With the slow news cycle, we’ve been doing some much needed maintenance around Stately Beat Manor — trimming unread email lists, pruning RSS feeds, and so on. We’ve also been pondering our commenting system. We’ve recently put a few posters on “time out” because they were basically rude, insulting brigands, and we don’t like their kind. Biting wit and a droll put-down is fine. Name calling and invective is not.

Frankly, we’re always amazed when we go out and meet all the smart, talented people who read the Beat daily — we’d love to get some of those folks to comment more but it might require a complete overhaul of the commenting system. Also, it’s always been our observation that the better the modding, the better the commenting, and we don’t have the time it probably requires.

That doesn’t mean we’re not raising the bar a bit. Be interesting and informative, folks. There will be more time outs and rebukes handed out in the near future, so let’s all get ready for fall with a NEW ATTITUDE. (I welcome private thoughts via email, as well.)

On a semi-related note, we were cleaning out the spam filter and found a few messages that had been inexplicably sent into File 13 — including one from J. Michael Straczynski! OOPS. Sorry, JMS and the rest. Will definitely check that more often or have a minion do it.

ALSO, we will probably have to move to a new server because of the insane “GPU overages” that Media Temple is charging us. Our immediate advice would be, “Don’t run a moderately popular WordPress blog on Media Temple!” and you can take that right to Google!


  1. I’ve had wonderful experience with Dreamhost for wordpress hosting… check out dreamhost.com. It is extremely easy to set up wordpress there, their rates are cheap, their services are vast and powerful, and their customer service is unbelievably wonderful. I can’t recommend them highly enough.

  2. Might I recommend times not to post.

    When Drinking:
    Sure it can be fun, but you never know who you’re going to wake up next to.

    When your words have been spun:
    I know it makes you mad, but trust me, these people just tire you out. They’re not worth your time.

    The 1st year after having a new baby:
    This applies to new dads as well as moms. Whether you know it or not at the time or not, this is a form of temporary insanity which will make even people who know you well, wonder if it’s really you posting.

    When you’re tired:
    Sometimes you misread things and end up fighting about something the other person agrees with you on. Plus, higher typo count, which I have trouble with, even when I’m at the tpo fo ym gmae.

  3. The comment system in use is one of the more liberal I’ve found. No password to remember, no captcha. I prefer this system. Of course, I don’t see the spam behind the scenes…

    As for getting more people to comment… isn’t that the Grand Unified Theory of Blogging? If you figure out how to do that, better take out a patent, because it will be worth millions! How much advertising do you do? (And your 7zoom numbers are pretty good…)

    One idea: offer professionals an opportunity to guest-post. Sure, they might have their own blog, so allow them to reprint it one week later. (And you advertise their blog on the post.) Carte blanche and tabula rasa… whatever they want to write. You send a donation to the CBLDF or HERO as compensation.

    As for industry participation, you’ve got quite a few professionals appearing here. Paul Pope, Evan Dorkin, Kurt Busiek… Plus, when I attend trade shows, various booth people recognize me from comments I leave here. (I’ve only had one negative reaction that I know of…and not face-to-face.)

  4. My own message board is moderated by myself and several deputies. Each has the authority to delete posts that violate the house rules, and block the posters from further postings. Every now and then, a jerk slips through this net, but they and their posts don’t survive for long. It works for my board, though this system would doubtless require considerable work to fit your site with its greater traffic. But, with rare exception, once a troll, always a troll, and I don’t lose a second of sleep for having banned such from my board.

  5. I couldn’t agree more, Heidi. I read your posts every morning–you and Tom Spurgeon are my New York Times (well, you, Tom and the NYT are my NYT)–and half the time, I dread looking at the comments. So I don’t.

    But then I feel I’m depriving myself of what makes the medium–the Internet, I mean–so valuable, which is that it’s publication and response simultaneously. It’s just disappointing that so many people who have so little to say want to say it as often and as loudly as they do.

    To those commenters who seem to revel in putting someone down or trashing someone’s work: just drop it already. Go make something of your own. Or if you really want to comment, take a second and see whether you actually have anything to convey other than “thumbs up” or “thumbs down”. I’m really interested to hear actual commentary on whether a book is interesting or fails in some way. You’re just wasting my time–and that of many, many others–showing us how funny you think you are.

    When you comment, I’m listening to you. Please don’t waste my time.

  6. I second Torsten’s suggestion of having guest blogging by industry pros. It’s obvious a lot of them already read (and comment on) The Beat, it would be great to get some more substantive posts from them, on whatever topic strikes their fancy.

  7. PS. On the topic of web hosts, I’ve had a fantastic experience with Bluehost.com for the past 8 years. Not sure how their rates stack up against other hosts, but their features are good and customer service is great.

  8. Actually, I *love* the comments on the Beat. I have pretty much entirely given up on reading blog comments and messageboards (the Anime News Network forums sometimes make me want to bash my head through a wall), but I read almost every single comment on the Beat. There are a few trollish people around, but not enough to bring the whole place down, and I think deputizing another moderator or two could get rid of that element entirely. If you want to tweak, by all means tweak, but I don’t think the comments section needs a major overhaul.

  9. I have to say that I have generally found the comments on the Beat among the most polite yet, though I don’t read all the posts so maybe I’m just picking up on only the polite posters. I really have stopped posting anything more than very short posts on some “other” comics blogs around town because you have those commentators who look down from their high horses and generally try to belittle the rest through their comments, generally making up for some inadequacy within their own lives. Not something I sense here.

    Keep up the good work, wherever you go we’ll follow.

  10. Although this is the internet and there is no escape from stupid, I love the Beat’s comments section. Hopefully, you can find someone to help with the rigorous chores of moderating.

    The thing that really bugs me on these comments sections are the people who talk shit on what you choose to discuss and write about (I guess some HAVE to get their say in regardless if they’re interested in a topic or not). Other than that it’s a great place.

    As long as Evan Dorkin keeps posting… the Beat (and the internet) need more Evan Dorkin.

  11. Testing…

    Heh. Just checking.

    Does this also mean that the Beat will tone down this new brand of snark and generalizing stereotypes in its posts – especially concerning super-hero comics, the industry or “baby-men”? And I mean this seriously.

  12. I like the Beat comments as they are really. Moderation kills discussion and censors opinion. Plus, not to mention the fact that most moderation seems to usually fall in favor of those polluting the comment stream to begin with in most cases.

    Case in point, if I wanted to read the obnoxious opinions of a bunch of neckbeards running rampant I would go to Newsarama. A vile toxic waste dump of people who no longer even like comics.

    I really appreciate the fact that Heidi has this forum in which I can voice my opinion (as contrarian as it may be sometimes) and as long as I don’t swear like a drunken sailor or make specific references to sexual actions with fellow poster’s parents I can do so un-edited. I’m a blunt guy. I say pretty much everything I feel and would do so in a heart-beat in person as well (just so you don’t think I’m one of *those* types). So I appreciate this little soap box in this minuscule corner of the internet to lay the smack down if need be.

    That said, I guess my point is really that I don’t care what methods you adopt in the future as long as you don’t delete my posts. And actually, while we’re on the subject, I volunteer myself as moderator.

  13. “Does this also mean that the Beat will tone down this new brand of snark and generalizing stereotypes in its posts – especially concerning super-hero comics, the industry or “baby-men”?”

    That seems unlikely.

  14. I love The Beat. One day I might have something newsworthy featured here and I know I would appreciate less jerk comments — in short, put yourself in the other person’s shoes before making rude remarks.

  15. I don’t think I ever really insult the creators themselves as I respect anyone who has the fortitude to publish something and add a piece of artwork to the creative tapestry of the world.

    But let it be known that I will never apologize to Julia Roberts. Ever.

  16. The comment section could be worse. The comment section could be better.

    I typically try to answer questions or offer an opposing viewpoint. That often means I argue with people. I like being able to argue with anonymity, but I would also like to think I’m not crossing any lines by doing so. I don’t really want my opinions stuck to me like scarlet letters wherever I go. The reason for this is I don’t hold the same views as most of my friends and family and it’s difficult because they know me personally and I can’t avoid that. The anonymity of the internet allows some version of the freedom I lack in my personal life. Seriously, try having a decent conversation about politics with a family member that always says Obama is a muslim. You get the idea.

    I don’t particularly like the things “Christian” up there has to say, but I’m not really for censoring his posts or even banning him from saying those things. There’s a difference between people that belittle while making a good point and people that belittle because they think it’s fun.

    Maybe you should put those thumbs up/thumbs down buttons like on the Yahoo News items so that when a comment becomes too unfavorable it’s automatically hidden but you can still choose to read it. Speaking of Yahoo News comments, wow, at least The Beat comment section isn’t THAT bad.

    In short, do whatever. People will adjust or leave. It’s your blog, either way.

  17. Christian, you’re kind of on my “watch list.” Far from killing conversation, moderation fosters it by weeding out YouTube-style spider monkeys who have discovered that by pressing several keys they can provoke a reaction.

    Opinion is not what is stifled. Think of it as civility and entertainment being encouraged

  18. Please do watch me. I’d much rather be on a watch list than a safe list any day. That’s just me. If you don’t like my opinion, feel free to delete it. It is, ultimately, your space to do so.

    Three points:
    1) I think that in this case both the provocateur and the provoked are equally as guilty of being “spider monkeys.” So I suggest that if you delete one, you delete the other as well. One for being a jerk and the other for being stupid enough to be offended by anything on the internet.

    2) Censorship is always opinion stifling. Incendiary opinions are still opinions. And in deleting a comment you are effectively quieting them in your presence. Again, it’s your right to do so. But let’s not forget that.

    3) You can not encourage both civility and entertainment as those, while not mutually exclusive are pretty close. Civility is never entertaining. It’s civil, but it’s not “entertaining.” I’m nice to my grandmother, and I have a pleasant time being around her, but I wouldn’t call it “fun” nor “entertaining” to do so.

    I guess it all depends on what you want. Once again though , my offer still stands for moderation help. :)

  19. I believe that site owners are free to run a site any way they choose. Freedom of speech does not apply to personal websites. It’s a privilege granted by the owner and they can allow or block any idea they feel like.

    In my experience with websites that have celebrities of the site’s focus medium commenting, the “Don’t be a dick” rule tends to become a lot more flexible for those celebrities. Not applying moderation evenly across the nobodies and the somebodies is the fastest way for me to lose respect for a site owner.

    Not that you need my respect to function. Just adding my two cents…

  20. I’m totally for heavy moderation. There’s a guy who blogs on politics and culture for the Atlantic, and it’s one of the few political blogs with a comments section I can stomach, because he heavily moderates it. It doesn’t stifle debate at all, and in fact makes the debate 100X better by forcing people to actually discuss and debate without being jackasses. But I feel bad for him for having to spend what I imagine is a huge amount of time reading hundreds of comments every day. The Beat’s comments aren’t the worst by any stretch of the imagination, but very often they just make me sigh like a Peanuts character.

  21. The best comments section on the Web, in my experience, is at Self-Styled Siren, a classic-film blog. James Wolcott has referred to the comments’ “cocktail-party bonhomie.” The reason, again in my opinion, is that the Siren is as avid a commenter as any of us; the comments section is almost her salon. She responds, she expands, she enhances. She leads and follows the discussion.

    Of course, she posts once or twice a week instead of six or seven times a day, which gives her a lot more freedom to play in the sandbox with us. But the difference in tone from pretty much every other blog comments I read is striking. I can’t see Heidi having the time to do that, though.

  22. I think that there’s a midpoint between the everything-goes Yahoo! News-type of commenting Board and the heavily-modded Forum of a John Byrne’s type… and I’ve found that the BEST sort of Board that gets a conversation going is one that’s “left of center”, skewing towards the first. I’ve found that io9, A/V Club and wonkette comments are amongst the best in being informative— AND fun.

    Sure you risk the occasional flame-bait and Troll’ing in the comments, but you quickly learn to skip over those to focus on the more-substantial entries that engage your attention. And— visiting and reading over time, you develope a sense of the Regulars of that site, and evaluate accordingly from their posted comments. (I like playing the What’s-Their-Political-Affiliation? commentator guessing game myself.)

    The Beat making this pronouncement NOW intrigues me. But it is her site to do as she wonts, and I’ll be following the development and effects of the “NEW ATTITUDE”…

    Here’s to a better Beat!

  23. Christian: “If you don’t like my opinion, feel free to delete it.”

    I don’t think Heidi has any problem with your opinions or anyone else’s, Christian: it’s the way those opinions are presented. A poster could be a contrarian and disagree with every single post here and I doubt Heidi would give them a whack with the ban-hammer as long as they articulate those opinions in a way that encourages discussion. As she put it in the main post, “Biting wit and a droll put-down is fine. Name calling and invective is not.” Or as Erik Larsen puts it in the rules for his board, “Don’t be a dick.”

  24. It does sound like you should ditch your web host – but whatever you do, you can improve the performance of a WordPress blog by caching it. Here’s the plugin I use:


    When you do this your server will serve up cached copies of pages unless the pages have been changed. That’ll relieve a lot of strain since very few of your readers are adding comments (which is a change to the page).

    Uncached WordPress pages use PHP, which means that they’re constructed by the server every time they’re loaded.

    For what it’s worth, I’ve used Lunarpages for my web host for several years and I’m almost completely happy with them.

  25. Because I’d be awesome at it.

    Also, I really don’t care if you censor anyone else. I’m just concerned with me. It’s your right though.

    But just saying, I have excellent taste in message board comments. My mom says I’m a winner.

  26. And with that brilliant quip, Christian was banished to Azkaban, only his empty sneakers left smoldering on the greensward. The crowd drew back in alarm. “The great ones are angry!” they cried out.

  27. Christian was right. My God, what a bunch of limp-wristed nancies. Moderation IS censorship. That’s why the best mods can keep a forum on-point without tailoring the conversation one way or another. Like the man said, as long as he isn’t cursing like a drunken Irishman or saying discourteous things about someone’s mother & his genital area, it should be all good.

    People need to lighten/toughen up. If you can’t post on an Internet forum without getting butthurt ’cause someone said something you don’t like, you don’t belong on the Internet. This isn’t kindergarten, & you don’t all get a trophy for trying.

  28. Banning Christian is definitely overkill. Everything he posted definitely falls into the “Biting wit” catagory and not the “rude, insulting brigand” catagory. People need some thicker skin. Its disappointing to see this from this site.

  29. Seriously, this reads to me like whomever “The Beat” is got pissed off because Christian got the better of him/her. I’ve been reading this site off & on, but never joined up because of the aforementioned “brigands.” None of Christian’s comments were offensive – he was offering his two cents on moderation. If you’re going to start doling out ban-hammerings – chest bumping ones at that – to anyone with an opinion different from yours, I think I’ll take my Internetz elsewhere.

    “Moderated” doesn’t have to mean “G Rated.” It also doesn’t mean “don’t talk back.”

  30. “Banning Christian is definitely overkill. Everything he posted definitely falls into the “Biting wit” catagory and not the “rude, insulting brigand” catagory. People need some thicker skin. Its disappointing to see this from this site.”

    I don’t know about that…Christian said (jokingly I assume) it’s OK to be a dick just as long as you’re smart about it. I sensed the sarcasm but c’mon…intellect has nothing to do with being an asshole.

    Also moderating has nothing to do with keeping things g-rated, especially when topics at hand are the likes of Juan Jose Ryp beaver shots…it’s all about keeping things constructive without devolving into “fuck this and that” and petty finger pointing. Heidi clearly states her intentions to keep things civilized and since this is her house, it should be respectful to wipe the mud off your shoes at the door before tracking it all over the place and then saying “relax…dirt don’t hurt.”

  31. Yet the air smells sweeter now, almost as if after a light rain…

    I’m allegedly a teacher and the best advice I can offer is to have the commentors themselves take a little more responsibility. Like any class, some people talk a lot, while some people just don’t. So maybe some of the talkers can zip a little (me included) in order to leave room for new people to speak up. More people = more of a conversation.

    I love The Beat because it isn’t a fake personality wormhole. Still: I want more Beat essays and movie reviews. And a t-shirt. And non-boring historical pieces. And a week of Paul Pope guest blogging complete with daily playlists.

  32. Yeah, Christian’s offences go well outside of this thread, like how he felt the need to rant in both Scott Pilgrim movie box office threads about how he finds Julia Roberts to be “a leathery old bitch” and “some cackling half-dead corpse” to anybody who would listen. I could do without that kind of “wit,” personally.

  33. Here’s my opinion:

    Christian seems like the guy who will say what he feels. He admitted it himself but 3 seconds of reading this guy’s posts will tell you that anyway. And experience has taught me these are the people who will say the things that NEED to be said. The stuff that pushes new ideas. You may not always agree with it or like it. But its always worth being said and considered.

    So what if he’s smart-ass? He makes good points. At worst his posts are edgy but not rude. And if you don’t like his opinions, you can just skip over his posts. No one is forcing anyone to read anything. You see the name “Christian” just skip over the text. Banning is so extreme.

    I say this in the most respectful way possible: I see a problem when a largely Op/Ed site shoots down commenters for expressing dissenting opinions. Even if they have some bite to them. Maybe we’re having a bad day or whatever. I mean, we’re human. But I think this situation can be handled a little better.

  34. “I see a problem when a largely Op/Ed site shoots down commenters for expressing dissenting opinions.”

    This is a good point. However, the fun part is since it is Op/Ed it could be the opinion of the site operator to delete another person’s comment. That’s the best part about running your own site.

    Most people don’t really like what I have to say about things either. Trying to turn the tide of opinion on the internet is impossible. That’s one benefit of getting to a comment early and deleting it before it leads to a tidal wave of hostility. The dissenting opinion knows going in that they’re in for a fight, and that’s part of the fun. The frustrating part is the inevitable misunderstandings and resulting derailments which move things beyond the point of usefulness.

    I’m a free speech sort of guy, but a lot of times the incoherent loudmouth with the bullhorn stops people from hearing the person next to them with something actually useful to say.

    And I know some Beat readers are looking at the two threads I’m posting in and find the contrast to be funny. It’s all about perspective.

    Regardless of what we say, it ends up being one person’s opinion as to whether a comment is deleted or a person gets banned. This was sort of my point when I talked about belittling to make a point. In the process of making a point, people can become insulted or feel belittled. I wasn’t saying it’s okay to intentionally belittle as long as you’re making a good point. I was pointing out that it’s about the perspective of a moderator and whether they believe your opinions and points are valuable enough to chance some hurt feelings or angry opposition. It’s situational and unpredictable.

    I like the difficult questions and the comments which should make people stop and think. There’s an obvious lack of that sort of thing in comics journalism because it’s such a close-knit community… for example, it’s a good thing I don’t use my real name or I’d never be able to work in comics, apparently. Nobody is going to stop and talk to you if you have a reputation for asking difficult questions… which is why celebrities that talk to TMZ and crap like that baffle me. Those guys ONLY want dirt. A good journalist only wants truth.

    Anyway, drifting off topic… All that being said, nobody visits a boring message board or comment section and sometimes stop visiting a site completely.

    Good luck with the decision.

  35. comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Comfortable in this case meaning bagel eating blog snob. Oh wait…was I one of the “time out” guys?

  36. Bored and for fun, decided to run Christian and The Beat’s comments to each other above into the I Write Like text analyser (http://iwl.me/):

    And discovered that in their e-conversation, Heidi’s 3 comments had a “James Joyce” characteristic— whereas Christian had a “Cory Doctorow” flavor(!). Ulysses vs. Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom? “The Dead” vs. “0wnz0red”??

    Verrry Interestink! ;)

    (I wonder how do other posted comments compare when also ‘analysed’…)


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