Monday, July 5, 2010

Is poetry blogging dead, redux



I don’t even read blogs anymore, really—because when I finish a post that someone took the time to write (maybe it’s not brilliant—maybe it’s too brilliant and I don’t understand a word of it) up pop the CFBs [Comment Field Bullies], trashing the joint like rednecks at a state park: Carving their names into trees, kicking empty beer bottles in the lake, tossing Aquanet cans in the camp fire, and hollering loud enough to scare the animals away. They’re exactly the kind of Yahoos I want to avoid when I have a moment to catch up on the news in Poetryland.

-- Jennifer L. Knox; read full text here.

Pictured: Typical poetry blog comment box

16 comments:

marco magisano said...

CFB's - very good - i don't know why i keep blogging(and commenting) - i guess i'm crazy -

Seth Abramson said...

The nice thing about comment fields: You usually have to click on a link to access them (or at least scroll down on your browser). So they're easily ignored. The same goes for individual posters -- there are some folks whose comments I just don't/won't read, and because Blogger (like all other similar applications) tags every post with a handle, the ones to avoid are easily spotted.

If blog comment-fields were actually "pop [up]" features like the quote above says, they'd be absolutely intolerable. As it is, deliberately rubber-necking an accident and then complaining about what you've seen seems a little, I don't know, self-defeating. Those who don't like to see people acting like morons -- something most of us see almost every day of our lives, and 99.9% of the time offline -- are taking an understandable stand. And fortunately, one that's easily effectuated not only in theory but in practice where the web's concerned.

Two other things I like about this: (1) How the generic CFB is always a "he" (in my experience it takes all kinds); (2) How the vast majority of bad behavior in the poetry community happens absolutely nowhere near a comment field, and how it is nevertheless blog comment-fields, not any real-time malfeasance or nonfeasance, that gets all the attention.

S.

Ms Baroque said...

Aww. Well they don't do that on mine.* Come to Baroque, Jennifer!

(But Poetryland - this place where all the news is nice - where is it? Is it like Candyland?)

* N.b., They're not allowed. I made a policy.

Seth Abramson said...

Hi Don,

I hope you don't mind me adding to my previous comment. I was just thinking about the early aughts, when I was (for about two years) a moderator for an online poetry community with several hundred regular participants. We had to ban folks from the board from time to time -- I was much less fond of that method than any of the other moderators, I admit -- and those we banned were about half female, half male. Our standard was fairly high: comments threatening a member; racist/sexist/anti-Semitic/&c comments; persistent thread-hijacking (changing the topic of a thread from one thing to another). Stuff like that. I'm not convinced we rid the board of trolls any faster that way than we would have by just ignoring them. Of course the fastest way to fix the problem -- admittedly -- would have been to shut down the community entirely, but that felt like conceding to thuggery and in any case the community had enough nooks and crannies and enough daily posting that you could avoid anyone you wanted to avoid.

More recently, I spent two years moderating The MFA Blog. We never banned anyone and we had between 500 and 5,000 unique visitors a day. Arguments would break out -- I participated in some -- and those not interested would simply ignore both the arguments and (in some instances, going forward) their participants. On a few occasions I or another moderator stepped in and -- some might be surprised -- it turns out most comment-field arguments can be calmed down with a well-timed intercession. That said, I do think Harriet faced the sort of trolls we would have ultimately banned in both instances. This is a better option than some blogs take, which is to selectively delete comments from anyone who disagrees with the moderator or who the moderator dislikes for personal reasons.

And that's my concern about authoritarian policing of blog comment-fields. The concern -- and we see this to a great extent on the site you linked to above -- is that many of those now claiming to be in favor of politeness are in fact merely in favor of being agreed with. They take disagreement as aggression, passion as animus, and deem righteous indignation in themselves what they'd term intemperance in others. You've seen this yourself -- in the thread just below this one a poster (who happened to be female) seemed to, in my view, deliberately misconstrue the common grammatical construction "such as these" in order to take unnecessary offense at a comment of yours and imply (it seemed to me) that you as a white male feel some animus toward particular groups (women, minorities, &c -- the poster was scattershot in this regard). When you gently (as ever) corrected her, she persisted. It's not trolling, but it's annoying, and the sort of thing I think most blogs are infected with, rather than flame-wars.

In any case, writing a post, as JLK did here, decrying unpleasantness on blogs is like saying that thunderstorms are a Debbie Downer -- sure, but what kind of courage does it take to observe this? Trolls are a drag, but rampant corruption in the American poetry community (say) or the subjugation of young poets to crippling student loan debt via MFA programs (say) is much worse. It's not much to note that pigs are ugly when the horses are being burned alive in the barn. My two cents,

Be well,
Seth

Seth Abramson said...
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Seth Abramson said...
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Jordan said...

Didn't Prince just declare the internet over? Wake me when Facebook dies, and when blogs go back to comment-free.

Steven Fama said...

Comments to blogs can be easily ignored, for god's sake. And Jennifer Knox should take a look at the comments to the articles in on-line newspapers -- say for example, at SFGate. Generally speaking, poetry blog comments are MILD compared to the world at large.

That said, if because of the comments Knox doesn't want to read blog posts, it's okay by me. I love freedom of choice.

Matt said...

good job proving her point, dudes

Seth Abramson said...

Speaking of well-known comment-field trolls...
S.

Jordan said...

Boys, boys. You're both right. It's a floor wax and a dessert topping.

Steven Fama said...

Dear Matt,

Your comment above puzzles me. Can you please explain what you mean? and be specific? I read nothing here that proves anything that Knox wrote.

Sincerely,

Steve

Seth Abramson said...

Steven,

As they say, "Don't feed the troll!"

FWIW, the reason this thread "looks" odd is that my computer was acting up and I posted the same comment four times by accident (kept pressing the submit button because my computer was telling me the message hadn't gone through--turned out it had!). So lest anyone think all those deleted messages contained some sort of sensational content(!), alas, no, the thread "is" exactly what appears here, i.e. a pretty good example of a civil blog conversation.

Most people don't go on Goodreads to post comments on books they've never read, just to be a jerk to someone they've never met. But Matt Cozart--well, Steven, you're dealing with a rare breed of troll here, so make sure you're strapped in.

S.

Jordan said...

At the risk of adding myself to the list of those Mr. Abramson will casually revile in his comments to the Blog-letters, I want to be on the record as deploring Mr. Abramson's characterization of Mr. Walker. My conscience demands it. Were it any good to cry out, "For shame," the very pixels would have done so already. Mr. Walker's comments are generally apt, if not of the party Mr. Abramson favors. Furthermore, Mr. Walker's remarks are blessedly brief -- if you are stung by them, the wound is not compounded by the loss of time and the danger to rationality that longer winded commenters are well known to pose. I sincerely hope the pointless calumnies in this Controversy will be withdrawn, and the uneasy peace of the Blog-letters be restored, even in this latter day of Universal Visage Books. I hope; I do not expect it.

Seth Abramson said...

Jordan,

May I e-mail you? I know the text above may be "found" text from somewhere else -- maybe a sitting of Parliament? -- but if it's any indication of what you think of me, I wish you would let me contact you. I may be long-winded and irascible and take some passionate stands on certain things (admittedly the same series of adjectives have been applied to Bill O'Reilly, by Bill O'Reilly) but I'm no ogre. I'd feel particularly bad if this was about those stupid comments I made regarding our mutual friend David, which I apologized for personally (via phone) and online (via blog), or if you're misreading (as I know would be easy to do) my relationship with/to Ron. I don't hate many people, and I don't hold many grudges. Again I'd hate to think this is what you think of me. (Please call me Seth, by the way).

Best,
Seth