On Blogging

A Call for Manners in the World of Nasty Blogs. New York Times discusses something that folks on the internet have been debating as long as there has been an internet. And yet some examples suggest that some things are getting out of hand, and this has led some folks to begin speaking of the need for self-adopted guidelines.

Mr. Wales and Mr. O’Reilly were inspired to act after a firestorm erupted late last month in the insular community of dedicated technology bloggers. In an online shouting match that was widely reported, Kathy Sierra, a high-tech book author from Boulder County, Colo., and a friend of Mr. O’Reilly, reported getting death threats that stemmed in part from a dispute over whether it was acceptable to delete the impolitic comments left by visitors to someone’s personal Web site. …

As many female bloggers can attest, women are often targets. Heather Armstrong, a blogger in Salt Lake City who writes publicly about her family (dooce.com), stopped accepting unmoderated comments on her blog two years ago after she found that conversations among visitors consistently devolved into vitriol.

Since last October, she has also had to deal with an anonymous blogger who maintains a separate site that parodies her writing and has included photos of Ms. Armstrong’s daughter, copied from her site.

You may have read about the Sierra matter already. You can find many more articles about this controversy by Googling. The Armstrong situation reminds me of similar parodying of folks like Mark Shea.

But in this New York Times article are a couple of inane comments. E.g.:

A subtext of both sets of rules is that bloggers are responsible for everything that appears on their own pages, including comments left by visitors. They say that bloggers should also have the right to delete such comments if they find them profane or abusive.

That may sound obvious, but many Internet veterans believe that blogs are part of a larger public sphere, and that deleting a visitor’s comment amounts to an assault on their right to free speech. It is too early to gauge support for the proposal, but some online commentators are resisting.

See one blogger’s comments on that.

I think it obvious that comments need to be moderated and deleted, and that every blogger has the right, even the obligation, to do so however he sees fit to maintain the sort of blog he desires (just as every newspaper or magazine has the right to post whatever letters to the editor they wish, and to edit them as they wish).

Sadly, the religious blogosphere is not exempt from the angry and anonymous invective described in these links. I saw it on AOL discussion boards a decade ago, and firm moderation would have made a difference. Moderation is difficult–I was the moderator on the discussion board on John Michael Talbot’s site about eight or nine years ago, and while there were some good discussions there and I made some friends, the discussion board itself had little connection with the mission of the Brothers and Sisters of Charity, and John eventually decided to eliminate it completely.

Some folks quit blogging in disgust because of the actions of the trolls, or even in weariness of the whining of other folks who demand that every word of theirs must get equal treatment. I started this blog at the request of some friends, and write for their sake, not for the sake of these (usually anonymous) folks. It doesn’t bother me when they post nasty comments complaining about my moderation–I just delete them.

But if the trolls dominate the conversation and dictate its terms, we all are losers. And they shouldn’t. And we don’t have to let them. This can be controlled by bloggers themselves and discussion board monitors.

4 thoughts on “On Blogging

  1. +J.M.J+

    I guess “netiquette” went the way of the 28.8K modem, huh?

    In Jesu et Maria,

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