And Who Can Blame Her for Cutting Off Comments…

Damn. It’s been a long day, some of my sites got hacked, a car didn’t start, and … well, you know how that goes. You have those days too. This will go up tomorrow morning but I’m mad as hell tonight, while writing it.

Just look at this picture:

What a damned shame. Who can blame her for shutting off comments? I don’t. I do blame the people who have about the same contribution to thought, writing, or culture as slash and burn vandals.

So here’s what happened:

I was settling in after dinner, checking some of my favorite sites, and I ran into Jolie O’Dell’s well researched, thoughtful women in tech: a realistic look at the numbers. This is an important subject, and she’s obviously done some real work digging into it. Like a journalist, I might add. I’ve been trying to cover this myself too, but she went beyond opinion, into some real numbers. It’s an excellent post.

I went to the comments, and WHAM, no comments. That’s disappointing. Then I discovered this, also by Jolie, a few days earlier: The Commenting Free for All is Over. At one point she says:

For the hundreds of nasty insults I’ve had to wade through, delete, or publish at my own peril, there have been only a handful of insightful comments that actually contribute to the conversation. In between the great comments and the crap ones, there are a sea of “me too” or “good for you” notes that, while encouraging, don’t necessarily justify having a comments section open to all.

You read a blog post, well written, well researched, and serious; and you get to the comments and welcome to real world ugly. Why is it that the gender inequality issues seem to heighten the stupidity underneath? Is that just me, or have you seen the same thing? And do I get the impression that this kind of trashing things behavior increases when the author’s a woman?

(Image credit: it was posted on Jolie O’Dell’s blog. You can click here for the original).

9 thoughts on “And Who Can Blame Her for Cutting Off Comments…

  1. Hi Tim,

    They’re out there for sure but the real question is… who benefits?

    Do your readers benefit if you close comments?

    Do you benefit if you close comments?

    In either case I feel you lose more than you gain, which is blocking off the nutters who want to drag you down. I get these types on my blog too and closing comments wont help. They’ll email you as well!

    I try to see it as a backhand compliment. Not sure if you have that expression in the US but it means the fact that you’re getting flak is actually because you’re doing something right.

    Ivan

    1. Ivan, yes, we do have backhanded compliments in the US, and I see what you mean. And I completely agree with you for a blog like this one, say, where my comment flow is just enough to make it interesting to me and not nearly enough to weigh me down, so I moderate comments, meaning I had to approve yours, for example, before it appears. I don’t mind not approving comments that don’t add anything to anybody, which is what I do for this blog. So that’s fine.

      But in her case, thoughtful post after thoughtful post inspires a stream of venomous name calling and worse. I don’t blame her for giving up on it, and even for having some residual anger. Is this because she’s relatively well known for her role on Mashable, perhaps, in combination with something else that triggers all this? I don’t know. And I wonder why Jolie O’Dell doesn’t just not approve ugly stupid comments.

      I do have a lot of anger myself for the people who use the anonymity of the web to drag us all down. This is the best thing humankind ever did to connect us all, me corresponding with you on a gray Oregon morning with you having left me this from wherever you are, and some people use it as a target, with their spam and their spuming. So I was angry when I wrote this post.

      Thanks for adding to it,

      Tim

  2. Hi Tim,

    “Does this kind of trashing things behavior increases when the author’s a woman?” is an interesting question. I’m not sure the answer, because I’ve seen both women and men attacked by the “online mob.”

    Clearly, gender inequality is one of those issues that seems to bring out the nastiest, most insecure people to trash talk. And what’s happened to Jolie O’Dell makes me really angry too. But I’m not sure closing off comments is the solution (it’s like trying to cap a powderkeg).

    Why write about tough topics if you don’t want to generate discussion? The problem with cutting off debate is that you’re left with your fishbowl, and that never leads to solutions. So I’d agree with you: maybe filtering out the filth and keeping measured comments pro and con might be a better long-term solution.

    More broadly, we need to call out cyber-bullying for what it is more often. If we call out people as cyber-bullies, some might think twice about the wisdom of the mob.

    Best,
    Daria

  3. Hey Tim,

    You’re right. I wrote about this same thing yesterday on Business Insider. You probably heard, but this happened to a woman Michelle Greer on TechCrunch.

    http://www.businessinsider.com/one-womans-challenge-to-michael-arrington-2010-8

    It doesn’t only happen MORE when women write, but it also happens in ways that are very sexually harrassing. You can’t put a picture of yourself up without someone writing about your looks. It’s really terrible and even if your thoughts are well versed and researched, the lame-o trolls can’t get past a woman’s name and appearance.

    1. Alyson, thanks, I’d missed your post on BI, my bad because it would have made a great second example of the same thing.

      Daria, yes, I am seriously suggesting that the trashing ugly comments are more likely to happen when the author’s a woman. I did see some discussion around the reversed gender roles related to Pete Cashmore of Mashable, who was apparently subjected to some off-topic stuff about his looks, but it feels to me like this is yet another issue where women in business have it tougher than men. Yes, I think you’re right, it is bullying, and it is also mob behavior. And it’s made worse by impact on anonymity, which seems to make some people meaner, and dumber, than otherwise.

      I’d agree with you about cutting off debate, except maybe we make a special case of it when what was supposed to be debate has become drooling and catcalls, and the author of the post has to put up with it. Even though comment moderation theoretically solves the problem, when it’s like sifting the sewer, I can sympathize with the decision that it’s just too hard to take. One or two of every 10 is an idiot, I could deal with it. But if it’s only 1 or 2 useful comments for every 10, let it go.

      Thanks for the additions,

      Tim

  4. Hey Tim, and thanks for the post!

    The only thing I’d add, especially with regard to Daria’s comment, is that I’m not cutting off the conversation — far from it! I am encouraging people to write blog posts of their own (in those words, at the end of every post where comments are turned off).

    In my mind, when you have to take the time to write something original and well-thought-out, you’re not as likely to write the typical “biotch you suck lol” comment. You’re probably going to contribute MORE to the intelligent conversation/debate, actually. I really welcome disagreement, but I don’t tolerate insults anymore. I’ve been blogging for ten years, and I’ve recently realized that my personal blog isn’t a public utility in that regard. =)

    1. Jolie, so glad to see you here, and I think that quote — “I really welcome disagreement, but I don’t tolerate insults” — is golden.

      And there’s another important point here, too. What’s wrong with writing to write, to share, and then publishing? Thoughts, dreams, opinions, research, tips, whatever … writing and sharing is valid for what it is, and doesn’t carry with it the obligation to provide a forum for comments. Sure, comments are usually an addition, but not always; and like you say, you’re not a public utility in that regard. Let them be insulting on their own space!

      Keep writing. Tim

  5. We are tripping over each other now. Social issues become the ‘media’s fault’, and the ‘issue’ becomes a truncated hijacking along the roadway of civil discourse; particularly among faux-cleverist-would-be-civilian-disobedient-types. Forget the trashing of ‘the King’s English’ (and I’m one of the worst, albeit for playful reasons), WE ARE DUMB! Our being DUMBED-DOWN has succeeded! Many among us think we are just great little storytellers — topical journalists — do we not? Especially if all of our exhortations (snorts really) are contained within four letters and/or the 120 characters of ‘tweet-world’. Get a brain linguists…or go back to SCOOL! Phonetically that would be best for ALL of US! YOU are playing YOUR radio too loud @ 3 o’clock in the morning! Mrs. Sigliano, my English teacher, MHS ’63, would not be proud of this mess! There! Their! They’re! But I digress … kr

  6. This is the very reason that Tumblr doesn’t have a built in commenting system. The idea is that if you want to comment on someone elses post you should have to reblog it to your own blog and therefore be accountable for your words. You’re far less likely to say something stupid if it is archived forevermore on your personal or business blog.

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