As long as we’re harkening back to the internet of 10 years ago, as we are in this AMAZING THRILLING BEAT 10TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL, one of the great hallowed traditions of the internet came under fire yesterday, with TCJ.com co-editor Tim Hodler wonderedif TCJ.com should turn off comments and encourage a “letter’s page” instead. Oddly, this inspired a flurry of comments. The “letters page” idea goes back to Blood & Thunder the letters page on the old print Comics Journal where industry titans would throw rocks at each other. Seriously these are a goldmine of Bronze Age defensiveness and invective. Would the same spirit be upheld in a world with instantaneous communication in every medium known to humankind? Not sure.
The tcj.com comment crewe is also a throwback to the original TCJ.com message board, a brutal, often trollish place. No quarter was asked, none was given on the TCJ boards. You had to live by your wits, and the same old arguments would break out on a weekly basis. Despite all this, it still qualified as social media for its day and fostered an indie comics community that survived and migrated, Elfquest-fashion, to a greener more temperate clime.
The jury still seems to be out, but while the TCJ comments maintain occasional flashes of brilliance and information—less since the death of Kim Thompson—they are also home to a nest of internet trolls, some of them ported over from the old system.
This whole argument seemed to kick off some STRONG feelings on the webz! I see a whole bunch of folks were mixing it up on Twitter but to be honest, I was watching the Belgium-USA game and missed whatever started it. I do know the vastly male make-up of the comment crewe was dissed by some, some upheld the smattering of good info, others thought killing it all would be a mercy killing. And some people suggest moderation — I’m pretty sure the current boards are moderated, but it only takes a few rampaging wackadoos to throw everything off kilter. People used the phrase “pap pap” and that’s always funny.
There was also this suggestion first voiced by
Don’t ditch comments. Moderate, limit and up/down-vote them.
Sub-reddit then! And Hodler replied:
We actually had upvoting in comments when we first relaunched the site, and it was wildly unpopular with readers. I wonder if things would be different now.
I’m a big Tim Hodler fan but doing things that are unpopular with your readers is often what’s best for them. Trolls hate moderation, controls and scrutiny by the authorities. And of course, up or down voting doesn’t assure that extreme positions won’t be supported. Yet TCJ’s audience is small enough that you don’t get general “look at me I’m being an asshole!” type posts.
I’m partial to comments, as you can see from this site, but only MODERATED comments. I check the comments here four or five times as day and have banned several people for being asshats. I’ve toyed with putting in the Facebook comment system but it hardly seems necessary right now. My vote for TCJ? Better modding. But if there isn’t time for that, try letters to the editor. It worked for Ben Franklin.
UPDATED: And Dan Nadel has announced the new policy and it’s EXACTLY WHAT I SUGGESTED!
Well, we certainly got a lot of comments about our comments. Here’s what we’re going to do until Monday, which will satisfy no one but ourselves: We will now moderate all comments and filter out anything we don’t find in some way productive or entertaining. We will be stringent about this, and thus will delete many of the types of things (Lee/Kirby nonsense, obvious bad-faith arguments, blatant trolling) argued against on the thread. Take into account that we are both devoted Howard Stern listeners (for you non-Americans, Howard Stern is a figure of wisdom and devotion who functions for many of us as a kind of benevolent spirit guide), so our standards are pretty enlightened. After Monday we’ll either decide to continue this policy or shut down the comments all together. How’s that for an anti-climax?
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.