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

north shore blue

December 6th, 2013 at 2:41 PM ^

Long time lurker, first time commenter.

First off: good for you!  Once you create a business, you don't have to kiss everyone's ass.  I have a small law firm where we represent individuals involve din litigation.  I have a rule of thumb: if my blood pressure starts to go up when I see your name on my caller ID or in my e-maikl box, it's time to go.  We fire clients a handful of times each year, and I always feel better for having done that.  If there are people who are in your business who are making you miserable, it's time for them to go.

Second: everyone feels free to bitch whenever they want ... its much easier to be an internet tough guy, but no one says thanks.  Let me break the mold. You put out a fabulous product and obviosuly work your tail off doing it.  Its smart, insightful, well -written, funny.  if every blog was this quality, the deaths piral of newspapers and magazines would only pick up steam.

This is your baby and should be proud of it, and if some jackass needs to go for you to enjoy it the way you should, then so be it.

trout_mask

December 6th, 2013 at 2:41 PM ^

I have been a daily lurker since damn near day one on this site and this post has motivated me to log in and comment. 

Keep up the great work Brian and team...it is much appreciated.

CooperLily21

December 6th, 2013 at 2:46 PM ^

I really appreciate this post, Brian.  I know I was someone who became more and more critical and vocal of late, probably to the point of putting myself up on the chopping block.  Its great to know that you do pay attention to the Board - I was worried that you had forgotten or totally given up on us commenters.  That was my fear. 

But I hope by not being axed it means that you took my comments as I intended them, to be helpful/useful suggestions to make the Board a better place.  If you took any of my comments personally, please know that it was never my intention to be personally offensive - I've been an avid reader since The Process and take a lot of pride in both my readership and my participation here. 

You have built a great brand and I hope you realize that many of us are working hard with you to make it even better.  We may provide crappy suggestions but just know that most of us are on your team.  I, for one, can appreciate that you work hard to make this an enjoyable site for your readers AND use it to put food on your table.  People need to remember the latter and understand that you have to protect your livelihood like you protect your family!  Just know that some of us more vocal participants do have your best interests in mind most all of the time, even if our suggestions aren't always the best.

dantejones

December 6th, 2013 at 2:49 PM ^

This is actually one of the funnier posts I've read on here in a while (and God knows I needed it). The .gif had me stifling my laughs at my work desk.

Regardless, I thought things were starting to get bad when I realized MGoBoard was the first place I was going after an "M" loss to read the rage and rantings of fellow fans.

M_In_Florida

December 6th, 2013 at 2:52 PM ^

I registered just to give my support to this change.  I've been one of the lurkers you mention for several years now.  I used to love the comments.  Then I didn't.  I think this will cause me to love them again.  Kudos.

Gordon

December 6th, 2013 at 2:55 PM ^

There's been a lot of things going on with Michigan Athletics to cause angst this year, outside of the regular drama of trolling morons.  Between the Akron game and the span of time from the Penn State game to present, various recruiting stories, the discontent over the AD's office, not to mention how the hockey and basketball seasons ended...there have been a lot of things to overreact to.

Having downvoting go away during what was unfortunately an incredibly volatile football season led to a lot of conflict.  While the right steps will be taken to correct that, winning might help solve everything.

Seriously, I can't think of a more chaotic and draining season.  Even the Rich Rod years were sustained, calloused pain.  This was something newly frustrating every week, and it showed on here.

BradP

December 6th, 2013 at 2:56 PM ^

I think you might make things worse by going out of your way to belittle the people who are complaining and acting like they have no rational reason for being concerned.

 

Monocle Smile

December 6th, 2013 at 3:01 PM ^

THIS is concern trolling. One of my litmus tests for concern trolls is a total lack of specificity.

If you have an actual good reason to be "concerned," then lay it out and leave it at that. Don't passive-aggressively post the same complaints a million times or try to deflect fire by pretending you agree with other stuff.

 

hart20

December 6th, 2013 at 2:57 PM ^

with the sole purpose of banning people. I would be awesome at it and I could deliver awesome one liners from movies and TV shows that no one has ever heard of or seen.

howmuch

December 6th, 2013 at 2:57 PM ^

As I read comments, I realize that I get to know an avatar picture more quickly than I do a name.  I was thinking that I should add an avatar so people know me better.

Looks like the advice is to fly low without one.

mGrowOld

December 6th, 2013 at 2:59 PM ^

Maybe it's just me but Ilike the posters who disagree with me on issues like Borges, season tickets, ect probably most of all.  I've been called out by Brown Bear, Mogodog, the Last Hoke and few others, in a nice way, and it made me rethink my position on a few issues and tone down the emotion on others.

I think most people here present contrarian opnions respectfully.  Obviously there are always exceptions but even people I've been most at odds with at some point we've reconciled and moved forward.

Sorry it came to this for Brian but I'm sure he and the staff have gotten the ugly end of the internet far more frequently than I ever have and as I've said since the day I joined the site - Brian's blog-Brian's rules.

Erik_in_Dayton

December 6th, 2013 at 3:05 PM ^

The position "All criticism is inherently about the negativey of the critic and an example of haters gonna hate" is a very lazy one to take.  Brian can take it, of course, and I'm on his side (as best as I can tell - I don't know what the hell happens on Twitter) the vast majority of the time.  But that doesn't mean that all of the criticism that's ever been leveled any particular facet of the blog has been offbase. 

Erik_in_Dayton

December 6th, 2013 at 3:12 PM ^

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.

 

What does this mean?  See the now-locked thread from yesterday when a very large number of people expressed what I (FWIW) thought was a legitimate concern in a respectful way (some admitted expressed it in a not respectful way).  Does that equal "crapping" on the OP?

Monocle Smile

December 6th, 2013 at 3:18 PM ^

But some people were dicks and ruined it for everyone because damage control needed to happen. That's just how it works. This is also very different from your original concern. Notice how probably very few of the dicks were banned and NONE of those who voiced legitimate concerns suffered that fate...unless you can provide evidence otherwise.

Monocle Smile

December 6th, 2013 at 3:31 PM ^

That's very clearly not what Brian was talking about. Please show me specifically where mere 'disagreeing' has ever been 'filed under jerk.' I really don't like operating with this much vagueness.

Most people understand the line between "dick" and "not dick." I think you're being melodramatic when you say you're "concerned" that Brian and the mods will blur this line for whatever reason.

Moreoever, mGrowOld's post was all about specifically distinguishing between constructive criticism and/or disagreement and being a cock to someone. So I don't even understand where you got the idea that anyone was taking the blanket "haters gonna hate" position.

Erik_in_Dayton

December 6th, 2013 at 3:32 PM ^

I thought that Brian was really upset when people called the recruit young, he called them out, and they then responed by saying, "You're the one who put a sixteen year old kid on the front of your well-read blog! You didn't think this - or something worse - would happen?!"

Maybe that's not what happened.  I'm not being cute when I say that.

As far as being melodramatic, we're already talking in serious tones about the future of a blog about football!  Of course I'm being melodramatic!  The whole situation is melodramatic!  It's absurd!

BiSB

December 6th, 2013 at 3:22 PM ^

But threads like that get locked when all of the usefulness has been squeezed out of them, and all that is left is bickering. They weren't trying to hide anything; the thread and the comments stayed up.  Sometimes mods get tired of babysitting circular arguments, ya know?

Besides, the problem isn't individual complains. It's the people who constantly go back to the same complain-y wells over and over. Constructive criticism is fine in reasonable amounts. Concern trolling is less fine.

CooperLily21

December 6th, 2013 at 3:55 PM ^

Query: If we have issues with the administration of the site or other "meta" issues, do you think it's more effective (best way to be heard) to send a private email to Brian and/or Seth or to use the public thread like Brandon's to voice our concerns? I think I know the answer but am not entirely sure. Thanks!

Shop Smart Sho…

December 6th, 2013 at 4:13 PM ^

Was there every any usefulness in the thread?  I'm not  commenting on the material in the OP of it, but I fail to understand what sort of conversation people can possibly have about it.  

We all know that Brandon forwards the link to the content to the recruits.  You know that without 24/7 moderation it is going to turn into a shitshow when Brandon puts that stuff up.  Why not just have him lock it when he posts it?