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A Few Harriet Statistics

By Catherine Halley
How the Air Force Handles Blog Wars

How the Air Force Handles Blog Wars

Ten years ago, I ran a site for teenage girls with over 4 million registered users. We had at least a million teenage girls posting on our discussion boards, especially the poetry board. Every once in a while, we’d have to “bozo” one of the mean girl commenters, which meant she could keep on posting till she was blue in the face, but she was the only person who saw her posts.

For a minute there, when the Harriet comments section resembled a roller derby, we thought about bozo-ing a few of you. Instead, we thought we’d share a few Harriet statistics and pose a question.

Harriet accounts for about 3% of poetryfoundation.org traffic. Guess what gets the most traffic by a long shot? Love poetry. More on that in another post.

Here in our little Harriet pond, we had 39 blog posts in the month of March, which generated about 829 comments. About 30% of those comments where generated by just three people. We don’t have hard data for how many people are on Harriet each month, but it’s certainly more than three. Yet too often, it seems, the comments section devolves into a spitting contest between a small handful of people.

We’d love to hear what a conversation between a larger group of poetry lovers would sound like. To that end, we’re going to be experimenting with the format of the comments section in the coming weeks. In the meantime, if you have ideas for how to open up the discussion here, please feel free to share them.

Comments (161)

  • On April 24, 2009 at 3:10 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    A maximum of two, maybe three, comments per person per day?

    I am all for more authorial experiment in poetry and criticism, but I’ve never used an alias, myself, when posting in an online discussion forum. Not quite sure how to put my finger on it, and I could be wrong, but “avatars” don’t really seem to work well in the comments-box medium (and only talking about this medium).

    Kent

  • On April 24, 2009 at 3:19 pm Catherine Halley wrote:

    Maybe all comments should be anonymous!

  • On April 24, 2009 at 3:29 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    I believe therehsould eb a disclaimer at the top of eevry thread indicating to the posters that not every will agree with them and that everyone has an opinion. It should also be noted somewhere in theer that this is not the Boys or Girls Club and we don’t all have to hold hands when we jump into the genetic pool.

  • On April 24, 2009 at 3:30 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    I also believe I should learn to type better.

  • On April 24, 2009 at 3:31 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    A modest proposal : each potential commenter should be required to visit the “love poetry” site before commenting. “Make love, not irrelevant snide remarks.”

    (p.s. I hope I’m not one of those top 3. I confess, I have a comment-addiction – otherwise known as “the love that dare not stop speaking its name”).

  • On April 24, 2009 at 3:46 pm michael robbins wrote:

    I’d actually like to see a return to comment moderation. This is getting ridiculous, & is actively keeping me from bothering with Harriet. Who wants to visit a nut farm? I’ve done my share of screaming, which I’m not proud of, but it’s been off the charts lately.

  • On April 24, 2009 at 5:31 pm Iain wrote:

    I would like to see the comment system totally revamped. Possibly, this idea is larger than what the Harriet comment section needs.

    There are ways to allow a greater amount of comments with much less of the feeling of clutter. On Harriet (and most blog comment sections), it starts to feel cluttered very quickly. It’s hard to keep track of single conversations, and know who’s replying to whom. Also, it’s a hassle to return to Harriet any time you’re wondering if someone has responded yet.

    Take a look at this comment section on Reddit. It’s able to maintain a clean look with hundreds of comments. Also, notice that any tree is collapsible if you find any particular conversation string a nuisance. Also, users receive notification if any of their comments are responded to, even if the comment was posted months ago.

    Another thing to consider is that I think the blog has to make a choice between having a clean comment section with a few well-thought-out comments per post (like it seems like Michael Robbins would prefer) and actually having a comment section that fosters real discussion. I really think it’d be difficult to have both. And honestly, waiting until later that day to have your comment posted is a real turn off. I end up not commenting most of the time because of how sluggish the conversations tend to be. This may be what is wanted though, but there’s my opinion anyway.

    Perhaps what I really want is a decent poetry forum. There really hasn’t been anything good of that sort available yet. The Internet is my only space for talking about poetry, so I really feel the absence of a place where decent real-time discussion can happen.

  • On April 24, 2009 at 6:20 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    It’s always just a few bad apples that spoil the barrel.

    Go with ‘bozo-ing’. What works, works.

  • On April 24, 2009 at 6:23 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    P.S. You should also limit posts to less than a million words. :-)

  • On April 24, 2009 at 6:57 pm Galen wrote:

    I sincerely doubt that moderation will engender any new visitors. Isn’t that the point of Catherine’s post? Having women join the gang!? This will sound snittier than it’s meant to be, but, since so few people visit Harriet–why bother? Let the boys have their fun. Let Michael & Kent Michael their Kents. They dig their own voices! And that’s cool. Really–I mean that. And, the girls know where the good poetry-talk is. On a personal note–I prefer real blogs. You know? I loved Daisy Fried’s post and Lavinia Greenlaw’s posts and Patricia Smith’s posts and Jeff McDaniel’s posts–y’now?–real blogs–not essays that FEEL like they were written and rewritten and rejected by the HUDSON REVIEW and then… yeah, posted here. But, that’s just me. Off to BLANK (shh) where the real po-talk goes down (sorry guys).

  • On April 24, 2009 at 7:17 pm thomas brady wrote:

    Hi everyone,

    I’m perfectly happy with the way things are.

    Maybe it was a pure coincidence, but I noticed a great spike in comments as soon as I began writing here in earnest.

    I don’t think you’ll have any more 300 + threads (like Annie’s Plath thread) if I go away.

    This will probably solve what some people see as a problem. Just tell me, and I’ll bow out. I have another identity at another site where they always leave the light on for me, so it’s no big deal for me.

    I’m sorry I played a large part in turning this place into a zoo.

    I was raised in a big family growing up in a small apartment in NYC, and I thrive in loud, busy environments with everyone sharing messy rooms and brothers and sisters teasing each other. I try to see everyone as a brother or a sister who I can sock in the arm every now and then. I even feel a kind of brotherly affection for Jack Conway. I guess that’s pretty weird, but that’s just how I am.

    Anyway, just as an experiment, if it would help, I can leave.

    What do you all think?

    Thomas

  • On April 24, 2009 at 7:18 pm Travis Nichols wrote:

    Thanks for the Reddit link, Iain, and the thoughtful input. I’ve been perusing these two

    http://www.dailytech.com/

    &

    http://slashdot.org/

    To comment on those sites, you have to log in, and then you have the option of commenting, as well as “rating” the other comments. Comments with an average rating lower than “1″ get collapsed. Seems like a good way to handle the tangents, and the personal attacks. Though I’m not totally sure more people wouldn’t find the personal attacks more “useful” than the rest . . .

    As for personal moderation (never to be relied upon!), I always find it helpful to take a step away from the computer when I feel that urge to type out a comment. I walk around a bit, take some deep breaths, then come back with the hopes that I’ll refrain from indulging myself, and others, with knee-jerk reactions and name-calling. (I’ve done this twice today already. Net result: one comment, no names-called).

    I’d be interested to know other sites that seem to handle comment threads in interesting ways. Ideas?

  • On April 24, 2009 at 7:28 pm Colin Ward wrote:

    This promises to be an interesting discussion, Catherine. Thank you for starting it.

    The time-honored practice of killfiling is a simple alternative. Software allows you to click on the offender’s name, select “killfile” and the troll’s “contributions” won’t appear on your screen again (until you unkillfile them, at least).

    In the last decade or so killfiling has become more refined. On some forums everyone can rate individual posts from, say, 1 to 10. The provides more than just feedback. Members can set their preferences to exclude anything from a member whose average post is rated–by that member or the group–below a certain threshold.

    One might also encounter “Nixon Chime” (i.e. “nichts and chime”) buttons that tally the votes of everyone who simply disagrees or agrees with a post, thus sparing a bunch of short, pointless “me-too” or confrontational “F.U.” retorts.

    Any method will require membership and login, but that’s no hardship. Take a look at the packages that other poetry workshop/discussion sites use: Discus, VBulletin and the free and familiar phpBB.

    In any event, I’d like to see the Preview option back, if not an Edit one as well.

    Best regards,

    Colin

    P.S.: Kent, I wonder if the word you’re looking for is “sockpuppet” (i.e. additional accounts/usernames, sometimes used by trolls to agree with themselves). An avatar is a picture/icon, often appearing with the poster’s username.

  • On April 24, 2009 at 7:30 pm Grant wrote:

    I greatly enjoy your blog. I avoid comments sections by and large on all blogs that evoke ‘controversy’ because of the name calling, snide, oh so clever rejoinders and so forth.

    There could be some real and interesting discussion. After reading this post I went back and skimmed the comments on a previous post, Annie Finch and a Simone Weil quote. I thought the quote was interesting; wrote in my journal for further reflection. I’m not sure how it applies to poetics, but to moral behavior, yes.

    Asking people to stay on topic? Finch raises some interesting questions, and I would have liked to have read others’ thoughts on it, but there is very little on the substance of the Weil material and Finch’s request.

    How about have an announced moderator for some of the blog posts? Not all of them…that would be prohibitive and exhausting. But someone who is willing to function in the same manner as a moderator on a panel in front of an audience for posts where you seek substantive exploration of a topic. Moderator could redirect, draw out salient comments, and if needed declare that when people veer off in irrelevant directions, that the posts be removed…or I know, marked as having been sent to a second comments section, ‘the slush pile,’ so folks can follow tangents and name calling and chest thumping into the irrelevancies they are creating.

  • On April 24, 2009 at 7:39 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    One caveat, though. The contentious exchanges are what really bring ‘em in. Harriet is actually becoming quite popular for (to quote Silliman) a “Quietist” site. If you decide to be ‘strict and prim’ garden variety bland, you could end up dying on the vine. It may actually be more beneficial to keep the radical and dramatic posters around, expletives, ad hominem and all, just for the sake of exposure and publicity. Maybe people will figure out that the so-called ‘SoQ’ isn’t really all that quiet, after all.

    It’s only poetry, folks. There’s a big difference between calling someone an idiot because they’re a Republican or a Democrat, a liberal or a conservative, and calling them that because they prefer Ashbery and Merwin to Dickinson and Poe.

    Besides, I think the knock-down, drag-outs are the real fun. If you want to ‘stay on topic’, enroll in a College course on poetry or go to a seminar. I think most of your followers are way beyond that.

  • On April 24, 2009 at 8:00 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    My, the chauvinists, sexists and Stalinist censors are really crawling out of the woodwork now, aren’t they.

    Surely they can’t actually be poets.

  • On April 24, 2009 at 8:45 pm Travis Nichols wrote:

    Couple of quick things: though it’s only %3 of the total, it’s still a couple thousand a day. Which is pretty good. And numbers aside, I personally find I find a lot of useful information and discussion here, so I (oh dear) actually care about the commenters and the comments! Not cool! Sorry, Galen!

    Also: Thomas, for what it’s worth I think you can stay or go as you please. The issue is larger than any individual commenter. Anyone who has spent time here knows that every couple of months someone comes along, takes up a lot of space, types voluminously, makes great points, makes not so great points, and then fades away while someone else takes up space, types, makes points, fades, etc. I appreciate you being here, but it’s an ecosystem and you’re just a part of it as much as Annie, Jason, Michael, Kent, Former Berkeley Girl, Bill Knott, me, Don, Dr. Maxi, etc.

    As well, Harriet responds with modifications periodically. Emily Warn posted about the comments a few months ago and tried some changes, as she had done in the past, and as Harriet will surely continue to do in the future. It’s an ongoing, imperfect thing, as it’s likely to stay. But I think it’s worth looking into, worth working on, and also fun to see how other sites handle the interface–and how the “community” reacts to the different ideas.

    Alright. Now=the springtime and outdoors.

  • On April 24, 2009 at 8:51 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    There’s also the Khulinikkov Egg-White Method for pre-testing blog comment content. This was designed & tested by Jules and Julietta Khulinnikov-Khilunnikov, in 1938, on something they called a Poetry-Mathematical Technology Mechanism (PMTM), during their brief residence (between prison tours) at the Bukhara Soviet Technical Institute.

    The EWM (Egg-White Method), in a nutshell, involves smearing egg-white from select free-range chickens over a mimeograph facsimile of each potential comment to an authorized essay, article, “post”, epistle, sermon, lecture, speech, decree, Bull, or similar scripted missive. Text (text) is then placed on or about 3.5″ above a blue-gold paraffin flame, for .04 seconds. A voodoo doll of Kent Johnson, Gabriel Gudding, Henry Gould, &/or Charles Bernstein is then situated beneath the said text, which has been folded (by means of top-grade origami) into a replica of the Chinese “Chun-Wha”, or Dragon King (famous for his mythical absolute certainty with regard to official Dynastic censorship deeds).

    You can just imagine what happens next.

    I’m sure this will improve the “visitor count” by approx. 146.5%, and the internet visiblity ratio by a comparable factor of 6.

  • On April 24, 2009 at 9:53 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    Tommy, the check is in the mail. Yikes I hope Don Share doesn’t check your IP address and find out you’re me or I’m you. Next stop: wtich trials, the burning of heretics and House UnAmerican Poetry hearings. lol.

  • On April 24, 2009 at 9:56 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    I do want to know when I get my secret decoder ring for the club.

  • On April 24, 2009 at 11:40 pm Michael J wrote:

    Ask posters to include their mailing address during a mass registration. Proceed to mail explosive bracelets to posters. Sync said bracelets with their online identity. Warn them once if things resort to name-calling. Twice receives a shock. Third time, a stronger shock. Fourth explodes the bracelets.

    This is graphic, yes.

    Other solution? Leave everything be. If the only people annoyed are the thread starters, this is, perhaps, negligible. If their thread doesn’t start much discussion, heated, or objective, then the topic wasn’t of much interest, I guess.

    I prefer heated discussions, even a little name-calling (as I do not resort to name calling, and I cannot forcefully moderate another person. They must chose to moderate themselves).

  • On April 24, 2009 at 11:42 pm Michael J wrote:

    Hmm… I prefer heated discussions to “I don’t wanna talk about this” type discussions, where nothing is accomplished, nor has the chance to be accomplished via understanding. All discussions have the same capacity for not accomplishing much, but pure silence carries the lowest percentage.

  • On April 25, 2009 at 3:50 am Margo Berdeshevsky wrote:

    Yes, boy-bashing/pissing-matches seem to have taken hold again. one starts to feel it’s not really worth participating at this point, when that’s the tenor.

    Ther’s a fine piece in the NY Times on The Pursuit of happiness:
    http://kalman.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/04/23/may-it-please-the-court/?8ty&emc=ty

    That piece happens to include a comment re …”if a man severs the nose of another man, he must pay him two-thirds of a mina of silver…” etc. A pertinent article to a question of laws and what is “enough” — (tho’, my personal warning: the editorial’s slam, toward the end, against a protest agin circumcision – one way, of many, in our society, in which boy-bashing aggression may well be perpetuated–is a bit of a turn-off.)

    Sigh.Yet, whatever the rationale–crowding the Harriet spaces with jockey-ings for position and one-ups-man-ship is also a turn-off. If Harriet needs to join the ‘numbers’ games – let it go on reality tv. Otherwise, back to poetry, and maybe more minimalism.

    respectfully,
    Margo Berdeshevsky .

  • On April 25, 2009 at 8:39 am thomas brady wrote:

    Thanks for the vote of support, Travis!

    So I guess I’m just another worm in the eco-system.

    Rats.

    Anyhoo…

    I sometimes wish those who look at threads and say, ‘no substance’ or it’s only a ‘pissing-match’ would contribute a comment of substance themselves?

    To steer the discussion back to a discussion of ‘substance?’

    Just…once?

    But it never seems to happen.

    I suppose we could all just follow this rule:

    NEVER SAY WHAT YOU REALLY FEEL ON A BLOG, EVER.

  • On April 25, 2009 at 9:45 am Marty Elwell wrote:

    I read Harriet just about every day, but I only comment every once in a great while. I agree that the format of the comment section as is works fairly well. It seems like a lot of the discussion here is triggered by the post itself, which is a good thing. However, it is often because the person posting includes direct/definitive controversial statements that are meant to insight discussion. Which is sometimes also a good thing. Perhaps the mood here could be lightened and shifted away from a battle between a few people by changing the format of some of the posts. This would probably help some of the folks posting as well, as there are often posts about how hard it is to come up with a topic.

    What about more preplanned posts/series of posts surrounding trends, books, topics, etc… These could be announced in advance given those of us who perhaps are not familiar with a topic a chance to brush up. Also, bloggers could pose more open ended questions to get the discussion going.

    Personally, I use this board as a place to learn about what’s going on, what’s new, what’s interesting, what’s controversial, etc… There are a select few who can comment on that wide of a range of topics off the cuff without sounding uninformed. I would comment much more frequently if this were more of an open forum.

  • On April 25, 2009 at 4:35 pm Terreson wrote:

    Interesting discussion. Good luck, Harriet people, in finding the solution. As I see it the problem is as general as a Joycean snow fall in Ireland.

    Terreson

  • On April 25, 2009 at 5:50 pm mearl wrote:

    Cathy,

    I love the Air Force diagram, especially the way it explains the roller derby haikus. Sly and incredibly effective, evidenced in the heart-throbbing thread that follows. (I admit, I was a little slow on the uptake and didn’t at first see the connection.) I especially love Terreson’s mention of Joyce in this last comment. A paraphrase of one of the great sentences in twentieth century prose. And there are so many excellent suggestions above, some of them half-cracked, but whatever… Sometimes I think this is an issue of enthusiasm run amok, more than anything else. Someone mentioned the charge of “quietism” made against Harriet, emanating out of the labyrinth of Silliman’s operation. Of course I couldn’t find it when I went looking for it on the S-blog. I have problems filling in tax forms as well. But Silliman’s blog looks like an Erector Set (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erector_set ….just in case) compared with Harriet’s house of cards. I’d say we’re more or less on the right track.

    My provisional suggestion, as far as the issue at hand in concerned, is that no regulations be put in place formally. And that we leave it up to the individual bloggers to attempt to shape their threads and try to lead them in interesting directions.

    Is that Air Force thing for real?

    Martin

  • On April 25, 2009 at 6:10 pm michael robbins wrote:

    Everybody has formal regulations in place; depends what use they’re put to. Some people use them to prevent disagreement from a party line; that’s an abuse, in my view. But if someone started posting death threats on Harriet, that person would quickly be banned, I imagine. That’s a formal regulation, & a sensible one.

    If a person consistently disrupts workshops or conferences by insulting all the other members, calling them “childish” & “stupid,” bragging about his own limited accomplishments, & making the experience unproductive & entirely unpleasant for everyone, that person will politely be asked to change his behavior to accord with general norms of civility & intellectual camaraderie. If that person persists – especially if that person has a history of similar behavior in other forums – that person will probably be asked not to participate any more. I don’t see why a blog should be any different. Some people are incapable of behaving like adults, so they lose out on what could be a meaningful & mutually productive enterprise. Too bad, but their problem, not ours.

  • On April 25, 2009 at 6:44 pm thomas brady wrote:

    Bah. “The Dead” is sentimental tripe.

    Far more pertinent to our discussion is Edgar Poe’s masterpiece, “The Masque of the Red Death.”

    As Harriet ponders how to maintain peace within its massy walls, I give you Poe with a few cunning substitutions:

    Jack Conway had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Rudeness was its Avatar and its seal — the rudeness and the horror of bad blood. There were sharp comments, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse shouting at the screen, with dissolution. Insults were the pest ban which shut him out from the aid and from the sympathy of his fellow-men. And the whole seizure, progress and termination of the disease, were the incidents of half an hour.

    But Harriet was happy and dauntless and sagacious. When her dominions were half depopulated, she summoned to her presence a thousand hale and light-hearted friends from among the poets and critics of her court, and with these retired to the deep seclusion of one of her castellated abbeys. This was an extensive and magnificent website, the creation of Harriet’s own eccentric yet august taste. A strong and lofty wall girdled it in. This wall had gates of iron. The poets, having entered, brought furnaces and massy hammers and welded the bolts. They resolved to leave means neither of ingress or egress to the sudden impulses of despair or of frenzy from within. The blog site was amply provisioned. With such precautions the poets might bid defiance to contagion. The external world could take care of itself. In the meantime it was folly to grieve, or to think. Harriet had provided all the appliances of pleasure. There were scholarly articles, there were links, there were ballet-dancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, there was wine. All these and security were within. Without was Jack Conway.

    ************

    And now was acknowledged the presence of Jack Conway. He had come like a thief in the night. And one by one dropped the revellers in the website of their revel, and died each in the despairing posture of his fall. And the life of the ebony clock went out with that of the last of the poets. And the flames of the tripods expired. And Darkness and Decay and the Jack Conway held illimitable dominion over all.

  • On April 25, 2009 at 7:01 pm Desmond Swords wrote:

    A normal forum where anyone can start a thread, and you would clean up.

  • On April 25, 2009 at 9:46 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    Me! Me! Me! Why does it always have to be about ME!

    “If a person consistently disrupts workshops or conferences by insulting all the other members, calling them “childish” & “stupid,” bragging about his own limited accomplishments, & making the experience unproductive & entirely unpleasant for everyone, that person will politely be asked to change his behavior to accord with general norms of civility & intellectual camaraderie. If that person persists – especially if that person has a history of similar behavior in other forums – that person will probably be asked not to participate any more. I don’t see why a blog should be any different. Some people are incapable of behaving like adults, so they lose out on what could be a meaningful & mutually productive enterprise. Too bad, but their problem, not ours.”

    Mikey, get over it will you. You must move on with your life with the full knowledge that some people (ME) don’t care what you have to say and don’t find you that interesting. Can’t you accept that? Maybe you should stick with standing in front of your students telling them how greta you are and belittling the ones who think you’re an ass.

    Move on Mikey. You are becoming redundant. And that IS your problem.

  • On April 25, 2009 at 10:16 pm Kimberly wrote:

    I read virtually every post, but in a feed through my email when I have spare time, so I might be late to the game, making a comment less relevant in general and, unless I’m REALLY interested, I don’t often wade through them to figure out if someone else has already pointed up whatever occurred to me. I’m also reading to learn and don’t often have anything to add.

    Just wanted to pipe up — not everyone who’s reading is commenting.

  • On April 26, 2009 at 12:34 am Dave wrote:

    If the comments were threaded, they’d be much more scannable: the spitting contests would then be visible as such, and other commenters could bypass them and start new conversations in response to the post.

  • On April 26, 2009 at 7:00 am thomas brady wrote:

    Sorry about the typo! The last line should read ‘Jack Conway’ not ‘the Jack Conway.’ The ‘the’ is left over from ‘the Red Death.’

  • On April 26, 2009 at 9:16 am Former Berkeley Girl wrote:

    Just to chime in here, I visit Harriet every day because it is a rich source of information and ideas about poetry. However, I have noticed that lately the dialogue on the forums has devolved significantly into sniping and grandstanding. This certainly discourages wider participation. Maybe it is just part of the cycle, as Travis states above. Still, I’ve been hoping that at least a few of the participants in the melees would stand down, thereby slowing the momentum and calming the (dare I say it?) venom of said exchanges. Ideally, in other words, I would like to see Harriet self-regulate.

    Hey, I may be a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…

    FBG

  • On April 26, 2009 at 10:50 am Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    FBG – I believe what you have just described is generally known as censorship.

    It’s ironic that you quoted John Lennon. I seriously doubt that he would be with you on this one.

    Chun-Wha, the Dragon King

  • On April 26, 2009 at 11:06 am Jack Conway wrote:

    “…I would like to see Harriet self-regulate…”

    Gary, FBG, when I initially read this, Ithought it said:

    “…to see Harriet self-MEDICATE.”

    Oh yeah (yeah, yeah, yeah) baby!

  • On April 26, 2009 at 11:09 am thomas brady wrote:

    Former Berkeley Girl,

    “I visit Harriet every day.”

    I’m glad you do.

    I create Harriet every day.

    You can, too.

    That’s the beauty of it.

    That’s sort of the point.

    “Grandstanding” –what do you mean by this, exactly? Comments you don’t agree with? Comments which are too lengthy? Comments you have no interest in? Comments in areas that are not your expertise? Comments without factual merit?

    You may correct them, if you notice factual misrepresentations. You may ignore them, and make your own comments. You may disagree with the comments and begin an interesting dialogue, perhaps. You may even ‘grandstand’ a little bit yourself, if you like. Or, write comments that non-grandstanding people will appreciate and applaud.

    You can participate in almost any way you wish, even if you don’t agree with what everybody else is doing.

    Is this a bad thing?

    Anyway, thanks for being here!

    Thomas

  • On April 26, 2009 at 11:33 am Former Berkeley Girl wrote:

    Gary,

    In this case, some *self*-censoring of, specifically, unproductive & spiteful personal attacks would be more than welcome. This is, after all, a community of sorts, and if we want actual dialogue, we would be wise to think before we post hot-headed diatribes. To this end, I heartily support Travis’s call to “step away from the computer” until the rage/sarcasm/id howl has passed. In short, let’s not fan the venom; without oxygen, it will fade.

    I like what M. Robbins said above about adhering to the “general norms of civility & intellectual camaraderie”. Otherwise, Harriet runs the risk of alienating readers & potential participants and becoming merely a self-indulgent free-for-all.

    FBG

  • On April 26, 2009 at 11:44 am Jack Conway wrote:

    …alienating readers..Take a look at the threads. What readers?The same OLD readers who decided they have a monopoly on comments. I agree with Gary and Thomas.

  • On April 26, 2009 at 12:04 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    Let’s examine the posts and comments:

    WHAT KIDS ARE READING = 4 comments.
    JIM BEHRLE, ET AL= 2 comments
    ROLLER DERBY= 6 comments
    THE WIDE… = 5 comments

    17 comments
    30 % of the comments come from either contributing or staff writers.
    Only one person (Mary) entered a thread twice.

    That I am afraid is not a community.

    If you wish Harriet to survive, it is like any other business: give the people what they want.

    Obviously that is incumbent of the contributing and staff writers to post topics that are worthwhile.

    NO ONE was sniping in any of these threads mentioned and you still couldn’t reach double digits in terms of responses.
    That should tell you something.

    Hey I have a novel idea: Replace the staff and contributing writers an et someone like Thomas Brady open a thread on Poe instead of the usual ones. SEE if that makes a difference.

    I’ll hold my breath on that one.

  • On April 26, 2009 at 12:45 pm Former Berkeley Girl wrote:

    Don’t forget:

    This post, which asserts that “too often, it seems, the comments section devolves into a spitting contest between a small handful of people”: 40 comments

    Not all responders agree with the above quote; however, a fair amount of responses to the post do demonstrate concern about the current state of the Harriet comment section. I think these could be some of our potentially alienated readers.

    FBG

  • On April 26, 2009 at 12:56 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    I don’t know who “Former Berkeley Girl” is, but here’s a thank you for the sanity.

    Really, the deluge of egomania and vitriol has reached pathological proportions.

    Kent

  • On April 26, 2009 at 1:04 pm john wrote:

    Most Americans who invoke the specter of censorship really dilute what the word means: The banning of speech by the state. Voluntary communities are voluntary; freedom includes the freedom to create and enforce voluntary community standards. If Harriet were to ban diatribes, or ban commentators who violate whatever standards that she wishes to enforce, that would not be censorship in any legal sense; it would threaten nobody’s livelihood and abrogate nobody’s freedom.

    Now, some people prefer communities of name-calling and diatribes; others don’t. In the last 40 years, there’s plenty of evidence that communities that allow members to attack each other rhetorically alienate other community members. People here have testified to that, regarding Harriet and other communities they’ve belonged to.

    I don’t understand the diatribers’ equation of volume of comments with quality of discourse. Intellectual power is not necessarily measured in numbers; might does not make right.

    My vote: Ban people who violate civility, temporarily if the person tries to make amends and agrees to try to keep things within bounds of civil discourse. Bozo-ing is deceitful; combating incivility with dishonesty would be wrong.

    Another suggestion: Host a flame room where anything goes — maybe call it “Muse of Fire”? — but enforce civility on other threads. That would accommodate different discourse preferences. The flamers could flame anybody they like, regarding any thread they want, they’d just have to keep restrict their fire to the flame room.

    I’m also intrigued by Desmond Swords’ suggestion of opening Harriet up to be a dailyKos-type community, where any registered member can initiate a thread.

  • On April 26, 2009 at 1:13 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    FBG:

    As an obsessive-compulsive who will reread a poem a thousand times just to find that one typo, I can sympathize with you. I am a manager with a large company and am frequently accused of being a ‘control freak’, a ‘nano-micro-mini manager’. I am a perfectionist.

    But Harriet’s health is our concern here and perfect is the exact opposite of what is needed. As earlier noted, we don’t want an Erector Set. Venom, in my opinion, for poets, at least, certainly trumps boring and dull. Things should be a little rough and sloppy. Don’t we all slow down and ‘rubberneck’ at a car accident? Don’t we all turn down the radio to hear what the neighbors are screaming at each other and fighting about? We’re all somewhat voyeuristic, aren’t we? Setting our moral inclinations aside, we must all admit that it’s entertaining. (TV has certainly figured that out, no?)

    Just ignore what you dislike. It’s all only about poetry, after all. Harriet is all the rage, these days. Besides, these posts fly by so fast that nobody even remembers last month’s, hell, last week’s topics. We should lighten up.

    Every “community” has its bully and its village idiot. People will easily figure out who they are.

    GBF

    (I do agree, though, that Thomas Brady should limit himself to, say, four-hundred paragraphs at a time.)

    And surely he likes SOMEBODY besides Poe! :-)

  • On April 26, 2009 at 1:39 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    And, if I may quote myself:

    “My, the chauvinists, sexists and Stalinist censors are really crawling out of the woodwork now, aren’t they.

    Surely they can’t actually be poets.”

    There is no place for the timid and fainthearted in poetry today. Even Emily would kick your asses!

  • On April 26, 2009 at 1:57 pm michael robbins wrote:

    Is that really the quote you want us to remember? Let’s see. Is curbing the narcissistic personalities on Harriet a bit in any way like Stalinist censorship? Hm. Well, there are gulags & torture rooms & death squads in store for those who are asked to be civil here, right? And their families will, as a result, be arrested & perhaps executed? So, yeah, it’s just like that.

  • On April 26, 2009 at 3:15 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    “Is that really the quote you want us to remember?”

    My goodness, how self-righteous and overblown you are. It’s only poetry, Michael.

    And, well, I guess that’s the one you’ll have to remember.

    Good luck and farewell.

    Gary

  • On April 26, 2009 at 3:33 pm Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    P.S. You should at least read my books before you criticize me. Just so you know exactly who you’re criticizing, I mean.

  • On April 26, 2009 at 4:55 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    Gary, you could always be remembered for the quote,

    “Fuck you Jack.” LOL.

    Here’s one I’m rather fond of: “I’m sorry I’m not as hot as people describe me.”

    Everytime I think of that there quote I laugh like hell. You should too.

    Well there’s two of us who’ve got that guy pegged right.

  • On April 26, 2009 at 5:00 pm thomas brady wrote:

    “I don’t know who “Former Berkeley Girl” is, but here’s a thank you for the sanity.

    Really, the deluge of egomania and vitriol has reached pathological proportions.”

    Kent,

    This is your opinion. It is not scientific, but your opinion, which you have a right to, as much as I do, certainly, but it does trouble me, and here’s why:

    Aren’t FBG and you just sniping from the sidelines, and adding vitriol yourselves?

    This, right here, is hurtful and name-calling, in my book:

    “the deluge of egomania and vitriol has reached pathological proportions.”

    What is the point of saying this, especially when you don’t cite any specifics?

    Can you point to a thread where you and FBG have been prevented from having a conversation? Where you have been shouted down, or insulted?

    Is there a thread where you guys were prevented from saying whatever you wanted to say?

    If you can’t point to examples, I’m not sure what good it does for anyone to make vague comments like yours, which are vitriolic and hurtful and also terribly rumor-spreading–precisely because they are so vague.

    If Jack, for instance, feels that Service is ‘for kids,’ and he specifically responds to someone who specifically disagreed with him on that issue in an impatient tone, OK, so you don’t get in the middle of that, you move on, or you go to another thread.

    Or, you engage Jack with specifics, and ask quesitons, as I did, not upping the ante and bashing Jack back, but just showing civility and curiosity, and what do you find? That Jack is perfectly willing to respond civilly if he is treated civilly. The beauty of this is that it’s all in writing for anyone to easily consult.

    Now, the only reason I’m am all over this example is that I really find it a thousand times worse what you and GBF are doing, since with any ‘pissing match’ that has occured on a thread or two (which did NOT get in the way of more substantial discussions, which simply continued on, if you read the actual threads) you CAN SEE, in writing, exactly what’s happening on the specific issue (which may digress a bit, but what discussion doesn’t digress a little bit).

    What you and GBF are doing, right now, right here, however, is actually far more insidious; you are 1) starting a pissing match yourself, 2) using vitriol and insulting others, and 3) doing it in a completely non-specific manner, while 4) ostensibly championing civility and community.

    Which is OK, but if I might just respond to you, in kind:

    “Sanity?” GBF is bringing “sanity” to the issue?

    Do you see what I’m saying?

    Here’s my question. Yes, there will always be misunderstandings here and there. Yes, sometimes tempers will flare in the best of us, and yes, we should sometimes get up and walk away from the screen for a while, and yes, you don’t have to like every comment.

    But my question is, WHO or WHAT is specifically preventing you or ANYONE ELSE from writing something substantive on ANY of the posts/threads which exist on Harriet, RIGHT NOW?

    Since you chose to come on THIS thread to make a highly negative remark on the entire state of things, I’m just really curious if you could respond with something a wee bit more specific.

    Thanks!

    Thomas

  • On April 26, 2009 at 5:01 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    Hear! Hear!

  • On April 26, 2009 at 5:03 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    Why am I always the example? Mike Robbins blows his stance incessantly. Couldn’t you use him for an example. Me! Me! Me! Why doesit always have to be about me? All About Jack.

  • On April 26, 2009 at 5:03 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    **stack**

  • On April 26, 2009 at 5:07 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    It has NEVER been about someone going off the rails. Anyone with half a brain can see that. It’s about WHO goes off the rails. If the clubby ones do, (they have secret poetry decoder rings and a special handshake) it’s perfectly fine. Otherwise, interlopers are stealing their place in the rather dim sun. We get it. It’s not WHAT it’s WHO. Christ this back and forth nonsense isn’t worthy of this site. You know this totally demeans Poetry with these antics. It is just crazy stuff. We get it. We get it. It’s your ball and new people came to play and you’re all in a snit. Jesus. Give us a break.

  • On April 26, 2009 at 5:17 pm thomas brady wrote:

    Sorry, Jack.

    Michael Robbins has been published in “The New Yorker.” I found this out as soon as I stepped onto Harriet, and have been reminded of it numerous times.

    It’s all grist for the mill for me, however.

    However anyone wants to express themselves here is fine with me. Everyone is different. Everyone has different talents, needs, agendas, motives…

    Can you imagine how different Pound and Eliot would be if they were on Harriet? Pound would be cussing, ranting, and we’d be entertained–as poets–because it would be Pound…

    I enjoy everyone’s unique personality, store of knowledge, experience, style…

    You know, we’re all naked, or something like that…

    Michael Robbins, good godaman for you! I wish I were published in “The New Yorker.” There. I’m glad I said that.

  • On April 26, 2009 at 5:41 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    I was published in a Norton Anthology. Does that count? Isn’t that more important than the New Yorker? I mean it will be around for decades, right. Oops. I forgot. I don’t have my secret decoder ring so maybe I shouldn’t remind anyone that I was published in the Norton. Ho-hum.

  • On April 26, 2009 at 8:00 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    Thomas,

    Since you directly ask, and as someone who has on occasions posted here more than his share (though never at your levels, which smash all records), I will say:

    You are posting way too much.

    You are an intelligent guy, obviously, and your passion for poetry is impressive. But take a deep breath and ask yourself if that passion may be slipping over in this space into a kind of megalomania, one that is both having a dampening effect on the participation of others and making fewer people, actually, *want to read* what you are saying. Not too many folks care to remain in, or enter, a discussion forum where one or two people have taken over the room in apparent throes of a consuming typomania, who deride others with ad hominem remarks, and who make (as in your case) ridiculously grandiose pronouncements about coming to “save Harriet,” and the like.

    I think you’d find that more people would read your comments if you toned down the somewhat delusional claims about your own importance and posted, say, maybe one-fourth the amount you are currently posting. I’m addressing you because you seem like a young, ambitious thinker with original and interesting things to say, and these will likely become more original and interesting once you discover a more deliberate mode; Jack Conway, whom you appear to regard as your comrade, and who seems mainly driven by the frustrations of quasi-neglect and accompanying vengeful need to more or less gratuitously insult others, is another matter, and something like a little time-out might be in order, in his case.

    I’m sorry to have to say all this, but I value this space, and it seems you aren’t aware of how utterly uncivil and bizarre the situation has become. That’s the last I’ll say on the matter. I hope you’ll reflect.

    Kent

  • On April 26, 2009 at 8:05 pm michael robbins wrote:

    O amen, brother. Co-sign, as Randy sez, 100 million percent.

  • On April 26, 2009 at 8:53 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    Kent,
    Oh another club member. And Robbins doesn’t do the same thing? Your comments Kent are hypocritical and at this point irrelevant. Singling me out won’t save your club pal.

  • On April 26, 2009 at 9:21 pm Former Berkeley Girl wrote:

    Ok, I change my vote.

    Since it is abundantly clear that at least Mr. Conway is unwilling to curb his own name-calling (to wit: “touchy-feelie granola tree hugging crowd”; “self-important toady”), I hereby second Kent’s very early suggestion to limit posts per day.

    Sincerely,

    Former Tree Hugging Granola Girl

  • On April 26, 2009 at 10:13 pm thomas brady wrote:

    Kent,

    Are you telling me I’ve got to stop hitting homeruns?

    I need to bunt you over?

    But when I hit one out of the park, you score, too!

    Kent Johnson, don’t you know how to play baseball?

    “Save Harriet?” pssst: that was a joke. The ‘home run’ thing was a joke, too. You don’t know me well and you’re missing my sense of humor, perhaps. Is that my fault? I dunno. I’ll work on that.

    There are posts which I don’t comment on at all. But those tend to run to about 4 comments. Is that what you’re aiming for here, Kent? No discussions? I thought that was the point. I’m confused. You’re obviously trying to say something, but honestly I’m just not sure what it is. You’re the good guy, and I’m not, because you post less than I do? OK, well, I’ll think about what you said and see if it makes any sense.

    Look, I understand we all have egos. Those who comment a lot have small egos, and those who rarely post have really, really big ones. The small ones go, “What? How can these people who never express themselves have these gigantic egos? How can that be?!!??” That’s just one of life’s many paradoxes. It kind of throws us all for a loop. OK, then Kent, I do hear ya. Thanks for being honest.

    Thomas

  • On April 26, 2009 at 10:15 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    Well I’ve decided this: unless people like Kent whatever and some nameless Berkley whatever stop besmirching my good name and reputation to soothe their fragile egos, I am going to write a scathing letter to Mr. Barr explaining that his Foundation or at least the on line blog version of it has publicly and with malice defamed my name.

    I will further inform him that this Kent whatever doesn’t know me from a whole in the head and yet feels comfortable making asinine judgments of me and slandering me.

    I will also inform Mr. Barr that I am ashamed of the way this blog reflects on the once prestigious Poetry magazine. I will explain that it appears that a bunch of clowns are turning his Foundation and Poetry into a shambles all in the name of making sure no one else uses THEIR little site.

    I will inform him that the reputation of Poetry, at least in my humble opinion and of course those who I know who have witnessed this constant barrage of insults hurled at me by the likes of unknown, seemingly borderline personalities, has diminished the once lofty position Poetry once held and that I find it disgraceful that he would allow this to happen or that his surrogates (Don Share) would allow and even enjoin this behavior.

    In their quest to keep their little club intact, I will further explain to Mr. Barr that as a well-published author I am investigating whether such public behavior might have any impact on my ability to engage in commerce and earn a living. That’s what I’m voting to do. And you wanna know what? One more attack using my name and I will. That is no threat but a sincere promise.

    So please if you want to act out please do so without using my name as the cause of you own sick psychosis.

  • On April 26, 2009 at 10:19 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    By the by, I’ve gathered together the insults and tanrums directed at me from some named an dunnamed source so that Icna include them in my letter.

  • On April 27, 2009 at 4:30 am Michael J wrote:

    Does anyone find it at all comical, and slightly… well, i was going to say ironic, but that isn’t the case… but isn’t it funny how a post about the very thing the moderators hope to rid this area of have appeared, as strong as ever? Maybe I change my stance on let us moderate ourselves…

  • On April 27, 2009 at 6:11 am Former Berkeley Girl wrote:

    Michael J,

    Exactly.

    FBG

  • On April 27, 2009 at 6:31 am Jack Conway wrote:

    It is sad to see Poetry become the online version of American Idol due to such hypocrits pretending they are aghast at one behavior but so ready to turn a blind eye toward any club members deviant. This place is beginning to resemble the “Whites Only” country clubs of the 1960s in its overall appearnce.

  • On April 27, 2009 at 8:54 am thomas brady wrote:

    “Does anyone find it at all comical, and slightly… well, i was going to say ironic, but that isn’t the case… but isn’t it funny how a post about the very thing the moderators hope to rid this area of have appeared, as strong as ever? Maybe I change my stance on let us moderate ourselves…”

    I’m not sure what you’re getting at, Michael J.

    How do you know what “the moderators hope to rid this area of…”?

    The moderators may be more open-minded than you know. Perhaps they realize that we ought to encourage free expression and unique individualism and people should be a little tough-skinned and conciliatory and moderate themselves in terms of behavior and not require mommies and daddies to settle all their disagreements for them.

    There are fascinating posts written by learned folk on Harriet, waiting for you, right now. The fertile valley with sunny banks and chuckling streams is before you. Discussion awaits. Unique people are waiting to talk to you and respond to you.

    As I said before, I’m perfectly happy with the way things are right now. I enjoy the freedom and the variety.

    I am free, as you are, free! Think of it! Free.

    “Rid?” What do you want to “rid” the world of, Michael J?

    Fellow-who-would-speak-for-the-moderators? “Rid?”

    Yes, “comical” and “ironic,” indeed.

  • On April 27, 2009 at 8:57 am Jack Conway wrote:

    Thomas,

    Exactly.

    JC

  • On April 27, 2009 at 9:34 am Former Berkeley Girl wrote:

    Thomas,

    While you certainly have a right to be happy with the status quo, it seems that you are willfully ignoring that others, including the Harriet staff, are not. This post was generated *precisely* because of concern about a few voices dominating the comment section. To repeat:

    “About 30% of those comments where generated by just three people. We don’t have hard data for how many people are on Harriet each month, but it’s certainly more than three. Yet too often, it seems, the comments section devolves into a spitting contest between a small handful of people.

    We’d love to hear what a conversation between a larger group of poetry lovers would sound like.”

    So, while the staff may not wish to “rid” Harriet entirely of those three participants, they are clearly expressing their desire for the current situation to change.

    FBG

  • On April 27, 2009 at 10:00 am Jack Conway wrote:

    Thomas,
    30 % of the comments are between Hariet contributing writers and staff. Once such example appeared just this morning. Incredible. I imagine those with little background in such affairs (newspaper, magazines, journals) might not realize how much in bad taste it is to engage in such things. It would be like the editor of the New York Times writing a letter to the edior praising a newspaper article that appeared in the paper and then actually publishing it. Completely inappropriate. The number of new people Harriet has been able to attract is negligible. What’s up with that?

  • On April 27, 2009 at 10:02 am Jack Conway wrote:

    **editor**

  • On April 27, 2009 at 10:06 am Former Berkeley Girl wrote:

    Hi Catherine,

    Just wanted to thank you for your original post, which I sincerely appreciated. Have you and your fellow Harriet staffers found any of the suggestions and responses here useful in terms of potential strategies for changing the status quo?

    FBG

  • On April 27, 2009 at 10:07 am Jack Conway wrote:

    Thomas, Obviously you can’t possibly have or know what “a conversation between a larger group of poetry lovers would sound like,” if you can’t attract new people or your only desire is to maintain a readership with a like mantra. This is not rocket science. It is however incredible that the obvious seems to elude certain people. It has always been my opinion that whenever people begin to cast a wide net claiming to root out the culprits who have somehow ruined their own private Idaho, it is usually a veiled attempt at masking their own inadequacies.

  • On April 27, 2009 at 10:09 am Iolanthe wrote:

    I love the poetryfoundation.org website, and have been puzzled by Harriet for some time now. The website goes out of its way to be all-encompassing, welcoming, user-friendly, and accessible to the merely poetry-curious as well as to the poetry-expert. Your podcasts are a model of friendly accessibility and, even, fun. Based on this, when I started looking for “hooks” into the Internet poetry community over the last year, I assumed Harriet would be a natural place for me to visit daily.

    How wrong I was! Day after day, I find moody, cerebral, hyper-intellecutal, and obtuse entries written by MFAs for MFAs. The comments section is clogged with more of the same, only worse in their self-referential self-absorption.

    Frankly, I think the root cause of the commenting problem that you perceive is not the commenters, but the blog itself and the sort of traffic it attracts.

  • On April 27, 2009 at 10:10 am Jack Conway wrote:

    Thomas, I think a better question the powers that be should be asking themselves is “What are WE doing wrong that WE can’t attract a wider audience and make this site flourish?” THAT would be the better question in my opinion.

  • On April 27, 2009 at 10:22 am Katy Tried wrote:

    Iolanthe, you say “cerebral” like it’s a bad thing.

    Obviously, people who write are using their brains. Why not use them to maximum capacity? I’m really asking.

  • On April 27, 2009 at 10:24 am Jack Conway wrote:

    Why for example aren’t we discussing Brave New Voices the series on HBO, that, “follow America’s brightest young talents as they strive to reach the pinnacle of slam poetry. Sharing their most personal thoughts and emotions as they face inner battles, family tragedy, and the pressures of competition, these poets use words open minds and explore possibilities.” Instead we are going to talk about what? Robert W. Service’s contributions to the world of poetry? Go figure.

  • On April 27, 2009 at 10:56 am Catherine Halley wrote:

    Hi everybody-

    I suspect I made a big mistake posting this and then leaving for vacation at my mom’s house for the weekend. I haven’t had a chance to read these comments, and won’t until tonight. Thanks to everyone for your candor and suggestions. I’ve asked my colleagues to attend to the discussion until I’m back online.

    Thanks,
    Cathy

  • On April 27, 2009 at 11:09 am thomas brady wrote:

    FBG,

    It would be a shame if we didn’t look at this “situation” scientifically, and used mere emotions, instead.

    As I said before, those like you decrying the current “situation” are doing so in an insulting manner, which is only clouding the issue further.

    I wouldn’t mind your insults, since they express how you feel, and I respect that; however it is precisely insult upon insult which will eventually convince the moderators that some kind of ‘crisis’ is at hand and ‘emergency measures’ must be taken. Therefore, you win, because less freedom results, and I lose, because I enjoy freedom. That’s my fear, and I have no qualms about making it public.

    In a scientific spirit, I think it’s important that we identify the TWO types of rancor.

    The FIRST kind of rancor grew from the so-called ‘spitting contests’ mentioned at the top of this thread.

    First: These ‘spitting contests’ centered around specific issues in poetry (for example, ‘is Robert Service for kids?) which is–and certain commentators (the very same ones who might be identified as participating in these ‘spitting contests’) valiantly and successfully attempted to make it so–a fascinating and appropriate topic, in itself, with ‘both sides’ or ‘both points of view’ defensible, based on every conceivable criterion: academic, aesthetic, historical, etc. These ‘spitting contests’ had a worthy component.

    Second: the ‘spitting contests’ were characterized by adults ‘working things out’ among themselves, and directing their comments specifically to the persons involved.

    Third: The “situation” as you call it, is not static. It is evolving. More than one participant on Harriet involved in the ‘spitting contests’ has apologized to the appropriate party. Yes, people are making friends! So the “situation” is actually improving.

    Then we have the SECOND type of ‘rancor’ which, in my opinion, is not caused by the FIRST, though it might seem so to unscientific eyes. The SECOND type of rancor makes no acknowledgement of what I have just outline above, but simply uses a ‘pile on’ strategy of rancor on top of rancor in hopes that more rancor will simply tip the scales towards ‘emergency measures’ due to a ‘crisis’ of rancor, when no such ‘crisis’ actually exists.

    Let us examine this second type of rancor, which I feel you and a few others are producing on this site.

    This SECOND type of rancor is not coming out of any poetry discussion, it is not coming out of any real conversation between specific individuals who direct their comments specifically (and thus healthily) towards each other, in ‘working out’ the arguments which will always be driven to some extent human folly and pride which ALL of us share. This SECOND type of rancor is general, abstract, non-specific and unscientific.

    Now, you are perfectly in your rights, in my opinion, to express this rancor, (though, as I said before, I do find VAGUE insults to be somewhat insidious).

    My only caveat is this: that the moderators do not mistakenly link the SECOND rancor with the FIRST, and blame the FIRST on the SECOND type of rancor.

    That’s my opinion on ‘spitting contests’ and the reaction they have received.

    I will just reiterate here, also, that I don’t believe there’s any proof that ‘spitting contests’ stop other discussions, per se, or prevent “a larger group of poetry lovers” from coming on-board. In fact, I think evidence exists to the contrary: that more freedom, in terms of tolerating a ‘spitting contest’ or two, enlarges participation and readership.

    As far as ‘three people’ posting a lot; again, I don’t think there is any scientific basis for asserting that many posts by some can be linked to less readership or participation by others.

    Thomas

  • On April 27, 2009 at 11:11 am Daisy Fried wrote:

    Cathy–
    As a former contributing blogger, I suggest limiting the number of comments anyone, including the contributing writer who posted the original entry, can make on any given post–to, say, 3. And perhaps a weekly limit of 10-15 posts as a whole?
    Best,
    Daisy

  • On April 27, 2009 at 11:22 am thomas brady wrote:

    Daisy,

    Why would you want to limit posts?

    I’m stunned by this suggestion.

    Thomas

  • On April 27, 2009 at 11:30 am Marty Elwell wrote:

    Interestingly enough, the two posts after this one, which are actually about poetry, sit virtually untouched.

  • On April 27, 2009 at 11:58 am Former Berkeley Girl wrote:

    Thomas,

    Re: your response to Daisy–How can you be stunned by a suggestion that has already been made several times upthread?

    Daisy, I agree heartily.

    Now, I am off to hug a tree. I look forward to Catherine’s and/or other Harriet staff member’s responses to the ideas that have been generated here.

    FBG

  • On April 27, 2009 at 12:13 pm Iolanthe wrote:

    Katy, you asked:

    “you say ‘cerebral’ like it’s a bad thing. Obviously, people who write are using their brains. Why not use them to maximum capacity? I’m really asking.”

    What I said was, the blog tends to be “moody, cerebral, hyper-intellectual, and obtuse.” There’s nothing wrong with being cerebral. There’s nothing wrong with being moody. There’s nothing wrong with being hyper-intellectual. There’s nothing wrong with being obtuse. I am probably guilty of each of those things on a daily basis!

    It’s that combination of things, day after day, week after week, month after month, both in the posts and in the comments, to which I object. It is boring, not fun, not educational, and not informative. In fact, I think I just stumbled on my 4 criteria for a successful poetry blog.

    I came here today via a link from Silliman’s blog which at times meets all 4 of those criteria, more or less. I also enjoy Edward Byrne’s “One Poet’s Notes” blog for the Valparaiso Review, One Night Stanzas from readthismagazine.co.uk, and the Kenyon Review blog. Interestingly, the comments section at none of those blogs is particularly active. Perhaps that’s their “secret sauce.”

    As I said before, addressing the comment problem at Harriet is treating the symptom, not the root cause. I have a lot of respect for the Poetry Foundation, but I feel that Harriet is lost in the weeds, especially when you look at its content in relation to the Foundation’s self-stated mission.

  • On April 27, 2009 at 12:19 pm Iolanthe wrote:

    I should add that the Foundation’s mission statement, per the “About” page on this site is:

    “The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. It exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience.”

    In my opinion, this blog does not serve that mission. See the blogs I mention above for examples of ones that do.

  • On April 27, 2009 at 12:24 pm Annie Finch wrote:

    “The Poetry Foundation. . . exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. . . In the long term, the Foundation aspires to alter the perception that poetry is a marginal art, and to make it directly relevant to the American public.”

    Iolanthe, I assume this is the mission you had in mind. I find your perspective very valuable and thank you for reminding me of the larger context in which I’ve been blogging. (I also appreciate the comment, made way earlier and which I’ve just unsuccessfully tried to locate among the numerous posts, about blogging being actual blogging and not essays).

    I am going to try to take both these suggestions to heart for the remainder of my time at Harriet. I hope you will take a moment (email is fine ( : ) tolet me know how I’m doing. Thank you again.

    Annie

  • On April 27, 2009 at 12:35 pm Travis Nichols wrote:

    Iolanthe, Thanks for pointing out other sites that work for you. Harriet is in the unique position of having guest writers presenting the vast majority of the content, as opposed to the Silliman or Byrne models, those little kingdoms. So when Jack says the staff writers produce most of the content and commentary and that such an arrangement is inappropriate, well, it’s not quite that easy. It’s nothing like the NYT editorial staff writing letters to the editor, but more like, you know, bloggers writing comments. Which happens all the time. But Jack’s points are noted, as his penchant for being banned from sites (have you and Bill Knott ever gotten together over drinks? If you do can you tweet it?). Also, Virginia Heffernan’s essay in yesterday’s NYT Mag about Washington Post comments reminds me that though the streams on Harriet can be frustrating, they’re nice and tidy compared to many others around the ‘sphere. Has anyone been banned from Silliman’s site, I wonder? How many comments does BAP delete? How transparent are those processes?

  • On April 27, 2009 at 12:42 pm Annie Finch wrote:

    Ps re limiting the number of comments, I was in strong agreement with the idea of limiting each commenter to 3 a day when it was first proposed, I think by Kent–especially now that the software does not allow moderation of completely irrelevant-to-poetry or flaming comments. But now, though I empathize with Daisy’s and FBG’s motivations, I’m not so sure I agree. In the interim, I was reading through the many comments on the Weil and Plath threads, and while a good 15% of them or so are stressful without contributing anything about poetry, most of the others offer valuable ideas and are interesting and useful to read. Even the tangents often lead to significant side discussions that have included Poe, children’s poetry, New Criticism, and many other topics that were not directly part of the original posts and might not have been addressed otherwise. I am even brewing up a couple of blog topics directly inspired by these tangential discussions. I doubt these discussions could happen if people were cut off after three comments.

    In the absence of a dedicated discussion forum, Harriet seems to be the only place where readers can discuss poetry at length, and it would be a shame to lose that place.

    On the other hand, an abusive environment (even if a couple of commenters are only abusing each other) is not sustainable if we want to attract more and more Harriet community members and fulfill the Poetry Foundation mission stated above, of reaching a broad audience with discussion of poetry.

    Perhaps there could be a stated Harriet code of etiquette posted somewhere visible to all (so that individual bloggers would not have to duplicate it), with standard listserv-type guidelines: every comment about poetry; tone polite and respectful; absolutely no direct insults of other people; and so on. People who violate the code a set number of times would be asked to leave, though my sincere hope is that if the expectations were clear, no one would have to leave. If we are in a sort of Salon atmosphere hosted by Harriet Monroe herself, I think she’d expect nothing less.

  • On April 27, 2009 at 12:43 pm Jane wrote:

    I missed all the fun. Pls. post some love poetry here, so we get more traffic and statistically more trolls and make the uptight…tighter.

  • On April 27, 2009 at 12:53 pm Annie Finch wrote:

    Travis, thanks for that great cite to Heffernan piece
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/26/magazine/26wwln-medium-t.html?_r=1

    Heffernan’s last paragraph, with the morph from amens to dissent to scoldings to plaintive to commenters turning on one another, is eerily familiar.

    Here you go, Jane, from my favorite love poem The Courtship of Inanna and Dumuzi (Sumerian–maybe 3000 bc)

    Inanna sang:

    “He has sprouted; he has burgeoned;
    He is lettuce planted by the water.
    He is the one my womb loves best.
    My well-stocked garden of the plain,
    My barley growing high in its furrow,
    My apple tree which bears fruit up to its crown,
    He is lettuce planted by the water.

    My honey-man, my honey-man sweetens me always.
    My lord, the honey-man of the gods,
    He is the one my womb loves best.
    His hand is honey, his foot is honey,
    He sweetens me always.
    My eager impetuous caresser of the navel,
    My caresser of the soft thighs,
    He is the one my womb loves best.
    He is letus planted by the water.”

  • On April 27, 2009 at 1:04 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    Pretty unusual, to compare one’s beloved to lettuce. I suppose that would be red-leaf.

    As for Harriet Government : I’m tending to agree with your latest post, Annie. A comment limit would put a damper on some good conversations.

    But I think it is self-evident that commenting is not “innocent” – what I mean is, every comment, including this one, potentially spends (or takes) the readers’ time, & the site’s (digital) space. So it seems some courtesy is in order. & you don’t want to be the egotistical pompous one who hogs all the dinner-table talk. Leave some room for others to pipe up.

    As a heavy commenter myself, I’m trying to keep this in mind. I’m famous in Buffalo.

  • On April 27, 2009 at 1:45 pm Iolanthe wrote:

    Annie, thanks for being so responsive to my comments. I’m glad you went on to quote the other part of the mission statement regarding altering the perception that poetry is a marginal art; that is also very germane to my concern about Harriet. I’ll be reading you with interest moving forward!

    You remind me of something else that’s so important in a blog, and that is creating a feeling of “connectedness” to your readers. That’s what keeps them coming back for more and spreading the word about the site. I now feel a connection with you.

    Travis, thanks to the link to the interesting Hefferman article. The bottom line is: blogs must be moderated. Every blog owner has his or her own objectives, pays for his or own hosting, and has every right to moderate their comments section as they see fit, and I have no doubt Silliman and BAP do just that. So be it. Andrew Sullivan at his Atlantic Magazine Daily Dish blog doesn’t allow comments at all. You have to send him an e-mail, then he decides whether he’ll respond to it on-line or not. Yet I feel very connected to that blog, and find it to be a lively place.

    Slate magazine has done something not mentioned in the Hefferman article, but which is instructive: their “Fray” commenting community has become such an unpleasant place that they now have Facebook pages set up for certain popular features, like their Gabfest podcasts and the XX Factor (where Applebaum blogs). People on Facebook can go there to comment in peace. When one’s lack of commenting moderation drives people *away* from the main site, that’s when you have a problem, and I fear Harriet may have that problem.

    The Poetry Foundation, as a non-profit with a largely educational and inspirational mission, should be as transparent as possible regarding its moderation policy, but I would not have you hesitate for a split-second to do what is necessary to keep the place fun, interesting, educational and informative, consistent with the Foundation’s mission.

  • On April 27, 2009 at 2:40 pm Monica Fambrough wrote:

    I have 2 suggestions: set the comments so that if they are longer than 10 or so lines, the full text of them does not display but rather has to be clicked to. And number the comments so that commenters may refer back to other comments using a simple shorthand, as is common on other blogs. Collapsible threads would be great, but maybe too much to ask.

    I want to add a note that while limiting the number of comments people can make may at first seem like it would suppress discussion, I think it would encourage it by making room for more people to chime in before the thread gets derailed by a few opinionated folks who have the kind of time on their hands that allows them to fill the threads. The few individuals who tend to comment most and longest might not realize how oppressive their presence can actually feel, despite good intentions. And they might find that the comments section becomes more rewarding to read and participate in if a wider variety of voices are present. I am not 100% certain this route would be the best solution, but it seems worth considering.

    While I think the Poetry Foundation does have the responsibility to craft the blog in such a way that a wide variety of people are commenting, the commenters also have a responsibility to participate in a way that encourages discussion. Commenters have a lot of power, so they should use it wisely and respectfully. It’s an old rule of good behavior: just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

  • On April 27, 2009 at 3:28 pm thomas brady wrote:

    “Travis, thanks to the link to the interesting Hefferman article. The bottom line is: blogs must be moderated.”

    Iolanthe,

    You haven’t proved that Harriet is in the throes of chaos and crisis; yet you speak as if it is, without one shred of evidence. I don’t think hearsay and rumor at this point helps anyone. Do you have evidence that people are leaving Harriet? Do you have evidence that Silliman and BAP strongly moderate? You said you “assumed” they did.

    No one is saying Harriet does not have the RIGHT to “moderate as they see fit.”

    And, obviously certain kinds of highly offensive material needs to be removed by moderators.

    But these are not the issues on the table.

    Harriet, the Poetry Foundation BLOG, has had a spike in posts, recently, and there have been a few ‘spitting contests.’ No posts have had to be removed for offensive content, at least not that I’m aware of; perhaps someone could correct me, here?

    Again, I think we need to be scientific here, and not simply assume a “crisis” where there isn’t one.

    Virginia Heffernan’s article was predictable internet-bashing; the old print organs like the Times just can’t get over the fact that democracy reigns on the internet; Heffernan, as politely as possible, denigrates every single comment on a blog run by a person she respects. According to Heffernan, the blog itself is wonderful; but she treats the comments and all those making them with contempt. Heffernan’s remarks felt boring and insincere. I’d rather read the blog comments and make up my own mind. Life is too short for bland, self-appointed experts who make a great point of placing themselves above the fray. Simply playing to narrow, elitist prejudices won’t cut it. Go live on your island, already. In a previous piece on twitter, Heffernan holds aloft the claim that “poor people” live for “connections” and “cell phones.” As if rich people do not use cell phones or have connections. I found Heffernan’s m.o. to be snobbery, plain and simple.

    Thomas

  • On April 27, 2009 at 4:17 pm thomas brady wrote:

    Monica,

    You write,

    “The few individuals who tend to comment most and longest might not realize how oppressive their presence can actually feel, despite good intentions.”

    Could you explain how those who “comment most and longest” are “oppressive?”

    As someone who has recently posted a lot, I’d like to point out that my posts were always in dialogue with others; my posts were in response to other people, and other people were freely responding to me; I never demanded that people respond to me, or demanded that they respond to my entire post; I’m not sure how a long post would, simply by its length, be “oppressive.” Nor do I see how numerous posts, which were all responding to those who were voluntarily responding to me in turn, could be seen as “oppressive.”

    You also say:

    “And they might find that the comments section becomes more rewarding to read and participate in if a wider variety of voices are present.”

    I would love a “wider variety of voices.” I would also hope none of those “voices” would fear they were being “oppressive” simply by being “a voice” in whatever form they wanted to take. A ‘good answer’ to a complex issue is sometimes a long post, or a number of posts.

    And, finally, I want to respond to what you say here:

    “While I think the Poetry Foundation does have the responsibility to craft the blog in such a way that a wide variety of people are commenting, the commenters also have a responsibility to participate in a way that encourages discussion.”

    Beyond the idea that ‘discussion encourages discussion,’ and being civil (which I think I am) I’m not sure how else this “responsibility” ought to be manifested. I’d love it if you could elaborate.

    Thomas

  • On April 27, 2009 at 5:06 pm Monica Fambrough wrote:

    Hi Thomas,

    Thanks for your questions. In some ways, maybe this can be used as an example of how I think comments might ideally work. You see, I am at work, and don’t really have time now for a break to answer your questions thoroughly. And by the time I would have a chance to answer them, the comment stream might have gone off in another direction such that my response would be too late in the game to be noticed or even really matter to the general discussion. And without numbered comments, as I suggest, people might have a hard time referencing back to see what it is you and I are discussing.

    So instead, I’ll ask: does anyone out there agree with me? Could someone else enter into the discussion and add to it, rather than this just becoming a back and forth between me and Thomas?

    If not, I’ll try to jump back in later on with some answers…

  • On April 27, 2009 at 5:39 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    Travis, I believe you are wrong about the following. If you were right, I would have no problem agreeing with you but you’re not. “It’s nothing like the NYT editorial staff writing letters to the editor, but more like, you know, bloggers writing comments. Which happens all the time. ” A blog we might assume would be a sinle entity like perhaps the Travis Blog etc. This is the POETRY FOUNDATION blog complete with staff writers and contributors, which takes it out of that “blogging” category. It all done under the auspices of the POETRY FOUNDATION not a single individual. Now it has been my experience for nearly 20 years in the newspaper and magazine business that the “help” (you) aren’t allowed to comment on the content. It is one thing if you had a blog and commented in juxposition to one STAFF or CONTRIBUTING writer commenting on how wonderful the other STAFF WRITER and /or CONTRIBUTING WRITER is doing. That is completely in appropriate. I am sorry but your perchant for not understanding how all this works is worrisome.

  • On April 27, 2009 at 5:54 pm Travis Nichols wrote:

    Okey doke, Jack, let me try out the math here:

    It’s the “Poetry Foundation blog” but it’s not in the “blogging category?” And it’s this kind of blog/not-blog because it’s under the auspices of the Poetry Foundation, and not just one person’s endeavor? So then Paper Cuts, the nytimes books blog, is not a blog; Bookninja is not a blog; Bookslut is not a blog; and the New Yorker’s Book Bench is not a blog?

    And I could comment “in juxtaposition” to say, Jason, if Jason were commenting on how wonderful Martin is, but I could not comment if I were just affirming his comment that Martin is wonderful? Or Annie? Why? Because I’m the “help”?

    If there is a distinction you are making that I’m not getting, please do clarify . . . right now it just makes no sense to me.

  • On April 27, 2009 at 6:32 pm michael robbins wrote:

    Yes, of course, Monica, almost everyone agrees with you. We are all exasperated by the rudeness & ubiquity of a few posters on the board. Some of us (me, for example, & some others I’ve communicated with backchannel) have entirely given up on Harriet until this gets resolved (I vote for banning people if they can’t adhere to basic norms of civility: why is this so controversial? I also think limiting the number of daily posts is eminently sensible). I’m only here now because a friend emailed me to alert me to your question. Don’t feel beleaguered.

  • On April 27, 2009 at 6:35 pm michael robbins wrote:

    Indeed, Travis, that’s how blogs work. You’re, of course, completely correct. But why even bother trying to engage Jack? Kent tried; the response was “who the fuck told him it was his blog.” Kent’s post, of course, was reasonable in tone & phrasing. I think it’s best to ignore those whose vocabulary is limited to insults, don’t you?

  • On April 27, 2009 at 6:38 pm michael robbins wrote:

    Stephen Sturgeon, on Don’s blog today:

    “The right to free speech and the freedom to ignore disagreeable speech is being cited as the reason for allowing the posting of incendiary comments. Two thoughts on this:

    1. Defending the right to free speech implies that words have power: you must let me say what I want because the power of words belongs to anyone who can use words; denying me free speech is therefore an inhumane sort of oppression. To follow this declaration of rights by exploiting the power of words in insult, and then to say that words are easily ignorable and that disagreeable comments can very easily be disregarded, is inconsistent. Either the words have power or they don’t. If you choose to use the power in words after you claim a right to that power, you can’t say hideous things and, when reprimanded, protest that there is little power in the words.

    2. Website comment fields are a new space for the circulation of ideas, and the medium changes the rules for our usual personality interactions. First there is the basic anonymity internet communication allows; a real name might be attached to a message, but the usual social dynamics of actual conversation are totally absent (you can’t automatically be embarrassed with the evil eye after saying something too risque, and amend the rest of your conversation, &c.). Add to this the quickness with which comments are posted, which is close enough to real time to give the illusion of immediacy, and which is far enough away from it to enable something closer to monologue than to dialogue; and add to that the element of a large AUDIENCE, and you have a stable environment for verbal violence. Most of what dissuades us from going wild in public is absent from internet communication. Since the mediating influences in talking face to face with someone are not present in your comment fields, since a blog disables the normal social protections we have against free speech becoming tyrannical speech, I see no problem in rejecting messages as they come in when they are unmistakably insulting and derogatory, or when a commenter is using multiple aliases to do . . . whatever that accomplishes.

    To sum up, website comment fields much more easily facilitate tyrannical speech than free speech. The grounds of exchange are different than those of a real-life public forum or ordinary conversation, and these differences allow for a solipsistic treatment of others when the moon is full, and for some people it’s always a full moon somewhere.”

  • On April 27, 2009 at 6:49 pm Daisy wrote:

    Thomas–
    I don’t want to limit posts. That should read “comments,” not “posts.”

    There’s two on this thread from me.

    Daisy

  • On April 27, 2009 at 7:38 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    I’m sorry but Travis is wrong and Mike, you’re just being foolish. This is a site owned and operated by the Poetry Foundation. Travis and others are staff. They are the “help.” WE are the customers. That is entirely different from being a blog. The NYT has blog. It howeevr remains the NYT not any one individual’s. And no one on the NYT sends a congratulatory message to other bloggers there. This is the way it works. Mike has no idea how it work. His opinion is usualess and without merit. He hsould mstand donw on this matter, sinc he hasn’t any knowledge of how it works. Sorry. It remains an inappropraire behavior.

  • On April 27, 2009 at 7:40 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    Actually Mike I think it’s best to ignore advice from someone like you who has no experience. That’s just the way it goes. You don’t have to liek it but that the way it is. Encouragijng someone to do it here is ridiculous. I guess if the shoe fits etc.

  • On April 27, 2009 at 7:45 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    “His opinion is useless and without merit. He should stand down on this matter, since he hasn’t any knowledge of how it works. Sorry. It remains an inappropraire behavior.”

  • On April 27, 2009 at 7:49 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    But of course you can DO whatever you want, as inappropriate as is to many people. I just can’t imagine Frank Rich sending a felllow editorial writer a congratulatory note. It’s just not done. I hate to say this but it’s “rookie.”

  • On April 27, 2009 at 7:50 pm thomas brady wrote:

    “Yes, of course, Monica, almost everyone agrees with you. We are all exasperated by the rudeness & ubiquity of a few posters on the board. Some of us (me, for example, & some others I’ve communicated with backchannel) have entirely given up on Harriet until this gets resolved (I vote for banning people if they can’t adhere to basic norms of civility: why is this so controversial? I also think limiting the number of daily posts is eminently sensible). I’m only here now because a friend emailed me to alert me to your question. Don’t feel beleaguered.”

    This is outrageous.

    First, Michael writes “almost everyone agrees with you. We are all exasperated…”

    Michael cannot possibly know how we are all thinking.

    I cannot fathom how anyone could subscribe to this utter, self-serving falsehood.

    Further, Michael goes on to say “the rudeness and ubiquity of a few posters on the board.”

    He protests against “rudeness” while he levels vague insults at a “few posters” for being “rude” without providing any evidence, while at the same time, making the assumption that he has everyone (!!??!?) agreeing with this.

    Whoa, there, fella!

    Then he calls for ‘this’ (this!) to get “resolved,” and “votes” to “ban” those who cannot adhere to “basic norms of civility” which he himself has JUST VIOLATED!

    “Why is this (this!) so controversial?” he asks.

    None of it is “controversial;” none of it has been “controversial” until NOW, with this outrageous post.

    And finally, Michael admits that he’s not even reading the discussion on this thread, but has hired another set of eyes to “alert” him.

    Talk of “rudeness” and “ego…”

    This takes the cake.

  • On April 27, 2009 at 7:51 pm michael robbins wrote:

    All right, I’ll bite: What exactly is the problem you have with the staff writers (not the “help”) posting comments? It is de rigueur, in fact, on blogs. There is no parallel in print publication, since print publications obviously don’t allow real-time commentary from readers. I served as contributing editor to Chicago Review for three years; my reviews appear in Poetry, The London Review of Books, Boston Review, Chicago Review, & plenty of other places: I have lots of experience in publishing. But I still cannot see what it is that you find “inappropriate.”

  • On April 27, 2009 at 7:52 pm john wrote:

    Two pieces of information in response to various comments:

    New Yorker bloggers compliment New Yorker writers on the New Yorker’s paid-staff blog. It’s nice! Nothing wrong or untoward about it at all — at least, that’s how it strikes me.

    Ron Silliman once posted an essay in praise of the work of a friend of his, and asked whether one aspect of the work had any precedent in the history of poetry. I attempted to post an 8-line Keats poem that struck me as precedent. He wouldn’t post it — maybe because I didn’t add any commentary, but just the poem — but it struck me as heavy-handed comment monitoring — too heavy-handed!

  • On April 27, 2009 at 7:54 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    He just doesn’t get it Thomas, and never will. The guy thinks he’s an expert in things he knows nothing about nor has any experience with. I’d run from aguy like that as fast as I coul;d if I had to really deal with him. He’s never going to learn anything, Thomas. He’s pretty vacuous as far as I can see. Ignore him.

  • On April 27, 2009 at 7:55 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    “New Yorker bloggers compliment New Yorker writers on the New Yorker’s paid-staff blog. It’s nice! Nothing wrong or untoward about it at all — at least, that’s how it strikes me.”

    Yeah, Show us John. Show us where a staff person on the NYT congratulates another staff person.

    I’d love to see that. Please, be my guest.

  • On April 27, 2009 at 7:58 pm Travis Nichols wrote:

    Noted, Jack. I comment to further my part of the discussion, and to make sure the other bloggers know at least one reader appreciates the effort and thought that went into the posts. But you’re right that it isn’t what Frank Rich would do over at the NYT, and it may be worth looking into whether or not other people feel it erodes a sense of “professionalism” for the site.

  • On April 27, 2009 at 7:58 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    Please, John show me where George Packer goes into Steve Coll’s blog an tells him what a wonderful statement he made today.

  • On April 27, 2009 at 8:00 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    Thank you Travis. I just think that you and others should enjoin the customers who come here to post and learn and not each other. You already have the upper hand.

  • On April 27, 2009 at 8:01 pm john wrote:

    Thomas,

    Since Jack has promised to write a letter of complaint to the Pres. of the Poetry Foundation if anybody says anything mean about him again, you and Gary are the only ones (I think!) defending the “anything-goes” approach to commenting. Many people have said that the vitriol bothers them, to the extent that they don’t want to comment or even read it any more. As people have testified that this dynamic has played out in many forums, why is this surprising? I don’t happen to believe that you or Gary are *wrong* for preferring the “anything-goes” style; that’s why I proposed a “Flame Room” in order to accommodate different preferences. (For which suggestion Gary called me Stalinist! Which makes me smile and smile and smile — I guess there are different views of Stalinism!)

  • On April 27, 2009 at 8:02 pm michael robbins wrote:

    I don’t understand why anyone cares who writes what to the president of the Poetry Foundation.

  • On April 27, 2009 at 8:08 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    Jonh, could you answer my question please? Can you show me where a NY staffer goes into another staff’s blog and congatualtes him. You made that claim. I’d like to see it.

  • On April 27, 2009 at 8:09 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    To use the poetic words of Clint Eastwood, “Feeling lucky punk?”

  • On April 27, 2009 at 8:14 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    John, you claimed this: “New Yorker bloggers compliment New Yorker writers on the New Yorker’s paid-staff blog. It’s nice! Nothing wrong or untoward about it at all — at least, that’s how it strikes me.”

    I asked this:
    “Please, John show me where George Packer goes into Steve Coll’s blog an tells him what a wonderful statement he made today.”

  • On April 27, 2009 at 8:18 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    John, Or perhaps you misunderstood the concept. My point was that the staff should not enage in complmenting each other; that it is inappropraite; that it is unprofessional behavior by anyone with experienc in such things. Travis has responded and thank and agre e with him that it should be examined in terms of what degree of professionalism it projects.

  • On April 27, 2009 at 8:19 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    **I thank and agree**

  • On April 27, 2009 at 8:25 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    John?

  • On April 27, 2009 at 8:40 pm thomas brady wrote:

    “Ignore him.”

    On principle, I never ignore people. But with Michael Robbins I might make an exception.

    I wonder what character in “The Big Bang” Michael most resembles? I’m finding that show very charming these days…if I could just imagine Michael as one of them, maybe I could get past his blogging personality and just find him odd, goofy, kind of fun…

  • On April 27, 2009 at 8:50 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    Thomas, lol….let’s see, you, me and Gary find his behavior inappropriate. Should Harriet ban him? I mean there are three of us who find him inappropriate or is there a particluar number we must reach? Did you do somehting with John? I’m stillw aiting for a response from him. I find that rude not to respond to a simple question.

  • On April 27, 2009 at 9:06 pm john wrote:

    Jack, you asked for evidence. I don’t have time now to dig it up — have been away from the computer for an hour — didn’t see your request at the time of my last comment — and now won’t have time again for the rest of the evening — and may not get to your request for a while — you’re free to dig their archives; the writer I remember doing so was Hendrick Hertzberg — cheers –

  • On April 27, 2009 at 9:41 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    John, I can’t find any of the bloggers engaging in this practice at the New Yorker. I guess I’m not sure now what you mean– if you mean that it happened ONCE or that it happens all the time. I don’t see any evidence of that. It doesn’t really matter since Travis has already responded and at least will consider it as it relates to the issue of professionalism. Can’t ask for more than that. If you happen to run across this at the New Yorker I’d be interested in seeing it. If not at least as far as my premise is concerned the issue is a dead issue. I made my point and someone will consider it. Good for me. Good for them.

  • On April 28, 2009 at 3:05 am Stephen Sturgeon wrote:

    Thomas Brady,

    To Iolanthe you wrote this:

    “You haven’t proved that Harriet is in the throes of chaos and crisis; yet you speak as if it is, without one shred of evidence.”

    You indicate someone said something that was not said, and then claim the original speaker is at fault because the truth of what was not said fails the test of proof. “Chaos and crisis” is hyperbolic, and Iolanthe’s comment does not take that kind of pitch. Search for “chaos” in the comment field and you’ll find that you were the only one using it.

    After thanking two commenters for their thoughts and summarizing a newspaper article, Iolanthe’s comment did say that “blogs must be moderated.” For good reasons to think that Harriet should start moderating comments, rather than forensic evidence proving the suggestion is unbreakably right, see the original polite blog post by Catherine Halley, quoted in part to you already by Former Berkeley Girl; but this can’t be accepted because it’s coming from a corrupt voice on the inside. See also other comments by Kent Johnson, Michael Robbins, Former Berkeley Girl, Iain, Travis Nichols, Colin Ward, Michael J, Desmond Swords, John, Daisy Fried, Monica Fambrough, and so on, who don’t all advocate banning certain commenters. But all make suggestions as to how the comment fields could be altered to discourage abuse or, at the least, to improve the current state of discussion; but this can’t be accepted because these people are arrogant, also on the inside, or have no idea what they are talking about.

    You say you want “evidence that people are leaving Harriet.” What would that be, a bunch of people returning to the blog to say they aren’t here? If they aren’t here, how can they be asked to say they aren’t? Should the blog staff sort through every IP address that visited the site six months ago, ascertain which visited enough times to be considered a regular, and then compare these lists to a current list of IP addresses? If the number of Harriet’s readers listed in the previous paragraph would like to see or are willing to suggest alterations to how the comments are run, and since some of them DO say they have been commenting at or visiting Harriet less frequently lately, isn’t this enough proof?

    Your disingenuousness in this is overbearing, which is odd because, as Kent Johnson pointed out, you have often shown here a serious mind for literature, and one would think you’d like for this blog to present good discussions about writing instead of sophistry. Which do you want?

    Jack Conway,

    In a discussion about publishing practices, you said to Michael Robbins, “I think it’s best to ignore advice from someone like you who has no experience. That’s just the way it goes. You don’t have to liek it but that the way it is. Encouragijng someone to do it here is ridiculous.”

    Michael Robbins then said, “I served as contributing editor to Chicago Review for three years; my reviews appear in Poetry, The London Review of Books, Boston Review, Chicago Review, & plenty of other places: I have lots of experience in publishing.”

    To which you said, “The guy thinks he’s an expert in things he knows nothing about nor has any experience with.”

    A short question: why did you say this?

  • On April 28, 2009 at 6:47 am Jack Conway wrote:

    Stephen,Since you have taken the time to read these posts so carefully, I can’t imagine why you either missed what I said, didn’t compehend what I said, or decided to misconstrue what I said. I said that after having spent more than 20 years as a newspaper and magazine editor and after PUBLISHING eight books, my knowledge of publsihed gives me insights. His comapartively can’t hold a candle to mine. He’s just going to have to accept that and move along. I also said that no newspaper,or magazine and I cited the New York Times and the New Yorker would engage in such things. Robbins disputed that, with no proof and no experience, merely his usual wrong-headed sense of misplaced entitlement. His “experience” in publishing pales in comparison to mine hence my comment. He has limited experience in either of these cases. Publishing reviews and being a “contributing editor” has no bearing. He never ran a newspaper, magazine or a journal. He never set policy: Christ he doesn’t even know what policy is in either a newspaper or magazine and writing and submitting reviews are NOT the same as being in the publishing business. The mere fact that he would cite these as examples of his vast publishing experience shows how little he knows about it. I sincerely hope this helps. Yes compared to my experience in publishing he knows nothing about it and has no real experience. THAT is the SHORT answer. Robbins may be some thing. Some of know he is one big thing. But one thing he certainly is not and that is knowledgeable or experienced in publishing.

  • On April 28, 2009 at 6:53 am Jack Conway wrote:

    By the way Stephen if you are going to be an apologist for Robbins do a better job of it and DON’T misconstrue what I said to suit your own argument. Exactly where is this comment of Robbins? I can’t seem to find it in this thread.I responded to Thomas NOT to Robbins. Get it right or don’t post it.

  • On April 28, 2009 at 7:07 am Jack Conway wrote:

    Oops. I found it. I had to look. My mistake. I have to tell you I hold him in such low regard I don’t even read what he has to say most of the time. I do read Thomas.

  • On April 28, 2009 at 7:32 am Jack Conway wrote:

    Stephen, regarding Thomas, here’s the gist of what I get from what you said to Thomas. You want him to conform. I doubt he will. I hope he won’t. One size does not fit all. That is ONE of the problems here. The failure to recognize that is a further problem. They say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. I have yet to see that here. Ultimately it will not matter. At last not to me. I’ve already grown tired of the relentless and militantly wearisomeness of the mantra here. I find it so obvious that your comments are directed at the NEW KIDS on the block which already tells me something is innately wrong with the place. (New kids have ideas. New kids aren’t like us. New kids don’t agree. New kids are going to change the place. I’ve heard it all before. Insulated.) Saying that it is NOT some insiders club IS being disingeniuous on your part.

    I don’t have the time or inclination to sus it all out. I came here because it was recommended to me. I even brought someone Jennifer Hawes, Some BOZO here insulted her and she refuses to come back. Worse is that she told me she won’t be recommending this site to any of her English faculty associates or students. Good job Brownie!

    Lookit, I’ve two books tours coming up: one on Cape Cod for my Cape book and one for the new book on NYC in the Gilded Age, which by the by should take me into NY Barnes and Noble. Supposed to be a big roll-out. We’ll see. Convincing people here they have some problems with inertia, professionalism and behavior is a full time job. I’ve not the time or once again inclination. I’m sure I’ll come back to this site in the fall and it will be just the same as it ever was with just the same people saying just the same things and having not a clue as to why they can’t attract new people. Ho-hum. I will tell you this: word of mouth is a powerful tool. You can be certain that as I (and as Jenn has done) have an opportunity to speak to people during the upcoming book tours, if it ever crosses my mind, I will be more than happy to not recommend this cite to anyone serious about poetry. Granted, a limited audience, perhaps, but still in all given the lack of numbers here and the inertia that has set in, it will be my distinct pleasure not to put in a good word for this cite or the behavior of the people here — unprofessional is the word that readily comes to mind.

    And yes, John, I will be writing that letter to John Barr, as will probably my publisher, agent and others. As to whether it makes a wit of difference, doesn’t matter, but if I was a CEO I’d want to know that my product is being misrepresented and mishandled. And since you pointed it out, since you can’t regulate yourself, then maybe someone else SHOULD moderate the goings on here.

  • On April 28, 2009 at 7:39 am thomas brady wrote:

    Hi Daisy,

    Posts or comments?

    I was assuming that posts were topic essays posted by Annie Finch, for example: the Simone Weil piece is ‘a post’ and then ‘comments’ are added to that post?

    I know that posts are often referred to as comments…

    Thanks, and sorry if I confused you or misread you!

    Thomas

  • On April 28, 2009 at 8:36 am thomas brady wrote:

    Stephen Sturgeon wrote:

    “Thomas Brady,

    To Iolanthe you wrote this:

    ‘You haven’t proved that Harriet is in the throes of chaos and crisis; yet you speak as if it is, without one shred of evidence.’

    You indicate someone said something that was not said, and then claim the original speaker is at fault because the truth of what was not said fails the test of proof. “Chaos and crisis” is hyperbolic, and Iolanthe’s comment does not take that kind of pitch. Search for “chaos” in the comment field and you’ll find that you were the only one using it.”

    Hi Stephen,

    I did not “indicate someone said something that was not said.”

    You, however just did the same yourself.

    I said Iolanthe spoke “as if” Harriet was in “crisis.”

    I did not say that she said Harriet was in “crisis.”

    In the context of this whole thread, this whole conversation, I felt that her saying ‘every site must be moderated’ was taking a position that, based on recent events–which include a spike in comments and lively discussions, and a ‘spitting contest’ which has since has been resolved–that something “must” change in the way Harriet is run.

    I think it was clear to everyone what I was saying, and what I was saying was not that unusual, and for you to come here and accuse me of twisting Iolanthe’s words and to accuse me of being “hyperbolic” is a red herring.

    My position is clear, Stephen. You don’t have to play lawyer with me.

    I love it here and I think the conversaton has expanded since I’ve come here. I think I am fitting right in with the Poetry Foundation’s mission: to make poetry more accessible to the general public.

    I don’t know the long history here. Have there been disputes before? How many comments does the average post get?

    I saw where people vehemently disagreed with each other over Robert Service, but I think everyone involved is OK. Let me check. Yea, they’re OK.

    I have posted a lot. I think people have surivived that, too. Let me check. Yea, they’re fine.

    I’m simply arguing that I like this freedom and I think blocking that freedom would do more harm than good. I don’t think anyone needs to be banned, and I don’t think extra moderation is needed. Posts await to be read, and commented on. Go to it.

    That’s my opinion.

    I try to respond to everyone with civility and care. And I respectfully beg to differ: I did not, as you say, “indicate someone said something that was not said.” I’m sorry you feel that way, and Iolanthe, I’m sorry if you felt that way, too.

    I don’t why some people are assuming that they are flowers and I am a weed. I just don’t understand this.

    I have no idea what you are saying here:

    “After thanking two commenters for their thoughts and summarizing a newspaper article, Iolanthe’s comment did say that “blogs must be moderated.” For good reasons to think that Harriet should start moderating comments, rather than forensic evidence proving the suggestion is unbreakably right, see the original polite blog post by Catherine Halley, quoted in part to you already by Former Berkeley Girl; but this can’t be accepted because it’s coming from a corrupt voice on the inside. See also other comments by Kent Johnson, Michael Robbins, Former Berkeley Girl, Iain, Travis Nichols, Colin Ward, Michael J, Desmond Swords, John, Daisy Fried, Monica Fambrough, and so on, who don’t all advocate banning certain commenters. But all make suggestions as to how the comment fields could be altered to discourage abuse or, at the least, to improve the current state of discussion; but this can’t be accepted because these people are arrogant, also on the inside, or have no idea what they are talking about.”

    Stephen, you are putting words in my mouth. What do you mean “this can’t be accepted because it’s coming from a corrupt voice on the inside”?????

    I disagree with the idea that Harriet needs stronger moderation right now. Pretty simple. That’s it. Are you trying to imply that I am rebuking “the original polite blog post by Catherine Halley” in some insidious manner? I am simply stating my position. I don’t even consider that there may be a “corrupt voice on the inside.” You are saying this, not me. I’m appealing to (what I think) is reason, that’s all. I feel a certain way and I’m trying to express how I feel as rationally as I can. I’ve never said these disagreements can’t exist.

    Then, Stephen, you write:

    “You say you want “evidence that people are leaving Harriet.” What would that be, a bunch of people returning to the blog to say they aren’t here? If they aren’t here, how can they be asked to say they aren’t? Should the blog staff sort through every IP address that visited the site six months ago, ascertain which visited enough times to be considered a regular, and then compare these lists to a current list of IP addresses? If the number of Harriet’s readers listed in the previous paragraph would like to see or are willing to suggest alterations to how the comments are run, and since some of them DO say they have been commenting at or visiting Harriet less frequently lately, isn’t this enough proof?”

    No, Stephen, I don’t want “the blog staff to sort through every IP address…” (!!!)

    I thought counting comments and visits or ‘hits’ to a site was pretty simple. Maybe I’m wrong.

    I don’t think evidence should be purely ‘anecdotal.’ That was my point. I don’t think name-calling is evidence. I don’t think you or Kent saying ‘Thomas Brady has been posting too much’ should be used as evidence. If thousands of people are reading Harriet, and then suddenly hundreds of people are reading Harriet, then that might be a concern. Has that happened? I don’t know.

    Finally, Stephen, you write:

    “Your disingenuousness in this is overbearing, which is odd because, as Kent Johnson pointed out, you have often shown here a serious mind for literature, and one would think you’d like for this blog to present good discussions about writing instead of sophistry. Which do you want?”

    Yes, “good discussions about writing” over “sophistry.” Yes.

    Thomas

  • On April 28, 2009 at 10:35 am john wrote:

    I overlooked — completely missed! — having had Clint Eastwood quoted at me — “Feeling lucky punk?”

    As it happens I do feel lucky!

    Jack asked for evidence, called me a punk when I didn’t immediately comply, and then said he didn’t want the evidence after all.

    Find your own evidence, Jack. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, that’s not my problem. It doesn’t happen all the time — hasn’t happened in a few months — but Hertzberg occasionally compliments his coworkers on his blog. He recently referred to a “New Yorker” profile as “great” and thanked another “New Yorker” blogger for linking to a good article.

    Here are my questions to you, Jack. Why does such practice bother you? Why is it in your opinion “unprofessional”? (Obviously it *is* professional — people are being paid to do it!) I’m glad that Harriet staff comment on each other’s posts — it’s all part of the discussion! Why exclude professionals from the discussion, Jack? Why the desire for segregation?

    I was going to let this drop, but then I saw the question about my feel for luck. Isn’t Eastwood pointing a gun at someone when he asks that question? Are you going to shoot me, Jack? I certainly hope not! (I don’t think you are, by the way, but the threat of violence is unpleasant and should probably be taken seriously in these times.) I do expect an answer to this question.

    And my question for you, Thomas: Why does it surprise you that lots of people don’t like an abusive comments stream?

  • On April 28, 2009 at 10:48 am Jack Conway wrote:

    It is unprofessional. You should busy yourself looking for a sense of humor John. Obviously you are missing it. Look in lost and found. And please, it’s a dead issue. Hopefully Travis will address it. I know I will address it in my Letter to John Barr. And lastly, the quote wasn’t even directed at you. You seem to me to be a humorless paranoid.

  • On April 28, 2009 at 10:49 am Gary B. Fitzgerald wrote:

    I have seen my name invoked here a few times…by both sides…so I think I should clarify my position. First, I admit that “Stalinist censors” may be a bit hyperbolic but, c’mon, folks, this IS a poetry site and I have a license. It isn’t a political or historical site and things should be taken with a grain of salt. To associate the brutality of Stalin’s gulags with a reference to his suppression of information, as some have, is a stretch. By way of analogy I could have easily used ‘Nazi’ or ‘Communist Chinese’ or ‘North Korean’ or even ‘Joe McCarthy’. If you were offended, I apologize.

    The point is, though, that, yes, I am 100% opposed to censorship of any kind. Even expletives. Would we prefer “They goof you up really bad, your mum and dad”?

    On the other hand, I do not favor complete anarchy. Sometimes, though, we must choose the lesser of evils. As I earlier said, every community has its bully or village idiot. Tolerating the occasional bad actor is a small price to pay when compared to any inhibition of free expression. Who, then, would judge the judges? Just my humble opinion.

    Carry on.

    GBF

  • On April 28, 2009 at 10:52 am Jack Conway wrote:

    And if that hurts your feelings, John, I really can’t sympathize given the base attitude prevelant here among you country clubbers and “the help.” Once again, it is a matter I will address to Barer. Addressing issues to you is irrelevant at this time. You are powerless to change things here and perhaps Barr will ignore it. However I would be remiss if i did not alert him to what i feel is completely unprofessional behavior by a handful of country-clubbers like yourself.

  • On April 28, 2009 at 10:53 am Jack Conway wrote:

    hence I shall.

  • On April 28, 2009 at 10:54 am Jack Conway wrote:

    good luck on finding your sense of humor. I think you might not have room for it considering how big your false sense of outrage is. lol.

  • On April 28, 2009 at 10:57 am Jack Conway wrote:

    give’em hell, Gary.

    To Quote the poetic words of Clint Eastwood, “Feeling lucky, punk?”

    Yikes, I hope that doesn’t scare poor John. Dear, dear your false sense of outrage and phony concern is hilarious. Thanks for the laugh John.

  • On April 28, 2009 at 11:10 am Kent Johnson wrote:

    Maybe the embarrassing chatroom-like bullying, at this point, is not worth response?

    Just a thought.

    Kent

  • On April 28, 2009 at 11:11 am john wrote:

    Thanks Jack — just wanted to make sure that your macho posing is all talk.

  • On April 28, 2009 at 12:23 pm Stephen Sturgeon wrote:

    Thomas Brady,

    I pointed out that Iolanthe’s comment was not written in the pitch you said it was, and that your description of it was hyperbolic. Saying Iolanthe saw “chaos and crisis,” implying irrationality or willful exaggeration, is not consistent with the rather congenial things that commenter said. Your prolonged and energetic reaction to something that was not there is what I wanted to point out.

    “Counting comments and visits or ‘hits’ ” to Harriet would not be, to use your word, a “scientific” way to assess the impact of recent commenting on Harriet’s readership. You would get numbers but no reason behind or way to interpret the numbers. The work that would be required to evaluate the numbers seems excessive, and it seems fair instead to accept the voices of the many people asking for change outright as an indicator that such change may not be a bad idea. After all, Catherine Halley did tell us that 3 people had posted 30% of 829 posts recently. That “scientific” evidence of disproportion should at least decrease your cynicism.

    Jack Conway,

    Based on what I have seen at a few different publications, contributing editors and associate editors often do help make policy. After Michael Robbins pointed out that he had participated at publications in roles like these, your saying he had “no experience” in publishing didn’t make sense. I still don’t think it does.

    I’ll let you guys have the last word.

  • On April 28, 2009 at 12:30 pm thomas brady wrote:

    “And my question for you, Thomas: Why does it surprise you that lots of people don’t like an abusive comments stream?”

    John,

    Michael Robbins has been rude and abusive to me since I came onto Harriet.

    Let me check to see if I’m OK.

    Yea, I am.

    I guess I just don’t see the big deal. It goes with the territory. Michael Robbins is far more than what I see of him on this site. His behavior towards me is a given. I accept it, and I even respect it. I wouldn’t want Harriet to censor Michael Robbins. I prefer his abuse. I really do. Because, it’s not really abuse. It’s him, it’s how he feels and thinks, and I want it. I do. I want it.

    I haven’t the slightest concern for “streams of abuse,” as you call them. I read them, or don’t read them, as I please. They sometimes make me laugh. They consist of real human beings expressing themselves, having arguments, scoring points. So what? The comments above? With Jack arguing re: blog protocol? That’s a legitmate argument. Jack argues with a certain style; he’s tough, he’s no-nonsense. That’s a STYLE. The little asides and pokes? It takes me a few seconds to read them. They are not ‘abusive.’

    Come on, why do we need to infantilize ourselves like this? John, you mix it up pretty good, and I enjoy it when you do. Are you seriously saying anyone here has been “abused?”

    I see all these people coming here, complaining, and then I look at all these wonderful posts and none of them are discussing poetry on these threads! What is up with that?

    I don’t really know what else I can say on this.

    I hope to continue to see you on the other threads.

    Thomas

  • On April 28, 2009 at 12:34 pm thomas brady wrote:

    Stephen,

    I apologize again for the misunderstanding.

    We had different views of ‘the pitch’ of Iolanthe’s post. I was wrong. I’m sorry I got her tone wrong.

    I’m glad we all agree, then, that ‘chaos and crisis’ do not exist here.

    Thanks for your comments.

    Thomas

  • On April 28, 2009 at 12:42 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    The yin & yang of blog comment streams.

    Aggressive over-commenters; resentful under-commenters.

    I’m against too much censorious control. But unless everyone shows some restraint, seeks a happy medium, then control will inevitably be applied.

    Do you hear that, Thomas Brady? Jack Conway? Henry Gould?

    Don’t make this a venue for personal preening. In a world where most people have to work a lot, & have little time to catch up, the egoism is stupid & self-defeating. The more you hang on your own every oh-so-clever word, the less other people are going to pay attention. Law of diminishing returns. Get it?

    Seek the happy medium. Show some courtesy & restraint. Allow some new voices to pipe up. We’ll all enjoy this blog more if we follow these simple admonishments.

  • On April 28, 2009 at 12:49 pm mearl wrote:

    Daisy – (way upthread – I’ve been off-line since yesterday at 5 GMT …and to Annie who has provided a couple of moments or real sanity in between) -

    I think limiting the number of comments the commentators and the blogger can make on a given thread sounds too much like the Atkins diet. Firstly, I would reiterate what I said above, that the thread – to the extent that is can be controlled – should be controlled by the blogger herself and not by the foundation. And “steered” is more what I mean. The thread is a continuation of the post by other means (pun intended…pace Clausewitz). There’s a parody of this in my second post, which a few people didn’t realize was a parody. Personally, I like to participate in the threads. In fact, I don’t feel like I’m really blogging until I get into the thread. But that’s my problem; I still haven’t learned how to write a proper blog. Since I wouldn’t want to limit myself, I don’t think it would be equitable to limit others. Annie said above (I’m paraphrasing) that all of the wonderful discussion and speculation wouldn’t happen without some people at times getting over-enthused. I think she’s absolutely spot on. At any rate, it’s easy to identify, or simply speed read the comments one isn’t interested in and move on quickly to those that strike one as interesting and purposeful.

    One more note: shame on the person (I can’t remember who it was) who picked out the posts with the least comments and tired to make a marketplace example out of them. The number of comments that accrue has nothing to do with the intrinsic value of the post. Denton Welch is not Tom Clancy.

    Martin

  • On April 28, 2009 at 1:11 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    Stephen, I will try this one more time: Does he have 20 years experience in newspaper?
    Answer: NO

    Does he have 15 years experience in magazine editing and production?
    Answer: No.

    Does he have eight books published with major publishers? Answer: No.

    Does he have any books published?
    Answer: No.

    Hence he has no experience in my experienced opinion a real rookie. Believe what you like. It’s a free country. But I will tell you this his “experience” is a joke.

  • On April 28, 2009 at 1:28 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    John,
    “just wanted to make sure that your macho posing is all talk” just to clarify: since when is a blog anything but “ALL TALK?”

    ” Jack argues with a certain style; he’s tough, he’s no-nonsense. That’s a STYLE.”

    Damn straight. And don’t chew forget it sonny!

    I’m the fricking Norman Mailer of this place.

  • On April 28, 2009 at 1:30 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    Poetry is a contact sport. You betcha!

  • On April 28, 2009 at 9:07 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    But you’re not DOING poetry, pal. You’re just doing Jack Conway. & let em tell you, friend : internet bullying & machismo is the TRUE Yellow Badge of Cowardice. It gets very boring. Suggestion : go read some Robert Service. Report back.

  • On April 28, 2009 at 9:27 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    Oh my feelings are so hurt. Boo-hoo. Yeah Hank, I feel your pain now go back to torturing little kids with your boorish behavior and fancy illustrated version of Service.

  • On April 28, 2009 at 9:39 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    All in your feeble mind, brother.

    Robert Service was recommended to me by my roommate in college, who was a Classics major (his own personal favorite was Propertius – he used to read Greek & Latin poetry with a mini-Sony TV perched on his capacious midriff). He was one of the wealthiest kids in Kansas City (cattle-drive money). He wore cowboy boots. He became an expatriate. Eventually went to work for an international refugee agency in Switzerland. Now lives in Latin America, helping poor people. Has spent a lot of time in refugee crisis locations (like Chechnya). I think Service represented the vita activa (as opposed to collegiate life in the Ivy League).

  • On April 28, 2009 at 9:40 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    Zzzzz! Oops. Sorry. Did you say something Hank? Can you hear this sound? It’s the sound of the smallest violin being played.

  • On April 28, 2009 at 9:41 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    Activa, isn’t that a laxative?

  • On April 28, 2009 at 9:45 pm Jack Conway wrote:

    Boy that kid must’ve been rich. He had a cattle drive him? It must’ve cost a lot of money to teach a cow how to do that. Bet he could steer great though.

  • On April 28, 2009 at 9:49 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    I think you must be a pseudonym – hard to believe you’re real. Some kind of “destroy Harriet” bot. Take it easy, friend. Feeble puns bespeak feeble brain. Rest. Recuperate. Adios.

  • On April 29, 2009 at 2:02 am michael wrote:

    bunch of weirdos. love you.

  • On May 5, 2009 at 8:56 pm Diane Dolphin wrote:

    Wow,
    You’ve really got a problem here. If people can’t even sift through the self-absorbed comments of these few “regulars” to find anyone else’s comments AND if these self-absorbed regulars are so self absorbed they don’t care about giving anyone else space to comment, then it might be time to limit their comments, or give them their own little, self-contained comment “play pen” off to the side somewhere. Otherwise the rest of your visitors will just stop visiting eventually.

  • On May 6, 2009 at 8:46 am thomas brady wrote:

    Diane,

    Funny you mention ‘play pen,’ for that was the gist of the debate; some were saying Robert Service is a poet for kids.
    What do you think?

    Thomas


Posted in Uncategorized on Friday, April 24th, 2009 by Catherine Halley.