Post #465 • January 29, 2005, 12:51 AM • 8 Comments
If it seems like I've agonized a bit regarding the format of Artblog.net and its possible abuses, it's because good designers think about worst-case scenarios. We're now hitting some community-busting ones here: threats, nastiness, the outing of pseudonymous writers by other pseudonymous writers. If I were truly a good designer, I would have developed back-up systems for when this came to pass. But I haven't, partly because I've been at a loss about how to decide some central issues.
When I first started this blog, I thought about doing it anonymously, so that I could say whatever scathing remark I wanted without worrying about reprisals. I frequently go after the museums, but I wanted to have a show with them if I was ever asked. I decided that that was hypocritical. If I disagreed with them enough to state my disagreement publically, I should accept the consequences of doing so. I'm glad that I decided to put my name on it. Living on your principles is its own reward.
But I have allowed people to come here and comment anonymously, because that creates the most open sort of forum, and the forum has made me a better thinker. All sorts have come through here over the last twenty months, and I have learned how to interact with them in a better way than the one I had in 2002 when I started The Sunburn.
My policy thus far has been to delete advertisements - spam or otherwise - and non-sequitur posts (specifically, posts from the subsection of the peanut gallery that mouths off incoherent thoughts or that weird art-talk posturing that some people get off on, for some reason). Everything else has stayed up. It has worked pretty well.
I think. I'm not worried about the folks who can't hack it - good riddance to them. But occasionally, intelligent people read some of the vituperation that goes on here and say, sheesh, who wants to get into this? A dozen people have told me that they're afraid to get on and say something. That may just be stage fright, but I wonder. Some of them may be intelligent writers who don't like verbal combat.
I wonder enough about it that I'm considering moving to a moderated forum. Basically, the idea is that your comment goes into a holding cell until I wave it through. To get through:
- It must be on topic.
- Criticisms of other comments must be directed at the content of the post, not at the writer, even slightly.
Two rules. That's it. The moderated format would slow down the conversation considerably and I'll miss some of the combat, but frankly, I've hit headache-level difficulty trying to nudge the conversation towards civility, protect the identities of people who have good reason to keep them hidden, and quell the vitriol. I'll admit it - when I first started this, I wasn't all that civil, and I see less progress in myself than I would like to see. But as you know, I think about quality a lot. I facilitated a 292-comment thread and regularly get far more comments than other art blogs. Now I'm interested in quality over quantity. I'd like to find out if moderation would allow new voices to become part of the conversation, and whether that conversation would improve.
If you think this is a bad idea, you have until 6pm Sunday to convince me. If you think it's a good idea, now's the time to say so. I have shut down comments, so you will have to contact me by e-mail. I have a challenge-response spam filter, so be sure to respond to the challenge if you haven't e-mailed me before.