On death, bikes, cancer and the practice of aggressive moderation

Continuing our conversation on local news sites and their policies concerning the removal of people’s comments, it’s been brought to my attention that the recently launched AnnArbor.com site is already making good on their promise to “aggressively moderate” the contributions of their readers. Apparently, yesterday, reader comments following a short article on the tragic death of a local cyclist began disappearing. Monitors, however, to their credit, were quick to acknowledge their actions. The following comment was left in the thread by AnnArbor.com’s Cindy Heflin:

Some comments on this story have been removed because they assign blame to one side or another or they are discussing whether bikers or drivers are inconsiderate of each other. If you’d like to discuss that topic, please start a conversation on the blog. If you want to discuss comment moderation on this site, please post comments here:http://www.annarbor.com/about/comment-moderation-guidelines-meant-to-cultivate-community-forum/

Unfortunately, not all the comments removed from this particular thread had to do with bikers and drivers being inconsiderate of one another. Following is one of the comments, left by someone calling himself AAbob43, that was removed from the thread by moderators.

I read this bicyclist story via the “AnnArbor.Com” newsletter. I was invited to subscribe to that newsletter, and it was sent to me by AA.Com. The “headline” of today’s newsletter was the bicyclist story. I clicked the link for more information, and was directed to a screen full of Wolverine football info. So, the link was defective, and in this somber case, troubling. I then found the “rest of the story” on the bicyclist by navigating my way through the “news” tab. I was troubled to see that AA.Com had reported only 74 or so words on this story. Meanwhile, there was a wealth of information via the posts of individuals who had been at the accident site. The reporter had included no such information. I then posted a comment complaining about the defective link and skimpy journalism. I received an e-mail from Jim Knight of AA.Com. It said that “I took your comment down from the thread because it’s not on topic.” I then called Jim. We had a frank discussion about defective links (Jim had not reviewed the AA.Com newsletter, and was surprised at the erroneous link.) We also discussed the content (or lack of content) in the story. Jim indicated that AA.Com was waiting for the official police verison before reporting more, and observed that eyewitnesses can be unreliable. I find this frightening. If AA.Com is going to wait for the official police version of events before reporting to the community, we won’t need AA.Com. We can just accept whatever the police tell us and be done with it. What does it say if AA.Com won’t report on eyewitness information, especially when the same information was corroborated by numerous citizens? Meanwhile this morning, I have read the Detroit Free Press online, and have read the New York Times in print. The latter, of course, pretty much sets the standard in journalism. And for those on the right, I’ll read the Wall Street Journal in an hour or so (also an excellent paper.) I am very concerned over the future of “journalism” in Ann Arbor. I read a story pertaining to a bicyclist’s death (I am an avid cycler.) I got U of M football instead. When I found the “story” it was more of an anaecdote. I expressed concern about exactly that “story” and had those comments deleted by AA.Com because they were not “on topic.” And finally, I was told that more info had to await the police version of things. Wow.

To the credit of AnnArbor.com, however, this comment was eventually reposted to the thread, along with the following letter from editor Tony Dearing.

AAbob, your comment has been reposted here, and I’d like to address your concerns. I apologize for the incorrect link in the newsletter. We are taking steps to prevent it from occurring again. You can read more about that here:

As for the story, Jim Knight did not mean to convey that we don’t talk to eye-witnesses or gather information from the scene of an incident. We did have a reporter at the scene, and there were no eye-witnesses present while he was there. As eye-witnesses commented on the story later, we should have tracked them down and talked to them. On this story, we fell short of what you expect and what I expect, in terms of continuing to follow and develop the story.
In terms of removing comments, we do remove those that are off-topic, but if someone is questioning our reporting on the story, that comment should remain up on the site, and we should respond to concerns about our stories, as I am doing here. That is how we will handle such comments moving forward.

While I continue to have issues with AnnArbor.com’s aggressive moderation, I’m encouraged by Dearing’s response to this particular reader, and I think it marks a move in a positive direction. As I’ve indicated previously, this question of what gets removed and when is going to be incredibly difficult one for the folks at AnnArbor.com to work though, and, I think the success of the entire enterprise hangs in the balance. As this particular thread demonstrates (the thread includes several incredibly vivid comments from eye-witnesses of the accident), there’s enormous potential here, if moderators are able cultivate a readership that feels respected. And, based on what I’ve seen with regard to the treatment of this one comment, I think they may have a shot of pulling it off.

Speaking of online conversations taking place on local news sites, my friend Tim has a brilliant piece on his site tonight about a recent MLive.com discussion on the new bike racks popping up around Ann Arbor. The post, which does a wonderful job of weaving together various threads, ends with a link to the blog of Tim’s cousin Julie, who is presently battling an aggressive form of cancer. The following clip, which I absolutely love, comes from her. (I can’t stop reading her site tonight.)

… When I was ten, summer meant riding our bikes to Rainbow Park with sack lunches tied to our backs, our tires wobbly on the dirt trail by the chain link fence where that one stinkin dog always barked and tried to get our pedals. We (we being me, my sister Angie and usually one or two of our neighborhood friends) threw down our bikes at the big meadowy hill and chowed sandwiches and Capri Sun. Then I think we played tetherball, but I might be wrong about this.

We returned home sweaty and tired, having raced on the way home, with Cindy Smith trying to win by doing that bobbing thing up the hills. Our kickstands melted into the asphalt of the driveway (the next day my brother would measure the depth of the kickstand hole and compare it to previous days). We stuck our heads in the freezer until our mom yelled at us to get out of the kitchen while she tried to make Beef Stoganoff in the electric skillet.

I went to bed sweaty again, probably, but happy knowing that we could do the very exact thing tomorrow if we wanted to.

Growing older, of course, brings more responsibility and perhaps less freedom, but summer always has that free edge. Margaritas with dinner outside on a patio, camping in the middle of some woods right next to your car, no jacket, swimming, popsicles in the middle of the day. Screen doors.

Dare I complain from my beautiful little garden room? Dare I open the pretty french doors and scream bloody murder?

I am attached to a pain pump and a catheter which drains my left lung. And I just want to go swimming. A long fast swim like at swim team in 7th grade. A 20 foot deep bottom search at Lannon Quarry where I was a lifeguard and swim instructor with pretty pink lungs and a whistle. A leisurely sidestroke with my Gramma in her inground pool (pick the apple, put it in the basket; pick the apple, put it in the basket). A crazy handholding bobjumping headgoinunder with my daughter, Luka, as we swam around Creston Pool. Mama and Baby Fish…

My thoughts tonight are with Julie and her family, as well as the family of the man who died here yesterday, on his bike, as he peddled home to see them. I wish I had fitting words to offer, but everything just seems so trite. The world seems to be such an incredibly cruel and arbitrary place sometimes. It’s hard to believe that life goes on in spite of it. I suppose we should find that comforting somehow. I’m having a hard time seeing it right now, though.

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  1. Posted July 30, 2009 at 12:31 am | Permalink

    Every Living Person Has Problems

  2. Posted July 30, 2009 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    For what it’s worth, I’m teaching an online class right now called “Writing for the World Wide Web, and we’re talking about “citizen journalism” and some of our local options. So far, my students have not been kind about annarbor.com. I just posted a link to this post on the class site, so I’ll be curious to hear what they say about that.

  3. Posted July 30, 2009 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    As most of them are newspaper people, I suspect there’s going to be a relatively steep learning curve. I think we all know that there will be problems at first. Fortunately, in this particular case, they caught the problem before things went too far. I’m encouraged by that. Sure, it’s troubling that they took it off a comment calling them out on their journalistic skills in the first place, and I still don’t know about the other comments were removed, but I think the reposting of this particular comment demonstrates that there’s hope, and I’d like to encourage that.

  4. Posted July 30, 2009 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    And thanks for the link, Steve. I too am hopeful that your students will join the conversation on this.

  5. Posted July 30, 2009 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    The AnnArbor.com site is down at the moment.

  6. Posted July 30, 2009 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    Good morning — I’m here from Steve Krause’s class, and I’m one of the students who hasn’t been kind about annarbor.com. Having read your post, I’m even less inclined to give the site a break. I understand the desire to keep a conversation on topic (been there, done that, burned the t-shirt), but when the conversation is taking place on a news organization’s site, moderation to the extent that annarbor.com is taking it is extremely troubling.

    Certain conversations need to take place, and in a community forum, which is what annarbor.com *could* be, it’s only natural that those conversations take place within the comments of a given article. As long as Godwin’s law hasn’t been invoked, and as long as people are maintaining relatively civil discourse, the comments should remain up. Even if Godwin’s law is invoked or people start getting nasty, the next step should be a moderator requesting the language be toned down, *not* post deletion. If things still don’t calm down, then at that point, you put the offenders on moderated status so their posts have to be approved prior to going up.

    This goes back to what you had to say about the readership feeling respected. At this point, with this type of behavior on the part of annarbor.com, respect is the last thing I feel. It’s good that Dearing stepped in, but he has work ahead of him to regain the credibility annarbor.com lost with this mess.

  7. Joanne
    Posted July 30, 2009 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    When they said they would remove comments, I assumed they would remove the assanign ones where people type in “Duh”, or cuss words or comments that really do not add content to a discussion. But comments that are a discussion thread about the topic that add to the story shouldn’t be removed; comments that add information shouldn’t be removed; and a discussion about bikers vs. cars shouldn’t be removed unless the only comment is “duh”. Why have a comment section if you are obliterating all relevant comments?

  8. Cal
    Posted July 30, 2009 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    I think we need to encourage them when we see them making good decisions. It’s essential to our community that this site be successful. With that said, their decision yesterday to remove a comment that raised legitimate questions about their coverage, is unforgivable. Yes, I’m happy that they reposted it and addressed the matter to some extent, but it shouldn’t have happened in the first place. Their first editorial impulse should not be “hit delete”.

  9. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted July 30, 2009 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    I’m going to start by saying that I was never a big fan of the Ann Arbor News. While it was sad to see another traditional Michigan news paper dissappear, I could just never get behind the writing. I do like AA.com in so much as it is an easy to follow format (I like to peak at it during the work day) I’ll reserve my judgement on it’s value. So far, the quality of the articles seem to be at or below the standards of the AA News, in my opinion. I havn’t gotten into the threads much, but I do hope they are on the up swing of the learning curve as far a what degree of “aggressive moderation” readers of the site are willing to put up with. But while we’re at it, can we please get an Ypsilanti.com? I know AA.com says it has a Ypsi neighboor hood thread in the works. But I think that we have more than enough going on in our city to warrent our own “front page”.

  10. Posted July 30, 2009 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    I can’t stop reading Tim’s cousin’s blog either. I was in a shitty mood earlier and then I thought of her and snapped out of it. Such a sad and beautiful blog.

  11. Posted July 30, 2009 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

    Call me crazy– but whenever I tried to navigate the AA News on Mlive the comments after a story were wildly off topic. Most recent in memory: a story about an Ypsilanti murder followed by an onslaught of pro-life spam comments that had zero to do with the article– rendering an intelligent feedback area about the event totally useless.

    If the comment has anything at all to do with the story it should be considered on topic– especially so if the comment’s purpose is to seek out additional information, and perhaps even more so if it calls the content of the story into question. A free press is only as good as the citizens who hold it accountable. This is bad news.

  12. Posted July 31, 2009 at 12:58 am | Permalink

    Thanks for everyone’s reasonable comments here.

    There’s a very fine set of balancing points that a lot of people are learning to figure out what kinds of comments are reasonable to keep up, and which ones should be unpublished. I remember reading MLive and basically giving up on the notion that any of the comments would be worth reading, let alone joining into the discussion on; so there’s some minimal standard that needs to be improved upon. That very clearly means that some old “free speech zone” anything goes banter needed to change, so that you could get an environment in place where people would be willing to engage and not just write it off. There also needs to be reasonable, sensible understanding about the differences between postings that are off-topic and those which are stupid. (Editors reserve the right to remove things that are stupid; that’s what they are there for; you expect that, even if you don’t expect it on every blog.)

    There are a bunch of teachable moments going on – and lots of learning curves. Some things will break along the way.

    Edward Vielmetti
    AnnArbor.com – “Where news breaks”

  13. Brackinald Achery
    Posted July 31, 2009 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    This isn’t a government free speech issue, this is a private property rights issue. It’s their news outlet, they can do whatever they want. We don’t have legitimate authority or ownership of it, they do. Sure, we can refuse to partake of their service for whatever reason if we get bees in our bonnets about how they run their show, but that’s the end of our business with their business. They don’t tell folks how to run their blogs.

  14. Generic Registration
    Posted July 31, 2009 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Brack, it’s a little more complex than that. We want to tell AA.com how to behave because we want to want to go there. We want a successful organization providing us with this information.

    There are also ethical reasons why this is a problem. AA.com is representing itself as a “community forum.” They are also representing themselves as our source for local news.

    The first part is clear. If you are only allowed to say things in support of the king of England, there will be trouble. A forum is a place for dialogue, and dialogue is not composed well from within a straightjacket.

    The second part, however, while being more vague, also has the potential to be much more troubling. If the local news source exercises total control over the conversation, it’s no longer news – it’s propaganda. How will anyone ever know if they’re deleting all comments opposing an elected official, while leaving the supporters’ comments intact? How can we trust that they would actually publish an important story if it were one that might cast an advertiser in a negative light?
    Disallowing comments at all forces readers to – however inconveniently – take the conversation to a different place. Moderating to the extent that I’ve seen implies that there is a conversation, and implies that the conversation is entirely different than what it actually is. That is a frightening, frightening thing if you’ve ever taken any history class anywhere.

    While AA.com claims to have a wealth of anecdotal testimony about how in-demand this form of ultra-moderation is, the overwhelming response on the site itself has been, essentially, pleading for relief. I truly hope they can demonstrate a long-forgotten ability here and rethink this behavior, the ‘rightness’ of which they’ve very clearly developed an emotional attachment to.

  15. Merl Crabtree
    Posted July 31, 2009 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Ed, is that “Where News Breaks” tag line official?

  16. newspaper reader
    Posted July 31, 2009 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    In the daily AA.com “newsletter” I can barely find any news whatsoever.

    Nor can I get a human being at the circulation department to explain their rates for the paper copies to be delivered twice a week. The AA.com plan seems to be that home subscribers of the closed paper AA NEWS will pay the same price we used to pay for getting an actual newspaper delivered at home 7 days a week, but instead we’ll now get a far-less-than-a-newspaper, delivered just 2 days a week. But this is how I read the meager info they share — they don’t answer questions. I am sure all is hectic there, and that this is not, contrary to what some former AA NEWS subscribers are saying, a corporate effort to minimize having to give refunds.

  17. Brackinald Achery
    Posted July 31, 2009 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    Actually, Generic, it is that simple. Private media outlets aren’t government agencies. Freedom of speech doesn’t apply. We, the readership, are mere consumers in this formula. We have no legitimate control of somebody else’s biznatch. If we think we aught to, that’s because we are used to violating people’s boundaries and demanding ownership of things that don’t belong to us (which we are used to). Now, it’s up to them to make a biznatch decision based on what consumers want. The end.

    It is exactly the same as us telling Mark what to do with his blog. It’s HIS blog. Not ours. He may make decisions that take our stupid opinions into account in a respectful way to maintain readership, but he is in no way morally or ethically obligated to cater to our demands or baseless sense of entitlement.

    If you have a problem with that, shop elsewhere or make your own media outlet/blog, and see how you like it when everyone starts telling you how to run your show.

  18. generic registration
    Posted July 31, 2009 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    thanks for listening, Brack. Since your repeating of your point without addressing any of mine isn’t going to change me, I won’t do you the same disservice.

  19. Duh
    Posted August 1, 2009 at 2:49 am | Permalink


  20. Brackinald Achery
    Posted August 1, 2009 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Deal. And you’re welcome.

  21. Posted August 1, 2009 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    “If the local news source exercises total control over the conversation, i
    it’s no longer news – it’s propaganda.”

    Newspapers haven’t traditionally committed to publishing everyone that anyone sent them; in that sense, they’ve always had “total control” over what they chose to put in. Yet, we don’t automatically call all newspapers “propaganda”.

    One of the services a newspaper provides is that of editing–selecting the best writing on the most important and interesting news of the day, rather than just including everything. I consider that a valuable service. The fact that it’s also very difficult doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be attempted.

  22. Posted August 2, 2009 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    This was a very interesting post to read. And right now… I’m having a hard time seeing it that way also :(

  23. Michael Schils
    Posted August 3, 2009 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    Bruce, I think you are missing Generic Registration’s (username of commenter above) excellent point that moderation with a heavy footprint alters the direction of the conversation so much that you are left with the moderator’s view of what the conversation should be, rather than what the conversation would have been if left alone. To that extent, “propaganda” would not be an inaccurate description for a heavily moderated “conversation”.

    A good example of this would be the thread regarding the People’s Food CoOp Election you had a part in moderating at Arbor Update. As you may recall, that thread went over two hundred comments, nearly three weeks, before the decision was made to shut it down. But it was only a day old when you announced that you were ready to shut it down if you were only going to see a “rehash” of the “same arguments”. You made this comment immediately after a local attorney, who (ironically) has taken cases to defend civil rights, urged that the thread be closed. A few comments later, you explained that you wanted to prevent the thread from “being boring” and that you wanted “to learn stuff” and that anyone who didn’t like it could “get your own blog”.

    In an effort to narrow your extremely vague requirement that you personally “learn stuff” from a comment, I respectfully asked that you provide a list of the things you already knew, but you never provided such.

    Your announcement significantly altered the direction of the conversation from that point on, as all the participants had to anticipate what you would personally “learn from” or consider “new”, else their comment would be scrubbed in the moderators’ next “cleansing”. After a string of “disappeared” comments, it eventually became clear that you had apparently seen enough of the comments critical of Israel’s military policies and/or in support of a boycott of Israel products. On the other hand, from the large number of anonymous comments that personally attacked the boycott supporters, which you allowed to remain; I concluded that you must have felt that you were still learning something from these comments, which many of us found to be boringly repetitive and of little use in furthering the discussion.

    So Bruce, the heavy footprint of your moderation changed the discussion INTO something the discussion would not have been otherwise. Or maybe what is more important is that your moderation changed the discussion FROM whatever it would have been if it was left alone.

    You “changed history” in the sense that the thread was a historical log of a sampling of the views held by the humans alive in this area at this point in time. After humans become extinct, and Martian archaeologists sift through the ruins at Arbor Update to try to determine what the inhabitants thought about stuff; they will get a distorted view that is disproportionably pro-Israel (military policies)/anti-boycott if they only consider the comments in the Co-op election thread and they never find the log of the comments that were deleted. But even if the Martians find the deletion log, their impression of the proportion of the views held will still be distorted to some degree if they don’t consider the number of “potential” comments your moderation announcement probably pre-empted.

    (But maybe the Martians will also find this comment telling them to consider the pre-emption thing, so in that very small and obscure sense, maybe I have just “changed history” too. Wow, let me bask just for a moment in this feeling of self-importance, however delusional it may be.)

  24. Posted August 3, 2009 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    “You “changed history” in the sense that the thread was a historical log of a sampling of the views held by the humans alive in this area at this point in time.”

    You can’t be serious. I mean, OK, maybe it’s a “sample”, but as samples go, it’s hard to imagine one worse.

    Nobody who has any sense whatsoever is going to conclude anything from counting up the number of pro- and anti- boycott comments on one of those threads. (Among other reasons: people who post are a self-selective group not necessarily representative of local opinion; many people post very frequently, sometimes under multiple identities; etc., etc., etc.)

    What someone *might* use such a thread for is to learn new stuff: facts they didn’t know before, arguments they hadn’t heard before, whatever.

    “In an effort to narrow your extremely vague requirement that you personally “learn stuff” from a comment, I respectfully asked that you provide a list of the things you already knew, but you never provided such. ”

    How about just assuming I’ve read the previous threads on the same subject?

  25. Brackinald Achery
    Posted August 3, 2009 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    The lines between what is publicly controlled and what is privately controlled don’t disappear just because the bullying majority ignores them. It just makes the majority ignorant bullies, who deserve to be treated as such.

  26. Michael Schils
    Posted August 4, 2009 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    Bruce, early in the AU thread, you announced a new requirement that comments must be “new” and not “boring”. This requirement was unprecedented at Arbor Update, which before that didn’t concern itself with whether each comment was a new revelation. This vague requirement of course provided the cover needed for arbitrary deletions.

    The CoOp election involved two candidates that were running on a platform in support of boycotting Israeli goods. The two candidates alleged that they were the only two who registered on time for the election, and that the deadline was post-extended with no announcement, just so two new candidates could be recruited to defeat the two pro-boycott candidates.

    The three who involved themselves with moderating the thread -You, Matt Hampel, and Chuck Warpehoski – all indicated that you were against the boycott and that you voted for the two anti-boycott candidates in the election. By the fact that you all three voted for the two candidates who won, you obviously would have low tolerance for any allegations by the losing candidates, that the election had been rigged.

    So how could any of you three claim any kind of neutrality in your moderation of the discussion?

    You couldn’t, and your moderation showed that you three were anything but neutral.

    I will go on when I have more time because rigged discussion threads fascinate me as much as rigged elections and, well, you will have a much harder time deleting my comments or closing threads here.

  27. Posted August 4, 2009 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    “So how could any of you three claim any kind of neutrality in your moderation of the discussion?”

    I’m not willing to give up my opinions, sorry, nor am I going to ask the other (volunteer) editors to do so.

    Are you suggesting that evidence that the Co-op vote was rigged was suppressed by the Arbor Update moderation? Can you give an example of such evidence?

    “you will have a much harder time deleting my comments or closing threads here.”

    Sure. Go crazy.

  28. Curt Waugh
    Posted August 5, 2009 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    I don’t have a dog in this fight, so it’s kinda funny reading this little spat.

    My takeaway:
    Bruce, you are very defiant in your responses. You might be right as rain for all I know. But here’s the funny part: My reading of this situation is that your post appears to be just the sort of thing you would have taken down from your blog – and yet here you are milking it for all it’s worth to support your position.

    You could build a wrought irony fence with this example.

    (Just a side note: Why does it matter who the board members are? Can’t the membership at large simply vote for the boycott over the wishes of the board?)

  29. Castor
    Posted August 5, 2009 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    I vote that we preemptively cut off Michael.

    We could form a virtual MarkMaynard.com death squad.

  30. Michael Schils
    Posted August 5, 2009 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    uhhh…I need some context before I can determine how I should take that. But going by the comment you posted 2 minutes later, perhaps I could seduce you over to my side by sending you a box of my curly body hair. (It doesn’t have to come from my chest, does it?)

  31. tommy
    Posted August 5, 2009 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    Aggreesive moderation alive and well over at annarbor.com

    The topic – dead swans. The reasons for deletion – not clear other than the staff noting that the comments were not directly related to what turned out to be roadkill – as opposed to a fatal gunshot. Still not sure what they are doing over there. Why paid staff members of a new age ‘paper’ spend time trying to clean up comments is beyond me. A waste of their salary, in my opinion. The hours spent on moderation could be spent on reporting.

    I do believe news is dead in this town.

  32. Posted August 5, 2009 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    “My reading of this situation is that your post appears to be just the sort of thing you would have taken down from your blog”

    Hard for me to judge, of course! But I’m personally more worried about whether I’m, for example, repeating myself, or engaging in ad-hominems, than about rather I sound angry. (Though I’d rather not sound angry–apologies.)

    “Just a side note: Why does it matter who the board members are? Can’t the membership at large simply vote for the boycott over the wishes of the board?”

    Right, people can petition for it to be put to a vote. That was tried, and the vote was against by a rather large margin. It’s a long saga….

  33. Curt Waugh
    Posted August 6, 2009 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    “Right, people can petition for it to be put to a vote. That was tried, and the vote was against by a rather large margin. It’s a long saga….”

    Thanks for the clarification. Probably not the place to get into this further.

  34. Michael Schils
    Posted August 7, 2009 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    Yes, Bruce, you have made it quite clear that the push to boycott Israeli goods at the CoOp is “a long saga” with which you have become very bored. Matt and Chuck share your opinion at Arbor Update, which is why you three “aggressively moderated” the discussion to remove many if not most of the comments in favor of a boycott. Of course, since the reason for the boycott is to protest alleged abuses by the Israeli military, you excluded many of those comments, too.

    Did your fellow contributor who started the CoOp election threads get the memo, Bruce? I notice she said the first election thread was her first post of an article at AU. Did she know that you three had had about all you could take of the boycott Israel thing? You should most certainly make her aware of such so that she doesn’t start any more threads related to the subject in the future. When the only two candidates who registered on time are in support of the boycott, it’s kind of silly to start a discussion about the election and expect everyone to avoid the subject.

    In the AU thread, right after an example of your “aggressive moderation” – when with no announcement, just prior to the election, you (or someone) quietly closed the thread for about 16 hours after questions were being raised regarding the election’s integrity – I asked if this move was OK with the contributor who started the thread. She never responded.

    Bruce, did all of the other contributors listed on AU’s “About this site” give their consent for the new “aggressive moderate” policy you were implementing?

    If not, and if there was some kind of coup at AU where the anti-boycotters unilaterally enforced their opinion on the rest by exerting control over the CoOp election discussion, then well, that’s not too cool. But if so, and if it was agreed by all that pro-boycott comments and criticisms against Israel’s military policies would no longer be tolerated at Arbor Update, then you should include something in your “About this site”-page to reflect that. Otherwise, readers may get the mistaken impression they are getting a view of the discussion that is undistorted by bias.

  35. Late Notice
    Posted August 18, 2009 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    I know it’s super late notice, but there’s a memorial for Tim Pincikowski, the bicyclist who was struck and killed while riding in Pittsfield Township, at 5:00 this afternoon. Details can be found here.


  36. Posted November 16, 2009 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

    A new chapter unfolds for those Ann Arbor bike racks.

  37. AndyYpsilanti
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    I just got moderated on AA.com for defending myself against my AA.com stalker. The guy (go blue 32) seems to think I am Andy French.

  38. Ed
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    I see what they did there… They turned “ART” into “FART”!

  39. Andy French
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Oh man…what did I do now.

  40. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know what you’ve been doing Andy, but someone out there seems to think we are the same person, or that I somehow work for either Aubree’s or Frenchies as a lobbyist. If that’s true, you all are behind on my checks.

    What I did was talk about how cool Ypsi is and how people are “afraid” to go to Ypsi are missing out (and are kind of sheltered, to say the least) I may also have said “I’m afraid to go to Ann Arbor because the people there are suck up, pretentious jerks who want our government to be run by commies but still crank of the price of dinner and drinks 30%.” But I totally made it clear that I’m not you.

    But that’s not what got moderated. The post where I made it clear that I am not you or an employee of yours got moderated.

  41. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted November 17, 2009 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    Here is the thread, if anyone wants to read. It came up a few day’s after Mark’s thread on the same subject. Good to know who our local journalistic leaders are.


  42. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted November 27, 2009 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    I was just reading following story on AA.com:


    Where I found this among the four or five comments:

    Comments have been removed from this thread because they violate our conversation guidelines. In stories involving tragic deaths, we ask users not to post derogatory comments about the deceased, and also not to post comments that speculate on whether family members or others could have prevented the tragedy.

    This was the second notice of a deleted comment on the thread, so clearly AA.com felt they needed to explain their arbitrary comment deletion policy.

    My concern is this: this is a story about the police shooting and killing a mentally ill man. Now, I think that the officer made the correct decision in this case, and that he really had no choice. But right in the article someone says that the man who was killed belonged in a mental hospital, and I think that is where the debate comes in. We do not have proper mental health care in our country and especially in Michigan and here was a perfect forum to talk about it.

    I agree that heartless, cruel, and pointless comments can be deleted. But comments that speculate on how this tragedy could be avoided? Shouldn’t we be having an open debate about something like that, especially given the important topic it encompases?

  43. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted February 4, 2010 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    So, the AA.com has twice in the last 24 hours removed posts I have put up on a thread. Another poster makes a clear personal attack against me, and then my comments were removed. And I wasn’t being petty, I posted facts refuting this poster’s lies. I may have gotten a little aggressive myself the first time, but I didn’t name call and I didn’t swear. The second time, I called out AA.com for removing my comment, and then posted a toned down version of what I had stated before. At the end, I pointed out to AA.com that I thought the posts by “Midtowner” were clearly in violation of their comment policy, but that they should, at this point, stand along side my defense. This comment was also removed. I just reposted it with no changes.

    Let’s be clear. I am calling out my accuser by name, and refuting his slanderous statements point by point with verifiable facts. This person is leveling wild accusations, the main thrust of which is that I am a paid propaganda writer for the DTCDC and the French family. In the name of clarity, I’ll also say that I do work for Aubree’s; I started this week part time as a delivery driver on Whitaker Road. I worked on the Jamboree, and the CDC is helping with the Water Street Trail in a limited capacity There’s all of the connections.. I also made all of these statements on AA.com. Midtowner is directly attacking my credibility, and it has been let stand, while my defense is being removed.

    And by the way, if someone does want to pay me to post on blogs, I will gladly sell out; cheap too. I’m poor. But no one has offered so far.

    So there it is. I posted this here because I figure AA.com will delete my post again, and I’m tired of defending myself on that one. It’s boring. But it’s also total bullshit, so I thought I might as well call AA.com out on it.


  44. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted February 4, 2010 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Three times. Now I edited out all the stuff pointing out that they are making a mess of their moderation policy. Maybe the fouth time is the charm.

  45. clear vision
    Posted February 4, 2010 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Sorry AndyYpsilanti I agree with AnnArbor.com . You are nothing but a patsy for the DTCDC.

  46. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted February 4, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Ok, so now AA.com has removed the original post by Midtowner, which questioned my credibility and stated that I am, and have been for the last year, a paid propagandist for Aubrees, the DTCDC and the French family, and my comment explaining my actual connections to the Frenches, the DTCDC, and Aubrees. Everything else now stands. There is no editorial mention of their actions.

    I’m so glad to see AA.com is living up to such a high journalistic standard. Guess I should have made a PDF of the page when they started all the editing. Oh well.

  47. kingpin
    Posted February 4, 2010 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    I left ’em a little coal in their stocking…Merry Christmas.

  48. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted February 4, 2010 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Kingpin, I appreciate that. *blush*

    AA.com now put in the following editorial note as well:

    A number of comments have been removed because they violated our conversation guidelines. We welcome debate and disagreement, but we discourage having the discussion taken over by commenters who are primarily going back and forth at each other. Please keep your conversation civil, and please share the conversation with others.

    See, the thing is, their enforcement, or lack there of, of this policy in this thread is what got the whole thing started. I flagged the original, slanderous post. They left it. I responded. Another slanderous post was left. I responded, and my comment was removed three times before the current resolution was reached.

    I do appreciate the irony in all of this. It couldn’t be sweeter. The original story is about how Ypsi has a more lively blogoshpere than A2. That is totally priceless.

  49. Posted February 4, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Attention rich people who care about what blog readers think about you and your doings —

    I charge $100 per propaganda comment*, but for a limited time only, for $500/month you get 3 propaganda posts* per week to promote whatever your stupid/evil agenda is**.

    And, as if that weren’t already an unbeatable deal, I’m going to beat it by offering to write you a song for $2,000!!!* **

    Offer expires March 1st. Don’t wait, ACT NOW!!! You can contact me via my Facebook page. ***

    * Just don’t be micromanaging me about it, I’ll write it the way I want to write it, and if you don’t like it, hire somebody else next time. Carnie participation not included. Song does not include recording fees, which are all on you. But you don’t get to tell me who to record with, either, got it? I tell you, and you pay for it. I know what I’m doing. If the customer was always right, you wouldn’t have to come to me now, would you? No money back, ever.

    ** I reserve the right to not work with you if I don’t feel like it. Also, your enemies can hire my services too. Serves you right, if you think about it.

    *** If there’s any way I can get in trouble for this, or do paperwork, or have to pay taxes on it at all, deal’s off and I’m just joking. If not, I’m not joking.

  50. Andy Ypsilanti
    Posted February 4, 2010 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    I’ll beat Black Jake’s prices by 10%. I havn’t had any offers so far, so I better have a sale. I also offer the option of sponsoring my regular posts, where I’ll mention the name of you or your business at the end of every rant.

    Clear Vision, since I’m on mm.com and not aa.com, I can tell you to kiss my ass you lie’n fuck’n bastard, and this post won’t be deleted. Thanks for giving me the chance to exersize my free speech.

    See, isn’t that the kind of post you would like to put you company’s name on?

  51. Posted February 4, 2010 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

    My clients aren’t stupid — they know you get what you pay for.

2 Trackbacks

  1. By AnnArbor.com blocking users for sarcasm on September 15, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    […] obligated to point out when I think they’re stepping over the line, and, by the same token, note it when they do something right. Anyway, something happened on the site today that I think warrants a discussion. Following is a […]

  2. […] From what I’m told, Matt Kraner, AnnArbor.com’s CEO, when informing the staff of the cuts, told them that people were only being let go who worked in areas not receiving sufficient online traffic. This does not, however, address the loss of the three individuals a week or so prior, who defected to the Free Press. Cumulatively, these changes are going to have an enormous impact, not only on the quality of the journalism, as the company becomes even more dependent on the reporting of amateur, freelance bloggers, but on the way they manage online dialogue. […]

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