unsheathed claws

| 15 Comments | 7 TrackBacks

There hasn't been a lot of posting lately on misbehaving.net. I suspect that the unrelenting negative tone of the comments have a lot to do with that. It's discouraging for those of us writing there. And what's most discouraging is that the most negative and meanspirited comments on the site seem to come consistently from other women.

Take, for example, danah's recent post on defining and categorizing weblogs. We posted about it in three places--danah's and my personal sites, and misbehaving.net. We got comments in all three places, as well on other sites. Many of the people who commented felt that the underlying idea was problematic. But contrast the tone of Clay's comments on Many-to-Many, or jeremy's here with Jeneane's on misbehaving.net.

The comments on misbehaving led danah to write about her sense that blogs aren't a safe space. And they've led me to seriously consider shutting comments down on misbehaving.net. Trackbacks would allow people to comment remotely from their own bully pulpits. The point of the site was to celebrate and highlight women in technology, not create a online catfight club. The original purpose is becoming obscured by negativity, and at the moment it just doesn't seem worth it.

This is not about unwillingness to hear criticism. I have no problem with disagreement. It's about unwillingness to tolerate meanspirited personal attacks. And if people can't tell the difference between the two...well, I think that says a lot about them.

7 TrackBacks

Dealing with Comments from Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal (2004) on January 20, 2004 9:14 PM

Elizabeth Lane Lawley is taken aback by comments left by trolls, people who never learned their manners, and the just mean-spirited on misbehaving.net: mamamusings: unsheathed claws: There hasn’t been a lot of posting lately on misbehaving.net. I... Read More

Comment culture from eyes.puzzling.org on January 21, 2004 1:01 AM

Liz Lawley is disappointed by the comment culture at misbehaving.net. Brad DeLong suggests that you need to seed the comment culture for every post -- delete anything that doesn't have the tone you want in your comments. Timothy Burke seems... Read More

I wrote in a previous post, To Keep Burningbird or Not: One issue I've been debating off and of about with myself is whether to keep the Burningbird weblog. I've splintered off so many interests into different weblogs, and the main reason I do so is th... Read More

my thoughts on why blogs aren't a safe place (as well as unsheathed claws and their comments): why do i blog? i like sharing some of my thoughts, reading some of the reactions, and making the reader laugh, upset, sad,... Read More

I've never felt welcome to join in the discussion at Misbehaving.net and the reason why is probably because of the overtly academic tone of the discussion. They bill themselves as 'highlighting women in technology,' when in reality they only highlight... Read More

my 2 cents from maki is not a nameless cat on January 23, 2004 10:16 AM

I knew that something was bothering me about misbehaving.net, as much as I want to love it. Then Raena expressed it perfectly. Read More

For a while now I've been disturbed by some of the comments left at my blog ... Read More


Definately shut down the comments, esp as you are in the initial stages of building the group blog. Naysayers can post on their own blog. More power to them.

I would focus more on building a sense of cohesion and 'community' around misbehaving then on providing resources to others to take shots at you.

hmm, well, i try to be constructive with my responses, because i don't think it is worth responding otherwise. my sole purpose was to say that there is another way to think about this project and in that framework, it might not actually be a project that can be accomplished. in any case, i see a tonal difference my position and janeanes..., but i think that is probably part of the generalized anti-intellectualism in american society... it has that tone of "don't categorize me" etc. prevalent in those discourses.... however, i don't know the person involved and am just speaking about how it seems to me.

Initial moments are a great mystery to me with virtual communities and other "small civil societies" in online spaces. Every happens so fast, and the seeds of the tone and nature of later interactions are planted rapidly and can't easily be rooted out if they bear bitter fruit.

I'm almost thinking that if a small core of people start a project and have very particular ambitions for it, they almost need to "salt the mine", meaning, stack their readership at first with some folks they know and trust and give them a quite defined sense of the kinds of conversation and discourse they want to see unfold. But even that doesn't work sometimes. It's rather like the repeated bit in in "Shakespeare in Love" about how a successful performance is a mystery. When things all click, and the people posting get the audience they're seeking, it's really satisfying, but I couldn't tell you one consistent thing that seems to produce that result.

I feel like the character in Pride and Prejudice: "Mary wished to say something very sensible at that moment, but knew not how."

I've been reading the main postings at misbehaving.net but haven't had time to delve into the comments. I'm sorry they haven't been friendlier.

Whatever you do, don't stop misbehavin'.

For all the anonymity that the Internet provides, I don't think that the Internet is a safe space. After being recently harassed on Instant Messenger, I've switched that to a screen name that very few people will know, installed different blogging software that gives me more control over who sees what and who can post comments, and become much more wary of what I put online.
Blogs are public spaces, but that doesn't mean they can't be controlled with an iron fist. I'd say, go to trackback only, or registered users only.

Well, it was a given all along, wasn't it? You are a bunch of intelligent, articulate women, talking about volatile issues, all during a volatile medium's growing-up period. You're bound to stir up passionate response if you're any good at all (and oh, you are), but again and again humans prove their lack of attention to interpersonal relationships on the Web. It can be so *difficult* to view comment-thrashing as something good and active and not entirely dissimilar to human teen age at its most turbulent, and not as militant sputtering! Yet, that seems the nature of the beastly enterprise.

I'd agree on the "don't stop misbehaving" comment above. You've been open and inviting so far; please continue and know that even the most hostile-sounding members of your audience are just... not paying attention to the humans behind the bytes. One would hope that they'll come around.

I'm curious. You say:

There hasn�t been a lot of posting lately on misbehaving.net. I suspect that the unrelenting negative tone of the comments have a lot to do with that.

There are only eight posters at misbehaving. Would this post have more weight and sound less "catty" if you didn't say suspect but instead said that the eight of you had found this to be true? Eight isn't a large number to poll. I would be interested in what Halley, Dorothea, Caterina, Meg, Jill and Gina think about the comments issue.

Thank you.

"Catty"? WTF?

What if you went to a slashcode-type system on misbehaving.net where readers could mod comments up or down, thus putting trolls in the background?

I sympathize with the frustration comments can cause when they are not collegial. This hits home in particular because there is just such an issue going on with one of the email lists I am on right now.

But I would be very disappointed to see yet another weblog shut down commenting. And no, trackback is not an acceptable substitute: for users (like myself) with an ISP that uses an outdated version of Perl, it is impossible to leave a trackback ping at someone else's site.

Finally, I think if there is one feature that defines weblogs (or sets them apart from other tools) more than other features, it is the opportunity for readers to post comments relatively freely. Eliminating commenting means eliminating an essential element of the weblog.

Hey, Frederick -- Adam Kalsey's standalone Trackback tool, SimpleTracks, is for you. Ping on!

AH! So it was me!

We were all guessing over in shelley's comment box who was in the dog house--or should I say cat house? Everyone thought it was them, because of what they said, but I see I've won the misbehaving prize.

My comment on this is over at shelley's here:


Jeremy, did you just call me anti-intellectual? Now that's not nice. Go read me. I'm a highly sentient being, and I'm nice to animals.

Timothy, are you comparing misbehaving.net to a "performance"? If so, then you are right--I should have held my yays or boos until the end. (I kind of thought I did).

know that there is more that I can say, but won't, and more that I know that I can't say. So I hope you won't accuse me of any impropriety here, because I'm being quite careful, I think, in how I'm phrasing things. Careful prose. Hmmm. I may have to post about that later.

Lest I leave any more "mean spirit" flakes on misbehaving or mamamusings, I'll be gone, anon, and leave the rest to decide to view context among and between blogs and posts (so goes blogging), if you so choose, or to go build a snowman or throw another presto-log on the fire.

(okay, if I were you(s), I'd pick the snowman, but that's just me.)

SimpleTracks! What a cool idea! Thanks, Raena. I will try it out.

Closing the comments is a good idea. When it gets to the point where you have to moderate the comments then it is time to shut it down.


i think that if you read my comment, you will see that i did not call you an anti-intellectual. what i did do was identify a trend of anti-intellectualism in american society at large and that your comment probably related to it, and then i discounted that by clearly admitting that i did not know you and that should have clarified any misattribution.

however, being sentient, intellectual, or highly intelligent, does not of course prevent one from participating in the anti-intellectualism withing american society, so overall, i'm unsure of your point in that regard.

Open comments or close them as you wish... it's your blog. But recognize that not everyone can use trackbacks. Relying on them as a means of advancing a discussion will privilege some bloggers over others.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry published on January 20, 2004 8:03 PM.

graduate assistantship open was the previous entry in this blog.

the inimitable wisdom of ogden nash is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.


Category Archives