Comments sections

Tauriq Moosa linked to a 2014 article of his on comments sections after making this tweet:

His current handle being “end comments sections” which may give away the punchline a little.  He says at The Guardian:

Some find great value in comment sections and one feels almost obliged to say “Not all comment sections”. They are, like the internet itself, tools: we don’t discard wrenches because of a few accidents. Yet, if people start using wrenches to mostly beat each other with, maybe it’s time to radically rethink whether they should be allowed at all.

The precious way comment sections are viewed as a kind of right – by site owners and commenters – needs to change. At best, they should be heavily moderated and shut off without apology, viewed as gifts; at worst (?) removed altogether. No one is shutting off every open blogging platform and internet forum in the world where commenters are free to take their opinions.

It’s about time we combated entitlement by prioritising safety, solidarity and quality (as places like CreepyPMs do) over so-called “free speech”, that benefits only the loudest and usually most vile.

Or you know: shut them off altogether.

He’s mainly addressing comments sections on major news sites, which are admittedly the whole Mos Eisley rather than the mere cantina of Twitter.

true love star wars

But I think the same points apply to comments on blogs, chiefly: you may not make the comments, but they are part of your site. Reading them is part of the experience many visitors will have when they open a page you have created and published for the world to see.

I’ve had this argument a time or two with leftwing blogs, though it’s best represented by the wide-eyed, “who me?” defences offered by David Farrar every time some slut-shaming/genocide-advocating/homophobic/bigoted/hateful crap goes down in the comments at Kiwiblog. Most recently, one leftwing blogger lamented that comments from notorious rightwing agitator Redbaiter always slips “right through” the spam filter.

When we run blogs, we’re responsible for the content we host. We may do this in our free time, and I’m speaking from a position of hardly ever having to moderate comments because Boots Theory may be amazing, but it isn’t a Top 10 on Open Parachute kinda operation. Heck, one reason I’ve not been blogging at The Standard is avoiding the shitfights that occur when multiple moderators have very different views of what’s appropriate to publish.

But these spaces are ours, big or small. Right now, I have four username/email combinations set to automatically go to moderation (a ridiculously small number). All first-time comments need to be manually approved. It’s a single tick-box in WordPress. It’s that easy. Bad stuff may slip through – and the solution is to edit, delete, ban or auto-moderate as need be, not throw our hands up and say “oh well, I guess I’ll just let this horrible pile of dogshit sit on my doorstep then.”

That’s how I like to run a blog. It’s not about deleting everything that I disagree with – you can look for yourself, and stop using that tired old “echo chamber” line while you do. It’s being proactive and conscious of the kind of content I am in charge of – even if someone else wrote it and hit the Submit button.

After all, it’s a big ol’ internet out there. Anyone can go start their own blog and say literally anything they want on it (barring a few of the classic no-no’s like “making death threats against the President of the United States”). And other people will judge them by the company they keep, and the conversations they nurture, too.

Bob McCoskrie can get in the river

Two years after winning the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Award, Ted Dawe’s Into the River is now temporarily banned, because Bob McCoskrie hates fun.

doctor who eye-roll-sigh-annoyed-smh

There’s something in the way we talk about young adult fiction. The Herald article refers to Into the River as a “sex and drugs teen novel”. Bob McCoskrie’s own press release calls it “explicit“.

I haven’t read Into the River, but fortunately we lived in the internet era. The reviews of the book on Goodreads seem to indicate that it’s a “sex and drugs teen novel” inasmuch as it is a novel about teens which involves sex and also drugs. It’s not Fear and Loathing on the East Coast.

Or as 5inabus puts it in their review:

Even the much anticipated “C-word” references left me wanting. Like the sound a lone party horn makes just before it fizzes and dies out, those passages were so fleeting, and so perfectly “within context” as to be anti-climatic. I had to re-read them just to give them another chance to make an impact. I felt like saying “C’mon Ted, you gotta earn that Parental Advisory sticker! All you’ve given us so far is real people talking how real people talk!”

I’ve only given the Goodreads reviews a quick scan, but the main criticisms seem to be about not really connecting with the protagonist, the sex scene itself seeming out of place, the pacing being uneven.

Pretty shocking stuff.

It always puzzles me – at the ripe old age of 31 – how some people seem to have completely forgotten what it’s like to be a teenager. Guess what: no matter what generation you’re from, sex and things-that-make-your-brain-go-wheeeeeeee is a fundamental part of the process of growing up. And having no information about them didn’t help, did it? You’ve still got the rush of adolescent hormones, you’re still having exciting, strange feelings when you see boys/girls/elves. You’re still going to explore what it means to be growing up and forming relationships.

A book which explores those things isn’t exactly out of place. And I’d rather that kids work through their questions and uncertainties through reading instead of practical trial-and-error.

Sure, slap a “mature content” sticker on the front if you really want to make sure that every single teenager on the planet will read it.

But while we’re at it, have you heard about this book which actually claims to teach morality with stories of men sleeping with their own daughters, polygamy, graphic torture, and selling women into sexual slavery? People actually force children to learn its so-called teachings! They go into our schools to spread its deviant messages! You can even find it in almost every hotel room in the world!

I’m sure Bob McCoskrie will not rest until that’s banned, too.

lestrange not really