December 17th, 2010

blame the media

Good bye Houston Press

I'm a somewhat regular commenter at the Houston Press. I'll chime in on the food blog, the art blog and the general blog maybe five or so times a week. Once or twice a writer over there has e-mailed me after I've commented asking for clarification or more information on something I've written. There are a few people over there that know who I am, but nothing I post over there is linked to anywhere else on the internet.

The commenting system used to be an insertion of name, (non-published) e-mail address, and optional website, plus solving one of those re-capatcha human detectors. I usually post as 'stina and decline to give a URL. They just moved over to disqus, a commenting system I actually quite like and use a lot.

Which is why I'm probably not going to use it at the Houston Press.

Most of the places I post that use Disqus are safe places. Actually two safe places: Ta-Nehisi Coates blog over at the Atlantic, and Kevin Drum's blog at Mother Jones. TNC's comment threads are nearly legendary through the internet in their thoughtfulness and lack of rancor, and that's in part because he's done an excellent job of monitoring the threads and keeping everyone in line. Kevin Drum's are a little less restrained, but I think that's because he's almost entirely a political blogger and political comment threads can be unwieldy.

The way Disqus works, you log in and keep the same credentials every time you comment. You can use any of several sites for your credentials or make one up at Disqus. The options are Yahoo, facebook, Twitter, OpenID, and a few others. My Disqus profile links to the places I participate using Disqus, and links to my most recent posts using that identification and how many "likes" I've received (20). AND it stays logged in. I use OpenID, which itself links to several authentication services, because I don't mind my comments at either one of those places being associated with this livejournal account.

The Houston Press commenters? Helllllll NO! I don't want them coming anywhere near here.

Actually, that's not entirely true. I don't want a hunk of them coming over here. The Houston Press is an Alt-Weekly. And like any newspaper, it attracts its fair share of loonies in the comment section. One in particular is a right wing nut job that attacks pretty much everything that the Houston Press posts, ESPECIALLY if there's any perceived lefty bias. It's an alt weekly. Lefty is implied. I don't want that person knowing more than the very bare bones basics about me. I go out of my way to avoid commenting on threads he's decided to hijack.

And if I post using Disqus, I'm giving that person access to all of the comments I've ever made using that identity, plus a link to this journal.

Why don't I use one of the other gagillion identities I have to post over there? My Yahoo, Google, Twitter, and Flickr accounts use a name that was recently compromised in the Gawker incident last week. And even though I've changed all the passwords, I'm trying to, for the moment, minimize it's use on the internet so it doesn't show up on search engines. Facebook is entirely out of the question because it's my real name, and my work occasionally is in the Houston Press. It's pretty easy to figure out who I am using my real name.

Why don't I log out and log back in using a created Disqus account for the sole purpose of commenting at The Houston Press? Because I know myself. It's a pain in the ass to do that, and at some point I'll slip up, use the wrong account and then be pissed off that that ass knows who I am and how to harass me here.

The irony, of course, is that these sorts of efforts are generally used to improve comment sections. Normal ever day human beings tend to be on better behavior with an identity than they are anonymous. Even a pseudo-identity improves things. And a good hunk of trolling can be eliminating with logins. Being able to be held accountable for your comments, being able to go back and get a sense of the other person isn't necessarily a bad thing. But I'd like that within the context of the community, NOT within the context of the entire internet.

I'm generally an open book about who I am. I have some difficulty, as I'm sure most people do, with co-mingling my several dozen identities into a single on Facebook. Generally, though, I've been ok with it. But I'm not quite prepared for every effort I make on the internet to be summed up.