Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Moderation in all things.

Gets tricky when you do it on a website, though.

A little history, first. Bagatellen was begun several years back (2002?) by Al Jones, Derek Taylor, Nat Catchpole, Jason Bivins and myself. There was a perceived need for a site to review and otherwise talk about music (generally speaking, eai) that didn't have a decent devoted site. Talking about it at places like Jazz Corner engendered a certain amount of opposition so, in lieu of fighting about that, we set up Bags.

It seems to have worked reasonably well over the years. Nat disappeared (anyone know his story these days? Last I remember seeing anything was a photo of his baby), Al is patrolling undersea climes around the world (Hi, Al!), Jason pops in now and again but, I think, pretty much confines his music writing to Dusted. Derek and I make up the bulk of the reviews these days, with additional excellent contributions by Marc Medwin, Phil Freeman, Clifford (what is his last name, anyway?), maybe others I'm forgetting.

It's an open forum and anyone who wants to can pretty much write there. Aside from (usually) Clifford, we all leave open the Comments option on the reviews and there's occasionally much interesting back and forth, though much inevitable bickering as well. It's stalled somewhat in recent months, probably at least in part due to the infighting which, understandably, turns many off. Derek, who really manages the site, has pulled in the reins a time or two, stopping some needless nastiness. I'd never done so (actually, didn't know if I could!) until yesterday.

Briefly, I'd written a review of Lucio Capece's "bb". There ensued some decent commentary, including a post by our own Richard in which he made a typo (it's all your fault, Richard!). I followed with a (purportedly) humorous aside, referencing his typo as a possible alternative term for eai, referring to a recent, since closed, thread at IHM that had degenerated into personal attacks. Walt and someone else (using a nom de web, still a pet peeve of mine; wish people would grow up about giving their real names) began listing a series of their own concoctions in this regard.

Had I felt this was done in a good-natured way, while I still might have preferred the comments referred back to the Capece, it wouldn't have been a problem. But there was a snideness about them that aggravated me. Kind of, "The hell with the music under discussion, let's piss on this thread." I found it embarrassing, basically, and felt bad, in this case for Capece and his label but it would apply to anyone who sends out their work hoping for a serious listen and evaluation, only to encounter this level of childishness.

So I wrote Derek and said I wouldn't mind seeing those comments deleted. That's when I found out I could do so myself and...I did.

Well, there's been a little dust-up since then. Though it's a judgment call and I can see the other side's point, I'm comfortable with my move and think it'll work toward strengthening Bags in the long run, even if only slightly. There's a fine line between humorous asides and asinine jabs and people will obviously differ on where that line is, but if nothing else, I think the artists and labels involved are due a measure of common courtesy. Not deference, just basic courtesy. If there's a thread devoted to (would be) humorous names for eai, great, go for it. But to needlessly shit on a discussion of someone's seriously intended work, nuh-uh, take it elsewhere. At least with regard to my write-ups; others can make their own rules.

Of course, I'm probably just inviting further instances of the same, but so it goes; some people have nothing better to do.

btw, no moderation here, aside from the excision of penis spam and such (when seen, which is probably more seldom than its occurrence).


Richard Pinnell said...

I didn't really see what was deleted Brian, but I can imagine. The first ever time I published something at Bags the comments ran into a flame war that caused me to ask for the thread to be closed.

Watching so many threads turn into silly arguments since caused me to start my own blog where I could be in control, and send occasional things to ParisTransatlantic where the comments function doesn't exist. The silence at my blog will end soon by the way, been exhausted working hard and concentrating on audition but I have an epic post half written now.

I am not against the comments function, it is fantastic when it works properly, but sadly too often at Bags, JC and even IHM of late egos and a complete lack of humility turn things into childish fights.

Played Malignitat a lot today by the way and really liked it!

Oh and if we can't find out Clifford's surname he will have to remain Clifford still......


Brian Olewnick said...

The thing is, I really do like the idea of a comments option and don't care too much for "reviews" just standing out there unassailable or unquestioned. But yeah, then you have to deal with the nonsense and may feel compelled to step in and moderate, which obviously no one wants to do....

Glad you enjoyed the Unami. I'll get back into it but I have a whole bunch of stuff piled up now. Some, heaven forbid, I even got for myself just to (gulp) listen to.

You Brits and your puns.....

Cornelis said...

Hi Brian

Just chiming in

I pretty much agree that a site with reviews and possible comments is the most interesting

I'd love to see a review section on IHM as well

anyway, keep up the good work


Brian Olewnick said...

Hi Cor, good to see you here.

I was thinking the same thing yesterday, about a review section at IHM. It's trivial in a way, but part of the issue might be just the physical format of the site presentation. At IHM (and JC), the set up (at least to me) lends itself to a more "chatty" atmosphere and a review will tend to get lost in the mix.

At Bags, at least, the review kind of stands out as a focal or starting point, the comments appended. Something about that format strikes me as more negotiable by a reader, for me anyway.

I just remembered that afternoon discussion at ErstQuake a couple years ago (Richard, you were there). I thought that was a great little thing, all too rare, of having musicians and listeners sit for a couple of hours, hashing things out. The panel discussion Keith, Jon and I took part in last year in Philly was also rewarding. Were I putting on events (happily, not the case!) I'd attempt to schedule this sort of thing regularly, assuming the musicians were interested, which I get the feeling a good percentage would be.

Vincent Kargatis said...

To me, clearly the best response would've been to move, not delete, the "inappopriate" comments to just such a thread as you mentioned in your post. Deleting posts that aren't outright "offensive" is a reasonably objectionable action, imo, with the potential to legitimately irk their authors.

Haven't read the bags posts in question, don't keep up with that site well enough, unfortunately.

Brian Olewnick said...

Hey Vince,

You're likely correct. Not that I would've known how to do that or would've felt like sifting through the back posts to find the right one...Feel worse about it for Walt though I admit my toleration for anonymous posters, especially when they're quasi-trolling, is minimal.

Richard Pinnell said...

Just to make clear, I think a comments section is highly desirable too, I just wish a way could be found to keep them from the trolls and keep people civilised within them. Until such a time I think deleting clearly off-subject trolling and OTT unsavouriness is perfectly reasonable and should happen more to make Bags (or any forum) a more pleasant place to visit.

I personally believe that the thread in question would not have existed if someone hadn't gone to the trouble of writing a review/article, and for that reason alone they should have the right to remove anything that strayed too far from constructive comment. If Brian wrote a review of a Lucio Capece DVD he wrote it with the intention of inviting comment on a Lucio Capece DVD, not a stream of silly unrelated comments, however lighthearted they may have been. The odd one or two in jest is fine, but they shouldn't become the main thrust of the comments.

I do think however, that a policy needs to be written and stuck to with consistency. I personally think the IHM moderation policy is a tad over-zealous, but at least we all know where we stand.

As for the spoken forum at EQ, yeah I completely agree Brian, it was good. Personally though I make it my buisness to talk personally with as many musicians as I can, simply because spending time glued to a computer screen isn't always the healthiest or most productive way of learning about music. I'm pretty sure I'm known across Europe as "That guy that keeps asking questions, best avoid him!" ;)

A Reviews section at IHM wouldn't be that difficult to do, though it would require a sub-forum again. I actually quite like the idea of an open place for anyone to place a review. There have been threads that have tried to do this, but they always seem to give way to the list-type threads like Now Playing. A separate subforum properly moderated so that each review was more than a few throwaway lines, with sleeve art etc would be good.

Jon said...

I could talk to Mark about that, if you'd rather post your reviews in a dedicated subforum at IHM as opposed to Bags.

Brian Olewnick said...

Jon, not for me at this point. I have no real desire to abandon Bags, whatever its shortcomings. Also, generally speaking it seems to be where the labels/musicians want to see the reviews appear. That could change over time, of course. I've no idea what the ratio of hits between the two sites is.

electrobatimento said...

Hello Mr Olewnick. First of all I want to thank you for paying attention, listening , thinking and writing about the works released with Axel, Robin. Mattin, Toshi and solo.
I read your last review when you published it, after that I did not check it again. Today a friend wrote an email to me making me notice what happened. It's hard for me at this point to take a position about what happened because I find that there are a lot of elements that I cannot evaluate . Also the people that are writing seem to have english as a mother tongue and I find difficult to understand all what they say. It's not my position, normally, to avoid conflicts trying to sound polite all the time. But in this case I can only say that I thank you for trying to protect the music discussion. Beyond that I can say also that more important than that is to try to avoid, as long as we can, people agressing each other. I do not find it cool or funny to see that. It's important and positive for me that people gets into talking and interesting discussions, and if this review and the DVD produced some thinking and pleasure Im more than happy. At some point things got wierd and I do not understand where. I feel that this happened by far beyond the work I did in that DVD or you did in your review. Anyway, as long as I can see, there is no blood on my computer's screen. So. Back to the music.
Wishing you the best. Lucio Capece.

Brian Olewnick said...

Hello Lucio! Thanks very much for dropping by and sharing your thoughts.

First, I do want to say that the large fact of things being discussed in English does cause me to wonder sometimes how things are interpreted by those (musicians and listeners) for whom it's at best a second language. Not that there's much to be done about it (if you don't want me inflicting my French on an unsuspecting world) but even the eai-isms that I deleted--I wonder how they'd have been read and interpreted by non-English speakers.

And that's just word usage. What about the recognition of sarcasm, snideness, subtle humor, rudeness. It's a tough thing.

But I'm glad to hear that we seem to be on the same page, at least on this subject. I look forward to hearing a lot more from you in the future. I know you're playing with Keith--next month, I think? Very curious to see how that goes.

Take care.

Crawjo said...

I didn't see the posts, but have a pretty good idea what they contained. Good for you for getting rid of them. They are annoying and asinine (wait, you already said that), and the people who make them should be subjected to the kind of censorship you sometimes find in third world countries. That's my view.

electrobatimento said...

Thank you Brian for your lines. It's in fact confirmed that Keith and Toshi come to Argentina. I think that it will be beautiful for everybody to have them there. The festival where we play has a very interesting program. It's normally dedicated to composed new music (let's say academic), and this will be the first time that improvised music is booked. For me at least is a historical gesture, and I'm already enjoying it a lot. For sure you will have news about what happens there. Thanks always for your interest. All the best. Lucio.

Cornelis said...

I think humans have been communicating for millions (?) of years with their voice and facial expressions (+ hands etc). To sudenly comunicate without these is problematic.
Is something meant humerous, cynical, serious etc etc?
When Mimeo started to email a lot many years ago, this became appearent quickly and caused lots of misunderstandings. Also e.g.: something is written late at night having had a beer or two and read by someone in the morning when the coffee has sunk just sunk in. Tricky.....
English being the language also causing problems, e.g. say the word "pulse" and it means something else for the Germans, the Dutch, the French, the Portugese. It is very complex actually. You can't be clear enough is something we learned (and also that people don't read the mails properly....)

It's a new way of communicating that we all have to get used to. Writing brings out different thinks as talking but I don't think can substitute it.

It's might be good to have a thread about this sort of thing and netikette etc on discussion forums



Brian Olewnick said...

Except that the discussion will be in English!

This would be another excellent idea for a discussion to take place at a festival with participants from various countries, say at Nancy.

And this is just language, not...attitude, for lack of a better word. One of the by-products of watching many Japanese movies over the years (just for example) is the very different way people interact with one another (different to an American, that is). I can only imagine what goes through the head of someone like Toshi when dealing with us.

Richard Pinnell said...

Never mind Toshi, even I can't understand what Americans are on about half the time... :)

Steve said...

I haven't been able to get to bags or IHM since I think my computer is near death but Nate has told me about the influx of moronic comments. If you and Derek want to decrease that, making people register might be a good first step.

Anonymous said...

Hi Brian.

Yes, I've disappeared quite a bit the past couple of years. Parenthood and moving flat three times has taken me out of playing and talking about music regularly, although I'm not completely out, and am hoping to reappear again the next few months a bit more frequently. Just hope there's some venues left in London by the time I get back!


Brian Olewnick said...

Nat, great to hear from you! Hope all's going well and looking forward to more activity from you in the future.