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Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 18,889

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Toronto Star Gives Up, But Not Our Admins!

Toronto Star closes commenting on thestar.com

They give lots of good reasons in the article announcing this decision, although they don't mention what is probably the most powerful incentive to give up on online community management: Court dismisses appeal of Warman libel judgment against website (the Ontario Court of Appeal made a ruling that the owner of a website can be held liable for libel if it does not act to remove libellous statements made in comments on its website in a timely manner.)

The issue of website and blog "comment" functions' potential to nurture raging Internet cesspools of unbridled reptile-cortex feculosity isn't a new one. It's long been known as a vulnerability in the whole "online community" concept. Discussion fora, such as this one, are a next-step-up in intensity on the same problem, enhanced by the assumption that in fora there will usually be some form of moderation. And the corresponding disappointment when that moderation fails to meet user wishes and expectations.

And so has the solution to the problem been long known:

Bad Comments Are a System Failure: So Why Can't You Fix Them Like Any Other Bug?

If Your Website's Full of Assholes, It's Your Fault

I was interested, in reading both of the above-linked blogs, to see that most of the identified remedies for the issue have been implemented, (and well-implemented indeed,) right here on Democratic Underground, for some time.

Although we're almost all here on DU based on a common interest in politics and public policy, the "Context Collapse" referred to by West in "System Failure" applies here, too. We have a really, really diverse community, and we naturally fracture into passionate and often vehemently opposed sub-communities, a phenomenon exacerbated during primary seasons.

Do I wish people wouldn't be quite so vicious to one another, here? Do I avoid reading some threads simply because I know they're going to be full of the least-admirable side of human nature? Of course.

Do I think I could "do better" making DU a place of intelligent, interesting, mostly-civil, usually-adult discourse that reflects liberal values and the will to honor diversity?

Frankly, no, I don't.

If I were appointed dictator, I could for sure turn this place into an echo chamber of MY values and opinions, and a tight little self-congratulatory cabal of like-minded individuals.

Key word there being "little." Because by the time you start turfing out everyone who agrees with you on 90% of what you like but not the other 10%, or 80% of what you like but not the other 20%, or wherever I'd draw the line today (and I didn't get much sleep last night and the coffee was too strong this morning and the weather sucks and my favorite team lost last night, etcetera) it would, indeed, be a small group.

And probably not that interesting, either.


KUDOS and gratitude, and BEST HOLIDAY WISHES to our esteemed Site Admins, to the fine and dedicated volunteers on the MIRT, and to every DUer who's ever thoughtfully wrinkled a brow over a thread as a jury member, trying their best to interpret the Terms of Service with an eye to fairness and maturity.


Following Which Money? Politicians, Donors, and Staying Bought

When elected, most pols try to show appreciation to those whose money and/or effort helped them get elected.

That's simple enough, and generally true.

But that's only a beginning. When people tell me who to vote for, or not to vote for, based on campaign funding, I think about a lot of other factors, too.

For one thing, I try to think like a donor attempting to ensure I'll be able to protect my interests after the election. And the simplicity vanishes in some tough complexities, including (in no particular order):

If I'm trying to see who *else* is buying a piece of this pol, it's not so easy. A straight-out "donation" may be the smallest tip of an iceberg that includes PACs and dedicated "nonpartisan research and education" organizations, issue-based groups, and other clever fellow-travelers, not to mention unreported (and unreportable) ratfucking projects designed to scuttle primary opponents, etc.

Then I have to face the reality that a lot of punters hedge their bets both ways, throwing money at those on the left and the right, trying to reserve a place at the eventual winner's table, no matter who it may be. Some of that money will be less effective simply because the recipients are perfectly well aware it's a "hedge."

And then there's the reality that just about every major viable candidate gets some funding from donors on BOTH sides of any controversial issue. To "stay bought" by a donor on one side of the issue, they'll have to disappoint donors on the other side. And since it's impossible to know the sum total of whose money on which side tipped what balance for what reason, saying that any one donor "owns" any one candidate/elected official is chancy, at best.

Of course, the nature, reputation, and ethics of the donor might become an issue- a candidate might well decide they can get more campaign mileage out of self-righteously and ostentatiously refusing a donation from someone with a really tainted public reputation, but the larger the number of donors, the bigger the campaign, the higher the stakes, the more likely it is that some real sleazemeisters will end up in everyone's donor rolls.

And finally there's the character of the candidate. For me, that comes down to a perhaps-surprising bit of calculus: How- and how well- does this candidate do "compromise?"

Because for all the passion I may bring to the particular issues that I believe in, a successful democratic government runs on the art of compromise: How can those passionately and obdurately divided by experience, understanding, and ideology find ways to make terms with one another, ensuring that everyone in a diverse electorate is both disappointed in some things and pleased in others-- all of them of critical, life-or-death importance to someone.

Reviewing a candidate's ability to get people of differing beliefs and ideologies together, parse through the options, do the horse-trading, give and take credit and responsibility for the inevitably imperfect results-- THAT might be the final decider as far as where to invest money, time, and passion, regardless of donor lists touted by those hoping to convince me that this or that candidate is "bought" by this or that interest.

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