Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Hastily Thrown-Down Placeholder for a Later Discussion...

Yes, I have other stuff I need to be doing right now, so I can't spend the time on this which it deserves, but we need to talk about how to reply to comments.  One thing you don't ever do, is what ttyymmnn did to EMS here.*  If you enjoy a comment, particularly one which is deliberately subtle, don't reply with something that is little more than an explanation of the joke, and for the love of Tebow, don't tell a guy like EMS how you would have done his joke.**  If you can do the joke better that EMS - and unless you're one of MKM's alternate accounts, you can't - do it.

Anyway, a serious piece on this to come.  But I haven't had my coffee yet this morning, and I'm grumpy.

See you tonight.  Bring it today, everyone.

* MKM favorite Lionel Osbourne promoted the comment, so it is possible there is something clever in there that went totally over my insufficiently-caffeinated head, in which case, dreadfully sorry to all those involved in this example, but the point above nevertheless remains something we should all bear in mind.

** To underscore what I wrote last night again, because I really believe it is important: nothing is off limits, so if you can reply in a clever way which expands the joke and builds the pyramid of comedy by doing something similar to the example here, have at it.  Seriously.  But if you're just explaining to the original commenter how you could have done his/her joke better, tread carefully.


  1. I don't know, Mr. Gallego. I think EMS's joke would have been waaaaay better if it had also mentioned that Mike Piazza is gay.


  3. I liked when someone responded yesterday to Raysism's Joe Montana/SNL skit joke by posting an actual video of the SNL skit.

  4. Making jokes isn't funnyJanuary 19, 2012 at 12:29 PM

    I would have bought a small lake outside of Minneapolis and named it Lake Ost, put on a beret, drank a bottle of Chateau Margaux, drowned myself in the lake, and then had my wife scan my death certificate and post it in the comments. I just feel like if you're going to commit to doing jokes on Deadspin, you should go all the way, ya know?

  5. +1, IMG

    LO's promotion made me think he was being sarcastic. If not, I didn't get it either.

    That said, this is a fine example of the non-MBA criticism you're capable of. Instead of shitting on this guy who obviously is unfamiliar with how to comment on Deadspin (as we all were at one time or another), you gave him an education. Now, if ttyymmnn ever bothers to read this blog, instead of being discouraged from commenting in the future, he'll have learned what to do in this situation.

    Deadspin is the kind of place with a lot of rules, and many of them are unwritten. Pieces like this are helpful to the community.

    1. No. No no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no. What IMG is describing is not a rule. It is not an explicit rule; it is not an implicit rule; it is not a secret rule; it is not a slide-rule. It is obviously stupid and bad manners to reply to someone's joke by explaining it or correcting it, but it is not against any rule, written or otherwise.

      Deadspin has one rule: make good comments.

    2. Look, I appreciate your enthusiasm, but you're just splitting hairs here. Whenever somebody tries to make a normative declaration about Deadspin comments, we have to deal with responses like this "no no no no, just be good!"

      It's not helpful to prospective commenters to tell them to "make good comments". That's subjective. Deadspin happens to have a pretty narrow view, relative to the rest of the internet, about what constitutes a good comment.

      Take MaverickisAirborne's comment from the Taylor Hall thread today. Maverick is a starred commenter, and he got two +1s from other starred commenters. But it got moved by the ninja. That's the ninja's way of saying "Let's not do this." You can't argue that it simply wasn't funny, because there are tons of unfunny comments left in threads all day. It was moved to #poordecisionalley. Was it a good comment? I thought so, the Ninja didn't. It's subjective. There are rules.

    3. NoBot, thanks for the comment. I agree wholeheartedly and tried to make that point above with the bolded "nothing is off limits," but in case there was any confusion, I completely agree with your statement of the rule. My hastily written (hence the title) point was simply that a comment that simply says "I would have done it this way" is, as you correctly point likely to be both stupid and poor manners and unlikely to be the sort of good comment we all want to see. I actually was brainstorming some examples of where such a comment might be funny today - just to show that it could be done well, even if I don't think it was done well in this instance.

    4. Bronze Hammer, I wouldn't conflate the ninja's act of moving a single comment with a rule banning comments that involve [x]. Whatever your opinion of that comment may be, comments in a similar vein have done well and not been moved. I do not speak for them but I do not think the ninja wants you to think he/they laid down any sort of absolute rule today that outlaws a word or type of joke or style. They just moved a comment.

      For what it's worth (nothing) there are words I'd prefer to never see and do not find funny and that is one of them. But I would not hold out my own personal taste as a rule or expectation for others commenting on the site.

    5. IMG, I understand what you mean, but to a certain extent, you have to see that the Ninja can and does use his personal taste as a rule or expectation. That's not a criticism. He is projecting what is appropriate for all users and readers of the site, and his experience necessarily colors those expectations. It's impossible to be unbiased.

      The disagreement here is mostly semantic. What the Ninja and NoBot actually want to say, instead of "There are no rules besides 'make good comments'", is "There is nothing, as a rule, that cannot be a good comment". Those are different principles. The latter means that nothing is off-limits; I agree. But the former means that literally no comment that is good is inappropriate for the site. That's false. There are lots of good comments that are conversational, edgy, or sincere that are inappropriate for Deadspin. Sure, that's not what is meant by the Ninja and others, but that's my point. "Good comments" is so vague to new commenters as to be useless.

      If the whole point of not being overly critical is to not discourage new commenters, then we're overcorrecting by not being explicit when we do criticize. People that don't live for Deadspin commenting need to know the culture around it in order to be successful. They need to know their audience, and the expectations set for them.

      There are rules. We know this because we can all easily come up with a dozen different comments guaranteed to be moved or get us banned or destarred. There have to be rules. If "make good comments" is a rule, then "don't make bad comments" is, too. And there are a million ways to do that.

      Sorry for the huge comments, IMG.

    6. No. No no no no no no no no no no no no no no. The "good" threshold scales in proportion to the use of transgressive language or imagery. Of course it does. That's not a Deadspin rule. That's something that anyone and everyone lives with in day to day life. The cleverest construct in the history of language is bad if it exists in service to a poisonous idea: a joke had better be a fucking knockout to sell the idea that racist language is funny. To put across the use of a racist term that came into coinage as a description of Korean War victims with tire tracks on their faces? That joke didn't do it; it's doubtful any joke could.

      +1s don't make that joke good. That joke makes +1s wrong.

      The rule is vague because people are encouraged to find "good" wherever it exists, and to seek out new territory for "good." Declare explanatory replies categorically lame, and one of Deadspin's truly adventuresome commenters will find a way to hit one out of the stadium.

      There is only one rule: make good comments. All the same, you're being disingenuous by pretending that the ninjas and editors have never provided any guidance on what exactly "good" means. It's right there in the Manifesto; in the COTY articles; it can be gleaned by reading comments, by seeing what gets hammered, by being attentive, by not expecting for someone to come hold your widdle hand and instruct you on exactly what to say. By being a reader of the site and the comments, which is the absolute least that can be expected of those who intend to participate.

      New commenters should make smart, funny, original comments; they should strive to add something to the discussion. They should not make bad comments. Even the comment that gave birth to this blog post is not against any rule at all other than the one that says to make good comments. A reply that explains, corrects, or repeats the joke to which it is attached, but does it in a funny, original, smart way is a good comment, even if it ruffles the original joker's delicate feathers.

      Every day there are conversational comments that are not moved. There are edgy comments that are not moved. There are sincere comments that are not moved. What the ones that are not moved have in common is that they are good. What the ones that are moved have in common is that they are bad. Even on the busiest day, only a tiny fraction of the site's comments get moved or otherwise actively moderated: how's that for "a lot of rules"?

      This will always resist your efforts to triangulate it into some DaVinci Code of Deadspin. Make good comments. Do not make bad ones.

    7. I appreciate your frustration, I do. There are two problems here. First, it is almost impossible to discuss these things without people drawing the wrong lesson from it. Let's take a recent example. The Todd Haley thing is being absolutely butchered all over the place. It's lame, it's tired, and people are using it without any thought to make terrible comments. Does that mean people should stop making Todd Haley jokes? NO!!! Hell, I just made one a few weeks back that got a lot of love. It means, make good fresh original Todd Haley jokes. But it is very difficult to talk about these things without people getting the wrong idea and saying "so-and-so commenter criticized Todd Haley jokes, so I can never make one," which is the last thing anyone should be thinking. The second problem is, as I just pointed out, if you still ruling out specific content, words, themes, styles (other than "In Soviet Russia..."), etc., good jokes would get excluded. Anything can be used as an element in a good joke. If you try to draw an bold lines besides "good," the problem is that, by its very definition, you're cutting out good jokes.

      For what it's worth, I don't know that I've ever seen anyone banned, unstarred, etc., for a good joke that was moved for other reasons. Yes, good comments sometimes get moved by a ninja or an editor because it rubbed someone the wrong way. WalkOffHBP made such a comment a few months back. It happens. But WalkOffHBP is still around telling good jokes. Stick to making good jokes, irrespective of any other rules, and you'll do well here.

    8. Loving the Deadspine. Please don't be making rules. Rules are for bedroom, not for private internet lounge.

      And Many Congratulations on HOT BLOG IMG!

    9. @NoBot

      "The "good" threshold scales in proportion to the use of transgressive language or imagery. Of course it does. That's not a Deadspin rule."

      By this, I assume you mean "this is not exclusively a Deadspin rule", because you then go on to describe how it is, in fact, a rule at Deadspin. The joke wasn't good enough to justify use of the epithet, fine. That's a different rule than "it wasn't good." Even if you think it was bad, you claim that certain words and images will cause the jokes using them to be held to a higher standard, to justify their use. That's subjectivity, that's a different rule.

      And you're right, there is a lot of information out there about how to make good comments, including the manifesto and the comment section itself. This blog (and MBA) is another source of information. But it's useless information if all it says is "make good comments". There should be a high bar to figuring out what works, a trial by fire. But it's incongruous to suggest that everyone be encouraged and informed, and get so worked up over the language used to encourage and inform.

      And this: "Even on the busiest day, only a tiny fraction of the site's comments get moved or otherwise actively moderated: how's that for "a lot of rules"?"

      It works just fine, actually. Because to the extent that there are rules (things you can say that will guarantee a negative response from moderators, eventually - like even more provocative epithets, spamming the page over and over, impossibly large macros), there are tons of rules. And they would pass muster in other places. Ever been to Digg, Fark, other Gawker sites? That shit flies there, and that's where other people are coming from.

      If you want to say "Just make good comments" is the only rule, fine. We're arguing circles around each other. But consider whether that would make a good law in society. "Don't do bad things" is, technically, the only law. Everything you can come up with that would land you in jail is "a bad thing". But that's uselessly non-specific, which is why we have thousands of laws. People should know what's allowed and what isn't, if they're to be expected to succeed. For Deadspin, that doesn't come in a big law book, but it comes in conversations like these, and other posts and threads, where we can find out what other people think. Otherwise, it's just a joke rattling around in our heads.

    10. @IMG

      I understand the Todd Haley thing. I imagine that's what led you to remove the post earlier today. And I'm all for it. But what you're saying is "nothing is off-limits", and that's just not the same as "there are no rules". I totally agree that the most awful, terrible, dead to rights meme can be resuscitated with a good pun. Somebody (I forget who) made a Favre/board member joke that I giggled at in the last couple days. It happens.

      The problem is, as you rightly point out, how do we discuss these things without it being misconstrued as "that's off-limits"? It's a good question, and I'm glad I don't have to do it.

      But the whole reason I posted to begin with is because I thought you did a good job of it here. You said, basically, "Look - this isn't a good comment on its face. Here's where some errors were made." And pointed out - not why it was a mistake to try this type of comment - but why this one fell short. THAT'S what people need. If we want to increase the quality and quantity of comments, we can't just repeat a mantra. We (you guys) have to lead by example, and this is one way of doing it.

    11. Actually the board member joke was a Sandusky thing, but the Favre joke was also (obvious) penis related. Both elicited a chuckle.

    12. Thanks, man. I am just trying to make people laugh here. People shouldn't be taking notes or anything. But I'm glad you're taking something from it, even if that is sort of an unintended externality. I just want to make sure you understand that I'm not laying out rules for successful commenting or comments here. I'm just having some fun.

      Thanks again.

    13. @BronzeHammer @NoBot

      I don't want to step on IMG's toes here (which is why I'm not writing a long, long-winded piece on the distinction between "rules" and "wisdom" over on MBA right this minute), but it seems to me that BronzeHammer is sort of misunderstanding the way this works in real time.

      Think about what rules you might lay down if you were asked to make a list, and then think about whether those are actual "rules" at all. Think about whether any of them amount to anything other than "be funny" or "be good".

      For example, saying something like "you should stay away from old [bad] memes unless you've really got something original [good] cooking" is virtually indistinct from saying "don't be bad, be good".

      Similarly, a rule that says something like "lay off the low-hanging fruit" is basically saying "don't be lazy", and it's virtually impossible to be lazy and also think you're being "good" at the same time.

      See how this works?

      When we do thinks like try to define what makes a bad comment or, worse yet, write an entire blog whose purpose is mostly to rip apart "duds" [gasp], it can sometimes seem like there are rules, but truly, honestly, really, any person who genuinely follows the rule of "make good comments" and has enough brain-power to pull it off is going to intuitively understand the way that one rule operates, at least most of the time. Everyone screws up now and then, but the more we try to break it down and clarify it, the more we're being just redundant or, worse, inaccurate, and we wind up limiting a person's commenting options, which is totally counterproductive to the goals of the one rule.

      So there!

    14. Shitehawk, thank you so much for weighing in and setting forth the one rule with enviable clarity and accessibility. You da' man.

    15. @Miserable Shitehawk

      I'm obviously in the minority here, but as long as I feel like I'm not being understood, I can't help but beat this dead horse.

      I've already conceded that any rule you can concoct can be reduced (absurdly, IMO) to "Be Good, or Don't be Bad". That's not a Deadspin commenting truth. That's the way it is in our universe. It's the non-specificity of language. There are really only two normative judgements you can make about the world (Good, Bad).

      Even if I did come up with a list, it's true, that
      1. Don't endlessly repeat racial epithets
      2. Don't unnecessarily call the editors terrible names and post their home addresses and phone numbers
      3. Don't post a .GIF that takes up the entire comment section

      ..are all "bad" comments. They're not good, they're not funny, etc. But I take issue with your assertion that a detailed criticism of them is "virtually indistinct" from Deadspin's "One Rule". To use my analogy from earlier, can we reduce the law "Don't embezzle funds from a charitable organization" to "Don't be bad. That was bad."? Of course! But we don't. Why?

      Because when it comes time to explain to the perpetrator and to society at large, "Don't be bad" is a useless maxim. How can anybody be expected to be good if they don't know what constitutes a good act? They can see other people who don't go to jail, of course, and do what they did, but that's only part of the puzzle. And it promotes copycat commenting and overuse of memes and styles. The other part is knowing what did get people in trouble, and we can do that with criticisms like these.

      It's incredibly easy to "amount" any poor comment to a bad/good determination. That's going the wrong direction. You're eschewing more information for a vague mantra. That's impossible to deny. "Be good" has less information than "Don't call the editors assholes for no good reason, unless it's a very funny joke and is relevant to the post". In my view, more information is better.

      But if your purpose is to make people strike out on their own, to try their personal styles and see what happens? Then the propagation of this rule arguably does that. But that turns in a lot of junk comments. And I won't speak for anyone else, but using my own experience as an example, getting destarred/banned is a pretty big turn-off for commenting, especially if (again, my opinion here that many disagree with) there wasn't a super-detailed template for what's okay and what isn't. I came back because I like many of the people there, and I know how hard everyone works to make the comments high quality. But not everyone would do that.

      I just don't get it. Why promote this "One Rule"? Yes, it covers every possible commenting issue, in an incredibly vague and unhelpful way. Do you really think that only having one stated rule keeps commenters from branching out? I mean, we still have awful braindead comments that are not good. Many (new) people aren't thinking about how their comment fits in until after it's posted and/or moderated, praised, etc. Then they want to know why, and how to either repeat their success or find a better way.

      It's really not about whether not you can sift every comment on Deadspin into one of two boxes: Good or Bad. I guess we disagree about how many boxes there really are. That's okay. But my point is, if the commenters have a difficult time knowing why their comments ended up in either box (not simply that one box is where they ended up), then it doesn't make a lot of sense to sort them (or comment at all) in the first place.

    16. And yet, Deadspin continues to feature the best and smartest comments on the entire internet, despite only having this one vague rule.

      Maybe the problem is you?

  6. Real Lionel OsbourneJanuary 19, 2012 at 7:54 PM

    Yeah, I promoted it because I wanted to say something to the guy about threadjacking (which I hate), but I just got too lazy and didn't feel like being called out by the Ninja.

  7. But you can't hold a whole commenteriat responsible for the behavior of a few, sick twisted individuals. For if you do, then shouldn't we blame the whole concept of taking two words out of context to make a tortured joke? And if the whole system of taking two words out of context to make a tortured joke is guilty, then isn't this an indictment of self-perpetuating websites linking to sports-related minutiae? I put it to you, Greg - isn't this an indictment of our entire Gawker-based brand of triviality-based time-killers? Well, you can do whatever you want to us, but we're not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth Nick Denton. Gentlemen!