Pondering a conundrum.

I don’t know about you guys, but so far I’ve been pretty happy with the experiment allowing folks to submit entries for consideration. We’ve had some really good ones so far that have really sparked some interesting comment threads and overall I’m very pleased.

But I’ve finally gotten the first submission that I’m not sure I should publish in part because it’s pretty much completely the opposite to the sort of article I would write myself and I’m not sure I want to have SEB appear to be condoning the topic as legitimate. It was submitted by a relative newcomer who goes by the name of Fred Call a.k.a. BigBro and it’s titled Paranormal history and the Mafia. The general thrust of the entry seems to be an attempt to link skeptics who don’t buy into the idea of psychic phenomena (such as myself) as being similar to those folks who would deny the existence of the Mafia. It delves into prophetic visions and various Popes and how the Russians have a long history of relying on seers and prophets. It’s full of odd sentences such as the following: “In an ironic way there is a relationship between the Chicago gangster Al Capone and the rise of quantum theory.” That’s enough to pique your interest, but Fred never bothers to explain what the hell that has to do with anything at all as that’s the only sentence he provides for that thought.

I’m not entirely certain just what, exactly, the point of the entry is as it’s a bit vague and ends abruptly being part one of a planned two-part discussion by the author. About all I can tell for certain is that it has a very pro-psychic and anti-skeptic message to it which is more or less diametric to the stance I’ve taken on the issue. There are aspects of it that are so vague they actually made me laugh a little because I couldn’t begin to fathom what was going through Fred’s mind at the time he wrote it and I’m inclined to think he’s a bit of a nutball based on the entry itself. My initial reaction was to post the entry with editor’s notes sprinkled throughout that pointed out how silly it all sounds, but that seemed like a rude thing to do to someone who had taken the time to submit an entry. I don’t want to have anyone mistakenly think that SEB in any way endorses the content of that entry either so I’m leaning towards just deleting it as being not in-line with the editorial stance of SEB, but I thought I’d put the question in front of you regulars to see what you thought I should do about it.

38 thoughts on “Pondering a conundrum.

  1. Don’t post it.

    This layout isn’t like that of the forums, where everything is categorized by topic.  Here, it’s just chrono with the latest at the top.  If you try to avoid excluding anyone, you could end up with a bunch of topics you don’t agree with filling up this page and running people off.  Pulling stuff like that can be more time consuming in the forums for them and is easier to ignore. 

    You are very open about posting comments, and make it clear that all views are welcome to comment.  If I want to get into a topic I totally don’t agree with, I know where to find them.  I just don’t want them “taking over” here.

    It’s your blog, Les.  You are the SEB, and you get to pick and choose what gets posted as a topic.  If they don’t like it, then fuck’em if they can’t start their own blog.

  2. Les,

    Given that you are considering posting the entry at all, it would seem that there is some merit in it.  Or am I just reading too much into your doubts?  I’ll be different from the other commenters and go with a “post it” with a disclaimer if you wish.  It might be interesting to see how the other side approaches the issue.  Whether the opinions and arguments within the entry are sound or not, at the very least it should be entertaining.

  3. If you do post it, don’t put it on the main page. Just put a link to it and put an editorial remark before his entry with a disclaimer.

    Personally I agree with Ragman. If you start posting everything submitted, you are going to start getting every little nut that would like to take over a site like this. You are quite generous to be even considering posting it.

  4. As Todd says you could post your thoughts as a preface, then put it in an extended entry. Or don’t post it. grin Lotta help I am huh?

  5. Ultimately, Les, this is still your weblog. By becoming a free-for-all, SEB would risk losing the unique voice you’ve given with your own work over the years. I think you are well within your rights to exercise some editorial control on this matter. If the author really wants to get his views out there, he could always post them on a blog of his own.

    Just my 2 cents.

  6. This isn’t an editorial board, or a message board, but a blog with a few themes. Posting this guy’s article would, as you said, be totally against the grain of everything else here.
    Then again, if its a thought provoking piece that made you think twice, perhaps its worthwhile.

  7. Les brings up a very intersting point.  I have considered writing a topic or two re: the election for SEB (Hey, I LIKE the place), but decided against it because I differ politically from a vast majority of the board’s readers, though I share a similar love of games/tech and a similar distaste for religious freaks.

    I decided against submitting anything here because it’s HIS weblog… and I really think any guest posts should share his tendencies.  In other words, guest posts should pretty much be in line with what Les himself would post.

    Besides, I have a blog of my own, ya know?  Make the bum go to blogger!  wink

  8. Purely and simply at the end of the day Les, it’s your blog, and any views expressed here ultimately reflect on you.

    So if you post articles that you don’t agree with, out of a sense of being fair or something, then you are really doing yourself and this great blog a disservice.

    I have considered submitting articles myself, but as you know I am one of them there ‘pagans’ so a lot of stuff I’d submit would not be on a par with your views.

    Bottom line, ‘it’s your blog’, do as thou wilt an harm none wink

  9. Hi Les,

    Not only is it your blog, but you’ve built one of the most intelligent and informed readerships out there. (I’ve generally, upon looking at what seems to be all around me, concluded that I’m a relatively smart person. Then I came here and started reading and thought “shit. I’d better shut up and listen. These people know what to do with a set of synapses.”)

    (but then, uh oh. watch. she’s going to tell you what she thinks now…)

    I think that if you’ve been using your own judgement all along to build this place, and it’s with this that you’ve gathered this community, which has further helped it become what it is, then that’s not a bad argument for “staying the course.” wink

    Even if you’re a little stuck on some feeling of obligation to give space to a view you don’t share, maybe it’d be worth holding out for a piece of writing on said view that, er, well, makes sense. Otherwise, in addition to the concerns you have about compromising your blog, there’s also the disservice to thinking people who share the opposing view.

    Just my take.

  10. As others have already said, if the piece is really only opinion and no real arguments are in there, don’t post it.

    However, with a suitable preamble, everybody would know that’s not your point of view, and you wouldn’t even have to sprinkle the post itself. And if it’s thought-provoking and somewhat grounded on solid arguments, I’d actually like to read it.

    If it’s part one of a two-part-series, you could also just wait for the second part and see if he further extends those points you mentioned, like the pledged similarity between Al Capone and quantum theory.

    Do you have an email address of the guy/gal who sent the post? You could also contact him/her and ask him/her if she/he could explain that similarity a little more before you post it…

  11. Thanks for the input. I suppose the reason I’m so conflicted on this one is simply because I am having a hard time making sense of it. It’s the sort of entry that had I come across it on another site I might have made an entry about just to poke fun at it. The entry makes a lot of claims, but cites nothing to back them up. It’s relatively short and relies on implied links between its topics instead of taking the time to spell out just why the author feels these items are connected or what evidence he believes supports those connections. It starts off with a statement about how “paranormal science” is considered a pseudoscience by skeptics and then quickly becomes an attempt to establish the veracity of ESP claims with anecdotes about a couple of Popes who believed in prophetic visions.

    It’s the sort of entry that, if I were going to publish it, I’d do so as an example of how nutty some people can be.

    I’d have no problems with an entry that might disagree with some of my basic stances on issues if it’s well-written, thoughtful, and has some good points to make—so, Ben, feel free to submit if you think you have something you’d like to share. I posted Bachalon’s entry not so much because I agreed with it, but because it got me thinking and I thought it might do the same for others. One of my goals with SEB is to get folks to think a little about some of their long held beliefs and assumptions. It’s called Stupid Evil Bastard because so many people have a hard time understanding why anyone would call themselves a Stupid Evil Bastard and that gets the brain working for a lot of them. But the entry in question is more amusing than thought provoking. Well, other than making you think about what different kinds of drugs this fellow may be taking.

  12. You know, you could always treat this as one of those odd emails and then publish it but subject each part to criticism.

  13. I’m a little late on this one, but agree with the not posting idea in keeping with the SEB theme.

    Maybe those people that have ideas of this sort, that they would like to see discussed amongst this group, could submit them to you in an open email stating as such.  That would bring back some of the feel of the forums without losing the overall integrity of the site.

  14. Hi Les,

    You can either keep the personal tone of your blog, or you can throw it wide open and become an opinion journal that would not be your own personal hobby-horse anymore.

    In the first case you must exercise a strong editorial presence where you check for content as much as you check for typos or errors in grammar. In the second case, a simple disclaimer along the lines of “This post does not necessarily reflect the views of SEB, blah, blah, blah…” would work in addition to traditional editorial duties like grammar, spelling, and story layout.

    Do you really want to become a multi-author opinion journal? Guest authors are cool, and they sure help with the workload, but don’t let them take over.

    Just my 2 ducats. wink

  15. Les,

    I suggest that you take any interesting submissions like these that are way out there but at least interesting and post them up in batches somewhere.  Sort of a freako gallery, but off of the main page.

    There could be some gems in there.  But they shouldn’t make it on the main index page.

  16. What everyone said.  grin

    Les, don’t be afraid to be a fascist on your own site.  There’s no requirement for freedom of speech; the First Amendment applies to what the government should do, not individuals with their own publications, as it were.  You’ve set the tone from the beginning on this site; don’t let it stray just because you’re trying to be a nice guy.  (That would belie the site’s name, wouldn’t it? wink)

  17. I’m a little late to this thread, but IMNSHO you should not publish it if it isn’t to your liking. 

    The guest contributor thing is nifty and will continue to be an attraction but I think you’re right to be selective.  Given the size of your readership it’s a bully pulpit, which is a result of the high quality you maintain.

  18. I agree. Don’t post it… well… unless you want to make fun of it line by line. I always like those.

    Nobody ever said a blog was a democracy. It’s your corner of the internet, and people that don’t like the rules can leave.

  19. I agree with Amy.  I have withheld guest posts when I considered, “do I have enough here to back my opinion or am I just rambling”.  There is enough trash out there I can find if I want it.  maintain the high standard you hold your to your own work when considering ours/others. 

      The tips provided to new posters are also greatly apreciated.  Perhaps send it back and ask for more substance before you’ll post it.

  20. Looks like I’m a little late here, but as it sounds like it’s been said before…

    This is your website. You have ultimate power to post or not post information. Wether that info comes from a news article or from a reader submitting an article.

    If you hurt the feelings of the person who submitted the article, well that’s unfortunate, but that’s the real world for you.

  21. To be honest, I found it really surprising the first time I went to this site to see there were guest posts on the front page.  At the time, I only saw an entry from Brock and one from Eric Paulsen, so it wasn’t all that shocking.  Otherwise, I would have been worried that the individual beauty of this site (the fact that it was mostly inspired by the mindset of ONE individual) were lost.  Despite the fact you have other people posting opinions, it’s still entirely your creation, and you keep domain over it, which is just as it should be.  But you should NEVER feel obligated to post something stupid just because you might be criticized as exclusive.

    Besides, we’re looking for political and philisophical discourse here (except, of course, for the tech/funny entries), not nonsensical ravings on irrelivant subject matter.

  22. The lower the Les-ness quotient on this blog gets, the less I come back. In the end, blogs are personal expressions of the author, and they succeed or fail based on that. I might be different than everybody else, but I mostly just skim the “yellow” entries now.

  23. Since I began posting on May 30th, I’ve made 26 entries, which works out to an average of about 1 entry every 6 days. If I didn’t have this outlet, I doubt I would instead have a blog of my own. It’s simply too time consuming and requires a never ending desire to be creative, proficient and engaging. I may have been one or two of those things once or twice, but I could never be that way as often, with as little effort as Les seems to expend. I doubt I will ever be as eloquent as Les, or even Eric, though I’ve seen clever compelling entries by other guest writers. I don’t think any of us have proved yet to be at Les’ level, but the more we write, the better the chances we may become as readable as he is.

    I have never taken the honor of being able to contribute for granted. I simply think too much of the regulars here, and admire in them their abilities to discuss complicated controversial subjects in engaging, considerate and informative ways. I even love the wacky posters who represent (to me) the lunatic fringe of the blogoverse. And I love attempting to be humorous and satirical when the mood strikes me and when I manage to be such.

    I am thrilled constantly by the commenting quality of composers here. From JoshMan’s smooth, accomplished conversational ease to nowiser’s well-constructed intelligent musings, to decrepit’s wisdom and manner of conveying it, to GeekMom’s affable communicative style and elwed’s logical mind and his and ability to reveal it, to maryh’s reasonableness and delightful humor, to JethricOne’s kind faith and ease of speaking succinctly of it, to VernR’s reach of knowledge conveyed, to Spocko’s intriguing sense of humor, to Ragman’s feelings for fair engagement, to deadscot’s certain considerate style, to .rob adams’ ability to say so much, yet so strangely sometimes, to John Hoke, Eggman, Cindi, shana, Unsomnambulist, Brent, Etan, David, chief, Adam M, amy, Brooks, Neo, Brent, Cindy, Bachalon, ***Dave, Lady Veronica, Neon, Jay, LordKlegg, OB, QueenMillefiore, ingolfson, Dave M, Doccus, and how can I ever forget Momma, PopTarts, Laughing Muse, Tish, … etc, and though I shouldn’t have mentioned anyone unless I mentioned everyone, I easily have those named and sixty plus more people in my head at the moment that I know would have no problems making intelligent, entertaining and thought provoking entries. We are of many ages here but we seem to mesh well. And we have new commenters who promise to be engaging.

    I am mentally recalling even others here who communicate well and provoke my interests constantly but I need to stop trying to name them individually. I only named a few to illustrate that this blog is filled with well-adjusted, unique and accomplished personalities, some of whom may be professional writers someday, or already are. 

    I appreciate your honesty, Zachary, but the very discussion in this thread is proving that others have standards they, too, expect to be maintained at SEB. Some just seem to be more gracious than you. What you said offends me more than you may ever know, and I imagine others might be put off as well. Yet, if you are not compelled to read an entry or post a comment to it, that is saying something we need to hear.

    Let’s look at this as an experience in degrees. Some bloggers won’t even allow comments. Others allow them but not guest entries. Other blogs still, are represented by several entities. I think Les shows a remarkable maturity, solicitude and lack of excessive ego by sharing his construction with his readers. I too think he has something special here, and am humbled by his willingness to share it to such an extent. And, I want its over-all integrity maintained as well.

    When Les decided to open entry privileges to all members, the first things I thought were: “How are you going to have the heart to say no to anyone, and if you say no, will the person cease commenting or desiring to read here? Will the readership decrease instead of growing?” Then he received a certain entry and gave it careful consideration, because allowing it might alter the greater identity and credibility of this blog. While I would hate for it to have been an entry of mine receiving such consideration/censure, I felt that he should maintain certain standards and trusted his wisdom.

    I hope that Les’ experiment pays off again and again, but it cannot at all if we, as members, refuse to imagine and work for the possibilities this privilege affords each of us. Never read what you don’t want to, Zachary. But do try to avoid an elitist’s mindset and if someone writes something that you deign to read that makes you think, if they construct something that makes you laugh, if they touch on a familiar feeling of yours, I hope you’ll be generous by telling them so.

    Again, I apologize for not mentioning all the people who have impressed me, but I do remember you. Also, I apologize if I misspelled any names. I’m really recalling a lot from memory.

  24. I am thrilled constantly by the commenting quality of composers here. From JoshMan’s smooth, accomplished conversational ease …

    Now THAT, folks, is a masterly suckup.  wink

    (Luv ya, Brock!)

  25. Zach, your comment didn’t offend me as it did Brock, but I didn’t agree with it either.  The mix of Les, guest posters in general and Guest Bastards in particular, combined with the give-and-take of the regulars make this site a wonderful place.  I can’t think of another site where this kind of community has come together in quite this way.  If it were a democracy I’d vote for Les to continue as benevolent dictator.  But we all know how well “democracy” works, eh?

    “Les-ness” pervades SEB! wink

  26. Brock,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. The fact is, if you had a blog I probably would go read it. But that’s not the point.

    I stated as politely as I could an answer to Les’s question. In doing so, I offended you, even though I had no intention of doing so. So, Les asks something, Zachary answers, and Brock gets personally offended.

    This is actually a very good example of why I don’t like having guest posts. I don’t want to worry about Brock’s feelings when I responding directly to Les about a question he asks about Les’s site.

    I enjoy the give and take among commenters, but I enjoy it more when it’s about an issue that Les has seen fit to blog about. Now the default for this site will be the following: Posts and comments about anything anybody who comes to the site feels ;like posting about, as long as it’s not so weird that Les nixes it. I realize most people here approve of this. I don’t, and I told Les so. It’s not about you personally in the slightest.

    But, don’t worry Brock, I’m very obviously in the minority as far as the issue goes. You will have to suffer through only 99% agreement as opposed to 100%. Don’t let one reader’s opinion out of many ruin your day.

  27. I think the essence of the situation is that Les has decided to make the site a little more about “his issues” than about him personally.  If someone else wants to speak on those same issues, Les is happy to let them.

    I don’t always read all of Les’s entries thoroughly either (so sue me; I’m not into video games and I really don’t care about EE grin), but I’ve gotten to know some of the regulars’ writing well enough so that when I see a guest post by one of them, I’m as interested in reading it as I am in reading Les’s writing.

    I guess it just depends on whether you’re here for Les “Cult of Personality” Jenkins or whether you’re here for the beer. wink

  28. Believe it or not, GeekMom, I wasn’t trying to suck-up as much as it seemed (but surely a little) as I mainly wanted to give props to some people personally for the entertainment they’ve given me all this time. I should have kept it impersonal though because now I want to add others’ names to my list and explain why I like them. Too, by omitting some, I’ve committed the sin of visual exclusion. That’s not good and an accomplished suck-up would never do that.

    Zachary, you have every right to say what you think and, to be honest, it didn’t offend me as much as I suggested, or at least not for very long. You can skim whatever entries you like, and if you stop and make a comment, if it’s mine, I’ll feel doubly validated.

    And apology accepted. Say hello to Zak for me, will ya?

  29. The giving of compliments (now called “props” – nifty word) used to be ordinary, and is now extraordinary.  Somehow it’s just fallen out of fashion so when it happens, it takes us by surprise and we get a bit awkward about it. But sincerity is a strength, not a weakness.

    Brock, I was amazed at the list you retrieved from memory; I mix up my kids sometimes and I only have three of those.

  30. I bit late, but I wanted to add my two cents:

    Let the pinhead hang himself with his own words!

    Not that I condone the spreading of stupidity and flummery, but I think this might be a good opportunity to let others see/experience the wonders of pure drivel.

    I point to James Randi’s commentary page as an example. Randi often shares the wonderful(?) appliciations he gets for the JREF prize, providing the reader with a peek into the wierdness that is the mind of the True Believer.

    Also, I recall my university’s newpaper printing a two page spread (npt typeset, just photocopied from the guy’s handwritten pages) of some nut-ball’s ranting about “The Conspiracy” and “The End of the World”. At first I was taken aback that   something like that would appear in an academic publication. After some thought, though, I’ve realized two things:

    1) More people probably got a good laugh out of the loon’s ravings AND hopefully gained an understanding of the absolute nuttery behind “prophecy” and other religo-crap.

    2)The paper probably had little to no choice in the matter as it’s a state run school and I’m sure the school’s lawyer’s would rather avoid some messsy 1st ammendment thing.

    That first point is more the issue here, I think.
    I see little danger of any regular reader of SEB getting suckered by some loon. But I believe its a good idea to, once and a while, pull back the curtain and reveal the crazy-little-man-behind-the-wizard.

    Like I said: My $.02

  31. All of this feedback has been very helpful as have the various emails I’ve gotten from folks that have been both pro and con on my giving others a voice through SEB. Allow me to address some of the concerns I’ve heard expressed:

    SEB will become less about Les and more about whatever the hell some passersby decided to submit on a whim.

    Not gonna happen. First, I shoot my mouth of entirely too much for SEB to get that far away from being mainly about whatever random neuron firings are happening in my head that day. Secondly, I read through every line of every submission and consider very carefully whether I think they’re worth sharing with the rest of you.

    My conundrum in this case arose because it was the first submission I’d received that I couldn’t make at least some sense of and so off-the-wall that I was inclined to treat it as something I had come across someplace else that I would post just so I could tear into it. I just wasn’t sure how I should handle it.

    That said, I’m not going to become so lazy that I turn SEB into just something I log into occasionally and approve whatever submissions have happened along since the last time I checked it. No, this is still my baby and I still have too much stuff to say to let that happen.

    I get a lot of email from readers who have a lot of cool stuff to share and part of my goal in this experiment with guest posting was to make it possible for them to share it directly. Additionally there are some voices here that I think are worthy of sharing the spotlight with and whom may not have a blog of their own (for whatever reason) to share them on. Contrary to Brock’s impressions, it’s a lot of work for me to write my better entries as I spend a lot of time on them. Some of the longer ones have literally taken me all day to write as I find myself going off track and needing to edit the hell out of them. I’d say a good third of what I type ends up never making into the final submission so it’s always very gratifying to hear that folks think I’m a decent writer. If I am, it’s only because I spend so much time practicing it. With any luck the experience I’m providing some of the guest posters will help them to develop their skills and perhaps start their own blogs if they don’t already have one.

    OK, I’m rambling and I’ve only covered one of the concerns, but I need to finish this up for now.

  32. I’ve been gone from the site due to work pressure for a few days, and now I find myself hard-pressed to read up on the entries posted meanwhile. Or to add something worthwile to the threads (gosh, four, five days, and look at it).

    As GeekMom said, we certainly don’t all share all of Les’ interests (EE entries… yeah!) but enough of them to keep us coming back to read, argue or simply meet the people we have come to know here.

    I think Les should exercise restraint in approving entries. In quantity and quality. As GeekMom said (dang, too late here too!), this is not the media, and Les is under no moral obligation to present all views. If someone wants to publish something that does not meet Les standards of logical thinking or simple manners* then he SHOULD by all means reject it.

    *I just realized that to me, Les is a renaissance man of Heinlein’ian proportions.

  33. Maybe you should post the entry with the caveats you mentioned earlier and let us RIP IT TO PIECES I bet he won’t want to post here again!

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