Saturday, October 11, 2008

On the controversial stink

As anyone who was following Cynics Party noticed, I trailed off on posting there in about June. As anyone who has been following this blog, well, likewise. Part of this was due to a money crunch that hit in about that time that required that I pitch stories, work my ass off, please everyone,etc., and that left me little time to write more about politics (not that I had any desire to write anything else after a 12 or 13 hour day anyway). Part of that was a number of simultaneous personal crises and life requirements, including two family weddings and the illness and death of my grandmother which had me on the road for more than half of the summer and did little for my emotional well-being. I mostly felt like I was clawing for some sort of emotional balance and needed to take my head out of the web of electrons -- when I could -- and sit with real people who knew me and cared about me and didn't give a shit about some public persona.

All that is to say, despite the fact that my name remained on the masthead, having not written a word or engaged on the comment boards for a few months, I felt I had abdicated any responsibility for it. Moreover, that the feeling that I ought to write something became another sense of responsibility and foreboding that I couldn't really handle and that, as it became clear that the Jezebel thing was going to be full-time for the foreseeable future in addition to Glamocracy, I wasn't going to be able to have time for it anyway. So, I hadn't kept up.

When Hunter and Greg came to me a few weeks ago and said that they were in a position to write again, having stabilized their job situations to a degree, and that they wanted to try to grow the site, I was happy for them but expressed the sentiment that I'd been out of it for too long and wasn't going to have the time for it. One thing that they'd had issue with some time after we founded the site was the quality of the writing on it -- the typos, the grammar, the too-insidery humor that might turn off potential new readers. Having been then, as now, not in a position to edit anything let alone write a lot, I was loathe to do more than ask some of the writers to tone certain things down or make an effort in regards to quality control. What they told me is that, as we'd all tried to focus on our day jobs and despite the fact that ours were the only non-pseudonymous names on the masthead, the site had become a collection of short posts, many of which were not about national politics, lacked pictures, had similar grammatical problems or worse than before and made the site look like a cross between a personal tumblr and an effort to set up little more than discussions between long-time commenters. None of that was what we intended when we launched.

What they did was go to the person who had, in our absence, assumed much of the responsibility for the site's upkeep. Initially, he had offered to help with some of the backend stuff and I'd suggested to Greg that we take him up on it. When he asked to write here and there for it, I was happy to have him. They suggested to him that they wanted to try, again, to make the site more than just a message board for the regulars, to make an effort to have people post regularly but less prolifically so that everyone's posts could get attention and to make sure that they were commentary/newsy things about politics again, as we did when we started.

Around that time, the site went down again, and he told them he was working on it. Come to find out, he was actually working on starting a site of his own and farming the commenters to abandon the site that Greg, Hunter and I had founded because they had to audacity to suggest to him ways they wanted to work with him to make it more professional. And that's, in fact, what he did.

So, look, I've seen the invitations in the comment threads to join you guys. That's not going to happen, I'm sorry. Greg and Hunter are my friends, and they did nothing wrong. Also, frankly, the reason our site got founded at all was because of them and their efforts, and because they used it as a way to drag my incredibly depressed ass out of bed the week after I got fired from Wonkette and give me something productive to do besides drink and sleep. The fact that there have been posts on said rival site bashing on the integrity of my friends and their intentions does nothing to endear me to it. That there was a falling out between my friends and our commenters saddens me, and that said falling out means that people have been asked or have decided to take sides saddens me more. I have no doubt that each and every commenter makes time in their day to visit multiple websites, including the ones I write for to pay the bills, and could choose to visit both the new site and the old if there wasn't an effort to discourage you from doing the latter.

When Greg and Hunter managed to get our site back up, they made a change to the masthead at my request. I'm now the Cynic Emeritus. Given that most of my days start at 7:30 am writing for Glamour (for 3 more weeks at least) and end at 6:30 pm when I finish my last post for Jezebel (where I was just made an editor this week), I don't foresee having a lot of time or energy to write about politics elsewhere. But I know that if I do, Hunter and Greg will always welcome me back. I'm sure they feel the same way about our commenters.

9 comments:

Cynica said...

Speaking only for myself, I left Wonkette, as did the other regular commentersin Homofascist's Army after the crappy way they treated you, and the whole "new direction" they wanted to take the site. I now enjoy your posts on Jez, but usually don't comment there, frankly because I find it too insidery. No doubt CP became unprofessional this summer when you, Greg and Hunter had to earn your livings and deal with your lives. To many of us it became a community. We're not the most stable group of people on the planet, and we need and help each other. Greg and Hunter were well within their rights to take back their original concept when they had the time again, but things they said in their explanatory posts made some of us feel unwelcome. What they wanted to do was no longer what we came there for. So we moved over to the new site from nojo's temporary one. I and others put posts on CP to let the other regulars know where we having the type of conversations we use to have on CP, because it had become our community in the moderators' absence. I didn't do it, nor do I think others did, to undermine or hurt Hunter and Greg -- they'd let us know they didn't want our "insidery" jokes and off topic discussions on their site, so we took it elsewhere. I've continued to go back and read their posts, which are pretty infrequent, adn occasionally comment, but alike you guys this summer, I'm extremely busy and when I do have time to spend on the computer, I want to hang out with my virtual friends. Maybe this makes us a pathetic bunch of geeks, but there it is. I think many of the other regulars are in the same position. I'm sorry if you feel we behaved badly, but I understand if you choose not to visit the new site. It's ironic, though, since you are the only thing that brought this group of misfits together in the first place, and I'll always think of you as our patron saint.
Best of luck to you, Greg and Hunter in all your endeavors.

Nojo said...

Howdy!

Nojo said...

Shall we dance?

I'll presume I'm the backstabber in question, and Stinque is the website at issue. Correct me if I'm wrong, since much of what you say doesn't agree with the facts as I understand them, so you may be talking about something else entirely.

Before I bore you with those facts, I'm curious about your logic: If everything is as you say, what have I done wrong? If anything, it would seem I've relieved you and your friends of a major headache — all those ungrammatical insidery short graphic-deprived posts have been moved elsewhere. Your friends are free to reach the audience they want to reach without encumbrance.

And let's visit the Deep Background: You say that I had "asked" to write for CP, which isn't quite right, at least in the nuance. I had offered to help with technical issues, that offer was accepted, and I spent a very long day or two fixing some longstanding display problems, as well as improving the look and behavior of the comments.

That chore ended on a Saturday. The following Tuesday, after nobody had posted anything for a couple of days, the other commenters asked that I post something myself to keep the content fresh. And so I did — after asking permission — and continued posting throughout that week, until the regulars returned Friday night. (For future historians, that was the genesis of "Morning Sedition" — the name was a joke about the circumstances.)

Once the regulars returned, I stopped posting — until Hunter invited me to continue. I was certainly honored by the invitation, and happy to accept. From there on I took it upon myself to post daily, since a site that like that without something fresh in the morning is dead in the water.

One more thing before we get to the meat of your timeline: The CP comment database broke down one recent Monday, and the posting system itself broke down a week later. I lacked the server access needed to fix these things directly, although I did work with Greg to attempt a WordPress-based database recovery. That didn't work, alas, and we were left at the mercy of the hosting-company technicians.

In other words: I didn't tell them I was "working on it." I tried to work on it, my attempt failed, and I told them we'd just have to wait for Dreamhost to fix things for us.

It was the Thursday between those Mondays that Greg sent me some sketches for a CP logo and layout redesign. To be very polite about it, I thought Greg's sketches were profoundly misguided, sent him back a note detailing some suggestions, sent back a couple of sketches of my own illustrating my suggestions — and got shut down.

And that night — September 19 — I conceived and registered Stinque.com.

Actually that was early the next morning, 4:42 a.m. according to my receipt. Greg's response had given me a Very Bad Feeling, and I was awake all night thinking about it. I could always retreat to my "archive blog" if I didn't like the direction CP was taking, but fact was I did like the direction — the variety of voices, the community of commenters. I didn't want to lose that. I wrote a note to a friend, calling my new domain "cheap insurance." I wanted an alternative available if events at CP took a turn for the worse.

The other shoe dropped a few days later when Hunter sent a very long note detailing his vision for CP, which thematically agrees with what you describe here. It was a vision that, in its consequences, and combined with Greg's proposed redesign, would ruin everything I've enjoyed about participating in the site: ruin it for me, ruin it for the other contributers, ruin it for the commenters.

In short: Ruin CP for the community that's grown around it in recent months.

And that's when I rushed to put my cheap insurance into play, formally launching Stinque a week after Greg first showed me his sketches.

Did I tell anybody to choose sides? Please tell me whom, and how. Please explain why I would include a CP ad — which Hunter suggested, and I designed — on every Stinque page, if that was the case. Please explain why I would post conciliatory comments on CP, if that was the case.

And please explain this:

"We hold no ill will towards our former hosts, and we don't want folks feeling like they have to choose sides. We just have Profound Creative Differences with their future plans, and thought it best to bow out now before we get all pissy about it."

That's from the Stinque announcement on my own archive blog.

Angry? Yes, of course. You'll find examples of that. Your friends Greg and Hunter didn't endear themselves to me the weekend before everything went down when they were snide to my friend JNOV in the CP comments. That attitude — that contempt towards their audience — was the third major contributing factor to my decision. You do not fuck with my community.

Final note on the timeline: No, I did not reveal my (hasty) plans to Hunter or Greg until just before the formal launch. Nor did Hunter and Greg inform the other CP contributors of their plans — Hunter's note to me was confidential, as he'll tell you. But I'm sure the other contributors would have found out eventually.

rptrcub said...

Megan: first, I'm very happy that you have your position at Jezebel.

Second, I'm of the mind that I can play on both sites, as they are attenuated in their own ways, tenors of voice, demeanors, attitudes, etc. My comments posted at Stinque are not intended as stabs against CP at all and vice-versa (and I know that's not what anyone has said, I just want this to be known). I like the styles of writing on both sites, and I want to participate at both sites: for the political insight at CP, and in the community at Stinque.

I appreciate the work everyone has done, from Greg to Hunter to you to Kalia to Nojo to ad infinitum.

I am still grateful to have had wonderful tips from you in starting my own blog (for whatever trouble the thing is giving me from douchebag right now -- learning how to block IP addresses is fun!), although I've had to cut back on the anonymous commenting because I got tired of the douche posting the N-word and not being able to delete it immediately.

Nabisco said...

This is all really really silly.

I remember clearly when CP was silent for awhile, and Nojo surfaced with the "keys to the Caddy" and offered to steer for awhile. We were supportive, and it kept whatever fanbase the Party had going and he turned out to be an adept and complimentary blogger within the Cynics pantheon. I daresay that the Party might have ended there and then had Nojo not taken temporary lead, and we would have retreated to the sinewy arms of Homofascist and his buff boy soldiers.

We are all, or mostly all, eager to dip back into the Cynics' pool to enjoy new posts and leave our comments,but let's face it: there ain't much there there. When there is, and they'll have us, we'll be active readers.

SanFranLefty said...

I find this all very Judean Peoples' Front/Peoples' Front of Judea, and Megan, I'm sorry that you feel that somehow people were insulting Hunter and Greg, or whatever.

I certainly would have wanted to continue to comment on CP but the graphics and the commenting system sucks and now that Nojo isn't there holding the Caddy together with duct tape and bubble gum it's fallen off.

I had communicated with Hunter when he announced his big plan to revamp CP so that the focus was more on what was "above the date stamp" and less on what was "below the date stamp." I offered to put together a focus group of the most frequent commenters for him to run by various ideas for content and graphics and was rebuffed. I was told that there was this great mass of silent readers, who were "afraid" to comment on CP and were just waiting for more of the top political analysis that could be contributed by the editors.

So Hunter said as much to all of us, and got quite rude with a frequent commenter. I kept going back to CP in the first week or so, waiting to see this new and improved content and the new influx of silent readers who were liberated to comment. What did I see? No new posts, graphics and commenting scheme gone haywire, and when there was finally new posts, they were exactly what Hunter had railed against - two sentence posts with a photo. And the silent mass of readers did not appear to be liberated to comment (or to view the posts).

I always felt that CP was a place for the Gawker editors to let their hair down and be less commercial - and some of the funniest, smartest commenters on Wonkette were so pissed off about how you were treated when the decision was made to make W more of the frat boy politics show, that we left with you.

While I certainly try to keep up with your stuff on Jez and Glamocracy, and likewise with Hunter on that AOL site, there are only so many hours in the day and so many other things going on. But I can't always keep up with that and I know that my weird sense of humor and potty mouth aren't appreciated. I felt as if CP was where we could be ourselves - editors included.

There was a lull in time where I know that you were overwhelmed with the horrible things going on in your personal life and meeting deadlines for paying gigs, and so you were on hiatus. Fair enough. Same with Greg and Hunter. But in the meanwhile, there was a fresh thread or two a day for debating the political issues of the day, courtesy of Nojo or Chainsaws.

I would say that probably 90% of the posts were on political issues, and this continues over at stinque. and if you go through the comments, there is great political discussion, breaking news stories discussed, and debates about social and policy issues. We also talk about how our overall sensitivity and awareness to the slide our nation seems to be inexorably heading into carries into our personal lives, and how we handle the feeling of being the only people around noticing this country is going to hell in a handbasket. So yes, sometimes we talk about food porn, or hunting, or butt seks, or petting our furry creatures that we love, or self-medicating with a variety of drugs.

I have learned a lot from my fellow commenters and have grown to care for them. For example, when baked didn't know if her house was going to be standing or if any of her dogs and cats would survive Hurricane Ike hitting her island, we rallied to be there for her. When Ewalda experienced the economic downturn firsthand by losing a job that he was awesome at, some of us helped him by providing potential job contacts.

I have learned a lot from my fellow commenters - I have learned about Native American issues and responsible gun ownership from RedManLaw, I have learned about he special stress of being a first generation child of immigrants and the pressure of being part of a "model minority" from Manchu, I've learned about new foods and wine from Prommy, and JNOV has taught me so much about race, ethnicity, and class in America. I could go on and on, but these are a few examples.

So I'm sorry you feel as if people are being forced to pick sides or are somehow insulting Hunter, Greg, you, or any of the other original editors of CP. That certainly wasn't my intention in following my community of commenters over to stinque.com, and certainly if Greg and Hunter can get CP up and running again, I will continue to check it out, but may or may not comment, because I'm not sure if I would be welcome over there.

Hope you're doing well, and take care. I'll certainly continue to read your stuff on the Jez.

-SanFranLefty

BeRightBack said...

What can I say now but echo SFL's sentiments? All she had to say is what I am feeling now. I enjoyed the feeling of community and the permeability of writing "above the datestamp" on CP, and I'm enjoying that now on Stinque. I like the feeling of it being an improvisation, an experiment, a jostling, multivocal entity. I know there's been some volatile words said in this 'conflict,' but as far as I can tell, Nojo himself has been striving to keep things civil and all about division of labor (commenter insideriness / stuff that wouldn't fit into "new" CP on Stinque, Hunter and Greg's revamped vision on CP).

I continue to believe that you, Megan, are one of the very best writers on the internet on feminist and political issues, and so: a thousand congratulations on the Jezebel gig. You continue to validate the decision to come out so forcefully to protest your dismissal from Brand W, and I hope I can still count on you being part of my extended internet "family," however this contre-temps turns out. And regardless, if you're ever in Chicago, drinks are on me (and Jason).

jderda said...

I have waited a few days before commenting your post. Megan, your take on all this saddens me, but I certainly will not shed any tears.
There are many things I could write, but what's the point? You've moved on from the little band of commenters who stuck by you rather than turn their backs on you when you needed support.
That's OK. Happens all the time. It's a big tough world out there.
I just hope that you understand that Greg and Hunter might have a different perspective on what happened with CP than those of us who were the loyal commenters on that site.
Best wishes for your future, AL/Megan/Mom.
Jim (Ewalda)

Anonymous said...

I had pretty much stopped visiting CP because of most of the problems you stated.
On the occasional visits, I noticed your absence, and wondered what was up.
I'm glad things are going well for you @Jezebel,though I rarely visit there, either.
-Best Regards, Rob Petrified, AKA biminitwst.