• Thin skin

    From my inbox:

    Your skin is a bit too thin, and I believe that is leading you down the wrong path. It might not appear that way today, but, with all the times you have censored (delays, lack of posting, attitudes etc.) various people in the field, many who know one another, you develop a reputation. Things change with time and so do the desirable aspects of one’s reputation. Some don’t bother to stick around to be noticed like I do, but that is what I do. There will always be those that demonstrate significant disagreement with you no matter how many you censor. It is hard to take back actions or even what is written whether or not they are publicly posted. I feel bad because I believe you have more promise than you give yourself credit for (no matter what your underlying ideology), but you seem to be stuck in that closed mindset where fitting in sometimes becomes more important than the truth.

    This pertains to comment moderation. All I can say is, my skin is vastly thicker than it was a few years ago. I would hazard a guess that it is thicker than someone who sends emails like the one above, and under a pseudonym no less.

    But that’s not what’s relevant here. What’s relevant is adherence to the comments policy, which is posted and to which every commenter stipulates acceptance upon submission.

    comments policy

    Delays in comment posting occur so we can perform necessary moderation functions, the burden of which has grown considerably. If you don’t like delays, don’t comment here. Berating me doesn’t help.

    No, not this way.

    No, not this way.

    As a result of that moderation, very few comments that aren’t obvious spam are rejected. We normally go weeks to months without rejecting even one. Often we provide a warning first. For someone’s comments to be systematically rejected, one has to plainly violate the policy for quite some time. If you don’t like running the risk of having your comment rejected, follow the policy or don’t comment here. The vast, vast majority of readers can do this. All the individuals who have been unable to do so could fill a small phone booth.*

    It’s very easy to start a blog, tweet, or even send email. The only censoring happening is self-inflicted.

    * UPDATE: In jest, I am sure, I’m told that some millennials might not know the size of a “phone booth.” Just in case, replace that text with “shower stall” and you’ll get the idea.


    • I agree completely that comments ought to be moderated. There are, to begin, a lot of automatic submissions which make life hard for a blogger. Even with the newest widgets, they are mechanical and not Deep Blue, so human intervention in necessary just to keep an intelligible conversation among participants. On top of that there are some comments that even though they are humanly written, do not add any value to the conversation. In fact, some substract from the conversation and that is why they ought to be removed.

    • Wow. This person is astonishingly insecure. To hide behind a false name and simultaneously suggest threats to your reputation is shockingly bad behavior. Any wonder why his comments might be blocked? He should look in the mirror.

    • I strongly disagree with the criticism in the comment. There’s very little censoring even though this is supposed to be a technical (or policy) blog not a political one, and even though many comments are political (mine included I’ll admit). I’ve had one comment censored, one that I regretted the second after hitting submit, and very much appreciate being saved from the embarrassment. Frakt, Carroll, and the others are policy experts, and many of the comments are insightful and, I’d argue, enhance their work. That they are willing to separate the wheat from the chaff suggests they agree with that assessment. Whether my own comments are in the former or latter category is debatable.

    • I agree with the complainer. You could solve the problem by installing a “rejected comments bucket” for everyone to refer to in order to find out what it is you censor and to provide continuity to those few who prefer to read annoying comments.

      That would allow your favored commenters to follow the main thread and the others to have a voice.

      Don’t blame the complainer. He’s right.

    • I have always loved this quote…

      “If you’re not a liberal at 20 you have no heart, if you’re not a conservative at 40 you have no brain.”

      I do think there is some truth in it – I was a huge Bobby Kennedy – Gene McCarthy supporter in my 20s – woke up in my 40s thinking Reagan was awesome.

      Without knowing their personal info my guess is that both Austin and Aaron are closer to 20 than 40.

      I have about a half a dozen must read places on the net – TIE is one of them – it has made me furious at times – but i have also learned a whole lot by checking in and TRYING to keep an open mind – not always easy…

      So Austin – yes you have a bit of a thin skin at times – but that’s OK – the internet/email is not always good at nuance. But your genuine passion for your subject matter – area of interest shines through – and makes you a worthwhile read for those of us who might not totally agree with you – but are willing to listen and learn

    • This is a remarkable conversation. First of all, I’m amazed Frakt even bothered to post that email. It should be obvious to all that he and the other bloggers here own the site and can do whatever they damn well please with any and all content, including comments.

      Second, even if one presumes or suspects censoring, so what? They are permitted to do that and, frankly, they should. There’s an awful lot of crap on the internet, if you haven’t noticed. If you want to read it, go elsewhere.

      The stunning thing is that the admins here are totally up front about this. Read their comments policy. Since you must have accepted it to comment, any complaint thereafter has not legitimacy.

      This isn’t rocket science. I guess even a smart readership has a few dim bulbs. Good riddance!

    • Interesting dilemma. We have read an excerpt, but neither know who the poster was nor do we get to read more than what we see. How do we determine the validity of what the person believes?

      • I hope the individual starts a blog so (s)he can fully express whatever (s)he wishes and without need for our approval.

        • I am not sure I understand your comment. Are you saying that the poster was censored because of a different viewpoint?

          • No. I’m saying (s)he clearly feels like (s)he has something to say that (s)he can’t here. So (s)he should do so elsewhere. It’s very easy!

            • From the tone of what you posted it sounded as if there was a disagreement. I originally thought perhaps inappropriate language was used, but that doesn’t seem to be the case when I reread the portion of the email you posted.

              Take a look at the part that says you have more promise and closed mindset. I don’t want to draw conclusions based upon limited knowledge, but why would the poster go to the trouble of sending you such an email? It sounds like the poster felt that you were censoring ideas. Maybe there was more to the email and postings, but only you know that.

            • Read the comments policy carefully. There are many ways a comment or commenter might be blocked, none of them having to do with disagreeing on the merits. Unfortunately, a couple of people (yes, literally two) in the entire history of this blog *believe* they were singled out for their point of view, when, in fact, it was other aspects of their comment behavior that was troublesome to comment moderators. I suspect the reason this individual wrote the email is that (s)he is unable to appreciate that possibility.

    • I’m curious, who was the poster? The portion posted appeared to be civil, but apparently he felt that there was censorship (“delays, lack of posting”) yet while doing so he made a positive comment. I don’t generally post, but I do read the postings of others and I didn’t see any postings that I could attach to that person. Did he ever post? If he read what you posted did he email you again?

      All very confusing.

    • Jimbino wrote:

      “You could solve the problem by installing a “rejected comments bucket” for everyone to refer to…”

      Terrible advice. Have you ever moderated comments or an online forum? The more you reveal the more headaches you have to deal with, like the email Austin received.

      The best approach is to set a policy, follow it, and never engage with the inevitable blowback. Nobody likes their comments to be blocked. Nobody who is in that position ever sees the trouble they cause for the moderators or others. It’s human nature.

      And yet, sites like this are far better for the moderation. The admins should keep it up and, above all, stop feeding the trolls.

      • John F., from what Austin writes very few have been censored so the difficulty you are proposing doesn’t seem to have existed. This is a sophisticated topic so it doesn’t really attract the trolls.

        Maybe Jimbino has a point though I am not totally sure of its nature or his solutions.

    • I assume you asked the person if they minded if you posted a private e mail to the blog especially since you only posted part of it.

      I don’t know if that is the proper etiquette for a blog. Maybe it is. I had a similar problem copying something from an email. Does anyone know?

      • SuzieB, I don’t know for sure, but I don’t think it should be done as it was sent to a single address, not to a group. Furthermore, whoever sent the letter is apparently unable to respond and defend himself.

    • I went to the comments section something I didn’t realize existed. At the beginning it said relevant and polite. That is what I initially thought was the problem, but it doesn’t sound that way from the portion of the email you copied. But, then I thought the guy must have posted at least several times to have been blocked and delayed so we probably read a couple of his posts that were held, but nothing terrible seems to stand out.

      The rest of the policies are pretty subjective except for length. I have seen a lot of long posts, but sometimes I appreciated the length because the postings were very informative and seemed necessary. Could it be credible evidence? I doubt that because I have seen you guys respond with fact that makes it clear the evidence wasn’t credible. I have seen the opposite and draws as well so I don’t think that could be the problem.

      I have to trust your judgement.

    • I counted the content of replies excluding Austin’s. The rest were not relevant or didn’t have a strong opinion one way or the other.

      The vote was 6 to 1 in favor of Austin.

      Jimbino was the only one to strongly favor the poster. Does Jimbino have a point at 6 to 1?

      • I think my offer is more than a fair balance of our concerns and Jimbino’s idea. http://theincidentaleconomist.com/wordpress/thin-skin-ctd/

        • I made note of and accepted the 6:1 figure without much thought not wanting to get involved in this type of discussion. I like the different opinions I see on this list especially when evidence is applied. I had no intention of writing a follow up, but a follow up blog caused me to rethink my number 6 to 1 is not balanced and even the one who called himself the Lonely Libertarian didn’t behave like a libertarian because libertarians abhor all censorship. That got me thinking in an economic sense. Have the moderation activities caused a selection problem?

          Maybe, if I have time, I will comment later on Aaron’s statement which made me think deeper and made me change my mind as to how one might interpret the 6:1 figure.