Thursday, January 26, 2006

How To Handle An Instalanche: Responding to Old AudienceThink

Well, with much thanks to Glenn "Comments? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Comments!" Reynolds, I expreienced a little shitstorm over here. And if the Washington Post is interested in how an individual handles a shitstorm, the Editors and Omsbudspersons and Pundits and Image Spinners can come over and take a look and read the rest of this essay....

There was no moderation of comments. There was no deletion. There was no re-writing. Why? Because the majority of the comments were from anonymous, non-blogger sources. My interest in the blogosphere is in conversation with other bloggers and non-blogger individuals willing to be as transparent as myself--not with people who do not blog and do not identify themselves when they leave comments. Blogging is about peer-to-peer communication, not about anonymously screaming at the blogger. If ya think about it, anonymous comments are kind of like screaming at the TV. Anonymous comments are an Old Audience response to Old Media. If you are anonymous to me, I am only a one-dimensional, flat-screen celebrity to you. And there is no rule that says a celebrity blogger must respond to anonymous non-blogger comments. Celebrities don't respond to heckling, do they?

So, for the better part of the blogoshpere, Old Audience ways have not changed--they're anonymosly screaming at the TV. It's only in small pockets, among small groups out here in the Technorati Long Tail, where changes are taking place, where we are engaging one another. We don't get big comments because we're not as "smart" as pundits, nor that our blogs are not well written, nor that our blogs aren't creatively inflammatory enough. We're simply not celebrities nor personages. We're just people. We write to converse with one another. We converse with those who understand the medium, who are willing to truly and honestly engage and participate in the medium.

Most pundits don't really get blogging nor bloggers. Pundits don't really converse with people (with the minor exception of Jeff Jarvis, whose comments section isn't all that overrun and will respond to email and will speak to Average Jane bloggers at conferences) MSM likes pundits though. Pundits are just like MSM. Pundits are worried about spin and reputation and such. MSM is worried about spin and reputation and such. They can relate to one another. Neither can relate to the Long Tail because they are listening to The Audience, not Bloggers.

So, if there are some things I've learned from the shitstorm: That there really is a huge disconnect between the worlds of msm/pundit blogging and those of us who are bloggers. I learned there are a lot of fanboys and fangirls who feel the need to defend their Favorite to the death, including make personal attacks--and that most anonymous commenters are like folks who troll forums than they are like bloggers. I learned that anonymous commenting is an awful lot like yelling at the TV.

And another observation about my conclusions about Jane: We live in a soundbyte world. When I went to the Post's page to find out about the panel, I read an awful lot about the blogs and backgrounds of Jay, Jeff and Glenn. The Post made sure to inform me of the qualifications of these men beyond "blogger"--and anyone who knows anything about blogging is fully aware of who these three men, The Usual Suspects, happen to be. What did the Post tell me about Jane? That she blogs. That's it. I followed the obvious trail to her blog, the way I did when I first encountered Jay, Jeff and Glenn--because, for the same reason, I wanted to know what made her so special. By going to their blog bios, I found out a lot more about Jay, Jeff and Glenn, than I did about Jane. Modesty? But what, really, is so modest about saying one is *only* a Hollywood producer who wrote a book? Why not say one is or was a journalist or whatever one happened to be? Xeni Jardin of BoingBoing has no problem telling the world her credentials--and I can respect Xeni's opinions on media and on handling comments (and her comments on >The News Hour were spot on) because she is not suffereng some kind of false modesty--and she's been blogging a heck of a long time. So, it seems that, in the world of msm/punditblogging, a woman's credentials--as a blogger or as an intellectual/thinker-- really don't matter all that much. It's possible, for a woman, that a woman doesn't need the types and kinds of credentials equal to or better than the men. Maybe all she needs to be is photogenic--which neither three of the men happen to be (sorry guys, you're all geeks.) Think of it this way, too: if it were a man who did what Jane did to get on that panel--engage in the same kind of rhetoric--would we have read more about his background...and would he have even been considered for the panel in the first place? Maybe not. Only the Post can know for sure.

Oh, and today, comments will be moderated. One day's worth of unmoderated shitstorm/instalanche is enough for now.

**A Special Thank You To those in yesterday's comments who expressed their own dissatisfaction with Jane. My post ended up giving them a forum, too. and that was a good thing, in its own odd way. And to those special folks who, on and off blog, supported me. You guys are great!

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Bill Anderson said...

Tish, well said. I like this, I like it a lot. I think that you've hightlighted a key aspect for the larger annonymity discussion. There are situations where only the annonymous can say something true, but blogs and blogging isn't that situation.

Film School Dean said...

Tish, I think you are presumptuous to require a full bio and certificates of credentials to acknowledge the value of any writer - most especially if it is very obvious that said writer has been published (in book form or any form) and is quite obviously succeeding in the marketplace. I think you are also wrong to demand credentials and checks upon those who wish to contribute to your own work on your blog. I understand your frustration with anonymity - and I hope it provokes more understanding than you've shown in the past regarding the large-press rejection of small press and unpublished writers. After all, now it's you doing the snubbing.

Anonymous comments - whether under the name "Poor Richard" or "Deep Throat" or "Billy the Poet" are intended to provoke, not to foster the kind of dialogue you now claim is your blog's intention. Provocation is a noble reason for writing, and to deny it is to limit the utility of writing. Whether one blogs because of an irrational belief in the apocalypse, or to document one's love and hope and sex and dreams, or to bitch about middle school, or to organize and broadcast news, information, and response - all blogs are is a new style of publication, not a new means of communication. The interactive nature you so effusively praise blogging for fostering certainly exists in print, too - or have you never read Letters to the Editor?

I believe you have a severely shallow sense of composition, of communication, and of currency. It is good that you struggle to get your career off the ground, and your thoughts are longwinded, but obviously valuable to a good number of readers. You with some consistency choose to critique first and discover later, which is a serious flaw. And you prefer to ignore critics who see themselves as professional readers, not writers, since evidently readers are not yor audience (They are OldAudience, eh?).

I think with the audience you've attracted you could compose a critique of an entry in a blog such as FireDogLake and find a receptive audience. But I see you prefer to critique the author of the blog, and the authors of your comments, who are unknown to you. This will not be as well received - and is the reason for the overwhelming disinterestedness you are experiencing today. You spoke in ignorance, and refuse to acknowledge your error - you assumed too much that any woman author would proudly gloat of her bona fides, rather than let her current work speak for itself. You make error after error, and compound your own self-righteousness. And you dismiss and ignore an interested, involved, and highly literate public.

Enjoy your writing, and good luck in your forthcoming work.

spcoon said...

well, you followed up yesterday's mess-o-topia with a brilliant response. you're now guaranteed to be excluded from future WaPo panels ;-)

Planet B said...

whatever. anyone that thinks people should attach their names to everything they say on the internet hasn't been paying attention to BushCo's love of total information awareness.

I've got an internet ID, easily traced to my real name, but there's no reason you should need it to engage in a conversation.

Tish Grier said...

bill and sean

I love you guys! you get it!



interesting lengthy comment A few retorts:

First, dismiss and ignore an interested, involved, and highly literate public.

Did you, by any chance read the comments on yesterday's entry? You would see that many were neither interested, involved, nor highly literate. That's why the Post, and FoxNews Sports, and a few other news outlets went so far as to shut off their comments at one time or another. I didn't shut mine off.

As businesses, they have a reason for mea culpas--customer service. Shutting off comments caused the mea culpas, not their opinions. Mea culpas aren't necessary here. I didn't shut off comments--and I'm not minding a profit margin.

Also, as a veteran of on-line forums, I have a bit of a sense of some of those kinds of comments--and that they only happen when the individuals can be anonymous. Why they happen, and in the vernacular in which they happen, is to feed some sort of "jones"--a thriving on negativity. Some "issue" within themselves, projected on to me. Several of the commenters didn't even bother to notice that I never said anything about myself being on the panel. Nope. not me. Not at that point yet.

And, magically, with moderated comments, the trolls disappeared today. When the comment cannot magically appear, and meet the emotional jones, it just ain't fun anymore. Like giving a hard core heroin addict a cup of methadone...

And that's the mentality, my dear friend. For many, it's not as high minded as you think.

Second: as to Hamsher's writer credentials. Writers have editors. Writers, esp. those of memoior, and often those of Hollywood memoir, have ghost writers. You can't deny this about the writing process, esp. if you have ever published on that level. If you have, you know the process. You can be babied thru the writing of a book, and corrected every step of the way. I won't say this is what happened with Hamsher's book, but neither can you deny at least the existence of an editor. And, perhaps, several readers for moral support...

Third, it is not much to ask the credentials of a writer who is on a panel when the credentials of the other members are adequately displayed (and didn't need to be). Parity, my friend, parity. Further, success in the marketplace is often the measure of celebrity--often not what you know but who you know. Remember the term "networking?" It is alive and well and very important in today's marketplace--even in the blogosphere (esp. the celebrety blogosphere).

As for "overwhelming disinterest"--well, that's part of the "Instalanche"....see Eric Sheie's explanation of how it works. This is a phenomenon not exclusive to the Instalanche, but also to Slashdotting and "blogswarm". It's life in the blogosphere. There's a swarm, then it dies. You get *some* readers--because the majority aren't looking for good content, but for celebrity and attack, for their own 5 seconds of infamy, nothing more.

To address all blogs are is a new style of publication, not a new means of communication...well, attend a couple of blogging conferences and you will hear a rhetoric that disputes this. What blogging is or isn't is often contingent on who intends to use it.

So, FSD, while you may be quite brilliant, and you have your own blog, there are things about the blogosphere that do not correlate to the world you are talking about. If you want to better understand the blogosphere, and some of the quirks of social media, spend some time on forums, post to other bloggers comment pages, link to some bloggers and get some links, then shell out the cash to hit a few blogging conferences. It will be like taking a course in college. You will, I guarantee, learn a lot. Trust me. It will change your thinking.

Tish Grier said...

hmmm...why is it that men always want a woman to apologize to someone when she's spoken her mind? This is an old, old pattern of intimidation, and it just doesn't work on me.

Planet B said...

interesting. i posted a comment which, though not angry or uncivil, disagreed with you much as film school dean... yet it didn't make this page.

maybe you have more in common with Instadunderhead than you think.

Tish Grier said...

Gee, now I see the problem with comment moderation...

#1 email can be slow and

#2 I've got a life and I'm not in front of my computer all day...

wow...guess the latter's kind of a novel concept for some folks.

Tish Grier said...

One quick comment to P.B. I don't really worry all that much about what I say/do on blogs. Blogs are not like telephone conversations--as a lecture at Harvard that I attended clarified for me. And there is *just* *so* *far* Bush can go before something happens. After all, FDR was only allowed to interr the Japanese in WWII, not gas them...

I am, though, concerned about the Attorney General's very broad definition of "obscenity" and the recent stuff with turning over search records. That, though, is a different legal issue from both wiretapping and reading blogs. Still, the "obscenity" definition, and the subterfuge that is being promulgated in the name of stopping child porn is highly disturbing.

Anonymous said...

Sweet Jesus. What’s going on? I’ve been lurking here for a few months. Use to be like exploring the North Pole, felt all-alone. Blam-O! Now there’s traffic lights, helicopters and a developer in a wetland puddle. Christ, I had to read for hours to get caught-up.

Being anonymous AND blogless, I’m scum. Sure, I’m low, but not as low as the caste with Internet dudes writing about their anonymously large equipment. Let me in.

I got something to say. “I got nowhere else to go!” (On my knees. Squinting. Like Richard Gere, only I’m female.) If you are still with me, you might be wondering does she have a point? Yes, yes I do. Hang on. I want to write about Internet Anonymity versus being an Identifiable Person. But before I go any further I’d like to offer Trish a helpful hint.

Trish, in the future if you don’t know someone, do what I do. Pretend they are the Governor of Wisconsin. Sure he/she might be somebody important (yea in Wisconsin), but if you’re not in Wisconsin how the hell are you supposed to know who they are? Really? And if it makes you feel any better, I didn’t know who Jane Hamish was and Glenn and Jay Whatstheirfaces. What can I say? The kids play hundreds of basketball games in a week. And they gotta eat. (They eat a lot.) Boss keeps giving me work, too. I’m busy god damnit.

Fine. Here’s my point “Who cares if someone is anonymous or not?” I could make-up an Internet character, create a cozy blog and throw-in a pilfered photo and you wouldn’t be the wiser, would you? We got plenty of fake yackety-yak pontificating and discoursing all over the place. The Internet allows people to say what they really think. Don’t you want to know what people really think? I do.

Re: Blogging as “peer-to-peer” communication. Not really. Why would there any obligation to chat, on the part of either party?

P.S. Even though you use your real name / location you’re still anonymous to all the people you’re sending fan mail to…