Note From the Management

568190-biometrischen-hand-scan--id-erkennungIt’s hard to believe but January marked the 7th anniversary of The Same Rowdy Crowd.  During that time, we’ve had more than 1,650 posts and more than 21,000 comments.  We’ve had wonderful discussions and long-running shouting matches that are the semantic equivalents of “Did…did not.”

It’s the position of the management that we want more of the former and less of the latter.  As a result, starting now, we’re requiring all those who comment to use their actual names. No pseudonyms and make-believe need apply.

Please note that we are not in any way seeking to limit your right to say any silly thing that may pop into your head.  By all means, let fly when you disagree, digress, snort, holler, condemn, applaud, extoll, excoriate, praise, pillory and pontificate.  Just sign your name.

Our belief is that taking this step is a reasonable move to promote a more thoughtful, interesting and enjoyable conversation.  MinnPost uses this protocol successfully and we, as a group, are at least as smart and fun as that crowd of wine-sniffers.  We’ve also noticed that on the infrequent occasion that we encounter one of the Crowd in the real world, the discussions are always more satisfying and fun; less “did…did not” and more “you know, you’re still an idiot, but I guess you’re not an ignorant idiot.” And, finally, we’ve heard from more than a few people who we like and respect (because they once bought us a round) that they don’t come around here no more because of the signal-to-noise ratio has decreased over the years.  We’re hoping to lure some of those folks back because they might be good for another round or two.

We’re not quite sure how we’re going to enforce this new policy, but our initial hope is that people will police themselves and we – the lazy management team – won’t have to do anything (this is called “delegating” in business school).  Failing that, we’ll just start deleting unsigned and obvious false flag comments as we see them.  If that becomes too tedious, we’ll use that fancy Internets thing to require sign in, verification of a valid e-mail address and all that stuff and start holding comments for approval by one of the lazy management team.  This would likely interfere with either nap time or a feeding period but we’d make Souder do it because we love you.

Of course we’d love your thoughts on this…sign right up and let us have it.

Austin (on behalf of the Mgmt)

57 Responses

  1. I love it. And this is my real name, even if you don’t remember me. I’m thinking of a comeback.

  2. Just because I fingered you. Still, we’ll always leave the back door unlocked in case the prodigal son ever returns.

    - Austin

  3. “Be who you are, and say what you feel, because those that mind don’t matter and those that matter don’t mind.” – Dr. Seuss

    I still find pseudonyms cowardly, unless they’re well understood by the public, such as Rush “Big Fat Liar” Limbaugh.

  4. I yam what I yam and that’s all that I yam. If I weren’t really named Joe Loveland I wouldn’t have had to endured all those racy playground nicknames over the years.

  5. You know, I’m far from a blogofile. In fact SRC is the first and remains one of the very few I have ever felt the need to toss in some non-sequitur or another. At first I was so naive of the process figured the concept “user” name was intended as a genuine real-life identity. Being an astute observer I eventually realized, weeks later– No these are pseudonyms. What cop outs!! Show yourself cowards!

    However, I changed. I’ve come to believe there is a true virtue in the option of anonymity and anything less can “chill” (a term I’ve recently acquired) the free flow information and opinion that is the ultimate virtue of these online forums.

    Hope the new poiicy doesn’t freeze out those contributors with something deeply contemplated of whatever disposition, particularly a contrarian one, who may now become hesitant to share it.

  6. I understand the viewpoint, Dennis, but I feel strongly that if you are embarrassed to say something next to your name, it’s not worth saying.

    • No. it’s not a matter of embarrassment (two r’s two s’s right?) it’s the indelibiltiy of an online posting. Forever. No way back. No erasing it. A legitimately scarey possibility for some. Do we really have to know PM’s real name? Or Eric? Or Bertram? Or those far more transient visitors? It’s about the exchange of ideas. Isn’t it?

      • There is a bravado, though, that comes from anonymity. It’s the online equivalent of two big shots of bourbon. It gives you just enough cover to call someone a “Nazi,” when you would never do that with someone with whom you’ve had a drink.

        I am one of four people who are administrators for a Facebook group. We have a few people who have begged to be on anonymously. The other administrators relented. But I insisted that they be held to a higher standard of politeness and respect and that at least two people in the group knew their real identities. The sharpness from the pseudonymistic (did I just make up a word) posters plummeted. Same opinions, just less name calling.

      • Yes, Dennis. It is about the exchange of ideas as opposed to inane insults, truly offensive bullsh*t and other annoying games of one-upmanship to which the comments section sometimes devolves.

        I can’t recall witnessing anyone taken out by the people on this blog (using their real names) for an honest opinion or argument. So I am less concerned with the idea of someone with a contrarian argument being hesitant to share as I think the rest of the community would most likely step in and deal with someone doing so.

      • It is about the exchange of ideas. But when people don’t put their name next to their comment, some tend to exchange slurs and cheap shots more than ideas. Accusing the African American President of wearing a loin cloth and taking cheap ugly personal potshots at people with the guts to use their real names — those aren’t ideas. A lot of SRC readers have gone silent or gone elsewhere because they hate all of that pollution.

        • Yes, I understand. I also recall this very blog in a different context some years ago briefly explored those studies where totally uncharacteristic, even unspeakable acts could be performed by those whose identity was concealed. I suppose anonymity does enable carte blanche for all sorts of crap but maybe it’s the price that must be paid to encourage free public participation in conversations just like this. I also agree with Minnesotan above. Miss those frequent, provocative dialogues that went to the nature of how we communicate with each other in all its varied forms from PR to journalism and of course politically.

        • Well, while I’m at. Personally, if it were my blog and if it meant living with a dozen slur-slewing, vacuous-brained non-entities to sustain the continued participation of one PM (or similar) it’s worth the price.

          And I see cocktail hour has approached.

  7. I, for one, rather treasure my anonymity. I like being known for what i say, rather than for whom I am/what i have done. Judge me on my reputation here, not on my reputation elsewhere.

    I’ll be thinking about it.

    • Let me just expand a bit–I am already known to quite a few of you. That does not bother me in the least, because i tend (for the most part) to trust those I know.

      But there are simply a whole lot of people out there in webland that i do not know, and do not trust. I’d rather not have them be able to track me down–for whatever reason. Generally, i doubt that anyone who I’d be concerned about would be participating in the SRC anyway, but that does not mean that they would not find someone participating here, if they were looking. That bothers me. A lot.

      So my guess is that I’ll probably be looking elsewhere for interesting discussions.

  8. Boo, Hiss. Lambo just recently said that despite his best efforts, this would not be the case. No need to flag this comment, as this will be the last from me. My parting thought is you may want to reconsider why you’re really losing readers. I’d be surprised if truly was comments from avatars – doesn’t seem to be a problem at Nytimes.com; salon.com; cnn.com; startribune.com and about a million other online sites. I doubt your readers really have that thin of skin. Are you sure it’s not because the Rowdy Crowd has lost its focus?

    If you read the “What the fresh hell is this” screed, this blog is supposedly focused on communications. I’ve been a regular here for years, and know there is a depth of wisdom in the Crowd when it comes to communications. Heck, I chose “Minnesotan” way back when, when someone used to write in as “Iowan.” But lately you’d be pretty hard pressed to find a decent post focused on communications – they’re about as rare as seeing a moose in MN – a dying breed. Whether it’s an obsession on gun-control or ridiculing the GOP – this blog seems to have lost its way. Oddly enough, arguing about gun control brings me back to this site quite regularly, but the value I find in the blog has plummeted.

    Good luck to all.

    • On one level our thinking on this issue really is as simple as this: WE use our real names, so should you.

      Most of us here have been around the internets for a while and are thoroughly familiar with the upside and downside of anonymous trolls. On the one hand people do genuinely say what they want to say. On the other, what some people say — the WAY they say it — has the effect of emptying the room. Some people have no party manners, and drive away the people you wanted to hang with.

      This particular problem is less about anonymity for people like yourself, Minnesotan, and PM and others who display adult social skills. But we have a couple chronic offenders of the basic laws of those skills. SRC group-think is that these repeat offenders — the kind of guys you used to back away from at keggers — are less likely to debase both themselves and our merry little group if they have to hang their name on what they’re saying.

      We’ve been kicking around ideas for a solution for a few days and this is where we’re at. If anyone has a better idea, we’re open to it.

      I think it’s safe to speak for the others when I say you and PM and a half dozen other “anonymous” commenters are people we enjoy having aboard. You are an example of readers who know how to play with others. I can’t make decisions for you, but I encourage you to reconsider.

      As for the downward spiral of SRC content and lack of “communications” talk, on one very basic level all human interaction is about communications, maybe even marketing. (Austin may regale us sometime with his unique dating techniques.) But we all come at communications from different corners.

      Me, I concede my obsession/fascination with the condition and quality of communication coming from modern conservatives. I really should get a life, and who knows, if the Twins are any good this year I might get distracted.

      But others — notably those two gasbags, Carideo and Souder, have other interests, communications-wise. Stick around and you can disagree with them, and even call them a dirty name — once in a while.

      But do it repeatedly (without a hint of humor) and we’ll spike you.

    • Minnesotan, that’s an excellent critique of the vibe. I actually agree with a lot of it and take a heaping, helping share of the responsibility for the tendencies you note. I don’t begrudge us from changing over time as our interests and passions shift, but I do think we’ve fallen into a bit of a rut for many reasons, the biggest IMHO is that most of us – and I put myself at the front of this list – don’t post enough. And, when I do post I tend to be pretty predictable and not terribly interesting. I frequently resolve to do better in this area and the resolve lasts about as long as it takes for work to get busy or me to get distracted with something on the home front.

      That said, hope springs eternal and I’m once again pledging to write more better.

      I hope you drop in from time to time to see if I’m keeping up.

      - Austin

      • This not being a paying gig, no one’s writing this stuff out of obligation. Compulsion, maybe. The reason I asked — OK, “begged” — to be allowed in was because you guys had thinking adult credibility. And — a collective offered a flow of fresh material for those rare days when I couldn’t come up with a new way to call Tea Party conservatives mouth-breathing assholes by another name.

        I too also liked the original eclecticism of SRC. I think there’s an appetite out there for provocative posts on all sorts of cultural issues. I’d write more about TV and film … but goddam it! Did you see they’ve invited Michele Bachmann and Wayne LaPierre to inflame the rubes at C-PAC?!!!!

        Sorry. But my point is that of course I’d like to hear more from everyone else. Even I get tired of me … and then go ask my wife … .

        But I understand. Also, I’m often struck by how difficult it is for professional people to attach their names to arguments they regard as outside the “bi-partisan” norm, and yes this very much includes professional journalists on their official blogs (as snoozy as the printed stuff). But, as I say, there’s no upside in letting your left-handed gas-bagging imperil your day job.

  9. More light.

    In the spirit of transparency, I haven’t had this moustache in years. It was ill-advised when I did, and I didn’t have it for long. But I will retain my photo-realistic avatar. And just want to say this right now, Brother Austin, that regardless of what they say about it, we’re gonna keep it.

  10. I’m afraid that Dennis Lang may be right that the new policy will freeze out thoughtful commentary. Losing PM’s and Minnesotan’s insights will definitely diminish the blog.

    I have to admit that I don’t read the blog as often as I used to because most of the recent blog entries have been more political rants than interesting commentaries. Lambert’s are the best example. I quit reading them months ago since they all seem to say the same thing: Left is good and right is bad. I’m not offended by these screeds…I just don’t find them interesting or thought-provoking.

    Don’t forget that TSRC is a blog, not a news organization. What management needs to understand is that the blog authors are all solidly in the left of center category (to quote from that great Seinfeld line “Not that there’s anything wrong with that!”). It’s not easy for some people to use their true identity to express a contrary opinion and possibly be a subject of ridicule. To call such people “cowards” is inane. Other than Erik’s attacks on Lambert, I can’t recall any offensive comments that I’ve read over the years. However, if PM, Minnesotan, Bertram, Mike Kennedy (that can’t be a a real person), or even Erik quit providing commentary, the value of TSRC is diminished. It will be far less interesting and more politically correct.

    I, for one, would no longer be interested.

    • This from a sesquipedalianist who chose the imaginary last name of Douchemocker – which roughly translates into someone who mocks the shower or at the very worst a form (possibly unnecessary) of feminine hygiene cleanliness.

      (I didn’t know you could defecate a screed.)

    • This may be the first testimonial for bertram I have ever read … anywhere.

  11. I’ll take blame for writing too many political posts. Part of the reason I’ve gravitated in that direction over the years is that political posts garner far MORE pageviews and commenters, especially from the Pseudonymers, than communications pieces. No question about that. I’ve tried to give the Pseudonymers what they want, but I guess I’m now hearing that they actually DIDN’T want them, they just commented up the yazoo about them. My bad. More recently, I’ve taken my political drivel elsewhere, but I’ll admit that I’ve been a culprit. Mea culprit.

    But keep in mind, this is a recreational blog by people with day jobs who write in their spare time for their own entertainment, so mission creep and eclectica are baked into our formula. We’re far from perfect that way, but that will never change.

    • Yup, I imagine the political stuff was an obvious attraction and welcome hot button certainly during elections, but in my mind you guys were at your best when you were the most eclectic, and stimulatng voices from Austin (known as the Professor, whose Save the Newspapers piece still unmatched) Benidt, Keliher, and Loveland (the Franchise) were firing in from all directions on a range of often unexpected subjects and insights. The Golden era I guess….

    • I think politics in this country – at least at the moment – is the archetype of communication. It is filled with misstatements, bullshit (yes, I said it), stupidity and commercialization. And, considering the whores (yes, I said it; and I’m being VERY kind) at Fox News, it represents EVERYTHING that is wrong with both the media and the country as a whole. And even the so-called mainstream press are victims of their own vague “fairness” policies that no matter how incredibly stupid some of the Tea Baggers are (see The Daily Show daily) they allow one absolute kook in desperate need of an MRI to “respond” to every single statement made. As example, Ann Coulter, who should be triggering a huge sale of MRI machines every time she opens her mouth, is interviewed again and again as if severe mental illness was somehow not represented enough in modern media.

  12. Fabulous discussion — as interesting as we’ve had for a long time.

    I’d hate to lose the people who are commenting on this post. I also regret that, as reported by some of our writers, some, maybe many, readers have ditched the Crowd because of the coarse comments. I don’t want to lose smart readers or commenters. l’m actually amazed and delighted that anyone takes the time to chime in here. I feel torn — I’d love to see more-civilized discourse here, yet we call ourselves “Rowdy.” Where’s the line between Rowdy and sophomoric?

    We’ll keep thinking about this, we who write this stuff. One answer we contemplated is just to kill off comments we find beyond the pale, rather than require real names.

    I find the chastisement here that we’ve lost our focus very thought-provoking. I agree with Loveland (frighteningly, I agree with Loveland most of the time) that eclecticism is not just a virtue but unavoidable with this mix of omnivorous, curious folk. But we’ve probably gone from a communications blog that occasionally dives into politics to a political blog that occasionally dives into communications. Aside from the fact that we all think we’re damn smart and that the world, or at least the odd relative, is waiting for our pronouncements, our main qualifications are in the communications field (although Loveland and Austin, and maybe others, have done the campaign thing for major national figures). I take the “focus” challenge seriously and will try to focus my stuff more on communications. (Of course they overlap, as in great NYTimes Sunday Mag cover story Feb. 17 “Can young, tech-savvy Republicans overthrow their party’s disconnected old guard?”)

    Discussion on this post has shown me some reasonable reasons someone might not want to sign hisorher name to a comment.

    Good stuff. Let’s keep thinking together.

  13. Well, we’ve just had the first application of the new policy. Several comments posted by our frequent contributor Erik have been deleted because I’m skeptical he’s using his real name.

    As a former boss of mine was fond of saying, “The floggings will continue until morale improves.”

    - Austin

  14. Why not delete obnoxious comments and leave germane comments? The the need to have a blanket policy intended to deal with a few people who are idiots reminds me of… every single memo I’ve ever received in my career at work.

    • Jason: There was brief discussion of simply using the “approve” feature for comments. This was followed by a brief cry of “censorship” … we being a very open-minded bunch. It seems to me the worst offenders tend to congregate around certain authors and topics — OK, usually me ranting about morality and logic-impaired gun fetishists.

      My concern is less for nasty crap aimed at me — hell, I worked for a newspaper and have recordings of regular “commenters” who were far worse — and more for the way rancid, jilted-lover-like personal attacks and talk radio parroting pollute the water here for these other fine folks. I mean, for god’s sake we have the lovely, demure Ellen — there are LADIES present!

      Austin and Benidt and the rest had a good thing going here until they let in the riff-raff, and the riff-raff’s riff-raff, and everything slid south.
      Oh wait. I’ve just isolated the core issue.

      BTW, damn good-looking gams … . When does Shaffer get his shot on a cover?

      Also … little sister in town today. Need a tip for a birthday dinner.

    • I’m comfortable with “say whatever you want, but disclose who is saying it” but not “I will decide what is and isn’t obnoxious and germane and censor it.” The latter is too Orwellian and labor-intensive. The former is how most of the world works.

      To your credit, Jason, you’re not featuring a lot of pixilated and ski-masked interviewees making unaccountable assertions. You let interviewees say their piece but require them to disclose their identity to the viewers. Seems wise.

    • Ouch. I hate memos more than anything in the communications world. Being compared to one is like lemon juice on a really long paper cut. Ouch, ouch, ouch.

      I don’t know there is a perfect solution to this…actually, I’m sure there’s not based on the comments so far.

      If we had paid staff we might set somebody to the task of reviewing and approving comments. We might even agree to take on the job among ourselves, but none of us seems particularly confident in making that time commitment or comfortable in the role of determining whether someone anonymously calling Lambert “an ignorant butthole” is or isn’t legitimate commentary. The fact that it’s true doesn’t lessen the burdens of office.

      So far, though, it does seem we’ve done a pretty good job of making everyone unhappy. I do that on a daily basis with my family, but I still try to acknowledge the possibility that there might be some validity to the criticism.

      Sounds like the basis for another post.

      - Austin

  15. I really do understand the attraction of commenting anonymously. A lot of people important to my livelihood and personal life don’t agree with my political views, and even more don’t agree with sharing one’s political views so publicly. So using my own name here besmirches it.

    But using my own name in association with anonymous folks spewing ugly stuff besmirches it even more, and that isn’t fair to our named contributors.

    So, if I use my name, and take the business and community dings for it, it’s hard to accept others abusing anonymity, and in the process magnifying the ding, and sucking the fun out of the discussion. I know it doesn’t suck the fun out for everyone. For me and others I’ve heard complaints from, it does.

    I have to say, though, it kills me to lose PM, Minnesotan, Jake and others who made terrific contributions to our discussions. And I’ll miss part of what Newt, Erik, Bertram and others brought. But on balance, full disclosure and transparency feels like the right solution to a legitimate problem.

  16. Erik–You do spin a mean sentence and personally I have found you entertaining if mostly disagreeable. Pleased to know you have granted youself license to “demean” those you regard less than “serious”. You must be one super smart and privileged dude. Good for you.

  17. OK, i have followed this argument (mostly, it seems, of Joe), and have a couple of questions for you.

    I think that Erik Douchemocker raised a valuable, practical point–what is to prevent me from first creating an e-mail account in the name of P(hilip) M(asturbator)@gmail.com, and then signing in as such?

    And why would I not make it even harder for you by doing the same thing as Pamela Masters (pmasters101002345@gmail.com)? Bottom line, as a devoted troll, you couldn’t do anything about it until I exposed myself as a troll–until my posts betrayed me. The ease of getting new e-mail accounts subverts your attempt to govern the discussions here through disclosure and honor and public shaming. It simply won’t work as a way of getting rid of trolls. It isn’t practical.

    So, adopt this policy and you get the worst of all worlds–you still end up with de facto censorship (having to delete posts), trolls, and you drive away those who have serious (at least, to them) reasons for anonymity.

    Joe, it is an idealistic approach and not practical.I agree completely with what you are trying to accomplish, but i simply do not think that this will work.

    Just so that everyone understands, this is why I will not post here, except anonymously. I am largely retired, and devote lots of my time and effort to charitable causes. I spend a lot of time lobbying for those causes, and the State on MN benefits greatly from them–they address real needs here. I deal with Republicans and Democrats, I make contributions to both, and I spend time with both. Call it sucking up, if you will.

    Here, I have been sharing with you what i really think about a lot of them. I simply can’t afford to do that under my real name–or the causes i work for would potentially suffer (they are non-political). I won’t do that to them, and they are far more important to me that the SRC.

    So my choice is to either abandon this blog, or else subvert the new proposed rules. If i chose the latter, i really do not see what you can do to stop me (or Erik Douchemocker, for that matter). If i make the latter choice, and you allow my posts but delete Erik’s, then you are displaying favoritism (perhaps politically motivated? at least it will be seen as such by those whose posts you delete).

    I think that it is far better to simply be honest and straightforward about the rules–allow anonymous posts as long as they are respectful of the community and not ad hominem attacks. Offer to give greater leeway for posts that are signed. Offer to allow signed members the opportunity to become members of SRC (and initiate discussion threads). Use positive reinforcement as well as negative (the treat of deletion).

    But the only way you are going to accomplish your goal of a more “enlightened” discussion is through some form of moderation of the discussion. Banning anonymous posting will not work–it is too easily subverted.

    • I’ll miss you PM. I enjoy your contributions.

      I’ll begin using my real name. I’ll expect that my comments won’t be deleted, as those are the stated terms. My behavior will probably be about the same.

      I’ll post my phone number publicly and you all can call me if you jave doubts about my real name.

    • PM, you may be right, too many people may choose to work around the rule. When we discussed this, we knew that was a distinct possibility.

      If they do, I guess the primary options are a) censor comments, b) return to status quo (Troll Heaven), c) turn off comments or d) retire from SRC. At the moment, the last option has the most appeal, and the first has the least. If writing a blog means I have to set aside even more time to try to run a charm school for trolls, I’d rather move on with life blogless. That wouldn’t be so bad.

    • I like your solution, PM. And your reasons for anonymity remind me of all the anonymous sources journalists use because it gets stories closer to the bone, and perhaps the truth. And journalists judge which anonymous sources add to the quest for truth and which are just grinding axes.

      • Not only does the journalist have to give greater scrutiny to an anonymous source, I, as a news consumer, take “news” from an anonymous source with far less gravitas regardless of what the journalist decides. I always assume that, at least in part, there could be an ax to grind. Or, worse yet, it’s mostly bullshit.

        Not that my opinions are so valuable, but I have little interest in discounting them even further by hiding behind the mask of anonymity.

        As a (very) small businessman, I’ve never found my personal opinions interfered with my commerce. Of course I give out coffee mugs that say: THERE IS NO ‘I’ IN TEAM, BUT THERE IS IN DICKHEAD. You kind of know what you’re getting when you hire me.

        • Where can we buy one of those cups?

          • I can get one to you.

            I also have one that reads: I WOULD RATHER FOR A CORPORATE WEASEL THAN BE ONE.

        • I get that the journalist would be especially cautionary over the credibility of information passed on anonymously but isn’t he nonetheless responsible to protect a source known to him from public disclosure of identity as the situation dictates? In this conversation if a contributor would prefer not to have his comment attached to him publicly forever in cyberspace–for whatever reason–I rather think that’s deserving of respect. I still think the option of anonymity enhances the free exchange of ideas. In fact I seem to recall some states attempting to legislate against anonymous online comments. Sure tons of garbage out there but dangerous, way overbroad precedent in my mind if it were to fly.

          • The whole idea of an anonymous source is: the only way a news organization can get information of high importance to the public is through an anonymous source. In nine years as a professional journalist, I used it once and I needed the publisher’s permission. Almost everything else I could get from someone once I knew the questions to ask from deep background.

    • And, apparently, i forgot to mention one other possible problem–some trolls might be so shameless that they comply completely with all of your disclosure rules, and do not alter their behavior in the least. What do you do with people who simply do not care what you think about them? Your disclosure solution will not work in those cases.

      • Now you’re starting to sound like a legislator PM. “your solution may not work, so I can’t support it.”
        If commenters use their names and they continue to be “non-serious” actors, then we look at other remedies. I, for one, think if people consent to using their true identities here, it will take care of 90% of the childish crap.

        • So far, i’d have to say that this part of your experiment has already been tried and failed…..

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