Saturday, July 07, 2007

Respect & Free Speech: It goes both ways

When I was still on Rara-Avis, I remember a poster asking to quote another poster. I don’t remember if it was for a blog post or article or just what, exactly, but I do remember the response from several listmembers:

It’s a public list. The comments are public. It’s nice of you to ask, but not necessary.

I share the sentiment (although generally speaking, unless I can provide a link to a forum post I’m quoting I usually do ask before quoting someone). Lists are public. As are most blogs and forums. And whatever is in the public domain is open to scrutiny.

Recently, a blogger posted a critique of DorothyL. I think it’s well worth reading if you’re considering joining that list. In my opinion, it gives a pretty balanced assessment of the good and bad and prepares you for what to expect.

I made a comment over there, adding other issues I’ve had with the list. My comment has drawn some fire, both on that blog, and on DorothyL itself.

By early June, I had essentially decided to leave DorothyL. I set things in motion for the Spinetingler subscriptions. I could go no mail and still post on DL about Spinetingler when a new issue is up, but I strongly disagree with using the list as a drive-by poster. You either participate in the community… or you don’t. That is my personal philosophy. Others feel differently and that’s their right.

The main reason I decided to leave the list was that it felt increasingly uncomfortable to participate in the discussions. I am well aware of my own shortcomings. I am nothing if not passionate about my interests. And when people are passionate, they can come off more forcefully than they intend and let their emotions cloud their judgment. I am guilty of doing that.

The thing is, what makes me most uncomfortable about DL is that I see what it’s brought out in me. I’ve had issues with off-list email for years. This is nothing new, nothing I haven’t stated on DorothyL (and if people don’t believe it, read the interview Julia Buckley did with me almost a year ago, where she asks me about DL and the hate mail.) The result is that I began to feel defensive about posting, because I anticipated backlash. And the way to cope with that was getting a thick skin and not caring what others thought, which opens the door to indifference, and that can lead to being disrespectful - sometimes without meaning to be.

Ironically, this is not the first time I’ve seen DorothyL publicly criticized. It’s not even the first time I’ve made some negative comments. I’ve made comments here, on Mystery Circus when we discussed it there, and I know I’ve read at least one other blog post this year about DL, and there was a recent discussion about DL on another list. And, before I read and/or commented on any of those discussions, I posted comments on DorothyL itself. One of those comments about my concerns was posted less than two weeks ago, after another dispute on the list.

My own philosophy is that forums/lists/blogs have some responsibility for being a safe environment for people to feel comfortable contributing in a respectful manner. I have discussed forum issues here before, so regulars are familiar with my issues with forums that get out of control.

The real problem for me is, whenever I’ve participated in something for a while it’s because I actually appreciate it. And then I care about it. And when I become aware of issues/problems, I want to fix them.

But I can’t. I’ve been on DL (first under my married name, then my maiden name) for around 4 years now, and I have come to the conclusion that despite raising concerns directly on the list for about a year and despite taking some issues to the moderators, things aren’t going to change. It’s become an environment I’ve felt increasingly uncomfortable participating in. I am aware that this is true for other people. However, the only people really in a position to ensure people feel comfortable expressing their opinions on DL without living in fear of public (or off-list) attack are the moderators. And the moderators certainly have the right to leave the list the way it is. However, every listmember also has the right to decide if that works for them, and act accordingly.

There are a number of people there I really like. That’s a big part of what’s kept me. I went no mail for a while earlier this year, when I was particularly hurt by something that happened on the list. A friend asked me to give it another chance. I did…

And I know I promised some people that I would take another month and think it over, but I just can’t.

Here’s part of my little life philosophy:

Silence is often agreement.
If you don’t speak up about something that’s happening, you can’t complain if you don’t like it.
If you care about something you make an effort to fix problems.

And here’s what I know:

As one person there’s nothing I can really do.

I have never participated in any other list where I’ve received the kind of unpleasant (and sometimes abusive) mail I’d get off DL, although that has largely tapered off since I started speaking publicly about it. I used to get people tearing me apart for subjective opinions over authors I liked and such. These days, I get a different brand of off-list mail, mostly from authors, sadly.

I’ve also had some wonderful emails from people who don’t post on the list. In the past month, I’ve become aware of the fact that some people aren’t participating in discussions precisely because they’re afraid of being attacked on the list.

That isn’t a problem I’ve created. It is a problem that exists, whether people want to acknowledge it or not.

If anything, I feel relieved that someone else had the courage to post a very reasonable and balanced assessment of the list and open the discussion. I did hope that, as a regular contributor to DL, a public acknowledgement that yes, there are issues on the list, might inspire some to think about how the list could address them. For example, banning abusive off-list email, and people harvesting email addresses off of DL and spamming people. I personally don’t think that’s unreasonable. It’s standard practice with most forums/discussion lists. Some reading here will remember a certain bout of spam on a certain forum that resulted in eliminating the ability to post photos…

You might wonder if I took the step of speaking publicly again, why not stick around and see if things do change? Well, I think the comments over there may give you an indication. I’m not going to post anything said directly on DL (although any of you can certainly go to the DorothyL site, log on and read there if you so desire – it is public). Not everyone who has responded to the topic at hand has been open to the idea of discussing the issues with the list. It feels a bit personal. And to me, that proves my point, and the point of all those who remain lurkers out of fear. If people disagree with you, they will judge you.

For those who know me and my background, you know I have little tolerance for bullying. When I was assaulted as a teenager I went through a lot of things. Regulars here know I was eventually sent to another school because school officials didn’t feel they could guarantee my safety, and my case worker from children’s aid supported the recommendation. I could talk about the irony endlessly, since most of the kids involved were high school drop-outs and just hung out on school grounds. But the result of going through that kind of bullying experience as a teen undermined my sense of safety in what was supposed to be a secure environment, and I went through a period of time in my life that I was always afraid to go out. All I was was a shy little nerd, and until the moment I got cornered by a gang and beaten I'd never met most of those people. Occasionally, I still struggle with it. It’s one of the reasons I don’t bend when I feel people are trying to push me around, but it’s also one of the reasons I believe in comfortable online environments where people can feel safe to contribute.

I survived three shut-downs of the old Rankin forum before it was finally terminated permanently. It was the first forum I ever read, back when I was trying to find out some information about tour dates, and it was my first experience of actually discussing books online. I loved that. Someone went on impersonated Ian Rankin... and took that once good place away from the rest of us who enjoyed it.

I guess I’d like to think I don’t give up easily, but it really doesn’t matter. I have had my share of disagreements, and I have definitely had times I’ve had to wear egg and apologize for getting out of hand. I’ve had times I’ve had to mend fences. I’ve had times I’ve been rightfully spanked.

I don’t believe this is one of those times. As I’ve said here (and over at that other blog) the evidence of my feelings and concerns can be found on DL itself, actually going back over a year (supported by the interview with Julia). I don’t mean to be malicious or disrespectful, but honest. Agree, disagree, stay, go… that’s a choice each individual is entitled to make for themselves, and I hope they feel good with their decision and wish each person all the best in the future. Anyone who knows me knows my door is always open for mature, civil discussion. I sincerely hope that the list becomes a more comfortable posting environment for everyone who does stay.

I respect everyone’s right to disagree with me if they do. I only ask that you show the same respect for my opinions.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Sandra-I left DL too. I thought it was too often mean-spirited. And I am thinking about quitting Crimespace too. There's one commenter on there who is just a nasty guy and I ssem to attract his venon.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Aw Patti, I'm sorry to hear that. I didn't realize about Crimespace. But I certainly understand your pov.

Anonymous said...

Sandra I'm sorry to hear that you're leaving DL. You know that I've never gone there, mainly because I have no interest in being that serious about my discussions about reading. I know that you found DL to be very valuable though.

I'm still at Crimespace, but I don't visit often. Honestly, there's not much there for readers. It's truly become a place for writers to talk about writing and this or that about books. Anything not related to writing soon disappears into the atmosphere. There's also a very clique-y feeling there-if a nonwriter responds in a forum, (or, maybe it's just me) they're often ignored in favor of responses from other writers.

I like what Daniel's done, I just have better things to do with my time.

Anonymous said...

Wherever I go online (DL and Crimespace included), I feel like Norby. My posts always seem to die unattended (unless it's here, where The Divine Ms. S always says something nice back).

But I don't know if it's really true, or whether it just seems that way. Paranoia?

Ms. S, I do not think your passion and outspokenness are a "shortcoming." I don't know if I'd want to get in an argument with you at say a barbeque, where the food was served on those long, sharp skewers, but otherwise, I believe your strong feelings are an asset. Something us regulars look forward to and count on here. I bet your friends like it, too.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Norby, Kevin and I were just talking about trying to generate more book discussions on crimespace. But then, I know you and I have that on the BTZ already, so I think we'd like to try and see if it works there or not.

Jack - ha! In all honestly, you'd be safer with me in person. Well, it's different, I know you. And that's one key difference with lists where people don't know each other, and when people do know each other. When you know someone you care not to offend them. You also give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they don't mean to be an offensive, so you ask questions to clarify instead of jumping all over them.

I felt much as you when I first started some places. For a long time in my early days nobody acknowledged posts. I felt as you seem to - fish out of water. On DL, eventually with time I got past that. On Rara-Avis I never really got past that. And so, when I decided to go off Rara Avis I didn't even bat an eye. It was a two-minute decision, looking up how to sign off.

With DL, it was a more difficult decision because it was important to me. But what I miss is the DL of a couple years ago, and that's not what I'm leaving now.

I need to email you. If you don't hear from me in the next few days, nag me, okay? I just haven't gotten thoughts down to proposals re: something we were talking about recently...

Anonymous said...

You know Sandra I've often thought myself about trying to start more reader oriented forum threads on Crimespace, I mean if I'm going to complain, I should try to do something first right?

But first, well, I think it was you that started the what are you reading, which died fairly quickly, and it just seems that the readers on crimespace don't utilize the forum. I don't know why-maybe they don't feel welcome or maybe, like me they feel that it's become a chance for some of the writers on there to use it as a sounding board and another avenue to talk about themselves and what they're doing.

That's the shame of it really, readers were hesitant to sign up, then they did and now they're not participating. I occasionally comment, mainly because, well, you know me, I don't give a fuck if I happen piss someone off, but others might and no offense but it seems that authors get a bit touchy very easily.

Sandra Ruttan said...

WHAT? WHAT DO YOU MEAN, authors get a bit touchy easily? I can't imagine WHY you'd think that!

** Joke, for all those who don't know me and you well enough to figure that out.**

Yes, I see your point. Donna had decent success with the recent reading-oriented post, I think.

Kevin and I were wondering, what if there was a discussion author each month? But not contemporary authors - classic authors. And set up in advance so people have a chance to look up their work and actually get their hands on it. I wouldn't want to pick current authors because it could cause problems, but it could be interesting to talk about Chandler, Hammett, Jim Thompson, Williford (sp?), McBain, Goodis, etc. And I don't mean make it all formal like people have to discuss it within a short period of time, but it could be interesting. I'd like more incentive to read more classics.

But then I wonder if people are already so busy that this is just adding to the mix and whether or not they'd find it worth their while. I haven't really participated on btz to date because I never seem able to get the books in time. It seems to take a minimum of 2 weeks to order stuff in, and usually 3-4, so if you don't know more than a month in advance it makes it hard to get it and read it. I still read some of the discussions though, because they're interesting.

And I'm glad you speak your mind. Sometimes, we take ourselves too seriously.

Tracy Sharp - Author of the Leah Ryan Series said...

Congrats on the new job, Sandra! I'd love to work in a library.

angie said...

Well, I subscribe to DL and hardly ever read it. The digests go on for days, a lot of petty crap, etc. And yes, it does seem to be part of the culture to allow some nastiness. Sorry to hear some negative stuff about Crimespace. Usually I just ignore that junk, but I can see how it could get super annoying if it started feeling personal. And it's hard for readers - I hope they don't go away, though. I learn a lot about book rec's that I'd probably miss out on otherwise.

Anonymous said...

I have been a long time reader of DorothyL, and have a different impression of the list. When I have asked questions about books or posted my opinion, I've gotten answers not flames. But then it may be because I don't get involved in topics other than books. Maybe instead of getting a thicker skin, some subscribers just need to admit to having an overly sensitive skin. If DorothyL doesn't suit you, then don't subscribe. Create a list that suits your needs on Yahoo groups and just let it go. Ask yourself why you feel the need to change DorothyL instead of just leaving.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Hey Trace - it is GOOD to see you! We can catch up!

Angie, I was also sad about Crimespace as well. I also hope readers stay.

Diana, I did leave DL. I'm sorry I didn't make it clearer about why I wanted the list to change. It wasn't like this when I first went on. It's something that it seems to have evolved into over time. I could be incorrect in that - perhaps it has always been this way and I didn't see it until later. I stayed longer than I should have because of different people who asked me not to leave the list, but I shouldn't have. When I left earlier this year I shouldn't have gone back.

Anonymous said...


I am very impressed that you are able to filter out the flame wars, BSP and other crap to get to increasingly scarce book discussion. The central issue with DL is the lackluster moderation. It is acceptable to BSP but not to talk about it. What a ridicious concept!

The current moderators should be removed and that would make DL a better list over night. Crimespace had that problem with BSP, the moderators stepped in and now it is rare.

I know people who get attacked on-list and then attacked again off-list. Complaints about this results in indifference by the moderators. There is so much behaviour that gets you thrown off of most other lists that is encouraged on DL.

I think the much better question is why would anyone want to be on a list that encourages behaviour like this?

Anonymous said...

Sandra, forgive me for using this forum for this but I just emailed you a reply to your email entitled "Sunday" and my email was rejected, bounced as " 554 The message was rejected because it contains prohibited virus or spam content". NO IDEA why.
I've been trying to remember what exactly turned me on about DL and what makes it good, because as a 13 year veteran, I can attest to it being a valuable place. I had thought about "Crimespace" afer looking at ig a few times but it exhausted me - I can't even post my own photo (duh) so I was overwhelmed by how much was going on. Seeing comments here by norby confirms I guess that it's not for me either. When I did a count the other night of 2 DL digests and something like 18 of the 20 posts were from writers. Wow. Much had changed since I joined the discussion back in '92 when someone told me that someone was discussing Bouchercon. I was working on that convention and thought I should go there and see if I can be useful, answer questions. Besides, Rob Lopresti said it was cool.
I've made a lifetime of friends thanks to DL. Without it, my life would be MUCH poorer. Sandra and I have talked via email at length about DL and I've been close to quitting. I can't for "business" reasons (I work for/on but we used to have such a good time there, honest! But I'm at a loss for how to get it back. I tend to find "generated" discussions never quite work, esp when they are of the "what are you reading?" type because they seem to be sort of dead end posts. I'm reading X. I just finished Y.
And then it stops. At least that's what I've seen.
If there were real fan/reader content on Crimescene that would be cool but it doesn't sound like there is, yes? I tend to agree, Norby, you're right in that if you don't see something to talk about, maybe you should start. Not easy, and not required, but someone's got to, right? Perhaps that's where most folks are, waiting for someone ELSE to say something. (Convention folks hear this a lot, the"you know what you should do? You should have a convention in this place..." without realizing it doesn't just happen poof.)

I just wish I could remember the last time I had a really good conversation about books/mystery/the genre, etc. and HOW it started, what it was about. Maybe it would be a seed (maybe it would be a dud, but someone would spin off from there.) It seems like there's so much to talk about, so why can't we?

But Steven - a note. If the DL moderators were "removed", DL would end. They are the list owners, responsible for its existence. If they go, unless THEY choose to hand it off to someone, it stops. It's not like there is a body choosing who gets to do this; it's all self-generated and it's all their own voluntary effort. no one can "remove" them and no one that I am aware of wants the responsiblity of running DL.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Hi Andi,

Mary was having the same problem. I have as well if email is bouncing - I don't know why it does that sometimes.

You said:
But I'm at a loss for how to get it back. I tend to find "generated" discussions never quite work, esp when they are of the "what are you reading?" type because they seem to be sort of dead end posts. I'm reading X. I just finished Y.
And then it stops. At least that's what I've seen.
If there were real fan/reader content on Crimescene that would be cool but it doesn't sound like there is, yes?

I've been thinking about that. Part of my fear, and the reason I did say something about the problems, is that I think people aren't actually discussing the books/relevant topics because they're afraid of being attacked. The reality is, people have different thresholds for conflict.

Yes, some people are super-sensitive. There's that. I know when I first went on the Rankin forum, I just assumed everyone there would be fans interested in talking about books. I was blindsided by the flamers who came on posting rude stuff about Rankin, swearing at people actually trying to have conversations.

And then people say, "ignore them". Sure. Great advice in theory. When they post on every thread it's not so easy. That forum wasn't moderated, so it just turned into a shouting match. Then it was pulled down. They'd pull it down for a while, let whatever blow over, then put it back up. Three shut-downs that I experienced before it was pulled for good.

That's part of why I've come to believe in moderated forums. Perhaps the majority of people can self-regulate, or take correction, but there are always those who won't unless they get it from a 'voice of authority'.

As a convention organizer, I think you know just how pushy some people can be.

For those who are shy, who've seen other exhibit behaviour they don't feel comfortable with, how can I expect them not to be unwilling to post if they fear others who disagree with them may be pushy with their opinions? Most of us are ingrained with a sense of politeness - if people respond to you, you read it. It took me a couple years on forums to realize that sometimes it was better not to...

And then I wondered why participate at all.

Andi, you're one of the friends I've made off DL, and I have always felt you've brought a spirited, passionate perspective to the list. With you, I've always felt that if I did disagree, we'd still have that basic respect for each other. We could be okay 'agreeing to disagree on this one' and still be friends.

I think with some others, the sense is it isn't okay to disagree. If you do, you're "out" or in trouble.

I can hardly believe the DL moderators have been at this for 14 or 15 years, is it? As I said, they certainly have the right to leave the list as is. And as I said, each person has the right to decide if that works for them. There's been a culture of intimidation that seems to have evolved, and since the concerns I raised on the list seem to have been ignored, I was left feeling there wasn't much else I could do, anyway. The will for change has to come from the larger membership. Part of me thought speaking public might help others acknowledge/address that, but I suppose part of me knew I was just bending over to be kicked for it. C'est la vie. I tried... and failed.

And as Diana says, "If DorothyL doesn't suit you, then don't subscribe. Create a list that suits your needs on Yahoo groups and just let it go. Ask yourself why you feel the need to change DorothyL instead of just leaving."

Maybe those are the options. Stay with it as is, or leave. Unlike you, I had a choice, so I left.

Lesa said...

Oh, Sandra,

I hadn't realized that you had actually left the list. It's certainly DL's loss. You and I had talked about the problems on the list. And, I know that when I brought up the fact that we were actually talking about books when a number of the authors were gone, I got shot down by one of the authors who is the biggest offender.

I'm staying just because over the years (and I've been on it over 10 years), I've met some wonderful people. Yes, the old days were much better, but even then I was intimidated by some of the wonderful authors on the list. And, I do mean wonderful because Polly Whitney and Sparkle Hayter and some of the others were never mean to anyone. I was just intimidated by their wit. Now, it seems we have much fewer pleasant, witty authors on the list. And, the person who wrote on the other list is right. There's a closed clique of authors who back each other up, and do a great deal of BSP for each other.

Time! I'm on Crimespace, too, and between that, DL, LibraryThing and 4MA, I don't have enough time to participate in some of the conversations I would like to. Tell Norby I'll take another look, and try to keep up with some of the conversations for Readers on the forums.

And, Sandra, congratulations on the library job!

Anonymous said...

PLEASE understand that I was THIS CLOSE to quitting too and only realized I really couldn't (I really do pick up so much info - award announcements, author websites) and damn, I'm stuck. Cuz you and I have the same reasons for leaving. When I went nomail on DL for a month, I didn't miss it - amazing since it truly has been a part of my daily life for a long loooong time. I think you were smart, I'm not saying you should have stuck around. What's the point? It's not fun.

I'm not against moderated lists at all; when some topic has been beaten to death or when you get 75 versions of "me too" or need to remind folks that this ia a focused discussion group,we don't talk about our kids or our cats....that is so welcome. I've heard many gripes about "free speech" on DL, when a moderator stops a thread, a hugely annoying thing to hear. lists like DL are just like parties in your house; sure you have "free speech", but I have the right to tell you you can't talk that way in my living room. A lot of folks have never quite understood how these liss work and that they are "owned" and run the way the "owners" wish to run them. for some that means any topic is ok. for some, there are bans. For some, moderators read everything before it goes up - a hugely time-consuming task. For some it's daily, for some it's every few weeks.

Why is it that saying "I liked this, I did not like that" can be so much more than it is. I've had people react as if stunned because I say I really don't like such and such a writer or whatever (I think I've told you about the skating list which really felt so juvenile, with grown people "swooning" over some skater as the BEST EVER. (add exclamation points to taste) and i had to get OUT before my brains fried. It's JUST an opinion, but I guess it's not is it? Some folks I guess need confirmation or something and can't handle when someone disagrees. Gawd, so what? You and I have vastly different loves of certain books and authors and that's fine, but for many people, and I think this is true of most DL people, they can't handle that. That "fear of being attacked"? Sometimes it's just disagreement perceived as attack. I'm not saying there aren't outrageous people but saying "oh man, i couldn't finish that book" is what it is, a statement that I couldn't finish it because I didn't like it. I'm not trashing your taste, but that seems to be how it's perceived.

That's sad about the Rankin forum. I don't quite get author forums (though I have friends who do and a partner who's on Sherlockian and Wodehousian lists among others). But joining it to trash the author seems really pathetic. Cheap armchair analysis has me muttering about envy and how sad it is, but I really don't know. I just wonder why anyone would spend time trashing someone on the forum about them.

"As a convention organizer, I think you know just how pushy some people can be."

"Andi, you're one of the friends I've made off DL, and I have always felt you've brought a spirited, passionate perspective to the list.

Thank you. And yes, it's true. i can easily count 25 people i've met thanks to dorothyL. That's friends, not just acquaintances. But it's exactly that "passion" which has gotten me attacked.

"With you, I've always felt that if I did disagree, we'd still have that basic respect for each other. We could be okay 'agreeing to disagree on this one' and still be friends."

GODS yes. Friends don't have to agree on every/anything. You are not WRONG to love the work of someone I don't like. That's the perception, however; that my saying "I don't get Michael Connelly and do not enjoy his work" is an attack on your taste ("you" being a MC fan here). It's perceived, however, that I'm saying you are wrong to like his stuff. I don't GET that but that's how it is seen all too frequently. I think it is at times a need for approval to be told "oh you're right to like that author".
So we're talking about two different things but they're the same. You're saying folks back off out of fear of being attacked; I'm saying that a lot of times, we're not attacking anyone but our (my) innocuous disagreement, or simple statement of opinion is seen as attack.

Does that make sense?

"I can hardly believe the DL moderators have been at this for 14 or 15 years, is it?"

Yep. DL came into being in summer 1991, so just about 16 years.

"There's been a culture of intimidation that seems to have evolved"

Yeah, and that's sad and wrong and I've no idea how or why. I've got some ideas, since I've seen some of the same behavior in the convention world; the arrogant belief on the part of certain new authors that we're doing it all wrong, we've never done it right, we don't know the first thing about how to do it, need to be told, and they're the ones to tell us. We've talked about that and we both can name names.

Diana says, "If DorothyL doesn't suit you, then don't subscribe. Create a list that suits your needs on Yahoo groups and just let it go." "

That's a totally valid idea, but I have no interest in starting/creating a list. It's too much work, far too much computer time for me, and the catch I see is how to make it work in the sense that I wouldn't have a clue how to describe it. I'm "too opinionated" - that being a good word for some, back for others. It's something I am told people like about me, and at the same time, it's been used as a pejorative against me.

I sure wouldn't want to start a group based on "we're leaving DorothyL" because that's a bad way to start, yes? Of course, Diana's right to suggest it, hell, I've said the same thing repeatedly. No question, but I don't think a group that has as its foundation "because we hated that other group" starts well. But then, I have no desire to find out. I'm done organizing things.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Lesa, I missed the good ol' days! I do remember when I first went on DL, I felt so stupid. All these people had so much more knowledge and insight than I did... Where did they go? What happened? I don't know. I guess life happens to everyone, people get busy, things change.

But we have Crimespace, 4MA and the blogs, so I'm not 'losing' you, or most people I enjoy interacting with. A few, yes. Sadly, there are always a few you lose touch with. I've had that happen with forums in the past as well.

But at least I have the library job to keep me out of mischief!

Andi, oh, I understand! Yes, I do understand about leaving. I guess I just feel a sense of regret over it. Maybe I should have kept my mouth shut and just gone silent? Well, too late now, anyway.

"So we're talking about two different things but they're the same. You're saying folks back off out of fear of being attacked; I'm saying that a lot of times, we're not attacking anyone but our (my) innocuous disagreement, or simple statement of opinion is seen as attack."

Oh, yes, I see that as a possibility. But I also think there are different things that happen. I know some might be sensitive and perceive disagreement as an attack, but sometimes the person is belittling the other person. Do you remember when one author called some readers 'lazy'? That probably should have been on the list of mistakes for people to avoid.

But yes, definitely there's an issue of how sensitive people are that factors in. We all have times we're a bit... vulnerable. And other times we can let things slide. I think even for myself, there's a tendency to assume meaning instead of asking to clarify it before forming conclusions, though, and that may be a problem.

Yes, I also like it when some stuff gets shut down. It is a delicate balance, but sometimes necessary for a list that size.

Oh, and the skating comparison? Yeah... I think that sometimes there's a possibility of validating yourself with your opinions and when others disagree instead of saying, "We see it differently but that's cool" people take it personally. Remember the Olympics and the Canadians vs the Russians? I still remember Kelsey Grammer saying he preferred the Russians to Rosie O'Donnell. And she was stunned! Nobody was saying that! It took some courage for him to express that opinion, and he got some flack for it too, didn't he!

But it is just an opinion... Taste is so subjective. We'll never all agree. That's part of what makes it interesting!

Daniel Hatadi said...

I'm sorry to hear that any of you are having any sort of trouble with Crimespace. If you'd like to email me over there I can at the very least keep a closer eye on things.

Otherwise, Norby and others, attracting readers and making Crimespace a special place for them was always something I wanted out of the place. One of the problems with all those bloody writers (which includes me!) is that they do tend to write. A lot. So that translates into a very vocal online presence.

Reading on the other hand is not a very vocal activity. Aside from seeking recommendations of new authors and books, as a reader, I don't personally talk about what I've read that much.

What I'd like to do is find some way to get rid of the cliquey feel that some people have. If anyone has suggestions, feel free to email over at Crimespace and I'll see what I can do.

Actually, I think I should post something like this over there, hey? :)

caryn said...

Well, I was out of town during most of this and deleted all of the old posts when I got home. So, I didn't see your last posts on DL and didn't know you had left until this weekend. I'm sorry, but I understand.
As a reader, I get tired of the fact that there are very few actual book discussions going on. More and more of the actual mention of books in posts from authors hyping their own work whether or not it even remotely fits into whatever the initial post was about.
I go through spells of trying to post and then not. I have gotten some incredibly mean spirited off list responses that have really caught me off guard as I seldom post negative comments, and don't engage in the assorted wars.
Often I don't post because I get no response at all-like no one has even bothered to read whatever I wrote so why bother?
That said, I do still subscribe and read the post fairly regularly because there are some people I really enjoy on list and I have made some wonderful friends from the list.
In the past year, I have often asked myself, "Where are the moderators with this going on?" when some topics have gotten extremely off topic and nasty.
I'm sorry to see you leave the list as I enjoyed, though did not always agree with, your posts.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Daniel, we bloody writers are a bit of trouble, aren't we?

As for cliquey... This is the down side of people knowing each other. It's easy for them to interact with each other. They have history, they're comfortable, they know that person won't misinterpret.

I've been trying to discipline myself to walk away when people misconstrue my posts... Not that it seems to happen all that often on Crimespace, but elsewhere it was an increasing issue.

Caryn, I'm sorry to hear you've also had problems with mean-spirited off-list mail. And you know what I just love? "I'm sorry to see you leave the list as I enjoyed, though did not always agree with, your posts." It's what we all needed more room for on the list. The ability to agree to disagree and let it go. Expressing opinions is one thing, but when it always feels like an argument...

For me, I felt like I was either in too many arguments, or forming strong opinions about people because of some of the other arguments. And that's not good, or even fair, because you only get a certain aspect of a person from lists. Opinions in black and white come off harsher than in the spoken word.

I still have a thin ray of hope that perhaps - just perhaps - there will be some talk that will produce a change to get the list back on track. There certainly seem to be people who want that.

Anonymous said...

Sorry that you have left the list. I always enjoyed your comments.
I think that the issues you describe ewxplain why there are so very many lurkers. I certainly a lurker. I've posted maybe 2 or 3 minor comments and then the one time I posted a few thoughts about a book I had read (not a formal review by any means, just a few positive comments), someone posted what I took to be a really mean almost line by line reply. A paragraph about on why people who don't write shouldn't be able to post reviews was even included (duh-isn't that what the list is for, mystery readers to discuss books?). Anyway, I am now a permanent lurker.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Diane, wow. Part of me thinks I can't believe someone had the audacity to post that to the list... but in reality I actually can understand that happening. What is more baffling is that such posts go unchallenged.

Yes, the list is for readers. I can only say in my own experience there's a lot of good reader discussion on 4MA (4 Mystery Addicts) but I can also understand that when people have uncomfortable experiences, lurking is actually preferable.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Sandra - I'm a lurker on DL but I think I post yearly and find the response so offputting I learn my lesson for another year and crawl back into my hole - I've seen very small versions of the things you've seen - I've also had some nice direct contacts off list as well - it's like everything I guess. I've always found it vaguely unwelcoming to somebody who is not a Northern Hemisphere dweller - can't articulate exactly why, but the list as a whole doesn't seem to realise that we exist or something.

Crimespace is a more positive experience for me - but then I guess I can see some of the clique thing going on as well - hard when you're just a reader and you're from Australia into the bargain, but I agree that it could be expanded out to more reading topics. Maybe it just needs us readers to get a bit bolshie about it and start the discussions / push the agenda our way a bit :) I think writers simply "win" in the visibility stakes because they tend to be a bit more "out there" than us less articulate, more awe struck readers. Ultimately though the difference between online forums and mailing lists can also be a killer for some people.

Mind you, moderating online lists / sites / forums - it doesn't matter what you do - somebody will be annoyed - some days you just have to close your eyes, pull the doona over your head and hope that you don't piss off too many people :)

Sandra Ruttan said...

Karen, I'm glad to hear Crimespace is more positive for you. I enjoy Crimespace. Other than the spamming issues, it's really good for me, anyway. There will always be things... but I find the attitude is pretty respectful.