Thursday, July 5, 2012

An Open Letter to Nick Denton ... So, About Those Burner Accounts

Hi Nick,

Can I call you Nick?  I know it's not Ned, but hopefully it's cool for someone you've never heard of to address you so casually.  It's a sign of friendship and trust, and you know what, Nick (I can call you Nick, right?), I do like you.  I respect you for recognizing that America's insatiable appetite for all manner of tabloid reporting would combine with the Internet to produce megabucks way before those no talent assclowns at TMZ or figured out.

Let's talk about those burner accounts.  On Deadspin, which is the only one of your sites whose comments I consume on a regular basis, they've been dreadful.  They bring out the worst dregs of internet commenting.  They discourage regular commenters from contributing for the same reason graffiti and litter might discourage you from visiting a park.  They suck.  And I'm not sure they add anything.

Now, the stated reason for their existence is they make it easier to leak to you guys.  That's a noble and worthwhile end, but the means are - how do I say this while maintaining the friendly respectful tone I'm looking to strike here? - not entirely logical.  First, let's start with the general proposition that anonymously leaked information in the comments section of a weblog, or webalog if you will, is unlikely to be as reliable as, for example, a person's description of themselves in a classified ad in the Weekly World News.

Second, if there is someone who is interested in leaking meaningful information anonymously, wouldn't you think that they might prefer a more discrete location than the most surgically dissected comment section(s) on the Netwebs?  The chances of detection just go sky high if your information is made public in its raw form, rather than filtered by editors and republished in their own words and combined with their own research.  I've known a few anonymous whistleblowers in my day, and most are beyond paranoid about revealing any detail that might give away their identity (again, that's supposedly the point of the Burners to begin with), so writing it in an extremely public forum would probably not be a significant incentive to come forward.

Third, whether intentional or not, you have now chosen to place your long-standing commenters at something of a disadvantage relative to these anonymous folks.  When I joined Deadspin back in the stone ages of 2009 or so, the site didn't require any info from me.  Now, every one of us is forced to link our accounts to a twitter or google or Facebook account, making us far more identifiable.  If we want to retain any goodwill we've built up over the past few years - and we're told that historic goodwill does play a role somewhere in the Powwow/Kinja algorithm - we need to use these publicly linked accounts.  Meanwhile, some new reader off the street can come in and comment without any of these hassles.  That's fine, mind you, but it should at least be an option for us regular commenters, too.  (Not that I care if you know I'm @ironmikegallego on twitter.)

Fourth, and this is where I think we get into it, there's really no good reason to combine an anonymous leaking public forum - even if there were interest in publicly leaking things anonymously, as counter intuitive as that may be - with a general commenting account whose purpose is to respond to existing articles with jokes or clever insights.  We used to - and may still - have a #tips forums.  That would make a fine spot for these anonymous reports.  Why should they be limited to leaks that relate to a given story, after all?  Wouldn't the best leaks be completely unrelated to anything you're already covering?

I think the only sensible reason to have Burner accounts is to encourage anonymous drive-by commenting.  People who never would have taken the time to make a real account, and yes, people who never could get past the approval hurdles in the past, can now just come in and comment willy-nilly.  And, maybe this too is a worthy end.  If it increases site traffic and revenue, more power to you.  It's your sandbox, we all are just playing in it.  But to quote Thomas Aquinas, "don't pee on my shoe and tell me it's raining."  You've made your feelings about commenters clear.  You didn't think there were a lot of Nobel Prize winners who cared about their stars and making snide jokes.  But there a few of us who have done some interesting stuff and who appreciate being treated like adults. * If you plan to monetize our contributions - and more power to you if you can pull that off - at least be honest with us about how you are doing it.  We're not your enemies.  We're your friends.  We're your biggest fans.  We're the people who are addicted to your product.  You don't have to kiss our ass, but there's no need to kick us in it either.

Anyway, just take this for what it is:  A prolix haphazardly-typed screed from someone you've never heard of that you will never read.

Also, what does AJ smell like?  Is it a mix of Axe body spray and Top Ramen?  That's always what I figured.


Your pal,


* Edited because it made me sound like much more of a whiny bitch than I intended, whether that was an accurate depiction or not.


  1. Guy who tackles the big issuesJuly 5, 2012 at 8:22 PM

    Your butt smells like old broccoli.

    1. Dude, I fucking love broccoli.

  2. Oh man, that's great.

  3. This is the only time I'll use this meme and actually mean it 100%:


  4. GuyWhoIsBadAtHecklingJuly 5, 2012 at 8:34 PM

    Are you a burner IMG? Because this just leaked out of your butt! BURN.


  5. +1 for the letter, and +1 for webalog.

  6. P.S. You're welcome for six years of free content!

  7. "Not Ned" is Denton backwards.

  8. I don't have to tell you how spot on this is. No one who has anything worth "leaking" (which is something I'm not sure ever applied to Deadspin in the first place) would do it in the comments. They're going to want compensation, or they're lying, etc.

    And it's not like there's a post everyday that says "Hey Leak Your Stuff Here" -- so where are they going to go? In the comments of another, random post? So, in order to draw attention to it, there will be...a separate post, with editorial verification and input, right? So how is that different or better? Tips and e-mail were more than sufficient, and even if they weren't, was it worth destroying the comments over?

    Make money off us, take our information, fuck up the commenting order, fine. But take away the anonymous stuff (and give the Ninja his balls back, while you're at it.)

  9. The only way you guys are ever going to come close to being taken seriously is if you stop commenting. I know that sucks because it's a big part of your lives and you love it, but, if your girlfriend grows into a person you don't like anymore, you breakup with her, right? If this blog is your union, time to take the next step.

    - a longtime fan of yours who actually started reading this silly blog because I missed your jokes

    1. Hi, thanks for stopping by.

      I appreciate your note, but there's a few things I do want to clarify:

      (1) I don't want to be taken seriously. Seriously. This blog started as a gag. It grew into a place to make jokes, and that's all it ever was to me, and all I ever want it to be. If people want to use it as a mouthpiece for serious opinions, it doesn't bother me, but it's never something I wanted for it. This note was half tongue-in-cheek, half after-work diversion. It was not a sincere plea from my heart.

      (2) I like commenting on Deadspin. I don't love the infusion of trash from burner accounts, but I'm not going to let that dictate what I do. I'm just there to make dumb jokes that mostly go ignored.

      (3) To whatever extent I show up around here, I'm going to try and stick to making jokes, so please keep coming back. I'm not asking the current editors to do the same. I tried to kill this thing off months ago and Marv and CJ brought her back. It's their baby now, I just still happen to have the keys and some free time to kill.

      (4) Please please please do not let anything prevent you from reading, commenting, and trying to make funny jokes on Deadspin. We need more good commenters there now, not fewer. We need to make the trolls the minority. We still have the talent base. Let's do it.

    2. [jumps out of chair]
      [rips shirt off]
      [looks around]
      [quietly sits back down]