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Piecing together the Starlin Castro thread deletion
Posted: 20 February 2012 08:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 91 ]
tshipman - 20 February 2012 02:54 AM

People are angry not because there is a stated policy on only discussing baseball on this website, but because the thread was taken down by a site administrator who said something vitriolic about teachers and regretted it later.

Szymborski should not be an editor on the newsstand, because he cannot control himself on the political threads.  If you want to state that there shouldn’t be political threads on the site, that’s fine, but that’s not the established culture of the board, nor does it fit the types of articles that regularly get submitted.

That’s precisely the issue.  The Castro thread was going along fine. Dan and Jim can see the site’s traffic—they know that in the middle of February, the thousands of people sitting at work refreshing the site aren’t doing so in hopes of seeing if Dan has posted the 2012 Astros ZIPS projections.  This is a site whose traffic depends on its users generating content that’s interesting and compelling to the site’s visitors.  Dan’s “it’s my house” analogy is a Ted Stevens “the internet is a series of tubes”-level misunderstanding of community dynamics on the internet.  Without the high-volume posters here (and I’m not one of them), BTF isn’t a place anyone wants to visit more than a couple of times a week, at most.  Castro was business as usual, until Dan stepped in and 1) posted a really nasty and completely out of left field rant against public school teachers, 2) deleted his own posts, and those of another poster, 3) kept insisting that he had been threatened, after taking down purportedly threatening post , 4) erased the whole thread to hide all evidence of his progressive derangement.  In all internet communities, deleting someone else’s posts is considered really bad form, and if you’re going to do so, you’d better have a damn good explanation for it.  The fact that someone owns the servers has never excused them from community accountability.  Dan has never taken that power seriously, trotting out the same tired “my house, my rules” line every time, because the truth is his standards are arbitrary, capricious, and, worst of all, ideologically motivated.  Deleting 7000+ posts, posts that other people wrote and other members of the community have clearly stated they value, is an inexcusable abuse of power, and poisons the atmosphere in future conversations far more than any of the things actually said in the thread.  As someone who claims to understand the value of free speech, I shouldn’t need to explain this to him, but apparently he doesn’t walk the walk very well.  Dan’s response here has been to brand everyone who questions his actions a “troll” and again fall back on: “I don’t have to explain myself to the likes of you!”. 

Dan, your public meltdown here has been something to behold.  You’re really making ESPN proud.  I’m sure they’d love to see someone with your demonstrated level of emotional stability and self-restraint take on a more prominent role in their organization.

Posted: 20 February 2012 09:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 92 ]
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Temper is a temperamental thing.

Without naming names or the exact specifics, a few days ago, in a heated discussion, someone posted a statement that I took, and still take, as an implied personal threat, one that would have personal consequences for me.

In general, when an admin or moderator get into a personal dispute with someone on the site, something that inevitably happens when controversial topics are involved and big personalities disagree, the policy is to get a neutral admin to look at the situation and be a calmer, third-party voice.

In this particular case, I let my temper get the better of me. While I still feel that my reaction was justified, the actions I took were not.  As an administrator, my responsibility is to follow our policies, close the thread to new comments, and get Jim as a second opinion.  I did not do that - I lost my temper and sent the thread to Valhalla in a fit of pique.  Then, after seeing the negative, hostile reaction of a few people who I had previously been arguing with, I continued the pissing contest into another thread, ignoring the appeals of my kinder angels.

I will not apologize for my feelings or my opinions, but I do apologize for my actions. Posters, the vast majority of whom have no desire to get into flamewars, have to know that policies will be enacted fairly and objectively.  To those people, who simply want to talk about baseball in a pleasant environment, I humbly ask for your forgiveness. I am committed to learn from this mistake and will do better in the future.

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Posted: 20 February 2012 09:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 93 ]
Guapo - 20 February 2012 02:42 AM

I’m jumping in to defend Repoz as well.  The guy is by far the most prolific “contributor” to the site, in terms of submitting articles.  Like it or not, some of those articles are going to relate back to “real life” issues as well, and I don’t think it’s fair to Repoz, or beneficial to BTF, to expect him (or any other submitter, for that matter) to try and decide which articles are going to spur legitimate baseball discussions and which are going to go off-topic.

Just to be 100% clear, nothing I’ve written has been directed against Repoz.  I’m merely pointing out the obvious in saying that if the admins didn’t want off-topic or steroids / political threads to interfere with the purity of their vision, they could achieve this goal far more efficiently by reining in their employee than by bringing in a hacksaw after the so-called damage has been done.

Instead, they hire a person who spends much of his energy posting articles and columns that are clearly meant to encourage the exact sort of discussion that Dan professes to abhor.  Discussions which Dan himself has participated in time and time again.

Again, it’s hard to reconcile the policy with the practice, unless you look at the particulars of this latest thread.  And the underlying dynamic of the part that led to the deletion has Dan’s fingerprints all over it.  This isn’t just a case of the liberals seeking out a political opponent, either.  Several libertarians / conservatives here have noticed it as well.  The only people backing Dan up here seem to be people who think that political discussions have no place on a baseball site.  That’s their opinion, but it’s hard to imagine that the page views of all those “lurkers” (who far outnumber the active users) are visiting BTF solely to bone up on the latest Kansas City Royals ZIPS projections.  If I’m mistaken, and that’s what’s attracting them, then why are they paying Repoz to put up all those pinata posts?  It just doesn’t add up.

Posted: 20 February 2012 09:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 94 ]
Dan Szymborski - 20 February 2012 09:08 AM

Temper is a temperamental thing.

Without naming names or the exact specifics, a few days ago, in a heated discussion, someone posted a statement that I took, and still take, as an implied personal threat, one that would have personal consequences for me.

In general, when an admin or moderator get into a personal dispute with someone on the site, something that inevitably happens when controversial topics are involved and big personalities disagree, the policy is to get a neutral admin to look at the situation and be a calmer, third-party voice.

In this particular case, I let my temper get the better of me. While I still feel that my reaction was justified, the actions I took were not.  As an administrator, my responsibility is to follow our policies, close the thread to new comments, and get Jim as a second opinion.  I did not do that - I lost my temper and sent the thread to Valhalla in a fit of pique.  Then, after seeing the negative, hostile reaction of a few people who I had previously been arguing with, I continued the pissing contest into another thread, ignoring the appeals of my kinder angels.

I will not apologize for my feelings or my opinions, but I do apologize for my actions. Posters, the vast majority of whom have no desire to get into flamewars, have to know that policies will be enacted fairly and objectively.  To those people, who simply want to talk about baseball in a pleasant environment, I humbly ask for your forgiveness. I am committed to learn from this mistake and will do better in the future.

That sounds more like the Dan who took part in a very civil political discussion for the firs 99% of that thread.  Welcome back.

But as a practical suggestion, it might not be a bad idea for BTF to implement a policy that requires all three main employees (Dan, Jim, Repoz) to unanimously agree to any future thread shutdown.  That very well might have prevented this fiasco from ever happening.

Alternately, and here I’m speaking from a position of complete technical ignorance, it doesn’t seem that it should be impossible to temporarily delete a thread, park it offsite in a data base, and call a 24 hour timeout before restoring it.  But that’s a thought that only a tech person could address, not a technopeasant like me.

Posted: 20 February 2012 10:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 95 ]

Thanks, Dan.

Now if only I could somehow defend that the biggest reason I was upset was because my liveblog the Republican debate was lost.

Posted: 20 February 2012 10:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 96 ]
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Just in followup to my last comment, I wanted to throw out the “Josh Hamilton Relapses” thread as one that could easily have been characterized as off-topic or potentially inflammatory when it was posted (I’m not sure why that story would be any more or less relevant to baseball than the Castro story), but in the end, most people thought sparked a high quality discussion, as Primates shared their stories of addiction.  That thread could easily have gone off the rails the way the Castro thread did.  You just don’t know which way the group dynamic is going to take things.

Posted: 20 February 2012 10:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 97 ]
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Dan Szymborski - 20 February 2012 09:08 AM

Temper is a temperamental thing.

Without naming names or the exact specifics, a few days ago, in a heated discussion, someone posted a statement that I took, and still take, as an implied personal threat, one that would have personal consequences for me.

In general, when an admin or moderator get into a personal dispute with someone on the site, something that inevitably happens when controversial topics are involved and big personalities disagree, the policy is to get a neutral admin to look at the situation and be a calmer, third-party voice.

In this particular case, I let my temper get the better of me. While I still feel that my reaction was justified, the actions I took were not.  As an administrator, my responsibility is to follow our policies, close the thread to new comments, and get Jim as a second opinion.  I did not do that - I lost my temper and sent the thread to Valhalla in a fit of pique.  Then, after seeing the negative, hostile reaction of a few people who I had previously been arguing with, I continued the pissing contest into another thread, ignoring the appeals of my kinder angels.

I will not apologize for my feelings or my opinions, but I do apologize for my actions. Posters, the vast majority of whom have no desire to get into flamewars, have to know that policies will be enacted fairly and objectively.  To those people, who simply want to talk about baseball in a pleasant environment, I humbly ask for your forgiveness. I am committed to learn from this mistake and will do better in the future.

This is good to see.

Though I would add that IMO (again, for what it’s worth), generally speaking even just closing the thread to comments is not something you personally should be doing if the closure is directly related to your personal involvement in that thread.

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Posted: 20 February 2012 10:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 98 ]

Dan, just to be clear—I wasn’t engaging with you on anything political (in your whole exchange with Snapper, the sum total of my responses was a “+1” to your points about the problems created by national identity).  The only comments I made were on your decision to first delete the posts and then to disappear the thread.  And by your own admission, every comment I made on your motivation for deleting the thread looks like it was 100% accurate. 

This is a serious suggestion: if you’re concerned about your public reputation/perception, and you enjoy posting in the political threads (which is clear based on the sentiments you expressed in the Castro thread), just do so under another handle that shields you from obvious visibility—with a wink and a nod everyone here would know it was you, but, shy of doing some serious sleuthing, ESPN wouldn’t.  I work with students who have to manage their speech/identity online and the employers who are hiring them, and the main thing employers are concerned with is public appearance—they don’t care about objectionable behaviors and ideas, they care if those behaviors and ideas come up in a quick Google search or show up on twitter/facebook.

Posted: 20 February 2012 10:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 99 ]

Since we don’t get projections in Oracle anymore, it’s hard to see what Szym adds to the site that somebody less volatile couldn’t do.  Jim should fire him.

Posted: 20 February 2012 10:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 100 ]

but I do apologize for my actions.

You know, you could just restore the thread.

Posted: 20 February 2012 11:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 101 ]
Administrator

Although I plan on pampering my wife today to thank her for all her patience and understanding with me as I’ve worked so hard on the site the last couple of months, I want everyone to know that I take this topic very seriously. Based on Dan’s post and our conversations, I expect something good will result from this, such as opening a better dialogue between all of us, which I also hope will result in a better codification of the site’s editorial and moderation policies. I thank all of you for voicing your concerns and for taking personal responsibility for both your actions within the thread and for dealing with this issue in a calm, responsible manner.

Although some may complain about the topic being “ghettoized” by being in the Forum, this is a more appropriate place for the discussion. First, most people aren’t particularly interested in site meta-talk. Second, by having this, and future, discussions about the site in this forum, people will know where to go to have their complaints and wishes noticed, so their issues, whatever they are, can be resolved. Until recently, these types of things got lost in the ether. Things that I could fix or address went unnoticed and unresolved unless I stumbled upon a posted complaint within a random thread. Now, people will know where to go to get help.  Third, it will make it easier for me to get feedback about features and other site issues. Interested people can now easily find out whether a site bug has been reported, a feature has been requested (including their present statuses), and see whether others share their opinions about particular site issues. On top of all that, everyone will know that whatever they post here will be seen by me, the guy who runs the site, does all the coding, and ultimately makes the final decisions, the one and only true, tyrannical, petty dictator on the site.

Posted: 20 February 2012 11:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 102 ]
Dan Szymborski - 20 February 2012 09:08 AM

Temper is a temperamental thing.

Without naming names or the exact specifics, a few days ago, in a heated discussion, someone posted a statement that I took, and still take, as an implied personal threat, one that would have personal consequences for me.

In general, when an admin or moderator get into a personal dispute with someone on the site, something that inevitably happens when controversial topics are involved and big personalities disagree, the policy is to get a neutral admin to look at the situation and be a calmer, third-party voice.

In this particular case, I let my temper get the better of me. While I still feel that my reaction was justified, the actions I took were not.  As an administrator, my responsibility is to follow our policies, close the thread to new comments, and get Jim as a second opinion.  I did not do that - I lost my temper and sent the thread to Valhalla in a fit of pique.  Then, after seeing the negative, hostile reaction of a few people who I had previously been arguing with, I continued the pissing contest into another thread, ignoring the appeals of my kinder angels.

I will not apologize for my feelings or my opinions, but I do apologize for my actions. Posters, the vast majority of whom have no desire to get into flamewars, have to know that policies will be enacted fairly and objectively.  To those people, who simply want to talk about baseball in a pleasant environment, I humbly ask for your forgiveness. I am committed to learn from this mistake and will do better in the future.

dan
i appreciate your apology and taking responsibility for your actions (AKA manning up, but i don’t want to be sexist here). 

the trouble with people talking politics is that it is like drinking alcohol - you often have a real hard time knowing when you’ve gone too far or said things that can’t be unsaid

and pretty much, drunk or sober, folks don’t/won’t think how something sounds to someone else before they say it - especially when it is about a subject like politics, where opinions are not really about what you think but about who you are and disagreements (ahem) are not just an attack on an opinion but an attack on YOU.

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Posted: 20 February 2012 11:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 103 ]

Jim, Dan-

Thanks for the recent responses in this thread. 

Will this new “subscription model” allow for political and/or meta discussions to live on the mainland?  I feel like the presentation of the forums is particularly cumbersome for long threads, but pretty reasonable for short discussions.

Posted: 20 February 2012 11:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 104 ]
Jim Furtado - 20 February 2012 11:07 AM

Although I plan on pampering my wife today to thank her for all her patience and understanding with me as I’ve worked so hard on the site the last couple of months, I want everyone to know that I take this topic very seriously. Based on Dan’s post and our conversations, I expect something good will result from this, such as opening a better dialogue between all of us, which I also hope will result in a better codification of the site’s editorial and moderation policies. I thank all of you for voicing your concerns and for taking personal responsibility for both your actions within the thread and for dealing with this issue in a calm, responsible manner.

Although some may complain about the topic being “ghettoized” by being in the Forum, this is a more appropriate place for the discussion. First, most people aren’t particularly interested in site meta-talk. Second, by having this, and future, discussions about the site in this forum, people will know where to go to have their complaints and wishes noticed, so their issues, whatever they are, can be resolved. Until recently, these types of things got lost in the ether. Things that I could fix or address went unnoticed and unresolved unless I stumbled onto a posted complaint within a random thread. Now, people will know where to go to get help.  Third, it will make it easier for me to get feedback about features and other site issues. Interested people can now easily find out whether a site bug has been reported, a feature has been requested (including their present statuses), and see whether others share their opinions about particular site issues. On top of all that, everyone will know that whatever they post here will be seen by me, the guy who runs the site, does all the coding, and ultimately makes the final decisions, the one and only true, tyrannical, petty dictator on the site.

Jim, assuming I’m reading you correctly, I don’t think anyone objects to this particular sub-sub-thread having been taken here.  But speaking only for myself, I think that kowtowing to a handful of “this should be a baseball site only” Primates and moving political threads off the main page would be an absolute disaster for BTF.  I post in baseball threads all the time and lay off of many or most political threads, but IMO the distinctiveness of BTF lies in its variety of viewpoints on all topics, not just its sabermetric discussions, interesting and valuable as those are in their own way.  Do you really think all those lurkers and non-active members who pad up your page views are merely looking for statistical arguments? 

As a broader point, I think that history has shown us repeatedly that the link between sport and society is irrevocable.  If BTF had been around in 1947, should discussions of Jackie Robinson have been limited to his WAR or EqA numbers?  What about the question of how Tom Yawkey’s racism put the Red Sox in the tank for a decade and a half? 

My underlying fear here is that even as the founder and mastermind of this site, you sometimes don’t quite realize what makes it work so well and so distinctly on a community level.  That’s a harsh thing to say, and I hope I’m wrong, but take it as a sincere comment, and not a snarky one. 

And I’ll repeat once again:  If political discussions per se are the problem, a POV I strongly dispute, the most efficient way to abort most of these threads would be to speak to the person on your own staff who instigates the great majority of them.  Beyond that, the best way to deal with incivility is to encourage the use of the ignore button, rather than either deleting or ghettoizing discussions of any type, not just the political ones.

Posted: 20 February 2012 12:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 105 ]

I post in baseball threads all the time and lay off of many or most political threads

This has to be a typo. ;)

Beyond that, the best way to deal with incivility is to encourage the use of the ignore button, rather than either deleting or ghettoizing discussions of any type, not just the political ones.

This, this, a thousand times this.

Restore the damn thread already.  Dan “apologized” (not really, but that’s as far as he’s going to go) but it would be really easy to at least give the people back their 7000 post thread.  There’s hours of labor there; hours of time which have been stolen at the point of a mouse, as it were.

   
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