kaigou: sometimes it's better to light a flamethrower than curse the darkness. (2 flamethrowers)
[personal profile] kaigou
If I ran the world, here's my list for linkspam, though also applicable to linkspam's siblings fandomnews & metafandom. (See comments for further discussion, clarifications, and digressions of interest.)

1. Set a grace period, say, 72 hours before linking.

We all have stupid moments, but most of us are pretty good about realizing the stupid even if it takes posting to see it in pixels and say, man, that was an idiot moment. Oh, certainly, some people are going to fail -- we all will -- and some folks won't check their own privilege -- we all do that at some point -- but for the average person, it only takes a friend replying, "man, you're being an idiot here," for us to say, hey, whoops, okay, idiot moment. Before you invite everyone and their sister to come storming down our doors for being an idiot, allow us the chance to avert the disaster of a wrecked house (or crispy-fried journal).

I had a coach in high school who, by midway through the racing season, would only call out my errors maybe every few practices. Being terribly neurotic about my technique and whether it was good enough, I cornered her once, wanting to know if her lack of coaching towards me meant that I was just so bad that she'd gotten tired of even trying. Oh, no, she assured me, she could see I was trying, and that when I screwed up, if she waited a bit, she'd see me catch myself, and do it right the next time. She could see me thinking about it, and she believed it was better to give me the space to correct myself than to only speak the one time I went wrong while being silent the ten times I had it right.

In a way, that's how I see grace periods: it's letting a person get it wrong, and giving them a chance to try again and get it right before bringing down the howling denizens to castigate the wrongness -- because most people do have some self-correcting skills. Sometimes we're just a bit belated about it.

2. Stop grouping posts under a single general header-topic.

See, in case this missed you, Linkspam and its ilk don't link to posts that declare the world is a happy place. Well, unless it's a terribly idiot oppression-laced happy place statement, in which case it's bound to get someone all het up about the oppressive element, and hence you have controversy.

That's the total heart of linkspam, the partial heart of metafandom, and to a slightly lesser degree, fandomnews: they bring us a collated list of controversy. Whatever has everyone talking. Or, this being the internets, what has everyones' panties in a freaking double windsor. And in this life we call the internets, there's always someone raring to go on just about any topic you can name; it's positively open bar for them as likes to argue when Linkspam et al provides a ready-made list of destination spots.

We are territorial creatures, we humans, and that includes our discussions. If someone out there is omgRONG on the interweebs, and their discussion is grouped under a collective heading with our own post, I'm not surprised that some folks are, essentially, acting like they're "defending" their discussion-territory. That's where you get the derailing accusations and ensuing drama, with this example being specifically Linkspam, though semi-relevant to its siblings:

a. The collective grouping creates an illusion of all posts being in alignment as part of a set-topic discussion.
b. Included posts are thus either "for oppression [of topic]" or "against oppression [of topic]".
c. If the post isn't precisely "against oppression [of topic]", it becomes "for oppression" by default, thanks to the kneejerk of "if you're not for us, you're against us".

The end result: a side discussion (and digression is a legitimate element of argument evolution) is suddenly disdained as both derailment and pro-oppression. From what I've seen, this has little to do with the post's own validity and everything to do with the fact that it's not on-topic -- to a broad topic which was foisted on that post by virtue of Linkspam grouping that post with the so-called umbrella topic, even when the post is validly and honestly tangential. Which begs the question of just who is setting the topic to judge who's in and who's out, but that's a role many are willing to take on for themselves. My suggestion is that you not help them.

Just post the links, with excerpts, and don't band them together as all-one-topic. People can read the excerpts and determine for themselves whether it's about ableism, sexuality, or pink elephants rampaging through Central Park. They're going to join a pitchfork-bearing horde if they're so inclined, and little anyone can do about it -- but Linkspam makes it awfully quick for them to find a continuing supply of easy victims. Well, more than that: Linkspam's mission statement, combined with delineating topic headers, justifies that reaction.

Alternate option:
--- If a post is tangential, put it in a secondary group.

Major clue that a post digresses (uses another post as a jump-off point): somewhere in there, usually near or at the top, the average OP will make the statement that "so-and-so's post got me thinking about something related..." and off we go. Being in the OP's own journal, it's not an automatic derailment of the main topic, although it is clearly a digression in an overall scheme; that entry-statement is a big signal for of tangentiality. If the main topic is "pink elephants in Central Park" and this digression revolves around "blue giraffes on Wall Street", then start a secondary topic labeled, I don't know, "off-shoot discussions" or "related posts". Something neutral, seeing how blue giraffes may be a completely valid topic in their own right, even if they're digressive from the issue of pink elephants.

At least then, if someone's wanting to stay on the issue of pink elephants, they can avoid the blue giraffes. And if they want to carry pitchforks and tar into the journal of those digressing on blue giraffes, they don't have the weight of Linkspam's own classification as justification for their cries of derailment and oppression -- because it's not always immediately oppression, and it's not fair to put a target on anyone's forehead when a discussion's natural course is to evolve. Trying to prevent such is stultifying the discussions that could otherwise occur.

3. If it's nothing but links, skip it.

Really. When a topic really gets going, there's nothing more annoying than trying to keep up -- and hitting multiple instances of what amounts to a link to an already-LS'd post, with no additional commentary. Or a post that discusses something else completely and then adds a single sentence that amounts to, "and so-and-so had this post, and you should definitely read it." If the comments then went off into a wildly long discussion, then link to that thread, but in every instance I came across of an uncommented link (not counting the "I agree with this person"), there were either comments about the non-related stuff, or no comments at all. What's the point of that?

If the intention of linking is to link to items of substance, then skip the posts whose substance amounts to nothing more than quoting someone else. Either link to the quoted person's post if it's relevant, or skip it, and let those of us paying attention to you save our energy for someone who's doing something more than just "I read this and agreed."

This goes double for uncommented posts with multiple links.

4. For crying out loud, change the freaking name.

A linkspam is not a good thing. It's a series of links on a website, in which the links are included solely for the purposes of upping someone's google ranking, and -- this is important -- by definition are links that have no intrinsic merit. Linkspams are also called nepotistic linking, and that right there is probably not the impression I'd think Linkspam would be wanting anyone to have -- but it's the first reaction I had, and I can't possibly be the only one.

Even if I really am the only one among hundreds who's aware of linkspams, for crying out loud, how can anything with the word spam in it be something good?


If you reference past events, be glossy; if you point out issues in the track record, SUGGEST SOLUTIONS. The value of critically constructive discourse relies on making sure no one feels like they're being personally attacked, and it can be hard to distance oneself when specifics are getting specified and names are being named and sleeping arguments are getting poked with a sharp stick. Therefore, I recommend when outlining, identify only the general pattern you've seen; if you suggest ways of undoing past damage, do it from both sides, as if you were party A and as if you were party B, to give both the benefit of the doubt. Alternately, suggest how such a pattern could be prevented in the future without delving into the two sides, but that means neither mentioning who is on what side, nor how those sides formed.

Approaching any reply with this in mind will go a long way towards making sure this doesn't devolve into beating at the water long under the bridge. After all, that's not the goal of this post, which is focused more on coming up with ways to keep the next bridge from getting burnt in the first place. ...to totally whack the metaphors, there, heh.

Date: 6 Mar 2010 08:47 am (UTC)
kathmandu: Close-up of pussywillow catkins. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kathmandu
I think this use of 'linkspam' is derived from 'picspam' and similar uses, wherein people jokingly refer to a post with lots of [foo] content and not much else as foo-spam.

The dynamic of "They're going to join a pitchfork-bearing horde if they're so inclined, and little anyone can do about it -- but Linkspam makes it awfully quick for them to find a continuing supply of easy victims. Well, more than that: Linkspam's mission statement, combined with delineating topic headers, justifies that reaction" is a big part of why I stopped reading Linkspam.

Date: 10 Mar 2010 04:51 pm (UTC)
elf: Computer chip with location dot (You Are Here)
From: [personal profile] elf
(Here from Metafandom)

Also, linkspam began as, well, a series of links on a topic, with no description other than the post title. It was "if you are interested in keeping up with this discussion, here's the latest round of conversations." No editorial content besides the occasional, "woah, this one is *really* offensive, brace before reading" warning.

Switching to a metafandom-style interaction, with callout quotes and warnings and tags, changed its impact rather drastically. Stopping masterposts, where all the posts under a single topic were collected, changed its purpose--it no longer works as an archive of past __fails, because the posts for those topics are scattered and hard to find.

Linkspam has shifted from a roundup/archive resource to an editorial resource. That may, in the long run, be more useful, but it's certainly different.

Date: 10 Mar 2010 07:30 pm (UTC)
elf: Computer chip with location dot (You Are Here)
From: [personal profile] elf
The masterposts aren't immediately useful, but six months later, they were a godsend. When the subject of racefail came up and someone said, "so, um, what was that about?" I was able to post them at [personal profile] rydra_wong's masterposts (multiples, because it slammed into LJ's character limit) and say, "start here!"

If a year from now, someone wants to know what happened with Bloomsbury and the cover of Liar, they'll be pointed at maybe the delicious link going to 44 posts (if more aren't added; if there's no new "cover_fail" themed posts about a different book/set of books), or they'll be aimed at a tag, rather than a single post, at the Linkspam comm. Odds of them understanding what happened are a lot lower than if they were pointed at a single post with links to the earliest reactions at the top, and later conversations listed underneath that.

I think some of the "archive the stupid as it happens" is likely to backfire--the way it's done, highlighting the most eye-catching phrase in the post so that people head over to rebut *that* claim, is likely to cause a lot more defensive lockdowns than plain linking. And it's causing a lot of people to reconsider what they post publicly at all--which, on the one hand, less fail in public; on the other, they're self-censoring a lot more than "opinions someone might find offensive about the recent hot topic."

I know it's skewing what I say in public; posts I'd prefer not linked, but want public feeback on, are heavily slanted towards topics oblique to Linkspam's interests. And, of course, there's the derail/tangent issue, which has boiled down to, "if you don't want to be considered part of the conversation, don't tell your readers what inspired you to write this post," which directly clashes with years of online conversational habits.

Oh, and Moar Funn: posts like this one are often linked on metafandom but not linkspam, because they are part of "how fans communicate with each other," but not part of any specific oppression theme or anti-oppression activism. However, most of LS's conversations (if not individual posts) wind up on metafandom, so there's a weird distorted-mirror effect going on between the two comms.

(And thanks. It's my "miscellaneous online activity" icon.)

Date: 6 Mar 2010 04:49 pm (UTC)
troisroyaumes: Painting of a duck, with the hanzi for "summer" in the top left (Default)
From: [personal profile] troisroyaumes
Um, for what it's worth, linkspam has already started using less contentious labels and now use words like "tangential" or "problematic" instead. Moreover, in the recent ableism discussion, it included posts that talked about the sexual abuse aspect without referencing ableism as a separate but related topic of discussion, which would completely fall under your "If a post is tangential, put it in a secondary group" option. Moreover, most linkspam posts do go up considerably after the original posts are made; I was seeing discussion on the Amanda Palmer controversy long before linkspam even made a post about it--maybe it's not a regular period of 72 hours but it's usually not the very next day either. (metafandom is a lot quicker about compiling, as far as I can tell.)

I mean, I'm not trying to argue that you should feel fine about linkspam when you clearly don't, and there are criticisms you raise here which I suspect for practical or other reasons will never be addressed, just pointing out that they have altered how they word warnings. I would also argue that linkspam's purpose is not to convince people it's a good thing or to satisfy everyone who might come across it; just to be a resource for those who do wish to keep track of discussions.

(As obligatory disclaimer: am not associated with linkspam in any way but do read it regularly and find it useful.)

Date: 6 Mar 2010 06:54 pm (UTC)
phoebe_zeitgeist: (Default)
From: [personal profile] phoebe_zeitgeist
metafandom is a lot quicker about compiling, as far as I can tell.

We try to be. It's a policy that was in effect before I joined the team, and there is or was a strong practical reason for it: LJ at least has something of a cultural norm of commenting only on fairly recent posts, so that if people were going to join a discussion they needed to be aware of it within a couple of days of it being launched. Sometimes there's an inadvertent cooling-off period, where one or more of us won't be sure whether something really belongs in our roundup and hold it for review by other compilers, but that's unusual.

I can't see that really changing, unless the surrounding culture changes and people become more comfortable about commenting on older entries. But I'm also not sure how much difference it really makes, because with the advent of delicious accounts as a kind of holding pen for not-yet-posted and/or not-yet-reviewed-by-the-full-group links, those who're so inclined need not wait for metafandom or linkspam to actually post anything. I don't know how many readers take advantage of this, but I know there must be a decent number who do; I've found that I can tell when either one of my colleagues has tagged something I wrote1 or linkspam has done so because there's a distinct uptick in comments within hours. (Then there'll be a little lull, with comments trickling in at a steady, somewhat elevated rate, and then a larger burst of traffic when the actual link post goes up.) So even though there's already a significant lag between when linkspam will note a post for future inclusion and when they actually put it in a roundup, readers of linkspam will be along to comment on something almost as soon as one of the linkspam compilers has noted its existence.

So while I see the value of a cooling off/rewrite period, I'm not sure it's something that would really work with the technology and culture we've got.

1I normally avoid linking anything I wrote; how do I know whether it's interesting or not?

Date: 6 Mar 2010 07:21 pm (UTC)
annotated_em: a branch of a Japanese maple, with bright red leaves (Default)
From: [personal profile] annotated_em
Isn't it linkspam's policy that they feel free to link any publicly posted material, regardless of whether the post notes that the poster isn't interested in hosting a internet-wide discussion?

Which, grant you, is anyone's prerogative regarding publicly posted material, but runs rather contra to the sort of community norms that have prevailed up till recently in most of the journalling spaces (as far as I've noticed, anyway).

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Date: 6 Mar 2010 08:59 pm (UTC)
phoebe_zeitgeist: (Default)
From: [personal profile] phoebe_zeitgeist
I'm not saying it's necessarily good advice,

I'm sorry. I fear that I must have sounded more defensive, or more combative, or both, than I intended. It was really only the policy geek in me coming out to play and being too exuberant about it.

Given the comments I've seen elsewhere on my dwircle/flist, I'm not the only one disinterested in suddenly hosting a host of adamant folks who aren't really interested in true (read: evolving and potentially digressive) discussion so much as they are in persuasion,

You are emphatically not the only one. Oh, how well I know it.

Metafandom's policy has always been to honor do-not-link requests, no questions asked and no belaboring needed. I only wish that it hadn't become quite so obviously desirable to make those requests under some circumstances.

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Date: 6 Mar 2010 07:47 pm (UTC)
troisroyaumes: Painting of a duck, with the hanzi for "summer" in the top left (Default)
From: [personal profile] troisroyaumes
For the record, the comparison was not meant as criticism of metafandom but merely as observation. I don't particularly care about grace period either way. I forgot about the delicious accounts though since I don't use delicious at all; thank you for the correction.

Date: 6 Mar 2010 08:32 pm (UTC)
phoebe_zeitgeist: (Default)
From: [personal profile] phoebe_zeitgeist
Ack, I'm sorry: I didn't mean that to sound defensive. It was more a matter of, 'oh, look, here's an interesting policy issue, what would help address it?'

(Also, I'm totally open to criticism of metafandom; when things go offtrack my feeling is that it's good to try to diagnose the problem and fix it if it can be fixed. So I'd feel faintly apologetic about sounding defensive even if you had intended to be critical. Which a number of people have of late, so it's on my mind.)

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Date: 6 Mar 2010 08:25 pm (UTC)
troisroyaumes: Painting of a duck, with the hanzi for "summer" in the top left (Default)
From: [personal profile] troisroyaumes
I don't think "tangential" carries all that much of a negative connotation myself, though it's true that "warning" does. That being said, I haven't seen a post labeled as "derailing" or "tangential" that did not try to dismiss the original concern or criticism being raised; the only example that people have been citing in discussions seems pretty clearly not a case of wanting to talk about blue giraffes instead of pink elephants, if I may borrow your example (link here). I do acknowledge that not seeing something happen doesn't rule out the possibility of it happening. Still, posts that genuinely seem to be approaching the discussion from an entirely different angle are not given "warnings": as an example from the latest digest, "[The following link shifts focus from the ableist aspects to the problematic depictions of childhood sexual abuse in the Evelyn Evelyn project]".

"It" referring to linkspam itself, in response to your paragraph that says that the name gives a bad impression. Which I agree it does, particularly without the context of the archival work done during Racefail, but I don't think that linkspam mods particularly care about that impression.

I understand your position about labels giving free license to criticize and censure without assessing the post on its own terms. Still--and I know I am only speaking for myself here--I don't engage with posts that are labeled as problematic. On issues where I feel that I am not privileged, I don't engage because it's hostile territory; on issues where I am, I don't see any purpose in my white-knighting on behalf of others. Plus, there have been posts that I thought were great that ended up labeled as problematic; in those cases, the labels did make me think again, but I don't think they automatically changed my opinion so much as made me pay more attention to the dissenting views. In the majority of links I've read, the posts I've seen labeled as problematic on linkspam don't even have comments from people outside the poster's friends list. The m/m fiction and slash debate was the major exception because most people in fic-writing fandom had a personal stake one way or the other in the matter.

Again, I agree that you don't have to read or like linkspam, and I'm not disputing your right to complain at all. I just wanted to clarify that the warnings on linkspam have not remained the same since complaints were first raised because not everyone who's been discussing the issue lately seemed to take that into account. Granted, perhaps the points would have been better raised elsewhere, but I have to admit I felt more comfortable commenting in your journal.
Edited (Minor edit for mangled idioms) Date: 6 Mar 2010 08:26 pm (UTC)

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Date: 7 Mar 2010 01:41 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] purplepopple
Mostly tangential and I apologize: Regarding heading based on topics for isms, we've had a debate amongst [community profile] fandomnews admins about that issue. The general approach seems to be to group things along that lines, rather than fandom specific issues. We've tried to flip that and use fandom specific or some other heading (conventions, fanzines, legal issues, publishing news, fansite news, polls, scholarships, charity efforts). We use the general meta heading for posts that feel like they leave behind a specific fandom's internal politics enough to have crossover appeal or where the topic is intentionally broad or multifannish.

This is problematic where we get to the isms. There might be a Glee post that discusses disability issues. Should we move it out from Glee because of the isms in the post? Even if the isms about the topic are very much related to Glee and the audience may not be wider for it? This issue gets really problematic when we start thinking about sports; authors often talk about ism related issues that deal with multiple sports. Sometimes, authors address isms aren't often looked at by media fandom and we occassionally feel like we should be activist editors by moving them to the general meta category. (Racism, feminism and religious issues in sports are the big ones that we see.) Do we want to be that activist in our selection by doing that or should we leave those posts with a sports specific header where people who dismiss sports may refuse to read it because duh! sports!? We still haven't figured out how to address this organizational issue.

We occassionally pull out posts, if it looks like a major kerfluffle, the kerfluffle has been named, the issue looks like it will be covered on multiple days. We also pull out if we notice other newsletters are pulling out or they only include links about that topic on a day. This can just make finding links easier. For example, there were a few days when, if we had posted the slash debate related links in the general meta issue, it would have completely overwhelmed the general meta section. We were concerned that people would see a few spread in and assume they were all about that topic, which they clearly weren't. We see these pull outs as less about isms and more about easily finding specific content that is getting a lot of press with the comm's target audience.

The whole practice of organizing is a political one. It can just be really difficult to find a balance that works to help accomplish the stated goals.

Date: 7 Mar 2010 10:34 pm (UTC)
dharma_slut: They call me Mister CottonTail (Default)
From: [personal profile] dharma_slut
Isn't that what tags are for?

Date: 8 Mar 2010 12:03 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] purplepopple
[community profile] fandomnews has no tags. It has subject headings. Fandom specific meta has the fandom before it the link italics. (Convention reports and fansite news may also have the con/fansite in italics prefacing the link.) That's probably as close as we get to tags.

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Date: 10 Mar 2010 12:40 am (UTC)
laughingrat: A comic speech-bubble saying, "Second-Wave Feminism was better." (Second-Wave Feminism)
From: [personal profile] laughingrat
Thank you for your comments about how so-called "derailment" is not, in fact, always derailment.

Date: 10 Mar 2010 04:40 am (UTC)
laughingrat: The Harold Ramis and Bill Murray in "Ghostbusters" encounter a tall, narrow stack of books in the NYPL (Paranormal Activity)
From: [personal profile] laughingrat
So... yeah, if it's not bad enough that I frequently see people mistaking digression (a natural evolution) for derailment (which is most often a reply based on a logical fallacy, actually), it's even worse when this gets a value judgment attached.

That's where I'm coming from on this, too. Derailment sucks, and I don't think it's cool. But as someone who draws connections between things easily and naturally, I digress constantly, because I'm working from the sense that it's all part of a fascinating continuum. If it's someone else's space, I try to avoid digressing there, and some of the recent talks have made me more self-conscious about trying not to derail. That's a good thing to be aware of. But like you, I can't agree that every instance that's been labeled "derailment" actually is.

Edited Date: 10 Mar 2010 04:41 am (UTC)

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