or even check them), so all I can do is remove comments after they're made, so one of the bannees took to posting somewhat more inflammatory comments than before, knowing I'd take them down.

    This went on for a couple days, until I started going onto his blog (the address of which he'd accidentally revealed), which was, ironically, about Catholic piety, and made relevant comments that also included references to his inflammatory comments on my blog. He stopped rather quickly. :)

    But maybe I've banned only one-tenth of the people The Marmot has because I have only one-tenth of the traffic. Maybe bad behavior goes up exponentially and even "setting the tone" won't work.

    but then, these blogs are an outlet for people to vent thier anger and frustration. And I guess it has to come out somewhere.

    I'm not sure I agree. Yes, some people need to vent, but at the same time, I think that a lot of the K-blogosphere has constructed a particularly negative narrative from which they draw many or most of their conclusions.

    I can compare the "world view" or "Korea view" of, say, English teachers I know who read K-blogs and those who don't, and there is a stark difference in attitudes. The latter group still has problems living in Korea owing to language barrier, cultural differences, no longer benefiting from "racial transparency" back home, being a minority for the first time, annoyance at the majority's collective ignorance of them as a minority, etc., but how it gets processed and dealt with often ends up entirely different.

    I wish we could all be sensible, reasonable adults and discuss issues in a mature way. But that's not going to happen, is it.

    It's a perfect world we're after, true, but just because Moses can't get there himself doesn't mean he shouldn't head in that general direction.

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  10. Robert wrote:
    I imagine it will come down considerably. But then again, perhaps so will my blood pressure :)

    This is the only chance I have to catch up to The Marmot. ;)

    I routinely have about 1/10 of the comments he has on any given day, though occasionally, if something gets linked on his blog, it might go up to 1/8. On rare occasions, when I get linked to somewhere big outside the K-blogs, it might briefly (like for a day) jump to 1/2, but that's happened maybe two or three times in the past several years.

    And who knows? Maybe people will be hitting it all day for the next several days seeing if he's unlocked the comments section again.

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  11. Robert wrote:
    As for the actual topic here, I don't mock anyone who blogs in anonymity

    That was directed at people like David Barch, who is in fact one of those people far removed from harm.

    --- unfortunately, in some circumstances, it's necessary --- but I still prefer it. If it's worth saying, it's usually worth attaching your name to it.

    I am proud of some of the things I've written on this blog, and I would love to use some of it professionally or academically, but I also know that there are — on a regular basis — some people gunning for me, and the benefits of real-name attachment are far outweighed by the harm that could come (based on past events).

    But this blog is consistently "kushibo" and so there's still a high degree of accountability even for "anonymous" bloggers to maintain their "brand."

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  12. David tz wrote:
    Frankly, I was getting tired of going to the Marmot and reading the same crap and attacks on the expat community from Netizen Kim and Pawi.

    NK and Pawi's consistent problem is that they both have constructed an archetype and assume everyone is part of that archetype (but to be fair, the archetype isn't all that far off for many people).

    But on the other side, the exact same thing has happened. It's easy to see that many in the other camp see Korea as a nation full of the worst image of a cock-blocking, racist, whore-mongering, bribe-paying ajŏshi they can muster.

    As Robert notes here as well, it was definitely a two-way street.

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  13. Robert wrote:
    There was a good deal of racism on all sides. And sure, Netizen Kim could be a dick sometimes, but not any more so than some of his detractors, and some comments could be quite thought-provoking.

    It's a good measure of your value as a blogger that you are able to see all this so clearly.

    NK and Pawikirogi's transgressions are well recorded, but the other side behaved like a pack of jackals as well, ready to pounce on anything. If they reserved it for just NK and Pawi, it wouldn't be such a problem, but it became normal discourse, almost the default action.

    Why can't people say something like, "I disagree with you because..." instead of "As usual, you're full of shit" (sometimes, but not always, followed by the reasons).

    The latter is certainly not more insightful, and it just aggravates tensions. Why get into a meaningful discussion with someone who starts off like that on you? Or on others who think like you?

    The Marmot's Hole, for many, stopped being a marketplace of ideas and turned into a battle over personalities. To be fair, there's a bit of that at Brian's and at Korea Beat (three's an army of anonymoi ready to pounce on things I write there) but if that's the tone, almost nobody raises any objections to it.

    ----

    As I've noted to Robert in emails, I think The Marmot's Hole can retain its greatness by a steady (but not overwhelming) stream of thoughtful posts that present ideas and insights and information not typically found elsewhere. Robert's posts are usually the best for that, but good guest bloggers (and his line-up right now is very good) can take up the slack when he's busy).

    The Marmot's Hole can retain its greatness also by applying an element of discipline to the comments section. Though the reaction in the "red cards" post may not bear out what I'm saying, I think consistently policing things for a while — as long as a big stick that says "comment removal" is carried — may be enough to change the tone. Especially after this indefinite lockdown.

    And Robert, if you ever do decide to just do away with commenting altogether, I hope you'll at least find a way to unlock old comments from all the previous posts. There's some truly valuable information in some of those.

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  14. Okay, I must get packing for a month-long journey to the Mainland, but there was a lot of good stuff here I wanted to reply to.

    Anyway, Dan Luba, if you are interested, you are welcome to be a "guest blogger" at The Sonagi Consortium. Follow this link. The site gets a fair amount of traffic from my blog (I post a notice for each new post there) and thanks to Monster Island being in The Marmot's Hole BLOG FEED, new Sonagicon posts do get some attention from that side as well.

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  15. I share Robert's humble opinion that the Korea-haters were just as bad as the expat-haters. In fact, it is probably the former that attracted the latter.

    Will miss reading comments by Sperwer, Brendon Carr, Slim, IHBB, Wedge, Judge Judy and others who added to the discussion with information, insights, and humor.

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  16. In retrospect, it's a wonder that Marmot didn't do it before. I've read his blog for years and the comments section has been, well, interesting for most of that time. But when the shit storm flows into your work place, then its time to slap it back into position. I do hope that after a while he opens it up again if only for the pure entertainment value of watching K-blog mud wrestling.

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  17. Sonagi wrote:
    I share Robert's humble opinion that the Korea-haters were just as bad as the expat-haters. In fact, it is probably the former that attracted the latter.

    I think that's true in some cases. I mean, I don't think Pawi just pulled his The Expat™ archetype out of his arse. Not all of it, anyway.

    Will miss reading comments by Sperwer, Brendon Carr, Slim, IHBB, Wedge, Judge Judy and others who added to the discussion with information, insights, and humor.

    Hmm... I'll admit that all of them were informative to some degree. But when your mindset is always set on "overkill on negative criticism," it's not "insightful" when you're right about the things that are — inevitably — going to be bad about a place. And the jackal-like behavior with which some of the routinely attacked the same people — or anyone who dared to disagree or offer qualification — distracted from whatever humor was there.

    I'm excepting Brendon Carr from that observation above. And perhaps Slim, Wedge, and Judge Judy.

    Really, if you distilled their comments so that the "here's why you're stupid" were taken out, they'd usually have very little to say. Of course, then it would be a lot more interesting to hear what they have to say.

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  18. Douglas wrote:
    In retrospect, it's a wonder that Marmot didn't do it before. I've read his blog for years and the comments section has been, well, interesting for most of that time. But when the shit storm flows into your work place, then its time to slap it back into position.

    I have been in the very awkward position of having to explain to my boss(es) things that I said in an online or journalistic forum, or things that I was quoted as saying in an online or journalistic forum, when someone tried to reach out and get me fired (that's one reason I "defended" Metropolitician when someone threatened to do the same to him).

    I can't even begin to imagine having to 'splain stuff like Marmot had to.

    I do hope that after a while he opens it up again if only for the pure entertainment value of watching K-blog mud wrestling.

    I don't see the value in that anymore. It's like watching the same show over and over again.

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  19. The Marmot's Hole had been deteriorating for some time, and it was not just the comments section. And I think there were basically two reasons for it.

    First, the Marmot had been ignoring his blog. He had gone from giving reasoned opinions on Korean news stories to basically posting links to news stories, which he did not even do that often, and to posting photos of buildings and tourist sites. which was probably just a consequence of his researching his book. Looking at pictures of old buildings gets boring after awhile.

    Second, I think the Marmot's ego finally just got too big, which caused him to often post and reply to comments with snide remarks rather than with reasoned arguments. When more and more people started questioning his comments and judgments, the Marmot started referring to them as "pricks" and "douces" and claimed that they were "pissing on his rug," by which he meant they were not showing him enough respect.

    Finally, when more and more people started questioning his judgement, he felt hurt and angry and closed off his comments section, which basically means he took his ball and went home. Of course, one benefit of closing off his comments section is that people can no longer read some of the silly comments he was making near the end.

    I think the Marmot needs time to find himself and to learn a little humility. He seemed to be cracking up near the end, so a vacation will probably be good for him.

    Again, the decline of the Marmot Hole cannot be blamed on just the commenters.

    I have thought about starting my own general Korean news blog and calling it the "The Bever's Hole," but then people would probably misconstrue the meaning.

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  20. Holy crap, kushibo! I know it is your blog and all, but do you have to respond to every comment and nitpick them line by line? Too hands on is just as bad as total chaos. In many cases, less really is more.

    Thanks to this latest seismic shift in the K-blogosphere, you have an opportunity to garner a larger readership, so don’t scare them all off. Now, let the nitpicking of this comment begin.

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  21. I see your point, John, but I responded not for the sake of responding, but because I think this is an important issue. Contrast that with, say, this one, where I hardly contributed at all. See, I can do it! :)

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  22. Even a "here's why you're stupid" post has value if the reasoning is logical and relevant to the topic. I think the negativity of Sperwer, Brendon, and other non-teaching expats owes to the fact that their professions put them in contact with some nasty people. In contrast, I dealt mostly with highly intelligent, respectful students and mostly well-mannered, pleasant university professors and office staff.

    I hope that Robert will consider opening up comment threads for posts on politics, current events, or other discussion-worthy topics while keeping the comments closed for tabloid trash, NSETs gone wild, Dokdo, and other worn topics. He could make his moderating job easier by pre-approving commenters, perhaps even requiring a professional email address for registration.

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  23. Always find blogging advice coming from a guy who posted at Occidentalism amusing.

    Anyway, Gerry, it wasn't because I felt "hurt that people were questioning my judgment." I closed them down because I don't feel like watching gyopo and expats engaging in 200 comment flame wars anymore. They can find somewhere else to do that.

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  24. Robert,

    Matt's Occidentalism blog was a popular blog because it was interesting, and because it dealt with issues that you seem reluctant to discuss or hedge on very heavily when you do. Dokdo and comfort women were just a couple of examples. Also, the Matt's Comments sector of Matt's blog was very often more informative then yours because there were many Koreans, Japanese, and other foreigners posting in it.

    However, Matt allowed his Comments section to get out of hand, which was one of the reasons I stopped posting there. It was not because of anything Matt posted on, but was because he gave his commenters too much leeway, which caused some of the crazies took advantage of that leeway.

    I only only a guest poster on Occidentalism; it was not my blog, so I did not feel I had a right to delete comments. Besides, I was mainly interested in just posting on Dokdo and decided it would be better to do it on a blog dedicated to the subject. I think Matt had a great blog, except for the few crazies that Matt tolerated in his Comments section.

    The reason you had flame wars in your Comments section was because you allowed it to happen. From my experience, you do not have to ban people to stop a flame war; you just have to delete the few offending comments and it will cause it to stop on its own. Deleting offending comments sets boundaries of decorum for your Comments section.

    By not deleting the offending commments, and then banning people who did not even write them, you sent mixed signals. No one could figure out what your problem was, and "Don't piss on my rug" was not a clear message.

    I think you mau have been feeling stress from somewhere else--family, work, or whatever--and ended up blaming it on your commenters. I think you kind of freaked out and overreacted.

    Now that you have had a day or two to sleep on it, why not reopen your Comments section. We all have bad days, and you had a bad day that day. If you were trying to make a point, I think it has been made, so give people another chance. I am not telling you this because I miss your Comments section; I am telling you this because I think it would be better for you.

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  25. "I wish there were no Dokdo because it distracts from my studying the Korean language and culture."

    You LIE GBevers, you LIE! You Looove dokdo, admit it.

    Robert, I'm experiencing withdrawal symptoms...please...help..me. I think just deleting comments more is a very good idea. Matter fact, I'd just delete every *other* shit comment, wouldn't that be kinda fun? Heh heh.

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  26. Mr. Bevers,

    While I agree that Mr. Koehler's moderation (or the lack thereof) of his Blog comment section left much to be desired, I cannot agree with this sentence:

    "Second, I think the Marmot's ego finally just got too big, which caused him to often post and reply to comments with snide remarks rather than with reasoned arguments."

    In fact, I came to quite the opposite conclusion in my seven years as an avid reader of Mr. Koehler's Blog. Rather than being an egotist, Mr. Koehler was bucking the trend among influential Bloggers in having retained his modesty and sense of perspective as his Blog's readership and influence grew. Nor did he react to criticism in a way that precipitated insult-hurling, member-measuring contests. And I should know, given that I can be unnecessarily and unfairly nit-picky and critical (Iago: I am nothing, if not critical).

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  27. P.S. Mr. Bevers: You CAN still read old comments; you just can't add to the existing pile.

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  28. Second, I think the Marmot's ego finally just got too big, which caused him to often post and reply to comments with snide remarks rather than with reasoned arguments.

    Right, because if there is one place in the world where a person must keep his ego is check, it is his own damn blog.

    AAK! comment section is the Korean's ego run amok, and that's how it will be for all eternity.

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  29. Robert became a victim of his own success. I frequent a number of American political blogs, with feisty comment sections requiring time-intensive oversight from the proprietors. Can't blame Robert for not wanting to submit to the additional aggravation and time-suckage.

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