Note to the commenters -

Note to the commenters


First off, calm down. Don’t read that as “please calm down”—we’re not asking anymore.

For some reason I’ll generously assume to be a combination of cabin fever and excitement at the onset of spring, things have gotten way too heated and way too personal on the comment boards. It has to stop. You’re driving us nuts.

I understand us web editors may be partly to blame for the confusion over what’s allowed and what isn’t. The truth is there are no hard and fast rules (except, of course, those forbidding content that might get us sued). Sure, we expect civility and good humour and a modicum of intelligence from all of you, but even those rules can be bent a little here and there.

What it comes down to is this: if we think a comment is having a destructive influence on a discussion, we’ll delete it. That’s it, that’s all. This is, of course, an entirely arbitrary rule, and some individual bloggers are bound to have different tolerance thresholds than others. Don’t hold your breath expecting that to change. There’s a reason the overwhelming majority of the discussions here are smart and informative, and we think our (mostly) hands-off approach has a lot to do with it. For the most part, giving everyone the benefit of the doubt has worked well so far and we’re hoping this gentle kick in the behind will set everything straight again. (But don’t kid yourselves: there’s a Plan B if it doesn’t.)

Our other message goes out to those who’ve taken to baiting us into being more aggressive than we’d like to be by overusing the “Report” button every time their feelings get hurt. You know who you are and so do we. Quit it. It’s annoying and we’re not going to tolerate it much longer.

In short, think of the boards as an open-house party—everyone’s welcome and encouraged to mingle, but no one has a right to be there. We will always reserve the right to kick people out of our house when they get too bothersome. You’d do the same at your place.

Sound good?

I’ll be hanging around in the comments if you’ve got any questions.

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Note to the commenters

  1. Oooh, just in time…I was starting to tune out!

  2. I've probably reported six or seven comments over the years – usually when I think a comment has crossed some sort of line (but never in terms of hurting my feelings or anything – there's been a few slurs tossed at Mitchel Raphael that I flagged, for example). My intent is always to use the feature as an "FYI" for you guys – not to demand banishment or express rage. Apologies if I've needlessly added to your woes, though.

    My suggestions for fellow commenters would be that we ask more questions of, and make fewer assumptions about, each other. (Also, when someone is really p*ssing you off, just imagine they're speaking in the voice of Cartman, Yosemite Sam, or Sam the Eagle – it does wonders for the blood pressure.)

    Lastly, a question: have you ever considered a format where commenters aren't anonymous? I can't help but think that would take care of a lot of problems.

    • With regard to your last point, I absolutely agree. Anonymity is a significant issue. How you enforce the use of a poster's actual name, without getting into a convoluted identification and authentication scheme, is a problem but anyone who is not using their real name is, …well, basically a coward.

      • basically a coward

        Or, concerned for their personal safety when expressing unpopular opinions. Or potentially subject to petty revenge in the workplace, say, for having Incorrect political beliefs. Or just a proponent of free expression for its own sake, disconnected from personal reputation. Why turn it into a machismo thing, hm?

        • Anonymity on the Internet is often as cultural as it is practical. For old-school websurfers like myself, taking a nom de guerre was as basic and fundamental a part of my online identity as my actual name is to my real life one.

          After this many years and a, if I do say so myself, non-trivial amount of attention under this moniker, I'm not anonymous in any meaningful sense. As long ago as five years ago, a guy upset about something I wrote on Wikipedia posted my name, e-mail address, telephone number, and what I was studying with the school I was studying at in a big list. I made a semi-sarcastic comment to this effect on this very site a few months ago, and a commenter responded by posting my name.

          A lot of you are, I suspect, in the same boat.

          So why do I post as "Lord Bob" rather than "Ben Massey"? Because Ben Massey is who I am in the world of meat and oxygen. It sounds weird, but there we are.

      • The practice for years in many places on the 'net was (and is) to give away as little personal information as possible. This is a perfectly good and reasonable practice, since basically anything that ends up on the internet borders on impossible to remove and is easy to search for. And anyone can do the searching, from marketers to stalkers: anyone who wants to know something about you can find it out pretty easily.

        It has nothing to do with cowardice and everything to do with a different set of standards than what you're used to.

    • Lastly, a question: have you ever considered a format where commenters aren't anonymous? I can't help but think that would take care of a lot of problems.

      Actually, that's part of the problem. People who use their own names have a tendency/right to take things personally. And I can't help but think that some comments posted by some individuals under their real names will come back to haunt them in the future.

      Ask Tiggy. He's reincarnated himself many times – and I personally am glad he has – overall he's entertaining, and it only takes a while to figure out his multiple names (besides what else is he going to do with his spare time at work – watch YouTube videos?)

      (Btw I personally am very sympathetic to individuals who have had their personal e-mails quoted in public without their permission.)

    • I agree except for the part about anonymity. As it stands, if my employer, who can only be described as a right wing nut job new I leaned ever so slightly to the left he'd turf me in a heart beat. Quite frankly, as long as the moderators are following their own guidelines, personal attacks should never be approved, this includes a few posts by Inkless himself.

    • "My intent is always to use the feature as an "FYI" for you guys – not to demand banishment or express rage."

      That's exactly how we'd like the feature to be used.

      In fact, the vast, vast, vast majority of regulars around here often do an outstanding job of publicly smacking down the moronic posts that come up from time to time that we don't even have to bother deleting them. And, for the most part, the stuff that gets flagged is for good reason. The problem recently is that the minority of comments reported for no good reason has been growing at an exponential rate and we wanted to remind everyone they're smarter than that.

      As for anonymity, that's a good point. I honestly don't know what impact making people register would have and I'm open to reading everyone's thoughts about it.

      • Having the Maclean's IT folks and Comment Police (and I say that affectionately) know who I am and what I post is not a great concern to me.

        Having other posters – who, on another board, have indeed tried to hunt me down – know who I am, is a concern.

      • The more I think about it, registering probably wouldn't change things much (I assume you can block folks when you want, and that highly motivated individuals can nevertheless find their way back in easily enough.) I find little benefit in reading the comments on the CBC site, and they have registration.

      • "As for anonymity, that's a good point. I honestly don't know what impact making people register would have and I'm open to reading everyone's thoughts about it."

        I think it would be a big mistake. A lot of us have legitimate concerns about job/academic repercussions because we hold politically incorrect views. Also, unlike Macleans, we do not have a corporate entity to protect us if some nut files a complaint with the HRC about something we've written. It's all too easy to have one's life ruined that way, and anonymity is currently our only protection.

      • Even if we're posting with our real names most of us will still be effectively anonymous, I suspect; no one else on here will know us or ever come in contact with us.

        Besides, anonymity means that for the most part we're all on an equal playing field as commenters; we're judged solely by our comments rather than by who we are. I'd say that's a huge plus.

      • vast majority of regulars around here often do an outstanding job of publicly smacking down the moronic posts

        The fact is, I tried to smack down an offensive comment and that erupted a monstrous temper tantrum. So I disagree that that the majority of commenters are goof at policing. I've also noticed that the nastiest comments directed towards Wells or Steyn are generally not criticized, the most obvious example being a very recent one.

    • Using one's real name is fine if one holds the prevailing views of the day.

      For those of us who hold unpopular views, anonymity is the only thing standing between us and career/academic/HRC repercussions. In a free society I'd be all for using one's real name to stand behind one's statements, but in our society doing so is the fastest way to eliminate one side of the discussion.

      We don't have a corporate entity to stand between us a a long-drawn legal battle, and it's all too easy for someone to throw HRC complaints at us that they won't have to pay for no matter what the outcome. In that situation lives get ruined.

      • It's not just an issue for "one side" of the discussion.

        I'm confident that my views on abortion hold for at least a plurality, if not a majority of Canadians. But I know how my evangelical boss feels about it. If I stood behind my views using my real-world identity (as opposed to the pseudonym I use here) it would have an immediate and severely negative impact on my career.

        • I don't mind using my real name. I try to be respectul and not to preach my beliefs onto others. I disagree with many and I have been called an idiot once or twice but never reported anyone because the way I see it everyone is free to believe whatever they want.

          I love commenting here, the only place I do it, this is my guilty pleasure I look forward everyday to a few free moments to indulge in my political addiction.

          I hope Paul Wells changes his mind because I LOVE him, well, his blogs and articles, please reconsider!

  3. Paul Wells has been part of the problem. His recent articles and posts have been very personalized and insulting for the people he's reporting on. In the comments themselves, he engages primarily to insult commenters and prefers to comment on the most inflammatory and least useful comments on these boards. Since attention from the Macleans authors is the main reward to posting here, this has had some unfortunate effects. It's great that you're giving some thought to how to poiice the boards but you and he, and perhaps the rest of the team, might want to consider how your engagement on the boards influences behaviour.

    • I think you're misunderstanding the dynamic here. Paul (or any other blogger) is entirely free to engage with the commenters however he likes and to write whatever he (or his editor) likes. In fact, that's pretty much his job description.

      Of course, you're free to call writers out on what they've written—hell, you can even develop a personal dislike for them if you want. But the only people who'll be deciding what gets published here are the writers and editors. That's non-negotiable.

      • Then why bother with this at all? If this type of user-generated content has any value other than clicks for advertising revenue, the users themselves are generating it. Quite often, it's superior to what the paid staff themselves have managed to come up with (and I'm sure is considered as added value in terms of content and usefulness for the writers), but in any case, it's not a one-way street.

        In any case, individual bloggers should police (or moderate) their own blogs more consistently.

    • Attention everybody!!!

      Style is Paul Wells. They are the same person.

      See how easily Mr Wells caved. It's all a not-very elaborate trick intended to supply an excuse to not blog. And you people fell for it. Suckers!!

      In fact, I suspect most of the comments here are generated by Macleans' staff. Probably using remote computers and advanced hand-held computing devices. It's a plot to prove McLeans' relevance in the upcoming, lucrative Web 2.6 age. It's the phat tail becoming the middling middle. Pure marketing.

      Nothing will convince me otherwise. Nothing.

      • This is so crazy… I don't even understand.

    • Wells's style is, or should be, well known – he doesn't suffer fools gladly and has no hesitation in calling them as he sees them. But when a commenter he has flamed takes exception because it was unjustified, he does not hesitate to apologize, as he did in my case not long ago.

      • My apologies – I've been reminded that it was Coyne, not Wells who retracted their flame of one of my comments. I have no doubt, however, that Wells would do the same.

    • Also can we discuss how pathetic this statement is:

      "Since attention from the Macleans authors is the main reward to posting here, this has had some unfortunate effects."

      really? Is this true??? I mean, that's just.. so lame. I love arguing and procrastinating school work…. but I'm not sure if I can still 'blog' here anymore without losing my self-respect.

      • So, you don't post against Andrew Coyne's blog and then hurry to watch the next At Issue segment, anxiously waiting to hear Andrew say "Well, Peter, some guy that goes by the username of hardmouth on the blogs made a very interesting point which has completely changed my thinking on this matter…"?

  4. Any chance we could get Wherry to ratchet down the snark, too? That might help…

    • Unfortunately, a good chunk of his blog is verbatim quotes from politicians. Alas, the snark is here to stay.

    • What's wrong with snark?

      • I think snark is a good spice – used sparingly. But it makes for a lousy entree. Constant sneering is juvenile. Having said that, Wherry watchs ALL of Question Period, EVERY day. It's got to be hard to rise above that.

    • I think Wherry's snark is of the finest quality. What's the problem?

      • I strongly second this.

        • me three

          • I`ve always thought Mr. Wells was more smarmy then snarky.

          • There`s no crying in blogging.

            I don`t post here very often but when I do I can generate negative reaction almost as good as Biff. So what. Who cares. As long as I don`t recognize the writing style of one of my kids.

            I just think everyone should lighten up. Check your egos, Make a joke.

  5. Wherry hardly ever descends to the comment boards. What do you mean?

    (And some of the most derisive sneers from commenters tend to be directed at Wherry too, I'd add.)

    • I mean in his blog posts. Consistently snarky posts, no matter what issue is being discussed, fuel an atmosphere of uncivilized conversation on the whole website.

      • His snarkiness is amazing and always well-deserved. There's no need to respect stupid ideas.

      • In addition to being too snarky, is Wherry also in your house, twisting your arm behind your back and forcing you to read his posts?

        • Didn't say I was forced to read them. Said that they lowering the quality of the discussion. Learn to read.

          • I see now. Just discussing Wherry seems to be making you snarkier.

            He's more droll than snarky, anyway. And his QP sketches are brilliant pieces of prose.

  6. Here's a thought "Style". How about you use your own name. Paul gives and takes snark in equal measure, but at least we know who he is.

    Who are you?

    • How is that relevant? Style's pseudonymity has precisely zero impact on Wells' self-control, and he makes a valid point: if the management doesn't want trolling in the comments, then the magazine's actual employees could rightly be held to a higher standard of behaviour than is presently the case, for the sake of setting an example.

      • Perhaps people would be less strident and personally offensive if they were not anonymous. I am at a loss to think of what opinion someone could voice here that would lead to personal, employment or academic retribution. Unless, of course, you are doing this from work on company equipment?

        • I don't know about Canada, but in the U.S. people have been fired from their jobs for having the wrong political party's bumper sticker on their car in the company lot. Plenty of people I know of have had to have restraining orders issued after people they've parried with online have discovered who they are and begun coming at them in real life.

          You may be at a loss to think of what opinion someone could voice here that would lead to personal, employment or academic retribution, but isn't the point that the free exchange of information on the net is that much more free when people don't need to worry about how what opinions they voice might get them in trouble in the real world? The fact that it's both rare and unconscionable for someone to be fired or otherwise personally harmed for expressing a controversial opinion in public doesn't mean it doesn't happen, nor, more importantly, that people don't have a right to be concerned that it might, and to take preemptive action against the possibility.

          Now, TRULY anonymous commenting, where the commenter is identified simply as "anon" is annoying. However, if you're going to ban pseudonyms, you're going to be left only with two kinds of commenter. People too crazy to care about what other people think of them (or do to them as a result), and people too pedestrian to express any meaningful opinion whatsoever. People can track my comments, tell when I'm being hypocritical or contradicting myself (never!, lol) get some sense of who I am, and where I'm coming from, but not super easily email every political opinion I have, however controversial, to my boss. I'm not totally paranoid mind you, and if one went over all of my comments one could probably even figure out who I am, but there'd be at least a minimum level of investment involved. I'd also have little objection to providing "real world" information to Macleans for their own purposes, as long as there were appropriate safeguards in place to protect my privacy (I'm not worried about seeing Wells outside of my apartment at 3 in the morning smoking a cigarette, but some of you folks are pretty sketchy).

  7. While there certainly is a "line" that shouldn't be crossed, and anyone with moderation powers should enforce that line, my view of the whole thing is that it's just the internet and we shouldn't take insults/disagreements from people we don't know very seriously.

  8. You’re too kind. On yourselves!

    To my fellow commentors:

    Maclean’s has been completely hands-off about my blog M4dummies. I think there’s room in the blogoshpere for
    M4nitwits, M4agondkickintheass, M4liberals,

  9. If can get it only control it would be greatly appreciated. Unfortunately, dialogue has been replaced by snipping.

    I think a good start would be to ban the words "leftards", "con-borg", "LIEberals", "lefty-pinko-commies", etc.,

    Also, maybe we should try using people proper names … know Harper instead of Tubby, Ignatief instread of egg-head, and may be Layton as apposed to Tailban Jack.

    Lets focus on the issues and putting collective brains on find potential solutions to our most pressing problems.

    • I'll agree to that.

      I'd also add that we should no longer "goad" other commenters to post comments. For example, when a blog post puts the Tories in a negative light, it usually takes about 5 comments before someone says "where's Jarrid/wilson/etc? Probably haven't got their talking points from Tory HQ yet!" Or some variation thereof.

      • I agree with your idea in principle, though I suspect that happens because there's a consciousness that there are certain commenters who are paid to write a certain way.

    • Speech codes don't work.

    • Block words doesn't serve much purpose; the attitude is the issue. You aren't going to change attitudes by blocking words.

  10. Coward is too strong a word. Not everyone wants an offhand remark posted on a blog to come back and haunt them at a job interview or that sort of thing. I suppose some might worry about a stalker being able to find them in real life. Others enjoy having an on-line alter ego of sorts – and are able to do so without being rude.

    • It's the off-hand, ill-considered remarks that are part of the problem.

      I'm not suggesting that commenters post their addresses or phone numbers. In any event, I think women walking down the street have more to fear from stalkers than do commenters to this blog.

      As for alter ego, we aren't little kids here for personal amusement. If anyone needs an alter ego, there are any number of on-line RPGs to satisfy his or her urges.

      • I've been posting to the internet, under my own name, for over 15 years – lgarvin is simply a contraction of my full, name Lawrence Garvin – I used to run a (very) modest blog under that name as well. I think the fear of internet "stalkers" is overblown and self-perpetuating.

        Besides, using your own name really does impose a modicum of restraint even when things get heated. No-one really wants their name attached to a full-blown, spit-flecked, eye-bulging meltdown.

        • But doesn't the possibility exist of harassment. Take the commenter Robert M [ god i've already forgotten his name:)] I noticed he was taking a lot of flack on occasion when he had accusations of anti-semitism thrown in his face. Of course i have no dea if they were valid.[ altough i doubt it] Is this the price we might have to pay? Personally i'd much rather we weren't anonymous, as i tend to the view it encourages a sort of i'm not really responsible for what i say, since it's not really me is it.

        • Holy smokes, spit-flecked AND eye-bulging, that's got to be bad. ;-)

          • It's all good until your head starts spinning around in circles… that's when you've gone too far.

        • Of course, that didn't stop Garth Turner from banning him. I'm old enough to remember.

          • I wear that banning with pride… Turner didn't like my persistent questioning on his use of ten-percenters and his parliamentary travel budget.

    • Also, when I become Prime Minister in 2036, I don't want my political opponents digging through my old blog comments for stuff they can use against me.

      • I was going to say something similar, but couldn't find a way to do it without sounding dumb. Seconded.

      • Judging by the nature and contents of your blog posts, I'm confident that you wouldn't actually have any difficulty in defending yourself……..well, as long as you were given the opportunity to review the context of the quote that had just been thrown back at you.

        True for pretty well all of us really.

      • Would that be a puppet regime?

  11. I'm fascinated. What sort of workplace are you in? And free expression disconnected from personal reputation seems pretty insubstantial.

    • Honestly your just proving his point. Some people just want to keep their personal information, personal.

    • In a world where the US government monitors over half of all e-mail and long-distance telephone correspondence, the right to anonymity is pretty important.

      • Jim,

        NSA knows who you and I are (or could easily find out). They can easily find the real names and addresses of commenters to this blog.

        The issue isn't anonymity with respect to any government, the issue is civil discussion. Why should people expect more privacy on this blog than on the radio, or tv, or the letters to the editor page of a newspaper? If you comment publically, then you should agree and prepare to be identified if necessary. The only exception to this should be "whistleblowers" or anonymous sources.

        Commenters shouldn't expect unusual protection on the internet.

        • How? All you need for an ID name is an email address. Google provides those free of charge, and you can use public access points or an IP anonymizer to ensure that nothing you say is ever traced back to a real person. I mean, unless you're saying the NSA is going to set up cameras around every Starbucks wireless access point.

          Myself, I use Thwim because my work involved/involves the public opinions of an(or various) organizations. While I may share, or not, some of the opinions that any particular organization I've been involved with may hold, I'm sure they do not want my personal opinions being touted as representative of them.

          Plus, without the complex identity verification you speak of, why on earth should anyone believe that the alias "Richard Osborne" is actually connected with a real person named "Richard Osborne"? Because you say so? Anybody who grants me more respect because I've logged in under the moniker "Timothy Van Hutton" or "Miranda Delentis" because it looks like it's real is simply a fool.

          • Then it requires complex verification, unfortunately, to enforce. Or a full-time moderator. Unless you have a better idea.

            The point is, without a degree of goodwill, transparency and trust, this "discussion group" will turn into something approximating the current HoC. I believe that is what Monsieur Gohier is trying to address and, one way or another, it will require cooperation on the part of the commenters.

            I don't mind if anyone knows who I am because I try to behave somewhat rationally when I post here, and I'm prepared to own what I post. Others seem to be more concerned about their anonymity.

            Therefore, it seems to me, they should be prepared to offer some suggestions to address what appears to be a problem rather than just poo pooing everyone else.

            Or, maybe you are right – I am simply a fool. I can live with that.

  12. Does this post have anything to do with the commemts to Linda Frum’s post here? Cause Wells asked everyone to tone it down yesterday for her sake. If you people are sucking up to those quarters you’ve lost your soul.

    • While I won't make any claims to still having a soul, I can tell this isn't specifically related to the comments on any posts. I can't even keep up with where the flame wars are anymore.

  13. Got it – commenters are subordinate to staff. Staff will insult commenters and others as they like. Commenters will conform to rules set by staff. You print journalists have an interesting understanding of the dynamic of an online community.

  14. Note to the Macleans staff: While you "expect civility and good humour and a modicum of intelligence," please remember that it's a two-way street.

    If JM's final comment is to be believed, Macleans staff should not be sending nasty emails when commenters flag their concerns.

    (I would copy what JM accused Macleans staff of saying here, but I can't seem to find his comment anymore. It seems to have disappeared, unless I'm mistaken. I'm therefore working from memory here.)

  15. You win, whoever you are.

    I won't be blogging much this spring — wasn't going to anyway, for reasons that have to do with my day job. (Blogging was never part of my job description, always a sideline, tolerated and then encouraged but never reimbursed by my employer.) When I do, I'll close comments. That applies only to the Inkless Wells blog, the only one I control. But more broadly, this will be the last comment I post on the comment boards of anyone's blog.

    We aim to please.

    • You'll be missed, Inkless. Even if I don't always agree with you.

    • Can't say I blame you. You've done a lot to make the Macleans work as well as it has.


    • Dude, Paul… may I call you Paul?

      Okay. Dude, Mr. Wells. You've been writing columns for a long time. I'm sure you've been sneered at and snarked towards and generally insulted more often than most. I also think it's safe to say that you've probably gotten good at dealing with it.

      The difference on these comment threads is that people can snark at you in public, and you can snark back just as publicly. And the sorts of idiots who pick fights with columnists over petty nonsense that earns sarcastic replies and bulk deliveries of steak knives aren't public figures who get people telling them what idiots they are on a regular basis. So they freak out.

      When you say that "IT'S A F*CKING BLOG COMMENT BOARD", you're more than right. But that's a two-way street. 99 out of 100 of us appreciate it when the author of a post we're commenting on replies with his insight or his information or even his sarcasm. When you let it look like that 1 in 100 is getting to you, even if he's really not, he'll keep doing what he's doing. So better to ignore him, or have the administrators delete his posts/ban his comments/whatever, than engage him or worry about him or post that you're quitting forever. After all, he can only negatively impact your job and your life as much as you let him. IT'S A F*CKING BLOG COMMENT BOARD.

    • This is getting a little ridiculous. Part of the reason i come here is because the journos like PW/AC and the lamented Kady, like to pop in and admonish, inform, share a joke or inform. i hope Paul reconsiders. If some of us insist on some form of egalitarianism that is impossible to police or monitor, we'll all be the losers – i think we just were. I'm wondering about my own participation.

    • Adding one more e-dentity to the list of those hoping you'll reconsider. It was your blog that got me to Macleans in the first place; a friend of mine (another semi-regular) introduced me to Inkless Wells and from there I got into the rest.

      I've not always agreed with you (of course!) but have always enjoyed your insight, opinion, and response. I'm sad to see that end.

    • Paul, I don't imagine I'll be able to change your mind about closing comments on your own blog.

      However, I thought I'd post a link to one of your old blog posts as a reminder of what can happen when things go spectacularly right in the comments section:

      I humbly suggest that you leave comments on for blog posts about things like music and the Perimeter Institute, and turn them off for posts that have something to do with politics.

      Also, I hope you'll continue to chime in on the comments section of your colleagues' blogs from time to time.

    • We get the steak knives, it seems.

      • More like a couple of prize whiners on here felt they got them once too often.

      • Nope, the steak knives were for second place. I think this is more akin to the third place prize.

    • I add my voice to those hoping you will reconsider. If you don't, then thanks for all the interesting reads and discussions…I come for the posts and columns but I stay for the discussions.

    • I guess Wells's skin is thinner than I'd given him credit for.

      • The tirade that was directed towards Wells recently went way beyond anything I think that any writer would tolerate.

    • That's really upsetting Mr. Wells. Your comments really keep people on their toes, and they are a huge asset to the Maclean's blog. Some people are just unreachable- there's nothing you can say or argue that will get them to reflect.

    • Darn. It's like you were just given a Get out of jail card!
      Hope you reconsider. I find your sense of snarkdom rather appealing.
      At times – it seemed like you also enjoyed giving your two cents worth.
      You should totally feel free to do that at your leisure….

    • I hope this is because you're writing another book.

    • Consider resuming when there is an election or something important, there will be < a href=… news as entertainment commenters. People will ramp up the quality when there is something on the line.

  16. That's why I said "legitimate or otherwise." See ChrisWPG's comment above, for instance. Not everyone is lucky enough to be in a position where they can feel free to express even mildly contrary political opinions to their co-workers. It might not be something as dramatic as, say, "Get fired from the gun range when the boss finds out you're a member of the Green Party," but I'm sure you can imagine the kind of petty vindictiveness that might arise when somebody decides to be unprofessional.

    • I'd also point out that it COULD very well be that dramatic as well. It's a lot easier to trust that you won't get fired by Greenpeace when they find out you enjoy hunting if you don't have a mortgage to pay every month. Also, it could be even more dramatic than that. Flamewars online have led to assault charges in the real world (which is to say that people have assaulted others they've debated with online once they've found out who they were in the real world, not that anyone's ever been charged with assault for something they wrote online).

  17. "Commenters will conform to rules set by staff."

    Yes, there's no question about it. The same way I'd expect you to take your shoes off if you came into my house and I asked you to do so. We're not re-inventing the wheel here.

    • I think there's a misunderstanding here. I'm not suggesting commenters should ignore the rules you set, nor am I suggesting that Paul should ban himself from the boards. But you are the hosts, you help set the tone for the discussion.

      You can try to enforce certain behaviour by policing, but it will be less effective and more time-consuming than doing it by establishing norms of behaviour. Capricious or unjust rules are hard to enforce, which you will find if macleans authors behave in one manner and expect your guests to behave differently. Belle Waring Theresa Nielsen-Hayden and other moderators of online forums like boingboing have posts and discussions about this that you might find helpful.

    • Given that the Macleans comment boards are becoming more and more of a discussion forum, and whereas discussion forums will have codes of conduct containing the basic rules of the game (whether or not they're universally enforced), may I suggest that a code of conduct be published somewhere prominent, like a giant stinky fish that you can whallop people with, if they don't obey?

      • I imagine that would only fuel the number of needless comment reporting as people began specifying which clause of the code a given utterance had potentially violated.

      • That's certainly an option. I can tell you our overwhelming preference is for people to just behave themselves, but maybe that means laying down actual ground rules. But is there any reason to believe people would be more inclined to follow them if they're written out? (I'm not being sarcastic.)

        • My experience as a poster on a variety of different fora:

          On news-based sites, it doesn't make a whit of difference.
          On community forum-based sites, it does.

          The reason for the difference, I think, is twofold: one, banning/removal is placed on the user, not just the individual post. Publicly. The user has a "banned" tag next to their name for as long as they've been sent to the proverbial corner. Other users may miss the banned fool, but they clear as day know if they try the same stunt, they too will be unable to post for x amount of time.

          Two, only members can post, and only people who provide valid contact information to the administrators (though their username can be whatever they please, within reason) and who agree to the terms of service can be members. As a result, it creates a sense of community where they all come to play on equal terms, so they'll all (usually) post on equal terms.

          • Ah, but does this site exist to create a community? Such sites are often more labours of love than profit, and I expect there's only so much altruistic effort Maclean's staff is willing or able to put into this. That's not meant as a criticism, not for a second. But I do sense that some of the more regular participants – like myself! – can sometimes forget that this isn't a public service we're consuming.

            Put another way, this has been an evolving project for Maclean's for a few years, and it might not hurt for them to evaluate what the heck they hope to get out of this in the future.

          • I think that's a really good question – certainly there are a bunch of us here who are "regulars" in greater fashion than I've seen in other news comment boards. This says to me that the Macleans boards have evolved to become more of a community.

            Whether or not this is a trend the higher-ups wish to pursue isn't really up to me, but I think it could be really valuable – and groundbreaking – for Macleans to have such a community of regulars, if only because we're a whole lot more diverse than the stereotypical online forum posters.

  18. Online community? I thought we were just a bunch of self-righteous, over-opinionated, wannabe journalists swapping news and views on a website provided by Macleans for their own devious commercial ends. I don't think we actually have any rights at all and we could be readily blocked from access to this site at the whim of the cruel Wells or his editorial minions at any moment.

    I think you'll need to start your own blog if you want anything more than that.

  19. I don't agree for a couple of reasons. Firstly I want Wells and the other writers to feel comfortable commenting on the comments. Secondly while Wells can be snarky he has never been anywhere near as insulting as the worst posters, so never (at least IMHO) worth hitting report over.

    Finally, I tend not to see this is (our) online community but as Macleans' home – so if you want to annoy the owners then they eventually will respond by throwing you out.

  20. That's actually quite disappointing. The Inkless comment board, even if I didn't partake in discussions all the often, was always a good read.

  21. That kinda the problem, isn't it? The comments in places where people have to register aren't any better than where they don't. And yeah, we can block folks and it's pretty rare they'll find their way back as it is, so that's not really an issue.

    • Maybe the whole project of on-line conversation is a dodgy prospect at best.

      I really enjoy some of the exhanges, and it's exhilarating to have real journalists sometimes reply to queries or comments I've made.

      But maybe we're all expecting things from this technology and this format that simply aren't realistic.

      • I will say that I have observed that where registration is necessary, it tends to limit (but not eliminate) the "I'm so outraged!" instant crazy posts.

        For the kind of ongoing turf wars I've seen around here, the main benefit of mandatory registration would be to reduce the use of multiple accounts chiming in on the same topic. It might also reduce the number of "one line wonders" that pop up.

        However, it would also reduce the volume, and that isn't always a great idea for a vox populi kind of spot…

      • I think the technology and the format is more than up to the job, but we may be expecting too much from Macleans magazine. They're a for-profit corporation, not a humanitarian enterprise bent on fostering social dialogue.

        I'd like to think journalists would view their role as incorporating a bit of both, but perhaps that's expecting too much (and that is not intended as a snarky comment – merely genuine speculation).

    • have you guys ever considered appointing some of the regulars whose postings you think more or less reflects the standards that you want to encourage as community moderators Philippe? While I agree that the place has mostly policed itself with the exception of the last couple months, it might help to keep the place from degrading further without triggering the Plan B you referenced.

      The point would not be to deputize deleters-in-chiefs, but more to serve as good-will-in-commentating ambassadors who could do things like ask people to let things go where need be and use their 'soft power' to keep the boards here within the realm of the kinda community I think most of us and Macleans finds valuable. I think, for example, folks like Sean and CR who are both formidable commentators here would be great at this with their wit and insight. I take, as evidence of this, that CR had major disagreements on substance without ever offending or flaming each other.

      My time is pretty much coming to end here (I am a month out from spending a year abroad on international research expedition) but but I have to say this place has been both a great place to spend some (a lot) of my free time and a valuable place to learn a lot. But I can't help but to think that the dynamics that undergird your exponential rise in comments reported for no good reason are related to the feeling that the great thing that we had going here is somewhat slipping away. It would disappointing when I occasionally drop in to see where the debates back home in Canada are if this place is gone or a shadow of its former self.

      As and aside, I kinda wonder if the recent squabbles aren't the result of a bunch of regulars who have been around here for quite a while now, all getting to 'know' each other to well…. almost like a fledgling relationship, we are getting too comfortable and taking each other for granted…

      • No! Oh, I will be so sorry to see you go, sea_n_mountains. However, an international research expedition sounds like something we'd be interested in hearing about if/when ever you get the chance. So please remember to stop by when an internet cafe looms or something. Gee, I hope your not going to the middle of the desert or jungle or something where there are no cafes, never mind internet ones.

        • thanks Jenn, I really appreciate the sentiment. I have truly enjoyed our conversations and debates here. I really am quite happy that you are making an effort to help revitalize one of our national parties. they desperately require it! and, we need more people to take your example and actively try to do something about it!

          Expedition is probably be much too fancy an adjective, but nonetheless I consider it to be something of an adventure for me (us really as my non-researching partner has taken leave of her job to join me). at risk of further upsetting hollinm, I will essentially be in the Netherlands and Australia for each of 4 months or so and then a couple additional stops plus some vacation time (which will be the only portion in the dessert or jungle!).

          there will be some internet cafes to be sure and I will poke my head in occasionally as I would like to hear how your efforts are coming along, but I am going to make a concerted effort to use my (sadly quite limited) free time during those months to make the most out of my rich surroundings! that said I will prob kick around for parts of the next month before we depart (depending on how sorted we are!).

      • Good lord!

        First Jack, now you. Different circumstances, of course, but still, what a dastardly right-left combination, although left-left combo might be somewhat more accurate in this context.

        • Change isn't always good. I feel like its the end of an era, just when we got this really good commenting software (which crashes my machine every five minutes, but still) now all the good commenters (and Kady!!) leave.

          • The rest of us will definitely have to step it up a notch or two to compensate! ;-)

          • your left-left comment gave me quite a hardy chuckle this morning Phil. as with Jenn, thanks very much for your kind note Phil. As, I noted in my orignal comment I will truly miss my time away from this place. it has always served as an incredible place for me to refine or advance my understanding of an issue or response to it. Like Jenn, you have been a big part of that. And, while I am committed to spending more time away from my computer both as the demands and opportunities of the upcoming excursion dictate, I am not sure I will find a suitable replacement for all that this place has offered.

            without wanting to dwell on Hollinm's complaints or to run him down, I do hope that you will continue to engage on broader range of discussions than whatever is considered "on topic" and continue to bild the community here, as I think it is what makes the place what it is.

            one final point for now too, and without wanting to diminish the loss of Jack (a monumental contributor), the vast majority of the best contributors are still here, including but not limited to the likes of Sean, CR, LKO, Lord Bob and not the least of which are you and Jenn. This place has loads of good value left at this point!

          • Oh, and Biff has left too !

          • Well, if you're lucky some of us trolls will leave too and balance everything out. Think positive.

          • Sir, wrt "us trolls", you jest, of course.

          • Half-jest, maybe. No more.

  22. I assume you mean that you can block IP addresses. I agree that works well 99% of the time, because most trolls aren't clever enough or motivated enough to use IP masking software.

  23. Jerks will be jerks even if you say "please don't be a jerk".

    That's because they're jerks.

  24. Just curious… is there any particular reason you picked "Lord Bob" as your nom de guerre back in the day?

    • I don't even know anymore. It was a depressingly long time ago.

      If I could do it again, I'd have picked something else. At the time I was, like, twelve and figured I'd never be meeting any of these people. So now I meet a bunch of soccer fans whose message board I've been posting on or a hockey fan who's read my writing and I introduce myself, "yeah, I'm Lord Bob, but don't actually call me 'Bob' since my name is actually 'Ben'" and it's really confusing and annoying.

  25. And that's the thing, I suspect there's a contingent of us who are approaching this project with a somewhat flawed understanding of why it exists (which isn't meant to slight either Maclean's or commenters).

  26. Philippe Gohier, if you are still out there can I have your email address or Jonathan's? I would really like to have a word with you, explain what my problem is. I promise to be civil, I only have a problem with Jack M.

    The only reason why I started acting up on weekend was because Jack M was trying to get people banned and I think that's outrageous.

    Jack M: I know you are out there checking my comments because I can see that you are visiting my ID page regularly. As far as I know you have not been banned, why don't you defend yourself in public instead of skulking in the shadows and having my comments deleted.

      • Thank you Philippe. I use other email account now and did not see your message.

    • Or, we could just drop the matter and move on.

        • Third!!

          • Fourth.

          • Motion carried.

          • Would the secretary please record the vote in the minutes?

  27. I think Macleans has to decide if they are going to allow free speech or are they going to police the comment section.

    I have had at least two comments deleted for saying abortion kills babies, because that's actually what happens during the procedure, but some people complained and my comments were deleted. I have pointed out to Macleans comments that are much worse than anything I have written, mainly personal attacks on conservatives or Catholics, but there they remain.

    • But this isn't a public space where free speech is guaranteed or protected. It's a curated space for discussion and works like any other private venue.

      • I understand and agree. I am just asking for some consistency. There are some vile comments in Frum and Coulter threads but I seem to have my own personal censoring section. Holly Stick doesn't understand what happens during an abortion and I am the one punished for her ignorance but it's ok for Mike T to say my missus is anti-woman because she's conservative and against abortion.

        I think the problem is that many liberals write cheap shots into their comments and don't even realize they are doing it anymore and conservatives don't complain because they are used to abuse.

        • I understand what happens during an abortion; you do not.

        • Cheap shots are an equal-opportunity sport, joly; I'm sure I don't have to tell you that.

          I think the purpose of this thread is to get everybody back to a place where discussion is productive and civil. And humourous. Purple monkey dishwasher.

          Is it possible the problems started because everyone started taking things more personally than we perhaps should have?

      • I don't agree with jolyon about this being a forum protected by free speech, nor about Macleans deleting various points of view (so far).

        However I think it's important to notice that a public forum that allows all points of view to be posted in honest debate is a very, very valuable thing…valuable to society as a whole, I mean. It would be extremely unfortunate if Macleans decided to eliminate that.

    • You had at least one post deleted because you were slandering another commenter; at least that was what I reported you for, though others may have done so too.

      And your comments that abortion kills babies are false; foetuses are aborted. Get over it.

    • I've said the same thing about abortion – so far as I know my comments were not deleted. I think Macleans has done a pretty good job of not censoring points of view, but rather unjustifiable slurs directed at other commenters.

      • You are fortunate. I seem to have Holly Stick, Jack M and presumably others following me around and having many of my comments deleted. I have said abortion was infanticide myself before and the comment remained. However, for the past week or two it has been different. Macleans has started to randomly delete comments.

        I think comment board has gotten more spicy the past couple of weeks because we seem to be discussing lots of culture war topics. It is hard to think of more contentious issues than abortion or Palestine/Israel.

        • Indeed. All we need is for Harper to cancel a Canadian grant to build an abortion clinic in the Gaza, refuse to release the accompanying documents to Parliament on the basis of National Security, and then to prorogue parliament to prevent Iggy from asking a question about the appointment of Don Cherry as our ambassador to the UN.

          Happy days!

          • hahahahahahaha. Thanks for the laugh.

        • ' I seem to have Holly Stick, Jack M and presumably others following me around '

          I'm sure you will agree that in a free market place of ideas, we often sow what we reap.

          • Especially since I don't follow him, I just keep an eye out for him, much like walking in a pasture recently full of cattle.

        • (Just for the record; I never have, and never intend to report a Macleans commentor)

          Gosh jolyon, maybe it was one of your numerous posts in which you called pro-lifers (or pro-life Liberals and their supporters) racist eugenicists who want to murder Black babies.

          I mean, free speechify all you want, but you have to admit that you push the envelope of respectful dialog with such hateful, juvenile bile.

          • Agreed. I'm wanting and willing to broaden my horizons, but when the envelope is pushed as such, it ends up pissing me off. Plead your case – support it, etc. Just stop shoving it in peoples faces. If people are not playing fair with you, be the bigger man and move on. More ideas – less hissy fits!

          • "I mean, free speechify all you want, but you have to admit that you push the envelope of respectful dialog with such hateful, juvenile bile."

            I think I talk just like liberals do.

            Eugenics is appropriate word when a bunch of white, upper middle class people in Canada demand we perform abortions in third world countries even though the procedure is illegal in most parts of the world. Apparently you don't think it's odd for a bunch of affluent white people to demand we murder poor black and brown babies around the world but it bothers me.

      • I have complained in a post about you and others making this false statement; however I did not report any post for that reason. However, it is false to say that abortion is infanticide; and you should be ashamed of yourself.

  28. I love the tone of this discussion. It is as if someone has gone to Speaker's Corner, got up on their soapbox to hold forth on some subject, and are now whining to the police about the hecklers! Some of you guys really do need to get your own blog….but of course no-one might read it, which would be disappointing. For you, I mean.

  29. Adding my $0.02: I've always found the comments on our site to be – for the most part – thoughtful, entertaining and literate (the latter being an especially remarkable achievement in this day and age). You folks add a lot of value. Perhaps I've got a thicker skin than most in that I've been getting hate mail (mixed in with the fan mail my grandma writes) for more than a decade now, but I'm not wild about those (either blogger or commenter) who take their ball and go home because they're wounded by an insult or by an attack on their point of view. Let's toughen up people!

    • And besides, if you really want crazy, just walk on over to the G&M comment boards!

    • I'm curious in spite of myself.. what on earth might your grandma write as fan mail that gives you a thicker skin? I can't picture it.. but then again I'm not sure I want to try.

      • Are you being sarcastic, or did you miss the Ha-Ha?
        He's poking fun at himself, saying that the only thing he gets other than hate mail is the occasional encouragement from family.

      • I think it might be best asked in next week's mailbag thwim!

    • I just read this thing, seeing all the comments, and I never before realised people took this stuff so seriously. But I just want to say that Feschuk is awesome, and a perfect example of an idea I've had for awhile (he probably won't come back and check this comment board, but anyway..). There are one year "exchanges" between business and government already, and I've always thought there should be some between academia, political "scientists" in particular, plus political media, and government AND POLITICAL PARTIES. It is striking how much such alterations of positions is positive. Frum, post-government, is a lot more reasonable, for example, as Gherson became. And similarly, pols who try out academia & media become more understanding, openminded, and interesting (cf. Snobelen). Feschuk's response above is the kind of generous, mature response one gets from someone who has been in the wars (and what wars, Martinites vs. Chrétienites & Cons, NDP, Bloc, Greens, Media, well everyone else, really). Would Feschuk have had as cool a response if he had never engaged in politics? Maybe, but I doubt it. If it was an established thing, and like five poltical commentators were in the running, for a one-year term, and assigned to the five parties by random draw (to avoid insinuations of post-exchange bias), to help with press releases and speeches, and see the thing from the inside, I think things would be a lot healthier. Same with political "scientists". And corresponding number of partisan bigshots could go other way, and see things from media and academia viewpoints. Good for all, no? Anyway, I agree with Feschuk's comment, and think it reflects usefulness of my idea.

  30. I almost got banned here for using metaphor to point out Dot's writing reads somewhat slowly.

    I felt like George Galloway. Err … I mean Ann Coulter. I don't want to imply keeping Galloway out of the country was a restriction of free speech. It was the right thing to do because he says mean things.

    It's long been a truism that one persons good humour is another's terrrorism.

    • Is being "almost banned" like being "almost pregnant"? I don't remember ever trying to ban someone and coming up short.

      • My anonymous internet moniker which I use on comment boards was threatened with expulsion. Publically. In front of all the other anonymous internet monikers. Let me repeat. My virtual anonymous identity was threatened. With expulsion.

        It was terrible. Really terrible. The firm hand of oppression weighing down on me as if something which weighed a great deal. But virtually. As in not really.

        Now I watch what I write, always. Don't want to go through that again.

        • Clearly the experience left you with a lot of virtual scars. It may take you several milliseconds to recover.

    • I thought it was a simile. Actually, I think you were flaming Macleans Reader at the time. But, I'll talk to my writing. It's been slowed down by its reading comprehension.

    • Sorry to veer slightly off-topic, but Galloway wasn`t kept out of the country because he said mean things:

      a) he wasn`t kept out of the country at all. He pre-applied and was told any applications would be denied. Then he lost it.

      b) he was, er, would have been denied because he donated to groups Canada designates as terrorist. You do that, you don`t come here.… (scroll down to Tuesday, Mar. 31 2009)

      Man, am I sick of telling people this.

      • "Man, am I sick of telling people this."

        Well, you'd better stock up on nausea medicine, because you'lll be forever explaining that to people who didn't swallow the official hogwash that was used to keep Galloway out of this country.

  31. then why am I still banned?

  32. I read about this in high school. It was called Lord of the Flies.

    • Sucks to your azzmar.

        • Due so at your own peril. :-)

        • I don't even know how to reply to this.

    • My specs, my specs!

    • Shut up. I got the conch.

  33. I'm curious Gohier, are you the one who writes the Need to Know headlines?

    • Sometimes, but not all the time. A bunch of people here write those items and they often write their own. I've noticed you're not always a fan. Some of those were mine and I can admit my attempts at cleverness could be a little off. I'd love to say it's harder than it looks, but it probably isn't.

      • Fair enough. I probably shouldn't have called for the writer to be fired in that last one ("What is truly ailing the GOP") , but I do still think that it was a gratuitous smear of a lot of good people….which always makes my blood boil.

        • "Anyway, I can certainly see how a joke or clever remark that would be fine accompanied by a smile in real life can somtimes be misconstrued in writing. Happens all the time in my email inbox."

          I hear ya. And that's why (above) I request explicit sarcasm indicators. Some days, I'm just not that bright. (To which most of you who read this are probably thinking…"SOME days?!?!")

          Though smilies would be a fun feature for ID to add, too.

          • That's a worthy idea. Check it out and let me know what you think. :)

  34. Also, is this all precipitated because of Mitchell's comments? If so I can't believe the magazine is taking that seriously.

    • No, that wasn't it. Like I said above, it wasn't precipitated by anyone's comments or any specific discussions. And that's not some banal, PR-esque platitude either. What precipitated it is the fact that, over the past few months, a bunch of stupid (and, frankly, embarrassing) flame wars and baiting in the comments have resulted in us getting swamped by comment reports and we were getting sick of them. Think of this as a spring cleaning of sorts.

      • Why not just turn off the Report function?

        • Because it's handy for keeping spammers and other undesirables at bay. It also allows for a bit more freedom on the comment boards because it's like a built-in second opinion. Rather than just up and delete stuff we find moronic or useless, we leave them up and wait for someone to agree with us.

          • Also, I've used the report function a couple of times to get Philippe's attention when a paticular post gets stickied to the top of the blog column. Not sure if that's quite the intended use, but it certainly seems to work.

  35. Excellent points sir.

    I too see the sense of community here, even though many don't get along. It really is an online conversation. Often a foolish conversation, but often a very profound one. I think of this as an online version of the Cheers bar but with more serious topics at hand for discussion.

    Also, PW is removing himself from the commenting world? Why on earth would he do that?
    To Wells (if you're bothering to read all this stuff): your comments are generally insightful, if sometimes barbed, and your articles are generally very good with plenty of material for discussion. Why the hell would you let a few silly comments from a disgruntled commenter ruin that aspect of your writing??

  36. In case PW is still following here, or someone would like to mention this to him, I think the nature of online commentary in news sites (comments here, at the G&M and NP, at CBC, SDA, etc…) might make a very interesting point of discussion, and I'd love to hear the comments and opinions of professional pundits around this issue in more detail, so I'd like to suggest it as a topic for a Coyne Vs. Wells vodcast, if that would be of any interest to Coyne and/or Wells of course.

    Also, if it is of interest and you might think of doing it, may I also add a plea for comments to be enabled for any post on that particular discussion.

    With amateur bloggers becoming professionals, and professional journalists leaving traditional employers to work for blogs, along with the explosion of amateur commentary from "regular people" (for both good and ill) it would make a really fascinating discussion.

    At least, I think so.

  37. Seconded. People need to learn how to relax and let bygones be bygones. If you want to scream pro-choice and pro-life rhetoric at each other, go to a rally. Keep it off these comment boards.

    • Also, saying the same thing over and over again doesn't make it any truer. Nor does having the last word bestow any edge to one's argument.

      • If you're referring to the abortion discussion, you clearly didn't read it if you think it was merely people repeating themselves at each other. It was a very good discussion for the most part.

      • Amen :-)

    • Agreed about the screaming, but I think the debate was excellent and was an excellent addition to these comment boards.

      Controversial issues (when relevant to the article) are exactly what people should be discussing, unless you think that all debate should be innocuous.

      • Agreed. I certainly don't have a problem with thoughtful, respectful discussions about controversial issues. I just have a problem when the screaming starts.

  38. Ah, good. Well I hope I haven't contributed to that problem in any way (certainly not for reporting…I think I've only every done that once) but if so then I apologize for the hassle.

  39. Abortion kills zygotes.

    Condoms kill sensation.

  40. "In short, think of the boards as an open-house party—everyone's welcome and encouraged to mingle, but no one has a right to be there. We will always reserve the right to kick people out of our house when they get too bothersome. You'd do the same at your place."


    Sad to say, the most interesting and informative comment boards often attract the worst kind of abuse because it's the only way these trolls get to have their say. Some people will say things on a blog that they would never say in the presence of witnesses. Personally, I can think of a number of ways that a requirement for personal identity could be awkward and possibly discourage commenters. Whenever I come across a commenter who resorts to inflammatory rhetoric or personal insult to make his/her point, I just skip over to the next comment because I believe that a response of any kind just encourages more of the same behaviour. That said, I have no problem with the host exercising his prerogative to uninvite bothersome guests.

  41. One more question. What's Plan B?

    • I go home, get drunk, and complain to my wife about all you guys making my life hard. You don't want that to happen—she'll come in here and whip all of you into shape in no time.

      • LOL!

      • completely off topic Philippe, but something I have bee curious about: where did yo get that chawesome picture? did you take it? was it a real sign?

        • I'm not entirely sure what prompted me to search Flickr using the word "poutine" (either that or I'm embarrassed to admit it—your pick), but that picture was the fruit of my labour.

  42. Bloggers/writers should moderate these discussions more consistently. And be paid for their time. If not, can the whole thing altogether.

    The commenters here will just spend more time elsewhere.

    • Please don't force us out to the CBC boards. Kady notwithstanding, it hurts to read them. I plead mercy!

      • And yet, Kady gets paid to do what she does over there…

        Wait, fair labour practices at the CBC? With taxpayer money? Talk about a wedge issue…

    • Elsewhere? I'm sorry MR, but I have yet to find an elsewhere that provides the kind of commentary I find on these boards. A real pity that a very few could end up spoiling what I consider the best read on Canadian politics/issues on the interwebs.

      • I think it's a consequence of the fact the writers here do participate in these discussions (just not enough). People are going to care a little more about what they say if they get the sense it actually matters.

    • While I agree that the writers should be compensated for what appears here, what you're saying actually worries me a fair bit. I happen to like the site here as it is, for the most part.

      The ads are annoying sometimes (I don't use ad blockers, I like supporting the sites I visit a little bit at least) and the commenters aren't always the best, but there is very good discussion going on and it's free to participate which goes a long way to encouraging participation in the comments. Paying the writers more means the site would have to generate more revenue, which either means more and more intrusive ads, or a paywall. Both of these would be pretty detrimental to the site and to the conversation here, I'd wager.

      Moderation is a bit of a slippery slope in terms of the time commitment. If moderators, people will expect and demand that they step in again when they see something that they perceive as breaking the rules. This leads to pointless argument about moderation rather than about whatever else is going on. The best case scenario anywhere is just to remove the worst of the worst and occasionally prod the commenters to behave, while keeping moderation to a minimum. I am actually really appreciative that is the approach taken here so far, as it avoids so much needless drama and forces commenters to be responsible for themselves.

      I don't particularly want to go anywhere else; I spend my time here because I honestly think that is a really rare place. Where else do you get quality reporting and editorials as well as quality comments about Canadian news? Where do you get that about any kind of news? So sure, I agree that the content is great and certainly is worth paying the authors for it, but please leave the site and the moderation policies as they are.

    • Hear, hear. I was surprised to hear that Macleans doesn't pay its writers for the time they spend blogging.

      • It's particularly ikrsome that for-profit publications have adopted a model that arose out of regular people writing for the pure love of writing and people interacting because…

        a) they have something to add, either in terms of additional information or perspective or simply pure entertainment
        b) they have nothing else better to do or
        c) they are inchoately-angry loonies with poor impulse control who…well, never mind

        …aren't willing to resource the activity sufficiently. I personally would refuse to do this without it counting for something.

        • It's really a novel concept that people should get paid more for working more. Where did that
          come from ?
          It's possible that their compensation comes in the form of steak knives .. a surplus of which
          occasionally leads to an earned benefit for some of us.

        • And yet here you are.. :)

  43. I suggest public branding!!! WIth hot irons.

  44. I was speaking more generally, using the above examples of folks trying to revisit that debate.

  45. Plan B was what the blogger Andrew Sullivan called the beginnings of the insurgency in Iraq. This was, I believe, in 2005. The invasion of Iraq was not working well at all and its supporters, like Marcus Gee in this country, were casting about for an explanation to explain why the insurgency wasn't a problem.

    A source close to the Bush administration explained to Andrew, he reported, that insurgency was actually advantageous because it meant American soldiers could fight radical Muslims in the Iraqi heartland, instead of on the streets of Chicago, or New York. This was also referred to as the flypaper theory: invading Iraq would attract all the Muslim crazies in the world to that benighted country, where the US would be able to fight, defeat and destroy them.

    Shortly after Andrew posted this theory, Iraqi insurgents blew up the UN headquarters in Baghdad, killing 30+ people. I stopped reading him then as his ridiculous inanities no longer seemed funny.

    Was that off topic?

    • Yes, and scattered too.

  46. Ah. In that case, agreed. Let's keep the comments relevant to the article in question rather than constantly rehashing previous unrelated ones.

  47. Good for Macleans. If you disagree with a particular article feel free to explain in a thoughtful and intelligent manner why your opinion is worth taking the time to read. If you can't manage to write your thoughts without personal attacks maybe you can keep them as a gift to yourself. Nobody else will appreciate them more then you do.

  48. Been there. Done that.

  49. I second your comments and suggestions and add one of my own:

    For those of us who don't drink humour coffee in the morning, can we find a universal way to communicate sarcasm? Some of the posters here have a wit dry enough that even I can't read into the cracks.

    • Just use the [sarcasm] HTML tags.

      For example:

      [sarcasm] That was a delightful pun, Dot! [/sarcasm]

      (Note: You need to replace the square brackets with pointy brackets for this to work.)

      • Are you finished blushing yet? [snark]I was thinking of adding the epic Ode to Toad to my Sociology Game Theory Thesis.[/snark]

        • You forgot to use pointy brackets on your [snark] tags.

          • No formatting error on my part. That means they were inserted by a sympathetic editor.

          • Heh. Can't say I blame him.

            On a completely serious note, I enjoy lighthearted banter from time to time, and I'm glad that we rarely manage to offend one another. ;-)

          • Yeah, I'm not much for flame wars. Mind you, if I knew your real name, I would have had you and your dog egged in Nose Hill Park ages ago. Unless it is anything bigger than a chihuahua.

          • I have two dogs – a border collie and a blue heeler.

          • Two dogs? Time to scramble.

          • And you find time for the internet, CR.? I'm impressed with your time management skills.

          • Thanks. I'm a really good multitasker.

  50. I gave up posting on all the politics stories here about a year ago because of the comments. It's fairly common on the Internet, so I hope you guys can get it under control here.

  51. Wanna go on record here saying I love the MacLeans blogs and genuinely like and admire many of the posters here. I also admire the writing and high quality journalism. I miss Kady and her blog isn't the same at CBC. I don't want Paul Wells to disappear because he's smart, witty and a terrific writer, and I also am going to miss Jack's participation because he was a gentleman. I love that intensedebate allows us to respond to each other and almost converse. Even the views I disagree with are usually well written and give me pause for thought or a laugh. This place offers so much more than CBC or G&M. For the most part, I think we're a fairly civilized bunch here, and I acknowledge that I have been sarcastic to dissenting views occasionally, but rarely dismissive and only once reported a post (can't remember why but it must have been egregious because I tend to think the masses will deal with the really innappropriate ones).

    • I agree with you about Kady she is missed and CBC well, even though I watch the Nationa,l I love my Peter Mansbridge, the rest not so good in my opinion she needs to get back here! I will miss Jack too, you are right he was a gentleman and I also like that we can almost converse and get a feeling the know each other a little.

    • Couldn't agree more.

  52. Also re: anonymity. I'm a consultant in a capital city, and yes, I have government clients. I do the best work possible for them and am always discreet. I would not be able to participate here if I used my real name because it would affect my business and a girl's gotta make a living. I would not want to come to the party if I could not throw in my two cents worth now and then.

    It would be tantamount to a banishing — please don't make me go!

    • I am sorry you feel that way. I too am a consultant, with government clients, in a capital city. I post here (albeit only occasionally) under my real name, and I do not feel threatened in any way by the possibility that this will affect my livelihood.

      While I am critical of certain politicians, and may call for their removal at the earliest voting opportunity, I am also aware that they are equally as sincere about their views on matters of public policy, wrong as they may be (;-), and that they have chosen to expose themselves to criticism from voters like me for which they should be applauded. I doubt that they are as vindictive as you may fear.

  53. Word.

  54. I have appreciated being able to comment instantaneously when I choose to do so. It would be a shame if long delays and vetting of each post had to be instituted, but I understand why it might become necessary. However, I hope that civility will prevail.

  55. Something I don't think anyone has come right out and said:

    I come hear to learn.

    The variety of opinions is fantastic. I have read many posts I may not fundamentally agree with, but I respect the writer (and their argument), and feel alive with the certainty there is room for all of us.
    It is fascinating.
    It is educational.
    It is inspirational.
    And it sure feels a helluva lot better than just drinking from the MSM punchbowl and limping into old age playing 3 handed crib with my close friends Cynicism and Bitterness

    This forum stands head and shoulders above Parliament because we can be civil, and we can agree to disagree.
    Now why would we want to fug that up?

  56. I took exception to one of the boards yesterday used by two or three posters using it for a travel log to Elk Island provinicial park. I asked them several times to stick to the topic.
    There are several regular posters who ridicule the intelligence of posters or insult them because they don't agree with their comments. There is no need for that.

  57. Please don't rachet down the snark. It's why I come here. I don't care what political persuasion you are, I appreciate wit. If you can't debate with good humour, there are other websites that cater to people looking for outrage.

  58. LKO, I think you're spot on here about the value of the online community that seems to have developed here.

    Dear Macleans, you have on your hands a golden egg – there's a lot of potential here for unique and thoughtful discussion, that is currently unique to this particular site.

  59. "…if we think a comment is having a destructive influence on a discussion, we'll delete."

    Unless said comment comes from Ann Coulter, in which case her Ezra-n-Colby Post-Posties fan club will print it as fact.

  60. You are a gracious and wise man (I suspect)

  61. hear hear LKO. all excellents points. and I esp concur that a very big part of the value here is the natural evolution.

  62. Man – reading all of this feels like I've just been sat down by my parents, and told that daddy is moving out to live elsewhere.
    The sentiment could be false – it is based on a recent episode of Mad Men, as my folks are still together.

    But damn! JM is gonzo. And now, it seems that PW will be either shutting down comments, or simply will not hang out.
    This really sucks! Did it really have to come to this?

    This place has been an awesome venue for discourse, whether I agree with people or not.

    For those of you who fought these great battles – now that this is the outcome – was it really worth it?
    Does it really make a difference whether JM or anyone else was right or wrong?

    Stop wasting so much energy trying to win each battle, otherwise your preoccupation with the war will make you miss the beauty of the world that surrounds you.

    • And Biff is gone too !

      • At another thread, I actually found it comical that jarrid was lamenting the loss of Jack Mitchell, Paul Wells, and biff.
        I couldn't help but crack up – one name is not like the others! It also made me think of Back to the Future.
        It would have been even funnier if the alias was "sexprincess37xx"….

        • Lol, that was funny! (Where did biff go?)

          • I have no idea. I must have missed the thread where this happened.
            Can anyone she some light on why Biff decided to "make like a tree, and bark"? ;)

  63. I am an adult

    I am fifty one years old, female,5'6", weighing exactly 142 lbs

    Sometimes I laugh and sometimes I cry

    I post comments under my real name

    I do not use any other name on this site

    When time and interest allows for it, I like to post on Macleans site because I think it is one of the more serious Canadian commenting sites available. I hope the blogging and commenting here will continue.

    I think our Canadian democracy sucks and I want to change that.

    "Yes, I can

    (…….with a little help from our friends)

  64. Philippe Gohier

    If you would ask me to take off my shoes when visiting your house, I would most certainly do so, even though the country I originate from doesn't understand that particular Canadian custom.

    You see, Canadians know a lot about tulips and stuff like that. But are you sure they want to know more about Dutch feet once they step out of wooden shoes?

  65. Who the hell reads Macleans?

    • I do faithfully….

  66. "For some reason I'll generously assume to be a combination of cabin fever and excitement at the onset of spring, things have gotten way too heated and way too personal on the comment boards."

    I'm not sure why everyone is making such a big deal about this. When someone insults you, just ignore them. I know that's what I do. I frankly don't see the point in giving the time of day to frustrated losers who can't handle a differing viewpoint.

    This is politics. Things are bound to get personal for some people. It doesn't mean that you have to give their attacks any legitimacy by acknowledging them and worse, engaging in a tit for that.

    • "It doesn't mean that you have to give their attacks any legitimacy by acknowledging them and worse, engaging in a tit for that."

      …er….engaging in a what? Exsqueeze me? [slaps self]

      • Imagine how many politicians would be gone if they took everything so personally, I mean we can be ruthless to them.

  67. There have been a number of interesting arguments here both in favour of and against commenter anonymity. I have, obviously, chosen to keep my identity private, but I respect the choice of others either to use their real names or not. However, in this forum, as in others, anonymity can lead to bad behaviour.

    So, how about this: as a rule of thumb, when writing a comment, let's each pretend that we are face-to-face with the people we are addressing, that we know who they really are and they know who we realy are. And let each of us conduct ourselves accordingly.

    I know, I know…"cock-eyed optimist."

    • Hey, but that optimism (sp) is what keeps us going, always hoping for the best…..

  68. I just went back and found Mitchell's comments. Although I am only an occasional outside commenter, I am sad he has retired from the field. There was more wit and wisdom in one of his comments than in 1000 of others. Pity. But probably for the best. Excessive commenting is a waste of time, and he's too smart for it. He's got a blog, articles to write, classes to teach, epic poems to write, etc.. But I'd like to think he'll still read the boards sometimes – we all need to believe at least one sentient being is reading us, to make it worthwhile. Arrivaderci Mitchell, ciao bello – “Se segui tua stella, non fallirai a glorioso porto.”

  69. "his claim that anonymity is the central problem. Although this seems plausible, my experience on this blog has been that the worst and most persistent trolls have been people posting under their own names (though commonly resorting to sockpuppetry to evade blocks, disrupt discussion and so on). And a couple have been academics."

  70. Extremely well said.

  71. Martin Mesquin Patriquin toi et ton malin petit copin que vous trouviez étrange que monsieur Parizau ne soit pas anti Juif démontre que boycotter l'hôpital Juif serait probablement ce que vous et bon nombre de vos lecteurs auraient fait dans les même circonstances. Monsieur Parizau est un homme d'honneur qui aurait sans doute accumulé plus de richesse tout en ayant une petite vie tranquille s'il aurait comme vous gardé son nez bien au chaud dans l'arrière-train de ses maitres. Que ce référendum ait été gagné par l'argent et le vote ethnique c'est évident, l'erreur de Monsieur Parizeau c'est de l'avoir pensé tout haut.