Thursday, July 24, 2008

SP&T Proposed Reader Forum Changes

Updated 7/26/08
SP&T vs. “Yahoos”, Round Two
Click The Image & Recall Round One:

Click the image & recall round one
The Liberal Elite Never Learn!

The BIG Buzz Around Town
Steamboat Pilot & Today, (and the rest of the town) is talking about a new policy which would eliminate Reader Forum anonymity. If even one person in this small town knows your identity, you are no longer anonymous, PERIOD!

The Summary
Eliminating anonymity will do little or nothing to improve the discourse. Better moderation will. SP&T need only objectively and reasonably enforce their own written rules. Also see my expanded suggestions at the bottom of this post.

The History
Yes, the content of the Reader Forum has, up to now, largely been a sick, sad, pathetic, ad hominem joke.

But, it was extremely poor moderation which caused that, not anonymity. If the quality of the moderation does not change, neither will the content. If history is a guide, the quality of the moderation will not change, only the effectiveness of the [IMO] politically motivated censorship.

Historically, most posters who were, in my view, banned for purely ideological reasons, have created a new ID and resumed posting. After the electronic equivalent of a mass “book burning” of ALL of my entries, I opted to create a Blogger account instead (fool me once…).

Had SP&T objectively and reasonably enforced their written rules, there would have been no problem.

Then again, their rules are [IMO] designed to facilitate utterly capricious, politically motivated censorship. Quoting SP&T Reader Forum Rules:
“if you become a [ideological] problem for us or our site's other users we can and will ban you”

In practice, in my opinion, SP&T (AT BEST) did exactly what local politicians have done for decades (pandered to a tiny minority of very vocal whiners). If enough whiners complained about a given poster, the offending poster was summarily banned with no regard for whether the poster violated any of the written rules (other than the “if you become a problem [to our ideology]” clause).

Who, in our society, is most prone to whining?
Yep, you guessed it!


Net Result (Pun Intended)?
Conservatives Get The Ax!


Op/Ed Page vs. Reader Forum
SP&T correctly argues that they regularly print the views of those who oppose their views (including Ann Coulter). And, despite frequent censorship demands from The Left, SP&T has, to their credit, continued to print these opposing views.

But, in The Reader Forum, SP&T has [IMO] shown NO SUCH BACKBONE! In the Reader Forum, SP&T has, AT BEST, [IMO] routinely pandered to the whiners on The Left.

It is REALLY easy to print Coulter’s views when she is not directly challenging pet local SP&T projects like Socialist Housing (tyrannically imposed on an UNWILLING MAJORITY).

The Likely Effect
In my opinion, the ONLY effect of the proposed new policy will be to:

1) DRAMATICALLY reduce the number of Conservatives (and others) who post to the Reader Forum.

2) Make more permanent the censorship of Conservative posters. And that, in my opinion, is the PRIMARY goal!

My Own Experience
In my own case, it appears that I was banned for criticizing Brent Boyer’s editorial judgment. I say “it appears that” because, as usual, no reason was given (publicly OR privately) for my account being banned and everything I ever posted being deleted. However, my banning came directly on the heels of a criticism I offered regarding Brent Boyer’s editorial judgment.

My criticism centered around the following opening phrase from this 3/12/08 article:
“The recession of the national economy”
My argument was that this article violated the most basic standards of journalism (separation of opinion from “straight news”). I used this editorial to substantiate my point.

Even if we later learned that the economy was in recession at the time the article was published, there would still be no excuse for mixing opinion and straight news. But, at this stage, the data demonstrate that it is a virtual certainty that the economy was NOT in a recession at the time the article was published!

Therefore, it seems a virtual certainty that a correction is NOW needed in order to correct, not just the embedding of opinion inside “straight news”, but the printing of a FACTUAL INACCURACY!

To the best of my knowledge, no correction has been offered (or is likely to be offered). And, I have been banned from noting that in the SP&T Reader Forum.

My Suggestion
In my opinion, SP&T would do far better to examine their own failure to properly moderate the Reader Forum. SP&T should:

1) Educate themselves on the meaning of ad hominem. This is critical!

2) Unilaterally enforce a zero tolerance policy on ad hominem posts, unsubstantiated slander, etc.

3) Use the integrity they have shown in dealing with their Op/Ed choices as a guide to dealing with the whiners on The Left who simply seek to censor those whom, for want of evidence, they are incapable of effectively debating.

4) Leave open the option for FULL anonymity. This is especially critical in a town as small and politically polarized as ours. In my opinion, very few who disagree with anything coming from SP&T would trust ANYBODY at SP&T to protect their identity from others. I CERTAINLY would not!

If SP&T regularly, rigorously and unilaterally deletes ALL ad hominem posts, unsubstantiated slander, etc., they will have no need to ban the offenders. The offenders will be worn down and will move elsewhere.

15 comments:

sp&t/not said...

Hello sbvor, Welcome back to the net. Let me be among the first to join your "anonymous" site. Free speech & my right to both anonymity & privacy have caused me to "opt out" of the Pilot and their invasive new registration requirements. Hopefully others will follow my lead. Looking forward to healthy debate while keeping an open mind to opposing viewpoints. Glad a fellow sp&T poster provided a link to your site otherwise I never would have found it. I'm hoping other dissenters of the sp&T took notice. Enjoyed debating many of them and hope to do so here. Good luck with the site and God Bless & "take a kid (or adult) fishing!".

colobob said...

Good Morning ...........Steamboat not Pilot Today!

SBVOR said...

Good morning,

Welcome!

lovinlife said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
SBVOR said...

LovinLife,

I welcome your comments.

I don’t need to know your identity.

However, as you just discovered, I will be far less tolerant of potentially slanderous comments than SP&T ever was.

Please stick to the substantiated facts and don’t attempt to play judge and jury here.

At this point, we have an allegedly drunken ex-mayor (who is innocent until proven guilty) and a controversy regarding the conduct of the officer (also innocent until proven guilty):

http://www.steamboatpilot.com/news/2008/jul/23/police_defend_use_taser/

One or both issues will be settled by a jury, not by us.

I don’t intend to host a rumor mill, a gossip circle, an ad hominem circus or an internet court.

This is a place to discuss issues. It is not a place to lodge personal attacks against our neighbors (no matter what they are publicly accused of).

SBVOR said...

My reading of the comments thus far suggests that those on The Far Left (who are in political agreement with SP&T) love the idea of trusting SP&T to protect their identity and most of those to the right of Karl Marx seem unwilling to trust SP&T to protect their identity and not to persecute them.

I wish I could say that comes as a surprise. But, it does not (not even close).

It appears to me that the Reader Forum will soon be “all Far Left, all the time”. Based on how SP&T has “moderated” the forum to date, my guess is that is precisely what SP&T wants (and always has).

colobob said...

Good morning sbvor,
Thought this link might interest you.
http://www.goodmagazine.com/user/joemamma/activity/john_mc_cain_is_the_devil

Note: there also seems to be some sort of glitch with the log-in portion of your site. To post I continually have to re-register in order to gain acess. Could just be me, but I don't think so.

colobob said...

sbvor, Just realized that "all" comments are subject to approval "prior" to being posted, so I guess it was me and not the site.
To be honest I'm a little surprised given your position on freedom of speech that you would censor or approve comments before they are posted. I can understand removing objectionable comments from those who post on any site but censorship before the post is actually posted goes against my position on free speech. To tell you the truth I'm "more" than a little surprised that you would take such a stand. As i've said in the past I always try to remain open to contrasting or opposiing points of view but I have to draw the line at censorship. It just goes against my principles. I'm hoping that you will reconsider your present policy. If not, I must regrettably opt out. For me to participate under the guise of "free speech" when speech is censored would make me a hypocrate, it's something I just can't do. I must follow these words;
"This above all - to thyne own self be true,
And it must follow, as night follows days,
Thou canst not be false to any man." -William Shakespeare -
for me to do less I would have to compromise "my" principles. I'd be interested in your response.
** Apologize if this post has been duplicated, I'm having some difficulty navigating the site.

SBVOR said...

ColoBob,

I suggest you reread my commentary. I have never suggested that there should be no limits on free speech.

To advocate an absolute right to free speech is to advocate for, among other things, a right to slander. That is not my position.

The rules for posting here are not far from the published rules for posting at SP&T. The difference is that I will objectively enforce them.

What I will never do is censor somebody solely for their political views.

colobob said...

Sorry sbvor, I may have misunderstood your position regarding "free speech," my position however remains steadfast. As I've said, I can understand the need to remove offensive or slanderous comments when necessary and that is a policy that I totally agree with. That said, what I cannot agree to, is for one to arbitrarily decide what will or will not be posted beforehand. Removing a comment after the fact is fine, to regulate or control what will or will not initially be posted is something else. Sorry it didn't work out but unfortunately I'm just not willing to compromise my principles regarding free speech. Good luck with your site. My Regards, colobob

SBVOR said...

ColoBob,

Comment Moderation simply allows me to spend less of my time moderating those comments which we both agree are inappropriate, unproductive and, in some cases, quite properly illegal.

With Comment Moderation, a single click allows me to review all new posts in every thread. I may or may not moderate comments in a timely manner.

I agree that this makes for a less satisfactory experience for those who care to comment. But, that’s the way it is.

If you want to offer a more flexible service, you need only provide Blogger.com with an e-mail address. You do not need any special computer skills to start your own blog.

SBVOR said...

ColoBob,

You might find this site more to your liking:

http://steamboatforums.com/

SBVOR said...

ColoBob,

Comment Moderation also allows me to more easily detect when comments of interest have been left in threads that go long periods without activity.

This thread is an example.

Because Comment Moderation was not previously enabled, I was tardy in noticing the latest comment in that thread.

Again, this site might be more what you’re looking for:

http://steamboatforums.com/


Respectfully,
SBVOR

colobob said...

sbvor, maybe the time has finally come for me to just keep my opinons to myself. As far as administrating my own site is concerned, I really don't have the time to do it and do it properly. If you're not going to do something well then that time would be better spent elsewhere. For me giving less than 100% in any endeavor is time wasted and anything less than 100% usually produces unsatisfactory results. Maybe during those times when I can't be on the water instead of sitting in front of a keyboard I should just devote more time to the tying bench, you can never have too many flies you know. It's been my pleasure to know and converse with you and I wish you much success in life and with your site. Have a great afternoon and remeber.........., take a kid fishing!

SBVOR said...

ColoBob,

Again, I think the following site has some real potential to fill a niche that I am not looking to fill:

http://steamboatforums.com/

You may want to give it a shot.

Meantime, based on your history at SP&T, it would surprise me if I ever declined to publish any of your commentary here. But, I may not offer exactly what you’re looking for.

Respectfully,
SBVOR