blogsisential crisis

April 16th, 2007 | Site Update, Travels and Appearances

shoveling

Here I am shoveling through a wall of wet snow at an ugodly hour this morning so I could drive to the airport and NOT fly to Pittsburgh. My flight from Burlington was delayed so long that I wasn’t going to get there in time to speak tonight, if at all. So I came home.

We’re going to reschedule my visit to Carnegie Mellon for some time in the next month–I’ll keep you posted.

I haven’t been ignoring the recent flap here about my Open Thread idea. I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I’m still working on a coherent response, and will post it soon. In one way, there’s not a lot to say. It was a flawed solution to an ill-defined problem. Many commenters had a strong reaction against it. It’s gone.

But reading your ensuing discussion about the nature of blogs and online communities, I realized that I’ve never had a very clear idea about the purpose of this one, or what my relationship is to it. That’s what I’m trying to formulate.

120 Responses to “blogsisential crisis”

  1. Larry-bob says:

    Back when people thought that JT Leroy was a real person, some worried that he’d not be able to produce a new book because he was too busy answering all the fan email and schmoozing with b-list celebrities.

    Alison, you survived before you ran this discussion board; there was a time when your only form of feedback was fan mail from those who really made an effort and sent you snail mail.

    You have other side projects that have gone by the wayside — for instance the late lamented catalog with T-shirts and greeting cards.

    I don’t get the idea that you need the ego gratification of fans posting comments all over your blog, but it probably does gratiy the egos of fans to know that you may read their comments.

    Fans can run their own mailing list or forum elsewhere. It could even be linked from here. But I see no need for you to have to spend time that you could be spending in other, more productive ways on moderating or reading comments.

    Put up a snail mail address and those with something really valuable to say can buy a stamp and send you the info. That’s a pretty good content filter.

  2. Deena in OR says:

    Please understand the content below as an attempt to sum up my observations of the last several days events in as calm and dispassionate a way as possible. I’m a Libra. I detest conflict and injustice equally (grin).

    My understanding of at least some of what’s going on (and I do have some off-blog communication happening) has to do with blog participants’ sense of ownership in the process-as opposed, I guess, to the fact that Alison in the most concrete sense owns the blog. At least that’s how I’ve distilled the comments I’ve seen.

    I get the sense that some frequent posters were surprised by the change, and judging by some of the content I’ve seen, felt punished by the proposed format change for posting frequently/straying off topic and felt hurt because the collective wisdom wasn’t consulted before the change was tested. Participation in a process does tend to foster a sense of at least emotional ownership and sometimes, if a group is really lucky, community.

    I hear other voices celebrating the change because they either found it difficult and frustrating to wade through the discursiveness, or preferred not to have to. Some of those voices have of late, had a bit of a “tough cookies” tone that surprised me, and that I found, as a relatively neutral observer, less than compassionate in tone. Maybe I’m reading more into that tone than there is…such are the limitations of text-based conversation.

    In the legal sense of the term, the frequent bloggers don’t have ownership in the blog, or control over format. Fundamentally, it does belong to Alison. By the very nature of blogging, they *do* have some control over content. My hunch is that the outrage and hurt that I’ve seen expressed have more to do with process and percieved community than with any actual limits that have been put into place.

    Just some idle rambling. Take it for what little it’s worth.

    Peace, everyone. We need it tonight.

  3. Erica says:

    Who took that picture?

  4. Robbie says:

    Um, Alison,
    Sorry you got up early for a non-trip. Just wanted to comment on the picture of you shoveling. It looks like you’re shoveling in front of your car – between your car & a wall – as in : if you go forward you’ll smash your car. Shouldn’t you dig out behind the car? If it were me I’d just blame it on poor caffeination.

  5. Ellen Orleans says:

    At what time do ungodly hours turn godly?

  6. Wonder Wombmoon says:

    I think that ‘wall’ is actually the road, Robbie. The picture’s from a funny perspective, is all.

  7. elteegee says:

    The beauty of having your own blog is that you can make it be whatever you want it to be. My only advice would be not to let people bully or intimidate you into making it what they want it to be. You can’t possibly please even most of the people most of the time, nevermind all of ’em so why put yourself through that ringer? A lot of blogs don’t even enable comments and there’s not a darn thing wrong with that. Others limit the amount of time people can respond to a post and there’s not a darn thing wrong with that either. If people want limitless random discussion, they can create another spot for it if you’d rather not have it on your blog. Really, remove the drama and it’s all pretty simple, I think.

  8. Aunt Soozie says:

    At first I was thinking…
    Larry-bob…if I didn’t enjoy participating in the conversations on Alison’s blog so much I’d say, you know, you’ve really got a point there LB. But, then I was thinking, you just can’t turn back time. The modern era is upon us Larry-bob…and email and blogs and this back and forth fast communication, it’s just a reality.
    G’nite Alison,
    G’nite Larry-bob,
    G’nite all y’all.

  9. kate says:

    I sure wish you’d just turn off the comments and just have… a blog, that you post to when you damn well feel like it.

  10. Sabversive says:

    Catalogue? T-shirts?! Mugs….? Were there any mugs? I sooo want a mug with Mo on it.

    About the hoo-ha: why didn’t people just stick around and talk it through?

  11. Raffi says:

    Larry-bob is right. Spend your time creating, Alison. Don’t worry about the whining voices in cyberspace. If some want to continue the conversation elsewhere, what’s stopping them?

  12. Jaibe says:

    I second the “turn the comments off and link to any other blog communities that subsequently spring up” idea. Not because I personally think you need to end the status quo, but if you think you need to do so, this seems like the simplest solution. I would assume in the case of a single “comments here” link things would go on much as they have, but you wouldn’t have to feel any ownership / obligation towards moderation. If there were multiple links (and I don’t know that the community would sustain that, but if it happened) then there might be multiple different sorts of communities, like there used to be. But given current evidence I don’t know if that would happen.

  13. PJeannechild says:

    Every few days, I check in at Rosie.com. She seems to have mastered . . . something . . . on her blog. Recently, she’s begun an every-few-days V-log, answering questions, lasting 5-6 minutes. Not a bad idea if one loves fooling around with one’s new computercam. Also: hell, let the frequent & infrequent posters here talk ‘amongst themselves.’ AB can talk when she’s in the mood. Two parallel and only sometimes overlapping universes. Word up!

  14. Pam I says:

    Dear Alison, you’re wondering what is the purpose of your blog. Please remember how many times you have posted “I love this blog”. I’m not OCD’d enough to go back and count the times, but they are there. As I recall, they’re often in response to off-track discussions, or unexpected answers to issues you raise eg translations from the Latin.

    So one purpose of the blog is just to give you pleasure in attracting people of similar mindset to you, to have a space to chat. When that’s going on, your relationship to it becomes a sort of invisible facilitator, who then also chips in from time to time. I would be immensely proud to enable something like this.

    I just don’t understand those people, a majority of recent posters, who don’t like anything here which doesn’t respond directly to the strip, or FH. As it’s easy to follow just the Strip Archive then for goddess’ sake just read that. If it rambles off, don’t you have anything else to do? This is not a fan club newsletter. It’s neither Facts About Alison and what is her favourite colour (hm…?) nor a base for PhD research (French academic papers notwithstanding).

    It’s going to be difficult to get back some equilibrium. Several key regulars are silent. Their contributions have often made a really nice 5-minute start to my day and I am am very very sorry to lose that. As I said last week, I got that sick feeling in my guts that something I love (?) is about to change; to be accused of bullying or intimidation for wanting to question that, is unlike the previous spirit of this blog.

    I’m another Libra – much as I don’t believe in astro crap, for whatever reason, I do hate conflict and have found these last few days to be surprisingly disturbing. I also do the Libran thing of seeing both sides of arguments. Alison, you must be wanting to just turn off the whole damn thing.

    Please bear with us. Life is for sure too short, but not so short I can’t fit in 5 minutes a day of this weird connection that is real but isn’t, that matters but doesn’t, that is and now was…. but maybe not….

  15. RachelB says:

    I’ve been lurking around this blog since it started, but haven’t really contributed to it. I’m another huge fan of DTWOF and have even bought some artwork. (Would love to buy more when I’m in funds again.) I love the discussions and get irritated at how difficult it can be to wade through them. But I don’t think the discussions would happen without the meandering. Alison, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to start something without a clear idea – that way exploration lies. As for ‘a flawed solution to an ill-defined problem’, maybe trying something is a way of moving towards a definition of the problem. If it didn’t work, then you’ve got some more information and can try something else. If you want to – I come down on the side of it’s Alison’s blog and her business what she does with it.

  16. Fran says:

    I wish other folks would blog as much as you do Alison. This post about digging your car out and finding that your flight was canceled is a good example. It’s so human and personal.

    I think we should organize a party on Internet Relay Chat (IRC) or something like that just to get together and chat with one another maybe on a weekly basis. So many dear folks here that I can’t help thinking it would be fun to just spend an hour in that kind of party.

  17. NLC says:

    Concerning the suggestion of “keeping this ‘blog but using a separate ‘blog for discussion”:
    If that idea had any appeal, I was wondering: Is the old D2WO4 ‘blog on blogspot still around? It might function well as the discussion-‘blog.

    [Sabversive: Yes, indeed there were mugs. While I don’t have Mo, I have the Lois mug sitting right behind me here in my office, and the refrigerator magnets[!] proudly on display in the kitchen. Heck, if looked hard enough, I could probably dig out my copy of the ’97 catlogoue around here somewhere.]

  18. Hope says:

    I’ll admit to being a tiny bit happy you couldn’t speak in Pittsburgh last night; I had to work and didn’t have enough advance notice to request the night off. Please keep us posted on your future Pittsburgh plans — and hopefully next time I’ll be able to find someone to cover my shift.

  19. Fräulein says:

    Hello dear bloglettes. Hope all are well. Hang in there- spring will come to the eastern USA. I thought AB was digging her car out wrong, too, Robbie. I wanted to shout out as in a pantomime. “NOOOOO! WRONG WAY!!!” But Wonder Wombmoon is quite correct and clearly had her coffee this morning like a smart person and unlike us.

  20. JoeBeason says:

    Another Libra here! We love working for fairness and balance. So much so, that we’ll unabalance things just to have something to do!

    Deena sez, “I hear other voices celebrating the change because they either found it difficult and frustrating to wade through the discursiveness, or preferred not to have to. Some of those voices have of late, had a bit of a “tough cookies” tone that surprised me, and that I found, as a relatively neutral observer, less than compassionate in tone.”

    I’ve been sensing more ‘tough cookies’-ness coming from the folks who want things to stay the same. For example, Jaibe sez, “I just don’t understand those people, a majority of recent posters, who don’t like anything here which doesn’t respond directly to the strip, or FH. As it’s easy to follow just the Strip Archive then for goddess’ sake just read that. If it rambles off, don’t you have anything else to do?” Feel the warmth!

    But my view is of course colored by the fact that I am one of the folks that come here to read the strip and find out what AB is up to, and to read commentary specific to the strip. I’m not attached to the current style of the comments, or to any of the commentators. The discursiveness here is not lovely to me, probably because I already have a web home where I get my lovely discursiveness. Though, alas, without any talk of AB’s work, which explains why I come back here, and wade a bit in the shallow end of the comment pool.

    I only started checking in here last year. How long has the blog been running, and have the comments been increasing in number? I could imagine AB feeling a tension between wanting to keep up, and not having the time or resources to do so. But just refusing to read the comments while allowing them to go on has its own problems.

  21. Yes, JoeBeason! “I could imagine AB feeling a tension between wanting to keep up, and not having the time or resources to do so. But just refusing to read the comments while allowing them to go on has its own problems.” That’s an excellent nutshell version of my conflict.

  22. let it go says:

    you lately became a big public character, maybe you’d better concentrate on protecting yourself ?
    this blog can’t have the same meaning for you and for regulars vistors. it would be hypocritical not to acknoledged that.
    … internet stuff is not as powerful as books : in two years no one will ever remember what’s going on on this board, while your printed work is so highly valuable for so many people around, and for a long, long time…
    if the blog is becoming an unwanted exposure and source of conflicts… i suggest you let it go.
    it was a pleasure, huge pleasure even for silent readers like me, but… not worth what you’re putting yourself into right now.

  23. *tania says:

    i’m pretty sure the road is behind the car, and Alison’s just depositing the snow she’s scooped up in a pile out of the way. that, or the whole image is photoshopped and Alison is blogging from some lovely tropical locale where there are cabana-girls to do her every bidding and endless margaritas.

  24. reed_maker says:

    Someone above mentioned Rosie’s blog. I think it is useful to draw a contrast. I visit that blog once in awhile, too, and it’s fun, but I find it to have a celebrity narcisist feel to it (please, Rosie lovers, don’t attack me–I like her too) that this blog is completely lacking. Everything on that blog is filtered through Rosie, including the comments and questions of visitors. I like the less regulated chaos and the direct interation that goes on here. It doesn’t feel completely out of control to me yet. Alison’s input, however infrequent, is always a treat. (Hi Alison!)

    Just my two cents. I’m happy with whatever.

  25. geogeek says:

    I’ve posted a few times, and read about 2-3 times/week, sometimes checking repeatedly, sometimes not looking for days on end. So I missed the whole start to the blog discussion… I enjoy the current format, particularly the sense of direct communication both from Alison to us the readers and between readers, but I’m not wedded to it. I don’t know if this is feasible, but one way to partially limit things would be to have a cut-off at some number of comments for a given post, say 50. This would leave the feel much the same, but decrease the likelyhood of waking up one morning to a volume of material you’re having a hard time keeping up with. Any opinions?

  26. Tim T. says:

    to geogeek:

    Fifty! Did you suggest FIFTY comments? Seems like the DTWOF posters are just getting warmed up at about fifty!

    Best wishes to all.

  27. yelena says:

    I’ve noticed that when there’s not a new post for a while, the comments start to turn more “discursive,” getting more of a message board feel. Some blogs out there disable comments for specific posts after one or two days. This might be a strategy to limit/focus comments to be more post-specific without actually having to moderate. Just a thought.

  28. meg says:

    Much of what I know about Alison directly comes from my years of indentured servitude at Stinko’s – she used to rely pretty heavily on the 5090, and then the DocuTech, for copying DTWOF. She was an incredible customer – never blamed anyone behind the counter for the inevitable machine breakdowns and failures, or bit our heads off when the turn-around time was longer than she wanted it to be, or assumed that just because we were on the wrong side of the counter we were somewhat less than intellectually gifted. Basically, she had the rare habit of actually treating the folks on the other side of the counter as *people*. (I don’t know if I ever told you how much I appreciated that, Alison – in case I didn’t, there it is.)

    She’s still doing it within the context of this blog, as far as I can tell, but being that there’s only one of *her* and dozens and dozens of *us*, it’s a wee bit more challenging, to say the least – I know I’d be overwhelmed, and I don’t even have a ‘real’ life anymore.

    As far as I’m concerned, anything Alison decides to do with this blog is fine – I doubt she’s acquired enough wealth as of yet to hire someone to just to babysit the blog, and my guess is she still has that overdeveloped sense of responsibility working overtime (must read every entry! should respond to *that*, by all means! What about these folks’ concerns? gotta get the strip out, gotta shovel out the car, read the snail mail, and what about …., etc) BUT if she wanted to shut the whole thing down now, I wouldn’t blame her in the least, though I know I’d miss it.

  29. Thérèse says:

    meg, excellent post.

  30. Ellen Orleans says:

    I think the shoveling picture is like one of those “do you see a vase or do you see two profiles?” puzzles.

    Is the brown area in front of the shovel a raised railroad tie or a foreshorted section of road? At first I thought it was the former, but now I see it as the latter, with plowed snowed along the sides.

    As far as the blog — art, books, and happiness first. Blog– somewhere after that. I skim when the comments go way off topic or get too specific to hold my interest.

  31. meg says:

    thanks, Therese. 🙂

    Alison’s a pal. One of the few good things about those years of servitude was getting to meet some really great people from both sides of the counter – and Alison’s definitely one of them.

  32. Gatsbyfemme says:

    The dialogue and content here would be well served by a Yahoo group. Except — and this is a biggie — I think the main frisson felt by posters here stems from the probability that AB’s eyes may be scanning their posts.

    Is there fuel to maintain the discourse, even without AB’s involvement?

  33. Mid/South Mouth says:

    Alison,
    I half-wish the 73 degrees that we have here on the Mason-Dixon line to you

    Perhaps the extensive commenting as a sign of one of the successes of what you create. If discussion was dead, your art would be –dare I say it–“two dimensional”.

    That said, people like me who like to get responses from cool artistes like you and cool smart fans get a kick out of the comments.

    Rock on whatever your choice.

  34. Deb says:

    Well, I’ve been out and about and have missed all the excitement it seems. I’ve not read all the posts and it would be too daunting a task for me to try and catch up. I just wanted to say thanks to Alison for just being here and allowing us to take a peek into her life. I hope we haven’t lost sight of the enormous gift she’s given us.

  35. Deena in OR says:

    I have read all the posts, and will be taking a break from active posting for a while. I may lurk…I don’t know. I’ve enjoyed the give and take and intellectual stimulation. Coming from someone who doesn’t have the resources of LGBTQ support groups readily available, I’ve treasured the interaction, for the most part. This blog has acquired a reputation as a place where “the cool kids hang out and talk”, and where almost any respectful contribution is welcome. I hope it stays that way. Alison has stated that she needs to and is reevaluating her relationship with the blog. I get the sense that many of us are. Those of you who have my addy, feel free and welcome to contact me off list.

    For now, safe passages and peace to you all.

  36. Jana C.H. says:

    I’m sorry some of our major posters are leaving. I’m wiling to adapt to whatever develops here; others object more strongly to a changed format, but that’s their right.

    I am, however, more of a responder to others than an initiator of new lines of thought. If you see less from me it’s not because I’m sulking in my tent. It’s because I’m reading less that inspires me to respond. If it gets too dull, I’ll probably just drop in for the strips.

    I hope that even without some of the “big names” the blog will still be lively enough to keep my interest. C’mon, lurkers, strut your stuff. I know you’ve got it in you.

    Grinning and bearing it,

    Jana C.H.
    Seattle
    Saith Floss Forbes: If you don’t know the tune, sing tenor.

  37. Deena in OR says:

    Jana, and others,
    I expressed myself badly above. I’m not sulking…at least I hope I’m not. And I actually do consider myself to be pretty adaptable. I’m just not personally in a place right now where I can cope with the dissension, and I don’t want to add to it. So into lurkdom I go for a while, until I’m not so emotionally vulnerable, and know that I can keep my answers responsible and respectful.
    Peace, y’all.

  38. Cindy says:

    I’ve enjoyed both the entries and the comments for a long time here (albeit not on a regular basis); I rarely comment but I love the discourse.

    A couple of thoughts about the blog:

    1) Perhaps a teeny bit of the traffic can be slowed by making the blog a side dish to the main entree of your site. As it is now, the blog IS the site.

    2) Some of the overwhelming influx may simmer down as time passes. Fun Home is still fairly new, but as the book tours and the speaking engagements become less frequent, the blog, too, may follow the general trend. At least until your next masterpiece. 😉

    You may need someone to help you filter and distill the comments and email; there’s only so much one person can do, no matter how willing. If you can find the right person, it could work extremely well. But I do realize that’s a BIG “if”!

  39. Sabversive says:

    NLC: I covet your Lois mug.

    Ellen Orleans: thanks for “unpuzzling’ the shovelling picture. WonderWombmoon mentioned that the grey strip was in fact the road, but I just couldn’t see it as such and that made it even more of a puzzle.

  40. *tania says:

    woah. having been at that spot in real life, i instinctively knew it was a railroad tie, but thanks to ellen orleans, i stared at it long enough to see it as a foreshortened road. woah. my reality just shifted in a pleasantly disturbing way.

  41. meg says:

    heh. I have four (4) Lois mugs. And a couple o’ T-shirts, and a even a few bumper stickers left. I’m an inveterate hoarder. All from the last days of the tchotchkes empire, when everything was on sale.

    We won’t even talk about how many copies of Fun Home I bought. Though most of those were for gifts, so there’s some redemption in that.

  42. susank says:

    as a quiet reader who only discovered the blog after seeing AB talk at Powell’s last summer, i have been tracking the blog discussion and noticing how many voices there are emerging.
    and today i noticed i had a big reaction when i read Deena in OR’s comment “from someone who doesn’t have the resources of LGBTQ support groups readily available”, & i wanted to thank all of us who find one another, support one another, inspire and celebrate each other from whatever quieter or less resourced place we are coming from.
    i love the blog, and AB’s generosity in sharing, and i know that though initially i was surprised that she put so much of herself out there – a secretive Scorpio here – i have come to look forward to following the seasons in VT via her site.

    whatever happens to this space, the work goes on, for all of us, and it is good from my experience of ‘meeting’ you all to feel the sense of connection, laughter, inspiration, cake recipes and care.

    thanks everyone!

  43. judybusy says:

    Jana, you stated where I am at with this whole thing perfectly! I have totally enjoyed the blog, too, but things have seemed way too quiet around here. I would adapt to whatever happens, and I do wish it would get lively around here again!

    And to all of you who suffered that nasty storm, may the snow melt quickly and Spring return! (I seem like such a whiner now, when I think back to how bitter I was last week, when we got about 1.5″ of snow in MN…but am still resentful there is no forsythia for me this year; all the promising buds got zapped with freezing temps!)

  44. louise says:

    Ok I changed my mind about the entire Open Thread idea. It is my prerogative to do this every 36-48 hours. Before, many people were looking at the Open Thread idea as though moving off-topic comments there was some kind of mandate. Now I’m thinking that maybe it would be good just when you want to throw something out there that has nothing to do with anything, or if you feel like moving a conversation to the OT thread because you feel guilty knowing that Alison will feel guilty about having all these fluffy messages that she feels like she has to read. I know that the overall guilt level, at least for those of us raised Catholic, would be even further reduced if the LiveJournal page were used for this purpose, but… it doesn’t have the same warm ochre color scheme. And you have to go through the tedium of setting up an account if you want to post =P whereas here there’s always the “Leave a Reply” prompt at the bottom of the screen, egging you on.
    So right now I want to ask people about their experiences visiting or living in LA. I’m moving there sight unseen in June. Kind of ambivalent. We bought a Prius this weekend that we’ll ship out there. But I’m going to miss my impoverished Manhattan life.

  45. LondonBoy says:

    It may be that what Alison is doing at the moment ( the “blogsistential crisis” ) is the same thing many other people are doing: coming to terms with a new medium in which comment and dialogue are much easier than with some of the older media. Just as the introduction of the telephone created new ways of interacting, and new “good manners”, so the same may be needed here. I’ve just commented on where these manners might have originated in a posting at the end of the “Open Thread” ( the thoughts grew out of a response to an earlier posting, which is why they’re there ), and a couple of days ago I posted some ideas in the “Clustr” thread ( 12 April, 4.58pm ) that we might adopt to make life easier for Alison.

    By the way, I saw someone on the tube yesterday who looked just like Sparrow !

  46. Louise says:

    Other Louise here. I just heard this story on Morning Edition:

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=9642178

    It makes me understand Alison’s point of view better.

    louise, I saw your work online–beautiful. I don’t know the first thing about LA, however.

  47. --MC says:

    Louise (the first one), those are good blog suggestions.
    True, the LJ community color right now is grey, but that could probably be changed if someone asked the administrator of the group. And yes, you have to join LJ to post or reply to posts, but it’s not so bad. It keeps out the trolls, though to be fair, there aren’t that many trolls here.
    One solution for the blog here would be to make it a rule to only write about AB’s art or work, unless in an open thread. The byproduct of this is that it potentially turns everyone into Blog Police, censuring people who go off-topic. And I love it when we go off-topic here.

  48. LondonBoy says:

    MC: Your idea about rules matches posting on the “Clustr” thread ( alluded to above ). I give more detailed thoughts and reasoning there, but I was thinking of something like this:
    (a) Perhaps we could adopt the explicit principle that when a new strip is posted we use the comments under it only for specific comment on the strip itself – its artistic merits, how it links with other strips, and so on.
    (b) To make this work, Alison could create a separate “matters arising from strip ###” thread immediately adjacent to each new strip. We could use this for all the extended discussion and discursion, but new readers who might be otherwise discombobulated by excess verbiage would be able to avoid it.
    (c) Alison could consider indicating some of her postings as “comments only on immediately relevant matters, please”. So where there’s information about a book-signing ( say ) we would only add comments like “how to get there” or “don’t park on Main Street unless you want to get towed”. This would make the blog more useful to casual readers and Alison, and would give us a chance to see the wonderful schoolmarm in action ( grin ! ).
    (d) Unless specifically invited to, I think we might consider adopting a “no comments on Alison or her personal life” principle. I think we’ve more or less done this so far, but making it explicit might be useful.

    I continue to feel that in terms of pleasantness of people and quality of discussion I do like this place… And of course the cartoons are world-class !

  49. Jeffster83 says:

    To louise who is moving to LA: Without giving your exact new location, could you be more specific? Are you actually moving to the City of Los Angeles itself, or to LA County, or to the LA metropolitan area, or the LA Basin? I have noticed that people back East use “LA” to refer to an area bigger and more diverse than New England, and often they think it is all the same, yet they would be quick to point out that moving to New Rochelle or Stamford or North Brunswick is not the same as moving to NYC. I hope you are not one of Those Easterners.

    I can tell you my experiences growing up in southeastern LA County, although it won’t be relevant to life there now because the demographic has changed considerably in the last twenty years. I can tell you my current experiences living in central Orange County. But if you are moving to Westwood or downtown or the San Gabriel Valley or South-Central or Cheviot Hills, anything I tell you would be useless.

    Good luck on your move!

  50. Lauren Z says:

    Too bad about being snowed in but I’m glad you couldn’t make it to Pittsburgh – I had class that evening you were supposed to speak and I was going to miss it! Now I have a second chance to catch you. Can’t wait for you to come to the ‘Burgh!

  51. llouise says:

    LondonBoy- these are very creative and concerned ideas. however I agree with MC and find my feelings about rules unchanged – that they will probably create more problems and more drama and policing and potential tedium than they would solve. it’s like always having to prune a fast-growing topiary. but if certain channels are provided then conversation might naturally tend toward a more manageable form. like water in an aqueduct. Or, one of those Japanese gift watermelons that grow in neat rectangular molds. Or a healthy well-balanced ecosystem.
    That being said. . .
    A while ago I said something about how a mosh pit would be a fun model for a message board? Not sure how I’m feeling about that now. Louise, [and thank you so much, btw], that NPR story was scary. Things are very scary all around. I hadn’t seen An Inconvenient Truth until this weekend and then there was that storm. Right now I’m appreciating this space for its balance, balanced words, balanced emotions.

  52. geogeek says:

    Tim T: Yeah, 50 is small, but I was intentionally low-balling it. I haven’t counted, but that might be an okay average: for every post with 180 comments there seem to be several with 20 or 30.
    LondonBoy: I wonder if that could even be a label, you know, those little yellow words that tell you what kind of entry something is. Then someone could sort for “Just the Facts, Ma’am” posts and avoid the extra stuff.
    In general: I don’t post anywhere I have to join something, as a combination of cross-platform problems, inability to recall passwords, and dislike of having to supply information to a third party (the webhost) makes me crazy.

  53. Jana C.H. says:

    Deena,

    Re: Sulking in Tents. I was just being literary. I didn’t really mean anyone was sulking.

    Jana C.H.
    Seattle
    Saith Homer: … Rats! I don’t have my Iliad with me, so I can’t think of any Homeric quotes.

  54. llouise says:

    Jeffster, lol don’t call me an Easterner, you might offend the real ones. I came here in ’02 and can remember how cool I thought it was when I realized Manhattan was an island. I am from Chicagoland. This is the greater metropolitan region of Chicago. There’s Chicago, the suburbs around it, and then there’s cornfields. There are those people out East here, and in downtown Chicago as well, who think the term ‘Chicagoland’ is a made-up copout for those who don’t want to admit they’re suburban. They’re probably right. I tell people I’m from Chicago all the time though. It sounds cooler.
    My partner will be working at an institution of higher learning in the O.C. and we’re considering Pasadena/Altadena cause that’s where everyone seems to be encouraging us to go when they hear we’re a mixed race lesbian couple.

  55. LondonBoy says:

    Ooops ! To engage in a bit of clarification: I was thinking of using the ideas above as “general principles” – not rules, more something like “good manners”. I don’t think you can legislate for pleasant behaviour, but my sense of the people here is that if Alison expressed preferences these would be honoured. Any “self policing” would likely take the form of people gently pointing out breaches of “local preferences and manners”. I don’t think there are any “rules police” around here.

    Part of the reason why this is such a nice place is because people here are generally decent and don’t want to cause upset. This of course reflects and mirrors DTWOF’s broader intended and actual audience. There isn’t a person here I wouldn’t feel comfortable introducing to my grandmother right now, which I reckon is the acid test.

    As a sideline, I can just imagine Sydney writing a paper on blogs, with a title something like “Lesbian Blogging: An Intertextual Study of Promiscuity in Discourse and Intercourse”.

  56. ksbel6 says:

    Anyone else work as a teacher or professor on a campus that is participating in the National Day of Silence today? I live in rural northeast missouri and I had about 1/4 of each of my classes silent for the period. There is some hope for the future 🙂

  57. DeenainOR says:

    Breaking my own silence for this one.

    Honestly, I’ve been trying not to think about VT. I’m sending my oldest off to school next fall, and it’s just too scary and too real at the moment for me to be able to process.

  58. --MC says:

    If any guidelines for posting here are implemented, it would be good to have them in a Blog FAQ that we could refer rowdy newbies to.

  59. Joanna says:

    Louise, thanks for the link to the NPR piece..interesting to ponder on the ‘why’ around some people’s response to the anonymity of discussion boards (violent, nasty comments, etc)..I’d be willing to wager that most of those people would never consider responding that way in person – maybe some sort of thrill at being “bad” and not having to answer for it? I wasn’t surprised that it happens, but I was shocked to hear how rampant it seems to be. It makes me appreciate all the more the wonderful community of people on this blog who (apart from the very occasional exception), have been able to maintain respectful, supportive discourse even through disagreement.

    Jana: I’m struttin’ it! Thanks for the nudge.

    J

  60. Amy of the OC says:

    Louise – Pasadena is quite a commute to the OC! If she is a faculty member, she may be able to work at home a few days a week though…..You may want to consider Long Beach….

  61. xckb13 says:

    louise,

    Pasadena and Altadena are great, but as Amy says, are quite a commute from Orange County…

    Also, if you’re looking for lesbians, Long Beach is the place to find them.

  62. LondonBoy says:

    Ah, Long Beach, the home of “Lesbians to Look Out For” !

  63. Shmuel says:

    I’ve been a lurker too, and often amazed–and sometimes turned off by–the long and winding discussions. I am even more amazed however at the tone of responses to AB’s attempts at taking a new and different approach. Many folks have asked for “LJ like threads” to help keep track of discussions. It is a matter of taste and personal processing style. I noticed on list serves that some people go way off track but keep the original subject header, some like to change the subject header. None are wrong, it is a different way to process information.

    But some of the “frustration” and “hurt” or feelings “like we’ve been banished to the kids table” or “Junk Room” seem like defensive reactions to polite attempts to make small shifts. Kinda like being asked in a library or outside a sleeping kid’s room to “go in the other room to talk.” It doesn’t mean the conversation is being judged, or the folks who are engaged in lively talking. Just that it may not be best to have it “right here right now.” Sometimes people get defensive–or hurt– in those situations and it may come from feeling judged or embarrassed. Patience, kindness, even self-forgiveness go a long way to just allow everyone to keep moving and be secure in where they stand.

    I’ve taken a half hour or more of thought on this and sort of wish I haven’t. I can’t imagine how it must be eating at poor Alison who really has a lot of other things going on.

  64. reed_maker says:

    Why is Alison shoveling snow into a railroad tie instead of shoveling away the snow between her car and the road? And how many people on this blog actually know AB personally? Any talk of LJ, OT, “junk rooms,” and clustrs aside, this is all getting a little bit weird.

    I’ve never been to LA, but I’ve been watching Six Feet Under on DVD lately, and lots of people out there seem to die in strange and unexpected ways. Louise, please take care.

  65. Aunt Soozie says:

    It’s not a railroad tie…it’s the road, foreshortened, look again. Wait,are you just saying that…AGAIN…as a way to prove to me that it is annoying when people haven’t read ALL of the posts, that skimming doesn’t work, that reading all of these long winded entries, mine included, is daunting? That I have the pleasure of picking and choosing but Alison does not? Okay. Convinced. Way.

    Maybe the random conversation about LA could be had over at the open thread? Would that be an offensive thing to ask?

    I think I’m coming down with a really, really nasty case of LCFS. (lesbian culture fatigue syndrome) For those of you non-lesbian…well, welcome to our world. Yeah, it’s real cute-like when we joke about consensus, committees, cats, tofu and potlucks…but just look at us now. Talk about beating a dead horse and co-dependency. Okay, wait, don’t talk about beating dead horses…or co-dependency but if you have to…don’t do it here. Sheesh.

    Shit, I hope you know I’m teasing…sort of…
    Oh no, now I swore again and all those folks were saying how nice it is that we can communicate here without foul language…fuck.

    Okay…now…HEAD’s UP PEOPLE!
    This next part is an observation ABOUT ALISON BECHDEL’S COMIC STRIPS and A RECENT INTERVIEW…

    Alison,
    you talked in the interview that MC posted about getting
    out of your own ass
    and I saw in Lesbian Connection the two “vintage” strips you chose to run, one giving us a glimpse of Mo’s ass and the other flashing Sydney and Syd’s father’s asses…
    I’m sensing an ass theme here is this in preparation for your next book? I think I’m getting excited.

    Okay, I’ll go now..with this LCFS I even annoy myself.

  66. Aunt Soozie says:

    Oh, and those were two great strips…thanks, I enjoyed them.

  67. reed_maker says:

    Hi Aunt Soozie,

    I thought it was the road, too, but *tania above says, “having been at that spot in real life, i instinctively knew it was a railroad tie…”

    That’s what I mean: how many people here have been Alison’s dinner guests? Weirdness abounds.

    (no more about LA)

  68. Aunt Soozie says:

    I guess we’ll find out in that next book…
    😉

  69. Pamela R says:

    I felt for my poor sister; she lives in Ottawa, where they also suffered the storm, while here in England, on Sunday, we hit an unseasonal high of 23 celsius. Is the snow at least melting quickly over there?

    I know how you feel, Shmuel; that’s where I was last week, when I saw the strident reactions to an open thread. But everyone’s had a week to calm down and tone down their arguments. I still think two threads can work, and it’s not an insult to those who do just want to chat or touch base.

  70. Jana C.H. says:

    While googling “Maoist Orange Cake” (don’t ask why) I came across a blog, Kendall’s Quest, which commented upon this blog, last February when it was in its peak of insanity. There was a whole page, but I quote the last paragraph.

    “One of the things I admire about Alison’s blog, Nacho’s blog, T.’s blog, Conor’s blog, and many of the blogs I enjoy devouring, is that they foment (I am choosing that word with intention) community, of a sort, among people flung out all over the planet, who couldn’t possibly get together around one table at one time. Of course the blog community is usually dominated by the voice of the blogger, but what I love about Alison’s blog is that it is dominated by the commenters! Viva! It’s a community of talky, thought-provoking, dissimilar and yet (usually) mutually respectful people. So I whoop with joy that it exists, and I go on blogging, and reading blogs, and commenting occasionally, and treasuring comments. I also revel in reading Stephen’s blogs, that don’t generate comments at all but are such dazzling wordcraft that the dominance of his voice seems completely justified. There is more I can say, and probaby will, about “this seductive, ephemeral, slapdash medium.” But now I really am going to go make some dinner. ”

    http://blogs.bootsnall.com/Grannygold/?p=121

    Jana C.H.
    Seattle
    Saith Floss Forbes: If you don’t know the tune, sing tenor.

  71. Alex K says:

    Dear Jana, my favourite Homeric quote is not so much a quote as an epithet — in eighth grade the whole class broke out in the giggles when Mrs Hedges, standing in front of us, asked what came to mind when we heard the phrase “Rosie fingered Dawn”.

    Or, as she crossly wrote on the chalkboard a moment later, “rosy-fingered Dawn”.

    Still blushing behind my lifted desktop forty years later!

  72. Jana C.H. says:

    Oooo, that never occurred to me before. I guess my mind is too clean.

    A favorite bit of mine is when Odysseus bids farewell to the Phaiakians with: “May you in turn, remaining here, bring comfort and cheer to your wedded wives and your children.” (Lattimore). Beware the much acclaimed Fagles translation, which reverses the meaning: “And you, my friends, remaining here in your kingdom now, may you delight in your loyal wives and children.” Who is taking delight in whom, anyway?

    Fagles also reverses the wonderfully ridiculous metaphor comparing the sleepless Odysseus to a fat sausage being turned before the fire, and tries to make out like Odysseus is being compared to the cook instead. You can’t read the Odyssey without a sense of humor.

    Jana C.H.
    Seattle
    Saith Homer: He might have been a good fat black-pudding going round in front of a blazing fire, while the cook basted it on the spit to roast it quickly. (W.H.D. Rouse)

  73. AmandaTheGreat says:

    The whole mess would be a lot easier with a site that offers threaded commenting. Then conversations on topics are easy to spot and avoid or seek out as one wishes.

    But as a long time Livejournal user, of course I’d say that.

  74. NLC says:

    Jana C.H.: Yes, I’ve alwasys felt that we could be pulling a lot more students into high-school classics classes if teachers were a little stodgy about this sort of thing (“Homer-eroticism”?)
    Another good example occurs where Odysseus is holding Circe at sword-point and she says to him in her slinkiest voice (roughly) “Why don’t you slip your sword into its sheath and let’s get into bed?” (Which you might pass over as some kind of lame freudianism unless you happened to know the Greek for sword-sheath…)

    In any case, I thought it was thoughtful of Alex K to bring us back to a D2WO4-related topic: “Is there a hyphen in rosy-fingered dawn?”

  75. NLC says:

    of course, that should read
    “…if teachers were a little less stodgy about this sort of thing”

  76. Lizzy says:

    So sorry about that–what a bust. I applaud you for your gung-ho attitude. I was on the Pittsburgh end, in fact sitting next to Tomasz that morning. Hope the next time goes a little more smoothly!

  77. Tom says:

    This blog is great. There’s always something that makes me laugh and think. I’m very sure the spirit of this group will survive just about any form the blog and/or message board and/or virtual community may take.

    Suggestion: if there are to be guidelines, make them as simple as possible, and make sure the guidelines are designed with compassion for the newbies as well as regard to the needs of the … oldbies? (The word “veterans” doesn’t sound quite right.)

    As to the open topic experiment – an experiment only fails when we learn nothing from it. I think we have learned some valuable things, and that the results are still coming in – the ripples in the pond have not entirely settled, although a sense of serenity has returned.

    The way I view this site is that it offers us a buffet banquet, and we are not required to partake of every dish, including the open topic post. In fact, as some people have said, it’s nearly impossible to do so — not without having way too much time on our hands. It’s like life – there’s so much delicious stuff out there it’s overwhelming (books, food, people, music, trees, birds, cultures, art … ) – and we inevitably and constantly have to make decisions, conscious and not, to exclude some of it from our experience.

    -Tom (a former lurker)

    P.S. I would definitely buy a mug, with any DTWOF character.

  78. Aunt Soozie says:

    Oh, I hope I wasn’t too cheeky in that last post.

  79. Doctor E says:

    STOP THE PRESSES!

    Alison is up for THREE Eisner awards!

    The nominees were announced today for the most prestigeous award in comics. Named for comics pioneer Will Eisner, the awards are given as part of Comic Con International in San Diego, which Alison is attending ths year. The results will be announced in a “gala” awards ceremony on the evening of Friday, July 27 in Ballroom 20 at the San Diego Convention Center.

    The categories for which she’s been nominated are:

    Best Reality-Based Work
    Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel (Houghton Mifflin)
    I Love Led Zeppelin, by Ellen Forney (Fantagraphics)
    Mom’s Cancer, by Brian Fies (Abrams)
    Project X Challengers: Cup Noodle, by Tadashi Katoh (Digital Manga)
    Stagger Lee, by Derek McCulloch and Shepherd Hendrix (Image)

    Best Graphic Album—New
    American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang (First Second)
    Billy Hazelnuts, by Tony Millionaire (Fantagraphics)
    Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel (Houghton Mifflin)
    Ninja, by Brian Chippendale (Gingko Press)
    Scrublands, by Joe Daly (Fantagraphics)
    The Ticking, by Renée French (Top Shelf)

    Best Writer/Artist
    Allison Bechdel, Fun Home (Houghton Mifflin)
    Renée French, The Ticking (Top Shelf)
    Gilbert Hernandez, Love and Rockets, New Tales of Old Palomar (Fantagraphics); Sloth (Vertigo/DC)
    Paul Pope, Batman: Year 100 (DC)
    Joann Sfar, Klezmer, Vampire Loves (First Second)

    Congratulations, Alison!

  80. Digger says:

    I am confused as to why, in the midst of comments about the value of this blog for building community and creating a social space, people feel it is their place to discourage others who are using it in that very spirit (e.g., admonishing people to stop giving advice to the post-er moving to L.A.)

  81. llouise says:

    Digger, don’t worry about it. Miss Soozie is great, I think she was poking fun at exactly that kind of behavior.

  82. Jeffster83 says:

    In a consensus-based community where there are no leaders, as soon as one person suggests not doing X and another says “I am not going to do X any more,” then do all the others have to immediately abjure doing X and perform self-criticism for ever having thought to do X and write humorless treatises about why X is elitist entitled behavior?

    To live in Pasadena and drive to Orange County every day is not a good idea. There are no commuter trains, no vanpools, no other socially-respoonsible ways to do it. Even if you don’t care about social responsibility, it will become very wearing on your sanity to drive that far twice a day every day.

    Long Beach is a little closer, although the only two highways from there to either of the likely institutes of higher learning of which you speak are always jammed and under construction.

    You don’t mention living here in OC (note the lack of definite article). I half-suspect the reason OC has a reputation of being unfriendly to non-WHASPs is that none of them move here, and they tell their friends why they don’t move here, and the bad rap grows larger and badder, but has little justification. I recommend Costa Mesa or Fullerton.

    I used to work in video rental in a store halfway between UCI and CSUF, in a suburban white-bread town that prides itself on old-fashioned values and community. Two of our customers were a mixed-race lesbian couple who came in two or three times a week, and no one paid them much attention, for good or for bad. They liked adventure films mostly.

  83. Jana C.H. says:

    NLC–

    They say if you read a line of Aristophanes and don’t find something obscene in it, you’re not reading carefully enough.

    That only works, of course, if you can read ancient Greek. I can’t, alas, though I did try to teach myself Latin once. I figured if millions of English schoolboys could do it, I could. It didn’t work, largely because there was no terrifying Latin Master standing over me with a cane.

    Jana C.H.
    Seattle
    Saith Will Cuppy: I forget exactly why Rome fell. It was probably just one of those things.

  84. llouise says:

    Thanks for the advice, Jeff and everybody. Some of the towns along the commuter rail in OC do look attractive. If they’re really white though… it’s not that they wouldn’t be nice, we’re looking for community where both of us, I guess fit in… diversity is a big plus. Regarding the commute, Amy of the OC called it- my gf will only hopefully have to go in a couple times a week. Now we thought that there was a commuter rail that extended up there! The gold line or something? That was the whole reason we liked it. I’d have the car, she’d take the train into LA and back out, it might take 2 hours but she’d get work done (so she justifies it)… =\ we’ll see. we are taking a preliminary trip. What’s Long Beach like?

  85. Aunt Soozie says:

    Actually,
    Since Alison has expressed that it is really difficult for her to keep up with all of the posts and that she feels responsible to do so, I thought, it might be a simply matter of manners to move a completely off topic and very specific issue, such as, what are some good places to live in LA if you are a lesbian couple to the open thread. ie, the question was posed here but the discourse could take place there, again, the asker can easily go there to read replies and those interested in answering can answer there as, again, it’s not about this blog at all and it’s all about community.

    But, uhm, “this” isn’t a consensus based community…
    it’s the comments section on Alison Bechdel’s blog.

    I’m all for building community, but, as others before me have said, I’m also for having manners and respecting your hostess when you are a guest. Speaking of which, I appreciate the literary references of a sexual nature but doesn’t anyone just want to talk about Mo’s ass? Sydney’s? Sydney’s father’s old ass? Alison getting out of her ass?

    Love,
    Aunt Soozie

  86. --MC says:

    Ellen Forney v. Alison? DON’T MAKE ME CHOOSE!

  87. DeenainOR says:

    Re: Sydney’s father’s behind….

    I work in assisted living. I can see all of that that I want to, and usually see more of it than I *do* want to.
    But I’m all for more of Mo’s, Sydney’s, Ginger’s, Lois’s…Cynthia’s would probably make me feel like a perv, since she’s young enough to be my daughter…

  88. llouise says:

    I see what you’re saying. I just didn’t post there because that thread was posted so long ago.
    No disrespect intended.
    If anyone has any more advice, thank you very much, please post it to the open thread.

  89. QKelly says:

    I have no opinion as to the best format for the blog / m-board / whatever.

    But what I do have an opinion about is MERCHANDISE!!! I want it!!! Oh, sure, I’m totally conflicted about our consumer culture, etc., but of course I’m also inextricably tied to it, and so I want to consume things! Let your fans consume you, AB!! — well, um, I mean, in the form of mugs, tees, magnets, calendars, mousepads, bedspreads, and suchlike (oh, okay, so I don’t really need a Dykes bedspread). Give the money to charity if capitalism makes you too uncomfortable, or declare that you yourself are the “charity” and start to feed off mother tit of your own work. Whatever. Just let us buy cool DTWO4 or Fun Home stuff. Forget the blog flap, and start calling some merchandisers! It won’t take too much of your time — you can do it whenever you’re next stranded at some airport.

  90. Jana C.H. says:

    Regarding off-topic posts: AB tried an experiment with the Open Thread, and decided that it wasn’t working. Since then her comments about the blog have been ambiguous: she likes the creativity but feels overwhelmed by the quantity.

    Until she actually says, “Please lay off the irrelevant babbling,” I intend to go on as I have. No one needs to read my notes who doesn’t want to, including AB. She is our hostess and I will follow her wishes when I actually know what they are.

    I think this whole thing has been blown way out of proportion by both pros and cons among us bloggers. In truth, I could pursue this painful theme much further, but behold, I have said enough.

    Jana C.H.
    Seattle
    P.S. Who recognizes the quotation? It may not be exact; I’m quoting from memory.

  91. Pam I says:

    I would buy a Fun Home branded coffin-shaped ashtray (for storing paperclips)
    A Mo branded library card holder
    A JR cot blanket with lots of little cupid-enhanced JR pics
    A Raffi mbl fon cover
    A Sydney-shaped dildo (for my friend)
    A Stuart branded SUV…
    Too end-of day to think of more – pick up?

  92. louise says:

    =) I like you Jana

  93. louise says:

    I would buy stationery and paper goods, personally. post its, bookmarks, bookplates, stickers… the sort of thing you could sell at a feminist bookstore and buy another of each time you stopped in. new character designs seasonally that you could collect. on recycled paper of course.

  94. Jana C.H. says:

    louise–

    Thanks!

    JcH

  95. Deena in OR says:

    JcH, louise,

    Ditto here!

  96. Deena in OR says:

    Alison, if you ever read this…
    I know a dyke friendly silkscreening business here in town that does shirts, mugs, etc., anything logoed. They did my campaign tees when I ran for city council. Email me off list (I know you have my address) if it seems like a project you’d like followed up.

  97. meg says:

    Ummm, I think Alison got *out* of the catalog tchotchkes bizness because of the amount of time and effort it took away from her so-called ‘real’ work…

    Maybe if we could set up the whole thing in sweatshops in some exploited country somewhere, and run it so that all she had to do was sign off on product design and then sign the backs of all the fat checks that would come rolling in checks, we could lure her back?

    Or, then again, maybe not.

  98. meg says:

    Of course, I could be completely wrong – it’s happened many a time before.

  99. Deena in OR says:

    meg-

    Hmmm…sweatshops? Or home based distribution business, with Alison controlling licensure and getting a percentage? The Internet has changed things…

  100. meg says:

    Sweatshops! Think of the scandal! Much more fun.

  101. Vicwa says:

    I don’t care about the road/railroad tie. I want to know what happened to her (AB’s) other LEG!!???

  102. Sabversive says:

    I want a mug AND a tote bag! Think about it… a tote bag with Mo or any of your favourite DTWOF character on it!

    Of course we could all go shopping at Meg’s house since she cornered the market on Lois mugs.

    Meg: FOUR(!) Lois mugs???

    Tom: Yes… “there’s always something that makes me laugh and think”.
    I like what you said about the “spirit of the group surviving” any format the blog might take. And your comparison of the blog posts with the offerings at a buffet banquet. Lovely.

  103. meg says:

    Sabversive – eh, it was the ‘getting out of the tchotchkes bizness’ sale; I knew it was time to stock up. One in use, three in reserve.

    Did I mention my DTWOF magnets? Or the T-shirts? 😉

  104. Doctor E says:

    Screw all that stuff! I want action figures!

  105. anon-eponymous says:

    My parents have always made pronouncements about what consitutes appropriate behavior. One of these rules was that at the dinner table, people should only discourse on topics that were interesting to everyone. One day, my mother was repeating this principle, and I, about 8 years old then, pointed out that whatever she was discussing with my father was not of any interest to me. She bristled, said I was foolish and Philistine, and that it _ought_ to be of interest to me.

    Fast forward 15 or 20 years, I’m visiting, I’m at the dinner table, and my parents are again, loudly and at length, discussing something that is not of interest to me. That extra 20 years has clearly done me some good; because I can tune it right out. However, my kid sister, still in high school, doesn’t have that skill yet. She has finished her meal, and has put her head between her hands and has developed a really wild-eyed look. Every minute or so, she throws her head up, makes a loud, derisive comment tangentially related to my parents’ discussion, and puts it back down again. Every time she does this my father hits her in the elbow. This is clearly no deterrent, since a minute later the whole sequence is repeated, and a minute later, and so forth.

    Realizing that this could go on indefinitely if I don’t interfere, I get my sister’s attention and say, “Aren’t you done eating? Why don’t you excuse yourself and go do your homework?” Her face lightens with relief, and five seconds later she is gone.

    I think there is an analogy to the current blog situation, and my relationship to the blog, and even others’ relationship to the blog, in this experience. I think that those who say, “Well, just skip the comments if you don’t like them.” are missing the fact that the blog is _social_, and not just a document. When reading a reference manual, it is easy to skip the stuff you don’t want, even if you’re annoyed by the writer for being so discursive, but when in a social context, even if it’s virtual, it’s a good deal harder. This is why my sister didn’t leave the table, even though she was perfectly at liberty to do so. She needed to have the fact that she could leave pointed out to her, in a friendly fashion, by someone else who had already figured it out. At this point, I can tune out the blog when I need to, but when I was new to this thing, just like my sister with my parents, I didn’t have that skill, and just like my sister, I felt pretty nutso at times.

  106. CC says:

    “She needed to have the fact that she could leave pointed out to her, in a friendly fashion, by someone else who had already figured it out.”

    Although I like much of your analogy, ae, it fails for me at this point.

    I’m among the people who doesn’t participate in this community – I’ve only been following this discussion because I _would_ participate in a discussion if it were in a different format, and I’m interested in seeing if that happens.

    I’m quite aware that I can ignore the discussion; I’ve been doing it for as long as this site has existed. And I’m not new to online forums – I was participating in them before personal computers became common.

    But even those early forums – mailing lists, bulletin boards, USENET – had features that this blog does not. Contributions could be labeled with subject lines that helped readers identify message they were interested in. Participation software included filters that let readers screen out what they knew they wouldn’t be interested in. People who wanted to read every remark could; people who didn’t had an option besides getting up and leaving.

    Nowadays, there’s plenty of free and low-cost software for setting up online communities. Compared to what we were using fifteen years ago, it’s easier to learn and has better features. Software like this lets users who want to socialize co-exist with users who want more focused discussions; it’s not as though a choice has to be made between the two approaches.

  107. Deena in OR says:

    Pam I- Of *course*, for your friend. (wiseacre grin)

  108. anon-eponymous says:

    C.C.

    I agree with you; there is a lot of technology out there these days for organizing this kind of thing. I belong to a few mailing lists; since they are so much more organized, even though there is a lot of volume, I think of them as a completely different thing. And yes, they are far easier to interact with.

    You may be right that I’m confusing the message with the medium. I’m a computer scientist; maybe I have a prejudice that online communities about non-technical topics must, because of their content, be disorganized and difficult to interact with, like my family at the dining room table, whereas online technical communities must be organized and relatively easy to interact with, otherwise they are useless. It could be that I’m generalizing from my experience way too widely—so far all (one) of the non-technical communities I’ve interacted with have been way on the disorganized end of the spectrum and all (many) of the technical communities I’ve interacted with have been vastly more organized. I concede that it probably doesn’t have to be that way.

  109. judybusy says:

    Pam I, if AB gets into the thingamajig business again, you need to be hired as product developer! My brother, an engineer, truly has the following as his title: Director of Product Engineering, which makes for a great acronym!

  110. Pam I says:

    I’ll stick to thinking up what the DTWOF celebration cake would look like if we can get this back in to the groove.

  111. mlk says:

    re: Alison’s other leg, I suspect it’s on the other side of the one that’s visible!

    re: the blog, that’s much harder to figure out. I began composing something about that yesterday, and it got junked when the computer timed out on me (I’m a library user). here’s the gist of it, and other random thoughts:

    * Alison’s blog is a significant tie to the LGBT community for me . . . not because of where I live (Columbus, OH is hardly a small and homophobic town) but because of who I am and my life circumstances.

    * When discussion started about the nature of the blog I, as an “insider,” figured that new folk would find a way to deal with the blog’s culture. that’s an insider view, huh?

    * it’s no surprise to me that as new people discover AB’s website and it attracts a larger audience the status quo will be challenged — something of a developmental task for us all, I guess.

    * some new posters (new to the blog and former lurkers) have expressed an appreciation of the blog culture as it is/has been.

    * Alison has made positive comments about the blog and its discursive nature, but that was back in a time that she wasn’t the rock star that she’s become in the past 9 months. maybe the blog is becoming a liability for her?

    * on the other hand, she managed to write Fun Home AND do DTWOF every 2 weeks for 7 years!! maybe she can continue dealing w/the blog?

    * if Alison still believes discursive pros outweigh discursive cons, a statement on the website about the blog culture might be helpful to newbies. wait a minute . . . that might be of use whatever she decides! make it easy for everyone to know — and remind themselves — of the blog’s purpose and Alison’s role in it.

    * like the suggestion that the blog be presented as a side dish rather than the main course.

    * anon-eponymous, I’m awfully glad you’re still w/us and still posting. despite your comments about feeling like an outsider, I’ve always considered you ‘one of us.’ not necessarily a desirable trait, I know — make of that what you will. I’ll just say again that I’m glad you’re here. and I like your dinner table analogy.

    * several regular posters, myself included, have found it useful to visit the site less frequently or go into lurk mode. it would be quite rude, though, to suggest on the blog that a person do so. I just mention it as something for each of us to keep in mind.

    sorry to be so lengthy here. I’ve been away for awhile — my computer access at work has been curtailed and Real Life has been rather demanding of late. guess my need to catch up and say my piece has been pretty pressing.

  112. Jeffster83 says:

    Llouise, I wouldn’t recommend towns that were “really white” to any reader of AB’s blog. The only “really white” towns that I can think of (to the east of here in Riverside County) are not very nice at all. Meth labs, malnutrition and mudflaps.

    I said “white bread” meaning tree-lined streets with houses from the 1950s but all different from each other, and civic buildings over a hundred years old, near well-maintained schools and parks. I know better than to assume that the people who live in these houses and walk on these sidewalks are all of European descent.

    Orange County really does have a pretty diverse population, despite what the national media and liberal sociologists believe. We have ethnic shopping and business enclaves, but mixed residential neighborhoods. Where you can live depends on your income and taste, not on the language your immigrant grandparents spoke, whether you’ve changed your hair texture, how closely you adhere to your assumed religion, or any of the other criteria they use back East.

    When you said you were a biracial couple, did you mean you are both personally biracial and you have formed a couple? or did you mean that one of you is one race and the other another race, so that your couplehood is the thing that is biracial? If the latter, and if you have to live near people who look like you, I think you could be comfortable living halfway between the two corresponding business districts. For example, if you are Salvadoreña and your partner is Vietnamese, there are nice areas between Santa Ana’s Calle Cuatro and Garden Grove’s Little Saigon. If you are Persian and your partner is Samoan, then anywhere along the 405 between Irvine and Carson will do.

    To not bore the other readers, I can send you more of my opinions on nice areas to live in OC if you write me: jefffster83 at gmail dot com.

  113. Vicwa says:

    mlk – I figured out the missing leg right away. That was just my “lame” attempt to get back on topic.

  114. Deena in OR says:

    kate Says:
    April 17th, 2007 at 1:19 am
    I sure wish you’d just turn off the comments and just have… a blog, that you post to when you damn well feel like it.

    But kate,

    Then *you* couldn’t post your comment.

  115. mlk says:

    yes, I know. hope it wasn’t too upsetting that I used it to resume discussion of the blogsisential crisis.

    that *is* the title of this thread. am thinking this is a better place to share my thoughts on the subject than the spring subject.

    just want to point out that Alison hasn’t taken up the question of her blog’s purpose and her relationship to it because of one or two new voices . . . this is something that has come up, periodically, for a couple of months now. not sure of the time period and don’t have time to research it before going to work. anyway,I’ll be relieved when Alison has made her decision — whether it involves changes to the format or not — and brings clarity to the blog community.

    AB’s a good egg and is a master at handling complexity. I’m confident she’ll make a good decision. if you want my help, Alison, just let me know 😉

  116. anon-eponymous says:

    Thanks to everybody who’s mentioned that they think I make some kind of sense. I actually got to thinking about my dinner table story as a result, and I came up with this.

    ===============================================

    I think what a lot of people want to do is jettison the “dinner table” metaphor that this blog currently has and substitute a “cocktail party” metaphor instead. At a cocktail party, you can rush over to your friends and touch base, then jump into an interesting conversation over in the corner, and so forth. You can _circulate_. You can’t do that at a dinner table.

    It’s quite true that there is existing, accessible software to achieve that sort of metaphor, as opposed to the current dinner table one.

    The cocktail party metaphor supports diversity in a way that the dinner table metaphor doesn’t.

    And AB can think of herself as the hostess who supplies the (virtual) martinis.
    ===============================================

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