Bringing down the iron curtain: Ass-clowns and the purpose of blogs

As most of you know, I run a semi-pro fishing blog. What you don’t probably know is that it gets well over 25,000 page views a month and it is providing a business boost for the company we’re running it for. It’s not like I’m ready to quit the day job and retire here, but it’s pretty successful and  commands a certain responsibility to the readers and fly fishing community.

But as with anything, there are always a few assholes in the bunch. You could argue that the internet breeds them — faceless exchanges with people with zero attention span and no barrier to publication. But I’ve always encouraged people to make their point and let the community put them down. The problem with that is the process isn’t always pretty. In fact, it can be a turnoff for readers to see a bunch of negative, name-calling bullshit on a site.  It reflects on the blog owners.

We recently reached ass-clown saturation on our site and I decided to turn off the comments. It wasn’t worth the headaches. We had anti-environment idiots, blowhard competitors, and one specific douche that I think gave Karl and ulcer. My view is that the site offers information and entertainment, but it is not a forum. If you want to bitch, go join iFish or Westfly.

I could have blocked IP addresses, selectively published comments and kept the nice ones. But that seemed like too much work (and it rankled my journalistic ethos). The solution, in my opinion, is to publish a post saying “Comments are off” and that we welcome dissenting viewpoints, intelligently written by people using their full names and affiliations. We also welcome reader reports, questions and photos — send us your feedback through email.

On one hand,  I think the blog format is successful in part because of the readers’ ability to comment and interact with the content (though Google visibility and immediacy are probably more important features in this case).

On the other hand, we are editors and experts, running a professional site and we don’t have to provide a platform for idiocy. There’s enough of it already online. This isn’t a public service, it’s a business.  

Let me know what you think… leave a comment.

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About mstansberry

Matt Stansberry currently lives in Eugene, Oregon with his wife and son.
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14 Responses to Bringing down the iron curtain: Ass-clowns and the purpose of blogs

  1. mstansberry says:

    You kind of lose the opportunity to do cheapo posts like this: http://fieldandstream.blogs.com/flytalk/2008/06/funny-or-stupid.html

  2. David says:

    Your blog. Your rules.

    Drama on websites take away from the real points of the posts on the site and almost de-values the website. It’s childish and from a business stand point unprofessional.

    I say give ’em all the boot and the people that are mad about not being able to posts can either get heated at the jerk offs who ruin a good thing or take their time to write a real post (which is a great idea allowing readers to write in like a newspaper column).

    Fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke. Right?

  3. Funtecchio says:

    wtf? yah just block whatever you want d-bag, havnt u evr herd of the 2nd amendment? its called freedom of speech you fucktard. roflmao

  4. Amy says:

    My 2 cents for what it’s worth: People are stooooopid… (I don’t think I need to further my point given other comments here, do I?)

    In all seriousness, I think some people may fail to see the difference between comments on a blog post vs. a forum for discussion.

    I also think there is a very big difference between an entertainment blog and a business blog and as a fellow blogger see nothing wrong with blocking comments or disabling the comment function from a business endeavor for the exact reasons you’ve mentioned.

    If you feel the need to accommodate those commenting, is there a way for you to enable a separate “forum” for discussion where comments are allowed and let the blowhard have their fun away from the content you’re presenting?

  5. Pete says:

    Um…the Second Amendment is the right to assemble a militia and to bear arms. The First Amendment is Freedom of Speech, but that is protection from government restriction:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    As a private forum, Matt has the right to regulate content and commentary however he sees fit.

  6. Nstanz says:

    Block everyone… it is your site… unless you are freaked by the 2nd Amendment… like I am… Funtecchio…. your site is about having babies in Chicago… and you probably haven’t seen a fish in at least a couple years… so unless your post is a joke and if it is…ha… you are the reason we can’t leave comments…

  7. Alex says:

    I think the thoughts others have here illustrate how worthwhile comments can be.

    That being said, you’ve run into the reality that any website operator has to address 24/7/365: spammers, griefers, trolls and the like, none of whom are likely to add much to the discussion.

    Dave Winer, the blogger who runs scripting.net (and fathered RSS), doesn’t allow comments — he thinks that if you want to comment on a post, you should do it on your own blog and let the link and trackback take care of the relationship.

    The way that most of the high traffic tech blogs have dealt with it (if they haven’t simply turned off comments) is to insist upon identification and attribution. If you want to comment on a Gawker blog or Boing Boing or the like, you have to be approved.

    I like blogs with comments and vibrant communities. In the social media circles I’ve been running around in recently, that kind of activity is both an indication of your engagement in a given niche and a significant form of value (sorry, corporate-speak) in of itself.

    In other words, I think you should turn comments back on.

    Initiatives like OpenID may make it easier for blog owners to moderate communities using a centralized single-sign on.

    Until then, I think your best bet is to eliminate the ability for anonymous commenters and establish a clear standard for discussion — no spam, no porn, respect for others in the forum, etc.

    You’ll have to spend more time with community management, if you go in this direction, which may not be something you want to spend time upon.

    Often, however, if you’re discussing a technique, a place or an idea, an engaged audience of fellow travelers, writers and yes, fishermen, will create a wealth of useful information in the comment section for each post. If you can stimulate and nurture that, your blog will be much more valuable (and I think Google will like it more, too, which make business sense).

    Whatever you do, I hope you keep writing. Great work!

  8. Brian says:

    You closed the comments? That means your a fascist promoting an anti-fishing community. Your fly’s will always be dry (and zipped) and you’ll eat nothing but roadrunner transported to Oregon on the backs of exploited children that you spawned while traveling around the world in a boxcar…

    A community forum and outlet for discussion has become a necessity for any type of online environment to be successful. That said, it does need to be controlled and regulated, which can be a royal pain in the ass. Any blog that’s starting to gain more traction seems to go through a couple phases: first friends comment; then fucktards flame; finally, you get people genuinely interested in the content who will promote the discussion and hopefully ignore that other BS. It’s that last group that is most useful, obviously, but unfortunately you have to go through the other phases to get there.

    I think you’re taking the right approach for now. Close the comments and see if people have anything to say about it: emails, letters, whatever. Also, keep an eye on your page views. If they start to dip, you might have to consider that not allowing people to speak out is affecting how many people are reading the site. When you do reopen the comments — and I think you’ll eventually have to do it — there are a couple of ways you can approach it.

    You’ll have to moderate some of it, but only the comments that are wildly off topic. Clear those out. Keep an eye on what people are saying because it’ll give you an idea what sort of content they want. Ignore the idiots. And never, ever pick a fight with a commenter on a board. Since you’re representing the site you have a responsibility to be a pro and writing something like, “I’m going to bury you where you’ll never be found” just invites readers to flame back and make you look like an idiot.

  9. Correction: Due to an editing oversight, the following phrase, “/sarcasm”, was deleted from the end of Funtecchio’s comment above. We deeply regret the error.

    In all seriousness, it might not be a bad idea to follow the lead of Andrew Sullivan. Shut off comments for now, but publish a reader’s mailbag every once in a while from those who email you. Then you can respond to them in the post or not. Alex’s suggestion of making them identify themselves in the comments isn’t a bad idea either, although like he said that requires more work from your end in terms of sorting out who is good and who is bad.

  10. Brent says:

    Approval and identification. This will keep the ass-clowns out, keep the small community of Eugene happy, and keep the business thriving.

  11. Neil says:

    I need to spend more time on the internet blogging so i can learn what things like ROFLMAO mean. something laughing my ass off, i want to learn how to express all kinds of ways to do things off of my ass. drink my ass off for instance needs a handy shorthand DMAO LOL MF-er.

  12. Tough Gnarl says:

    I would like to coin HFFFMF. I say do as you will.

  13. Jack says:

    Hey,

    I like the fishing blog for the shop. I just started coming down to Eugene for business. Guess what? I stopped into the shop, bought some flys, had a great talk about shoulder surgery with the clerk, and went fishing on the Willamette. Next time I’m bring my drift boat with me.

    I’ve never read the comments. I’ve only read the articles and looked at the pictures. Close the comments. Good for you. I think for a retail shop that is fine. There are too many liablities to manage. A communication blog like this one is fine. Jack

  14. Tony says:

    Why not just filter out inappropriate comments, or are you saying that there are so many that it would take too much time?

    I agree with Alex and Amy.

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