It's Always Something

loose threads from a tightly wound mind.

Nikki Stern

Nikki Stern
Location
Princeton, New Jersey, USA
Birthday
April 10
Title
whatever sounds good
Company
Sure, come on in
Bio
Author of "Because I Say So: The Dangerous Appeal of Moral Authority" (www.nikkistern.com) and "Hope in Small Doses" and busy blogger at nikkistern.com

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Editor’s Pick
SEPTEMBER 16, 2010 9:12AM

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Rate: 84 Flag

 When I first moved to New York, the locals, it seemed, were more than ready to offer advice on anything, whether you asked or not: where to shop, where to eat, which subway to take, who to vote for, who to root for, or the best way to get where you wanted to go, even if they had not a clue. It was kind of cute, if at times a little overwhelming and maybe even a little iconic: the opinionated New York local.   

 These days, we're all New Yorkers.   

What might be a passing impulse to have and render an opinion has been “legitimized” and encouraged by the availability of multiple outlets from which we can make ourselves heard. No longer must we stand on a corner shouting about the End of Times or write endless letters to the editor in hopes of getting the word out there. The level playing field provided by the blogosphere means that we can all weigh in almost anywhere on almost any subject, day or night. The opportunity to reach hundreds, even thousand, any time, day or night, is intoxicating, like crack or Red Bull for the opinionated and even the marginally opinionated. Who can resist commenting?

Attention, everyone: do resist, please…at least some of the time. 

I’m not against opinions and I’m certainly not against comments, especially those that are amusing or instructive, supportive or even contrary and most importantly, considered. Sometimes we all have something to add to the conversation. 

But let’s face it, all opinions are not created equal. And not all opinions need to be expressed.

Virginia Heffernan, New York Times television critic and columnist on all things media, noted in an article last year that commenters often responded to stories with comments that “are hardly models of astuteness.”  Scanning the online comments that follow pieces by respected journalist Anne Applebaum of the Washington Post, Heffernan observed the commenters feel  free to criticize, make assumptions, or cast aspersions about the author but didn’t “… provide a sustained or inventive analysis.” Instead they posted illogical arguments or poorly researched rebuttals apparently so that they could go on record as having joined the discussion.

Most of us might have qualms about making public statements without having our facts straight but these things appeared not to matter to the commenters, Heffernan concluded.  And these noise-makers, she wrote, swamp the occasional “rare, bright voices” who might contribute to a meaningful dialogue.

The tone of so many online comments, inspired perhaps by talk radio and the idea of “freedom to be one’s own person” often veers between petulant and outraged. Commenters, it seems, come looking for a fight and stand ready to argue, even if it’s on, say, Salon’s food page (“You don’t hard boil an egg for fourteen minutes, you dimwit!”). They are simultaneously ready to hand out insults and take offense. They take pride in speaking “the truth” in voices that are often shrill, mean-spirited, or vitriolic. Too many are there to provoke, to hector, to lecture, or to rant. Of course, sometimes even the benign commenters (“I really like what you said.”) don’t seem to know when to let well enough alone, rambling on and derailing any chance of a meaningful discussion. 

 I’ve had comments on my opinion pieces that were tough but fair, that pointed to holes in my reasoning and flaws in my construct or that disagreed with the substance of my position. I appreciate seeing an issue through “new” eyes; alternate points of view and reasonable opposition are welcome. Of course, I don’t like to be lectured (who does?) and I’m not a fan of public humiliation, whether my own and someone else’s. If there were guidelines for commenters (oh, what a glorious thought!), they might begin with admonitions to stow the snark and bury the urge to bloviate.

Or maybe we’d paraphrase little Thumper’s mother (with apologies and full attribution to Disney) and render this advice: If you don’t have anything to say, don’t say anything at all.         

 

image: Seattle Weekly blog

 

 

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feel free to comment ;-)
After working on my Phd in political science, I noticed that people don't often ask me my opinion any more when it comes to politics. They did when I was an opinion editor for a newspaper, but they sure don't now. I asked a colleague about this once, and she said she was too intimidated and didn't want to sound "wrong" when talking about politics with me. Kind of defeats the purpose to have gotten the degree, the more I think about it.

Nowadays, the most comments I receive are snipes from people who don't know me, kind of like drive bys of commentary.
Whenever I read nonsensical comments on news sites, I just wonder at all the time people appear to have on their hands. Unless I have something important or personal experience to add, I don't comment. I wish others would do the same.
Amen, sister. It's so true. A carefully considered critique is so very different from "you suck, New York bitch," which is a comment I have actually received.
Nikki, you raise many thoughtful points here. Lately I have been thinking about the following which you have expressed here: ". . . the availability of multiple outlets from which we can make ourselves heard. No longer must we stand on a corner shouting . . ."

It's clear that people are getting unnecessarily fired up by the bloviators on the air waves and also on-line and resulting in the famous "echo chamber" we have heard about for some 15 years or more. With so many places on-line for the echo chamber to reverberate even more it has reached a level not seen prior to the late '90s or thereabouts.
Word. What Caroline said.
Excellent!
It is becoming more and more important for those who can carry on a reasoned discussion, debate, argument, to find and associate with, others of the same ability.

The herd is blathering away just for the sake of blathering away. I suppose that if I were to think about it, I'd have to say that they are throwing a bunch of shit on the wall just to see if any sticks; tossing out opinions in the hope that "someone of note" will express the same opinion. This will make them feel intelligent and "with it".

It is ironic that this great means of communication is actually going to be the cause of many of us becoming part of deliberately separated enclaves of like-minded individuals.
Nikki, I have been beat with the wet noodle too many times not to know what you're talking about. I can put a comma out of place and have a 1000 word dessertation on how stupid I am. Great Post!
Love the image at the bottom, so, shushing here. I got nuthin.
Nicely done. It would certainly ramp-down the frustration level at times.

(R)
I believe everyone is entitled to their opinions. I welcome them good or bad. When they hurt people on purpose that is where I draw the line.

These people that post comments over and over on some places give me a true picture of what they are sad to say.

I will give 20% to those who work online like myself, where it is nothing but a hop, skip, and a jump.

But truly Nikki, I see the others. Sitting around in their jogging pants trying to create attention for the sad lives they have.

They want to be noticed and loved.
Maybe that is not the place to do it. Maybe they need to notice themselves first.
Rated with hugs.
As for OS, we seldom see critical arguments here; mostly emotional condemnations. Still, to vent is to purge, to purge is to... Oh wait, that sounds like something akin to an eating disorder. Never mind. You're right.
I really like what you said!

Just kidding--how does one leave a non-comment comment? So very zen.
I was going to say my comment is no comment except to say you've summed things up quite nicely. And of the "talk radio" mentality you mention. Ugh ...you're right, there is a similarity. It feels the same.

Most often for me it is not the idea or words that is such a turn off, but the delivery.
All 2¢ are not equal. Thanks Nikki.
"You don't hard boil an egg for fourteen minutes, you dimwit!" Thank you for this valuable tidbit of information. One person's hostile comment may provide utter illumination for another. You never know. ;-)
What Caroline said AND...comments are a microcosm...all those poorly considered ideas...well...this gives us an idea of what a true democracy might be like...and so far...I guess we don't like it. I also think that papers like Washington Post are grasping at anything to stay afloat...there are those who would like to continue to send the newspaper down from on high...new media is taking a bite out of traditional journalism. xox
I gotta admit: I was inspired by Jody Kasten's comment on Facebook that she got vitriolic comments when she wrote about food. Food, people...come on!
Comments can add so much to a discussion, and they can tell so much about a commenter. Sometimes the comments make a good piece great. But as you know, if you have an opinion, be prepared for some hateful ones out there. OS is pretty tame.
Hey Nikki, my FB friend and Plain Dealer columnist Connie Schultz writes about this all the time--she has sort of started a campaign to drop anonymity from online comments to the Plain Dealer's website. Although I have my reservations about that in a general sense--I like being able to use an avatar here, for example--I think she's right that the newspaper online could easily incorporate an policy similar to the one for the letters to the editor they publish. It's amazing how much more thoughtful people become when they know they are accountable. And I have never had any trouble disagreeing with Connie--I do it all the time. She gets the difference between substantive disagreement and nasty trolling.
The very reason why I read much and comment little. If I don't have anything interesting to say, I stay quiet.

Thanks for this, Nikki. I agree completely! Rated. D
i wonder sometimes what the lives of people who write things like "new york bitch" or "dimwit" are like, except for the obvious where they're sitting in front of a computer, snarling at the screen and muttering obscenities at their visions of people they've never met. ahem. let 'em keep the snark and shrill. i'm with you and thumper's mama, even if that's called the lame club in today's online world.
Maybe some redefining of words is in order: offering a venomous, inappropriate, or ill-considered opinion is not the same as joining a discussion. In a discussion, one does not, to riff on Whitman, send one's yawp across the rooftops of the world, even if one has the ability to do so. Good post, Nikki; sensible and much needed. Now, whom do I see about getting that definition straightened out?
It has long been my opinion that one of the major problems of this country is that people interpret the guarantee of free speech as a directive.

But I do find brainless comments on serious matters to be amusing in their unwitting self-revelation. (Weren't you amused by that?)
Brava! This needed to be said (and said over and over again, as the problem just gets worse).

OS commenters are a rare breed as nearly all are very thoughtful and reasonable in their comments. But most sites (at least those that don't review and delete comments) are drowning in inanity and nastiness in their comments sections. My experience of it (as both a reader and as a writer when my pieces have appeared on Salon) is precisely as you quoted here:

"...commenters feel free to criticize, make assumptions, or cast aspersions about the author but didn’t “… provide a sustained or inventive analysis.” Instead they posted illogical arguments or poorly researched rebuttals apparently so that they could go on record as having joined the discussion."
I have noticed that no matter where I travel on the Internet people make rotten, nasty, insulting comments. I have seen arguments on the Seattle Mariners site where everyone is an expert. I have been shocked to see comments on a YouTube music video go viral, I have had things said to me in response to almost anything I posted at the Daily Kos that made me want to hire a detective and hunt down the offender. I remember being so timid when I first taught myself how to blog. Now, everyone is a flipping expert and a certain percentage love to be the guardian of truth. There version only, of course.
Nikki, always an interesting topic, comments and anonymity is one of my focuses. The trade-off for online avatars and unrestrained freedom of speech is a lot of trollery. And I agree with those who consider OS an oasis despite its small cadre offenders. Public newspapers are the worst. If it's flat-out abusive, if it's name-calling, if it's a sexual put-down, we don't need it.
Some years ago, I realized that I felt the pressing need to have an opinion on everything. It was a major relief to realize that it's not a requirement, and in fact, I learn more when I can disengage from my opinion and just listen.
I once posted a comment on OS that I was just praising the writer's ability, but wouldn't comment about the content because I didn't know enough about the subject. (Unfortunately, that hasn't stopped me at other times.)

I've occasionally posted comments at other sites, and I often felt like I was stepping into the middle of a production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. I quickly realized that OS, whatever its flaws, is pretty gentle compared to the rest of the blogosphere.
scanner says, "Great Post!".

You dumb shit!!
Why do you capitalize "post"?lol
BTW, as I'm a grammar/spelling addict, I understand.
We may have something appropriate to say on a subject yet, there are those, merely to sound artifically intelligent, will dis us for our inadvertent minor errors.
OK, who will catch my spelling error?
Pitch Perfect. Talked a lot to an anthropology professor on a message board shut down in the 1990s by National Review because it had become so caustic and toxic. He had his students audit the place to gain an understanding of what the internet was doing to erode our sense of civility. It is in that anonymity that we become bold as we have less connection to the other. It is one of the huge, huge downsides to the internet.
This is a great and necessary post. Unfortunately it will also always be timely. The wildly obnoxious comments are annoying, generally disruptive, and somehow fascinating. I think it tells us something about human behavior, but I have no idea what that is. I have been stunned to observe the desire to rush to be the first to say "I dont like you." Conflict on the internet is so elective. I am amazed at how so many will go out of their way to do so.
OS is like the kiddie pool in the commenting world: the water is warm, the waves gentle or nonexistent.
what's unique about the media is that it provides the ability to create a conversation. I couldn't agree more that is is often abused, but I also see that many cheat themselves by not entering into that conversation for fear of reprisal or simply to make themselves seen and known. That's sadder than the dedicated trolls, and those who don't know any better. At least can be excised.
Thank you, Nikki. Thoughtful comments are rare--and are actually plentiful here. I think we experience the best and the worst and everything else on OS: comments are variously smart, funny, nuanced, and absolutely nasty.

And clueless. I mean, biewuxuanzhe biewu--don't get me started on that guy. Ed Hardy has nothing to do with anything I write about.
I hear a lot of unnecessary comments, even while reading this in the library somebody said "if women didn't talk too much, half her problem would be solved." That was just unnecessary.
Now that I've Googled "bloviate" I will keep it short. I like what your wrote. :-)

Lezlie
I agree here with Nelle that OSers tend to leave constructive or, at least, not the vitrolic comments that I see on sites outside OS which are exactly as you typify them.
I love OS for the comments and will usually read the thread before commenting myself. It is a conversation.
And then too, some are very thinskinned when it comes to disagreement, particularly over religious matters where some folks appear to demand blind respect over discussion. I try not to go there.
Who me? Now I'm off to look up "bloviate".

~runs off in tears~
The veil of anonymity throughout the internet has emboldened the mean-spirited and the bitter to express their vitriol rather more freely than if they had to confront face-to-face. Thumper's mom had it going on... As a young actress in a children's theater, I was taught how to critique another's performance. In this order: 1. Ask any variation of the question "Are you open to my opinion?" 2. Point out a specific element where the performer really showed well. 3. Ask a question when criticizing. "Have you thought about making this choice instead of that...?" 4. Finish by allowing dialogue on the suggestion. 5. Accept that sometimes you will agree to disagree and there's nothing wrong with that. I think I was taught well.
AMEN!!! OK, an immoderate comment. But heartfelt. Srsly, what is to be done about the deluge of foolish comments? OS is a warm sun next to the gloomy dystopia that is most comment venues online. Except it's too sunny. When, and how, could we begin to gently offer constructive criticism to our fellow writers? I for one would welcome it. (OK, I'll stop before I set off the bloviameter.)
No comment. You're right. I don't need to say something about everything. Nicely written piece. Very poignant. To the point. Not too offensive, but just right. Like a perfectly made Bacon Smoothie. OK. I'll go now.
Unfortunately you have to sort through a lot of dumd comments sometimes to get to a good one but this could be reduced if the education level was raised over all and if the Mass Media wasn’t screening out some of the most legitimate criticism since it challenges the authority of those in power or the Mass media. We need more media that addresses the masses that isn’t controlled by the corporations.
SNL said it all a long time ago.
Point / Counterpoint or "Jane You Ignorant Slut"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7S_XWuKpHc
When I first started here, I posted a comment on a blog that was neither vitriol or invective or anything of that sort. The writer had blogorrhea, and so I chose to only address the first part of his "article" which I had read, skipping the 5000 or so other words in what appeared to be unrelated topics, broken down into subsections with titles. I asked an honest question which he mistook for an attack, and then proceed to tell me I was stupid and uninformed and had I read the rest of his post? and how I shouldn't feel entitled to comment because I was too dumb to understand. Personally, I found his writing too boring to keep up with reading all his other "opinions", it was the subject of the first that I was remarking on. I suspect the freedom of content in "journalism" has spurred the dissociation with rational enquiry and commentary. Is it censorship we need, or a return to older standards?
I am outta here after this. You'd be a lovely conversationist in DC if Ya ever be my wise `sorta Sophia?
Of course, you'd have take a bill?
I mean`
tease.
You pick up the wine and salmon tab?
I can bring beets, greens, and butternut.
Butternut winter squash is delicious soup.
I know Sam Kass cooks that butternut soup.
Kass cooks for the Obama's private kitchen.
If he quits - I want that Executive Chef's gig.
Sam may one day drop eyebrow hair in soup.
Fired!
I get job?
I wash pan?
I wash pots?
I till pot plant?
tease.
I go on top of hut?
I bring Shaman weed?
Tobacco weed. Honest.
`
Focus!

`
I'd buy your book.
I really hurt on 9-11.
Ya never really know.
We store deep anguish.
I was a crybaby on 9-11.
Nine years have passed.
It seems like my own war.
The Images. Identification.
It's hard to write. Vicarious.
A 9-11 -my Farmer son married.
Every 9-11 has a different impact.
You know. You never Forget. Never.
Love. And, You Never want to Forget.
Love.
`
You wrote:`
"feel free to comment;-)"
If we ever talk in DC we bum?
We can go bum at Farm Booth.
I just steal gold butternut for you.
I will grab some salad greens too.
Blueberry Hill won't Care. O my.
on & on
O loon
seagull
O, Nikki
What I find interesting, and I don't know if I echo what someone has already stated, is that people tend to be bolder with the anonymity that the Internet provides. The safety of this e-screen allows us to express ourselves in any way that we are compelled to be. I am quite confident that many of the comments posted in Cyberspace would not be repeated face to face.

I'll readily admit that about myself—I write better than I speak. Therefore, my virtual voice is louder and more fluent. Plus, we need that safety valve so that things don't stay bottled up and fester; the Internet is a great tool for that. Unfortunately, there are many who abuse it.
Feel free to comment? No way...I'm afraid to, now. (And I had to look up "bloviate"...to my ever lasting shame. In my defense, even the spell check on Firefox flagged that one.)
It is basically known that anonymous comments on an unmoderated site will devolve to idiocy. A sort of Gresham's Law, as it were.

OS is quasi moderated, since the poster can remove comments.

You need one or the other or both.

That is just the way it is.
No comment...just white noise! Listen!
Well, here's an object lesson:

You know that absolutely beautiful piece of writing today by Bellwether Vance? It just got published on Salon, and this is the first letter:

"What the F

This story sucked and is totally unecessary and devoid of any insight."

What the hell is wrong with people?
So is there anything approaching a solution? Ben Sen says we need to stick it out instead of running for cover. He has a point but stopping the trolls, as he calls them, is often like trying to stop a runaway train. I've seriously thought of writing "so-and-so, you ignorant slut" as wschanz has reminded me...but those who didn't watch SNL in the late seventies wouldn't get it. Are guidelines too "rigid" -- you know the paranoid types would assume said guidelines were designed to keep their pov off the internet. I'm curious--any and all suggestions are welcome, seriously.

Then I'll just call the President of the Internet and (kidding!!!)
Oddly enough, I dont think "solving it" is the answer. I dont think you want to solve it. There are probably moderate or extreme actions that one could take to make it impossible, but the result would be less than what exists now. For example, anonymity fuels it in many cases, but then there is much good that comes from others who are anonymous. It would be a loss to require complete identification, although I endorse it personally. Basically, like most other things, it comes down to personal ethics. Misanthropes will always find ways to skitter in and out of cracks. I personally think that they form patterns of invective, anonymity, and unreasonableness that taints their messages. They would gain credibility by altering any or all of those. So I try to consider the source(s).
Funny you asked about solving it. I have an idea. Come on over to my post today and take a look.
always say less than necessary is law of power 2, i think, out of 48, and avoids foot in mouth disease.
"But let’s face it, all opinions are not created equal. And not all opinions need to be expressed."

I agree, starting with yours!

Do you realize how arrogant it is for you to put up an opinion on how other peoples' opinions (namely, those you don't like) are worth less?

Oh, where would the world be without the kind, self-actualized, middle-aged women in university towns to tell us what's what.
Truer words were... Unfortunately the willfully blinded, dummied- down ignorant, with razor sharp teeth gnash the very fabric of our society... Who knew? We certainly live in contentious/divided times Nikki... Everyone wants to be on the winning side, right or wrong... Only trouble is, the ones with the money always win! It's written in history for all to see, yet we seem doomed to repeat it! I'm a huge fan of knowledge, and compassion, wish it were contagious...With Silent Sound Spectrum firmly in place, and a media under corporate control I'm more than a little worried... Thanx for this...RRR
amen amen...again and again. Thanks Nikki.I couldn't agree more with your exceptional post. Happy ep as well! rR!
Having no internal governor, I'm going to violate your precaution to comment only if one has something worth saying. Before adding my witty repartee, let me repeat what you wrote or repeated:

"Instead they posted illogical arguments or poorly researched rebuttals apparently so that they could go on record as having joined the discussion ... And these noise-makers, she wrote, swamp the occasional “rare, bright voices” who might contribute to a meaningful dialogue.:

Duh, that's why they call it a democracy. All men are created equal, we proclaim. Mebbe so, but we don't stay that way for long.
I'm kinda timid about commenting. No problem rating however.
Gee! Thanks a lot. Now I'm going to get even less comments if people heed you advice.
Trudge, I'll make a personal recommendation that people always comment on your site.
Art James, you are the best example of a comment
Jeanette: I saw the comment on Bellwether's story and thought "who IS this person?"
Bill B. I wasn't suggesting a solution in terms of regulating; more like self-regulating
Jon H., thank you for exactly proving my point.
Somehow, I knew you would say that.

What you might not realize is that the outlets which solicit comments are happy to get them ALL, because response rates are a huge boon to their advertising rates. Meanwhile, some of us who partake in this admittedly rather masterbatory on-line discourse, quite obviously enjoy reading the more contrary and out there comments rather more than those of the "well done" and "you write so beautifully" variety. But good luck refining the world in your heady idea of what is should be.

You're right, Open Salon is very much like the kiddie pool.
You know what they say men think with. You really want the comments?
imho, this is very conceited and elitist [but oh how well stated for a published author] and misses the fundamental nature of cyberspace comments. which is closer to graffiti than literary works. wait, you mean that people dont use correct grammar in comments? they might not be college educated? they might disagree with you or worse yet, DISAGREE with you? horrors. lets all wipe away the internet and go back to the M$M, theres just too many unwashed masses....
Somehow, despite the onslaught of tremendous quantities of spam and nonsensical crap, somehow cream rises and cogent thought and timely thinking has an audience, an interplay, and fruition into real world works and policy. Pray that ever it will be so.

I prefer to err on the side of too many comments than too few. Much more interesting that way, don't you think?
Simple civility would be a start. Also, personal "beliefs" are no substitute for hard knowledge of a subject.
I don't want restrictions imposed; I want people to pick up their pinkies before they shoot off a comment and think. Yeah, who hasn't been ready to fire off an e-mail or post a comment immediately, based on a visceral, emotional reaction to a word or phrase? Who isn't tempted to throw in insults or curse up a storm?

I can see that my piece might be provocative--hooray. It's also been subject to misinterpretation because no, I'm not telling people who disagree with me to shut up. It's a discussion; there are two or more sides. Let's hear 'em.

But what's with making it personal? Wildly off-topic? Insulting? Name-calling--is that about getting attention? Screaming (all caps)--is that "NOTICE ME!" or what? And the snark?

If I express an opinion and someone responds, by saying "Nope, I don't agree and here's why"-- I'll read that opinion carefully. If someone responds by saying "you f-ing, elitist dupe. You stupid sh*t, you don't know anything," I'll move on.

But I can't help thinking: If they want to take a dump, they might try using a toilet.
excellent, friend just terrific
i wouldn't add any thing,you covered it all (thumbs up)
the relative-merit-of-opinions issue, parsed to a fare-thee-well.

Did you see the letters for Bellweathers Big Salon crossover, about seeing her mother? Astonishing batshit comments, about half of them. I wonder why they bother to read Salon, given the uniquely insane reaction some of them have to Bell's beautiful meditation on aging.

I suddenly realized, reading this, (and taking into account your recent CBS piece, etc): you should have a talk show. Totally serious.
Thank you for this. Way too many online comments I've seen of late have been vitriolic attacks on ideas not even proposed in the piece being commented on. The combination of bad reading comprehension skills and an axe to grind makes a lot of online discourse truly depressing.
Greg: the Bellwether comments are perfect examples of the insane ranting and snarky posting that pass for dialogue. This is not graffiti; it's not close to being creative. People, if your skill set doesn't extend to constructive commenting, lay off!

Speaking of insanity, Jon Stewart/the Daily Show is sponsoring a "Stop the Insanity" rally in DC. I plan to go and have several slogans in mind that hopefully will respect the spirit of the day.

Greg, as to your other suggestion, it'd have to be talk radio---I can't stand lip liner.
Many on the far right and left seem to want to make it more personal than substantive. I don't have a problem with you because you are always right!
Thanks Roger but I'm not always right...I know that clearly. In fact, I hesitate too much and worry constantly about mistaking conviction for certitude...an ongoing process.
Critiquing is one of the hardest things to do. Not to get too personal and yet be able to constructively encourage another to rethink or reconstruct or reposition is not easy. It is even harder to be on the receiving end. I have lost long standing friendships becasue I dared to critique honestly when asked to. Later I wished I had never done it. But I guess its tough both ways.
Thought of you on Sept 11. Today is the first day I am back from getting my daughter wed and settling down. It is a pleasure to visit your familiar blog and read your post.
What a bracing series of exchanges. As is always the case, at least hereabouts, a high-quality post attracts high-quality comments.

I've written hundreds if not thousands of essays over the years, always for papers and magazines, and mostly before interactivity became possible. The opportunity to write and receive responses continues to astonish and delight me.

When I read your kiddie pool analogy, I nodded my head. Little waves. Warm water. Yes. That feels familiar, accurate.

But in thinking on it a bit more, I think the analogy is backwards. OS is, in fact, the deep end of the pool. We have audacious writers, risk-takers, romantics, poets. We have passionate people who aren't blinded by their emotions but struggle to express them in coherent and even memorable ways. We can laugh at each other and even ourselves. We're concerned enough about civility to write and read and comment on posts such as this. Take a look -- out of how many dozens of comments above, it looks to me like only one went into attack mode.

That's an amazing accomplishment.

Though I've not traveled far on the internet, but I can say I've not seen anything like what happens here at OS any where else.

From what I've seen and heard and from the testimony of others, everywhere else is the kiddie pool, the place where everyone splashes and screams for mommy and cries when they don't get their way and picks fights.

I'll stop there. There's more to say, more to build on, actually, from what you and Lainey & Nelle & Steve & Cranky said about particular issues.

As so often happens around here, I expect I'll be writing my own post (if I haven't already) about the things worth remembering, about what we do here and how we do it here. Thanks for the opportunity Nikki.
Damn, Jeremiah, you are absolutely right. This isn't the kiddie pool, despite occasional flares. I've seen a lot more kicking and screaming and hitting and babbling and wailing and drooling and poopy-making in other places.
Great points. Comments have certainly devolved, in my opinion. Almost to a frightening proportion. Not here as much (though of course, OS has a definite percentage of random, anonymous and downright ignorant mudslingers).

A solid piece of criticism will stick me, in a good way. But frankly, that's a rarity. For thin-skinned folks, it's particularly tough. They retreat and stop writing. That's the real shame.

It kind of frightens me, truthfully, what people will do with a little anonymity. There's a mean-spiritedness that's just...shocking, truthfully, at times. The shadow side is often shown through comments.