Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Comments, Arguments, Bicycles...

[image via Chris 531]

Over the past couple of weeks, I've spent considerably more time moderaring comments than usual. For the most part, it's been a handful of readers getting overzealous in their debates with one another. But when hostility enters a discussion, others get sucked into it as well. All I know is: I don't want to be the Jerry Springer of bicycle blogs. I would rather have fewer comments, but retain the atmosphere of comradery that has been characteristic here thus far.

I have wondered whether discussions about bicycles are somehow more prone to conflict than other topics. Readers often tell me that they are uncomfortable commenting on various online bicycle forums and blogs, because they find the atmosphere hostile. And I understand that: I myself have a difficult time communicating on bikeforums, despite it being such a valuable resource for technical information. I also can no longer read the comments on Yehuda Moon, because of all the bickering between readers there. It is well documented that there exist genuine differences between what kind of interactions people find enjoyable: Some prefer for everything to be in the style of a debate, with technical inaccuracies in the wording of others victoriously exposed. Others favour a more nurturing, open form of communication. My own preference is somewhere in between: I like a good debate and I am fine with being challenged, as long as the underlying mood feels friendly.

[images via Schwar]

Sometimes I think that we'd all be nicer over the internet, if we just imagined all the unknown others out there as kittens. Kittens, who love bicycles - at times feisty, but ultimately sweet and fluffy, pedaling happily through the fragrant meadows. Do you really want to hurt their feelings?

But for those who can't deal with the kitten metaphor and prefer specifics, I will be more direct: I think that it is a matter of common sense to refrain from mocking or deriding others' points of view in the comments. It's not that everyone has to agree, but sometimes there are nicer ways to disagree. In the same vein, consider refraining from statements that, while technically speaking may be phrased politely, you know in your heart of hearts are inflammatory (for example: "No offense meant, but riding a blue bicycle lowers your IQ and transmits STDs"). Finally, allow me to suggest that it is best to avoid making speculative, or misleading statements about individuals or entities that can be considered slanderous (for example: "I heard that Lovely Bicycle is written in the Far East, using child labor and toxic inks"). I trust that most people understand the difference between comments that are "in good faith" and "not in good faith."

Meaningful reader feedback has been a defining element of "Lovely Bicycle" from the start, and it makes me happy to be the hostess of such thoughtful, interesting discussions. As one reader recently suggested, my posts are collaborative: I offer my views, and others offer their views in return. It's a constructive exchange, which I think works nicely. Please help me keep it that way. And think of the cycling kittens.

67 comments:

  1. I think that it is a matter of common sense to refrain from mocking or deriding others' points of view in the comments. It's not that everyone has to agree, but sometimes there are nicer ways to disagree.

    Absolutely.

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  2. i don't understand bike snobbery, neither do i have a tolerance for it but online etiquette is key! i don't mind comments that disagree with what i post only as long as it is constructive and benefits readers. if a reader never has anything positive or constructive to benefit the topic then i deal with them through email. perhaps the interwebs needs a lesson on comment etiquette.

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  3. Two very well read bloggers discuss "to allow comments, or not" Something must be in the air bring this subject up.

    http://thinktraffic.net/debate-should-you-allow-comments-on-your-blog-find-out-what-two-remarkably-popular-bloggers-think

    And, BTW: I AM RIGHT darn you all!

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  4. Chris - Thanks for the link... though I see the Minimalist guy is involved in this one, which is hilarious if you know the backstory of why his comments needed shutting off : )

    Some websites, forums and blogs do go through this when they either become "more popular" or have a change in readership demographic, which does sometimes happen. A non-bicycle related forum I used to frequent for years was forced to adapt draconian moderating rules, which in essence killed its spirit. And a few blogs I like have shut off their comments with similar effects. As it stands, I have been moderating comments with a very light hand until now, just basically glancing at them and approving except for a very occasional few. And that's how it has to be, in order for the process to be both sustainable time-wise and enjoyable for me. That's how I am hoping things will stay.

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  5. the relative "anonymity" of posting to an internet forum often leaves people feeling more "empowered" to post things that they might not say... well, to be fair, if it was something they felt strong about, they would say "it" but in a more peaceful tone.

    There is something about typing a thing rather than saying a thing, face to face, that offers a detachment to a lot of people... as a result it is less "real" to them.

    just my .02

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  6. I remember a Crash Test Dummies song called My Enemies that went like: "I sit and concentrate, and try hard not to hate my enemies
    I try to picture them dressed up as furry little bunnies"

    In the end, that didn't work for the protagonist of the song, however.

    I'm glad I've mostly avoided this on Portlandize so far, but I also don't have nearly the readership you do, and I have to say, I dread spending time moderating comments - that's absolutely the last online task I want to spend time on.

    I hope things can stay easy-going for you here as well. I'll try to do my part and think twice about what I'm writing before I click "Post" (for various reasons, I've gotten in the habit of probably over-thinking just about anything I post online) - I certainly don't want to contribute to the problem, as I also benefit from calm, constructive conversation here and other places online.

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  7. I am often surprised by the arguing and comments on your comments section. Your mandate is clearly about your personal love of biking, promoting cycling for women and all things lovely. Your point of view is definitely as a woman which is really appreciated...so like i said, sometimes surprised by who comments and what they say.
    It is a big job to read all the comments and moderate them and I thank you for your generosity in sharing opinions and voices.
    Sometimes we just like saying I feel the same way!!
    Heather

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  8. "it's been a handful of readers getting overzealous in their debates"

    I suspect I'm being put in this group. :)

    "allow me to suggest that it is best to avoid making speculative, or misleading statements about individuals or entities that can be considered slanderous (for example: "I heard that Lovely Bicycle is written in the Far East, using child labor and toxic inks""

    Q.E.D.

    "Readers often tell me that they are uncomfortable commenting on various online bicycle forums"

    That is why I am here, but never participated in wreck.bikes. This is a basically nice place which I attribute to being run by basically nice people. I like nice places and people.

    "Do you really want to hurt their feelings?"

    Certainly not. I hate when that happens. However, if you can discover a way to prevent feelings from being hurt, you would be the first. I hurt people's feelings simply by riding a bike. I have even been physically assaulted by strangers over the issue (or over the length of my hair or pants) but I'm not inclined to stop.

    "think of the cycling kittens."

    I'm the neighborhood "mark," the one people dump kittens on because they know I'll take care of them. In order to do so I am often obliged to quite deliberately hurt their feelings, as, from my point of view, it is better to have their feelings hurt than have them chopped up by the whirling blades down that air duct they so want to crawl into. Kittens are lovely people to care for and play with, but cats are better for conversation.

    And it has been my experience that in conversation there is no way way, a priori, to know what will tick someone off, other than that everything will tick somebody off and that The Truth(tm) (say that the Earth has a varying distance from the Sun) is the most likely candidate to do so.

    The measure of good conversation is not found so much in mannerisms constrained by avoidance of hurting people's feelings, but rather in mannerisms that constrain behavior to conversation after that point has been reached.

    Bar fights are not caused by someone saying something, they are caused by someone throwing a chair.

    "There is something about typing a thing rather than saying a thing, face to face, that offers a detachment to a lot of people..."

    Letter writing is more detached and a different form of communication with its own rules of conduct as a result. It used to be considered an art.

    This is what makes written converse a useful and powerful tool as an adjunct to spoken converse.

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  9. Veloria, I don't know what comments you get that we don't see, but I don't think of this place as being particularly argumentative. Of course, I don't think Bike Forums is that way, either, so I guess everyone's tolerance for bickering is different.

    This is why it benefits me to write a blog that never asks for anyone else's opinion and is all about ME! Well, that and very few folks read my blog at this point.

    I think you ask for opinions, and that means you're going to get them, but you seem to do a great job moderating them.

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  10. Perhaps you could double post all your pieces on another blog simultaneously (call it, "Angry Bicycle!"). All comments on Lovely Bicycle! must meet a certain minimum standard of loveliness and politeness, all comments on Angry Bicycle! must meet a certain minimum standard of belligerence and hostility.

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  11. This is my favorite blog. I have learned and am learning about bicycles and bicycling every day just by tuning in and reading. I agree with Astroluc. Without seeing the individuals expressions, e-mails and other written comments can be misinterpreted as well. I think this is a good time to bring this issue to the front. I have learned to stop and think a bit before giving a knee jerk response to something said to me. It really helps! Let's keep this blog a friendly and informative place for friends to gather and communicate.

    P.S. Puppies not kittens... :^)

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  12. I rarely comment on any of the blogs I read because of conflict. But to the point of the recent rash of "snarkiness", I think cabin fever and a generally rough winter have allot to do with it. It's not an excuse, but an observation.

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  13. Spindizzy's head pops up from his desk in the back of the room as he realizes somethings going on up at the blackboard. Normally calm Miss Velourawhatever (who is TOTALLY cool and really HOT)is like,TOTALLY pissed at SOMEBODY for TOTALLY being a d%#k but Spindizzy can't make out who it was or what they said...If he can just figure out who to POUND(he has a pretty good idea) he could take care of this at the bus-stop this afternoon, but all he can make out is a bunch of, like, words and something about Kittens hucking monstrous drops on some gnarly singletrack...He imagines a pack of Kittens on SWEET long-travel Cannondales being chased in the woods by a GIANT BADGER wielding 2 BROADSWORDS and one of those spiky ball and chain things and when the METALLICA soundtrack kicks in, his head slowly drops back onto the damp spot on his notebook..."Buncha dic#@head Poindexters, better leave Miss V alone" he mumbles as the room goes dim and the white noise engulfs him.

    Spindizzy

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  14. First, I love your blog.
    Second, I agree with you completely about comments.
    Finally, when I write a comment I imagine what readers will think about me. What picture of me will be in their minds while reading my comment? I hope to they imagine a kind, smart, interested person. Is that a kitten?

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  15. I hope things will stay light for you, too, and I appreciate this post -- it feels like it was very necessary. I really hope you won't have to moderate more intensely and that people will understand what you mean, because I think what you're saying is really clear! and important! And I hope you won't have to keep saying it. Also this:

    >I heard that Lovely Bicycle is written in the Far East, using child labor and toxic inks.

    made me laugh.

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  16. The written media is inherently more prone to this since we can neither see nor hear the other's reaction. Cuddly puppies work well as an image as well.

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  17. I read your blog daily, but only read the comments occasionally, perhaps because it reminds me of how much separation there is between cyclists, from point of view to snobbery on the road. Seems like everyone still just wants clones, but not really because they want to think they are different. It is insanity provoking. We are all cyclists, from racers to commuters, including those forced to cycle because of a DUI. ALL of us! We all face the same issues, no matter how different the approach. We all deal with vehicular traffic and a surprising level of hatred toward cyclists of all kinds, from those who do not ride. Why is there not room for cohesive diversity among us? Why not appreciate the different point of view, the different style? It makes life richer and we should all be more welcoming and appreciative. I love it all, it makes life more interesting. We need to be more respectful of each other. Great blog!

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  18. It wouldn't bother me if you turned off comments. I come here for YOUR comments, great photos, and the off-chance of a travelogue.

    It would, however, be one less place for me to make witty remarks.

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  19. i read on another blog (sorry forget which one) and this simple guide was given.

    is it kind
    is it true
    is it useful.

    not a bad idea.

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  20. I think that cyclists are a reactionary bunch by nature.

    Maybe it's all the fresh air and exercise... maybe it's the freedom to go anywhere we like. I know I often take a subversive joy in cutting across corners in traffic, hopping onto sidewalks and generally leaving the frustrated motorists behind in the traffic jams. There's something revolutionary about riding a bike.

    Charming bunnies in that graphic... though no doubt a children's book art director would say they ought to be wearing helmets. (yet another bone of contention)

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  21. Velouria,

    I guess I didn't realize things here had gotten to be a problem. It always seems so...well, civilized compared to elsewhere on the WWW. Based on your writing and the comments above, I must have a higher threshold to reach before I'll classify a discussion hostile or confrontational. (Yes, I probably spend too much time at sites discussing politics.)

    Are discussion over bicycles/cycling more prone to argumentative behavior than other hobbies? All I can offer is anecdotal observations. Besides restoring and riding vintage bicycles, my other hobby is designing and building vacuum tube audio gear. I've been at that one considerably longer - 40 years - than cycling, which I returned to a decade ago.

    On the audio-related lists and blogs I frequent, the atmosphere is considerably more collegial than on most of the cycling-related sites I frequent (present company excepted, along with a few other sites). Those dealing with what I'll call modern cycling gear seem to be highly competitive - the old "he who dies with the most toys wins" meme - and there is only one correct collection of toys if one is serious about the activity. The vintage sites are populated by a collection of prima donnas - or actually primo dons, since much of this seems testosterone-fueled - with very specific ideas on what one should do with that old bike and who is qualified to do it. I would stress in both cases we are talking about a small but vocal subset of folks. There is still a great deal to learned in the exchange of valuable information and it takes place unimpeded (mostly) every day.

    Why the difference between two hobbies that are really rather similar, particularity the classic/vintage bike side? The vast majority of those at the audio sites came to the DIY side of the hobby from pursuit of the various holy grails of high-end audio after ridding ourselves of a disease we call audiophilia nervosa - the compulsive urge to spend ever increasing amounts of dosh on questionable "improvements" because some reviewer said it would bring you one step closer to hearing the voices of angels. We've swapped alchemy for science and are perfectly comfortable with the choice. We all do different things and take different approaches and the sharing of this info seems to be relatively ego-less even though we all have our biases.

    In defense of the cycling sites, there are number of different end points for the hobby/activity and a site like yours bring together those who use a bike for transportation, recreation, touring and racing all with different perspectives and needs. So a little friction is probably inevitable. As lonf as you feel it's manageable, I wouldn't sweat it.

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  22. Lovely Bicycle is one of the first things in the morning with my coffee. Nice ,comfortable, relaxing.interesting. Great Site. Please keep up the Great Work.

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  23. Angry Bicycle--I love it!

    I agree with Battle--it's the weather.

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  24. Mean people suck!
    As Thumpers mother said "If you can't say nuthin' nice don't say nuthin' at all"

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  25. Reading through the comments here, it's funny that some are saying they've noticed the comments have been hostile while others are saying that the comments are unusually civil. That's precisely the kind of difference in preferences I am talking about!

    To be clear, comments have for the most part been very civil here, but in recent weeks there has been more of what I would describe as "tangential bickering" than usual, and that is what I was referring to. And in posts where those kinds of comments take over, I've noticed that many of the other readers stop posting - probably because they feel their comment will just be ignored or buried in the back and forth repartee, or similarly picked at. And that's the kind of thing I want to avoid, because it prevents a meaningful exchange between all of those who are interested in the topic of the post. I hope this makes sense.

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  26. You're doing a fine job of moderating and finding a balance between lively discussion and bickering... keep up the excellent work. Few things send me clicking away faster than blog-comment arguments.


    But you might have mentioned the news about riding blue bicycles before I obtained four of them in the past two years. (insert appropriate emoticon here)

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  27. I have not had this myself on my Blog but I have noticed it on others. It is usually to do with various Countries amount of Cyclists and trying to state a reason why certain Countries might have a thriving Cycling Culture while others have few Cyclists. Then someone stars arguing the point and all different types of Statistics get brought up,price of Fuel,Car Tax, Infrastructure or lack of for Cyclists. After awhile you have a full blown argument online.

    Too many Armchair experts who love arguing away.What is the point life is to short to get hot and bothered all the time. It make's not a jot how much you argue it will not help you get better infrastructure in your City or Country,it is just an online Blog or article about Cycling. However it is a handy resource for information about Cycling, you can get help and tips on Biking. You can also find out what problems Cyclist's have or if they have a good Bicycle Culture that is what it is all about and not for arguing al the time.

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  28. Ah the use of Statistics on bicycle blogs... another favourite topic of mine : )

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  29. Sorry to read about you also having this problem. Normally I only read what you write, not the comments. I know much to well from the Bikeforums what sort of stuff can polute your life. I realy like your blog and am impressed to see what you`ve learned since you started. I tell my friends about your blog hoping they enjoy it as much as I do. I hope you do not give up! Better to block the comments if it turns ugly. Badmother.

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  30. Your reckless talk of kittens in a fragrant meadow is obviously a mean-spirited attack on my allergies and I take offense!

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  31. I'm surprised that more than one person has referenced bikeforums as a hostile, or uncomfortable place. I couldn't live without bikeforums, and I think the labeling is too generalized. The thing is, it's a huge forum and most people only "hang out" in certain subforums, and each subforum has assumed its own "culture". For example, 99% of my reading and posting is in the C&V section, where I feel there is a very civilized, experienced, and mature audience (many of them being "C&V" themselves). I do notice more hostile exchanges in other sections, but then I'm also sensitive to the "culture" of wherever it is I'm posting. But I feel very comfortable on bikeforums, especially in the C&V section, and encourage others to try it out. And, the advice I get there is priceless... truly knowledgeable people there.

    I read Velouria's blog more for general interest, and for unique perspectives on bike-related topics, especially her takes on social phenomena as as they pertains to cycling. Since I gravitate toward the technical, I tend to post more when it comes to technical content (see the toe overlap topic!!!).

    I would tend to agree that lately, there have been more heated exchanges around here... but then again, I think Velouria sometimes intentionally chooses to write about controversial subjects and debates, which only invite the same, especially once a community reaches some critical mass (which I think LB has). I don't see that necessarily as a bad thing.

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  32. You have a very hospitable blog, V. I stop by to visit, check out the beautiful bicycles, and enjoy the conversation. Everybody is an expert on their own experience, and I like and learn from the back and forth of the comments. I haven't seen much snarkiness here (well, I follow some political blogs). If I've been talking too loud, I'll try to lower my voice in the future.

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  33. Forgot to mention about bikeforums: the C&V subforum regulars participate in fun stuff, too, like Secret Santa gift exchanges, "box o' crap" pass around games, "the frame doesn't fit me" pass around-- how cool is that, and how many other cycling related forums do that? These are things that not only are fun and build community, but things in which I have personally participated and benefited from, and can attest their goodness!

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  34. Velouria said...
    "Reading through the comments here, it's funny that some are saying they've noticed the comments have been hostile while others are saying that the comments are unusually civil. That's precisely the kind of difference in preferences I am talking about!"

    Human speech and/or communication has many elements that are impossible , except for gifted writer, to convey in ordinary writing.

    This ,to me, is where much of friction/misunderstanding comes from on blogs/forums like this. That said, Velouria, you will NEVER have a blog that meets your vision of flowers, peace, kittens and calm. I ain't gonna happen..........

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  35. somervillain said...
    "I'm surprised that more than one person has referenced bikeforums as a hostile, or uncomfortable place"


    I searched for "bikeforums" through the inbox of my Lovely Bicycle email account just now. I have a total of 14 messages from readers expressing that sentiment. 11 of those are from female readers.

    Look, I like bikeforums. Sometimes it can be fun, and I appreciate very much that I could post a question there and get the answer to it within a couple of hours. Sometimes more like 6 opposing answers actually : ) Lots of people on bikeforums are nice and it really is a fantastic resource. But whenever I post there, I find myself constantly trying to control myself and not get into fights over something trite and ridiculous. Which is odd, because I am not normally easily provoked and I tend to be conflict-avoidant. But on bikeforums it's the same story every time: eventually I end up in some absurd argument with a 60 year old stranger from 1,000 miles away over the exact date a component was released, or some such thing. Why?..

    Walt D said...
    "you will NEVER have a blog that meets your vision of flowers, peace, kittens and calm. I ain't gonna happen.........."


    Oh come on, I'm not that bad. Rowdy kittens would be fine as well.

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  36. Interstatement - And I take offense with the anti-kitten, pro-puppy sentiments expressed here. Everyone knows that cats are the better cyclists.

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  37. Everyone knows that cats are the better cyclists.

    Possibly, but will a cat fetch your BQ for you when it comes in the mail?

    I have a total of 14 messages from readers expressing that sentiment. 11 of those are from female readers.

    That says something.

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  38. I have a total of 14 messages from readers expressing that sentiment. 11 of those are from female readers

    That says something.


    Small sample size?

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  39. Depends on how far reaching your conclusions are. N=12 is typically considered acceptable for a pilot study in the social sciences.

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  40. Depends on how far reaching your conclusions are. N=12 is typically considered acceptable for a pilot study in the social sciences.

    Well, it was meant tongue-in-cheek. But I would hope not very far beyond a grant application for a more in-depth study. Certainly wouldn't want to draw conclusions about the behavior of a larger population from an N that small. That's like predicting the results of a Presidential election from the Dixville Notch results.

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  41. Darn, and I was hoping for a brawl about acceptable statistical parameters : )

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  42. Actually, there have been a few cases where N=small (10-20) has been considered acceptable by the CDC to initiate Phase I clinical drug trials. This is usually for rare diseases for which the disease population is very small and for which there is a lack of existing effective treatments.

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  43. Velouria said...
    "Walt D said...
    "you will NEVER have a blog that meets your vision of flowers, peace, kittens and calm. I ain't gonna happen.........."

    Oh come on, I'm not that bad. Rowdy kittens would be fine as well."

    Well, maybe I did use to broad a brush here........:))))

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  44. What I have seen on bikeforums, and other forums as well, is somebody has figured out something that works for them, and since it works for them it will work for everybody. Therefor, if you have found a different way of doing it that works you are obviously in error and must be corrected and made to do things the correct way.

    Steve

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  45. Just looking through the replies to this post, I noted that the majority of those who have responded seem to be males. Of course, that's not taking into account the anonymous posters or those whose names could go either way (though even if they were all female, I believe the males still win the number count), but I have noticed a bit of a shift over the last, say, six months to a year of your postings. I suppose we could get into a debate over gender-related stereotypes or some sort of statistics regarding men, but I don't think that is necessary, nor really relevant. I'm just wondering if perhaps your demographic has changed slightly over time, and thus created what seems to some of your readers a bit more of a "charged" environment?

    I, myself, enjoy (at least for the most part) the conversations and comments that take place here, as well as your blog posts, so I hope that you won't reach a point of having to completely shut down commentary. I have found myself going back to past posts just to find information in the comments section. It truly can be valuable.

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  46. I'm giggling at the irony of you moderating comments on a post about moderating comments.

    Veloria, your blog is like crack. Sometimes I find your posts boring -- but not very often. I always come back. I hope the signal-to-noise ratio stays within your comfort level for a very long time.

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  47. GE - There has definitely been an increase in male readers over the past 6 months from what I can tell, for whatever that's worth.

    I wouldn't shut down the comments, because I like having comments. It makes writing more interesting for me, and I often get pretty good advice from readers on various topics - as I hope others do as well. The worst I can see happening, is that I will adopt a harsher moderating policy. But ideally, I wouldn't do that either, as I really don't want people to feel as if everything they write can be censored if it's not phrased just so. Also, it would just take too much frickin' time on my end. So hopefully, common sense will prevail and nothing will change.

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  48. Velouria, I enjoy reading your blog and refer to it often when I'm working on various bike projects. I sometimes wonder if you think I'm stalking your site. You always have fresh, new topics, which are very informative and keeps me coming back. But, I also learn from your readers as well and their comments and ideas are just as informative. So, with that said, I think you handle it all extremely well and your sense of humor usually brings everyone back on track. Keep up the good work and don't change a thing.

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  49. Geez, I worded my comment horribly. I meant that some of the SUBJECTS are boring, not the posts! Sometimes the subject is not something I am interested in.

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  50. I like the rowdy kittens blog, I just wish she would post more about bikes. That's what her book was about after all. I couldn't live without a fridge, I need milk in my coffee in order to get my eyes open so I can read LB.

    I have also gotten some.... less polite vibes from bike forums. I don't always read the comments here. It depends on the topic. I'm surprised at how much variation in tone there is depending on the day/phase of moon/topic.

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  51. I'm not going to speculate about the causes for any perceived shift, nor am i going to worry overmuch about whether or not i'm guilty of any needless contention. As someone who is both argumentative and polite, i'm just going to apologize if i've been too grouchy.

    As for bikeforums, well, I'm a male, and i've apparently been a member of BF since 2002. I've noticed that BF is made up of diverse ppl; some are antagonistic, others are gracious, and most fall somewhere in between. It can be abrasive on there, but it's far better than many public forums on the internet. Just check out the comments on youtube videos!

    However, most online forums related to a hobby or pastime become clogged with trends posing as "conventional wisdom", and dogmatic parrot-ppl supplying standard, forum-approved answers to common queries and discussions without a lot of empirical data. As with everywhere else, you get a lot of "do a search, ya stupid noob!" for almost every new thread. Apparently, ppl who read online forums with an extremely narrow focus (eg, C&V) hope to never see the same topic come up more than once, but they peruse it daily, click on a thread with a clearly familiar topic in the title, and then get surprise if it's another question re: rear derailers.

    In closing, I'd like to say that Lovely Bike is doing well with comments, until you regularly have to deal with comments like "Chuck Norris pwned Velrioa epic fail LOLZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1" I guess now, thanks to me, you do.

    -rob

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  52. As someone who contributed recently to some of the bickering, I am sorry. Oddly enough, I refrained from commenting on a subsequent discussion because I was afraid of it turning in a similar direction, and I also regret that a bit; I may have been able to add something useful if I had done so.

    Past bickering aside, Velouria, there is an option available to you that you may not have considered. If the comments on a post start to degenerate into bickering, especially if it is off-topic, you could disable comments for that post without preventing comments on other posts. That would not be the same kind of censorship as selectively moderating comments, and would not add significantly to your workload. You could even enable comments again after a short (or long) time to allow the participants to cool down and/or move on to something else, if you felt that was appropriate.

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  53. This is really fascinating! I suspect that women are particularly avoidant of confrontation, while men don't really consider it an argument until chairs are thrown :).

    Where I work, folks are very much of the "everyone be nice, all the time" vein. I am not very good at this. Not because I'm not nice: I am really, really nice. I'm just sort of tone-deaf to what other folks consider too strident an opinion or too passionate a response. I sympathized completely with kfg above: I never, ever mean to hurt anyone's feelings, but I find I often do (probably not here, fortunately).

    The great irony is that I know plenty of nasty, viciously gossipy people who are wonderfully adept at expressing themselves politely to one's face. The funny thing is that the teenagers I teach love me. I think teenagers, who the most talented liars on earth, can see through hypocrisy in an instant. Adults, on the other hand, seem to find being liked more valuable than being honest.

    Anyway, I suspect most folks here don't mean to offend. They may not even realize they're doing it. And mostly, I find if you tell folks your feelings were hurt, they're horrified and immediately seek to correct it. That has worked beautifully for me over at bikeforums. Of course, I'm not easily offended either.

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  54. Wassamatta. Ya gotta problem wid dat? ;-)

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  55. snarkypup - I am not sure how I'd place myself on the conflict tolerance continuum. I am actually pretty good at fighting and arguing when it's necessary, and my work environments have typically been mostly male, high paced, and competitive - sometimes viciously so, and I have always done well in those environments. But as I get older, increasingly I realise that there is a difference between being good at something and enjoying it. Just because I can argue and win, doesn't mean that need to do it, if I ultimately get stressed out by it or just don't have a good time. That is also part of the reason why I have been steadily withdrawing from my Career 1 over the past several years and transitioning to Career 2. I am good at the argumentative stuff, but that alone does not justify doing something I don't ultimately enjoy.

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  56. I agree 100% with doing what you love. I don't want to work in a competitve environment either (though my most competitive colleague is female :)). I just want to be somewhere where folks are tolerant of one another's differences of opinion. I think that's what we all aim for, ultimately.

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  57. If we're trying to keep things less confrontational, can we please steer away from generalizing the concept of "confrontation" as a gender issue? I see how confrontational tendencies could be related to gender, as well as other cultural influences (eg, age, occupation, socio-economic status, political tendencies, religion, geographic origin--I'm from NJ, so I'm bound to be a bit confrontational). However, i think this is mostly an individualized personality trait. If I'm confrontational, it is not b/c I'm male. IOf I weren't confrontational, I don't necessarily think that'd equate to being ladylike. It's 2011, and while i don't wish to be confrontational, I *do* want to take steps to minimize sexism any way I can.

    -rob

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  58. rob - It seems to me that you are confusing sexism with acknowledgement of difference. It is not sexist to say that women are different from men. What is sexist is to say is that this difference makes them inferior. There very much are valid gender differences in personality tendencies and in social interaction styles, and I (speaking as a psychologist who has taught courses on this stuff and so on) would say that the gender differences are stronger than cultural differences you describe. But I don't see how that's bad, or sexist - unless you believe that one style of interaction is better than the other.

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  59. people on the team estrogen forum always seem nice and helpful and i have not ever seen much drama there.

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  60. Anonymous said...

    people on the team estrogen forum always seem nice and helpful and i have not ever seen much drama there.


    Funny, I've found the same thing on MyTractorForum (very low estrogen content) and also on the menstrual support forum where (in therory) everyone should be in the worst mood and also on the DiaperPin where the moms are all sleep deprived and up to their arm pits in baby poop. I can't blame the difference in tone on age or gender or hormonal stability... It's just a different set of community values.

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  61. "...the menstrual support forum where (in therory) everyone should be in the worst mood"

    Haaaaaa : ))
    Thanks for that!

    (tractor forum?)

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  62. Veloria, you stated what I wanted to say regarding sexism perfectly, and with more professional chops than I'll ever have.

    If anything of value is being said, someone will eventually want to debate it. It's probably a compliment to you that your blog generates that sort of interest.

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  63. Re: distinctions between sexism and acknowledging "differences"...

    I am not "confusing" the 2 in regards to comments further up this page. I can see how acknowledging differences can at times be helpful, but most of the time it still ends up being divisive and is at times insensitive to ppl who do not conform to stereotypical norms.

    However, in the case of this article and (in particular) the comments that follow, the overlying issue at hand is that things have gotten confrontational in the remarks section, and that the confrontation sucks. Some ppl (I won't name names; it's all laid out above) have suggested that this suckiness may be the result of more male contributors. Although I hadn't used the term above, that *is* sexism.

    Now, at the risk of seeming insensitive myself, if a blogger wrote that his/her comments were suffering from too much prissiness, and some guy suggested that this pervasive prissiness issue may have been caused by more female contributors, how would y'all react? No one would even try to defend such statements with a comment about how prissiness has been statistically proven to be more prevalent among females.

    If some blogger complained that many readers had asked for the articles to be written on a more accessible reading level, we all know that it would be totally unacceptable for anyone to post that this may be caused by an upswing in readers of a lower socio-economic status, or of readers of any certain ethnic background, *even if these sorts of generalizations can be easily backed up with statistics.*

    Above, Veloria said that acknowledgment of differences between the genders isn't bad, unless you are presenting one as being inferior. I don't necessarily agree that this is true (I can't walk around my workplace, "acknowledging" differences between myself and co-workers based on primitive stereotypes without being fired, even if i i remain objective and neutral in these "observations"), but I'm not going to waste anyone's time arguing that, because in this case, we're talking about a post that is complaining about a certain trend on the blog that has been identified as a problem, and some ppl have suggested that the problem is caused by "male" tendencies. That does suggest "inferiority", insofar as it claims that males are the cause of the problem at hand.

    I'm not trying to offend (or bore!) anyone, but let's really consider what is being said by some of the contributors here.

    -rob

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  64. Hi Screech,
    I'm one of those folks referred to above. I think what we're not saying is not as opposed as you might think, and your post is a perfect example of what goes wrong on forums (or any place where text is the primary form of communication): I don't think I meant what you think I meant, but that's clearly what you heard me say :).

    All I meant is that men are often more comfortable with certain types of conversation, and women less so. I'm sure I heard some reputable statistics the other day on conversational styles differing for men and women, on men being more willing to argue through to a point and women working harder to reach consensus, and I heard it on NPR, and everyone knows they're always correct... ehem. It could just be that Veloria's perception of more argumentative posts here is the result of a changing readership. But I wouldn't say either style is "inferior."

    I actually like bikeforums, and other places where the primary contributors are men, because there's less parcing of sentences and worrying about tone (in general, of course) than on the forums I've visited where the majority of readers were women. I like dirty jokes, inuendo and the sort of remarks that would apparently get you fired :). Veloria can back me up on this one: she's been offended by stuff on bikeforums that makes me shrug, and generally it's been the overtly sexist stuff that makes her crazy. I find it amusing, but she doesn't. And we're both girls. That's probably why I haven't seen as many crude remarks about "racks" here as on bikeforums. :)

    I don't find the comments on her site argumentative, either, as I said waaaay up there. So inferior? Nope. I prefer this stuff to everyone trying hard never to offend anyone. But what doesn't offend me, drives other folks nuts. I do think there's a difference in the way men and women talk about things that they have strong opinions about, but vive le difference! I like it.

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  65. rob - I'll try to bow out of further commenting on gender issues, as to discuss this stuff in way I would find adequate is way outside of the scope of this blog. But snarkypup is right in that it has been demonstrated, repeatedly, that (on average, statistically, yadda yadda yadda) men and women prefer different styles of interaction. In fact, the differences I mentioned in the second half of the second paragraph in the post, are highly correlated with gender.

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  66. Velouria said...

    (tractor forum?)

    My Hubby had mild cerebral palsy and rides a lawn tractor to clear snow and mow the lawn since he can't walk behind a mower. Since we are... financially challenged right now, it is a older model. We hang out on the tractor forum to learn how to keep it running.

    On the other hand, we read bike blogs because he can ride a modified Norco Parklane to take the kids to the park or to get to work in the summer and compensate for limited walking ability over uneven terrain. Cycling as a mobility option for those with mild mobility disabilities is not a frequently discussed topic.

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