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On doling out and taking criticism

So YT has been under a fair bit of fire here lately, mostly to do with my alleged inability to take criticism, and also the moderation of comments on this site, which really seems to get up some people’s noses.

First of all to the accusation that I’m unable to take criticism. It seems to me that my critics reach that conclusion based on the fact that I sometimes actually respond to criticism that is levied at me. Does that make me “unable to take criticism”? Is it all right for anyone to write anything they want in the comments to the posts here, frequently under a pseudonym, but when I respond in kind, that is not OK? – As far as I can tell, that’s how some people see it.

Then there is the frequent complaint that I can’t handle comments that don’t present me, or Iceland, or Icelanders, in a flattering light, or comments that don’t agree with me. Anyone who takes the time to read through the comments on this site can see that this is absurd. The plain fact is that I delete very few comments – and I’m not so juvenile that I cannot handle opinions different from my own. Plenty of comments on this site reflect opinions different from my own, and that’s perfectly fine – as long as they are respectfully presented.

However, when people want to rant in a boorish, belligerent, ill-conceived manner, that’s a different story altogether. Confronted with comments like those it may just depend on my particular mood whether or not I want them to appear on my site. Sometimes I feel they add something to the discussion even though they are borderline offensive, and I’ll approve them. And sometimes I won’t. Sometimes they’re just heckling, trolling, whatever you want to call it, or re-hashing a point that has been covered time and again, or just arguing for the sake of arguing, or because they just can’t let go of it, or because they like to provoke. And usually it’s those people – the belligerent, boorish types – who shout their indignation the loudest when they don’t get their way in the comments.

One such commenter recently went so far as to shout his indignation on another site on which I was blogging at the fact that I didn’t allow his comment to appear on this site.* That same commenter went on to rant very indignantly that if I wanted to be running an “open forum” I should allow all comments to appear, or else I should state in the blog’s posting rules [his term] that “this blog does not tolerate other points of views than the ones expressed by the administartor [sic]”.

Interesting point. Because, apart from the absurdity of that statement, who the hell said this was an open forum? This is a BLOG. Yes, it happens to appear on this thing called the Internet, but it is a blog owned by ME, stored on a server paid for by ME, the template is paid for by ME, the pictures are taken by ME, the content is provided by ME, the design customization is done by ME … in short it is MY forum, put up here on the Intertubes so that I can write what I want, when I want. And, hey, I make the rules – which incidentally are NOT that stringent, despite what some people would like to believe. If people don’t like it, well, they can feel free not to visit this site. THE END.

I am running this website in my spare time. Spare time that I don’t have a lot of. In fact, this blog and everything surrounding it has, over the past year, gradually been taking over my life. I spend many hours a week maintaining this site – responding to emails and various requests, dealing with comments, keeping the design fresh, doing research for posts, and finally writing the content that the disgruntled commenters nevertheless show up to read. A lot of time and effort goes into running this website, and here’s the deal: I DO IT FOR FREE. Advertising revenues from the site are measured in pennies per day, and donations, generous as they are [and some of you have been enormously generous – in fact ALL of your donations are deeply appreciated] – only manage to cover a fraction of the time I spend working on the site. I’M GIVING THIS CONTENT AWAY.

In fact, I wonder if those with the greatest feeling of entitlement, those who shout the loudest about my alleged censorhip and who criticize my conduct, have ever considered making a donation to help cover the cost of running this site? I wouldn’t know – since they usually hide their denigration behind pseudonyms, but my hunch is that they haven’t.

Sometimes I think that to be a blogger today, you have to have a streak of masochism. Why else would anyone spend their time and energy putting their stuff out there for free, laying it bare for anyone to tear into? I suspect that’s a question that a lot of bloggers have asked themselves lately, since so many of them have thrown in the towel. The perception of blogging has changed a drastically since I started this blog – but that is another discussion altogether.

Finally, the guidelines for commenting on this site are – and have been – available here, so the moderation principles for the comments shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.

* Which only served to get him blacklisted.

Comments

comments

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • kevin o'connor waterford Ireland November 23, 2009, 12:56 pm

    Please accept the miserable €5 donation from Ireland a country that is racing to take over Iceland as the worlds leading Banana Republic and as we all nervously wait for our government bloodbath budget on the 9th Dec 2009 where we are all going to get wacked, a day of Infamy,Its Christmas time all over the world apart from Ireland ha ha. Interesting this moderation thing. I often see comments have been deleted by moderator on newswpaper web sites such as the guardian.co.uk etc and I always left wondering what the heck did the guy/guyess say particularly say comments on global warming etc.All I can say everbody is that Alda has always let my insane ramblings through insofar as I can tell. Maybe you could have separate page entitled “This is stuff I deleted from My Blog Page ” then that would stop them moaning about you being the Chinese Government Representative in Iceland 🙂

  • Kate November 23, 2009, 1:14 pm

    Fully agree! 🙂

  • James November 23, 2009, 1:28 pm

    I would try to ignore the one or two idiots out there and treat that as just a side-effect of having a popular and occasionally-provocative blog accessible to the planet. Their behaviour merely demonstrates John Gabriel’s famous Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory yet again: if a normal person is given both anonymity and an audience, he or she can become a “total fuckwad”…
    http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/03/19/

    Now, as for contentious stories, what about the news that both Kaupthing and New Kaupthing didn’t inform the police about an embezzlement in its bank (for which the employee responsible was dismissed a year ago) until this summer. If the bank doesn’t disclose a £3m criminal embezzlement for 7-9 months, then you wonder what else it is covering up.

  • sylvia hikins November 23, 2009, 1:33 pm

    Your blog site is an invaluable and influencial source of information about what is going on in Iceland and is respected internationally for the quality of the journalism. So don’t give up on this Alda. Your readership goes beyond the comments left at the end of each article. Of course you have to apply some rules around your site. As Isherwood once wrote, ‘Freedom is the recognition of necessity.’ In other words, we armchair critics don’t have the right to shit on everyone else just because we feel like it. I don’t often leave comments but I read your blog everyday.
    sylvia from viking wirral

  • Michael Schulz November 23, 2009, 1:45 pm

    Recommend you take all criticsm, positive or negative, constructive or not, simply as a form of recognition of YOUR BLOG. Some of the BLOG readership will mature over time, others never. Besides, as I see it, your doing Iceland(ers) collectively a favour in that your critical BLOG opens Iceland to the global community thus transcending “language isolationism” a favourite pastime of politicians etal.
    Cheers,
    Michael

  • matt November 23, 2009, 2:22 pm

    Just thought I’d send along a quiet and I am sure unnecessary reminder that for every rant posted in the comment section of a blog there are likely a thousand readers who not only appreciate and enjoy your work, but look forward to reading your posts without ever commenting in support. So, thank you for sharing with us a view of Iceland we’d not have without your efforts.

  • Allan Risk November 23, 2009, 3:02 pm

    You go, Girl!! The rest of you who want your own soapbox to say stuff, go ahead and create one.

  • JB in San Diego November 23, 2009, 3:04 pm

    Alda, I know that you are not apologizing (hardly) but I’ll go ahead and say that you have no reason to do so. I’m guessing I speak for the majority of your followers when I say that reading through the comments on this site can be as insightful and enjoying as the posts themselves, precisely because of the way that you cull the useless hate mail and frequently respond to questions and comments from readers. As a US American that fully gets the irony and implications of what is happening in Iceland right now, I appreciate your voice and your ability to make us non-Nicelanders feel like we are participating in your current events and modern history.

  • Mark November 23, 2009, 3:11 pm

    I absolutely agree.

    Its one of the most frustrating product of the internet is that it seems to bring out the nutters.

    Pick any article on a news site and I can guarentee that, what subject of the article and irrespective how seemingly innocious, and you get the same ranting (in the UK normally about the EU) from the same few idiots.

    As they say: your pub, your rules. If you don’t like it, the (virtual) door’s over there.

  • Stephen Cowdery November 23, 2009, 3:11 pm

    All excellent points, what many commenters don’t understand is that dissenting opinions are fine, but they have to elevate the discourse, not bring it down. The beauty of a personal blog is that they are truly a “labor of love” and should be treated with the same respect one has for a loved one, and if that is not possible, be left alone. Vitriol and hatred, if left unchecked, can conquer love, with a net result of nothing.

  • Kris November 23, 2009, 3:30 pm

    When you deleted my first comment a year ago, I though, “well, maybe my comments were a little too vicious and cynical.” So I changed my tune to vicious and cynical light! Just kidding.
    People complain all the time about everything. Don’t worry about them. I think you write well and are doing just fine.
    Cheers,
    Kris
    PS – I hear Japan’s debit to GDP is hitting 200%. Icelanders might soon have some company 😉

  • andrea November 23, 2009, 4:21 pm

    Your blog = your rules. End of story. If it’s any consolation, a blog that generates that kind of passion in others (positive/negative/both) is definitely one worth reading.

  • David November 23, 2009, 4:27 pm

    It always bothers me to hear that people like you , who work so hard to maintain a site like this, are subjected to slings and arrows by people unwilling to put the effort into presenting their opinions in a similar manner. I think you make a valuable contribution to our understanding of how the world works. Please don’t give up on this site.

  • Marc November 23, 2009, 4:51 pm

    Don’t waste any time on trolls that are just out to get some personal attention. The higher your star will rise the more you will attract them (unfortunately). The more you ignore them and/or delete their comments (and replies to them) swiftly less they will come around. It is all about ego, you see, and while they themselves would probably agree they’re being obnoxious (if asked in person), there’s nothing like the satisfaction of starting an online brawl in which your opinion is discussed at length as a way of internet self-gratification.

  • Ralph Haygood November 23, 2009, 5:48 pm

    Ignore the barbarians (i.e., people who are unable to comprehend or unwilling to abide by the norms of civil discourse). They’re numerous and burdensome to civilization, but paying attention to them is a waste of time.

  • Gary Gerdeaux November 23, 2009, 6:01 pm

    Keep up the good work Alda but do tell us the meaning on those words that Melvin tried to define.

  • Jessie November 23, 2009, 6:10 pm

    Exactly. I feel badly that you had to take the time to even address knuckleheads who don’t understand that the concept of free speech doesn’t automatically apply to private spaces (i.e. personal blogs).

    It’s been my impression that you’ve allowed a wide range of speech and dissent here.

  • Peter - London November 23, 2009, 6:42 pm

    Now, one poster who did complain about his posts being deleted here was Mike, a Nordic analyst who happens to be one of the smartest and best informed persons on Icelandic banking issues. He is by no means belligerent or a troll, so why his comments would be deleted isn’t covered by this explanation.

  • Andrew Bosworthe November 23, 2009, 6:50 pm

    Keep up the good work and forget about these clowns that have no idea about the Icelandic language. I am in suspense about those words that Melvin royally screwed up. Please let me know what the true meaning is! I have a bet with a friend of mine and I know that he is going to lose!

  • idunn November 23, 2009, 7:25 pm

    I intended to ignore this spat, probably being the wisest course, but otherwise do not wish to see it overwhelm what is in essence and total a very fine blog, and true benefit to Iceland her people.

    If a private blog, it is also public by dint of being on the internet, and all the more due inclusion of comments (which largely add great value). And unfortunately ‘public’ means exactly that, the good and the bad. Some which comes in consequence will not only be off-topic but just plain disagreeable. I feel you’ve shown admirable forbearance by and large, but certain aspects at times are never going to be pleasant.

    In any event, it probably helps to point out the labor of love (and little money) this blog is, hopefully with the greater appreciation of its audience. There may be, but I am unaware of any other source which so well explains and highlights the evolution of Iceland. Little surprise also that in such times many should have strong feelings, regardless of the occasional boorish poster. For that matter, as you are surely aware, the world is increasingly turning its eye to this forum. Those in power will notice as well, and some of those boys play very rough indeed. In such a league the challenges will be greater, and also rewards, not to mention the stakes ultimately of Iceland and her people.

    You certainly have my appreciation and thanks.

  • David G November 23, 2009, 7:25 pm

    I want to second what so many others have already said. You
    are doing a great job and I appreciate it. Don’t let the little
    minds get to you. USA

  • Grif November 23, 2009, 8:31 pm

    While I agree with everyone here (so far) that you shouldn’t let those negative remarks get to you, I believe it’s very easy for us to say that.

    Like Baz Luhrman said:

    Remember the compliments you receive, forget the insults; if you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

    Jessie, it always puzzles how many people don’t grasp the fact that the freedom of speech on a blog/forum belongs to the people owning the site. In this regard I have to agree that you, Alda, already allow a lot of comments credit for that.

    Maybe this might be some kind of a solution? xkcd 481? :p

    I don’t always have the time to read all comments on your posts, but how often does Godwin’s law manifest itself? So far, I haven’t seen it, but maybe that’s only because those messages don’t make the cut.
    BR.
    Grif

  • Davíð Þór Þórarinsson November 23, 2009, 8:58 pm

    Don’t let the vocal, ugly minority get you down. The vocal minority who post comments under a pseudonym are usually uneducated and ignorant types that don’t have the capability or knowledge of creating independent and varied opinions of their own. They usually take a very narrow view of something and run with it. They will also try to shout down anybody who opposes or questions their view.

    Unfortunately, for the rest of us that actually don’t mind others having an opinion that isn’t our own, this minority has found the Internet to be a perfect soapbox. This is of course unfortunate for us but as I said, the trick is to ignore them. Don’t feed the trolls!

    And you forgot the weather report at the end of your post! Keep up the good work…

  • alda November 23, 2009, 10:14 pm

    Thank you everyone for your kind words and support. They really mean a lot.

  • Joerg November 23, 2009, 10:19 pm

    I suppose, getting this kind of comments is just the drawback of having a popular blog. So, you might see it just positive. And I appreciate, how you handle the comments section.

    I’m looking forward to hearing more from Iceland through your blog in the future – like e.g. an answer to my question why they choose to rename Kaupthing to a genus of slugs (Arion).

  • Alexander E. November 23, 2009, 10:39 pm

    It’s called the fame , Alda.
    No one shouts his indignation on the boring blogs.
    And when these “noones” shout about your blog at another blogs – I would say this is the glory! And all troubles related with it 😉

    But back to the topic.

    Peter – London 11.23.09 at 6:42 pm
    Now, one poster who did complain about his posts being deleted here was Mike, a Nordic analyst who happens to be one of the smartest and best informed persons on Icelandic banking issues. He is by no means belligerent or a troll, so why his comments would be deleted isn’t covered by this explanation.

    First of all, Peter, I’m not sure about Mike. Who appointed him a Nordic analyst?
    And why didn’t he write his smartest and best informed posts in his own blog? Then Alda would try to comment his posts – and Mike could decide to let her comments come through moderation or not. As simple as that…they would be even 🙂

    PS. I don’t agree with Alda in many occasions, some of my comments are on the edge of insult, I even had one om my comment – maybe the best one – deleted *banging against the wall*.
    So my explanation – something was wrong with Nordic analyst. Or his comments was longer than the post itself (it’s not in the rules but this is what I got for my deleted best comments). Or the blog’s spam filter doesn’t like the combination “Nordic analyst”?

  • Bromley86 November 23, 2009, 11:38 pm

    I’ll field those for Peter, Alexander.

    As you well know, it was his company that appointed him a Nordic Analyst. Presumably after an interview. And it is entirely obvious that he really does know his stuff; certainly I’ve found him to be the best source of information on the banking/business issues.

    Why doesn’t everyone write on their own blogs? Lack of inclimation, time, expertise or audience. It takes time to establish a blog. Take Physchim’s excellent MoP blog that had some really detailed and in-depth articles but almost no comments.

  • Sue November 23, 2009, 11:45 pm

    Three little words: ‘Thank you Alda’.

  • James November 24, 2009, 1:47 am

    Re: Mike
    I also remember reading Mike’s comments here and elsewhere. They occasionally contributed information that very few people knew, probably because the Icelandic company accounts he analysed revealed a lot more than people realise. I personally found it interesting that people were shocked to discover the unsustainability of banks and businesses, yet the information was in the accounts long before the crash. That’s the point of accounts! And that illustrated that the most important information wasn’t hidden from the people, but the people simply didn’t care about (and couldn’t interpret) submitted accounts. So, not that different from every other country 🙂

  • D_Boone November 24, 2009, 7:05 am

    Every on line forum has idiots and trolls. They were there on list servers years ago, now blogs and will be whatever is used in the future. In real life they are like drunks that come up to you in the pub. Similarly, just like in real life the blog/pub owner can set the rules.

    The real problem is politically driven “false flag” operations. These have not arrived in strength here yet, but they infest many other forums.

  • Frank Lynch November 24, 2009, 9:50 am

    I never miss one of your blogs since being introduced to the NicelandWeatherReport throught the pages of the Guardian; first site I check in the morning. The style, the anecdotes and the opinions are spot on.
    I tried doing a blog once: I lasted about 5 postings; but you’re right, it’s hard work for little reward save interacting with other interested parties. Keep up the good work.

  • alda November 24, 2009, 10:00 am

    I’m amazed at the memory some of you have. I have no recollection of Mike whatsoever, much less of a comment that was deleted.

    And again – thank you all for your kind words and encouragement.

  • Bromley86 November 24, 2009, 10:16 am

    Thinking about it, I can’t see that anything Mike might have posted would have fallen foul of the big black pen here. So I tracked down the post that Peter was likely referring to. Your memory is fine Alda, looks like he’s read but not posted on your blog:

    Let me say, that whether I agree with you or not, I enjoy the way that the debate is conducted here. Each of you has a distinctive voice and I get the feeling that the views expressed are real ones with genuine motivations. I like the way that Alex allows even apparently wacky posters (hi there, SIR EURO) to have their say. On another blog (icelandweatherreport) the owner of the blog (admittedly a personal one so she can do what she likes with it) has said that she edits out posts which show no understanding of Iceland. Boy! That sounds just like the bankers from 2006 when we were all told that we didn’t understand “Islenska leidinn”. The woman who runs that site obviously has genuine feelings as well but the coat of liberal-international-eco-green paint that covers the site appears to be wearing thin and a distinctive nationalistic-Icelandic-red-white-and-blue is beginning to show through.
    http://www.icenews.is/index.php/2009/10/19/the-icesave-dispute-%E2%80%93-in-defence-of-iceland/#comment-97398

  • Bromley86 November 24, 2009, 10:21 am

    I should have said that I fully support the big black pen 🙂 . In fact, unlike Mike, I’ve just recently criticised IceNews for its laisser-faire approach.

    Unlike IceNews, which is an impersonal news site (although I’m sure Alex still has feelings for his baby), this is your personal space with your personal emotional investment.

  • SimonBrooke November 24, 2009, 10:27 am

    Trolling and bad-mouthing people on the Internet is pretty much a no-cost activity for social cretins. You, Alda, are (inevitably) personally identified – it’s your blog and you publish your name and photograph, and Iceland is a small place. By contrast many of your critics are hiding behind anonymity to post their spite. They feed off their ability to cause you hurt and distress – don’t allow them that luxury.

    What you are doing is both valuable and valued – it’s very heartening to look at the positive comments that have already appeared on this thread. I’ll add one. This is my favourite blog, too – of all the blogs I read anywhere. It’s my favourite because it’s honest, and expresses strong honest feelings (and its values are mostly my own).

    Keep up the good work.

  • alda November 24, 2009, 10:29 am

    Phwoar!! Next thing you know they’ll be offering comparison studies of Icelandic websites at Oxford.

  • James November 24, 2009, 11:08 am

    “looks like he’s read but not posted on your blog”

    At the risk of becoming anally-retentive, a 5-second Google reveals a couple of examples:
    http://icelandweatherreport.com/2009/08/and-while-were-looking-the-other-way-our-resources-are-peddled-off-at-bargain-prices.html

  • alda November 24, 2009, 12:00 pm

    James – seems pretty harmless to me.

  • Einar Örn November 24, 2009, 3:37 pm

    I’d just like to say that I love this blog.

    It’s depressing sometimes dealing with all the negativity (I know myself, I run a fairly popular football blog) but just remember that for every negative comment there are probably lots of people like me who fail to comment just because agree with you.

  • Nancy November 24, 2009, 4:28 pm

    Your commenting rules and reasons for them are easily understandable. If the poster you write about did not understand them, well, that speaks to his intelligence, doesn’t it? This is an excellent blog, and I thank you for it.

  • Gloria November 24, 2009, 4:43 pm

    Alda,
    Every now and then you may need to be reminded of what you actually contribute. For me, your blog has been the most easily accessible and certainly best written account of what’s going on in Iceland, a place I did not study and track until a year ago. I like the variety of your topics, and how your reports reflect not only on the past, present, and possible future of Iceland, but also daily life, at least the daily life of one intelligent and articulate observer. I first became interested in Iceland for other reasons, but your blog has deepened my interest and understanding. In fact, I am now reading Laxness’ Independent People, which is enriching my life sentence by sentence (read it, people, if you relish good literature).

    Ignore the nay-sayers and the nasty ones. They are like the villains of the world who run a country into the ground and then try to get back into power by taking over the media (see–I have learned a lot!).

  • alda November 24, 2009, 5:25 pm

    Thank you very much, everyone!

    It was not my intention to turn this into a love-fest 😉 but it does mean a lot to get these messages. As has been said here, often it is the negative commenters who steal the spotlight since the rest of you don’t see any point in commenting. For someone on the receiving end, however, it can sometimes be hard to know whether all those nameless readers behind the stats are equally disparaging and critical, and in such cases the internet can feel like a very cold and hostile place — and all the effort put into this site not only pointless, but also a bit of a joke.

  • Chris November 24, 2009, 8:46 pm

    Sorry Alda that I can only agree here. Its your blog, and you can do, whatever you feel is right without the necessity to justify for it. If somebody isn’t comfortable with it, he can start his own blog.

  • CarolQ November 24, 2009, 9:18 pm

    I have read your blog for over 1 1/2 years (oops, coming up on 2 years!). All this Icelandic meltdown came after I started reading your (YOUR) blog. I came for the photos and weather comments and stayed for the in-depth Inclandic economic reporting. I may not leave a comment but I truely appreciate your knowledge and ability to express Iceland’s problems at this time of economic problems.

    Many, many thanks!

  • Col Matheson November 24, 2009, 9:54 pm

    No Alda , the effort will never be pointless, nor will it ever be a joke, but yes I can understand why the great silent majority must make you wonder sometimes, although I think if their opinions were negative, you would soon know, and of course they are not.
    Regarding the commentator who criticized you on the other blog, that was unfair, considering how tolerant you had been towards them in the past, and given the number of people who enjoy and sometimes participate on your blog, my self included, it is a bit disapointing that only Kevin saw fit to respond. That was a bit sad.
    Finally ,on this Oxford comparison studies theory you had, while no doubt there are other excellent Icelandic blogs, your own unique North American/Europian/ Icelandic voice with its highly individual take on things is way out there on its own. Hopefully others will join you before you head off to where ever this blog is going to take you.
    I could say more but the previous comments have really said it all, and much better, so can we say it was just a bad day at the office Alda? soldier on!!

  • Col Matheson November 25, 2009, 9:56 am

    Please excuse spelling….too tired…or uneducated 🙂

  • geo8rge November 25, 2009, 5:03 pm

    If you let anonymous posters think you read, and worse care what they write, you going to cause your self no end of problems. Instead of deleting I suggest you add text like “They aren’t giants, they are wind mills” in random places in their posts. This might not sound like a horrible punishment but anonymous posters are actually proud of their little SPIDERS SPIDERS I’M AFRAID OF SPIDERS posts.

  • sylvia hikins November 25, 2009, 10:22 pm

    I too am re-reading Independent People. If you haven’t got it- buy it for Christmas. If you have got it- but it for someone else for Christmas. One of the best books to emerge from the 20th century.
    sylvia from viking wirral

  • sylvia hikins November 25, 2009, 10:24 pm

    oops typo….buy it for Christmas.

  • alda November 25, 2009, 11:55 pm

    I too am re-reading Independent People. If you haven’t got it- buy it for Christmas. If you have got it- but it for someone else for Christmas.

    Yes! And when you do, please be sure to use my affiliate link. 🙂