Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Arbor Update Housekeeping

22. April 2008 • Bruce Fields
Email this article

Regulars may have noticed that lately we’ve gotten a little less tolerant of abuse of the comments section.

The reason’s probably obvious to anyone who’s been around for certain extended threads: a small number of people posting the same arguments repeatedly, often under multiple pseudonyms.

With those few exceptions, the comments here are great, so we don’t need to give you an etiquette lesson! What you do need to know, however, is that:

  • Spam and abuse have gotten aggressive enough to require some automated filters, which will (apologies!) occasionally misfire. Please contact us (at arborupdate at, if this happens to you—we’ll try to find the bug, and add your post for you if necessary.
  • People have occasionally had fun with screen names, without meaning any ill, but recent abuse has made this problematic. If you aren’t comfortable using your real name, that’s OK, as long as you pick a screen name and stick to it. (Alternatively, feel free to ask us or any other regular you trust to pass on your thoughts under their name.)
  • Please leave a working email address; we won’t give it out to anyone, but we might like to contact you to make sure you’re a real person or to resolve a technical problem.

There’s a rough comment policy on our about page. Be considerate and you should be fine.

Also, feel free to take this thread as an opportunity for any comments or gripes about Arbor Update in general.

  1. “There’s a rough comment policy on our about page.”

    But it’s pretty boring; you’ll have more fun if you go read boing-boing’s moderation policy, most of which would apply here too. (Though we’re probably not going to start disemvowelling….)

       —Bruce Fields    Apr. 22 '08 - 04:59PM    #
  2. I hope people taking the second bullet point to heart: “If you aren’t comfortable using your real name, that’s OK.” There should be a good reason you aren’t comfortable, such as fear of being harassed. If there isn’t such a reason, then you should use your real name.

       —David Cahill    Apr. 22 '08 - 05:49PM    #
  3. I have no problem posting my real (yet not full) name. I’ll stick to harassing people on Digg…

       —Skyler    Apr. 22 '08 - 08:40PM    #
  4. OK, Bruce,

    My complaint is this Blog’s passion for silence, when it comes to Palestine.

    Do you feel that the Democrats are permanent, that Israel is permanent, that you can disregard the feelings of 200 million Arabs forever?

    Imagine how “Arbor Update” looks, to its Muslim readers.

    It looks over-awed by Zionists who don’t deserve your awe. It looks frightened: it runs away from the issue of Palestine, and its captivity.



    Fact: Israel is starving Gaza, with a medieval military blockade.

    Fact: City Council has spent 24 years refusing any resolution in defense of Palestine. (Even when urged to approve one, by City Council’s own Human Rights Commission.)

    Fact: The most “liberal” Democrats on this Blog will not be caught dead asking for any kind of action against Israel.

    Fact: No one, simply no one, is afraid to offend Palestinians on this Blog. Why?

    Fact: Everyone in political life is in a PANIC to avoid offending Israel. This is true no matter how many thousands of Palestinians are murdered, on Palestinian land, by the Israeli army. Why?


    Add it up:

    * No fear of offending Palestinians (who are starving).

    * Massive fear of offending Zionists (who are robbing and bleeding Palestine to death).

    It adds up to a racist political culture.


    My solution:

    I believe it’s Arbor Update’s duty to combat racism, not to accommodate it.

    I believe it’s Arbor Update’s duty to solicit Palestinian writers for this Blog.

    I believe it’s your duty to combat your dread fear of offending Israel.

    Otherwise, Israel and the U.S. will kill millions more people… Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, and maybe Iran.

    You don’t really feel that Muslims can be endlessly butchered and humiliated, with not one article in their defense… do you?

       —Blaine Coleman    Apr. 23 '08 - 02:41AM    #
  5. “your dread fear of offending Israel.”

    Multiple people have expressed reasons why they’ve found your postings unhelpful. “Fear of offending Israel” has never been among them.

    The above post is a typical example: it takes up twice the vertical space of all the previous comments put together. The majority of that space is literally content-free. (It’s whitespace.) Most of the content that remains has been posted on this site in similar form multiple times previously, and is tangential to the current topic. The writing is designed to provoke (“PANIC”, the repeated “I believe…”‘s, etc.) rather than to explain.

    Etc. I’ll leave the above post as a reminder of what we’re missing, but expect similar stuff to be dropped.

       —Bruce Fields    Apr. 23 '08 - 03:53AM    #
  6. Are you sure that really was Blaine?

       —Matt    Apr. 23 '08 - 07:20PM    #
  7. “Are you sure that really was Blaine?”

    Hah. That was my guess, but feel free to email him and ask if you want to know.

       —Bruce Fields    Apr. 23 '08 - 08:06PM    #
  8. “There should be a good reason you aren’t comfortable, such as fear of being harassed. If there isn’t such a reason, then you should use your real name.”

    The language chosen was intentionally softer than that.

    There’s no problem with people choosing a consistent nickname just to keep their full name off google, or whatever. I’m personally a little more uneasy when people appear to be using it play a stronger personality than they would otherwise, but not everyone agrees with me. And, hey, if you’re funny you can get away with a lot.

    The one thing we’ve seen a really strong consensus for is picking a name and sticking with it.

       —Bruce Fields    Apr. 23 '08 - 08:26PM    #
  9. Blaine Coleman? Is that a real post. Does that even have to do with this topic? Lets go door-to-door and solicit people that support Palestinian interests.

       —Mean Mr. Mustard    Apr. 24 '08 - 03:05AM    #
  10. I usually bristle at anything that hints of censorship, but I have to agree that the fourth comment is inappropriate. Incessant name-calling is a questionable strategy to “persuade” others to one’s point of view. Definitely not the voice of a “big tent” activist.

    It may be burdensome, but replacing removed comments with a marker stating, “This comment removed by moderator” would foster continuity in the threads. Perhaps even, “The removed message can be viewed here”, linking to the removed message would be even better, but would be extra work.

    Of course—whichever methods are chose by the moderators—making everyone happy is a nearly impossible task.

       —Michael Schils    Apr. 24 '08 - 04:14PM    #
  11. I’d like to second Bruce’s comment 8, that there can be plenty of reason not to use one’s real name, and the point was not to say, “Use your real name, except in rare circumstances.”

    I’m perfectly content with Parking Structure Dude!, New West Sider, Young Urbanist, HD, Cooler Heads, Ann Arbor is Overrated, Mucho Gusto, and others who have maintained constant handles over long periods of time. Sure, I’ve never met PSD! in person – but nor have I met Michael Schils or Karen Sidney in person, so PSD! is, to me, nearly as informative as those real names.

    The emphasis of the policy is more about not being intentionally misleading with your handle, either by using other people’s real names / regular handles, or by switching handles every few posts.

    The community works when we know who’s speaking, not in the sense that we can look them up in the assessing and voting records, but relative to their past comments.

       —Murph    Apr. 25 '08 - 04:16PM    #
  12. The key to the new policy is “if you’re not comfortable with using your real name”.

       —David Cahill    Apr. 25 '08 - 04:28PM    #
  13. I mostly frequent financial and computer related sites. Time and again I see people graciously debating and/or accepting advice from those named something along the lines of “marketguy1968” or “Server Backup Dude!”. Yet from some on this site there appears to be a general sentiment of your thoughts on [insert local topic here] have no validity because that’s not your “real name”.

    If people can discuss something as contentious as how to handle their money without stooping to deriding the manner in which a comment is signed, why can’t this site do the same when it comes to local issues?

    So, I would propose a related screen name policy: There is no need to debate the legitimacy of a comment based on the author’s screen name. If you are so inclined to respond to a pseudonymous commenter, accept that their reasons for using a pseudonym are their own and reply as you would to someone using their “real name”.

       —FAA    Apr. 25 '08 - 09:00PM    #
  14. If you know who someone is in real life, you’ll probably give their opinions more weight than otherwise.

       —David Cahill    Apr. 26 '08 - 06:13AM    #
  15. we need the arbor update summer picnic.

       —Edward Vielmetti    Apr. 26 '08 - 07:09AM    #
  16. we need the arbor update summer picnic.

    Good idea!

       —Larry Kestenbaum    Apr. 26 '08 - 07:51AM    #
  17. I don’t have a problem with people who use pseudonyms as long as their posts make sense and they treat others with respect. I have a real problem with people who launch personal attacks on others behind the safety of a pseudonym.

       —Tom Brandt    Apr. 26 '08 - 08:19PM    #
  18. In my opinion,Arbor Update has provided an excellent service to the community in supplementing local news with information supplied by local insiders aware of the issues. Arbor Update’s recent threads covering the controversy of building a new police/court facility have been a good example. We heard from the mayor,county commission chairman, council insiders, and numerous others knowledgeable on issues relevant to this topic. These posts were a substantial factor in the support being given to the Ask The Voters movement to put related issues on the ballot in lieu of a council vote. A couple years ago, partial credit to the defeat of the jail milllage was given by People Against Corruption, who opposed the millage, to Arbor Update for the informative posts on that issue. Arbor Update, however, should be “content neutral” and not edit a post only because it deals with the Palestine/Israel conflict. To the extent that Blaine Coleman (or others) may inject highly repetitive arguments on any topic or take up an excessive amount of space with little or no useful information being imparted, editing may be deemed proper. I do not believe the Palestine/Israel controversy is irrelevant to Ann Arbor since Ann Arbor is home to many Jewish or Arab residents and students as well as groups representing these interests. The thoughts of the public on such matters should not be summarily excluded from relevant threads.

       —Kerry D.    Apr. 28 '08 - 04:01AM    #
  19. Yay—arbor update summer picnic! It is cool to meet people IRL after “knowing” them in cyberspace. I finally met Juliew & Ed and I felt like I’d known them for ages which, I guess, I had.
    Also, once you put a face to a name, I think that it’s more difficult to make personal attacks. Not that I usually make personal attacks, but sometimes I read something and think, “Jesus Christ—shut the fuck up already”. I might be more patient if I could think of the person instead of just the screen name….

       —TeacherPatti    Apr. 28 '08 - 05:56PM    #
  20. hmmmmmmmm …. a picnic sounds about right …

       —toasty    May. 5 '08 - 09:08AM    #
  21. Some pseudonyms are meant to be alter ego.

    Some are meant for protection.

    What a shame we don’t have a REAL newspaper in A2 in order to find out whats really going on.

       —fuzzbollah    May. 13 '08 - 03:45AM    #
  22. I’m voting for a picnic also. Gallup Park? Not Memorial Day.

       —a2oldie    May. 13 '08 - 06:58PM    #
  23. A good thought.

       —Mark Koroi    May. 27 '08 - 06:55AM    #
  24. I like HD’s idea….

       —TeacherPatti    Jun. 7 '08 - 03:54AM    #