Sunday, January 3, 2010

Fix Pacifica's Future

There's been a behind-the-scenes discussion/knife-fight going on regarding the future direction and purpose of Fix Pacifica.  Right now, the posting policy is basically "anything goes" so long as it's not illegal. As a result,  all submissions, from brilliant to bone-headed, have been posted. This includes submissions that stray off onto issues which have nothing remotely to do with Pacifica.

So the question is - would people prefer that Fix Pacifica remain a free-speech, uncensored forum where people can discuss whatever they'd like; or should the blog have more of a "purpose-driven life" where posting guidelines are tightened up to refocus on Pacifica political, environmental, and economic issues, directed at improving the way the city's run, i.e., no more postings like "Who destroyed Michigan?"

Personally, I prefer the "anything goes" approach because it's fair and easy. I'd also worry that any kind of screening will mean submissions get rejected simply because the screeners don't like a particular point of view or the person submitting. One of the reasons this blog got started was because Riptide was guilty of doing just that.

On the other hand, the risk of the blog becoming watered-down with irrelevant, extremist opinions and gratuitous, personal insults that drive people away, ought to be taken very seriously.

Your thoughts would be appreciated.

Steve Sinai


Scotty said...

Maybe we could limit article postings to one a day for everyone but Sinai/Simons/Rocky/Bell/etc.? Those posters seem to reserve their articles for the topic at hand and could post as much as they desired.

Other people could include their Fox News vitriol as comments as much as they like, but be limited to only one "look at Detroit" post as a separate article per day. For my purposes, it's pretty obvious whose comments are a waste of my time and they're easy to avoid, but I'm sure that's a matter of personal preference.

Just a thought...

Lionel Emde said...

I wish you luck Steve.
Maybury's been dealing with this question for three years now.

mike bell said...

Let freedom ring!
In a democracy ALL points of view matter.

Scotty said...

The comparison with Maybury is invalid. First off, I think we're only talking about article postings, whereas Maybury insists on editing all comments, which I have never seen on any other blog. More importantly, he made the problem much worse for himself when he decided that any point of view with which he disagrees is off topic.

mw said...

Not being a Pacifca resident, I don't really have a dog in this fight, but FWIW my two cents...

I maintain two blogs - one for national politics, the other was primarily for friends, family and golf scores (which recently has been given over to the Sharp Park kerfuffle). While not a community blog like this, I do have a specific agenda on each and do moderate comments. I don't moderate for opinion, but will delete spam, racist, and objectionable content (my standards).

I started posting here because I was frustrated I couldn't get any of my comments posted on Riptide. There was nothing objectionable in my comments, they were on topic, but they were critical of the CBD posts and organization. Nothing made it through. Now, I don't even bother reading Riptide. This is a lot more fun.

Whatever you decide, I just hope to be able to lob an occasional Sharp Park/CBD bomb over the transom (working on a Mirkarimi post now). Keep up the good work.

Unknown said...

I vote for freedom. Censorship of others' opinions, mainly because you do not agree with them, is not freedom. People will be off the wall, obnoxious, rude...but that is reality unfortunately.

Steve Sinai said...

Scotty, I've gotta' disagree with you on one point. I think the comparison to Riptide is very valid. As far as I'm concerned, free speech is free speech, whether it's in a more visible article or a less visible comment.

When this blog first got started, a big deal was made about no censorship and free speech, and there was no distinction made between articles and comments. Eventually, some items were posted that people didn't like, and it was proposed that the idea of no censorship and free speech be chopped-back and apply only to comments. And a behind the scenes discussion is now taking place where it's being proposed that even comments that are deemed to be too nasty or non-conforming be blocked. We're on a slippery slope here.

One of the things that drove me nuts about Riptide was that if I wanted to discuss an issue, I couldn't discuss it unless there was a related article to comment on. Knowing that John wouldn't post an article if it strayed too far from his own beliefs, I gave up trying to submit things that I thought were worthy items for discussion. I don't want us doing that exact same thing to others.

Filtering posts is a cure that's worse than the disease.

Lionel, at times I want to go out for a beer or six with John and commiserate.

Kathy Meeh said...

Just read a follow-up anonymous posting that likely went underground to be protected from another anonymous.

Commentary posts. Two individuals were targeted by an "anonymous" person (likely the same person) with "hate speech" within the past few days. Think that's okay with them?

Article posts: Front page unreliable, repeated theme, fake information presented by one person on several articles as fact. Is that okay with you?

wags said...

the moment you start screening you become boring. who cares what some wacho says. hell, i'm wacked. don't read it if you don't want to. argue with the wacko, but give em a forum. as for requiring everyone to post their name, i know there are certain posts i want to make and if i signed them they would probably be a different take on the subject or the post. i sign some and my alter ego signs some.
sometimes it's better to operate without rules. the free flow of info has a way of settling out and a truer message comes across.
you think some of the posters are whacked? you ought to see what my sister sends me. ahhhhhhhhhhh

jim wagner

Plater Pod #13 said...

A reminder. Regardless of the decisions made by the proprietors of this blog, all Plater Pods are required to identify themselves by number when commenting on this blog. This by directive of the Platerpuss in Chief. That is all.

mw said...

I must admit I found it quite amusing that one anonymous commenter called another anonymous commenter a coward.

Kathy Meeh said...

Well, "Anonymous" deserved another "Anonymous" response. Oh gee, kind of like MW, no one will know that guy, who also sent family pictures on one post. I think you're a very bright guy, you had a choice of moving into Pacifica and didn't.

Lionel Emde said...

I think moderated (prescreened) comments are a good way to go. It's more work on the front end but libelous and/or racist comments can be weeded out.
I'd have a loose rein on anything else. If people want to post stupid shit I guess they should be able to.
Problem is that pen names inspire a lack of a civil touch to the keyboard--apes shouting at one another, as someone put it.
But it's good you've got this blog for a different style and audience, keep it up.

Sharon said...

Hey Steve just thought I would add my opinion to the free for all. Seems to me posts should be limited to the blogs title, in other words, have something to do with fixing Pacifica but comments should be all inclusive. After reading the blog for a while most folks know who they are not interested in reading and who they are. No one holds a gun to anyone's head and forces them to read each and every comment. The sheer variety of them all is what makes it really fun and interesting, at least for me.

Mark said...

Steve, the reason I like this blog is because of the freedom of expression. I do agree with Sharon that you should try to keep posts subject relative to the City of Pacifica. Freedom of speech is a double edged sword. But I would rather get cut sometimes then have my sword taken away.

Kathy Meeh said...

Freedom of expression is good, except reliable articles and eliminating "hate speech" snipers would be better and is within the limits of "freedom of expression". I'm asking for an improvement.

How would you like to be the target of false "hate speech" by some one hiding behind "anonymous", how do you like having fake article information presented to you repeatedly as fact.

I think responsible journalism, and protection of readership is needed for rare instances of such sabotage. I don't know why this would be a problem for you or anyone else.

amy parkko said...

My vote is for "free speach & uncensored"

Anonymous said...

speech...I mean ;-))

Sharon said...

Kathy, the effort involved in fact checking every sentence in every post would be overwhelming unless this blog has the monetary ability to hire a fact checker and even then posts would be delayed for days with only one fact checker on staff. If an article is fake that will come out in the comments, right? Let the public do the fact checking and reveal the truths or falsehoods.
I know you are particularly offended by the unkind comments made recently about Barbara, however, she has chosen to to become involved in politics which is a cutthroat business. Political and public people know thay have to accept the good with the bad and move forward as best they can. Barbara is not perfect and she knows it. She is just a human being like the rest of us and whoever made those comments probably has absolutely no idea of how much time and effort Barbara has put into various causes for the improvement of our city.

Unknown said...

What exactly is "hate speech"? "You're a moron" "you come-in from somewhere like a big dumb-headed bully with nothing to offer except to beat-her-up."? Accusing someone of having a "messy desk"? Calling someone a "liar"? Questioning motives? I have a real problem with questioning sources - what if I don't agree with your sources? What if I don't trust the premise that you believe someone is truthful?

Let it flow. Most of us are smart enough to come to our own conclusions.

Lance said...

Hate speech: poop-head, caca brain, no-goodnik, doodoo face, pee-pee mouth, dummy dum-dum.
So, what demographic, age group, ethnicity should we screen.

Kathy Meeh said...

Sharon, articles on this blog are generally reliable, and rarely posted with intent to present fake and skewed information. I'm not suggesting to check every article posted, just ones where there may be a known problem, primarily the source or reference information. This is an old "tried and true" idea, you know newspapers do it.

Commentary. The anonymous comments which targeted both Barbara and Chris from the alleged same sniper has nothing good in mind for others or this blog (very strange stuff, the Chris post was more sinister). That commentary has just dropped-off the Recent Comments and is somewhere in the older articles, having to do with Coastside/Recology (further back I think, maybe October).

Lois, I'm not trying to win a popularity contest here, my concerns are reasonable, and are intended to avoid ongoing problems on this blog within "free speech" parameters. With these guidelines in place there would be no reason to "go after" those who pass-off fake information as fact; and, no reason to point-out misrepresentation by the sniper.

Follow-up where the "dots-don't-connect" is painful for everyone, remedial and time-consuming, but necessary as long this chaos version of "free speech" exists, because repeated altered suggestion promotes public confusion and propaganda.

Steve Sinai said...

I'm sorry Kathy, but I think you're too much of an advocate for one perspective to be fair when it comes to judging viewpoints that oppose yours. I wouldn't trust myself when it comes to determining what's fair, either, which is why I don't want to do it. The justifications I'm reading for censoring articles and banning participants sound amazingly similar to the ones used to block viewpoints from Riptide.

I also don't want to add more bureaucracy to the procedure for posting. I'm already spending more time than I expected with the blog, and I'd rather not have to wait for approval from the time a submission is received until I can post it. I just want to be able to receive a submission, post it, and forget about it. Maybe you have a better procedure in mind for how this would work. If so, can you let us know what it is?

As for anonymous posts, there technically is no easy way to check whether someone commenting or posting under a particular name is really that person. I've always thought people should put their names behind their statements, but lots of people disagree with me, and they won't post or comment if they have to use their real names.

Kathy Jana said...

As long as someone provides a name, then they're a legitimate person. Really.

Jesus Christ said...


Kathy Meeh said...

Steve, the way you just posted "Intelligent life.." and New Year's Resolution was skilled and pure artistry-- really great!

Riptide only accepts certain kinds of articles, and modifies commentary posts, or rejects others. That's not generally what I'm advocating, although Fix Pacifica sentiment is definitely pro-golf course, and Riptide not so much (almost not at all).

What I'm advocating (by contrast) is making an effort to post credible, reliable article information, which most of us do anyway. You know the alternative plan I proposed which involves checking reference information and asking "does this make sense?" Only a few posts will fall into this well deserved, questionable category.

Commentary posts are clean, no modification, no review, our posting is automatic "free speech".

But, when there is a sinister commentary post "pattern" and style, which those two "anonymous" posts exhibited-- that "hate speech" and intent to target is not going to get better. So we'll wait for the next shoe to drop, and talk again.

Other bizarre issues will occur going forward, that's just normal process, so its good to have a few guidelines in place to deal with such eventualities.

Summer Rhodes said...

Who gets to decide what's "hate speech" and what's "sinister"?

ian butler said...

All this talk about anonymous "hate speech" towards Barbara and no one even checked to see if maybe it was true?

I called the Tribune and was told that Barbara did indeed anonymously write the article about herself.

This is a legitimate concern, as it brings up questions of bias, conflict of interest and transparency. Re-read the article and ask yourself how you would feel if say, Jim Vreeland had secretly written such an article about himself:

It's telling that after hundreds of attacks, anonymous and otherwise, on Brent Plater, Jim Vreeland, John Curtis and yes, myself, a post pointing out an important and verifiable fact about a probable City Council candidate has been singled out as a justification to start screening posts.

I have been accused of making several anonymous posts that I didn't make, so let me preemptively state that I didn't make any of the posts in question, and in fact have only posted anonymously on this site one time. I find that anonymity fosters a Lord of the Flies mentality, as evidenced by the old Topix forum.

The post about Chris Porter is another matter. It is unverifiable, and could border on libel. The poster could have inside information, or it could just be someone with an axe to grind. (I can verify that Chris has a messy desk, but so does Barak Obama, and he does pretty well by it.)

As for the future of Fix Pacifica, you have the right to make it anything you want. If you want to limit it to a certain point of view, that's your choice. But rather than a free speech forum you will be another agenda driven site, with someone deciding what goes on and what gets deleted. And that means that once in a while, what gets deleted will be the truth.

Zombie Rockaway Sue said...

I like this blog. Censorship is bad. However, posts not related to the City of Pacifica should be deleted by the Mods.

You can comment about Obama and Bush at a million other places.

Let's keep it local.

Thank you.


Lionel Emde said...

I found the post about Chris Porter to border on the libelous as well, but I'm not an attorney. It's that sort of thing that pre-screening might eliminate but you'd have to have a pretty defined idea of what libelous is.
Like I said, brother Steve, good luck!

Zombie Rockaway Sue said...

I don't who Lionel Emde is but I like him.

We should draft him for City Council.

He is the most level headed person I have observed.


Kathy Meeh said...

Steve, Ian,'re right the commentary post with concern is the one posted against Chris, very weird and clearly "hate".

Barbara has a great political, civic leadership track record, she does write columns. This one published by the Tribune. Who wrote the article is really a non-issue. I have artist friends who write their own press, and in any event that's kind of the way it frequently works in this city too.

Thanks all for your thoughtful comments.

Proud to be Kathleen Rogan - Bring it! said...

Beware of the one whose ideology trumps everything. Who can't see the truth because they are blinded by their candidates false halo. Beware. Be very aware. Be aware of the people who think they can fix a city by calling everyone names that they don't agree with. LOL. What a joke. Be aware of anyone who is soft on Commie Mirkarimi. They are not a friend to you. Tell them to leave. Heck , don't tell them - SHOW THEM!

Kathleen Rogan said...

I agree. I would vote for Lionel. He may not like me or what I have to say, but I would vote for him in a heart beat. Does that scare you loinel? LOL.

Steve Sinai said...

Kathleen, it scares some of us that you're allowed to vote. I'd have more confidence in our future if Coco the Monkey from the zoo was put into a voting booth and allowed to press buttons at random.

Unknown said...

Actually, Steve, you scare me. Be a little more tolerant of other people's opinions. We are a diverse group of people.

Steve Sinai said...

Lois, do you think Kathleen is tolerant of other's opinions?

Unknown said...

No, but she is not in charge of this Blog. She has taken some really ugly hits also. I just expected more from you.

Scotty said...

Well, Steve is in charge of this blog (at least somewhat), and yet he still allows her to post her drivel despite people telling him that almost everything she says is offensive BS. It sounds like you should actually show a little gratitude and thank him.

Steve Sinai said...

Lois, I'd prefer to be held to the same standard as everyone else. I'm not a big fan of double standards.

To me tolerance is about letting everyone have their say. It doesn't include keeping quiet about things you disagree with.

I'm only "in charge" of the blog in the sense that I deal with the technical aspects of administration and posting things that people send in. Beyond that, I'm just another blowhard participant.

Unknown said...

"allows her to post her drivel" "Want to share an article or opinion? Unlike some other Pacifica blogs, Fix Pacifica won't bury viewpoints we disagree with. Send your submission to:" I find a lot of stuff on this blog offensive...not necessarily just what Kathleen posts. What I am saying is that there are lots of hypocritical, obnoxious, name calling posts on any Blog and on this one, too, so why go after a couple of people all the time? Instead of name calling or telling people how stupid they are, how about some actual dialogue? Make up your minds whether we are going to allow "free speech" on this Blog regardless.

Steve Sinai said...

Lois, I have a feeling the free speech policy is going to remain pretty much as is. If it gets to the point where people start abusing the "anything goes" policy, we might have to revisit the issue. What got this debate going in the first place was whether Kathleen was abusing her free speech privileges here. Some thought she was, others thought she wasn't.

A lot of people commented they'd like to see things more focused on Pacifica, but I have no idea where the demarcation line is between Pacifica-related or not. Does an article about county finances belong on Fix Pacifica? Or state issues? Planetary discoveries probably don't have much to do with Pacifica, but I'm a dork and like that kind of stuff, so I don't want that topic banned.

Kathy is the main person who wants to tighten the posting guidelines, and I'll see her next Wednesday, so nothing official will happen until then.

Kathleen Rogan said...

Hey, SSinai, I vote, and I vote often. I am glad I scare you.But, I never voted for anyone on Pacifica's City Council, did you?

I don't think you can qualify for a credible source when it comes to picking candidates. Give it up. I will find a job for you, be back soon.

Steve Sinai said...

"Hey, SSinai...I will find a job for you, be back soon."

Oh, this should be good.

Anonymous said...

A nut job, probably.