Tuesday, February 05, 2008


It's amazing how easy it is to break something ephemeral like the connection I felt you feel to, say, a particular blog.


This is, as I described elsewhere, a tempest in a teapot.

One of the more off-the-wall regular commenters at Althouse started posting non sequitor replies about how Ann doesn't care about her commenters, look at what happened with Sippican Cottage (aka Sippican). I won't link to his blog because I'm sure he wouldn't want to be involved in this silliness, but suffice it to say, he was a valued contributor to the comment threads on Althouse, until one day someone started posting stuff about his kids, stuff that crossed the line. Sippican decided he didn't want to expose his family to anything like that, and so he pulled up his stakes and he left: he deleted all of his comments, in every thread. (I admire his thoroughness and dedication to the task.)

Back in the present, the number and ferocity of the Sippican-related postings was increasing, so I stepped in to say I found those posts objectionable. I was surprised when Ann chimed in, not to tell the obnoxious commenter to knock it off, but to criticize Sippican for being "destructive to the community."

There was some back-and-forth; Ann's last long reply is still standing, and she asked me to explain why I think she thinks "it's all about her", so I tried -- and you can see where it got me.

I didn't save a copy of the comment I wrote which Ann deleted, but I did spend a long time writing and re-writing it. Here's a reasonable recreation of the high (or low, depending) points; italics represent quotes from Ann's reply:

And if you want to keep saying that I think it's "all about me," why don't you explain it, because I don't think that makes sense. I'm talking about threads where a lot of people wrote and interacted.
Yes, lots of people wrote and interacted, and then moved on. The relevance of blog comments drops precipitously once the posts scroll off the main page. They're so much water over the dam, or under the bridge, or wherever that water goes when it keeps on flowing. They're just not that important.

But I do have an interest in the integrity of my website, which I have worked very hard on for over 4 years. Why are you insulting me for caring about it?
Ahem. This is not a website, it's a blog. You're not even invested enough to get your own hosting service and proper blogging software so you can ban the nuisance commenters. You post a lot of content, but that's because it's what you like to do. You also generate a lot of attention and income. I'd say you get a pretty good ROI from this blog. Do you think you'd be writing NYT editorials without it?

As for "integrity," people realize that old links are going to be broken or full of holes if the page still exists. That's the nature of the medium, and you've been around long enough to know that.

You're coming off as pissy here because a commenter deleted his own comments, and you called him "destructive to the community." "Destructive" is overkill because there was never any question of the "integrity" of Althouse blog, or even its traffic, somehow being damaged. "Community" is an overstatement of what actually happens in here, which is that a random collection of people drifts in and out.

I don't see how deleting all the old comments achieved anything positive. [References and links to Sippican are] all still there. It is just a lot less coherent.
Sippican made a decision to control where his words would appear. He can't control what you quote or what you link to, that's the nature of blogging, but he could control his own content.

f I had a way to bar comment deletion by anyone other than the administrator (me), I would do it...
I find it disturbing that you would take away my ability to delete my own comments if you could. What if I made an egregious typo? What if the cat walked across the keyboard and hit publish accidentally? They're my words, I should be able to decide what happens to them.

You've done a lot of great work here, but from time to time have shown an alarming level of narcissism. Now is one of those times.

I've spent hundreds, possibly thousands of hours in comments -- both reading and writing -- at Althouse. Still, I'm starting school next week (or thereabouts), so now seems like a good time to cut back. Brooklyn doesn't suit Professor Althouse. Perhaps she'll gain new perspective on this issue when she returns to Madison.


Ross Ruediger said...

This was fascinating Joan - I only wish I knew what it all meant. Tried my best to figure out what happened in that thread, but no dice. It was, of course, amusing as always to see you taking no shit from anyone.

Ross Ruediger said...

Ah...I clicked on "More." Now I get it.

Pogo said...


I missed this flap awhile back. Yipe. I agree with your summary of Sippican's departure. I was saddened by it.

I think he did not intend it, but ended up taking a bit of a swipe at Ann in deleting all his old comments.

The comments he was objecting to were egregious, and it was not unjust to react as he did. It was destructive, but necessary.

The administrative demand to delete those hurtful posts was a bit too late in coming, as it is now with Maxine. Too bad, really.

Trooper York said...

This was all before my time, but I find it very interesting.

Bissage said...

Joan, your recollection controls, of course, but I remember it differently.

It was Mary who went after Sipp's kids. Althouse responded by deleting her comments, repeatedly. (She also went after Ruth Anne’s kids during the egg salad episode.)

Regarding Sipp’s exit, it was largely because Quxxo and Sipp got into a major pissing match. It started off hilarious (Quxxo could be a major ass-wipe but he also had talent) but then it escalated and became quite nasty.

Sipp asked Althouse to ban Quxxo and she said no. Sipp then deleted every one of his comments from any thread that bore the name of Quxxo. Sipp said he didn't want his children to find the two of them associated even that remotely.

I'm hazy on what happened next but I think Althouse criticized Sipp for that and Sipp thought he deserved more respect. That's when he deleted everything.

That's my recollection, admittedly subject to error, FWIW.

Trooper York said...

Ghee, history can repeat itself.