I've been conspicuously absent the past few days. I will not be covering the basketball game this afternoon, nor the game on Tuesday, and I'll be working in a limited capacity for the rest of this month.
Allow me to explain.
Over the past few weeks, my health has taken a turn for the worse. The diagnosis of gluten intolerance I received over the summer hasn't been the be-all, end-all answer I'd hoped; there is more going on, and right now I don't know what. I've been dropping weight at a rather alarming rate. I covered the Syracuse game on Tuesday while weighing 115 pounds. (I'm a hair under 5'11", and haven’t weighed this little since middle school.) My brother drove me to and from the game, because I didn't feel comfortable getting behind the wheel of a car—not the first time he’s done that over the last month, unfortunately.
That's the bad news. I'm very limited physically right now, to the point that covering games in person is not a feasible option, even though there's no part of my job I enjoy more than settling into my spot (or leaping out of it) on press row at Crisler.
The good news is I have no shortage of support. My physician came into the office on a scheduled day off to see me on short notice on Wednesday afternoon, and as soon as I left he was on the phone with specialists at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital; I'll be in and out of appointments at St. Joe’s this week to begin anew the process of determining what, exactly, is going on with my body. As far as doctors go, I'm in very good hands.
The same can be said for my support system at home and at work. My parents and my brother are doing everything within their power to ensure that I'm comfortable, supported, and in good spirits; other than going to appointments, I barely have to leave the townhouse I share with my brother unless I'm up to it—they are taking care of me. I have friends near and far checking in on me, providing moral support or much-needed distraction; those often go hand-in-hand.
Brian, as he has been throughout my time at MGoBlog, has been remarkably supportive, especially when considering I've often had to bail out of work on short notice, and it's not like this is a large operation in which one employee's absence can go unnoticed. He's allowing me to scale back how much I'm working this month, which I hope will be all that's necessary before I'm able to return to writing at full strength, even if it takes longer for my body to reach that point. I've been able to do so time and again the last four years. Very little can stop me from doing what I love: writing.
For their part, the people in the sports information department for Michigan Basketball—especially the SID par excellence, Tom Wywrot—have been extremely flexible and understanding during this time, and I cannot thank them enough for it.
Same goes for fellow MGoBlog writers Seth Fisher, Alex Cook, and Bryan Mac, who've covered my ass on more than one occasion* when I’ve been unable to write, as well as our photographers, Bryan Fuller and Eric Upchurch, who've been extremely generous in offering their support. Thank you, as well, to MGoRightHandMan Dave Nasternak, who filmed high school games this fall when I didn't feel up to it, drove me to games when I did, and even stopped by the studio last weekend to give me a loaf of gluten-free bread after a podcast recording. I’m so lucky to be able to work with you all, and I don't get to convey my appreciation enough.
If I haven't responded to your emails, phone calls, messages, or tweets in recent days, I hope this serves as a reasonable explanation. I'll get to them when I can, if they truly require a response—these last few days have been spent in near constant communication with doctors and my family so we can get this figured out as soon as possible.
If I've been an asshole to you recently, as I know I have been with a few of you (including some who were beyond undeserving), I apologize. This has been a very stressful time. That’s not an excuse for taking it out on others.
If I told you I'd make plans with you, grab a drink, be in touch, or the like, I must apologize as well; right now, my life is on hold. Trust me when I say that I'd like to see or hear from you soon, but my big mouth occasionally promises more than I can provide, and that's been the case more than usual lately.
I turn 27 tomorrow. I've been dealing with strange health issues that have affected my everyday life since I was 17, when I'd often shoot awake at night in a cold sweat thinking my heart was going to beat out of my chest. I've been able to get through school and largely work around my health problems for a decade. Now is the time I must put my health first and foremost. Diagnoses of de Quervain’s thyroiditis, depression, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and most recently gluten intolerance haven't fully addressed what's happening; this time around I'm determined to search until the true answer is presented.
I'm confident, with the remarkable support I have, that I'll get to the bottom of this. If there's a place to be sick, it's Ann Arbor, where it's hard to walk around the block without bumping into someone at the top of their chosen field. I still plan to write while the search continues, just not quite as much as I have in the past. I hope you’ll bear with me in the interim. If you’re looking for a way to support me, I hope you'll consider donating to MGoBlog. Brian is paying me full-time for work I don't fully have the capacity to do at the moment, and I don't plan on going anywhere. Supporting the site is the most direct way to support me both now and for the long haul.
Thanks for your understanding.
Now let's get Jim Harbaugh to Ann Arbor.
This Thanksgiving I am thankful for email. Here is a cat.
Catch you guys tomorrow.
As you may know, Heiko is leaving MGoBlog to go be a research doctor. This means we are in need of a person to fill his role. That is this:
- Attend football press conferences, both midweek and after games.
- Transcribe them.
- Ask questions as directed from on high.
- Dress nicely and be professional.
It is a part-time gig with an expected commitment of 10-15 hours a week during football season and spring practice. Given the nature of the job, you have to be located in Ann Arbor or environs and able to show up for press conferences that are usually mid-day on weekdays.
UPDATE: I have been dissuaded from using the lack of instructions as an intelligence test. Email resumes to email@example.com. Make 'em heavy on stuff you're doing for no reason other than you want to.
Can I write for other places?
Can I write articles for MGoBlog that actually contain, like, my own writing?
Possibly. Heiko wanted to and was good at it, so we expanded his position to encompass that. But he is an excellent, funny writer. You would have to be at least one of the two. It is a head start towards approaching the front page, but this role is distinct from the engaging writing that we like to have on the front page.
Should I acquire a weird, almost father-son relationship with one of the coordinators?
Do not come into this job trying to be Heiko. His relationship with Al Borges was amazing, miraculous, and idiosyncratic. We want you to be inquisitive about football in a way that will probably draw cocked eyebrows the first time you ask about something seemingly better suited for a coaching clinic than a press conference. HOWEVA, my biggest fear about replacing Heiko is getting a guy who thinks that he can take being Heiko to the next level. Do not next level Heiko, please.
Is this is a step towards a full-time job at MGoBlog?
Possibly but not necessarily. Given current growth rates we are a few years away from even considering another full time guy on the editorial side. The position is a good fit for a young guy who's looking for a start.
Hello. Comment voting is back. As as often the case with these things, I just had to do something entirely different to get it to work. Once I modified the approach it was easy, which… computers, man.
The graying out and highlighting are still a work in progress, but we have restored the status quo ante bellum, pre-slashcomments. I'll probably move the voting thing to the right, but I figured I'd let people get a grasp on the new/old status quo before making further changes.
You need 100 points to vote and start threads. As per before. No change there.
Upvoting is free and provides two points to the upvoted user. Someone posted something you like. Hurray!
Downvoting costs a point and subtracts a point from the downvoted user. Finally: something to spend your points on. It costs a point to downvote a guy in an effort to mitigate the echo-chamber effect; downvoting is not supposed to be disagreement. It also hurts the downvoted user less than upvoting helps him an effort to only excise folks who get more than two-thirds of the site on their bad side. If this is you… I cannot help you.
THERE IS NO LIMIT. bwahahahahahaha (there should probably be a limit. working on that.)
I may or may not do something like this again, but UMHoops does 'em and they seem like a good idea. Since I've mentioned my general dissatisfaction with the way things have been going around here in a couple of different formats, I figure a fuller explanation is due to everyone who doesn't listen to the podcast or care about Twitter, and Twitter was about six sentences anyway.
I've gotten a lot of emails and tweets in support and while I appreciate them a great deal, I feel like it's not really all that bad and perhaps I haven't expressed any of this clearly enough. So here's an attempt.
THE BAD THING
We moved servers just before the season, and for some reason this imploded the Drupal module we were using that did the voting/comment-graying. Don't get me started on that unless you want the animated gif above to be my fate.
The new server is a champ, and was direly needed. We only blew up during the Hand commitment aftermath, and I guarantee you that the blog would have been crushed four or five other times during the year if we had not moved. At times this has been a mixed blessing—it probably would have been nice to be down after Penn State—but having your internet site on the internet is a goal.
The cost was steep, as without the obvious disapproval provided by your comment shrinking into a gray box, dumb comments multiplied and fights about those comments multiplied since there was not an obvious indicator that other people had already dismissed it. I felt this would happen but had very little time to do anything about it since this event happened smack-dab in the middle of me pounding out the 50k-word season preview.
Flaming went up, signal got obscured, and things veritably roiled.
We brought Brandon on board to be a recruiting reporter and he posted an interview with a 2016 kid; he gave us a picture in which he looked pretty young. I thought nothing of it because I follow hockey closely and there kids who don't have to shave commit all the time. (A kid born in 1998(!) just committed. The OHL speeds up their timelines.) Michigan just took a 2016 commit in football, and has a half-dozen offers out. But this resulted in a comment thread in which a lot of people made jokes about the kid not having to shave; others put on their Serious Issue faces and wondered if this was ethical. Then the prospect posted a screenshot of people making fun of him on twitter. SMH, man.
By this point we'd had a lot of crap on the board and this was a seeing-red moment. I posted a thread about how this was unacceptable, etc., whereupon there was a huge comment thread in which concern trolling featured heavily. The ethics of talking to high school kids about where they might go to college was frequent topic.
This was and is ridiculous. We're not about to Rosenberg these kids, both because we're not [REDACTED] 5'2" [REDACTED] goobers who'll do someone dirty to get ahead in the world and that going Rosenberg on someone would completely crush us with our readers, deservedly.
We're going to ask them softball questions and publish them after correcting any spelling mistakes, and you, the reader, are going to post comments like "Good luck wherever you go!" because that's the social contract we have here. That's how this works. You are going to assume that high school kids are going to read anything they can about themselves online, and we're going to throw Charmin at them in slow motion. This is not hard-hitting journalism here.
Anyway. The primary concern troll was a guy who'd been around since the very beginning of the site, chitownblue. He quit in a huff once, then came back as chitownblue2, and almost never appeared except to chide someone about something. At some point virtually everyone who writes for the site complained to me about him. The rest of the people who had posted things that broke the social contract in that thread quickly apologized; he dug in to fight the battle of the Somme. Another complaint about him happened in the midst of that thread, during which my dander was up and finger already hovering over the button. So I banned him, and various compatriots. And I've had an itchy trigger finger since.
They'd been around forever. I regret nothing, except that I waited so long. I hated that guy.
A friend sent me this post from 4chan's founder in response to similar issues he'd had, in which he cites another post from Steve Pavlina about why he shut his popular forums down. Pavlina talks a lot about entitlement of longtime users and standards that he felt weren't being met, both of which I kind of feel. But moot's thing is the thing:
Something that’s always surprised me is how often people seem to forget how large the overall 4chan community is outside of their own respective interaction with it. Some simply don’t care, but I think others plain don’t realize they’re just one of millions of people who post and browse 4chan on a monthly basis. …
My view is that it simply isn’t possible nor prudent to attempt to please everyone, and so I don’t. This can be misinterpreted as not caring, but it’s far from it—it’s just a reflection of my belief that the needs of the community outweigh the needs of individuals. Which is an ideal I think most would agree with, but when emotions run wild and tensions run high, we often lose sight of it.
The general rule of thumb is that 10% of your readers will read the comments/forums and 1% will leave most of them. I believe our numbers are quite a bit higher than that, but even so that the the primary thing that happens in the comments is lurkers reading them. From the perspective of the commenters these people do not exist. From my perspective, they're the majority of the readerbase.
Most of these people seem to like the site. They visit it. That majority has not been reflected in the comments. Of late when people recognize me I wince a bit, because I'm not sure how this interaction is going to go. I'm kind of waiting for someone to unload on me. This never happens.
As the season's gone along this disconnect has become apparent. And I'm finding the complaints harder to deal with because with the demise of voting so many of them have become personal attacks hardly sheathed in anything resembling logic. Brandon just took a lot of crap for posting that usually when recruits are open with him that means they're excited about Michigan and Malik McDowell was tight-lipped, which may not bode well. This exploded into controversy for some reason: that reason is there are a bunch of people who just complain about everything about the site.
IT'S NOT YOU, IT'S ME
Why these people can't let go and do something else, I don't know. They're locked in a prison of their own devising, being miserable about the state of the blog while they make it worse by constantly complaining about it.
I am going to help both these folks and myself escape from purgatory by hitting the eject button on them. Like this guy who has 41,000 points, most of which seem to be accumulated complaining about the site. And this guy. Great news for everyone: they're banned. Now they are free to explore the rest of the internet, perhaps to find something they don't hate.
This represents a policy change. In short, that is: if the people who write for this site hate you we will ban you. That is the upshot of the twitter burst and the podcast thing. This is not really a change for most people since we did that for anyone with a few points who came in guns blazing. This mostly applies to folks like guy I just banned who'd accumulated the third-most points on the site. I hated that guy! For three years! And out of some idea about respecting the community I let him fart all over it.
To respect the community, we should ban jerks, even if they've been around so long that it seems that there must be some redeeming value in having them around.
If you don't like the way the comments are laid out, or you think there should be more jumps, or fewer jumps, or have a substantive disagreement with what I think, or even have argument-free opinions I roll my eyes at every six months or so, fine. I have to get to know you to loathe you. All you people are good. In fact, here are protips to not get banned under this new regime:
- Don't have an avatar. You're less likely to get noticed.
- Don't be a jerk to people who write for the site. Much more difficult that #1, but still doable if you try.
- Don't constantly complain about the people I hire. If you want to send me an email, fine. Publicly crapping on the other guys who write for us is filed under jerk.
- Don't get mad at me for having a particular emotional state. This happened constantly throughout the season, as if the internet tough guys who were taking the bullets the season threw at them could somehow improve my mood by berating me.
I can understand how the last few years have put people in a place where they find me irritating after once enjoying the site, but all the comments in the world aren't going to be able to change what is primarily a sports blog about what it feels like to be a Michigan fan. If you feel differently, okay! I accept that you feel differently. If you want me to feel like you, that is an argument you are welcome to have anywhere else.
It's been a trying year for everyone, and I'm about to go figure out how to get the damned voting back on comments, so hopefully things will recede from this, their irritating zenith. Thank you to everyone who did not expect me to be an emotional clone of themselves this year, which is like 99% of you. I enjoy you.