Monday, March 19, 2007

Off-Topic Argh

I don’t want to know what Ira Glass looks like. I don’t want to know what Ira Glass looks like. I don’t want to know what Ira Glass looks like.

Let them eat cake.


JohnMcG said...

I like marylb's comment that she wants Slate to "continue being the frontier leader"?

Um, Mary, have you been on any other Internet sites lately? The frontier is over the Rockies, and Slate is still deciding wheter to cross the Mississppi.

That's fine if that's their business model -- they seem satisfied to be an online version of a print magazine. But they're not a "frontier leader."

Dawn Coyote said...

That's a bit too oblique.

How's this:

Note to Geoff. How to un-fuck the fray: stop micro-managing it. No one wants to write for you. No one wants to write on command. You're exercise of power is choking the last bit of life out of the boards. Instead of another poll about how you can 'help' us, how about you shut the fuck up unless you're going to encourage people. Un-ban Schad, idiot.



Schadenfreude said...


That ship has sailed. I have no interest in posting on the Fray. I'd have to say that Geoff did me a big favour. The world really has moved on to other things, and the Fray just isn't it.

I think it's irretrievably broken in its current form. Time to delete it and start a new one.

JohnMcG said...

While we're off-topic, I'll post some more half-baked NCAA/sports thoughts.

-- One sequence I'm always a sucker for is when is become apparent the game's out of reach, and the losing coach takes out his seniors, who receive a huge hand from the supporters and a hug from the coach, and they know that, except for the few who will go on to the NBA, they are done playing basketball games anyone else cares about. Always puts a lump in my throat.

-- Would anyone complain if Vern Lunquist and Bill Raftery called the Final Four instead of Nantz and Packer? Anybody? Can't Nantz use the extra time to get in Masters mode. I mean Super Bowl -> Final Four -> Masters is too much for anybody, right?

Not to mention Lunquist had one of the most memorable calls in college basketball history -- "Oh, yes he did!" when Christian Laettner stepped on the Kentucky players' chest. Why not give them a shot? We don't have the same referees every year; why have the same announcers?

-- It takes talent to lost your pick for champion on a weekend mostly notable for favorties prevailing, but I managed the feat.

I guess I would now go with Florida to repeat.

-- How long do you think Curt Schilling keeps up his Q&A before he gets tired of questions along the lines of, "I'm jealous that you get fortune and adulation, and I don't. Please tell me again why I shouldn't think you suck."

Daunting Michel said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dawn Coyote said...

Hmm, I'm still a bit cranky, seems. I don't take it back, exactly, but wish I'd expressed it with more decorum, both because I like Geoff, and I don't like appearing to be a horrific bitch, even though I sometimes am.

Schad: I feel you.

Dawn Coyote said...

Shit: following up nasty and vulgar with cocky and quasi-repentant.

I suck.

Geoff said...

Hi, everyone. So, I thought I'd check in on your site this evening (sorry I haven't been a better participant).

I'm sorry to hear that you feel "micro-managed." I don't believe I've forced anyone to do anything. What you perceive as my "power," I perceive as immasculation. This job is far more clearly defined for me by the things I cannot do and cannot say.

JohnMcG says that Slate seems "satisfied to be an online version of a print magazine." Though many of my colleagues would certainly reject that statement, I think it truly characterizes the evidence of the past few years. The Fray is built to be the online equivalent of "Letters to the Editor." It is valued by Slate for its success as such.

And frankly, notwithstanding all my hysterical emails about its looming death, it continues to be an impressive feature of the magazine... a place where brilliant people can and do participate in the public debates of our age.

It's taken an awful lot of work to convince folks at Slate that the Fray's greatest problems don't lie with the Fraysters, but rather with poor administration. For, in spite of the odds, it continues to thrive.

If you can't see that, then maybe you're not looking closely enough. From my perspective, there's still an awful lot of excellent material in the Fray. So long as that's true, I can't accept the contention that something is fundamentally wrong with it.

Heliogabalus said...

Why the hell no-one is paying attention to my suffering!, Schad you are monopolizing the compassion, but we all know that Canadians are cooler. From the persecuted perspective, i am the one being under Fray ban, for someone else's misbehavior.
Geoff, in regard to the Fray's problems, you have a point, but getting rid of that old Charlatan Hitchens, could be a pretty affective way to increase quality. There are certain writers who might ask, why is Hitchens getting a pass for his erratic & unscrupulous muckraking.

And Geoff, i don't understand why you are allowing that second class jack-ass poster named hollow man, to insult you on your turf. I had an occasion to spank him in the past, and based on his reaction (or lack of), decided that shallow man was rather more appropriate nic. After having exchanged words with you on few occasions, i came to believe that you are not such bad person after all....(you are most welcome to feel the same about me).

august said...

I once saw Ira Glass, but only after he did the first five minutes of a public lecture in total darkness. It was pretty cool. I've no interest in the showtime gig.

august said...

Regarding NCAA's -- I haven't been interested this year. Wondering why. I think malaise about NBA is spilling over into other areas...

Dawn Coyote said...

Geoff, all of what you say may very well be true: the fray may be fine and it may be just as Slate management wants it.

You, however, operate with this imperious air that is only partly compensated for by your (sincere) humility. You don't get why saying, "If you don't like it you can leave," to someone is antithetical to your purposes on the Fray. You can only undermine people's sense of autonomy and ownership for so long, before they cease to give the smallest of shits. Perhaps you're uncomfortable in the exercise of power, and so you overdo it. I suspect that's what it is. Perhaps you're also, like me, a bit of a control freak.

Come to think of it, I've been criticized for exactly the same crap. Am I projecting?

Don't you love these impromtu character assessments? Am I more of an asshole now, or in my first comment?

Oh well, if you don't like it, you can leave.

bEnder said...

Geoff: For sure, I believe you when you say there are obstacles. Nevertheless, now that I need to keep an eye on the front page, can I stop watching the TOC? Or maybe you would be so kind as to be more specific as to when exactly we can look forward to another discussion about what the fray should look like? So I’m clear, I’m not so much interested in criticizing as I am in noting out comic relief. In spite of low expectations, you’ve still tickled my curiosity. But I’m betting you disappoint.

Keifus said...

NCAA: I, for one, am bloody sick of their tournament coverage. I know there's a bunch of games being played at once, but to switch games every three minutes is beyond irritating. God forbid there's one of those you really want to watch... Which is the other reason I don't care this year.

Pique: if my occasionally well-written* but not reliably topical (or timely) posts need to exist under the radar of Slate's official approval network, then, um, why am I tagging along after the magazine again?

K (well, for the audience, but still...)

*bite me

Thomas Paine said...

I guess, having been hanging out at Faith-Based and less frequently, Blogging the Bible, I have missed out on whatever shit was going down elsewhere.

I cannot speak for anyone else, but I have seem little evidence for micro-managing the Fray. Perhaps has something to do with the personalities of those who post there?

As to Slate itself (ie other than the Fray), I don't see too much to complain about -- I am not really sure what different model would be better. A couple of columnists DO seem to be off on tangents that probably interest nobody but themselves, but WTF?

I assume SLATE has the capacity to measure how many people read each and if there is not much interest, would either have a "come to Jesus" chat with the columnist or just fire the bastard!

Geoff said...

D & K: To bundle your responses... if you don't like it, maybe you should consider...

Many of you folks could talk a mule to death. Not everything's up for negotiation. If a user has a problem with that, it really is worth asking whether they should use the Fray at all.

It may be imperious to say so, but it's also true. If I've said it to you, I meant it. If you find an unchangeable condition is unacceptable, you have two viable options: deal or walk.

From time to time, folks who can't deal and won't walk get shown the door. At such times, I'm really not the one to turn to for emotional support.

E: Yes, there's another discussion coming (though it's been pushed back yet again). When it comes, it will probably feel exactly as if you were talking to someone for the very first time.

What can I say? We know how it looks. Life is like that sometimes. A reasonable person in many of your shoes should have burned out long ago and given up hope.

If, for some reason, you haven't, I would ask you to consider sharing your feedback on this next go round, as if you hadn't done so before. It may look the same as last time. It may have no greater chance of success. But behind-the-scenes, some critical business matters will have been settled.

I'm long past asking for approval. But some patience and mercy would be appreciated.

H: Folks are allowed to insult me, at least within the same boundaries applied to everyone else.

Keifus said...

Don't get me wrong Geoff, it's certainly the magazine's prerogative to organize whatever community it wants to have around it. I'm just disappointed that the community it wants has diverged from the one I want (or what I am likely to contribute to it).

Still got a toe in the water for the chatting though, so, uh, like, whatever and stuff.


Heliogabalus said...

This is what i like about you (and i presume that calling me one of your cheerleader or suck up. would require from any one, an amazing amount of creative thinking), you are a straight shooter, it would be quite difficult to call you an hypocrite. I am sorry to disagree with my fellow Cyber Brethren in regard to their personal opinions toward the Fray.Like i said before, you (as a representant & employee of the Fray business structure) are paying the bills, setting the rules & conditions upon which we are free to chose or not to participate. If we don't like the rules, we have no obligation to go along & sacrifice our personal feeling & policy over a particular personal interest (ex, i like the Fray, but not the rules...).The Fray may not be a democracy, but there is definitively no reason or pression of any kind, to surrender ourselves to an environment we may perceive as oppressive or repressive. I had no idea what is the difficulty in understanding the "if you don't like it, maybe you should consider ...", on second thought i may have a clue....I had to deal with the same issue, do i have to sacrifice my personal feeling over a personal gratification (i liked the Fray, but not some of the rules & some of the Editor's policies), i chose not to play. People it is still a free world, and deciding the game we chose to play, is as far as i know permissible. Besides, Geoff is only doing his job ( even if from time to time, his diplomatic skill remains questionable, and his approach & use of Editor authority is sometime a bit excessive & open to debate). Question is, how would you & i perform doing his job, under the same set of standards ?.
I guess it is quite an easy task to be judgmental, & see ourselves as better than the Man next door, but harder is to accomplish & demonstrate it.

JohnMcG said...

I guess I regard Fray like I would an athlete who had a great rookie year, and then never really improved.

If you can forget about the great rookie year, his performance is acceptable, certainly good enough to make a living. But you keep remembering that rookie year, and all the promise.

It doesn't seem like Geoff and Adam have to struggle for material to fill the Fraywatch column, so it's hard to say it's a failure. If we were just stumbling on it now, we might like it.

But it doesn't seem to have fulfilled its promise. I don't think this is because of failed stewardship by the Fray Editors so much as Slate leadership not being interested in that direction.

Heliogabalus said...


Personally i believe that the Fray is in a large part, what posters & readers are making out of it, beyond the Slate-Fray writers spectrum itself. For example a Forum like Fighting Words without the contributions from posters hostile to Hitchens ,would be a pitiful sceptic tank for half baked pseudo-journalism, & nauseous echo chamber for petty coprophageous Right wing cheerleaders, And Hitchens fat & lazy ass would have been history for a long time.

JohnMcG said...


I'd say yes and no.

It's almost a tautology to say that the Fray is as good as its contributors. Of course that's the case.

The task for Geoff and Slate (and also for us here) is to establish a place where good writers want to do their best work.

I suppose I'll take Geoff's word for it that they are considered to be doing a good enough job of that. I can only say the current set-up does not inspire me to do do my best work there. That may have more to do with me than the Fray.

Dawn Coyote said...

Geoff: au contraire—I'd go for help the moment you became moribund.

But you said it, babe: I think you'd like to give us all emotional support, and that's why you end up saying something as dumb as, "if you don't like it, you can leave."

Why is it necessary to entertain users' attempts to negotiate to such a degree that you feel the need to say that? Perhaps that's the unfortunate side-effect of having ascended to a postition of power over your once and future friends—you feel some sort of filial obligation, and when you can't fulfill it to your satisfaction, you resort to insulting us. You can't reconcile your ambivalence without alienating your interlocutor.

Suppose you could never, ever use that line again—what would you do instead?

Really, though, it's just my pet-peeve*, so no need for you to try to understand how you undermine your own position when you do this. However, you might consider making the argument that your willingness to vicariously endure our suffering in order to help us is an act of compassion on your part.

Mercy? Patience? I'm all about the (tough) love.

* and since this is our second conversation on the subject, I'm happy to drop it.

Heliogabalus said...

If i may?, In regard to Geoff, i have been extremely harsh with him in the past, both on this site & in private correspondence, but even if i still have some serious issues with him, i came to understand him through a very complex set of circumstances, and i have to confess that my opinion changed quite a lot. I am still not yet willing to declare myself his obligated , but went from a personal stand from which i didn't liked him & didn't respected him, to the present where i came to respect him despite some very serious fundamental discordia. The interesting part is that, the path to understand him & change my perception & opinion of him, didn't went through any mutual concession or "detente", but because of open & direct confrontation. He is a very straight guy, and can equally "gives" and "takes", that much to his credit.

But i also agree & understand that this was only made possible, because of our communications having taken place outside the Fray. Which leads to the very issue which pissed me off about Geoff, there is no conversation possible on his turf, at least not an equally respective & balanced one, because of his particular nature for mismanaging, miss-handling or abusing his authority. I guess this is certainly related to his age, if I'm not wrong, he is still pretty young after all. I have never expected or desired him to give up his authority on the Fray, but just to cut me some slack, just as i am willing to do the same for him, and give him the respect he properly deserves in accordance with his personal & professional status, qualities & obligations.

Maybe Geoff has yet to learn that there is no need for being a bulldozer, 24 hours a day...
And John, you made a good point

JohnMcG said...

One more off-topic thought--

What's with the Hardees (amy be Carl's Jr. where you are) ads running during the tournament that bring to mind Hooters (shots of scantily clad waitresses cleaning tables, gut staring -- "guys love going out for wings" -- shot of wife/girlfriend next to guy -- "when they're with the guys..." Then about a 2 second shot of Hardee's buffalo chicken sandwhich.

What's the point here? If you're married and have a girlfriend and can't get away with going to Hooters, come to Hardees and get Hooters-like food without the Hooters-like scenery?

maximo said...

imo, geoff's doing fine.

fray should resolve its tech issues--i.e., things should work properly. but tbt, fancy improvements are unnecessary.

otoh, slate's article content could use an infusion--it has gotten a bit stale.

other stuff beyond this is just not sensible.

Geoff said...

H - Just as an act of charity, I'm going to note that my actions are permanent unless I go out of my way to reverse them. That's as true for the liftings of bans as for their imposition. No credit is desired (because I'm under no illusions it will last), but you might not be quite so banned as you think.

I'm charmed that you haven't figured that out. You are clearly a man of honor. But, really, you do deserve to know.

D - I think you're projecting. I try to understand. Don't believe I intend to empathize.

I banned your Fray-friend. That bums you out. I've banned far nicer people for equally legitimate reasons.

Call me audacious, but I think I understand what you value in the Fray, precisely because my interests in the Fray once so closely mirrored your own. But I now know that BotF cultivates a very narrow understanding of what the Fray is.

I'll tell you - when you have to explain to a homebound quadriplegic why you're depriving him of access to the Fray, you really begin to develop a sense of how much the Fray means... and also, of how much it cannot afford to be.

However sympathetic I may be, I'm really not a nice guy. I do my job. If you wanna' send me some love, I won't refuse it. But I don't play that particular game with conditions.

I'm a person and so are you. I can do my job without disregarding that. But when I'm a role, I am what I do.

JMcG - I really love that rookie year anecdote. At an objective distance, I really feel the same. On a pragmatic level, I'd encourage you to share it if Slate should ask for your opinion. Technical advice is always useful, but I think you clearly and tersely expressed what's at stake.

M & TP - Thanks. I don't have much I can say in response, but it is nice to hear.

Schadenfreude said...

Hi, Geoff.

In business, there's often a difference between what you think you're doing and what you're actually doing. What you're actually doing is determined, not by you, but by your customers (no, not your "internal" customers).

It's not just the Fray that's losing audience, Geoff. It's the whole magazine. The amazing thing about the Fray is that it has survived at all. After a couple of years, neglect starts to look a lot like hostility.

Geoff said...

Hey Schad. I hear what you're saying. Just some scattered observations:

1) Readers aren't customers. They're products that can be sold to paying customers (advertisers)

2) If anything, I'd say Slate has occasionally been too indulgent with its customers.

3) However much I might dislike it, I have to concede that Weisberg's been right to focus on audio and video. People like us may barely register it. But living in Los Angeles, most people here seem to know of Slate through NPR.

I like the way the Fray is modelled after an old-school BBS, and I hope it retains at least an homage to that architecture. But I have seen the future. It looks like this:

I hope the Fray will stay text-based, no matter how stupid a business proposition that is. But most of that desire stems from my poor preparation for dealing with an audiovisual internet.

TenaciousK said...

Geoff, about the future:
Oh, I really doubt it - just like I really doubt print media will disappear (though it may well change delivery system).

Video has huge disadvantages - can't skim a video, difficult to orient yourself in time/place, doesn't follow a logical outline, etc. It would be terribly foolish for something like the Fray to embrace video posting - you'd lose the intellectual audience, who will always prefer a format where they retain control over rate, depth, and timing of conveyance.

Last thought - it's hard the characterize exactly what makes (increasingly in the past tense) BOTF a unique and laudable place, but Ender, Schad and the rest who've long bemoaned the lack of recognition/exploitation of the place by Slate have an outstanding point. It almost seems as though you'all are having different conversations, which is something I have a hard time understanding, given your history.

I still don't see where Schad spammed the board; there's a big difference between spamming and objecting repeatedly. Well, and the whole issue seemed stupid. If you don't like the impact all caps has on spatial distribution on the page, how difficult is it to have Chantay tighten up parameters? That seems like a much more desirable solution, rather than holding someone to a standard that'd never been set in the first place.

You've got a thankless job, certainly. I wonder, though, why it is you don't seem to understand how this whole issue seems ludicrous to the people most involved (one of whom used to be you). Is it an authority/insubordination thing?

It's puzzling.

JohnMcG said...

Interesting about multimedia -- I tend to avoid multimedia on the net (especially from work) since I figure it eats up bandwidth and would set off red flags. Perhaps the mainstream has gone by me.

I think there will always be a market for at least static content (text & images) vs. multimedia. It's just faster to process, and the user has more control over the experience.

Don't know if you're free to answer this -- but do you get puch back from the Slate writers about appends?


The weekly Kaus - Wright bloggingheads diavlog concludes with highlights from the commentest secions. This week Kaus referred to it as "Bob's gold star segment." Had to giggle...

Schadenfreude said...

Hey, Geoff.

As I suspected, you're exactly wrong. Not much more to say, really.

Geoff said...

TK - I agree with you about text's advantages. But to the extent Slate is trailblazing, it's through its use of multimedia features. Features like Today's Pictures or the Explainer Podcast are hugely popular.

When the magazine upgrades the Fray, it will be necessary to pick a demographic. I think there's something new and exciting to be done with text and dialogue. But if things go in a different direction, I'll adapt.

S - whatever you may think of it, Slate's sky isn't falling. It's popular enough, and it still enjoys a great deal of prestige. It's fairly common for my law school profs to hand out Slate articles in class - we remain one of the best sources in publishing for sophisticated legal analysis pitched at general audiences. Our totally free archives are a wonderful teaching tool (I myself have made heavy use of old Jordan Ellenberg articles).

We have a big audience, and most importantly, we have a lucrative audience (incidentally, the Fray is less educated and less affluent than the readership as a whole). Is Slate ever likely to be among the ten largest sites on the web? Not really. But it doesn't need to be, either.

The Fray needs help, if for no other reason because its mediocrity is bad for our reputation. But when fixing the Fray requires pointing a loaded pistol at Microsoft, a smart businessman is going to consider the value of the "Butterfly Effect" against the value of the Fray. It should be obvious who wins that assessment.

Chantay does an excellent job over the issues she can control. When the indexing goes awry, she's usually on it within a day (as opposed to her predecessor's weeks). She appears to have decisively slain the "Not a Valid Topic Name" and made tremendous progress speeding up the Fray servers.

Given that the Fray is the absolute last priority on her "to-do list" the support she gives us is phenomenal. Compared to what came before, she's a miracle.

JMcG - The answer to your question is "yes, but rarely." There's not a whole of story there... the most common source of concern tends to be factual errors or clear misreading.

Dawn Coyote said...

Sure, banning Schad bummed me out, mainly because he was one of the few reasons I still read BOTF. Though his style was particularly suited to the architecture of the fray, he seems to be getting his blogging legs.

I believe him when he says you did him a favor. After a six-month near-hiatus from BOTF, I find my attachment to the place much diminished (also due to its increasing sluggishness), and this is a happy circumstance for me, because it wasn't the healthiest place for me to be. I miss the action, but perhaps I'll take up bungee-jumping.

BOTF is indeed narrow, and that was its great appeal. Wikifray doesn't have architecture that allows for fluid conversation, but in many other ways, it's a better board than BOTF.

I'm sure you're right about the move to an A/V format. It makes perfect sense. I also agree with TK about what the Fray will lose if it does that. I'll always prefer the Patricia Barbers to the Britney Spears of the world, but I understand how Spears appeals to a much larger segment of the population. Spears will never get a Guggenheim fellowship to complete an album of songs, but she sure gives good video. Slate's articles are now mostly thin and disappointing. I rarely read one without wishing I could get that ten minutes of my life back, but the volume of output is impressive.

I watched some segments of The Meaning of Life TV, and was bored silly. I'd much rather read intellectuals than watch them.

I imagine format change will cement the role of wikifray as the intellectual annex of the Fray.

I used to think of you and alexa-blue as the fine young brainiacs of BOTF, like twenty year-olds driving really hot cars, without a real appreciation for their power.

I often think WWED (What Would Ender Do)? in regards to some of the stuff you've fielded on the Fray. Meaning to imply nothing about fitness or worth, because he'd have his own blind spots, but Ender knows how to handle power.

Always good to see you, Geoff.

Archaeopteryx said...

Really? The Fray's going AV? When the sign-in glitch hasn't been fixed after, what, six months? They're going to fix it where Skeppy can post movies of Ronald Reagan?

I'll believe it when I see it.

Anonymous said...

Geoff - you've been rude and obtuse (sometimes at the same time). You've abused your position. Why that is surprising is because you've shown the ability to be self-aware. That makes your crime more egregious.

It began with an intensely stupid position. The game was over when you then defended that position bypointing out you were the sheriff.

After the game you conducted your own funeral by adding the reminder that people were free to leave (how thoughtful of you to remind the denizens of the fray of this freedom).

Can you not really see why this conflicts with you "I do my job"?

The truth is, as sheriff, you decided to play a heavy hand. It certainly wasn't a principle you were defending and you shouldn't pretend otherwise.

You played that hand and lost, and now you are rationalizing how you played that hand.

The irony of it is your critics don't play all that well either. Still, on that hand, they won.

Heliogabalus said...

Friend you're seriously lacking originality, this post of yours is nothing but, one of my old playbooks . And if i was capable of getting myself a stupid Nic, why can't you? .(trust me, you don't want to be my doppelganger, you have no idea of what you are getting yourself into...).
Bonsoir et a bientot.

Keifus said...

Hey Geoff, thanks for the explanations. If you did that six months or a year ago, I'd have diminished myself without rancor. (Editorial policies exert some influence on Fray participation, but whatever. Priorities, I get it.)

Slate's less good if you don't happen to be a lawyer, by the way.


maximo said...

so there's this girl i know, k, who sorta had a thing for/with this guy, m. i guess things weren't going too well--i.e., k wasn't putting out. so m's eyes started to wander.

anyways, they were out one night with friends, and m met this girl, l, who was "a sure thing", so m left that night with l. i prolly don't need to go into what happened after that. needless to say, m and k broke off their on-again, off-again "thing" for good.

i'm pretty good friends with k and c, k's roommate. and i've always found it odd that, despite k's protestation that she's totally over m, k still talks about m (a lot). my theory has been that, while k may be done with m, k isn't over him. l has told me that k is obsessed (in the certifiable crazy sense). i don't really see that. anyways, c and i have talked about it, and c's opinion is simply that k just wants the opportunity to tell m off.

maybe c's right. there is, after all, such a thing as expressive value--sometimes, it's cathartic (i never knew "catharsis" had a med. definition). but there normally wouldn't (and perhaps shouldn't) be any real/practical effects since we're not talking about rational responses here.

otoh, maybe l's right: maybe k is just plain nuts.

Keifus said...

Gee thanks maximo.

Point taken though.

maximo said...

kiff, that was totally not about you. there really is a k. of course, her name isn't k. nor does it necessarily start with k. or does it? hmmm.

Keifus said...

That's reassuring. (Point taken anyway.)

Kay? Elle? Emma? (C will have to go.)

catnapping said...
This comment has been removed by the author.