Welcome to this Researcher's Journal. If you'd like to comment on anything they have written here, just click the relevant 'Discuss this Entry' button.Otto's Journal: A modest proposal
(May 10, 2012)
In spite of the general positivity about this site continuing to exist post-BBC, and the herculean effort put in by a large number of immensely talented and dedicated volunteers, I think there's one thing missing. One thing bringing everything and everyone down.
There just aren't enough threads about the site itself, about site culture, about moderation, about various other policies. The problem with this site is that we just don't do enough navel gazing. We're not nearly self-obsessed enough. As a site and as a community, we're the anti-narcissus. An unexamined life is not worth living, and therefore the more examining we do into the life of the site, the better. Obviously.
When do we ever take time out from writing and reviewing guide entries, posing and answering questions in 'Ask', bickering about religion, blaming 2legs, and trying to get featured on QotD to take a long hard look at ourselves and pose some serious questions? It seems as if no-one is ever brave enough to start a thread or risk derailing an existing discussion.
We're in real danger of drifting away from DNA's original vision for this site, as one in which researchers will endless analyse and re-analyse the community, the site rules, the interpretation of the site rules, and the 'atmosphere'. It was meant to be the guide to it's own life, it's own little universe, and everything about h2g2. Shamefully, 'h2g2 researcher' has come to mean 'researcher for the h2g2 website' rather than the original intention of 'researcher into the h2g2 website'. This needs to change.
Which brings me to my modest proposal. That we set up a completely new site dedicated expressly and exclusively to the study and discussion of this site. I propose the name 'Hitchikers Guide to the Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy, or h2g2h2g2tG for short, though that's probably the chemical name for something explosive.
Naturally all discussion of the politics/culture/rules of this new site will be banned for being excessively meta, PoMo, and silly.
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Latest reply: May 11, 2012)
Otto's journal: Trying (and failing) to rise above it
(Dec 28, 2011)
I'm not a particularly happy bunny at the moment. I'm an annoyed bunny, an offended bunny. And a bunny who should know better and should just let this lie, but who has settled for a journal post as a kind of pretend middle ground. Aristotle said that the great souled man (and, presumably, bunny) should ignore petty slights, but fully avenge serious ones. Well, no doubt my soul is a work in progress.
I wrote an edited guide article recently, and at the time of writing its on the front page. It's on the 'covert stammer', a subject that I'm reasonably well qualified to write about. Until a few years ago, I was so 'covert' that I rarely acknowledged having a stammer or discussing it. Instead, all my energies went into hiding it. For reasons that I won't go into here, I decided to be much more open about it. I thought about writing an edited guide entry, but I was going to do so under a sock puppet account - probably called 'Guy Dentry' - to be created for that purpose. Why was I going to do that? Well, it's because no-one on h2g2 knows that 'Otto' has a stammer, nor could deduce it from anything I've said here in the ten+ years in which I've been a h2g2 researcher. I've got a bit of a soft spot for the 'Otto' persona, and I wasn't at all sure I wanted to associate that entry with it because I don't want to change the way in which Otto is perceived. I don't want Otto to be thought any less of (as can happen in real life) and I don't want Otto to get any sympathy votes (ditto).
But I did it anyway, and I'm glad I did. Comments in the EGWW and PR were as rigorous, fair, and constructively critical as for everything else I've ever submitted. In particular, comments illustrated very well a point that I made in the entry - that 1% of adults have a stammer, so everyone will know someone. Indeed, we have a number of current researchers who do or did stammer to a greater or lesser extent. Their contribution was particularly important, as my experience is of one type of stammer, and a very mild version of it. So it appeared on the front page, with a nice illustration drawn by Rosie and carefully sub-edited by Lanza.
And then someone (who I won't name, as it's now gone) decided to post a comment that consisted of a subject line praising the entry, but written in a pretend-stammering style. I suppose it was the ultimate back-handed compliment. It was followed by this smile in the body of the comment.
The best that can be said about this is that it was crassly insensitive and inappropriate, and even insulting. If it was intended as humour, it was spectacularly poorly judged, given remarks made in the entry about how hurtful it can be to mimic someone else's stammer. The worst that could be said about it is that it could have been a deliberate and malicious act, calculated to upset, belittle and offend. I don't think it takes a great deal of empathy to realise that that entry is an intensely personal bit of writing, and that while I'm open to constructive criticism and comment and correction (as always), a modicum of sensitivity is in order.
I wasn't sure how to respond. Should I take this as a 'joke', and was I in danger of over-reacting or being over-sensitive? In the entry, I discuss my view of stammering in popular culture (including the way that its played it for laughs), and I worry about being open to charges of special pleading or double standards if I find myself po-faced, condemning any use of a stammer for humour, given some of the other topics for comedy that I clearly seem to regard as relatively fair game. So I didn't respond, and went back to enjoying the festive season.
Some other researchers (who I also won't name) felt this post was inappropriate and said so. One researcher argued that the post was most likely at the more charitable end of the possible interpretations of intention that I mentioned earlier. Maybe. I certainly hope so. Someone (not me) clearly felt strongly enough to 'yikes' the initial post, the moderators agreed, and presumably because it was the subject line that was the problem, the whole conversation has now gone.
So why am I bringing all this up again if it's gone? I'm not entirely sure, and I'm certainly not sure that this post is a good idea, or even has any point to it at all. I'm not after sympathy or support, and I'm not after a witch-hunt against the researcher responsible - though I think a bit of reflection on that researcher's part and an apology are both well and truly in order. I fear, though, that the response will be more likely to be more whinging about the unfairness of moderation than any kind of reflection about appropriate behaviour.
I don't even know if the researcher responsible will even read this - probably not. I guess I just wanted to register in some small way that I'd seen the comment, and that I thought it was inappropriate at best, and offensive at worst. Not just to me personally, as someone who put a lot of myself into that entry - but to anyone who might find the entry (via google) who also has a stammer. Those readers should not be confronted by mockery in the comments.
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Latest reply: Dec 29, 2011)
Otto's Journal: Reading the 'backlog'
(Dec 2, 2011)
Interesting (to me, at least) question of netiquette... is it acceptable to just post in a thread without having read the "backlog"?
I know we've got some huge mega-threads on the site that have been running since before the dawn of time. In such cases, it's probably fair enough. Similarly with other huge threads that aren't so old.
But isn't saying "I've not read the backlog" and then posting a bit like saying... "I don't care what anyone else thinks, but here's what I reckon". Discourteous? I think so. While I'm not sure I'd expect a new contributor to go through and take detailed notes, I think a brief skim-read is really the minimum required. I'm not even sure that "backlog" is a particularly respectful phrase. It is a 'log' of posts that to 'back', but generally the term 'backlog' does not have positive connotations.
Every time I read:
"I haven't read the backlog, but..."
I feel like responding with.
"Well, I have read all the contributions so far, except yours"
I won't, though.
To be clear...
(1) This post isn't aimed at anyone in particular - a lot of people do/have done this
(2) Responding to this with a post that begins "I haven't read the backlog" probably counts as irony, but is - alas - rather predictable. And don't pretend you weren't considering it.
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Latest reply: Dec 4, 2011)
Otto's Journal: Moderation in Everything, and Everything in Moderation...
(Nov 2, 2011)
There has been lots of sound and fury about moderation and moderation decisions over the last few days, and more specifically moderation policy for the future. Much of it has been constructive, some of it playful, and some of it just outright trolling and/or attention seeking.
I'm a bit puzzled by some of the fuss, because in over a decade on h2g2 I've had a post moderated a grand total of.... once. And that was for posting a link to a business that seemed to be operating on similar principles to the 'restaurant at the end of the universe'. I can't remember exactly what it was - immortality insurance or something - but I posted it because I thought it was funny and interesting, and it was moderated for being an 'advert'. Which it wasn't.
It's possible that it's happened more often than that, but I don't recall any other occasions.
So amidst all of the policy discussions, trolling, spurious nonsense about 'censorship', and helpful constructive comment, I can't help but wonder whether there's a little more scope for researchers to consider - I don't know - learning the rules and following them? Playing nicely?
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Latest reply: Nov 24, 2011)
Otto's Journal: Since you've been gone....
(Oct 17, 2011)
Oddly, the interregnum between the dog days of the BBC era and the glorious new dawn of the, er, h2g2 era, coincided almost precisely with an interregnum of my own, involving a house move and associated lack of interweb access and time. Now, however, I'm back, and you, oh beloved reader, are also back. So here's a quick catch-up on what I've mostly been thinking...
1. Cats and deportation.
Teresa "and I'm not making this up" May in fact did, er, make it up. Or at least one of her researchers did, or one of the propaganda sheets did. Either way, it should have been obvious that it wasn't true, and even if it wasn't obvious, she should have checked. Potentially a resigning matter, I would have thought.... to be that badly wrong and obviously misinformed.
But cabinet minister tells obvious and risible untruth to the Tory conference (which I think the Guardian once described as the anti-Woodstock, a festival of bile and vitriol) is not news. What is news is how some lunatics in the Daily Hate and in various comments sections tried to claim that - in spite of *all* the evidence to the contrary - that some it was still true. Weirdly, they *wanted* it to be true. They were *desperate* for it to be true. Anyone else think that's a little weird? Wanting something to be true just so you can feel all aggrieved and angry *because* it's true and you don't want it to be?
But that's the weird and wacky world of deluded dissonance that these loons live in. I've been trying to think of an analogy, and this it he best I've done so far... it's like me *wanting* shops to start playing Christmas songs in October just so that I can get outraged about them playing Christmas songs in October, something that I say I don't want.
2. Moving House - a few thoughts and reflections.
Freecycle is great for getting rid of spare stuff
Estate Agents are annoying, but aren't as bad as they're portrayed
Pay for a removal company and for a packing service if you possibly can.
It'll all be worth it in the end.
Christ, it's expensive.
Stamp Duty is a bizarre tax. But... happy to pay, as always.
I'm looking forward to having the boiler fixed. And then replaced.
I like my new house
3. Thanks for all the fish
Lots of threads of appreciation for the volunteers who saved the site and made the transition happen, and quite right too. I'd like to add my own tribute here, and I'm also going to start writing for the edited guide again. Finish off all that half-finished stuff.
4. Interregnum is a wonderful word that I should use more often
5. Can we have our NHS back, please? Rather than, you know, sold off piecemeal for private cherry-picking profit. As a bit of a sickboy, I'm not happy.
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Latest reply: Oct 17, 2011)
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