My Unexpected Career As A Boing Boing Troll

Popular website Boing Boing just put into effect a major redesign.  A lot of Boing Boing readers, including me, are not happy with it, and have been saying so in the comment thread on the subject.

I was about to post a new comment a few minutes ago, and found that I have been "Suspended For Trolling" and blocked from commenting for the next week.


I'm going to copy, for the record, all my posts on that thread.

Whoa! Major deja vu! Didn't you guys learn anything from the LAST time you tried a major redesign for the home page? This reminds me a lot of that not-quite-Epic Fail. I've always assumed that the return to a more vintage design was because of all the negative reaction to that earlier attempt at redesign.
The "Classic" Boing Boing design works, and works well.  There was no need to "fix" it.
"eye-ping-pong" [quoting from a comment by ghostly1, describing the effect of the new BB design]
Yes. This. Exactly.
And there was one more comment I posted, but... it's been deleted from the BB thread.   Hmmph, I guess that was the post that was supposed to be me trolling. 

Then I saw Rob Beschizza, who's moderating the comment thread, had posted this comment:
Disclosure: I just gave a temp ban to a poster -- the only ban or even comment moderation in this lengthy thread so far. Criticism is cool, even a little hostility. But don't make it smarmy and personal, because you'll lose that fight instantly.
Among the many other complaints about the redesign, many people pointed out that the abbreviated teaser text on new posts (only a sentence or two, as opposed to the old design which featured a paragraph or more of teaser text before providing a link to more) sometimes came across as typical of  "clickbait".  The example cited multiple times was a post by Maggie Koerth-Baker about water, with the headline IT CAME FROM THE FAUCET, a microphotograph of bacteria, and the teaser text "There's something nasty in the water, but Maggie Koerth-Baker has you covered."  It had the alarming implications and lack of real content of "clickbait".  Rob Beschizza, the moderator for that discussion thread, kept responding to those complaints by saying that the full article was worthwhile, so there shouldn't be any problem clicking thru to the full piece. He kept ignoring, pointedly ignoring, that the complaints were about the article's front-end presentation, not the article itself.

The deleted comment added my own remarks to those previous complaints, stating that if something looked liked clickbait, smell like clickbait, and walked like clickbait, I was NOT going to click on that link. Even with reassurances that it wasn't actual clickbait.

But I think what got Beschizza riled up, and resulted in my suspension and the deletion of that comment from the BB thread was that I started out the comment with these words:
"Rob, you are coming across as deliberately obtuse..."
That was it?  "Obtuse" is "smarmy"?  "Obtuse" is "personal"?

Jeezus Fucking Christ, I thought I was being nice.  Because if Beschizza wasn't letting defensiveness over the new design keep him from acknowledging legitimate and clearly stated criticisms of the redesign, then he wasn't being obtuse, he was Just Plain Fucking Stupid.

I don't think Rob Beschizza is stupid.

What I think now is that Rob Beschizza is a Special Little Snowflake and a fucking crybaby.   And willing to delete any evidence that might show the "smarmy and personal" words that so upset him weren't so smarmy and personal as he pretends them to have been.


For the record, here's the comment I was trying to post when I found out my BB account was suspended:
I'm going to show my age, and mention that Orson Scott Card might approve of the change. 
Back in the mid-1980's, OSC published a magazine/fanzine titled SHORT FORM, dedicated to reviewing short fiction in the SF/F genre.  Some nice writing there, both by OSC and others.  (He had some very nice things to say about one of my first published short stories.) 
But a lot of people complained about the design.  Because for some reason OSC decided to run with a two-column format, with a different article/column running in each column.
Unfortunately, there was very little in the way of design to distinguish the text of one column from the other.  
The way it was SUPPOSED to work was that you'd read the left-hand column, *then go to the next page* and read the left-hand column there.  Likewise, you were supposed to move from right-hand column to right-hand column. 
But that wasn't how people were used to reading.  Readers would reach the bottom of a left-hand column, and automatically track back up to the top of the right-hand column.   They'd reach the bottom of a right-hand column, and automatically start at the top of the next page's left-hand column.  So, repeatedly, a reader would keep finding themselves *in the middle of a completely different article* than the one they'd been reading. 
It was the in-print equivalent of the "eye-ping-pong" ghostly1 so eloquently coined to describe the BB redesign.  It was difficult, it was frustrating, and to a lot of people it was simply "unreadable". 
And OSC's response to the complaints were along the lines of "I think this is an *interesting* way to do things."  Or "You'll get used to it after awhile."  Or "You're not giving the format a fair chance." 
What the SHORT FORM format did was **get in the way of the content**.  And that's pretty much my complaint about the BB redesign. 
(Plus the discussion here is pretty much a retread of the response to the previous big redesign about, what?, seven or eight years ago.  Which eventually resulted in a return to a mostly "classic" BB format.  Really, I'm flabbergasted that we're going thru all this again.) 
But the BB team might want to pause a moment to consider the fact that Orson Scott Card is their role model.

Update: Rob Bescizza has responded in comments.


Will Shetterly said...

Boing Boing moderators throw fits. I'm banned for life (I assume) because Antinuous hated any criticism of the Dalai Lama.

Anonymous said...

Very well said. I used to read Boing Boing several times a day. Even though recently the content seems to have largely become self promotion for the editors and TV reviews, I still liked to drop in. I wasn't keen on the redesign when I saw it, but figured I'd keep on reading. Until I did something I'd never done before and decided to look at the BBS to see what other people thought. Thanks to seeing the editors moderating the threads, and their attitude being 'Well we like it, so tough.' I've deleted my bookmark to stop me mindlessly visiting the site again.

Bruce said...

I generally don't publish anonymous comments, but the above is well-written and polite,so I'm letting it in. But I'd appreciate at least adding a name to the body of the comment. (I do that when commenting on Hlavaty's Supergee, because I don't want to start a LiveJournal account just to comment there.)

beschizza said...

1000 words of ranting, yet you manage to forget to post the actual text of the comment that got you banned!

"If it looks like clickbait, smells like clickbait, walks like clickbait... The merits of her actual article are irrelevant"

Bullshit is welcome in our house, Bruce, but you just don't write well enough to get away with it.

Bruce said...

Flat out dishonesty is not welcome in this blog, Rob. And you don't lie well enough to get away with it.

Anyone who reads my post is going to see two of my three comments on that BB thread quoted in full, then this paragraph about the third comment:

"And there was one more comment I posted, but... it's been deleted from the BB thread.   Hmmph, I guess that was the post that was supposed to be me trolling."

And you come along, after having removed that post, after having made it impossible to "post the actual text of the comment" (nice to know you can still access that post), and then you try to chastise me for not posting the "actual text" but only my best reconstruction from memory? Did you really think no one would notice that? That I wouldn't notice that?

Pull your pants up, Rob. Your ass is showing.

Thanks for quoting the last line of the comment you deleted, however. And... what? That's what you consider "smarmy and personal"? That's what you consider trolling and grounds for suspension from BB? I am... speechless. Really. I might have understood you taking a personal offense at my suggestion that you were coming across as deliberately obtuse, but "the merits of her actual article are irrelevant"? That's what got you upset? That's senseless, literally senseless to me. Is Maggie Koerth-Baker your Mom or something?

But you know what, screw it. You've made it clear that you are a Very Special Snowflake. That you are a fucking crybaby. That you are being deliberately obtuse. And with your comment here, you've made it clear that you're being deliberately dishonest as well. Sometimes in life we can't help interacting with liars, but life's way too short to deal with someone who's such a lousy liar.

So I'm going to go ahead and delete Boing Boing from my bookmarks, and won't be back. Too bad; I read a lot of interesting comment and intelligent discussions there over the years.

(Note: I tried to check my BB Profile page again before I posted this, thinking I might want to copy some of the older comments I made there before I left. My Boing Boing account doesn't seem to exist anymore. That was fast.) (Dammit, I wanted to flounce!)

Bruce said...

Rob Beschizza sent two more comments last night, which I waited until this morning to read.

As I kind of expected, neither was useful or constructive. He decided to double-down on his dishonesty. I don't feel like dealing with any more of that crap, so I'm deleting the comments before publication.

Go away, Rob. You may be a Little Tin God on Boing Boing, but here you're just a particularly loathsome kind of troll. I'm not part of your kingdom anymore, and I don't want someone like you to be part of mine.

D Gary Grady said...

If this beschizzza fellow thought your comment awful enough to merit banning, why didn't he quote it himself? His "you don't write well enough to get away with it" strikes me as a silly personal attack, just the sort of thing he was accusing you of.

Bruce said...

To note for the rerd: Rob Beschizza sent another comment earlier today. That is all.