Does BoingBoing still boing, or just thud?

Since the BoingBoing reorg, there seems to have been been an increase in rants and flamebait and a decrease in Wonderful Things.

Maybe it’s just me and I should give up and tune out.

Or maybe BB needs to think about what kinds of discussion it actually wants to promote, and how it can do so.


Can you provide some more concrete examples?

In my experience, it is difficult to discuss things like this without specific examples and data.

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User population changed a bit, and moderation changed a lot.

It does seem to me that people are more playing to the invisible audience these days, but I couldn’t tell you exactly what makes me think that.

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Yeah, I gotta agree. It’s just a different feel. Sorry that I can’t put up data points. @codinghorror, you have a better bead on the analytics than we do, though I’m not sure where to start looking. I definitely feel like arguments used to devolve into insults a lot less.


Do you guys feel that maybe there are more people coming onto the site that are not long term regular users? Like, people just pop up for specific topics in order to play to an “invisible audience”? I do seem to run across people here that seem new to me, and now and again, someone pops up on a thread that is a first time poster. Do you guys think this happens more than it used to?

I don’t know, maybe it’s just a higher profile for BB?

We’re certainly seeing a lot more of “The X show” or “X and Y”, where one person interminably argues with the world or two people argue with each other. Which, once it’s clear that nothing new is being said, gets boring fast.

One advantage of threading was that there wasn’t as much lastworditis. EVERYONE could have the last word in one branch, if they really wanted it; there wasn’t an implied victor. I think that reduced the focus on debating and kept it on discussing… which was a heck of a lot healthier.

But I think there’s more to it than the discussion boards. I get the impression that BB’s blog posts have been moving towards things that will build traffic rather than either community or knowledge or sense-of-wonder. Having ads doesn’t bother me, but I get the impression that they’re letting the need to drive up traffic numbers to increase ad revenue distort the editorial decisions both in what gets covered and how it gets presented.

It’s their blog, it’s their decision, but speaking only for myself I’m starting to find both the blog and the discussion significantly less interesting and less hospitable, and I think I am starting to drift away.


That’s by design though, and it’s not so bad. I’m on the fence about threading. I think that I once saw @codinghorror say that threading staunched productive discussion, and I see where that’s coming from. The problem with the current system is there’s no mechanism by which the discussion moves forward, so it seems like everything is endlessly rehashed in part because looking back at the chain of discussion is a little harder. That gets boring. I do think threading may be a solution looking for a problem. I can tell you what one problem is that needs solving: discussions don’t seem to move forward like they used to. What the solution is, I can’t exactly say.

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I’m not saying threading is the solution. I’m saying it may have prevented one specific failure mode that I’ve been seeing a lot of recently. It certainly may have been prone to others that I wasn’t noticing. I’m using it to illustrate one issue.

Having the “you’ve been talking a lot recently, shut up and give others a chance” filter set tighter might help. The risk is that it might suppress someone who really is acting as resident authority/facilitator/researcher.

Having an active set of moderators might help. I know you’re taking the approach of waiting for folks to flag digressions and monopolizations and so on, but (a) you haven’t built a culture of community moderation and (b) we tend to presume that if you’re letting it run you’re happy with it and our input won’t do anything useful.

Having fewer topics – or headlines – that seem chosen to trigger flamage rather than discussion might help. I’m a firm believer that in online discussions, heat drives out light.

Wait, I’m supposed to flag shit besides spam? That’s a revelation.

Yes! You are more than welcome to flag comments that you find inappropriate, off topic or just notify moderators for any particular reason. We may not always agree with why you flag it, but it’s not just for spam.

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Maybe we should be a bit more stabby when it comes to moderating those borderline-civilized threads where insults and the “x and y” show tend to flourish.

It’s been vague policy to have a lighter hand than before, at least while the comments>forums transition shook out.

Things have settled down, now, though. So maybe we can tighten the rules a little and veer back toward a more strictly moderated tone. Threads like this are proof that a lot of what was good about the old has successfully carried over to the new. So thoughts on what we could do to make BBS better are welcome.

One important change was just suggested in another thread: having the short newsy linkposts (often negative stuff) go to a different category here than the more substantial culture posts and features. That’ll make it easier to filter at a glance for “wonderful things”

And we gotta pick some categories for user-initiated topics here, too. Any thoughts on that?


I’ve told 'em before that if they want input on anything but the worst abuses they’re going to have to either redesign that mechanism or educate the users or both. To their credit, they did at least put in an option which lets you say why you’re flagging it, along with a few flags like “offtopic”… but they have not exactly made an effort to go out and build a community-review culture.

I recall someone asking for a Maker category when BBS was new, which I support. maybe a Bananas category for silly pictures of memes or an ongoing cat thread or other juvenilia. perhaps something for other non-maker projects we are doing: music, films, academic papers, or volunteer work?

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That happens too with threaded discussions, it just happens in a many-headed hydra way where the same things are rehashed in 5 different locations that you may not see…

Which is kind of my “sweeping it under the rug” feeling in general with threads. Speaking of rehashing everything over and over, not that I want that to spawn another threaded vs flat discussion… :open_mouth: I prefer problems out in the open, in a common location where everyone can see and discuss 'em.

Like we’re doing right now!

Over time I am becoming a big believer in the “say your piece and let others talk” strategy, but remember that what we show now is a reminder to pause and let others speak when you post a lot, it is not mandatory. However… I have noticed that some, uh, axe-grindy new users can be problematic and we just instituted a setting that limits new users from replying too much to the same topic. You can read the rationale for that here, and I highly recommend that you do if you have any interest at all in the topic:

Of course @beschizza is free to set this to whatever he likes including 999. Or, y’know, 666.

BBS users are reasonably good at flagging spam (and thank you for this, keep flagging evil spam for great justice) but yeah, flagging digressions and monopolization is basically not happening at all. There’s a pretty good overall BBS culture now, but a culture of flagging mean-spirited stuff… that seems much harder to achieve.

One thing that I have found works well is for moderators to actually post “hey guys, stay on topic” or “remember, keep it civil (link to faq)” as @Falcor has done. Posts magically disappearing doesn’t necessarily teach the community, but moderators taking a brief, friendly (and I cannot emphasize enough the friendly bit) public stand does.

So I think more moderation is definitely in order – specifically, more of the latter type to complement the former.


It does seem to me that there are more “click bait” type posts that don’t seem to be relevant to what is traditionally posted on BB. I think occasionally posters also use language that is going to get the ire up for a portion of the audience. And the moderation is allowing for more diversity in the discussion of topics. IMHO previous moderation lead to too much group think.


No aspersions on any of the current mods, but Antinous used to keep a stiff boot heel on assholery in any incarnation. I used to get my posts blasted all the time, stuff I thought was pretty low on the objectionable scale. I honestly think he skewed the discussions to a kinder, gentler composition. This is not necessarily synonymous with better. Just a different feel when you walk in the door.


I find myself moving away because now the discussion has been moved to the BBS. Instead of reading the article, then moving down the page to see what people have to say about it, and put my own two cents in if I want to, now I have to change pages/windows/tabs, and hunt down the relevant discussion. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

If I want a blurb & a link, I can go to any number of sites, since most of the sites I’m interested in all cover things similar to Boingboing, if not the same content. And in that way, Boingboing has gone from being the best blog on the Internet, to just another face in the crowd (cloud).


Yes, there was something lost when inline commentary was replaced with a “system of participation”. But now the system of participation allowed such things as Badass Space Dragon to happen, when before it wouldn’t have been possible. So, good with bad, I think. Although I totally feel ya on your last brilliant sentence… “just another face in the cloud.” Well played, doggo.

Okay, so I have a few solid suggestions:

  1. Put a permalink to the boingboing,net article being discussed somewhere other than the very tippy top of the discussion page. For extremely long discussions, scrolling up is a gigantic pain (especially because comments are dynamically loaded). People are dissuaded from checking the context of the original article and staying on topic. There should be a permalink in the header that follows you down the page.

  2. More categories. Right now it’s BoingBoing, Meta, and everything else. It’s not really a BBS. If it’s just some more convoluted dedicated comment system, why the hell separate it from the posts anyway? If that’s what it’s supposed to be, then comments should just be integrated into the post pages. The extra step makes no sense.

  3. More stabbiness. I yearn for the days of disemvowelment. There’s a broken windows element to this: if people see really crappy comments left standing, then the quality of their comment is going to suffer because the standards seem lower. Enforce civility. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t insult each other, but we should hold an insult to the standard of “clever and entertaining.”

  4. Buy me a pony. Except not really, I don’t want to muck anything. Send me money to buy myself something of equivalent niceness to a pony. (Hey it’s worth a shot.)


Right on, Abe. I like all your suggestions except #4. Why would you want a damn pony? If you’re in the request business, then ask for a UNICORN.

I’d amend this list to say #4: put the ENTIRE discussion back on the main thread on the blog. Because of #3 - more stabbiness and disemvowellment, less assholery will be appearing, and therefore will not be off-putting on the main blog item. My understanding was that this was a major driving factor for going to the BBS. But I think there could be a happy medium, where we get back what was lost but don’t have to give up the BBS.

Having the full brunt of the content and comments all there in your face was a Wonderful Thing, in itself. Now, when you want to comment, you have to go to the bbs, and then the content isn’t there - to get back to it you have to click and click and click to find the original. I think the solution should be a blend of the blog & BBS, making sure the full commentary lands back on the front page not just a digest of the “best”. ALL of it. To get that quality, blast the crap and limit the number of posts generally.

Personally, I think a global max of 5 posts for ANY one item is plenty. I see very little value in posting more than 5 times or having a 5-time back-and-forth with anyone. Most of the time anything longer than 4 replies has already turned into a pissing match, and I don’t even read 'em. I don’t think you’d be losing anything by cutting back on the number of long back-and-forths between 1 or 2 people. Sure, they’ll object because they want to go on ad nauseum, but really, nobody else reads that shit and it’s useless.

Let’s say you post a hot topic and 100 people read it. My guess is that of those 100 people, you’ll get less than 5 of them doing a back-and forth. Of the remaining 100, you’ll have, I’m guessing, 5 more people, MAXIMUM who will read all of the back and forth clear to the end. You’ll have another 20 people who make a separate, substantive comment. That leaves 70 people who don’t give a flying f*rq about MOST of the comments. You’ll have to run your own numbers, but this is my guesstimate based on feel. Summary: allowing runaway back-and-forths does not benefit the site.

While allowing SOME back-and-forth does.


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