Interacting on interactivity

I’ll be on a chat at 1pm about the blog-comment kerfuffle. Auditorium chat is such an odd form: Why should anyone be on the stage (he asked with egalitarianism)? Their software doesn’t let you see names (you talk to towns). Deborah Howell, the one who should be there, isn’t. But anway, I hope it will be fun. And because I’m interacting there, that’s why I haven’t been interacting here. Later….

  • Eli Brennan

    I had not yet been around these parts, but was very impressed with Mr. Jarvis on the Wash Post discussion.
    Reasonable, insightful, and principled.
    This is not your ordinary blogger.

  • First of all, I’ve heard of Mr. Jarvis for a while, but to be honest, haven’t really read a lot of his stuff. But reading his responses was quite enlightening and will make this place a regular read.

    He did respond to my comment/question about the divide among left and right in this country and whether or not blogs, message boards, etc. are making it worse. His quote:

    I think the sound we’re hearing now is the the sound of a vigorous debate in democracy.

    That’s an understatement.

    And the more it happens on a personal level, the more civil it will be, I hope.

    As I posted there, my blog isn’t exactly civil in tone, but that’s not its purpose — it’s a place for me to vent. And while I’m not sure if I’m part of the problem (there’s a chance), I’m gonna have to disagree with his statement.

    The right’s insistence on stamping out the liberal cause, and the liberals’ desire to point out every flaw on the right, just seems to be getting worse. And while I’m sure it’ll snap back at some point, for the short term it’s going to get uglier. It’s like children just learning to walk — we’re going to fall on our face some times.

    Regardless, it is nice to know that the discussion is taking place, and the comments by all Jarvis, Reynolds, et al really did make me look at blogging and new media a bit differently.

    Sorry for the thesis … just thought I’d post it up over here.

  • Jon

    Jeff — I’d like you to comment on the fact that Jane was given almost no chance to answer the questions. Reading that transcript, there were a whole bunch of times questions were directed at her, even by you I believe, and she didn’t get ot answer. What the hell was going on? (Oh, WashPo may shut us down for using “hell”.) Seriously though, Jim Brady seems like a first class jerk.

    Good job on taking on Glenn. I wish you would do so more often; his silly excuse for having no comments does not pass the smell test. Of course, no one is “entitled” to post on his blog, everyone understands that. The question we have is why the other side always allows comments. And his sob story about Charles Johnson is just too much — Instapundit always points to Kos commenters and uses it against Kos. For him to cry when that happened to his buddy Charles “bigot” Johnson is just too much.

  • Jon–
    Good to see I’m not the only one who noticed those points.

    I’d be interested in hearing the technology they used to reply to the questions: were they only given a limited amount of time? Did she choose not to answer? Was it because she’s been blogging a relatively short amount of time and doesn’t have the “crediblity” the others have?

    And Glenn’s reasoning is, as you pointed out, questionable at best. Malkin doesn’t allow comments, Red State will ban people within seconds (although they seem to be better than LGF), and Captain Quarters has banned me twice — not for trolling or using offensive language, but for actually providing salient points and links that proved him wrong.

    Overall, however, I thought the discussion was pretty well done, and showed me a great deal about all those involved.

  • thebears

    Jane explains what was appening:

    And I want to thank the for the opportunity to speak, it’s more than anyone else covering the Howell story has offered to anyone who was actively participating in it. That having been said, Brady had the keys to the system and he used them. There were dozens of questions on a screen that was quite complex which any of the participants could respond to at any time. They chose what questions got through and when each thread was closed down and published. Brady gave himself the last word many times, goaded me for a response and then closing it before I could answer, despite the fact that I was asking in the accompanying “chat” box for a chance to do so. Neither would he give substandial, meaningful answers to questions I posed to him.

    Hope this helps.

  • Great point – Howell should have been there. Maybe the Washington Post can try this again next week and include her.

  • All,
    The software is awkward but we all had equal time. They start putting up some questions a few hours beforehand and all of us could come in and respond to as many comments (and our responses) as we liked in the time available.
    I’m a fast typist. Old rewriteman.

  • Con Repub


    Agree with much of what you wrote today. Thanks for helping to prevent the WaPo forum from devolving into a boring, trivial remonstrance against the heartbreak of profane posts.

    As things evolve, I suspect that the ‘high value’ blogs which produce the most numerous and significant new insights– in most any subject area– will be the most interactive and the least exclusivist. At least that’s my sense from what I know about network theory. But I’d consider predictions otherwise– do you have any suggested links?

    I also agree very much that Howell should have been there– it’s quite poor form to have the central character off stage throughout the main act.

  • Sikora

    Jay Rosen: This is one where there’s a real lack of communication between the Post and readers who were angry about Howell’s errors. Jim Brady’s attitude is instead of waiting to reply in her column, she spoke on Thursday at the, three days before her “scheduled” time. He has also said (in a Q and A with me) that he doesn’t think an earlier response would have made any difference.
    I disagree with Jim. The Post can say it “only” took four days for Howell to acknowledge something amiss, but it only takes four minutes to realize that she was wrong in what she stated as fact about Abramoff and the Democrats. Moreover, she was wrong in a way that “tracked” with Republican spin, which makes it different from a garden-variety miscue. And on top of that her first statement was begrudging in tone. This created the storm conditions that “stunned” Howell, and lit up the comment board.

    Spokane, Wash.: I learned in First Amendment class that the way to counter bad speech is to allow MORE speech not cut it off as you did with the Howell blog.

    Jeff Jarvis: Well said. The age of controlled conversation is over. The age of open conversation is here. But that is damned hard for the controllers to get used to. And I don’t say that with the pejorative edge it seems to indicate. The journalists thought it was their job — emphasis on job, responsibility, value — to control by verifying and judging and so on. If the job, instead, is to enable, then you have to start exercising new muscles. And it is important to keep in mind that a democracy is better served by the airing of more viewpoints and perspectives. And journalism is better served by the exposing of more news.

    -– From Jay Rosen and Jeff Jarvis (and Spokane, Wash.) these cogent points seemed obvious. The fact that they had to be spoken shows the distance some folks must travel if they wish to maintain credibility in a quickly evolving medium. My hope is that those points were heard. The question of ethics and interactivity may have different answers in various communities, but open conversation should define those ethics in each one.

    Deborah Howell’s lack of participation was a disapointment, but I’m sure she’s read the panel’s posting. Conversations after the formal discussion are often the most productive.

  • Catherine

    Jon and Mark – I actually don’t think the “comments” sections on most blogs add much to the debate. It seemed that the “left” sites were being applauded for “always” having comments, but I rarely see intelligent debate. It devolved quickly into name calling. Buzzmachine has become overloaded with those sorts of comments. I think Glenn has a point, but…
    I am not sure how Glenn’s “reasoning” can be judged on allowing comments. He can do what he wants, it’s his opinion period. Why do you care. Besides, he mostly links to other people. That’s why he’s popular. Lots-o-links on a variety of topics that bring you to lots of other sites.

  • Catherine–
    I agree that comments can sometimes become either just a bunch of people agreeing, or a collection of insults.

    But I disagree that “most” are like that. Maybe most of the big ones can sometimes turn into that, but I’ve seen a lot of the middle and lower viewed blogs have some great debates, discussions, and back and forth.

    And that’s the point — to at least make an attempt to have some type of dialogue on an issue. Closing down comments completely does absolutely nothing to further the debate. All it does is allow one side to be heard.

    As far as Glenn’s site goes, you’re right — it’s his place and he can do whatever he likes. But how does being nothing more than a linkfest further the discussion? All it does is pawn it off to somewhere else that may or may not allow comments. Also, it’s not like he does a lot of links to opposing views or anything, so often times you’re still only getting one side of an issue.

    I’ve been visiting message boards and blogs for more than 5 years and, while I’ve seen my share of trolls and flame wars, I’ve also learned an enormous amount by reading opposing views. I would never have gained that knowledge if there was not chance at all for any kind of dialogue. That’s what the WaPo is missing, and what is desparately needs — a way to add two-way communication that’s been lacking in big media since … well, forever.