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Editing and Deleting

What follows is a conversation that began on “Speak Up”.

To recap a bit, PTC made a comment on this post. The comment was a criticism of Karl Rove, the author of the article to which Dave linked. There were no disparaging remarks made about the subjects of the post, the Krissof family. In fact,  I would go so far as to say that if there is any one subject on this blog site on which all agree, it is that the Krissof family commands all of our deepest respect and admiration. 

To continue: PTC’s comment was deleted. No note appeared in it’s place stating why and by whom. PTC then made a statement on “Speak Up” that his comment had been deleted and that is where the discussion (below) begins.

As a board member, I encourage the discussion to continue in a positive way, with the goal being more clarity on the EphBlog policy regarding the rules on editing, deletion, and censorship.

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#1 Comment By PTC On July 4, 2009 @ 12:28 pm

My comments on Rove were removed from the Valor post… ah well…

Rove still dodged the draft. Something to think about when one reads that post.

#2 Comment By sophmom On July 4, 2009 @ 1:11 pm

PTC:

I am not exactly sure what you said or why it was removed. I thought it was policy that whomever deletes a comment should at the very least indicate that they have done so.

I find it ever so fascinating that the argument for free speech is consistently used to justify all kinds of dribble on this site and yet your comment was deleted with no reason given…and on July 4th, of all days.

#3 Comment By Ronit On July 4, 2009 @ 2:00 pm

Why did you delete my comment? Because it was rude or obnoxious or off-topic or trollish. We delete comments all the time. We welcome deletion suggestions from readers. Our goal is to create an Eph conversation, an on-line analogue to all the discussion and debate which occurs in the classes and dining halls of Williams. Sharp comments and pointed rebukes are welcome. If you think that someone’s argument is stupid or racist or pathetic, then write that (and back it up). But (true) comments like “Dave is ugly” will be removed. The truth is no defense against a charge of bad manners. Anonymous comments have the least standing. Comments from regulars, even if they use a pseudonym, are treated with more deference. Readers who use their real name are given (almost) the same latitude as authors.

#4 Comment By sophmom On July 4, 2009 @ 2:38 pm

Thanks for the definition, Ronit.

It still doesn’t answer the question of who deleted it, and why. At the very least, a note that the comment was deleted, could have been left in it’s place, with the initials of whomever did the deleting. At least, that seems to be the way a deletion has been handled in the past. It isn’t as if PTC is an anonymous troll, after all.

PTC, did you get an email from whomever deleted it?

#5 Comment By nuts On July 4, 2009 @ 3:10 pm

@PTC: How did Rove dodge the draft? I know he protested the Vietnam war but not as a conscientious objector:

Far from being a conscientious objector, Gustavson recalls, Rove’s opposition to the war was political. He considered the conflict a “political skirmish that was not being properly administered.” link

One might wonder if Rove had the same objection about how the Iraq war was being prosecuted. Nah, it got his guy elected in ’04. You don’t change horses in the middle of a war.

I know Rove registered and got a 2-S deferment for full time student and subsequently withdrew from classes. What I don’t know are the facts surrounding his 1-H status, “not currently subject to processing for induction,” and whether he had avoiding induction by attaining that status through his own efforts.

Do you have any facts that illustrate affirmative action he took purposefully to avoid being drafted? Either way, on principle he objected to the war and so he decision to not enlist is understandable on principle.

On February 17, 1970, Rove was reclassified as 2-S, a deferment from the draft because of his enrollment at the University of Utah in the fall of 1969. He maintained this deferment until December 14, 1971, despite being only a part-time student in the autumn and spring quarters of 1971 (registered for between six and 12 credit hours) and dropping out of the university in June 1971. Rove was a student at the University of Maryland, College Park in the fall of 1971; as such, he would have been eligible for 2-S status, but registrar’s records show that he withdrew from classes during the first half of the semester. In December 1971 he was reclassified as 1-A. On April 27, 1972, he was reclassified as 1-H, or “not currently subject to processing for induction”. The draft ended on June 30, 1973. link

#6 Comment By nuts On July 4, 2009 @ 3:19 pm

@nuts: but of course that doesn’t stop him from pimping the Krissoff’s family service. Anxious to get the word out on his op-ed in the WSJ about the Krissoff’s family military service, Rove tweeted repeatedly about his op-ed on Jul 2 tweet, tweet.

#7 Comment By David Kane On July 4, 2009 @ 5:00 pm

I deleted PTC’s comment after a request from someone with good standing to suspect that the family would find it offensive.

PTC is free to start a new post, or continue the discussion here. about why Rove is such a bad guy.

In the meantime, President Obama is sending tens of thousands of American troops to Afghanistan. How long do we Obama voters expect that war to go on? Just asking!

#8 Comment By JG On July 5, 2009 @ 2:54 am

David, I didn’t see the comment so I can’t speak to exactly, but I seem to remember you refusing (rather stridently) in the past to delete comments at the request of someone not the topic. As PTC describes it, we had a comment about the author of an article (a very public figure), not the subject of the article, and you deleted the comment at the request of that third party. Just wondering if you’re going to apply that same logic now to everyone or is it just on particular topics?

#9 Comment By Larry George On July 5, 2009 @ 4:28 am

I echo JG’s dismay and question regarding DK’s removal of PTC’s comment.

Further, I am deeply disturbed that the removal apparently was a “stealth” job, with no note at the former site of the comment that an edit had been made and no notification to the author (or, apparently, to the board); it took PTC’s noticing the change and raising the issue for the edit and editor to be surfaced.

I am deeply disappointed in the editor, who has let all of us, including himself, down.

#10 Comment By PTC On July 5, 2009 @ 5:00 am

Nuts/ mom- I have a problem with operatives like Rove wrapping themselves in the flag and pushing religion and country while talking about people who were killed in service. Also-,I have a problem with any post like that that says “say what you want about Bush…” The military should not be used in such a way. Every President visits the family members of men and women who serve, and are KIA. Just the nature of Rove saying what he says in that post, the way he says it, the fact that he publicizes it- I have a problem with.

The President can do something without it being political. He is a leader. He is the commander in chief. Rove is not.. He is a political operator. It is not right, to use such a thing politically. Rove, definitely does that in my opinion. I expressed that in the post, and David removed it.

As far as me getting on Rove for avoiding Vietnam, well, re read what he writes in the post on valor and you tell me- is a person who clearly avoided the war of his time a worthy person to politically promote and publish another persons’ families service in such a way-

“Christine Krissoff’s husband and sons, wrapped in prayers and armed with swords and scalpels, have served our nation with valor. So has she. So long as our nation produces families like the Krissoffs, America will remain not only the greatest nation on earth, but also the most noble in history.”

I do not believe so. Military service is bigger than all of us. Bigger than any polity or religion. The day that that changes, is the day that America fails.

Happy fourth of July!

#11 Comment By David Kane On July 5, 2009 @ 6:38 am

JG and LG,

1) Have you read the FAQ? Ronit kindly reprints the relevant section in comment #35 above. We delete comments all the time. We have no stated policy of making a note when we do so, although I and other authors often do. (And, were I not traveling and in a bit of a rush, I would have done so in this case. But there is no affirmative obligation to do so.)

2) Perhaps the FAQ could make this more clear, but there is a bright shining line that differentiates posts and comments. As I said above, PTC, as an author, has the right to write whatever he wants in a post of his own, consistent with our policies. Certainly, however off-topic and trollish his comment on my post may have been, it would have been fine in a post of his own. That is the key distinction.

3) Feel free to suggest language in the FAQ that would make this more clear, but it seems exactly right to me. For example:

How can I get a post or comment about someone else deleted? You can ask, but we may just wait for the subject of the post to ask. How do you know what he wants?

Exactly correct. The “may” in that sentence is key. If anyone wants, I am happy to have a big debate over the difference between this case and Henry Silverman’s ’61 divorce news [the issue that JG is referencing above], but, if we are going to have that discussion, we should have it in a new thread.

There have been other occasions in which I have removed comments from one of my own threads in similar circumstances.

4) Perhaps the key concept here is that authors own their own posts and the comment threads that follow. An author can delete any comment that she finds trollish or off-topic from her own post, whether or not anyone asks her to. It is her call; she has control over that part of the Williams Conversation.

5) If anyone thinks that we need a change in policy or a change in the FAQ, please make a suggestion. As with our discussion over editing each others’ posts, I am sure that we can work out something that is agreeable to all. Perhaps comments from “regulars” need to be given more preferences that comments from others? As always, I am eager for EphBlog to have policies that valued members of the community, like JG and LG, find agreeable.

#12 Comment By frank uible On July 5, 2009 @ 7:20 am

Aren’t a post and a comment both speech? If so, why different rules? I don’t buy the ownership distinction. They are both “owned” by their authors.

#13 Comment By Larry George On July 5, 2009 @ 8:57 am

I agree with Frank in #48. The “post” vs. “comment” one is a distinction without a meaningful difference in this context, to my mind.

In addition, rather than relying on rules, how about considering courtesy to fellow bloggers? Try the Golden Rule (and the corollary of how you might feel if this had been done to you — and think of whether it promoted or damaged inclusiveness and dialogue).

#14 Comment By lgeorge On July 5, 2009 @ 9:11 am

I hereby request that the board consider altering the distinction, referenced by DK above, between posts and comments in the Ephblog rules and apply the rules currently applying to editing/deleting posts to editing/deleting comments to a post, recognizing that the author of a comment, not the author of the post under which it appears, owns his/her comment.

Thank you very much for your consideration.

#15 Comment By sophmom On July 5, 2009 @ 9:20 am

LG and all,

As a board member, I agree that this conversation is an important one. In fact, it needs to be explored further, with the results applied to policy and archived. With that in mind, I will be starting a new post for the front page and moving all these comments. I have never transferred comments before, so I might need Ken’s or Ronit’s help.

To be continued!

#16 Comment By lgeorge On July 5, 2009 @ 9:50 am

I note two interesting offshoots that I had not realized about the current rules:

1) If I as the thread author own the post and the comments under it, then in some ways, unless I object to or go in and edit the comments, I am implicitly condoning or even perhaps espousing them. I do not have that understanding about an author’s posts and his/her responsibility for comments made under it — in fact, this realization rather alarms me. I do not go in and touch other people’s comments without the highest (to me) degree of justification — in fact, I don’t think I have ever done it and I don’t want to have to start doing it; yet, I don’t want other people’s opinions ascribed to me. In addition, I am not in a position to monitor the site constantly to see what someone has posted (as I now understand it implicitly) “under my post/name.” Sometimes, days go by without my being able, or choosing, to access the site.

It would seem that my only protection from having comments that are offensive to me implicitly ascribed to my support/feeling pushed to edit others’ comments to my posts are a) to cease authoring any posts or b) to push the “No Comments Allowed” button whenever I make a post. I will go the latter way temporarily while this matter is under consideration, but it will hardly be conductive to community, dialogue, and inclusiveness, all of which are quite important to me.

2) If the author of the post “owns” any comments I make under that post, I don’t really have a right to go in and edit my own comment — something I technically have the ability to do as an author, given the software we are using. Under the rules, I probably should be requesting permission from the author of the post. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I value being able to make corrections on comments I’ve made, without asking anyone’s permission — it cuts down on my rather unfortunate keyboarding errors, improperly making links, and the level of permanently expressed snarkiness that irritation often beguiles out of me.

Thoughts?

#17 Comment By hwc On July 5, 2009 @ 12:37 pm

My preference would be that a post, like Dave’s, justifiably honoring an Eph family, not be turned into a collective EphBlog political attack on s favorite whipping boy.

#18 Comment By JG On July 5, 2009 @ 12:42 pm

@David Kane: Obviously I was referring to the hypocrisy of your alleged “free speech” and “public figure” nonsense rather than the post/comment distinction. Thank you for demonstrating that your previous stance had sh*t to do with principle.

HWC – I tend to agree that it would not be my personal preference to turn that thread where PTC wanted it to go. However, there are many, many posts that go down a different path than was expected. Teh interwebs are crazy things. Free speech that doesn’t defame or attack in an unfair way the subject of the post is more important than what we’d prefer. I don’t think we should have totally unfettered speech on this blog (we’ve discussed this before). But there is a clear difference between taking a topic where you’d prefer it didn’t go and that.

If David’s issue was merely taking the thread somewhere he didn’t like, he should have told PTC as such (or noted on the comment) and put the comment in Speak Up or as it’s own post. As an author, that seems to comport somewhat more with his “rights” to the post. Regardless, I thought we had a long and involved discussion previously that anyone deleting or altering a comment should note it as such.

#19 Comment By PTC On July 5, 2009 @ 12:43 pm

#20 Comment By sophmom On July 5, 2009 @ 12:47 pm

The purpose of this post is to encourage positive discussion regarding EphBlog policy on editing, deleting and censorship. If you have commentary that is otherwise, please save it for another thread.

Thank you all.

#21 Comment By PTC On July 5, 2009 @ 12:47 pm

hwc-
Rove makes it political. You do not have to “turn it” at all to make it so. I am just bringing up the elephant in the room.

My point is- service should not be political. Rove should not be getting involved in such matters. Re read the article.

#22 Comment By PTC On July 5, 2009 @ 12:51 pm

sophmom- sorry. I’ll stop posting on the problems I have with this article.

#23 Comment By Ronit On July 5, 2009 @ 12:55 pm

The only thing I have to add to this discussion is to suggest that, in some form, everything posted on EphBlog “belongs” to EphBlog. EphBlog is a registered nonprofit organization with a presence on the web, and is implicitly responsible for everything published on its site, ephblog.com

In the history of EphBlog, there have been 22,971 comments published that were submitted via this form. There have been at least 210,068 comments submitted via this form that were never published. The vast majority of these are spam comments, but a few of them are also comments that were removed because they contained trolling, personal attacks, rants, etc. Some of these comments are initially allowed to be published by our automatic filters, but then removed by human intervention. For instance, in the recent thread about Sotomayor, I went in and removed a comment by an unknown author that was marginally on-topic (ie, it was about Sotomayor) but was otherwise just an excuse for said author to express some rather paranoid and personal attacks against Sotomayor. It had little to do with the rest of the discussion or the original article. Thus, even though it was “about” Sotomayor, it was removed. I did not leave a note. Similarly, just because a comment is in some way “about” Rove doesn’t mean that it belongs in an EphBlog thread about an article written by Rove.

In short, over 90% of comments submitted to EphBlog are never published. Authorship concerns have really very little relevance here. We decide, every day, that hundreds of comments submitted are unworthy of being published – we filter them out automatically or manually. We do not query the submitters of those comments about their intent, nor we do feel it necessary to leave a note for each comment filtered out. There is an implicit or explicit decision made to publish each comment and post that does get published. That decision is ultimately made, not by the author of the comment, but by the owners and operators of EphBlog.

Historically, the power to make that decision has been in the hands of authors of posts, and board members with moderation abilities. We have historically given wide leeway to authors to moderate their own comment threads, and remove comments that violate the FAQ. I would like to preserve that practice.

If an author deems a comment posted on their article to be off-topic, trollish, or obnoxious, the author reserves the right to remove those comments. There is no positive responsibility for the author to leave any note, though that might be a nice thing to do.

For all comments that are published, the owners and operators (and ultimately the board) of EphBlog make a decision, either implicitly or explicitly, to publish them. There is some responsibility for comments and posts here that goes beyond the author – the board of EphBlog implicitly says, for everything published here, that this is the kind of material that we would like to publish to our readers. We are responsible for everything published here.

Thus, in addition to regular spam filtering, the board of EphBlog also has the right and responsibility to remove content that contains libel, has the potential to hurt members of the Eph community, or would otherwise bring EphBlog into disrepute.

Any change to EphBlog policies that leads to authors and board members losing the ability to moderate comment threads would lead to me ending my participation on EphBlog. I do not wish to see this site turned into another one of those millions of blogs where the comment threads are utterly unreadable – because they are unmoderated. There are plenty of other sites on the internet where you can go to post your off-topic political rants. Posting on EphBlog shoud be considered a privilege, and comments failing to meet some standard of relevance and civility should be deleted by either the author of the post or the moderators.

Now does that mean all off-topic digressions should be verboten? Absolutely not! We expect commenters and authors to exercise discretion. Most digressions have historically been allowed to proceed without any kind of hindrance. However, I would classify a comment about Rove’s military service, when appended to a post meant to honor the Krissoffs’ service, as being not only “off-topic” but also “obnoxious”. It’s a bit like posting about Clinton’s bj in the comments thread to an article about the Clinton Global Initiative. Maybe there are sites out there where that kind of comment is welcome (Huffington Post, for instance). This is not that site. I fully support David’s decision to remove PTC’s comment.

#24 Comment By sophmom On July 5, 2009 @ 1:06 pm

PTC @22:

Thank you.

Your opinion and sentiments are valued. Regardless of whether or not any of us agree or disagree with your comment on the Valor post, it was the way in which it was removed that is the impetus for this post. Bear with us as we hash this out and hopefully come up with more clarity on the whole subject of deletion.

#25 Comment By PTC On July 5, 2009 @ 1:10 pm

For the record-I do not have a problem with Dave deleting my comment. I understand why he did it. It is his thread. However, I think authors should leave a note when they do delete something.

I also agree with others that David seems to have a double standard in this particular instance… which I can understand. However, if you are going to quote an article like this from the most extremely partisan and controversial political operative currently living- do not be surprised if you get comments that you may not like.

Rove would not be my choice of a person to link for anything that I wanted left out of the grinder.

#26 Comment By sophmom On July 5, 2009 @ 1:18 pm

@ 23:

However, I would classify a comment about Rove’s military service, when appended to a post meant to honor the Krissoffs’ service, as being not only “off-topic” but also “obnoxious”.

Ronit, I invite you to visit the archives, and the last post re the Krissof family. I am not going to post it here, because my intention with this thread is to focus on the way in which PTC’s comment was deleted. But if you will take a look at it, you will see that you yourself made “off-topic” political commentary on a post meant to honor the Krissof family. Your comments were not deleted. Should they have been? And if so, would you not have appreciated an author’s note in it’s place?

That is what I want to address in this thread.

#27 Comment By Ronit On July 5, 2009 @ 1:19 pm

Should they have been? And if so, would you not have appreciated an author’s note in it’s place?

Yes, and yes. At least, David would have been well within his rights to remove them. I regret making those comments.

(In my defense, you will note that my comments were in direct response to something that David actually said in his post – it wasn’t something about Bush’s past cocaine habits or draft dodging.)

#28 Comment By JG On July 5, 2009 @ 1:30 pm

See, the problem I have is that David (as the author) chose to use the article of a polarizing figure to honor the Krissof family. They are worthy of being honored repeatedly, I agree.

But the author of that article was also using them to score political points. My first reading of that article was honestly to be annoyed that a political hack wasn’t just writing about their family’s incredible sacrifice, but making little asides about politics. The descriptions of how super-duper-fabulous the former president was make it political. Our author’s choice to leave in those portions of the article AND make snide references to our current president pushes is beyond the place of mere tribute.

So I think the motivation of the author is absolutely relevant in a way that is very, very different from a BJ reference in a Clinton Global Initiative article. If Bill Clinton himself wrote the article and made any reference, however oblique, to his personal troubles then it would be fair.

I agree that author’s should have discretion in editing/removing comments, but I think they should only exercise it in away that is consistent with the stated policy, which includes recognizing regular contributors to the site. It also doesn’t allow you to delete just because you don’t particularly like the very relevant deviation in the comments. If we are going to edit with that heavy of a hand, perhaps I don’t actually want to participate in this blog. That goes well beyond anything we’ve ever deleted here before.

#29 Comment By Ronit On July 5, 2009 @ 1:46 pm

@JG:

See, the problem I have is that David (as the author) chose to use the article of a polarizing figure to honor the Krissof family.

Maybe David used Rove’s article because it was the only article published in a major newspaper last week about the Krissoffs, and Rove was actually personally involved with helping Dr. Krissoff to serve the country.

Are you suggesting that David should ignore entire articles about Ephs published in the WSJ, written by a political insider who met them, who is trying to honor their service, and who helped them in some form, just because some people can’t control their reflexive desire to bring up said political figure’s behavior 36 years ago?

#30 Comment By nuts On July 5, 2009 @ 1:59 pm

@David Kane: I am surprised that the detailed comment PTC wrote (5:00AM) explaining his point of view on the original issue did not merit a response from Kane (6:38AM) who made the original editing decision to delete it. So I will ask, does anything PTC said have any affect on your decision David or any affect on you your thoughts about the policy? The reason I ask is becuase you seem to want to engage in debate on more abstract issues rather than address the person who feels disenfranchised by your editing decision.

sophmom, Thanks for having this thread. You may recall, I too left a comment on a thread about war and Eph’s military service to their country that was deleted. I was careful to word my comment so that my concern about the preemptive war was not confused with my appreciation and admiration of the Eph’s in military service. Nonetheless, my comment was deleted. Lgeorge encouraged me to do a post on the incident to generate discussion. Instead I choose to abstain from Ephblog for a few months. Looking back, I would say having my comment deleted was an experience in disenfranchisement, which is why I choose to stay away.

Having read PTCs comment (5AM) on this thread, in contrast to his original deleted comment about Rove being a draft dodger, I would say that he’s really fleshed out his argument – it’s well reasoned and reasonable. I wonder, had his comment been allowed to exist, would it have produced the same result.

You can see from above, I was prepared to debate his draft dodger assertion. Reading on including his subsequent post, I realize now that the draft dodger assertion that was not central to his concerns about Rove’s op-ed on military service – it is more about political operatives pimping other people’s military service thereby wrapping themselves in the flag.

When I posted a link to Rove’s July 2 editorial, I purposely posted it on Speak Up! without additional comment. I remembered that we already had a thread that touched on Rove’s pimping of other people’s military service and I knew that readers who remembered that post would take it the way they saw it before. To their credit, both Kane and PTC had a take on it. It’s too bad that their takes were perceived by David as incompatible becuase I think their takes are compatible.

#31 Comment By JG On July 5, 2009 @ 2:05 pm

Perhaps my choice of the word “problem” wasn’t clear, if so I will clarify. I was referring to the “problem” of disallowing commentary about the author of this article versus other contexts. Ephblog has often involved commentary about the authors of posted articles. I’m still waiting for a reason that this one should be different other than some would prefer the difficult topic wasn’t brought up. I think this problem is highlighted even further given that David explicitly also made a comparison to the current president – i.e. he went political first. It wasn’t defamatory or simply an off-topic tirade or something like that. As PTC has represented it, it was commentary on the author’s motivation and/or legitimacy is writing such a piece. The author is a public, political figure who has spent an entire career pushing an agenda.

#32 Comment By sophmom On July 5, 2009 @ 2:14 pm

@ 27:

I realize the distinction. And, to be honest, I had no problem with the points you made then, or to PTC’s points in the Valor post. Much of what was voiced, then, and now, were sentiments shared by many. I did however, worry about causing offense to the subjects of the post.

That said, I also dislike posts that by the same token, use a particular subject to further a political agenda. I do not believe that was DK’s intention here, so I will move on to the specific issue of deletion.

Dave’s response to the deletion was this:

I deleted PTC’s comment after a request from someone with good standing to suspect that the family would find it offensive.

First of all, I am thrilled to see Dave making the feelings of the subjects of the post, a priority, to actually worry about causing offense. My biggest beef with him has always been that I didn’t think he took this into consideration often enough.

Which leads me to my next point:

This kind of concern, piqued by the mere suggestion of someone “with good standing”, is miles away from what he has demanded as justifiable reason to edit or delete a post or comment in the past. What he has framed as “freedom of speech” and “transparency” etc, in the past, is very far from what he felt granted him the right to delete PTC’s comment in this instance. I agree with PTC, that either a double standard is being enacted…or DK has changed…become more sensitive to the subjects of his posts. :-)

Which brings me to my next point:

I agree that an author should be able to delete a comment that they feel fits the criteria posted in the FAQ, but I also feel they need to show consistency in that regard, and to also treat the commenter (especially a regular, known contributing blogger) with a certain respect. Either give them a chance to change their comment, or else put a note in the place of the deletion that indicates who made the deletion and why.

As for how to draw those distinctions and add them to policy now in place, so that we have more clarity and consistency, that is what I would like to see accomplished in this thread.

#33 Comment By nuts On July 5, 2009 @ 2:53 pm

@hwc: “…collective EphBlog political attack…” that’s a mouthful. As I read through the comments, I see everybody make constructive arguments about Rove’s editorial, PTC’s comment, Kane’s editorial decision to delete PTC’s comment, and Ephblog policy relating to the same. Nonetheless HWC’s cautionary point is well taken. Don’t pick on beleaguered DK.

#34 Comment By sophmom On July 5, 2009 @ 3:01 pm

I hope my comment at #32 doesn’t come off as an attack on DK. I sincerely appreciate his efforts to honor the Krissofs. And I am very pleased that he is placing a priority on the effect his posts might have on it’s subjects. I believe we should all consider this when posting. I think LG has it right in holding the Golden Rule as a guide when making commentary. But that same civility can be applied to how we deal with the opinions and comments of our fellow bloggers.

#35 Comment By Dick Swart On July 5, 2009 @ 3:07 pm

I would be interested in a view of the situation with a possible solution that might become
a standard for other like situations from our Ephblog Ombudsperson.

It has always seemed to me:

• that the poster is under an obligation to keep the resulting thread under some sort of oversight.

• that deletions as deemed necessary should be identified by the poster as to reason etc.

• that the case of another making the deletion or amending the deletion should be extremely rare and made after strenuous objections in the ‘comments’ for all to see.

• that the person other than the poster should be the Ombudsperson whose judgement and decisions are recognized by and are made with the full authority of the board.

For a previous example, please reference my posts on the visibility of gays on campus made earlier this year and the resultant excellent handling by the Ombudsperson.

Dick Swart ’56

#36 Comment By lgeorge On July 5, 2009 @ 3:54 pm

Could someone please address the following concerns (apologies to those who read them when I posted them earlier; my earlier comments are slightly edited here, for clarity):

I note two interesting offshoots that I had not realized about the current rules:
1) If I as the thread author own the post and the comments under it, then in some ways, unless I object to or go in and edit the comments, I am implicitly condoning or even perhaps espousing them. I do not have that understanding about an author’s posts and his/her responsibility for comments made under it — in fact, this realization rather alarms me. I do not go in and touch other people’s comments without the highest (to me) degree of justification — in fact, I don’t think I have ever done it and I don’t want to have to start doing it; yet, I don’t want other people’s opinions ascribed to me. In addition, I am not in a position to monitor the site constantly to see what someone has posted (as I now understand it implicitly) “under my post/name.” Sometimes, days go by without my being able, or choosing, to access the site.

It would seem that my only protections from having comments that are offensive to me implicitly ascribed to my support/feeling pushed to edit others’ comments to my posts are a) to cease authoring any posts or b) to push the “No Comments Allowed” button whenever I make a post. I will go the latter way temporarily while this matter is under consideration, but it will hardly be conductive to community, dialogue, and inclusiveness, all of which are quite important to me.

2) If the author of the post, and not I as the author of the comment, “owns” any comments I make under that post, I don’t really have a right to go in and edit my own comment — something I technically have the ability to do as an author, given the software we are using. Under the rules, I probably should be requesting permission from the author of the post. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I value being able to make corrections on comments I’ve made, without asking anyone’s permission — it cuts down on my rather unfortunate keyboarding errors, improperly making links, and the level of permanently expressed snarkiness that irritation often beguiles out of me.
*********************************************************
More thoughts on those comments follow.

As it now stands, I cannot take responsibility for constantly (or even, at times, intermittently) overseeing comments posted under any post I make. As a result, I am now shutting off the comment button on new posts I make, and will probably stop making posts unless the policy is that authors of comments (and, responding to Ronit, Ephblog itself), not the authors of the posts under which they are posted, own those comments. In addition, I don’t think I want to post comments on a forum where the authors of the post under which I post them, and not I (and Ephblog), own them and can change them at will (and I feel that way regardless of whether they notify me in advance, after the fact, or at the point of editing <--- notification probably won't fully solve the problem for me, although I believe notification is very important). I am considering whether I should stop posting comments or, possibly, stop posting comments on all posts except those whose authors I already trust deeply.

#37 Comment By lgeorge On July 5, 2009 @ 4:13 pm

P.S. I have been glad to see nuts back.

I had not known why nuts had left us, but I take the explanation at #30 as an important illustration of what can happen — and often may happen — when a comment is deleted, particularly if it is subject to “stealth” editing. nuts went away for several months after that incident.

As for me, as I think about it, I need to know that I can trust the other authors on this blog not to go in and change what I have written. My protections will have to be good will and policy/rules. Right now, I suddenly have a terrible thought that goes beyond my dismay about deletions — I don’t go back and reread what I have posted and what is protecting me from it having been turned into drivel/political commentary that I could never espouse/vicious personal attacks on other Ephs, and the like? Please take that concern into account in formulating revised rules.

#38 Comment By sophmom On July 5, 2009 @ 5:03 pm

LG:

1) I don’t believe that anyone holds the author responsible for all the comments made on his post. None of us can be that vigilant. And usually, if a comment is really obnoxious, someone besides the author is quick to point it out. I think EB has a great record of conscientious blogging in that regard.

2) I also don’t think anyone meant to say that the author should have the only right to change comments in a thread. I have found my “editor’s rights” to be one of the best assets of being an author, if merely for the opportunity it affords me to edit my own comments. But I have never considered changing or fixing someone else’s comments unless it was specifically made clear by the poster that they wanted the comment changed, as was the case with “Aparent” on Speak Up a few days ago.

And I agree that it is great to have Nuts back. I vaguely remember the thread to which he makes reference, and agree that any comment that is deleted, (with the exception of an obvious and unknown troll) needs to have a note in it’s place indicating who deleted it and why. And preference, along with a chance to amend the comment, should be given to regular bloggers like PTC and Nuts.

I suggest that “Speak Up” can be a temporary “holding cell” for questionable comments, especially if the author is particularly anxious to get it off his thread. That way the commenter and others, have a chance to review the comment, and maybe amend it or even use it to start a new thread.

#39 Comment By Vermando ’05 On July 5, 2009 @ 5:42 pm

I agree with Sophmom at #32.

I don’t find Ronit’s ‘but we don’t publish 90% of what’s submitted’ reasoning very helpful. PTC is a well established figure who deserves more respect than is accorded the spammers and flamers to whom he refers.

I also don’t think that LG has to worry about having all of the comments to his posts attributed to him. As an analogy, a poster owns the remarks of his commenters the way a professor owns the comments of the students in his class. Some professors run a tight, focused ship, while others prefer more of a free-for-all. In general we admire a professor whose students produce on-topic and informed commentary, and we likely think that it is possible for a discussion to get so poisonous that the professor would be better off shutting it down. Few people, though, actually attribute the views of the students to the professor, or those of the commenters to the poster, particularly so long as he does not make the mistake which David apparently made by selectively deleting only comments of a certain perspective.

#40 Comment By David Kane On July 5, 2009 @ 8:44 pm

What an interesting and useful discussion.

1) If anyone wants my opinion on specific aspects of this, please just ask. Otherwise, my comment #11 stands. In particular, posts are very different from comments, in my view. (Others may disagree.) Note, as always, that we do not have enough posts, so we should privilege them as much as possible.

2) Can anyone provide the history, with links, of the controversy which caused nuts to leave us for a bit. I hate when people leave and would like to learn from this.

3) Let me respond to some of Dick’s comments:

that the poster is under an obligation to keep the resulting thread under some sort of oversight.

I disagree with that. Posters, like LG, are often busy people without the time or inclination to monitor EphBlog. They have no “obligation” to do anything. Our most important problem is that we do not have enough authors posting enough material. So, we need to make it maximally easy for LG and others to post. Authors, therefore, have no obligation to provide “oversight” of any kind.

By using the word “own” above, I meant to suggest that an author has the option to control a thread, to delete comments that he finds obnoxious and so on. He has no obligation to do so.

In the same way, the Board (and the Administrators) “own” EphBlog. This is both true in a legal sense (EphBlog is a 501(c)) and a technological sense (Administrators can delete/edit comments in any thread). But they/we are under no obligation to do anything. Read the FAQ. EphBlog is presented AS IS. If you don’t like it, go away. (Or join us and work for change!)

that deletions as deemed necessary should be identified by the poster as to reason etc.

That is not the current policy, but, if the Board wanted to change that, I would have no problem. Note that, in this case, I wanted to leave a note but did not have time.

that the case of another making the deletion or amending the deletion should be extremely rare and made after strenuous objections in the ‘comments’ for all to see.

that the person other than the poster should be the Ombudsperson whose judgement and decisions are recognized by and are made with the full authority of the board.

I am not sure that I follow this. We have a specific policy in place for posts but nothing like this for comments. As Ronit notes, deleting comments happens all the time, so we would probably need a more streamlined procedure.

More later.

#41 Comment By Ken Thomas ’93 On July 5, 2009 @ 9:03 pm

Dear sophmom and all,

Thank you all for what have been a thoughtful, careful and insightful series of discussions.

It is Election Day in Mexico, which underlines the importance of many of the issues you have raised.

I, too, was concerned with and dismayed by PTC’s addition to the “Valor” post. The Krissoffs’ example touches deep in me, as I am sure it does for PTC. While PTC’s comments were meant seriously, and to call for serious thought and discussion, there was the potential that, attached to the post, they would be read as something else or, indeed, cause unnecessary harm to the Krissoff family.

Equally, when it was brought to my attention, I was dismayed by the evident anonymous and unexplained deletion of the comment. Many authors have the ability to delete any comment, and I wondered if one of them intended to act without accountability. Equally, the reason I did not delete the comment myself, was that it seemed to raise an important and significant issue.

Rove’s piece left me uneasy, as well. I’ve had much reason, in the past weeks, to consider what it is, to live in a society which suppresses open discussion, by various means.

There are, of course, places and times for eulogies and valedictories. I do not think it was PTC’s intent to interrupt such a moment, rather to comment and raise discussion about the obvious. However, as Ronit has pointed out so well, we do have editorial responsibilities. At least, as an organization and not just a “bathroom wall,” I believe we benefit if we take on the responsibility of judging the meaning and value of what appears here, and exercise choice.

Equally, nuts and others have pointed out that anonymous, unnamed and unexplained deletion has a particularly “chilling” effect. If not explained– clarified– it can lead an author to feel particularly targeted and that this is a forum where an unknown cabal exercises such powers arbitrarily. This, too, even if unintended, suppresses discussion.

I am also drawn to the example of a professor in Morocco, who faced great difficulty in discarding her notecards, because in much of Islam the expression of an idea or thought is considered sacred. In the informational sciences we call the relationship between a post and a comment “parent-child,” and there is something there that is more than “just metaphor.” What is left of the librarian and archivist in me, is aghast at the idea of discarding– anything.

Comments which advertize pornography, drugs, scams and schemes are one thing– though their record may contain something of value to the future. In those instances when I have deleted comments by seeming “passers by,” I have also emailed the commenter (where possible) or left a note that they did not have a valid email. Yes, this takes time.

On the other hand, this is about community and the community we build. Perhaps for technical reasons, many of us remain far more anonymous to each other than “if we were living next to each other at Williams.” In the previous months, I’ve also had the luck of working with people who make a living. They relate a number of lessons which may apply.

Participants need clarity, they need instructions and explanations. They need to be treated personally, and fairly. Every newcomer needs a personal greeting, and someone or ones who serve as contacts. And someone must “host” the forum, guiding and making connections, just as with a “good party.”

In regards to the specific issues presented today, I do not see an absolute difference between posts and comments. Posters control the “parent” and can and probably should exercise some discernment and influence. However, they should not be “it’s my party” tyrants, petty or otherwise. Neither is “anything goes” best policy.

Sophmom’s suggestion that, should and when a comment seems problematic, all else equal, and the comment lacking clearly objectionable content, it be moved to “Speak Up” or another place for further consideration, seems among the most equitable and just to me. We may have others from the floor. However an “editorial” process for comments

Finally, I’d like to remind everyone of, in all these things, how much we have to learn from each other, and how much we can learn from each other. I’ve appeciated that process, and every one here, every day for some years now.

Yours,

Ken Thomas
quaOmbudsperson

#42 Comment By Larry George On July 5, 2009 @ 10:19 pm

I appreciate sopmom’s, Vermando’s, and Dave’s responses to my comments. Still, your interpretations of/takes on/glosses on the rules are not what the rules actually say.

I am increasingly uncomfortable about making posts and about making comments on other people’s posts now that I have focussed on what the rules actually say.

To be sure, I have some “protection” in that I post under a pen name, but even so, I feel hesitation about participating in a forum where the current rules would allow someone to do real harm to a named poster. Consider in particular the faculty members who post from time to time under their own names and the students who post under their names, and what havoc the current rules would seem to allow authors to play with those individuals’ comments/what restrictions the current rules wold seem to place on their revising their own comments if posted under someone else’s post.

#43 Comment By Larry George On July 5, 2009 @ 10:32 pm

I haven’t commented on the post that started this discussion, but I did think that Rove, the uber-political operative, was exploiting the family’s patriotism in his piece (and later learning about Rove’s Tweet Tweet made me genuinely queasy) and that Dave’s post, too, was pointedly political (because of Dave’s comments). To me, that properly opened the door for PTC to pop the balloon, as it were. That made it particularly problematic in my view for Dave to remove PTC’s comment. That Dave did so as a stealth deletion greatly compounded the problem.

As an unrelated matter, I find the tone of the “rules” obnoxious and rude, far from conducive of conversation, dialogue, welcoming, or inclusiveness. Surely, we could do much better.

#44 Comment By David On July 5, 2009 @ 11:20 pm

“Surely, we could do much better.”

Indeed! Propose any specific changes to the FAQ and I will immediately put them in. (Obviously, if you wanted to change any policies, that might require discussion. But, if all you want to do is change the language, I will make whatever changes you like.)

Writing a FAQ is that is welcoming, inclusive and so on is harder than it looks . . .

#45 Comment By David On July 5, 2009 @ 11:25 pm

I feel hesitation about participating in a forum where the current rules would allow someone to do real harm to a named poster.

Huh? Just what are you talking about here? We allow no spoofing or otherwise misleading people about what a poster might think or say. With very specific exceptions — as outlined, with examples, in the FAQ — we touch nothing.

Now, any time you wander onto the Internet, there is always a chance that someone evil could hack in to make it appear that you believe X when, in fact, you believe Y. Perhaps professors and students should not put up web pages lest someone unscrupulous in OIT edit their pages to make it appear that they believe something that they don’t! Such fears are about as plausible in that context as they are at EphBlog.

#46 Comment By Vermando ’05 On July 6, 2009 @ 12:42 am

I agree with the thrust of LG at 43, and I don’t think that David’s response at 44 fully answers it. The issue is not with the FAQ but their application to this case. As LG says, the poster made some comments that someone could disagree with, and when someone did, the poster deleted that response. That’s not right. We could add that as a specific article in the FAQ, but in the law we have an easier name for it: “bad faith”. No set of rules can encompass every instance, and if people want to act in such a manner we can’t hope to stop them at all occasions.

Still, taking up David’s suggestion in 44, if we do find that a review of the FAQ would be helpful I’d be happy to contribute to such a project or committee. I believe that Sophmom’s solution which Mr. Thomas discusses in 41 is helpful but is likely not – by itself – a fully solution, and that a wider consideration is thus likely needed.

#47 Comment By frank uible On July 6, 2009 @ 12:45 am

For those who for some strange reason might care, let it be noted that EphBlog rules or no EphBlog rules, I’m going to write what I damn well please, irrespective of the threat of any consequences.

#48 Comment By sophmom On July 6, 2009 @ 1:18 am

Frank @ 47:

We hope so.

But really… wouldn’t you be chagrined should your comments just start getting erased with no clue as to who deleted them or why? Just…poof! There one moment, and gone the next? What fun would that be?

To all,

Thanks so much for all the thoughtful commentary. Vermando, it would be terrific to have your input on summarizing the concerns here. Once I have had more time to digest the thread, I promise to present a comment with some simple and clear ideas of what I would like to see amended in the FAQ. And I hope all those concerned might do the same. DK appears amenable to changes, and has asked for specifics, so I think we should comply.

#49 Comment By frank uible On July 6, 2009 @ 7:27 am

mom: Then I could continue writing on EphBlog as I would have without the editing or could alter my writing on EphBlog accordingly or could stop writing on EphBlog altogether or could vote on EphBlog with my feet or could seek the editor out and try (at my advanced age) to punch him in the nose or could engage in a combination of some of the foregoing – all without the assistance of any goddam rules. At any rate my life would proceed – most probably relatively satisfactorily. But if you like rules, have at them, whatever they may become.

#50 Comment By PTC On July 6, 2009 @ 9:54 am

I think the rules are fine. I do believe, when a comment is deleted- that should be noted by the editor in the thread.

Dave was right to show the deference to the family that he did in this instance… with this caveat- our armed forces has over a million members. The Rove piece is political; it is not just about one family. One should take that into consideration when blogging about such things and making political references invoking religion and polity. I have the utmost respect for the members of the Republican religious right who serve in our military- but no more than the Democrats, independents, Jewish members, Episcopalians, Muslims, Deists etc etc…

It is important that we recognize when political operatives use a specific instance as a bridge (an example for all) that includes many dog whistles for their particular propaganda. The closer those kinds of connections get to a specific personal example that invokes emotion, the harder it is to call that part of it what it is. They are counting on that. They are counting on others to shut the hell up, and accept their version of reality. That is wrong- more wrong in my opinion than letting it stand in this case- so I wrote what I wrote.

I fully understand David’s position. He edited me out of respect for the family. I am fine with that. Next time, I hope he does not use such a thread to promote an ideology and poke our current commander in chief. Service demands more than that in my opinion, so I made my point.

#51 Comment By David On July 6, 2009 @ 9:55 am

Vermando writes:

I agree with the thrust of LG at 43, and I don’t think that David’s response at 44 fully answers it. The issue is not with the FAQ but their application to this case. As LG says, the poster made some comments that someone could disagree with, and when someone did, the poster deleted that response. That’s not right.

It may not be “right” but the FAQ, for several years has made it perfectly clear that we can (and so!) delete comments if we find them obnoxious or trollish. Both Ronit and I (and others) found PTC’s comment to be so. I was well within my rights as the author of the post to delete his comment. But, at the same time, I had no obligation to do so, and probably wouldn’t have if not for contact with a friend of the Krissoff family.

Now, if you want to change the policy so that one needs more serious grounds or further discussion or a 3 month investigation and 20 page report from the Omburdsperson before a comment can be deleted, feel free to make that suggestion. But my actions were perfectly consistent with how things have been handled for several years.

Side note: I believe that the vast majority of comment deletions/edits are handled by either Ronit, Ken or me. (Corrections welcome and if others would like to take up some of this burden, then your help would be appreciated!) Sometimes we just delete it. Sometimes we edit it (mostly just by cutting out the offensive/trollish/off-comment portion). Sometimes we leave a note. Sometimes we don’t. If folks wanted to move to a new policy whereby notes were always required, that would be reasonable.

But, I think, anyone who is proposing that we handle comments the way that we handle posts is underestimating the work that Ronit/Ken/I do behind the scenes to bring a minimum (!) of decorum and good sense to the discussion threads.

#52 Comment By Ronit On July 6, 2009 @ 10:00 am

I would be fine with requiring moderators to leave a note stating that a moderator has removed the comment, and possibly the reason why.

#53 Comment By Ronit On July 6, 2009 @ 10:20 am

We currently have 17 users who technically have the ability to moderate comments. Any one who has shown an interest in being an active discussion host or editor, or has volunteered to help with cleaning up the archives, or organizing categories, or wants to work on the WordPress theme, etc., has been given “moderator” level authority. Unfortunately, WordPress user roles aren’t terribly fine grained, so if we want to give someone the ability to edit posts or categories, or work on the technical back-end, they will also have the ability to edit comments. This doesn’t mean they will ever use said ability.

I frankly have no idea how often any of these 17 people log in to the moderation panel, or whether they even have any interest in doing so. Some of them are no longer actively involved with the site. Most of them don’t log in very often, I would guess. I know that I try to log in at least once every day, mostly to check the spam queue to see if any legitimate comments got caught in it.

We haven’t in the past put too much restriction into who gets these permissions, because we operate on the basic assumption that all Ephs (and Eph moms and Eph interns and so forth!) will act in good faith. That has worked out pretty well for us so far, at least most of the time. If leaving moderation notes would help the overall transparency and fairness of what we do, I am more than happy to adopt that proposal.

That being said, the potential for stealth deletions continues to exist if we have moderators who are not reading this thread, and are unaware of the new rules.

Proposal:

We should notify via email all of those who have moderation abilities about the complete set of moderation rules, and ascertain that they positively affirm their intent to follow said rules whenever they moderate comments. Doing so will not require any positive duty to moderate comments, and imposes no additional obligations on them – except for those times when they choose to moderate comments. Basically, the email should be of the form: “You are currently an editor on EphBlog. We have recently created a set of straightforward rules for all editors to follow. Please read these rules and inform us of your agreement to follow these rules[…] Otherwise, please let us know if you are no longer interested in the editorial role, and we will change your user status to that of an author. If we don’t hear from you within x days, we will change these roles automatically.”

#54 Comment By frank uible On July 6, 2009 @ 10:42 am

PTC: I suspect that you would take exception if Rove merely said, “Good morning. Nice day out!”.

#55 Comment By PTC On July 6, 2009 @ 11:02 am

Frank- Re read the post and the piece, then get back to me on that.

Rove or Moore- I see little difference honestly. I’d have the same reaction if this thread referenced a political piece from Michael Moore and promoted the other end of the cultural spectrum. There is a time and a place for such things. I admit that my original post was rough, and engaged in a way that was not becoming of the sensitivities of the thread. I understand why it was deleted.

However- I do not think the thread was very becoming either. It took some time for me to fully express the reasons that I found the article and the post offensive.

#56 Comment By Parent ’12 On July 6, 2009 @ 11:22 am

I took a quick look at this discussion. With that in mind-

At a bare minimum when a comment is deleted, wouldn’t it be a basic courtesy to email the writer of the deleted comment. As I recall, those who comment provide a viable email address.

I know that if I wrote something that was deleted, I’d like to know. Also, the original comment might disappear without the author knowing.

I appreciate the respect & basic good faith that is apparent in this thread.

At this point I think Ronit’s “Proposal” to contact those with moderator privileges is a good first step.

#57 Comment By Larry George On July 6, 2009 @ 11:38 am

I agree that moderators/potential moderators should be contacted and asked affirmatively to agree.

We need to clarify who”owns” comments. I would say the author of the comment and Ephblog, not the author of the thread under which the comment is posted. That is, a post author who deletes someone else’s comment that has been posted under the post should be doing so as a moderator (and thus acting for Ephblog), not as the author of the post.

#58 Comment By Larry George On July 6, 2009 @ 11:39 am

(As an aside, we are making a lot over PTC’s comment but I found the original post under which it was posted much more problematic, as mixing politics into a piece about the family’s service.)

#59 Comment By Ronit On July 6, 2009 @ 11:44 am

As I recall, those who comment provide a viable email address.

Nope. Many of those who comment use obviously fake/non-existent email addresses.

I think a note left in-thread, for a comment that was originally published but then removed (remember that 90% of comments are never published) would fulfill the function of letting the comment author know what happened to it – I’m on board with having no more mystery deletions. An additional email follow-up might be a nice thing to do for a longstanding commenter, but would be an unnecessary burden if required for all drive-by commenters/flamers/trolls whose comments are deleted.

#60 Comment By Larry George On July 6, 2009 @ 12:01 pm

I don’t think Ephblog has the same obligation to drive-by commenters/flamers/trolls as it does to people who are regular discussants, such as PTC. If a deleter/editor knows that he or she is deleting/editing for, say, purely political reasons, however, he/she should think a bit before making the change and, if he/she goes forward, should aspire to be honest enough to leave a note even if the commenter is not a regular discussant.

I think we have two different sets of problems: the one with flamers and trolls that Ronit and Ken and Dave see but the rest of us are mostly spared from (with only a small percentage of the nastiest drive-by commenters’ comments getting published), and the problem caused by the recent deletion/editing of a regular discussant’s comment.

Clearly, there’s a lot of judgment involved and a huge need for good faith efforts.

By the way, thank you to the moderators who have tirelessly staffed the gates against the armies of trolls and flamers who have attempted to storm the blog. (That image almost cries out for a Swart illustration.) I see what people post in the unmoderated comments of various newspapers, and I can just imagine….

#61 Comment By reader On July 6, 2009 @ 12:48 pm

Wow

I guess I had different expectations when I first came across ephblog. I was hoping for a way in which I could gain insight about what was happening on campus and in the alum world with some opinions/different points of view, but without having to weed through everyone’s personal agendas – and that’s, from what I understand, without seeing what’s deleted.

Anyone know if there is a way for me to find brief, relevant info about life at Williams and beyond??

#62 Comment By Ronit On July 6, 2009 @ 1:33 pm

@reader: You’re welcome to join us as an author. If you’d like to find out anything in particular about life at Williams and beyond, I suggest starting a thread about it.

#63 Comment By sophmom On July 6, 2009 @ 2:12 pm

Reader:

You must have missed the dozen or so other latest posts listed right on the front page. I’ve listed a few below.

And yes, I second Ronit in urging you to join in the efforts at producing the relevant info you enjoy. It does not just magically appear after all.

Lower Taxes!
Bill Krissoff P’03 – Deployed to Iraq
Calling Moonwalk and others
Understated?!
Faculty Notes
Compactness
Travels with Rechtal Turgidley, Jr:
July 4th – 6 Ephs Currently Deployed
An Eph in Afghanistan
One Hit Wonder
Heart of Securities Fraud
Ephs Star on CBS 2PM EST July 4th
A Family’s Valor
New North Adams Eatery

#64 Comment By sophmom On July 6, 2009 @ 3:19 pm

Great suggestions above. Here are mine, some of which have already been put forth.

1) I agree with Ronit’s proposal at #53. It makes total sense.

2) I also would like to make it policy that no comment is ever deleted without a note indicating who deleted it and why. It is common courtesy. And I don’t buy the excuse that it takes more time. If you have the time to delete, it takes about five more seconds to type something as simple as:

*Comment deemed off-topic and removed by SM

This requirement also safeguards against stealth deletions or edits by a mystery moderator. If a comment goes missing, with no note left, then we know we have a problem.

3) If the comment is questionable, or such that it simply needs it’s own thread, then why not place it on “Speak Up”? I don’t think this will happen very often, and it would have been a practical solution for PTC’s comment. I realize this is an iffy suggestion, but I do think there are a few cases here and there, where this might work well.

The suggestions above are relevant to this thread. What follows below are slightly off-topic to the subject of editing and deleting, but I would like to put them out there nonetheless.

I believe we should require a verifiable email from each and every commenter. I understand the need for anonymity on the face of the site, but not for a fake email. A fake email, to me, is irresponsible at best, and at worst, a sign of questionable intent and identity.

I also don’t think an author should be allowed to base an entire post on an “anonymous source”, especially if that source is unwilling to join into the conversation and/or reveal a legitimate identity and email to the author quoting them . I think this practice not only leads to a lack of credibility for the author and the site, but also opens the doors to any imposter.

#65 Comment By reader On July 6, 2009 @ 3:20 pm

I have seen the posts. And some do offer me the info that I’m looking for. It’s just exhausting sometimes trying to sift through the comments – I guess I should learn to skim more efficiently.

As for becoming an author – there is little that I can offer – I have no idea about what’s happening – that’s why I read ephblog – and sometimes comment (I appreciate your highlighting one of my comments, sophmom. It is a topic that I feel strongly about).

No disparagement intended – I do keep coming back!

#66 Comment By sophmom On July 6, 2009 @ 3:36 pm

@reader:

Your participation is much appreciated. I think of your wise comment to the new student quite often. And I know this thread is tedious, but I think it’s all stuff that will help the tone of the site.

As for skimming, “Speak Up” has become an active bulletin board and is great for a quick dose of current info.

Also, Reader, any time you have an idea or a request for something you’d like to see, post it on “Speak Up”. I think all of us could use some inspiration in coming up with topics.

#67 Comment By JeffZ On July 6, 2009 @ 3:40 pm

Part of the issues, reader, is that especially in the summer, there is so little Williams news that it would be hard to have more than one post per day (and on some days, there would be none) focusing exclusively on something Williams-centric. Even still, the majority of the posts generally focus on campus or alumni news, and the vast majority bear at least a relatively close connection to Williams or its alumni. The other issue is that, as posters, you don’t simply want to replicate a google news feed — that gets boring for readers and posters alike. Personally, I post a fair amount, and I’d say more than half of my posts are basically Williams news with minimal editorial commentary, but then I also enjoy on occasion using this as a forum to express some viewpoint (again, almost always with Williams as a jumping off point) or take a stab at being humorous (as to the success of the latter, that is in the eye of the beholder …).

if you want to read about Williams absent the editorialization, you can pretty much get all the info you’d want from a combo of running a google news search on “Williams College” and the sports info / press release feed on the sidebar of Ephblog). But I think it’s nice to have a place with a little richer content, for reader and poster alike. now of course this blog at times can veer too far afield from its core mission, that elusive balance is difficult to achieve, but on most days, I think it is remarkably successful at doing so.

#68 Comment By Larry George On July 9, 2009 @ 3:50 am

Cross-referencing these recent comments from the Run for the Fallen thread (http://www.ephblog.com/2009/07/08/run-for-the-fallen/) (and adding my approval that no one snuck in and erased the comments in question, but wondering whether some with deletion power don’t have a double standard that allows Frank to say whatever he wants in his role as resident curmudgeon but has a heavy hand with the eraser when other readers post):

nuts says:
I’m glad Frank’s comments have not been deleted/censored due to a presumed lack of compatibility with the topic for whatever reason a moderator might have decided … such as vaguely disrespectful of the deceased service members or simply criticism of the purpose or method of the Run for the Fallen organizers…
Did the discussion about Ephblog guidelines for comment moderation yield a revised and more tolerant moderator’s policy so that criticism of topics related to military service is no longer the sacred cow of Ephblog?
July 8th, 2009 at 4:44 pm | Reply

sophmom says:
Nuts@14,
The distinction was that someone in “good standing” would have to suggest that the comment might possibly be “offensive” to the subjects of the post.
Now, ^that explanation^ took 10 very valuable seconds out of my day, so I do hope you appreciate it.
And yes, the discussion on guidelines will become a board matter soon, hopefully yielding a better policy.
Gosh, I for one, hope that this new concern for that which might be “offensive” becomes consistently applied to the larger Williams community, including all administration, faculty, students, and alumni (not just some), thereby setting a precedent that displays respect and appreciation for the entire herd.
Best of luck to “Run For the Fallen”. What a terrific tribute.
July 8th, 2009 at 6:38 pm | Reply

#69 Comment By frank uible On July 9, 2009 @ 7:34 am

What would have Voltaire said about this proposition? Mill? You historians and political scientists know the class of characters to whom I am referring.