Dear Frisky readers,
I have been thinking about writing this post for awhile, flip-flopping back and forth between whether I wanted to engage the community we’ve built here in this manner or just leave things be and hope they get better. In the end, I’ve decided to respond, as succinctly as possible — not my strong suit — to what I see as growing nastiness pervading the comments on The Frisky.But before I get to that, any discussion about commenting can’t start without addressing the tech problems The Frisky has experienced in recent months. As some of you may know, The Frisky was sold at the beginning of this year. Many of the tech problems we have experienced are related to transitioning from our old servers to the new ones. The Frisky also uses a different Content Management System (CMS) than all the other properties under our new owner; that, in combination with other tech issues that have built up over time, has made it more difficult than it otherwise would be for our amazing tech support staff to immediately fix our various server and database issues.
For those of you who have questioned whether we are “actually doing something” about the various tech issues, the answer is a resounding “YES!” This seems rather obvious to say, but those of us who write and edit for The Frisky are not in charge of fixing tech problems. That’s a whole other department. And no one is pushing harder for these tech errors to be resolved than the writers and editors; after all, posting and editing is made incredibly difficult when ongoing server issues cause posts to be lost, changes not to be saved, or publishing to come to a complete standstill. I have my first grey hairs to prove it. With all that being said, I can say with confidence that our tech department is doing everything they can to make The Frisky run as smoothly as it should.
And, of course, we just introduced a new commenting system, Disqus, to replace Pluck. There were definitely some bugs we didn’t anticipate upon implementation, but we think we’ve ironed out most of the big ones. If you have any issues with commenting, you are free to email me and I will pass your issue along to tech support. We will get back to you. We are incredibly grateful to all of our readers for sticking with us through this time. Your loyalty is greatly appreciated.
(SIDE NOTE: If you believe one of us got a fact wrong, email the writer — we are all firstname.lastname@example.org — and let her know! Upon further investigation, if we are indeed wrong about something, an update will be added to the post. You have my word. The same goes for spelling or grammar-errors. We no longer have the budget for a copy editor — many blogs don’t — so we do our damndest, but if an error is brought to our attention, we will correct it. I thank you in advance!)
Now, to the comments themselves. For the record, The Frisky’s writers DO read your comments but we don’t engage very often because we want to give the community an opportunity to debate and discuss without our interference. In the last few months, I’ve noticed a growing nastiness directed at our bloggers and at other commenters. Some of it I think stems from frustration with the site’s performance, which I hope I have addressed to your satisfaction above. But much of the nastiness feels more personal than that. Generally speaking, I think if you’re going to write on the internet, you have to anticipate that you’re going to get criticism. All of us know and accept that and we welcome it when it’s constructive.
The Frisky’s bloggers write anywhere between five to 10 posts per day. If you read the site with any regularity, you’ve likely gotten to know our tastes, our opinions, and details about our personal lives. You’ve come to know us, although I would emphasize that it’s just a fraction of who we are. In a way, we have become characters to you. We hope that you are able to relate to one, some, or all of us in some way.
Because of that familiarity, at times your comments can feel very personal. There are times when they really are. (The person who inferred that I rarely walked my dog and said that it was “sad,” for example.) This is humbling and wonderful when the comments are positive, when a reader notes that something one of us wrote really spoke to them, or that it put into words what they’ve been feeling about a situation in their own life. We are real flesh-and-blood people and knowing we’ve touched another fresh-and-blood person with our writing is an awesome feeling. We are lucky to be able to do that.
The flip side is that sometimes the things you say can, well, make us feel awful. Yes, we have willingly exposed ourselves to your criticism and judgment — or praise and compassion — but putting ourselves out there in such a way takes a certain amount of bravery. I truly believe that those of you who take the time to comment on The Frisky mean well, especially those of you who comment regularly and are at the core of our community. We care very much what you think, but we also wish you would give us the benefit of the doubt and know we mean well too.
I very rarely delete comments that are not spam or haven’t been flagged as abuse by other commenters. I really only have one rule for commenting and it’s one I want to reitterate here.
No Name-Calling! Recently I deleted a comment from someone who called Jessica a “mean, bitchy girl” in a post she wrote about Bristol Palin’s surgery. That post got a lot of comments, some of which criticized Jessica for writing “HAHAHAHA” as commentary. Some took this to mean Jessica was laughing at Bristol needing surgery; Jessica’s intent was to laugh at Bristol’s excuse. She and I have talked about it and we agreed that it is in on us to make sure a post’s intent is clear (which this wasn’t). However, personal attacks in the comments — i.e. calling Jess a “bitchy, mean girl” — will not be tolerated. No name-calling, period. Criticize what we write all you want, but criticizing who we are as human beings is not what the comments section is for.
Calling each other names also will not be tolerated. I’ve also noticed nastiness directed at each other and it’s disheartening. This is not only sucky for the existing commenting community, but it also deters others who usually don’t comment from chiming in. We want people of all backgrounds and viewpoints — including ones that are in direct opposition to the post’s original opinion — to feel like they can speak up without being labeled or written off. A suggestion: oftentimes I think some of the nastier exchanges stem from jumping to conclusions or a misunderstanding about what someone has said/written. Instead of calling them a name based on what they said, ask that person a question in hopes they either clarify their point or consider your point of view. Obviously, sometimes trolls stop by the comments purely to insult and to incite anger — I strongly encourage you to flag those comments for removal and to otherwise ignore.
Which brings me to my final paragraph in a post that has been anything but succinct. Sigh. It’s a plea, really. Please remember that at the other end of that blog post — and at the other end of a comment — is a human being. A person who has shared a part of themselves on the site, but has also kept much private. There are things you don’t know about us and about the running of this website. We care deeply about the success of The Frisky and about fostering a community here. We want the very best for it and have been tasked with the job. We work hard every day to achieve that goal. We want your feedback — on the site, on our writing, on the personal details we choose to share, etc. — but I want to ask you to be mindful of the human being at the receiving end of that message. I won’t delete comments just because they make one of us “feel crappy,” but I hope that this post, addressing some of your concerns and some of ours, will have an impact. If the current community — and that includes myself and my fellow bloggers — conducts themselves in a manner that comes from a place of sincerity, open-mindedness, and the understanding/belief/hope that all of us mean well, I believe The Frisky’s community will blossom like the gorgeous peony sitting on my desk. (I could not avoid this peony reference, I mean, look at this bloom!)