Warren Ellis on commenting and commenters: sometimes we all feel like this

201205290129 Warren Ellis on commenting and commenters: sometimes we all feel like this
Warren Ellis, the acerbic writer and social critic, discusses perhaps reinstating his commenting system, an idea he quickly rejects:

Which brings up another thing, and I’m not going to ascribe it to Charlie, who is a nice man, but it’s real – sometimes, your commenters, by which you often mean your audience and your readership, are really fucking annoying, and sometimes you don’t like them.  Which you can’t say.  Who’s going to pick up another book by a writer who says “My readers are awful pieces of shit and I can think of twenty of them, right off the bat, who should be drowned in hot pig blubber”?  Nobody.  “My audience are all complete pissflaps.  Have you read my website comments threads?  Utter inane gibberish.  I would like to train a giant horse to fuck out all their eyes.”  Who’s going to say that? 

I guarantee you that even the sweetest and kindest writer has thought that exact thought more than once in their lives.  And its corollary: “Oh god, my readers are such horrible demented shitbags, what am I doing so wrong that I attract them all to me?”

Just as I know that every writer has dropped the ball at least once and disappointed a reader.  Or exposed themselves as a total prick or a frothing nutter. 


Running a blog puts you a bit more on the front line with readers, but at recent events in which I interacted with real life humans, disparaging remarks about the Beat’s recent comments were frequent and mortifying. For whatever reason, this seems to have become a Newsarama refugee camp and the results are discouraging. Sure there are entertaining byways of history going on here and there, like comics figures Tom Mason and Paul Power disputing something that happened in an auto garage many years ago in the Platinum thread. But so much more of it should be strangled in its crib—the best example being someone who was getting a drubbing in some argument inventing a new screen name and then complaining that the thread was out of control. I can see ISPs, you know.

I’ve never seriously considered turning off comments—the utility of corrections and amplifications still being present—but I’m been thinking of putting in a more robust comment modding system of some kind. NOT FACEBOOK. I would never require someone to be on Facebook to have free speech, no matter how subnormal that speech might be. I don’t really have time to ruthlessly police the comments, and I would rather put resources towards hiring writers than just blocking idiots. But, oh, what a world we live in.

As with many things, however, implementing this will have to wait until the site gets an overhaul in the next few months.

So in the meantime…BEHAVE. And don’t be a subnormal pissflap.

Comments

  1. Johnny Memeonic says:

    Any writer or blogger that does not allow a comments section is someone not comfortable defending or debating their own ideas. Any other reason is just rationalization.

  2. traci says:

    Not comfortable? Or maybe they have better things to do than discuss abusive crap about how their mother is a whore, comics stink like genitals smell, the skankiness of whoever drew the book, and whether or not they screwed 16 fellow comics pros on a weekend bender.

    Many of the comments aren’t about ideas, they are just abusive and sick. There’s no reason to give air time to this filth.

    In the past, letters columns had editors so trash like this didn’t waste the world’s time.

  3. No, Johnny, they may simply prefer to spend their time writing new things, or being with their families/friends, rather than dealing with idiots and lunatics trying to hijack their site as a substitute for developing their own audience. I’m sorry, but forcing another person to defend themselves from you or debate with you is not an entitlement.

  4. Jerry Smith says:

    No subnormal pissflap. Got it. :)

  5. My personal opinion is to turn off comment only if you want to kill your blog. Simple choice to make ;)

    The feedback you quoted in the beginning are just normal repercussions. If it bothers you, you shouldn’t be blogging, or be online.

    Those can take it interacts online amidst sometimes negativity. And it’s more rewarding than staying on your side of the screen.

  6. Joe S. Walker says:

    Ellis’ comments are unsurprising. A bully-boy always despises the people who suck up to him.

  7. This honey-trap of a post is proving very useful for sussing out who should go on the “Watch list.”

  8. Time spent correcting someone who intentionally misunderstands remarks for the sake of argument is time taken away from writing or editing.

  9. No, they are not normal repercussions. That’s the point.

    Warren Ellis should not be online because it bothers him, and he has killed his blog by turning off comments.

    Good one, gotcha.

  10. blacaucasian says:

    It seems many times there’s no attempt to draw a difference between trolling and people trying to genuinely discuss differing opinions.

    I know my opinions on the whole artists rights debate have definitely evolved and morphed based on discussions and opinions shared on this very board.

    Being personally insulting or abusive should of course never be acceptable, but I think it’s our jobs to a certain extent that point to self-police and call people out on it when it happens. I feel many times there’s a tendency when someone supports a part or all of your argument to support a person going to extremes in their argument.

  11. john layman says:

    I like to think the sheer awesomeness of my comments balances out all the jerky ones.

  12. first!

  13. blacaucasian says:

    @John Layman, I thought that went without saying.

  14. GrouchyCondor says:

    The content/comments issue is a simple one. If you want to run a blog, you need to have comments. That’s the format of a blog. But like, just a regular news site is a different story. You can either not have comments, or just have them and don’t read them (I don’t think anyone’s getting too crazy on CNN.com looking for trolls or anything).

  15. arrowshaft says:

    I have to agree on how some of the fans respond towards writers or artists they do not like. Bleeding Cool is a site that has a group that only live to complain about things they hate and attack any who say different from what they love.
    Some in the comic industry have great sites but they get the few who seem to know everything and nothing about comics and they tend to post on everything and always seem to bring the topic to a stop and become an insult fest

  16. The problem with inviting the public is that sometimes the public shows up.

  17. Unfortunately it seems to be human nature that people will type things they’d never have the audacity to say to another person. I try not to but I’ve probably been guilty of it too.

    On the one hand, people writing blogs shouldn’t have to spend inordinate amounts of time dealing with jerks, but on the other hand, shutting down comments would probably negatively impact the experience for the reader. I tend to prefer comment systems that have a strong but reasonable moderation mechanism. I abandoned sites like Newsarama years ago; it’s just not worth wading through the crap (dumb/jerky comments are a chore for other commenters too, not just for site administrators.)

    Regarding that third remark of Ellis’s…yes, Mr. Ellis, you have indeed “exposed yourself” in a rather negative way on more than one occasion and convinced at least one reader to drop your books. (And the sad thing is, you weren’t even talking to me. I was just lurking one day and thought, “Wow…”)

  18. People react in odd, sometimes discouraging ways when blessed with anonymity.

    I’m a big believer in the ‘Don’t say anything online you wouldn’t say in public’ mode of interaction.

  19. Oh and I have no problem with writers, artists or anyone else being a dickhead sometimes. We’re all dickheads sometimes. Warren Ellis doesn’t owe me anything. He tells stories, I choose whether or not to pay money for those stories. That’s the end of the relationship right there, folks.

    (SVK rocked, yo! I DEMAND that you do more!)

  20. Matthew Southworth says:

    Shutting off comments is a mistake in my opinion. I think the discourse between intelligent, respectful people is completely valuable, and I learn a lot from reading the comments.

  21. Ed Brubaker says:

    I think comment threads should depend on the topic. Why have comments after reviews? Or after PR pieces? After something that calls for debate or discussion, then fine.

    But I never read a movie or record review in a magazine (pre-internet) and then said “I can’t wait for the letters to the editor to see what other readers thought.”

  22. Matthew Southworth says:

    BUT the problem is this: asshole behavior is accepted as normal by comment-board frequenters and the internet public, and I think it’s time for that to stop.

    If someone’s acting like an abusive prick when he’s expressing his opinions, he should be shouted down or reprimanded by the rest of the people trying to have a conversation, just like he would be if he were interrupting a conversation in a bar or other real-life situation.

    This is absolutely NOT to say that someone with an unpopular or controversial point of view should be shouted down–quite the contrary, I want to hear those opinions more than I want to hear people agreeing with me. But this whole “it’s the internet, it’s a comment board, what do you expect?” attitude is faulty, depressing and self-defeating, and it’s our responsibility to keep things on a reasonable level.

  23. Matthew Southworth says:

    PS: Ed’s right.

    Andy Rooney was a pain in the ass, but my god, can you imagine the vortex of nonsense that would have been created were AR writing editorials on the internet? The last thing we need is comments on a guy’s commentary.

    That said, I just made a comment about Ed’s comment, so I’m gonna shut up.

  24. I agree that you shouldn’t force users through Facebook to make a comment. However, I think there is something to be said about forcing people to use their real name in the comments to raise the level of discussion. People are more likely to be more civil when what they say will be associated with their name forever.

    Disqus is one of the more popular commenting systems where you sign in via various accounts, either Google, Twitter, Facebook and more.

    In the end it’s a very fine balance of finding ways to discourage trolls without making the barrier too high to stop people who might have something interesting to add.

  25. Bryan L says:

    @Matthew Southworth: “Shouting down” doesn’t really work. It simply provides someone who’s desperate for attention and validation with more attention (if not validation). We’ve all seen the comment threads that go on for days with hundreds of comments from a single person who will. not. let. it. go. And you can’t fix crazy, no matter how much you post.

    Ignoring works better, but there’s always, always, always someone who takes the bait. Always. And then you’re back to the crazy.

    Generally, the best blogs have strong moderation and don’t take any crap. Yes, it occasionally gets a bit overzealous, but I’ll take that over a Wild-West-anything-goes blog any day.

  26. Matthew Southworth says:

    Fuck you, Brian L, how dare you disagree with me!

    Just kidding–you’re right. Shouting down is not the right response. I guess what I mean to say is that at some point that sort of behavior should be ostracized or the person ejected from the conversation somehow. I like the “this comment has received too many negative votes” option I see on some boards.

    And again, to reiterate (not in response to you but just to make clear)–I want to hear the unpopular opinion. In fact, often times I hold the unpopular opinion myself. I just want to hear it expressed intelligently and respectfully.

  27. I’ll probably install Disquus after the Beat gets an overhaul — the database is too wonky right now to put any more strain on it.

  28. Haw, I just got through reading Charlie’s frustrated post, too.

    And I love Charlie’s comments section.

    Anyhow, I have a blog which nobody reads, and it doesn’t have a comments section because I’m also an admin on a forum which a handful of people read.

    Anyhow, I find the comments section here to be quite a lot less terrible than most other comics sites. I’m a little embarrassed by how many hours I’ve spent in CA’s comments section arguing with people who really don’t deserve my time or anyone else’s.

    @Ed Brubaker: I’ve seen some good comments on reviews here and there, mostly things to the effect of “Oh, if you liked that you should check these out” or “If you didn’t care for it, maybe go check this out, it’s similar but addresses many of your complaints.” But yeah, mostly they tend to turn into “How dare you have different tastes from mine!”

  29. Try Intense Debate instead of Disqus. Or better yet, let’s finally do that lunch meeting and figure out some of the things we can do to get you up to speed.

  30. Christian says:

    I absolutely agree with PreacherCain in that one should always say online what they would say in real life and conversely. I for one am a rather outspoken and blunt person in real life, but I guess I have no way of proving that to anyone so I suppose I get labeled a meanie or a troll. Ha. And on that note, blacaucasian is absolutely right. These days anyone with an even slightly differing opinion and straight delivery of said opinion will get labeled and deemed a troll by people like Matthew (no offense dude, I guess I don’t know that for certain).

    This is coincidentally why I hate the “like” comment idea as implemented on CA. It does nothing but foster the ‘hive mind’ mentality where anyone who has ever once been disagreed with is cast-off and immediately downvoted by people who don’t even bother to respond. This effectively turns your comment section into an even bigger meta-mess where people only stop by to click a button notifying the commenters of exactly how hated they are and contributing nothing further to the conversation.

    There seems to be two schools of thought on comic book message boards (which are, I must say, by and large a hive of scum and villainy). One school is filled with people like Matthew who for whatever reason see the internet comments world as some place that should be only frequented by paragons of virtue where everyone somewhat gets along and the only fighting is civil. This is of course at best foolish and at worst absolute lunacy.

    The other school is full of people like the old school Source comments (may their glorious souls rest in peace) who are otherwise just miscreants and have stumbled out of some poor puss-filled cesspool like Yahoo answers in order to sling insults at people. To be honest the former bothers me more than the latter.

    My opinion? If it’s not blatant keyword spamming or threats of violence or racist leave it. Who care? Don’t feed the trolls but don’t deprive them of their pulpit. After all, trolls count towards CPI adwords income, amirite? We’re all big kids and I don’t think it’s healthy for any of us at our ages to be that worked up over something some meany on the internet says to us. Rain off a duck’s back and whatnot.

    Oh, and Heidi, one final note – you are most certainly not the place for Newsarama refugees. That would be something like CBR *shudder*. You’ll know you’re a Rama run-off board once (name removed) shows up. And when/if that ever happens you should immediately shut down everything. It’s over. No more intelligent conversation can happen.

    I removed the name so as not to be directly disparaging to someone who is, for all intents and purposes not here to defend his/herself (thank god). Also out of fear that they might manifest in some Beatlejuice-ian way if you say their name too often.

    Sorry for rambling.

  31. Outside of the seething hatred some people have for Marc-Oliver’s DC column, I find the Beat’s comment threads to be some of the best around…hell, here, Robot 6, and some of the Gawker sites are the only places I read comments anywhere. As a refugee of comic book messageboards, I really do think things here ain’t so bad.

  32. saipaman says:

    @Jason Green

    I, for one, can’t even understand the basis for negative feelings about the DC column. It certainly isn’t Marc-Oliver’s fault that some books sell better than others.

  33. There is no solution that makes a comments section work… the best you can hope for is to make it work well enough.

    Warren Ellis’ requirement of real names (or professional pen names) on his old The Engine forum made a big difference, and similar policies have contributed to the success of two successor forums operated by others (Panel & Pixel, and Sequential Workshop). The fact that a substantial number of respected industry folks post here using their full names is one of the site’s great assets.

    Warren’s policy of iron-fist-in-a-velvet-glove moderation for The Engine and Whitechapel has helped too, but has also fostered a sadomasochistic atmosphere that can get tiresome. But a policy in which there’s no such thing as a bad ad impression, in which no one says “shut up” and makes a sociopath go away, produces cesspools like Newsarama or the comments on my local newspaper’s web site.

  34. saipaman: Agreed! I think some people just don’t like to be confronted with the truth.

  35. I would still read Ellis’ stuff even if he trained a giant horse to f&ck out my eyes. Assuming he left me at least one eye. This is by far the best comic website, by far…..As a Newsarma refugee. Christ half of the people on this website who comment are so f@cking smart I feel like I am at the little kids table at Thanksgiving. Also a lot of folks need a good shouting down every once and a while myself included.

  36. Ellis is right. Allowing comments is like putting out a half-barrel of beer & some lawn chairs in your front yard & allowing any random doofus who comes along free access to the party.

    Where some people will be well-behaved & respectful of being on someone else’s turf, some will drink too much, bust up one of your chairs, get into a fight with someone else over basically nothing, piss on your tulips, help themselves to your pantry, burn a cig hole on your sofa & just generally be an annoying assweasel.

    Life is too short to be policing assweasels all the goddamn time. So you’re left with two options: Hire some bouncers out of pocket, or stop letting just anybody who comes along on your property.

  37. Matthew Southworth says:

    @Christian–First off, I don’t label people as “trolls” unless they’re demonstrating trolling behavior, i.e. picking fights and calling people names, etc. “Troll” is, to begin with, a silly term that demeans the person using it nearly as much as the one to whom it’s applied. But it’s the term we’ve got, I guess.

    I think you have every right to be blunt and to make your case strongly. I think if you behave fairly you should be treated fairly, and I think if you act like an asshole you should be treated like an asshole. In a bar, if you act like an asshole, insult people, pick fights, sooner or later you get kicked out, and that’s not because bars are places where “everyone’s a paragon of virtue”, it’s because a group of people trying to interact with one another and enjoy each other’s company don’t need some loudmouth who can’t handle his beer spoiling it for everyone.

    I don’t for a second assume that everyone needs to “get along” or be a “paragon of virtue”. As I’ve written several times in here, I WANT to hear differing opinions. My point is not that someone’s opinion should have them flagged–and that includes racist or sexist or homophobic or other opinions counter to my own. It’s the BEHAVIOR that becomes offensive to me, not the opinions, the relentless nasty assholery that becomes tiresome and hijacks a comment thread.

    I think that sort of nonsense is a waste of everyone’s time, and I think Heidi’s suggestion that she might do something to address it is welcome, at least to me.

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