Once a long time ago, back when I was a pious art dude scouring the web for feelings/opinions about art in Chicago, I used to relish and hitting refresh on your podcast pages and more recently the “new” blog. The comment sections there were a source of snickering, consternation, approval, dismay and WTFness. It was also a place to *facepalm*. It epitomized for me a simultaneously voyeuristic community that is silently opinionated (the anon’s) while at the same time coming off as grossly redundant by the self-promoting (the signed-in’s). There were also a lot of useful in-between comments that reflected a more intelligent community.
Then, inexplicably, it got phased out. (And by phased out I mean comments went from always there, to being available for a couple of days and then turned “off”, and finally, as of April 14, 2010 – completely gone.)
I miss them horribly. I also have the feeling that I’m not the only one.
I also know why you did it, or at least I have a good idea why. Anybody who was as interested in the comments as I was knows why too. Really, there is no need to rehash those things here except to say that I was often appalled by what I read. At the same time I learned and liked a lot: history, ideas, theory, Richard’s comic book stuff, Amanda’s insanely awesome cackle-laugh. Speaking of history, I hoped Christopher archived those comments. There must be pages and pages of them. Lots of good stuff and horrible stuff, all invaluable. I smell a zine in the making.
Now you guys are the big time – with your own openings, famous artists/dealers/curators/museum directors and blogger friends all over the world. You are still BaS, still awesome and still essential, but you’ve self-censored yourselves. I know it was hard to monitor the bullshit that happened in those comments and you played Switzerland very well most of the time (Duncan got a little testy here and there – but that’s cool). Can’t you find a new unpaid intern to do this for you, the next Meg Onli?
So what happens now? You post this letter (I hope) and then no one can comment on it? Wait, can I say whatever the hell I want right now? AND NO ONE CAN DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT! Anyways, thanks for receiving this letter to the editor, and I hope this rant makes up for all the time I was an anon.
First and foremost, thanks for sending your concern our way. When we removed comments with the new site launch on November 1st, 2009 I had expected we would have received a lot of flack via email. But alas, this is the first to grace our inboxes. Also, I appreciate your understanding of why we turned comments off.
When I first joined BaS back in 2006 there had been talks about what to do about comments that were getting out of hand. Mainly the name-calling and *facepalming* (as you so eloquently put it). I was adamantly against it as were the majority of members. But, over the past 4 years my opinion has changed. When I took over the blog and began “managing” other bloggers (Claudine excluded) I started to see offensive comments in a different light. These were people I worked with being attacked and many people I had asked to participate with us declined and listed the uncouth comments as a reason. I am up for debate but the behavior that was happening was getting out of hand and at times embarrassing. Although there were great things that did happen in the comments section it seems that much of what is missed was the “He said what?” aspect. (I use the male pronoun because they overwhelmingly dominated the space.)
Monitoring comments, although an option is really not something that is feasible for us currently. To set up an adequate moderation of comments would mean either sacrificing some aspect of the project or finding someone that solely wants to focus on that. If someone would like to moderate comments on a daily basis please email us and we would consider it.
With all that being said, Claudine and I have been working to open up the blog. Our series, “Off-Topic” was one small solution to having outside voices on the site. We have also been discussing how we can use the Bad at Sports’ facebook page in a way that will facilitate more conversations. If anyone has any suggestions we would be totally up for hearing them.
I would just rather be known for the place to go to hear/read artists having conversations and not the place to go and see people sling mud at each other.
Thanks for the letter,
Britton, as you well know I have always respected your opinion and your feedback examines the issue in a complete and thorough way, I could not possibly have put is so succinctly.
The reason we, after a vast amount of hand wringing and debate, ended the ability to post comments was due to the increasing amount of time we had to spend dealing with off-blog correspondence from people who were mad as hell that someone said something about them, posted under their name, and/or were afraid to post commentary or contribute feature pieces to the blog as they did not want to endure the at time acrimonious personal attacks. We went so far as to have a meeting to discuss the issue face-to-face and examine it from all sides. Monitoring the messages seemed like a solution, deleting offending posts, but I cannot, and will not act as occasional censor. I find censorship in all its forms be an aberration, I think that it is unfair and totally subjective to pick and choose who says what, I don’t want to be deleting the posts of someone who I think is a jackass. Just because someone in a jackass does not mean they don’t add to the dialog. So we would be posed with defining the rules for deleting posts. We agreed on the big things, direct threats, criminal behavior, libel (which is a stickier wicket), but then you get to more difficult issues of who defines who is a bully, who is a troll, who is a schmuck. We couldn’t do it in a way that would make for articulable rules.
So in the absence of some clear mandate, we were left with two choices, leave things be, and continue to diffuse possible problems (and potential litigation) or we pull the plug and the hell with it, disappointing, but certainly something that would resolve the problem. While a cop-out we all have jobs, partners, obligations, many have kids, there are times where we opt for the path of least resistance. Not ideal, but true.
Meg, now the Editor in Chief of our blog, the person who essentially runs at least half of the BAS empire, started as our intern. She is amazing and has worked harder than anyone during her time at BAS. If I was paid for this, she would have to be paid more than I was as she earned it.
Sadly, finding an intern with the work ethic and vision of Meg is a one in a million and I don’t see us getting someone to pitch in sufficiently to create and police a new comment system.
So, we are left with encouraging listeners/readers to submit letters such as your and phone comments (312-772-2780). I fear you have been more-or-less the lone voice who has given feedback post removal. Under we have a better plan, we need to stick with what we are doing. Send all better plans my way!
As a quick post script all of the comments are still on display with their corresponding posts and we view them as an invaluable part of the Bad at Sports site. In the end the trade was made to get better articles from more people. Remember anyone can pingback any of our articles with their responses on their respective blogs or sites. We never want to limit the volume of talk but had to trim the audible volume of the talk.
Got a response to this post? Let us know! Email your response to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll feature thoughtful responses to issues generated by our posts in our Letters to the Editors Feature.