Several years ago I had a brief career as an amateur spam-fighter. I stopped when I realized I simply lacked the skills and commitment needed to fight the battle properly, but I’ve always felt a little guilty about giving up. But I still remember two lessons I learned from those days (and those fine folks at news.admin.net-abuse.e-mail).
The first is “you don’t fight abuse with abuse.” As satisfying and justifiable it may seem to launch a Denial Of Service attack on a spamming server, or sign a spammer up for all kinds of lists, or track down their home phone number and call them in the middle of the night, it’s WRONG. The whole idea is that we are fighting on principle, and we need to preserve those principles. We have to make sure we remain “the good guys.”
The second was developed in response to a lot of companies who gave services to spammers. One of the standard responses was “we have so many customers, we can’t monitor everything they do.” The answer to that one was immediate, and floored me with its elegant simplicity and sheer honesty.
“If you’re too big to act responsibly, you’re too big.”
That basic idea stuck with me. I work for a very large company, and I live in fear of that mentality taking foot there. At work, we do everything we can to personalize everything with our customers, to treat them as the individuals they are. I know that if we start acting as big as we are, we’ll lose them to the competition. The mom and pop operations will eat us alive the instant we give them that edge, because a lot of people are quite willing to pay a smidgen more if it means they get treated with friendliness and respect.
Apparently that mentality has set in over at Kos. According to “tas,” Kos is too big to read and care about every single comment on every single thread, and to hold him responsible for what goes on there is “ridiculous.” I don’t accept that. If Kos doesn’t have the time to monitor what is done on his site, then he ought to appoint some trusted supporters (much like Paul and I here at Wizbang) to do so. “Too big” isn’t an excuse, it’s a confession.
Yes, Kos has a history of deleting material that later proves embarassing from his site. The example is cited is exactly why I don’t think I’ll ever have any respect for him. When four American civilian contractors were ambushed and killed in Fallujah and their mutilated bodies were hung from a bridge, Kos called them “mercenaries” and said, and I quote, “screw them.” Only when he started taking serious heat from that (in the form of canceled advertisers who took their money elsewhere) did he delete the posting and later post a half-assed apology. That incident prompted my own “I don’t bury my mistakes” policy here — I don’t delete things I write. I’ll go back and correct typographical and grammatical errors, I’ll add clarifying details, I’ll toss in updates in the middle of a piece — but I will NOT attempt to hide evidence of my errors. “The moving hand once writ” isn’t just classical poetry, it’s an ethical touchstone.
And as far as moderating/deleting comments… I can’t find a stated policy on Kos’ site, but every single site I’ve ever seen has had the policy of deleting comments that violate the host’s ethical principles. I’ve done it myself a couple times, and always had a twinge of guilt. But if someone were to post a way to rig an online contest at another site, I’d delete that without a second thought. I’d ban the IP as well, and I’d watch for the swine who did it to come back. In cases like this, “silence is assent.”
The train of illogic on that comment thread is most enlightening. It goes from “we’re losing” to “we’re losing — it’s probably rigged” to “it’s gotta be rigged” to “it’s definitely rigged” to “we oughta rig it ourselves” to “hey, now that we’ve rigged it, we’re winning!” to, finally, “since it was so easy to rig, everyone must have and it doesn’t count” without a single shred of evidence to suppor the escalation. There were a few voices of sanity along the way (Sorceress Sarah, Hrothgar, Tacoma Narrows, McDuff), but they were quickly steamrolled by those in favor of the cheating.
Then, on the LGF matter: yes, a commenter posted a possible method of cheating. You’ll notice that it was utterly denounced by the rest, and Charles had earlier asked people to not cheat on his behalf. Funny how no one in authority over at Kos has problems with cheating…
And no, I’m not being “coy” about the matter. I simply don’t know, and don’t want. I’m not involved in the Awards, not gonna get involved with them to that much detail. What Kevin started as a simple, fun way to give people a chance to draw attention to lesser-known but still worthy blogs has apparently turned into a huge nightmare of thankless work and headaches. He’s a better man than I am — had I been running things, I woulda said “screw it” and dumped the whole thing a while ago.
This is the last piece I’m planning on writing about the Awards. The initial idea of them was outstanding, and I hope they will still serve that purpose. All I’ve written so far has simply been elaborations on a basic theme — “Kos is an asshole, and so are a lot of his supporters” — and that was abundantly clear back in April when he first posted the “screw them” comment about the murdered contractors, then attempted to cover it up.
So go vote in the Weblog awards. And out of simple decency and respect, follow the rules Kevin has imposed. It’s his site, his idea, his contest, his rules. If you don’t like it, you’re welcome to go elsewhere. Hell, even start your own contest — don’t crap on his work.