Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Talking about people talking about me talking about them

(This was written on August 4th, if it matters. Part of the problem with sporadic internet is that sometimes it takes a while to post things. Go figure.)

I've come up in conversation at Drink the Shaker Kool Aid. Thus far it's been mostly nice things. One person doesn't like me very much, the other four comments are complementary.

Thanks, I appreciate that.

My impression of the community at DSKA is that it's very mixed and my guess is that part of it comes from the varying missions of the site. Consider what it says on the first page linked to on the sidebar and what it says on what is currently the front page of the posts.

Sidebar page:
The fact is, her time needs to be finished. [..]

So I post on tumblr about it, hoping people will take notice and go “well JFC that’s some bullshit.”

That's a serious mission, if I had quoted more you'd see that it's a serious mission based on the claimed observation that Melissa McEwan is abusive. It's some heavy stuff.

If you read why it exists as described on the main page right now, it's:
I mean this site existed first off for me to laugh at her and point out how awful she/her group of acolytes were behaving. Now it exists for that and the community that’s growing around it.

Laughing at someone is a much lighter mission. Don't get me wrong, it can be used with serious stuff, but laughing by its very nature is not serious.

(Now if your aim isn't so much to stop someone as to piss them off, laughter is way better than serious criticism. There's a reason Ovid was exiled for making fun of Augustus while Vergil's Aeneid, which made some scathing critiques of Rome and its Augustus stand in, was state sponsored propaganda.)

Pointing out the awfulness would be the same mission as in the sidebar.

Being there for the community is different from both.

Even if those were the only three things going on --they're not-- they would draw various different types of people. Some would be there for all three, some for just two, some for just one.

Add to that the variation that you get within groups that come to a place for the exact same reasons and you get a pretty varied populous.

I don't have much to say about the community beyond that but, again, thanks for the kind words.


Something over there has me very reflective. That something is the whole transcript thing.

It's kind of a long story, it goes like this:

On Wednesday, June 26th, 2013 (at 9:36 AM) Ana Mardoll mentioned that she intended spend the next month covering various things surrounding the Wendy Davis filibuster that took place the day before, that this would include a transcript, and asked if anyone would be interested.

By July 11th the scope of the transcript project was nailed down. It would cover the citizen testimony of Monday the 24th, the House debate of Tuesday the 25th, and Wendy Davis' filibuster in the State Senate on the same night as the House debate.

Or, to put that in simpler terms, Ana Mardoll started a transcription project and Wendy Davis' filibuster made up slightly less than 20% of what was transcribed.

If Google is right, DSKA started talking about the transcript in the latter half of December. At that time, more than five months after the scope of the project had been nailed down, it was apparently erroneously believed that the filibuster was 100% of the project instead of less than 20%. This gave rise to the completely legitimate criticism that a text of the filibuster was already out there. It's the other eighty-plus percent that's hard to get your hands on.

I sure as hell haven't found the rest elsewhere. Believe me, I've looked. I would have loved to be able to tell Ana, “Hey, there's no need for you to do this project; I found it all written out already. Here you go. Now you can put your energy toward stuff that's more upbeat and fun.”

So I looked. I looked to see if the debate and citizen testimony Ana was transcribing was available. I also asked around. I got no results.

As it turns out, someone at DSKA was thinking along the same lines. Less than a month after the initial erroneous talk about the transcript someone asked, “Doesn't the Ana Mardoll filibuster transcript include the citizen testimony also? Has that been published anywhere?”

I'm resisting the urge to make a, “We're very much alike,” joke because I've got a different point here. That was published, with the response, “I’m not sure and that could actually make it useful,” six and a half months ago.

Two months later, to the day, the DSKA has two posts responding to Ana finishing the project and the posts went back to assuming that the filibuster was the whole thing and thus already available on Amazon and such. Here's one of them:

So Ana Mardoll is done the transcript and intending to put it on Amazon and Barnes and Nobel. I'm pretty sure the actual transcript is on Amazon, so hopefully there is a cease and desist in her future?

God I fucking hope so.

That's not terribly important, I merely include it because with all of the discussion (about 100 posts, 31% of them on DSKA) about the project it's kind of important that the project, you know, ended. It was completed. It is finished.

What's important is yesterday:

The Wendy Davis transcript thing? The non-Ana one is just Wendy's words. The Ana one includes all of the citizen testimony (there was a lot). That's why Ana asked for volunteers and put it up separately. To preserve the citizen testimony and women's stories and whatever.[...]

That makes more sense.[...]

One of the comments was:
“This was mentioned last month, and it does make Ana's project look much more worthwhile.”

But for others at DSKA it was new information.

Comments included, “I had no idea of that -- thanks to whoever shared this,” “That actually makes the whole project make sense,” “That makes sense and yes, good for her for doing it,” “I did not realize that either,” and, “I confess I was not aware [...]”

And the that's what has me introspective.

DSKA has been talking about the transcript project for five and a half months. During those months it was always the case that the transcript project included citizens' testimonies (and the House debate) the posts Ana made about it (about two to every one that DSKA made about it) were full of stuff about citizens testimony because that was a bigger part of the project than the filibuster (with the House debate making up the remaining chunk which was also, if I recall correctly, a bigger part of the project than the filibuster) many of the posts had color coded charts showing where the project stood with respect to completing the transcription of the citizen testimony. It's news to the majority of the commenters who decided to comment that it included citizen testimony.

There's been a lot of discussion by people who didn't have the facts right. By people who didn't know they didn't have the facts.

If I'd known they were unaware of the citizens testimony being included I could have told them. Months ago. I could have told them when they made their first post on the topic, but I wasn't paying attention to them at that point.

Why it has me reflective is because there are doubtless things that I'm the exact same way on.


The one area where I do have direct knowledge is the moderation at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings. Not Shakesville, I have absolutely no idea what goes on there. But at Ana's I am a moderator. I use this power to fix formatting errors and clean up after people who make mistakes when replying.

Both deserve a little explanation, but not too much.

Sometimes when there's a formatting error in a comment you can see exactly what the problem is. Code that isn't disqus compatible was used, someone forgot the slash in </i> so instead of ending italics they made them double open, someone tried to close a <b> tag with an </a> by mistake. Whatever. A disqus moderator can jump in and fix those things.

The second is that disqus doesn't allow for automatically flat comments. It used to, but now they're always nested if people use “reply” instead of posting their contribution as a new comment. Ana makes allowances for small replies (less than a dozen words or so) but for large replies they're supposed to be posted as new comments to keep the commenting mostly flat. This involves occasionally asking someone to repost a reply as a new comment. Once someone did I'd delete the nested reply and also the request for reposting.

That's not a lot of moderating work, but just being a moderator means that I get emails that are sent to the moderators as a whole and I can see the moderating that's done.

Some of the emails to all moderators boil down to, “Heads up, we'll probably have a spike in traffic and thus possibly trolling because we just got mentioned [somewhere].”

As one might expect, some (but by no means all) of those emails are ones where the [somewhere] is DSKA. And yes, being mentioned at DSKA does lead to a noticeable spike in trolls at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.

Of course mentioning DSKA at Shakesville and Ana Mardoll's Ramblings caused things to happen at DSKA. I can't see behind the scenes there but I know that there was this exchange:

Kiss me you big strong MAN. That's what you are right? A MAN.

omg what even is this?

(There are like a million of these in the Asks rn. Did Reddit or something find this?!)

I'm guessing having to sift through “like a million” of those to find actual content is not what the DSKA admin wanted.

That there would be spamming of the site with “asks” implying the admin is male wasn't really something you could predict since there are so many ways a surge in negative activity could have manifested. That there would be a surge in negative activity was completely predictable.

Tell people, “There's this site that's causing me trouble,” and some of them will take it upon themselves to cause trouble for the site.

And that's where things stand. Mentioning Ana Mardoll at DSKA causes trolling at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings. Mentioning DSKA at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings causes trolling (or at least spamming) at DSKA. This may not be what the site owners intend, but it is the way things are working.

Given the amount of traffic I get (basically nil and most of that from spambots) I doubt I have a non-negligible effect upon anyone's traffic. Trolls or otherwise. (I do promise to try to get back to the stuff I normally do for my very small but very much appreciated readership.)

And this leads to a question of what the difference is. For me, the difference seems pretty clear.

Unless something unexpected happens, this is going to be my last post about DSKA. That's no big deal because of the minimal traffic to this site.

Ana Mardoll's Ramblings has no intention to have more posts about DSKA. I can't say that there won't ever be another post because I'm not in control of Ramblings, but I can say that there are zero plans to do more posting about DSKA.

After a long period of not talking about them a post was made addressing what was going on. Then, in response to the admin saying Ana hadn't contacted zir directly, a post was made directed at the admin. And that's the end of it.

If DSKA has to deal with being spammed with comments saying, “You're totally a man, aren't you?” again it's not going to be because Ana Mardoll's Ramblings pointed in that direction. (At least that's the plan.)

Unless something unexpected happens DSKA will not stop having posts about Ana Mardoll's Ramblings. Unless something unexpected happens DSKA will not stop posting almost exclusively about Shakesville and Ramblings. Continued posting about Shakesville and Ramblings is the plan at DSKA.

The spikes in trolls that accompany each mention there will go on. This says nothing about the intent of the admin or the community. With the exception of people using the exact same third party account on both sites (which does happen) to have any hope of finding out whether the trolls are regular commenters or lurkers at DSKA one would need to be an admin at both sites and start comparing IP addresses. That's not going to happen any time soon.

All that we really can say is that the trolls are reading DSKA. And we can only say that because mentions at DSKA are followed by trolls at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings in noticeably greater numbers than usual.

If every post at DSKA that mentioned Ramblings were about some big thing Ana did that hurt people and there were no other way to bring that to anyone’s attention (there are other ways) then maybe it would be worth the associated troll surge. I don't think it would be, but arguments could be made.

That's not what is happening. DSKA is what brought us, “Since Liz isn’t giving me a whole lot to work with this week I thought I’d have a peeksy over at Ana’s place,” because apparently when the person who you want people to stop listening to stops talking, the appropriate response is to find someone else to call obnoxious. (The “obnoxious” bit is the second paragraph; I only quoted the start of the first sentence.)

That's not exactly big, earth-shattering, I-don't-want-you-to-be-trolled-but-it's-totally-worth-it-so-I-can-say-this news.

The DSKA admin apparently (I'm assuming the admin was honest here) wasn't planning on talking about Ana and wouldn't have under normal conditions but Melissa had been quiet that week. It's not, “Sorry about the trolls but I think it's really important that this be said.”

It's completely ignoring the (again assuming honesty) unintended, but predictable, consequences so that the admin can have a public laugh.

That's where I see the difference. Mention at Ramblings got DSKA spammed. We keep mentions of DSKA at Ramblings to a minimum. Mention at DSKA gets Ramblings trolled. DSKA keeps on talking about Ramblings all the time.

There has been talk at DSKA about shifting gears. The admin has said multiple times that DSKA is being continued more for the community than anything having to do with Shakesville (and by extension Ramblings since Ana is only on the radar there because she's a mod and contributor to Shakesville.)

There have been comments about starting to address the social justice issues that they feel Shakesville addresses badly rather than simply responding to the goings on at Shakesville (and by extension Ramblings.)

I say this with complete sincerity: I would like nothing more for DSKA. I'm no fan of the name, but that's really a minor issue all things considered. One thing the internet is not lacking is feminist spaces. Or social justice spaces.

In the “Stop Listening to Melissa McEwan” post at the top of the sidebar it says, “I believe in the better things she tries to write about. Honestly, I really do,” and given that the admin has now repeatedly said that ze doesn't care about Melissa McEwan anymore I think it would be great if the admin shifted to addressing those “better things”.

The DSKA admin described the current situation as DSKA as having a symbiotic relationship with Shakesville in that less content at Shakesville means less content at DSKA. I don't really agree about it being symbiosis, and given that the admin will look elsewhere for content (as above with going to Ramblings) I don't think it's as simple as Shakesville having less content means DSKA automatically has less content, but there is an undeniable connection.

What I want is for that connection to be severed. Yes, shutting down DSKA would be one way for that to happen, but another would be for it to turn the changed motivation (more concerned with the community than Melissa) to a changed focus (more concerned with generating good content than saying other people's content is bad.)

There have been requests over there for suggestions of feminist or social justice sites that are more fitting with what the commenters want. There have been people suggesting that they themselves start addressing those topics.

I'd love for that to happen.

Selfishly I'd love it because it would mean that the troll spikes associated with the site would stop. I don't pretend to understand the mindset behind them and the strange mix of unnecessary effort and laziness they embody. “I'll totally put a lot of effort into trolling that site, but only if another site I read reminds me they exist, otherwise I can't be bothered,” just doesn't track for me. But even though I don't understand the mindset, I know that the effects are real.

When DSKA talks about Ramblings, trolls beyond the ordinary internet background radiation of trolling come out, when it doesn't they don't. So if it stops that solves one of the troll problems we have.

If there were a magic way to keep everything that starts on DSKA on DSKA and not have it bleed off into trolling then I wouldn't care whether DSKA were talking about Ramblings or not. Ana and the Ramblites are fully capable of not reading DSKA, it's just that mentions there lead to actions in places that can't be ignored. (Like Ramblings itself.)

Since that magic way doesn't exist, I want DSKA to stop pointing to Ramblings. I don't think they will, but I want it.

I would love for it to happen because DSKA started being the site that Shakesville and Ramblings aren't for the commenters.

By all means, show us the fuck up by being a social justice site that is six thousand times better than Ramblings and show the thriving community that your different moderation creates.

Make Ramblings and Shakesville look like drek by being a shining example of how much better a site can be and have the only connection be that people who aren't safe at Shakesville and Ramblings go to DSKA.

I don't think this is a zero sum game, you see. I think that DSKA becoming a better site wouldn't lead to Ramblings (or Shakesville) declining. Something better just means something better, and that's more good things.

Also, I've seen the names of some old friends over there. I want the hangouts of my old friends to be as good as possible regardless.

Then there's the matter of where people can fit in.

As noted, there have been multiple posts over there about where to find better spaces on the internet than Shakesville that cover the same topics and even a few suggesting that DSKA become one of those better spaces on the internet that covers the same topics.

DSKA becoming a better space that covers the same topics, instead of a space that points to Shakesville and Ramblings and says they're doing it wrong, would give those people the space they want, maybe even need.

The fact is that we can't serve everyone. We fucking can't. We cannot and will never be a safe space for everyone.

The same measures that make some people safe make others unsafe.

I don't like that, but it happens to be true.

Today I read about an episode at Slacktivist that I'd missed. A while back a troll intentionally triggered someone and did so effectively enough to send that person to the hospital. The troll seems to have been banned soon after. But Fred never said he banned the person.

Never acknowledging the banning made some people feel really fucking unsafe.

But at the same time there are other people who feel unsafe when bannings are announced. It puts them constantly on edge and has them feeling like they're walking on eggshells every second. And that's the mild version. If you've been in certain types of abusive environments announced punishments, of which banning is one, can set off your personal triggers.

No good person wants to trigger anyone, certainly not an abuse victim.

One choice: to announce bans or not, and you're already making some people unsafe as the cost of making other people safe. The mild cases are just “less comfortable” and “more comfortable” but the cases that matter most are “really fucking unsafe” vs. “wouldn't be safe otherwise.”

So my point here is that you can't be safe for all. Even if we do Ramblings perfectly, and we won't because we're fallible, some people are not going to be safe there. I want those people to have a place to be safe. I want that place to be as good as it possibly can be.

I want these things because making a place that isn't safe for them was never part of the plan, it was never desirable, it was a consequence of the fact that there is no universal solution. Or us fucking up. Or both.

And I don't want people to be robbed of a good place to be as a result of universal truth (nowhere is safe for everyone) or us fucking up.

So, since DSKA already has a lot of people who were dissatisfied with Shakeville and Ramblings, it would be great in my eyes if it became that space.


And this entire thing about the shifting of gears and the hypothetical future DSKA that stands on its own instead of being tethered in a “symbiotic” relationship to another site is basically brought on by a single comment that I couldn't find when I had an internet connection (right now I don't, I'll focus on getting it back when I'm done writing) in spite of the fact that I was using google to fact check my memory of what had been said so much it thought I was a bot.

I'm pretty sure that someone (I think the DSKA admin) said that the only outcome people on the Shaker/Ramblite side of this would be satisfied with is the shutting down of DSKA. That's not true for me.

Like I said, if there were a way to make what happened there stay there then I wouldn't care about it at all. There isn't. Intentional or not, pointing at Ramblings over there does cause trolls to come to Ramblings. So I want them to stop pointing.

That doesn't mean I want them off the internet. I'd love it if DSKA stopped talking about what was being said on Ramblings and started talking about things the community thought were important in general.

“Let’s be clear here. THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS WRONG WITH TWILIGHT, don’t go looking for more,” says a post addressed at Ana from the admin of DSKA. So many things that are so wrong that the clarification needs to be in ALL CAPS. Perhaps that could be talked about; it doesn't require even mentioning Ana.

The people want a site that talks about [social justice issue] but is better for them than Shakesville? I don't see why they couldn't talk about [social justice issue] there without even mentioning Shakesville.

Do I think that's likely? No. Not really. Even if what the admin cares about now is primarily the community and not the sites being pointed at, I don't think DSKA is going to change from a place that points to Shakesville and Shakesville mods into a place that does social justice commentary itself.

Would be nice though.


  1. I appreciate you speaking to the issues on the mod side.

    I don't even think anyone needs to stop commenting on the content at Shakesville or Ramblings; they could just offer their own takes on similar events, but not point most of the time. But that may not be a well-thought-through idea on my part...

  2. Yup. That's the problem with "one size fits all" type of thinking. If Shakesville's style does not suit them or triggers them, they are free to go to another or start up their own site. Like, back when I was a waning Christian/baby atheist the Pharyngula commenting section was really grating on me so I simply stopped reading there. It's helpful/carthatic for some people to freely express their dislike of religion and I understood that even though that approach wasn't for me.

    1. Are you a new commenter here? If so, welcome!

    2. I just saw this, thank you! Though I actually posted once before, that was long ago enough that I might still be considered a new commenter :) Usually I just lurk.

  3. I really like what you have to say in your posts about DSKA. You are making good points.

    1. Seconded. This is an intelligent and understanding response to what's been going on.

  4. I think this is an eminently sensible solution. "Be the change you wish to see" or some such thing. If the concern is that things aren't being done well, then do them better.

  5. Fairest discussion of SKA
    vs ramblings yet!

  6. FWIW, Fred rarely interacts in the comments at all, so the lack of a banning announcement is not out of character.