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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

You Do It

Since I've gotten many private responses to my post about comments, I'd like to invite you to try this yourself. Pretend you're me. You've just received the following comment in response to the "Strange Days" post. The writer, by the way, is someone who often contributes comments that are approved, so it's not some interloper. (And, we don't actually dislike Texans, even though we make fun of them sometimes. That's a joke, son, I say, a joke.) Bear in mind you can't edit. All you can do is pass it along as written, or axe it. Here's the comment:

"Wow you're as warm as it was here in Central Texas today. I read with interest the global warming conversations. I wonder how much is real, how much is over-exaggerated, how much is caused by mankind and how much might be of a natural cycle. It's as warm as it been in a thousand years they say. (what caused it then?) Wasn't it in the 70's when they said we were headed for an ice age? Of my 3 winters in Maine 2 were colder than normal. Jan. and Feb. here in TX were colder than normal this year. What happened to acid rain? They said the fish would be dead by now. Does anyone know how much Al Gore has made off of his movie and lecture tour? Millions? I wonder how much of that money will be donated by Mr. Gore to the global warming cause or will it be used to purchase many thousands of gallons of jet fuel to fly in private jets? Ah that's right he has to heat his huge mansion too. Damn we all need to cut back so the elite can live like the upper class that they are. :0 My advice is enjoy that weather. You know it ain't gonna last. :0 Sorry about the rant."

So what do you do? Does your own agreement or disagreement with the political-scientific opinions of the writer determine your response? Does the fact that it says nothing about photography count against it? Would you risk triggering a debate among readers about global warming? Would you be itching to join that debate yourself?

So, leave your own comment and tell me what you'd do: allow or disallow?


FOLLOW-UP: I think y'all can see what I'm up against here. In the 35 comments left as of 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, there were 24 people who made it clear what they'd do. There were 10 "disallow" responses and 14 "allow" responses (at least as I interpret and tabulate the responses). So, although the "allows" win here, with this comment, as with many other "borderline" ones, the right thing to do isn't exactly cut-and-dried, at least not overwhelmingly so.

Neither is the response I might provoke no matter which course I chose. As you can see for yourself, some people have expressed unhappiness that their comments have been rejected in the past, while others feel it's oppressive that rejection of the comments they might write is even a possibility. Others would prefer I be a bit more heavy-handed and keep impolite, off-point, or distracting topics out of the comments. Many simply endorse autocratic rule-by-Mike, which, I might point out, is very well-adjusted of them, since that's essentially what you're all getting here anyway, like it or not!

My main goal is just to be to keep things friendly and polite, and be as fair to everyone as possible. All I can say is that I try. And I'll keep trying. I've picked on two commenters today, and perhaps that in itself violates my own principles. Of the two, special thanks to the person who wrote the comment featured in this post, for suffering their words to be used as a "guinea-pig" and get picked over by everybody.

P.S. Just for the record, I didn't reject any of the comments to this post. At least not so far—!

UPDATE: I'm sure everyone will be relieved to know that our temperatures are back very close to dead average—the high yesterday was 45°F, and the average high for the date is 46°F. Make of that what you will....


Blogger JimB said...


5:23 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

Well, I hate it when you go OT anyway, so I'd say disallow. That said, you've been more than willing to post other's objections and outright disagreements to your posts and that I respect.

As a former Meteorologist I have to 'fess up and say that I'm not with the majority on the issue - I think there's a lot of issues with computer models that aren't settled, and one of the reasons I got out of the profession was that I had issues with the agendas of those in charge.

I'd hate to get into that debate here. Go look at and see what kind of flame war breaks out whenever left/right issues come up. I think you'd be overwhelemed with garbage posts and it wouldn't be worth the effort.

5:24 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

OK...tried posting once, and it didn't seem to go through, so here goes again (sorry about the double post if my original still exists in cyberspace somewhere).

I would just let it be, and move back to more on-topic threads. I don't mind an occasional off-topic post, but this is one of those topics that will drag on forever and will require high levels of moderation (because it ain't gonna be pretty).

There are plenty of outlets on the net where interested parties can throw mud at each other almost as well as a politician in an election year. Enlightening Photographic Blogs, on the other hand, seem to be a bit harder to find.

5:28 PM  
Blogger Charlie Didrickson said...

I'd post it and respond: So, just exactly how long has your mother been a skinhead Tex?

Personally I'd let just about anything fly short of threats and mean personal attacks.

I guess this is my Q to say I promise to never ever again add a kicker.

You gotta do what you gotta do Mike. Appreciate the open call for opinion but you can never design these kinds of things by commitee. Someone will always knock on your door and give you an ear full.

5:46 PM  
Blogger ijak said...


6:14 PM  
Blogger Ernest Theisen said...

Mike I think it depends what your intent was when you first posted “Strange Days”. If it was my blog and if I posted “Strange Days” with the intent to kick off a lively discussion of global warming, and if I wanted all sides of the argument to submit opinions and comments then I would allow it. If however, I was just writing to sort of be talking out loud to express my opinion on an issue that is worrying me ( and perhaps move minds to my side) and I really didn’t intend to start an open balanced discussion on the issue I would disallow it and all comments that did not support my point of view. It is my blog!

6:20 PM  
Blogger rochkind said...

Absolutely, kick out the useless or unacceptable posts. There are many places on the web where one has to wade through trash to get to anything good. That the comments here are worth reading is one of the values of the site.

However, if the post is on subject and makes no personal attack, it should stay, even (perhaps, especially) if it voices unpopular or unusual views.


6:25 PM  
Blogger Adam McAnaney said...

1. Allow. This isn't that far out (at least in tone). I would disallow comments from people who are ranting in truly vitriolic, incomprehensible form. You can disallow those, it's your blog. You don't have to lend yourself to views you don't support, but censoring too much will hurt you in the long run.

2. Who cares that it isn't about photography? Your original post wasn't really about photography, was it? You don't have to be democratic, or even fair, but you shouldn't be hypocritical (I'm not saying you are. I'm just pointing out that would be a bad reason to disallow such a comment.). BTW, I LIKE the non-photography posts every once in while. Let's me know you're a person, not just an automated-photography-search-engine-web-content-aggregator.

3. Respond if you want. Again, its your blog. Just because everyone else can't necessarily say what they want doesn't mean you can't. Heck, you can go off the deep end, ranting and raving all you want. Naturally you bear the risk of your advertisers and readers jumping ship if you do, but that's a decision you have to make.

4. Allow responses, but (a) stick to your "no personal attacks" rule, and (b) cut off discussion when it gets out of hand. After [x - You decide what number to insert] posts, there isn't too much new being said and it just becomes a distraction. We can all think about and process the ideas that have been raised without needing to stir the pot by picking sides and giving our own 2 cents. Just be clear about what you're doing. If you announce you're cutting off discussion in order to move on to new subjects, it's fine. If people's posts are not being posted without explanation, they will be ticked.


6:28 PM  
Blogger Ken Tanaka said...

If you're attempting to maintain TOP's general atmosphere as an intelligent, informative, thought-provoking venue centered on photography there's no question that such a comment would be out-of bounds here. That's a forum-style comment.

My own rule of thumb would be that every comment should add to, or enhance, the original article along the lines above Of course some days, and on some topics, my thumbs might be shorter than on others.

6:29 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"If it was my blog and if I posted 'Strange Days' with the intent to kick off a lively discussion of global warming"

Hi Ernie,
The intent of the post was more like "When Spring comes and it gets warm, it gets me out of the house to take pictures." And, of course, it's an excuse to show a couple of the resultant none-too-extraordinary pictures, despite the fact that they're none too extraordinary.


6:31 PM  
Blogger OldRound said...

I would say allow it. Personally the "your mama wears combat boots" is about as offensive as "your mama is a ho." At least in my book. Sticks and stones and all that. The funny thing about flaming is that people always take the bait. But it's your blog. And you moderate it. So do what you will. I like your blog ;) and it isn't because of the comments.
ps- I wouldn't know what WTTF means but I am also too stupid to know what "ad homin..." means.
pss- I keep failing the word verification test. Is that a hint?

6:32 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"Of course some days, and on some topics, my thumbs might be shorter than on others."

This definitely happens. Some days I'm in an expansive, resilient mood, and few things bother me. Other days I find myself depressed and perhaps sensitized or troubled, and every other comment seems to have an edge of unpleasantness. I'm aware of this, but being aware of it doesn't necessarily make it go away.


6:35 PM  
Blogger Michel said...

Drop it.

I don't think this engages in any way with the issue of global warming. It's just a passive-agressive snide comment, is just a long line of clichés, of questions, casting aspersions, "I wonder" and so on and so forth.

Freedom of speech? Who cares about freedom of speech in a private space? If the militia stifle one's expression in the town square, or if I'm forced to protest in a "free dialogue zone" I call shenanigans. But when my aunt Tillie tells me to shut this dirty mouth of mine when I visit her at the Krumbles Retirement Home, I forbear.

6:35 PM  
Blogger Adam McAnaney said...

Ernest: I see where you're coming from, but I think you/Mike have to make up your mind from the start. If Mike had posted "Strange Days" and ended it with: "By the way, this was just me thinking out loud. To avoid getting distracted, I won't be accepting any comments on this post.", it would be fine. But people tend to get upset when they think they can express their opinion on something, only to find out they can't. Making these decisions after the fact because you don't like the response you get will lead to ill will.

This isn't a moral or ethical issue, it's just a question of being polite and communicating clearly so that people don't have inaccurate expectations.


6:36 PM  
Blogger R said...

Allow it. The majority of your post is about global warming, why should his comment be any different? I disagree with him, but he's stayed on topic so I think it should be posted.

6:39 PM  
Blogger antonim said...


1. Don't you think you do trigger the debate by the very fact of posting stuff like "Strange days"? I thought that was why you posted it. Why not to just limit the number of comments to let’s say 50 and stop bothering?

2. While your knowledge on photography is undisputable, People Who Always Know Better (PWAKB) need something to prove they know better anyway, so they will keep attacking everything you say ‘off topic’. It’s natural.

3. Writing comments in fact means writing YOU a letter. I won’t bother if you don’t publish my comment, because I want YOU to read it, not the rest of the world. So, even if you axe somebody’s comment, you shouldn’t feel guilty. You read it. He got what he wanted.

4. Relax. Nobody reads comments anyway. I’m sorry you have to, but we’re all here to read YOUR stuff, and as long as you give us fresh meat, we’re happy.

5. Feel free to edit my comments, especially when it comes to grammar :)

6:45 PM  
Blogger Adam McAnaney said...

oldround: Without wanting to either rack up my comment total or beat a dead horse, the word verification thing is a royal pain in the neck.

If you don't fill it out and click "publish your comment" within about 30 seconds of loading the comment page, it rejects you, the page reloads, and you have to fill out a new word verification. I assume there is some sort of time limit on the scrambled words that are posted.

Beyond the obvious annoyance of having to scratch my head raw thinking about what the word is, there is also the fact that my comments sometimes get lost or corrupted when the page reloads. And if my comments here show anything, its that I have yet figure out what the soul of wit is, making it a pain to retype comments. I've abandoned a few comments because I just couldn't be bothered to retype something...


P.S. Maybe if I changed my ID to just "adam", I could be brief. Those with four-letter IDs seem to have that down...

6:45 PM  
Blogger Josh Hawkins said...

The last sentence may result in many comments getting kicked to the wayside, and that's fine with me, but I think it's only fair to say that the photo portion of your post in question is only in the last sentence. Most of the post when I'm reading it is about global warming.

That said, I like your current comment policy. The one change I think you might want to consider is that when you do go OT avoid heated areas of debate (pun intended) or just close off all comments and note such at the end of your post.

Having said that, I'm glad it's not a problem I have, and I'm sorry you do. Best of luck on making at least a few people happy.

6:46 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"ps- I wouldn't know what WTTF means but I am also too stupid to know what "ad homin..." means."

"Ad hominem" is Latin for "to the man." It refers to attacks on the person rather than the idea.

See the comment by "stephaneb" in the "Strange Days" thread (second from the top) for a good example of ad hominem. Rather than address any of the ideas with facts or even his own opinion, he implies that a) I haven't learned even "a bit" of history, and b) don't use my brain, and that if I did either of these things, I would "relax"--which of course itself implies that I'm (needlessly) agitated. Yet he says nothing at all of any substance himself. That's ad hominem in a nutshell. It's a classic type of argument in logic, one that is generally easily recognized, and considered disreputable.

"pss- I keep failing the word verification test. Is that a hint?"

I hope not. The new Blogger doesn't make the moderator type the letters and numbers, but in the old days I frequently couldn't read the @#$! things. Unfortunately, if I don't use this, I get a lot of spam posted as comments. Apparently there are spam-bots that crawl the web leaving ads as comments on blogs wherever they can. Ugh.


6:46 PM  
Blogger Alex Mogens said...

I say allow; after all, your post left you open for it. Hopefully most of us have learned not to engage that kind of political bear baiting...

7:06 PM  
Blogger Liquid Air Photography said...

Moderate it as you see fit and don't ask for permission. Personally, I think being a stickler on manners is a good thing. It encourages people to think before they post. Putting out flame wars before they start is also a good thing.

The way I read it, this particular comment was a shotgun blast of generic boilerplate responses to a gentle question in the OP. Al Gore's jet (if he has one) doesn't have anything to do with the original post and painting Al Gore as a hypocrite, true or not, is straw man not the beginning of any reasoned discussion on either photography or the climate.

If that response had ended here:

"Of my 3 winters in Maine 2 were colder than normal. Jan. and Feb. here in TX were colder than normal this year."

I would have said it was completely on topic. The only opening I saw in the OP for the rest of the comment was your mention of "Republicans." Arguably in this day and age you can't mention either political party without bringing in all of the baggage of the political "debate" in this country. That said, you made the judgment call that you did not intend the OP to be a political one. That is your call to make, and given that, disallowing the comment seems perfectly reasonable.

7:07 PM  
Blogger Mike Allen said...

Disallow. In your role as demi-god, I think it's fair that you consider whether the post will add anything of value to the discussion, maybe provide an insight or new viewpoint, or illuminate an existing view, maybe provide colour or texture to the discussion. This post doesn't do any of that, it's just venting. Not really objectionable, but at its very very best this post would be neutral. The greater likelihood is that it will provoke a similar type of post from the opposition. Your instinct about ad hominem arguments is sound, and this post is a good example. KUTGW (keep up the good work)

Mike Allen (Vancouver)

7:14 PM  
Blogger Hank said...

I like your comment policy. As to the sample comment. It wouldn't be appropriate for most posts but because this post went on about global warming I suppose I would allow it, even though I don't agree with it. The only problem is you would probably have to turn comnments off on the post soon after as a river of back and forth invective would be sure to follow.

7:14 PM  
Blogger David A. Goldfarb said...

Free speech on the internet means that anyone is free to start a website or a blog or discussion forum and present their point of view. It doesn't mean that everyone is free to say whatever they want anywhere on the internet.

As I see it, it's your blog, and you can accept or reject comments as you see fit, and if you do it in an interesting way, people will read the blog.

7:15 PM  
Blogger Leah said...

I'd allow it for sure. He says nothing personally insulting or otherwise inflammatory, other than his statements about global warming, which you yourself introduced in the original post. You mention that it's not related to photography - if it were a photography related original post then that would be an issue, but his comment is completely on topic with your original post.

As for the fact that it disagrees with your own philosophy, well, obviously it's your blog you can choose what gets said, but my own personal opinion would be to allow it in the interest of free speech. A little debate never hurt anyone.

7:22 PM  
Blogger stanco said...

I say let ol' Tex on in- long as he's willing to 'fess up that good 'ol ever lovin' W lied us into one godforsaken war that's created millions more terorrists 'round the world and damned our children into debt with godless Red China. No sense bein' inhospitable now, is there?

7:28 PM  
Blogger John Bates said...

Disallow. Your blog, your arbitrary decision. If you don't want to see the flame war, there's no reason for you to have to.

8:43 PM  
Blogger John said...

First of all, I love this blog and it provides a great daily dose of everything photographic. As a professional photographer who gets trapped in the business of making money, this is a great place to peruse and read wide-ranging photo 'stuff.'

I recall some post by you some months back that was a blistering attack on Bush, or Cheney, or Republicans/Conservatives and I wanted to add a comment but no comments were allowed.:(

It's your blog and you have the earned luxury of making, editing or shutting down comments. But I did get a bit of a bitter taste from that one. Both the post and the inability to comment.

I love debate and politics, but don't see where it could be beneficial to this blog - from you or posters.

I often get the feeling at photographer gatherings that they (photographers) tend to be flamboyantly liberal, assuming that everybody who makes photographs must agree with their views. Your post from months back seemed to smack of that.

But hey, I love the blog and everything that you do to make it so interesting. You being a bleeding heart liberal doesn't change my respect for you as a writer and all-around photographic guru and inspirer of thought:)

Ironically from Boston

8:46 PM  
Blogger OK-1K said...

I think there's more than just the ad hominum attacks you have to worry about. In the example you posted, the writer used an onslaught of rhetorical devices (fallacies, all) to discredit you.

Fallacies I itemized:

Ad Hominum: "Al Gore has made off of his movie and lecture tour? Millions? I wonder how much of that money will be donated by Mr. Gore to the global warming cause or will it be used to purchase many thousands of gallons of jet fuel to fly in private jets? Ah that's right he has to heat his huge mansion too. "

Post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy: "What happened to acid rain? They said the fish would be dead by now."

Hedging or equivocation: "Wasn't it in the 70's when they said we were headed for an ice age? "

Red herring: "Of my 3 winters in Maine 2 were colder than normal. Jan. and Feb. here in TX were colder than normal this year."

"Bandwagon" fallacy (also called "appeal to common practice or common belief, "

Slippery slope: "Damn we all need to cut back so the elite can live like the upper class that they are."

Appeal to common misconceived belief fallacy: "It's as warm as it been in a thousand years they say. (what caused it then?)"

They're all avidly used fallacies by people trying to discredit things. I suppose if you're going to post off topic, you should expect that people will inevitably try to steer you towards their point of view the way that they think your trying to steer them. But you can kill those posts, because you're in the driver's seat here. It's not a democratic blog and I'm reading here for the hosts' opinions above all the others...the peanut gallery can start their own blogs if they feel so contradictory they have to resort to bogus arguments. Many have, many do.

9:22 PM  
Blogger chas3stix said...

Thanks as always for the enlightening blog.
Global warming is as hotly debated as Canon vs. Nikon. Everyone has their opinion,right or left....:)
And I thought WTTW was the PBS affiliate in Chicago....:D

9:29 PM  
Blogger roni said...

disallow I read TOP for the great photography related stuff, not for opinions about non-related things

9:30 PM  
Blogger Vijay said...

I think that if a comment, in your own personal judgement, is not related to photography, unless it's a comment to one of your specifically labeled OT posts, I would disallow. For insights, news, opinions and debates on all things photographic, your blog is part of my daily diet. I have other sites that I visit for other topics.

9:44 PM  
Blogger David said...

I would disallow this. My response has nothing to do with the poster's points. It just that it has nothing to do with the original post. It's a distraction, an unrelated rant, and on an original subject that had to do with photography. This response has nothing to do with photography. You get to set the agenda on this site. You posted about photography. This post chooses to go in a totally different direction. "X" it.

9:54 PM  
Blogger WillT said...

I say allow it, Mike. After all, you've posted a fair number of articles that used photography as a segue into political rants of your own. So why not give posters the same leeway. Or consider not publishing any political comment--yours or ours.

10:36 PM  
Blogger bob blakley said...

I know where to go for discussions of global warming, and it's not The Online Photographer. Magazines are good because their editors create and maintain a brand identity. This isn't part of yours. Disallow.

I write this as both a Texan and global warming skeptic, by the way, and I don't object to discussion of global warming (the more the better; that's how both science and policy progress), but I'm also a photographer who would like to have a few places left where photography is discussed without distractions.

11:17 PM  
Blogger Paul Leidl said...

Hi Mike:
After reading the barrage of comments that came from your initial posting which started out by saying "Apropos of nothing...

I think it appropriate to quote some lyrics from the song from which you (perhaps) took your header "Strange Days"

"Strange days have
tracked us down
The're going to destroy
our casual joys"
-the doors

Let us hope that does not happen.

11:56 PM  
Blogger shaggy dog pix said...

I'm for "Rule by Mike". It's your site after all.

12:23 AM  
Blogger Jon Bloom said...

I'd probably allow it, but it is, as you say, a close call. As for me, Mike, you have my blessing to disallow my comments any time you wish. Sometimes I have something to say, but sometimes I'm just a dick.

12:48 AM  
Blogger Randolph said...

Oh, man. That's a troll--a post full of flamebait (troll as in trolling)--and it looks like a deliberate troll, though I would give the poster the benefit of the doubt. (I've seen those talking points before, btw--they're not even original.) The only way to deal with such content is heavy moderation, and that's a pain of a job. It's off topic for your blog, so experience says, don't run it. Way not worth the trouble.

BTW, hello Ctein.

12:52 AM  
Blogger rob povey said...


Nothing about Photography and goes a bit too far on Al Gore rather than the general point on the validity of Global Warming.

I am not Republican or Democrat as I live in the UK.

If you want to start a debate, let's get onto the polluting ability of the US!!!



2:16 AM  
Blogger doonster said...


Why? Well, he was doing OK up until the first line about Al Gore. Last 2 sentences were OK, too.

I read the original post as "weather's weird, maybe the climate is screwed, but at least I got an unseasonal opp. for some photos"

If it were my blog, I'd be just autocratic - I'm fed up with rants on the web, especially the pseudo-scientific and partisan political.

On the other tack, I quite like the non-photog interludes, always interesting (to me) and I enjoy your humour, too.

4:09 AM  
Blogger Robert said...

I suppose this is a photography blog, but then you did start the "global warming as political football" theme in your original post. My feeling would be to allow it, and then write a reply myself below.

I am reading an article about the subject in the London Review of Books at the moment and it makes a lot of sense.

Basically I am understanding from this that DOUBT IN THE SCIENCE is the best weapon anyone with a vested interest (ie Big Oil) in countering the panic has.

Several of the people who responded to this thread seem to be convinced that there is no issue, due to being "skeptics" or whatever. However if you look at the scientists, it is not a debate any longer. What started back in 1988 (and even further back) as conjecture has since changed to the recent IPCC report that they are 90-95% sure that we are having a negative impact on global warming.

90-95% sure.

There is no scentific debate. There are those that say that and a very very very few "loonies" who say different. It is not a debate.

The more important thing is that it is NOT POLITICAL. Worryingly in the USA it seems that it actually is political. REP=NO, DEM=YES. This is a worry because it means that the NO, loony, oil side is actually given credence by a good many people who would otherwise see what the advice being given actually is.

Scientists are 90-95% sure. And these are very well paid and very competent scientists who have been tasked with reporting to the world leaders on this very subject. They are 90-95% sure.

Yet of congressional republicans recently polled, only 13% are convinced by this.

The figures show the ridiculousness of the situation. I think Mike was pointing towards this a little in his original post, and can see why a self-declared texan etc etc would respond such.

What is worrying to me, who is not from the USA, is that the beliefs are being made over there along political lines. Anyone saying that GW is happening is branded a DEMOCRAT and vice versa. This is a shame.

Buy waterproof cameras for your children.


4:31 AM  
Blogger Player said...

Mike, I think you should ignore the messages that complain about your editorial decisions, and continue to edit as you feel best. You are/were a professional editor, and who is better qualified to make those decisions than you? Plus this is your site, and anything read here reflects on you.

If you don't publish a comment I send, I figure there was something inappropriate about it, whether relevance, tone, or content. We should all trust your judgement, and if we don't, it shouldn't matter. We are guests here, and all that implies.

5:32 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

I don't see any reason to change your policy. First, this is YOUR blog.. not a forum. If people want a forum to debate your posts, they should create one. If this were a print magazine you wouldn't allow every comment that an article received to go to press. If this were a talk show, you wouldn't let every caller through.

5:44 AM  
Blogger Walker Keith said...

This site is at its best when it:
a) discusses and promotes the art of photography, b) discusses issues faced by photographers, c) discusses public perceptions about photography. There really aren't very many sites out there that do that (actually, yours is the only site that I am aware of that does such a great job on these things).

There are too many sites that discuss politics, religion and photographic equipment. Perhaps the best way to curtail posting problems is to avoid these topics at all cost.

Just my two cents...

P.S. - Disallow since the sample post violates the above prohibitions.

6:49 AM  
Blogger Robert Roaldi said...

It's your blog, not a public forum. Your invitation of comments is simply a generous gesture on your part, much like offering someone coffee when they drop by. Yes, sometimes topics veer off photography from time to time (at your discretion) but it's your call, no one else's. We don't pay you for this content; I have no contract with you; you don't owe me anything, not even an explanation why you omit some comments. It is decent of you, however, to try and explain why you delete some of those comments.

IMO, none of us have a "right" to be here nor do we have a "right" to contribute or to be heard from. We have all the right in the world to hold our own opinions but we have no right to expect you to publish them.

It's your judgement call what is or what is not good taste. It's nice to solicit opinions from others but you don't really need to. If people don't like your decisions, they can change the channel.

6:53 AM  
Blogger bokeh said...

I thought this issue was about people abusing you personally or abusing other posters. Your sample post was so mild I don't see the problem. Mike, please explain to me what I'm missing.

7:25 AM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

Just a clarification--the original post is NOT about global warming. It was about the weather and my feelings about it--the fact that, locally, we went from deep winter to two successive 80-degree days in less than three weeks. It's never happened before since Europeans have lived in this region, and that's genuinely remarkable. So I was remarking on it.

Neither is talking about the weather political. The issue has been politiCIZED, which is different from being inherently political. Who gets elected is a political subject. What policies the government chooses are political issues. How elected officials behave and whether their behavior is proper are political topics. The weather itself is not. Trace, for a moment, the political content of the debate about the weather: One party believes that burning fossil fuel may be raising average temperatures on the planet, foresees that this may be a problem in the future, and advocates taking action to restrict the likely causes. The other poltical party supports the mining and burning of fossil fuels as economically desirable, doesn't want those activities restricted, and therefore tends to downplay any possible adverse consequences.

What has that got to do with the weather in Wisconsin?

The answer is: I dunno. I was careful to dismiss opposing arguments about global warming as extreme right at the beginning of the post, by ridiculing both (sky is falling, head-in-sand). I'm not choosing one or the other viewpoint in the posting. I'm not drawing any scientific conclusions. All I said was that the weather is weird and they're catching giant squid, and both of those things seem abnormal to me. Well, they ARE abnormal. Literally. The mercury in my thermometer records a fact; it does not propose an argument.

If anyone thinks this was a "political" post to begin with, well, wrong--that one's on them.


7:27 AM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

Doonster: "I read the original post as 'weather's weird, maybe the climate is screwed, but at least I got an unseasonal opp. for some photos.'"

Doonster's got it down.


7:31 AM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"It's your judgement call what is or what is not good taste. It's nice to solicit opinions from others but you don't really need to. If people don't like your decisions, they can change the channel."

This is true, but bear in mind that I don't WANT people to "change the channel"--or feel they need to. So it's useful for me to try to stay open to everybody's varying reactions. I think this thread is more constructive for me than it is for anybody else.


7:45 AM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"I thought this issue was about people abusing you personally or abusing other posters. Your sample post was so mild I don't see the problem. Mike, please explain to me what I'm missing."

It's true that the sample comment is not an example of ad hominem. I just thought it was a good example of a borderline call, and I foresaw that there would be some disagreement as to whether it should be allowed or disallowed--as indeed there was. I just hoped to point out to people that the "right thing to do" when moderating comments isn't always immediately obvious or crystal clear.

Basically, I don't want to offend people by rejecting their comments. On the other hand, I don't want to offend people by letting inappropriate comments through. It's always a balancing act, and I thought I'd give readers a firsthand sense of that.

Not a big deal either way, actually.


7:53 AM  
Blogger Svein-Frode said...

Sometimes there is no good answer. I like all your OT stuff. To me it's not about agreeing/disagreeing. Being a photographer is being human. Whatever is on your mind will show in your photography. It's all connected somehow.

I choose to laugh at irrational people making irrational comments. Some will hate what you allow and leave the site, others will hate that you didn't allow them a stupid comment and leave the site, others will be offended that there might be an occational debate. Tell people what they know and they will thank you for it. Tell them what they don't know and they will hate you for it. Give up the diplomatic approach, you can't win either way Mike!

7:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Apparently Texans do not believe in global warming -- at least none of my Texan friends do, nor does this guy. Must have something to do with oil, or Halliburton, or the Bush clan. Whatever....

Anyway, as for turning TOP into a forum for political and/or environmental debate, I say: Don't. There's enough of that elsewhere. People surf to TOP because they enjoy discussions of photography, so why not keep it that way.

Or ... you could go to Africa and adopt an orphan.

Mike Smith

8:47 AM  
Blogger Ricko G. said...

I admire your work and insight a lot, but I think that the comment you quote is, IMHO, suffciently argumentated and lacks personal insluts, it simply shows some critical views straightforwardly put.
I believe that if sensible and informed administrators feel bound to consider examples such as the quoted insulting, democracy and freedom of expression has suffered a serious decrease in recent years. And I'm not questinoning your views, since the fall in democracy quality I mention is a global affliction that affects us all, and we're nobbut victims ourselves.
Keep on Mike, and trust only your own feelings, it's your blog anyway.

10:43 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

I have your blog linked because I enjoy some of the very interesting threads you have on PHOTOGRAPHY.
I can go anywhere for political commentary by conflict junkies.
Having said that, the best way to handle this kind of post, from what I have seen elsewhere when this crossover happens, is just ignore it and move on.

One last off topic comment: I recently went to flickr to look at some Golden Gate Bridge pics for comparisons. My eye focused on one particular picture of a young girl with a bicycle reading the plaque at the start of the GGB walkway. It was done by a German tourist who was on a 36 day, 11k mile tour of the US. His name is Wolfgang Staudt and he had a 300- 400 photo series (slide show, if you like) of his pictures. They were absolutely incredible. Sometimes it takes a tourist, who doesn't speak english very well, to show us the beauty that is around us. Check him and his pics out if you get the chance. They're worth it.

11:48 AM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"I have your blog linked because I enjoy some of the very interesting threads you have on PHOTOGRAPHY.
I can go anywhere for political commentary by conflict junkies."

This post is not about political commentary. It's about comment moderation. This is an issue for a lot of people who regularly leave comments here, and for me.


2:38 PM  
Blogger KeithAlanK said...

Are people NEW to the internet? It's never been a democracy, and free speech isn't guaranteed. EVERY site has their own policy on comments, and if you don't like it don't comment. Mike, this is YOUR site so feel free setting your rules. If people think their views are important enough, they can start their OWN blog. Wait--nobody really cares what they think so traffic will be zero. THAT's what this is really about--taking advantage of the vast readership Mike has attained through his hard work.

4:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I’d say disallow.

But I disagree with you that it is censorship. Censorship is the controlling of ideas and the deleting of opinions that differ to yours. I would see disallowing comments like this as editing. Correct me if I’m wrong but you used to edit a magazine. Granted you can’t print every letter received because of space but even if you could I doubt you would. There wouldn’t be much point in having an editor if everything was just thrown onto the page and I think the same approach should be taken with online media.

I recently saw a thread on a forum that initially started as good wishes to a recently deceased photographer descend into an insulting torrent of abuse all because one person left a message saying ‘God bless’. The thread was eventually locked so no one else could post to it. That is a disgrace.

If any of you have ever watched a video on You Tube and glanced at the juvenile comments below them you don’t need any evidence that there are a lot of malcontents out there just looking for a fight. I’m not suggesting that TOP would ever get anywhere near that level mindless anger but why should you play host to a small group of opposing debaters on topics that have nothing to do with photography. Let them get their own blog and fight it out there. In fact I think I’m off to register

6:16 PM  
Blogger Ken Osthimer said...

Two books really good books that address the climate debate are "THE WEATHER MAKERS'by Tim Flannery and "FIELD NOTES FROM A CATASTROPHY' by Elizabeth Kolbert.

9:03 PM  
Blogger John Bates said...


A suggestion/question: I'm sitting here in my living room, listening to my wife curse at blogger. Right now, it seems to be randomly eating comments that she's trying to leave on other people's sites.

Before she started her own blog (plug: Collecting Tokens), she did some digging into the various options available, and decided that wordpress offered the feature set she most wanted. Since she started, they've repeatedly upgraded the feature set in new and interesting ways. One of the features that it does have (that she doesn't use often) is the ability of the blog owner to edit comments.

So the question is, are there good reasons for you to stay with blogger? I don't know much about the revenue model, but I think wordpress allows advertising, and I'm pretty sure that most of your readers wouldn't get too confused by a change in your domain, if you left pointers.

Have you considered switching blog services? What about getting your own domain?

11:05 PM  
Blogger JC said...

I am with you! I would have rejected if I was you! This issue is of so much importance and is of so much concern that it would automatically lead into a long and very serious debate. I do not think this blog is the right place for it! Last but not least I do not like his cynical arguments at all ....
Greetings from Switzerland

12:35 AM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"Have you considered switching blog services? What about getting your own domain?"

I think the next logical step would be to switch to a custom-designed site in our own domain. However, it's a big step, as I'd have to come up to speed on every aspect of it simultaneously; I'm very used to Blogger (and in its favor, Blogger has taught me what little I know of html, by making the site template available to me, for which I'm grateful). I would have to be able to do all the site maintenance myself; working through a webmaster is something I've tried in the past and I don't think it's viable. The timetable for this would be something like 12-24 months from now. If it happens at all.


10:23 AM  
Blogger Adam McAnaney said...

Search function. Please.

Pretty please.

Pretty, pretty please.

There are so many valuable past posts that I can't easily find and I don't have the time to go through all of the archives. Is this a feature you can add through Blogger?

OK, I'll stop nagging. For now, at least...

11:00 AM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

What's wrong with the current search function? Doesn't it work for you?


11:27 AM  
Blogger david mantripp said...

Please, please, allow everything that isn't gratuitously offensive or spam. Actually, "gratuitously offensive" can be quite funny too. Especially directed at Geo. Bush.

And please post way off topic too. The real topic here is the author, not photography. That is why it isn't dull.

6:22 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

While global warming may be a scientific topic (opposed to, say, abortion), the facts just arent in. Nor will they be for many years, decades if not longer. We'll ALL look like damn fools then. Until that time, there are two primary forces driving the debate: emotion and personal agenda. Of course there is a camp which is growing a louder voice, based entirely on the premise of opposing the 'greenies', 'anti-recreationalists', 'eco-nazis' or whatever you call them at every turn. And for good reason (refer back to driving force number two).

Factually, there are so many variables involved and such short timespans that its absurd to even see the phrase 'global warming' at all, let alone all over the media.

Then the true irony of it, if we really do warm up this rock a little too much, its likely to oversteer us into an ice age.

I'd say stomp it out, but you've already gone too far. Plus, if your going to discuss music you might as well open up to other arts (ie, the con-arts... politics).

1:28 PM  
Blogger John Banister said...

If you do take the next logical step, I think your dilemma could be solved by a setup that allows you to assign slashdot-esque numbers to comments. Readers could set what minimum value level comments need in order to be visible, and there you go.

Once you've completed world domination, you could have Canon create a nifty eye control utility that tells your computer which part of the screen you're reading, and Nintendo could get you a wash-off spray with thousands of tiny position indicating dots that allow the computer to read your facial tics & hand gestures so that once you've trained it by entering numbers manually for a while, the value assignment process becomes automatic and almost unconscious.

7:53 AM  
Blogger MJFerron said...

Yikes Mike look what I started. I noticed my comment was not chosen for publication on the original "Strange Days" post and was surprised to find it a featured comment. Ok maybe I got on a bit of a rant but a few things need to be cleared up. First as for me being a redneck Texan well 6 months in surburban Austin doesn't qualify me for such an honor. LOL As for my political stance well I don't trust any of them Blue or Red. I also did make it clear that I "wonder" what's causing the weather changes. I never said they were not happening. Also I beleive there are folks who are using this potential problem for political and finacial gain. Other than that I'm a pretty nice guy who loves B&W photography, shoot mostly with Nikons and an old Mamiya press on occasion. Troll is not my nature or intention. Sorry if I came across that way or missed the intention of your post. P.S. since I was hung up for a public lashing I do belive it would be nice to publish this on your blog somewhere.

Mike F.

8:54 PM  

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