State Of The Site, Late 2013

Submitted by Brian on December 6th, 2013 at 1:28 PM

keyboard_bash[1]This is obviously meta.

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

one-flew-over-the-cuckoos-nest-11[1]

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.

THE BLOWUP

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.

THE ISSUE

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:

  1. Don't have an avatar. You're less likely to get noticed.
  2. Don't be a jerk to people who write for the site. Much more difficult that #1, but still doable if you try.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

-Brian

Comments

Everyone Murders

December 6th, 2013 at 1:39 PM ^

Seems to me that a major problem around here is that some people find it hard to disagree without being disagreeable. And the loss of the comment moderation certainly led to an increase in internet tough guys on this site. 

Open discussions and dissent are very healthy, but lobbing venom anonymously is chickenshit and with luck your policy changes will minimize that.  So good on you - it will be interesting to see if it works.

Anyway, keep up the good work.  For all the problems, MGoBlog is still the best Michigan site around.

Wolverine 73

December 6th, 2013 at 2:06 PM ^

Recently, I have turned away from some of the comment sections because the commentary was so demeaning or insulting to people.  It is possible to disagree without trashing the person you disagree with, and that is the standard we should hold ourselves to. 

bringthewood

December 6th, 2013 at 2:12 PM ^

As a small time contributor (both content and $'s) and a frequent lurker I wholeheartedly agree with what Brian is doing.  MGoBlog is not a democracy and not everyone gets a vote.  We're visiting Brian's house and we should have some basic etiquette and not take a big dump in the middle of his living room.  As friends we can have a civil disagreement, even get pissed and walk out, but don’t drink too much and punch his brother in the face and grab his wife’s ass, in other words don’t be a dick.

GoWings2008

December 6th, 2013 at 3:46 PM ^

and I'll make a small addition.  No, its not a democracy but it does respect democracy.  The description you make is similar to my 24+ years in the military.  You can still be an individual, but there are times for uniformity and not shitting on those above you, nor below you.  The military respects seniority.  But still question authority in a respectful manner. 

The one thing I'd give as advice to everyone is to only put something in print that you'd feel okay defending to your boss to his face, should you be called to the carpet to do so.  Remember, electrons live forever.

nickb

December 6th, 2013 at 4:49 PM ^

issue. The whole point of a blog is a free exchange of ideas and opinions. Voting neg's tend to have a chilling affect on comments and opinions. Also, there is a herd mentality with voting. Others jump on the bandwagon even though they don't know why. For an example, be pro-Michigan on just about that happens, you get positive votes. Criticise, you get negative votes. 

My recommendation is forget about allowing votes on posts. 

 

 

wile_e8

December 6th, 2013 at 5:26 PM ^

In theory, the free exchange of ideas is great, because who doesn't like free speech? That sentiment is what led to these posters going so long without being banned. But in practice, a whole lot of people are idiots or assholes or both, and they have internet connections too. And if they are not discouraged from making irrational, offtopic, or dickish posts, they'll continue to do so and drive off all of the people making worthwhile posts. So some sort of moderation is needed to keep the singal from being drowned out by the noise.

champswest

December 6th, 2013 at 5:43 PM ^

If you wrote a pro Denard Robinson comment you would have  been greatly upvoted and if you wrote a pro Rich Rod comment in year 3(even if very well written, with good points) it would have been greatly downvoted.  Maybe not by you, but by many others.

MGoStrength

December 6th, 2013 at 8:41 PM ^

Yeah, I agree, probabaly because I tend lean to more of a pessimistic than optimistic point of view on most things.  I would call myself a realist, and certainly not an optimist.  I also tend to follow trends.  If we always struggle with OSU I expect us to get beat by OSU.  If Borges is inconsistent I expect him to be inconsistent.  If we have been burned by one top defensive recruit I expect we'll probably get burned by the next one.  Part of that is emotion.  Negative emotions are stronger than positive ones.  We remember the pain longer than the pleasure. It's completely natural and human to do this.  That being said, pretty much anything positive or wishful thinking is typically upvoted whereas anything negative or pessimistic is typically downvoted regardless of it's accuracy, logic, or citations.

umumum

December 6th, 2013 at 5:59 PM ^

he managed to accumulate 41,000 points even with the moderation system.  I believe the moderation system led to cliques up voting one another, and more commonly downvoting those they disagreed with, as often as it served as legitimate moderation.

Brightside

December 6th, 2013 at 5:46 PM ^

I have lived in the Columbus area since graduating UM in 1990...

If I wanted to hang out with dicks, I would go to the bar full of Buckeyes down the street.

I tend to check out of a post once the comments deviate to dickville, and I am glad to see Brian acknowledging that us 99%ers don't log on several times a day (not just me, right?) to listen to that BS...

Go Blue!

Go MGoBlog!

Death2Brutus

December 7th, 2013 at 10:34 AM ^

I am all for free speech, that is, when it is utilized responsibly, be it in agreement with or dissention of another’s opinion but not when it is used to harass someone or simply trolling with flame bate all the while hiding behind relative anonymity.

Go Blue!

bluebloodedfan

December 7th, 2013 at 3:28 PM ^

I am primarily a lurker on this site. But it is a place I frequent every day as well. With that said, I have found it almost unbeareable to do so lately due to all the negativity that had been eminating from the comments. I am glad that there will be some sort of moderation; as much as I dreaded the up and down votes it did tend to police some of the peevish, childish, dickish comments that were being made here. 

Pelops

December 8th, 2013 at 1:03 PM ^

I like the writing and it often it makes me laugh.  I don't expect to accumulate ten thousand MGoPoints, but if I am thoroughly convinced I have something relevant and insightful, or witty to add, I'll comment.  Otherwise, I'll just keep on liking the writing.  

To be honest, what sets this blog apart is that the obvious passion and interest of the writers manifests itself, you know, as good writing.  Passion that exclusively presents as, "My team is intergalactic all-world and your team humps goats" is interesting for about 5 minutes.  I think MGoBlog is built for the long haul. Keep on keeping on.

Sac Fly

December 6th, 2013 at 4:13 PM ^

I've never tried on my site, but I would assume the process of banning an IP can be difficult because you have to find the right one. Unless there is a module for it, going into Cpanel and sifting through IP's can take a long time, and if they're behind a proxy you could end up banning a range of users by mistake.

I could be wrong, but I can only one remember one user ever being IP banned and that was McFarlin.

joeyb

December 6th, 2013 at 6:22 PM ^

IP bans aren't really as effective as people think they are anyway. Unless you pay for a static IP from your ISP, your IP changes every few hours-months depending on the ISP. Cable providers change them less often, but the telcoms change them way too often to make an IP ban anywhere near reliable.

The other aspect to that is, what if I'm at work and I get IP banned. Now, you've banned everyone at my workplace from visiting the site.

nickb

December 7th, 2013 at 12:00 PM ^

he had 41,000 points. Doesn't that tell you all you need to know about the voting system?

Once you begin to dice and slice comments, you invariable begin to create factions which lead to more and more polarizing  remarks.

The only system that works is the owner of the site appoints monitors who according to the owners guidelines remove what they deem offensive or inappropriate comments. It is neither democractic or at times fair. He calls the shots.

AriGold

December 6th, 2013 at 2:32 PM ^

really didn't care for M-Wolverine (as I am sure he and others on here don't care for me very much either)....But Brian, I feel as if my avatar is a big part of my mythical mgoblog identity, I can't simply do away with Ari so easily!

Hail-Storm

December 6th, 2013 at 3:32 PM ^

(thanks Shredder) I don't think its bad to have one, as I think it ads to someones personality and makes them more reconizable, but then, your profile is now more reconizable, so I guess tread lighter.

I am really glad M-Wolverine is gone.  Thanks for this. A slow clap is appropriate.