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I fully appreciate why you might limit your conversation to specific blogs and signed letters to the editor. We most definitely appreciate your thoughtful contributions to the community conversation.
Chris, I took your advice and reported it, and it has been removed, which I appreciate. But the reason I didn't report it in the first place is because it is like draining the ocean with a thimble. If all the gratuitous ad hominen attacks were removed from these forums, hardly any of them would remain. Previous to this, the only Advocate forum I had posted to was your blog, because it is actually possible to have a thoughtful discussion with a reasonable person here. The only reason I got involved with that other discussion is that it was about my letter, and I had hoped, admittedly without cause, that I might be able to steer it back on topic. These forums go off the rail faster than Amtrak.I also thought someone might actually be interested in the reasoning that went into the writing of my letter in the first place. How silly of me. Bashing the other side is the main focus of most of the posters. Virtual vandalism, I call it.That is why I like the print version of the letters to the editor. I think there is a better chance of actually engaging someone still capable of linear thinking, someone able to reason from a premise to a logical conclusion. Have a good week, and good luck policing the posters.
I appreciate the comparison, although I'm not sure Mr. Koppel would say the same.
My hope is our moderation will help bring back and keep around more thoughtful posters. We can all dream, can't we? I do see many positives from the online forum. Some days, though, the negatives can outweigh those.
Mr. Cobler, I think that you overseeing this circus is a bit like Ted Koppel trying to host the Jerry Springer show, only without the bodyguards. At first I would feel sorry for him and then I would just scratch my head and wonder why he would ever do it. Freedom of speech is one thing but this is a mean-spirited mob with no discernable sense of humor. Very few thoughtful people are going to want to contribute after sticking their head into this snakepit.I don't think that the correct question is why do people turn into monsters, I think the correct question is: where's the freaking door?
I'm sorry to hear an anonymous poster unfairly bashed a signed letter writer. We're sensitive to these sorts of attacks on people willing to stand up and be accountable. Did you report the violation? It does sound as if it would be a post we would delete. I'll look for it now.
I'm out of town tonight, but our review panel tries to respond to all reported posts as quickly as possible
I don't like how people use the forum to make veiled threats. Thinking this is going to scare people into silence is childish and immature. But when you sit behind a screen name, I suppose it is easy to do.And just for fun, unless most of the people on here are retired, or self employed or shift workers, I would like to see how much of this posting is taking place on company time, on company equipment. Of course, everyone is going to lie and say they're not doing that. Maybe the companies need to do a big old sweep to see what is going on. Or maybe it is all legit.
An anonymous poster just insinuated that I plagiarized the letter that was printed recently in the Advocate under my name. What is the evidence that he gives? He thinks I am not capable of independent thought, therefore I couldn't have written the letter! There's a good reason for using an assumed name. If you are going to commit actionable libel against a complete stranger, it is probably a good idea to keep your identity secret. Just for the record, I did indeed manage to eke a thought or two out of my pea-brain and write the letter myself. Although if someone thinks I am capable of theft of intellectual property, he probably thinks I am capable of lying about it.And, oh yeah, he also thinks I am too "sensitive" to comment on the forums. That is rich, coming from someone who is too reticent to sign his own name to his comments. I live in a very small town, and when I have a letter to the editor published, everyone in town knows it. Arlene Schroeder
And honestly, how do we know that those using "real" names are really their real names? I'm sure they are but how do we really know? I could make up a real name & would anyone know that's not really my name? This is a computer for crying out loud. BTW, on other sites I do use my first name....just not here, BigJ explained it well....Thanks BigJ.Oh & that is my real cat.
Not that it would embarrass my family or that I would not say it in front of my family. My point is that my opinions are my own but people don't always understand that. My family in Victoria are business people & I would not want MY opinion or view to affect them & their business &/or personal life outside of our family. My family may not subscribe to my views & I wouldn't want MY views to be ascribed to them. That was my point.
I respect immensely people like you who are willing to stand behind your words both on the forums here and in the community. I know you've taken criticism for speaking out. I'm with you that people shouldn't say anything that would embarrass their family. That doesn't seem like a valid reason for staying anonymous.
The principle of accountability collides headlong with inclusion. We want to bring as many people as possible into the community conversation. The online forums are one way we do that. If we required names for every post, I'm sure participation would drop off to a trickle. It's a Catch-22 (also one of my favorite all-time novels).
The way we deal with it is by creating terms for participation and trying to enforce those. We rely on the online community's help in doing that.
Thanks again, Toni.
I guess I get to comment too?I am not by any stretch anonymous, and have never been on these forums. I have always strongly advocated against anonymous posters. I, too, have frequented forums, blogs, etc. for more than 10 years now and always used the moniker, "tonianne." When I came to the original Advocate Blogs, it was with the understanding that you have to use your real picture, your real name, and a small bio of yourself. I submitted all three and had a nice little blog that I liked so much, I used it as my "main" blog. Then the VicAd went all Myspacey, and the rest is what we have here.Anyway - back to my point - I would support some sort of meeting of the minds to come up with a solution to what I see as a problem. For the person who said they remain anonymous out of respect for their family: If you are saying something so terribly bad here, with a keyboard and monitor, that you can't say in front of a member of your family, then maybe that is a sign that you need to tone it down?I can be irritable and sarcastic... but I don't ever say (type) anything that I would be ashamed to say in front of my mother-in-law. Ok - maybe I have let loose a couple of times, but I have my real picture, my real bio, and mostly my real name. Toni is my first name, and about 98% of the people on these forums know my last name is Marek.To the person who said people tend to lash out more when they can't be held accountable: I understand that. But I think the sole fact that has gotten lost in all of this is that there are plenty (PLENTY) of kids and children who read this website as a source of their news. We need to remember that, and if people want to bash, insult, be harsh, etc., they need to frequent a site that has an age requirement to view it. I am for free speech, but the Victoria Advocate is a privately owned operation and they reserve the right to monitor their paper and website as they see fit. Again - I am open for a meeting/discussion/dialouge on this matter.
Most people here are harmless. I have been to other major news sites where the posters are horrifyingly rude & say the nastiest things. I tend to take peoples rants with a grain of salt & figure some of the more outlandish ones are being tongue in cheek. I tend to have a sarcastic sense of humor (or just being mean while laughing as my neice says) so I assume others do too. It is easier to speak your mind anonomously as most people try not to offend others with more unpopular opinions in real life. It is nice to throw them out there & see how others react. It may not help with civility at times but its usually never boring. Btw, I don't use my real name only out of respect to my family members.
Luminary, always remember that just because you're not paranoid doesn't mean everyone isn't out to get you!:-)Ernie
In reference to those readers who condemned the VA for giving the dog story more front page space than about the stabbing of those two co-workers. Maybe people are getting tired of reading about so much crap that the illegal immigrants are doing that many have developed "who gives a rip what those idiots are doing? The more of 'em they kill off the better off we'll all be" attitudes. And these are the people who so many groups, really promoting funding from all the dupes that support them, are trying to defend and are trying to promote their being in this country.,
Chris, I agree that the Advocate bloggers are no worse than those on most other sites. In fact, the forums where profanity is allowed are much worse. I appreciate that you take the time to respond to your readers. The Advocate is much more even-handed and fair than many papers in much larger cities. The best thing to do with the posters who make nasty personal attacks is to ignore them. They are seeking attention at any cost, so don't give it to them. The golden rule for me is to not say anything anonymously that I would not sign my name to.
There are some really cruel things that people write in the Advocate comments, I hope that they are really not as ignorant and mean in "real life". I do feel sorry for the reporters at the advocate, sometimes. I have to admit, I find it rather amusing how low people can go. I have been finding out who some of the regulars are and have been suprised that people I know, that my husband knows can be so immature.
Ernie, Riverboat and Little Blue Book,
I share your concerns about anonymous comments. If we could get the same level of community involvement by requiring signed comments, I would be in favor of doing so. Many other editors and I have written a considerable amount about the anonymous nature of the Internet.
In previous posts, I've outlined the Advocate.com's policy regarding moderation. Here's a link to one discussing the digital dilemma facing newspapers, and here's a link to our policy.
Given the approach we're taking, what other steps might we take to enhance the online conversation?
I don't know who your email sympathizer is, Chris, but I sure echo his/her sentiments!But to answer you question - or at least to pontificate on it since I don't have *the* answer...I believe anonymity has a lot to do with it. We all have at least a smidgen of Monday morning quarterback in us and that tendency toward "I woulda done...." 20/20 hindsight makes it exponentially worse when coupled with "no one knows who I am."Granted there's the occasional story I would have headlined or reported differently or I might have prioritized articles differently on some days but frankly, if I were you and/or some of your reporters I'm afraid I'd be looking at network logs and IP addresses and arranging a "chance" meeting or two.Ernie