Zen and the Art of Not Pissing in People's Cheerios

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Title: Zen and the Art of Not Pissing in People's Cheerios
Creator: cereta
Date(s): March 23, 2007
Medium: online
External Links: page one; page two; archive link page 1; archive link page 2
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Zen and the Art of Not Pissing in People's Cheerios is a 2007 essay by cereta.

The post has 140 comments.

Some Topics Discussed

  • fannish spaces as public and private
  • personal opinion
  • LiveJournal
  • squee and criticism
  • the concept of kairos
  • fans' ability, and non-ability, to read social cues
  • Martin Shaw's chest hair

Some Excerpts

Every so often, you'll see me use the phrase "pissing in people's Cheerios," or even talk about a post I want to write called "Zen and the Art of Not Pissing in People's Cheerios." The problem, of course, is that Cheerio-pissing is much like obscenity: we all know it when we see it, but we all see it somewhere different. However, following on elynross's post on people posting negative comments to squeeful posts, I thought I'd at least attempt something. It's a tricky thing for me to navigate, because on the one hand, I passionately believe in public discourse, and discussion is one of the things I love about fandom (although I'm really more into the analytical, predictive, lit-critty discussions than "this did or didn't work for me"). And yet, I've found myself staring at a comment to something I posted, usually a post that was nothing but fannish squee and a comment about how much the commenter didn't like the thing I was squeeing about, wondering, "And you needed to tell me this, why?" And I've increasingly been searching for what makes me feel that the comment was out of place.
By now, I'm guessing my [snipped sports] metaphor is clear, but let's go ahead and walk it through ;).

You watch an episode of a TV show, and you don't like it. You may hate it, you may just be "meh," but you're not full of squee by a long shot. Where would you consider appropriate places to talk about or even just say you didn't like it:

A. A post in your own LJ.

B. A post in a community, either your own post, or a comment in a post set up for episode discussion.

C. A response to a post in someone else's LJ when the post amounts to, "Here's what did and didn't work for me. Thoughts?"

D. A response to a post in someone else's LJ when the post amounts to thinky but generally positive thoughts, and ends with, "What did you think?"

E. A response to a post in someone else's LJ when the post amounts to thinky but generally positive thoughts, and doesn't end with, "What did you think?"

F. A response to a post in someone else's LJ when the post amounts "OMG I loved that SO MUCH and here's all the reasons why."

Once again, A and B are easy. A is your LJ, your space, your thoughts. B is, in essence, the sports bar. It's a public space where people are brought together by the show, not necessarily by a given response to the show.

C explicitly invites response. Now, let's say it doesn't end with "thoughts?" I would still say that a "did and didn't work for me" post is implicitly inviting a similar response: that is, what did and didn't work for you. If it happens that your answer is mostly one or the other, you are still responding in the purpose of the post.

D, too, explicitly invites response, but E is a bit trickier. I generally assume that more analytical posts invite analytical response, although I personally try to keep my analysis on both the type and the topic of the analysis in the post (another thing that's occasionally made be go, "buh": I'll post an episode analysis that's about a very specific topic, and get, "I didn't like it for this completely unrelated reason."). What I'd say here is that you're in "wanna come over and watch the game" territory, where you may want to think about what you know of the person posting. That said, I think we can label this a bit of a gray area.

F, however, is both the impetus of this post and where I think the line into Cheerio-pissing gets crossed. I think it's safe to say that when someone's post starts off with, "OMG, I love this show SO MUCH!", they aren't looking to have an analytical discussion about the episode's failings.

And I just can't figure out why that's so hard to discern, or maybe just so hard even to think about.

A few years ago, I'd have put this down to the transition from lists to LJ. On lists, we were all in a sports bar. It was all common space, and if that had its own problems, there was no question about the appropriateness of posting your reactions to a space set up for various reactions.

LJ is much trickier, because we're all, in essence, hosting home viewings of the game. We're inviting people by sheer virtue of posting publicly, and thus opening ourselves up for response. And let me be very clear: I believe, strongly, in the notion that posting publicly means you're inviting response, and that to some extent, you are opening yourself up to unwelcome response. But I also believe that there is a commensurate burden on those giving the response to think about that response, to read the post and read the cues and look around the room and think about whether now is the time to yell, "Illini suck eggs!"
Because really, the bottom line here is that no one gets to cry "Silencing of unpopular opinions! Oppression!" in the age of LJ. You have your own LJ. If you want to host a Buckeye party in Champaign-Urbana, no one is stopping you. And hey, you'll almost certainly get more attendees than you think, if for no other reason than because there will always be people who are tired of hearing about the @#$%ing Illini. If you hated an episode, you have a venue for it. You can even invite debate if that's what you're looking for. What I'm suggesting is that the place to do it isn't someone's "OMG SQUEEE" post.

And again, there are gray areas. Me, I figure that the more thinky my post is, even if the thinky is all positive, the more likely I am to get negative commentary, and I accept that. However, there are people who would disagree with me on that, I'm sure, and would say that an all-positive post should not receive negative commentary. This isn't a clear science. However, what I'd really like to see is more discussion, or maybe just some acknowledgement, that commenting should involve a certain awareness of the cues a post is giving. That we at least think about it.

And that we also think about the purpose of a given comment. Why are you saying it? In a picspam post that talks about how hot a given character is, what exactly is the purpose of commenting that she/he is an uggo? What's the point of the throwaway sentence about how much you didn't like an episode? Why are you commenting about how much a show sucks in a post that's talking about a particular character detail? Note: I'm not talking about, "Well, that's kind of indicative of the bad writing overall." I'm talking about, "I stopped watching after the first episode because it sucked so hard." Okay. That contributes to the discussion at hand how?

And again, to be really, really clear, I am not talking about what we post in our own LJs. I'm talking about what we say in other people's. And yes, we have a perfect right to respond to a public post, etc, etc. I'm suggesting we think about whether we should, about whether we're contributing to a discussion or just pissing in someone's Cheerios.

Some Comments at the Post

[darththalia]: I completely agree with this post, I think, but mostly your metaphor is cracking me up. I'm generally pro-Illini, but I don't care that much--U of Chicago grad--and I've been known to cheer for Northwestern when I'm hanging out with Matt's friends just because "rah rah Illini" gets so annoying, especially when they suck and no one wants to admit it. But about the topic at hand, I completely agree that context is anything. Sometimes negative discussion is wanted, sometimes it's not, and it's only polite to follow the cues when commenting in someone else's LJ. The only thing I'd add is, when one makes a comment disagreeing with the original poster, one shouldn't be surprised when there's a reaction. Yeah, you have a right to express a contrary opinion, but when people disagree with you right back, that's not censorship. That attitude pisses me off like nothing else.
[harriet spy]: And I just can't figure out why that's so hard to discern, or maybe just so hard even to think about.

Well, here's the thing. You're talking about a communication in the same medium by the same person in the same space as the communications that you think it's acceptable to respond to with negative comments, and requiring the reader to guess from the *tone* (which she may or may not have any context to judge by, depending on whether she reads your LJ regularly or just stumbled across it on friendsfriends) whether a response with some criticism in it is acceptable. Learning to read the room like that is a fairly tricky social skill even offline. It requires discretion and case-by-case judgment calls, and, again, the person responding usually has a lot more social context to go by. I think your breakdown is actually pretty misleading--it doesn't lend itself to clean categorical analysis or any neat rule of netiquette. Of course people are going to struggle with it on LJ, especially with the public/private confounding you've already mentioned.

When a person does this to me, I am somewhat annoyed, much the way I am annoyed when people take a post on one topic and hijack it to another, somewhat related but clearly distinct topic because it's apparently incomprehensible to them that a person could be interested in the first topic and not yet another rehash of the second topic. But, unless I have reaason to think otherwise, I chalk it up to the never-ending social incompetence of fandom, not malice or bad manners per se. And thus it's not fixable by a rule, and I genuinely fear that the more we push for there to be some kind of established expectation on this point, the more likely we are to end up overinclusive and stifling what little critical discussion there already is.
[sophia helix]: I didn't think I agreed with this, and then I thought about it and decided I did -- because, yeah, fandom struggles all the time with really basic social behavior, but also because some people are really short on sports bars and house parties. If you're into Fandom X, and only A and B on your flist are into it (or posting about it), the only place for you to discuss X outside your own LJ is on their posts, especially if you're not a particular popular fan yourself. So Tuesday night rolls around, and as far as you're concerned the discussion arenas open to you are A and B's posts... which happen to be squee-filled. But many people are still working off the mailing list model (myself included, generally), and view posts on a topic to be open to all opinions. If your opinion is negative, what is there to do?

Of course the answer is to spend some time seeking out new people to add who are into X, and figuring out if their opinions line up with yours, or trying to get your own discussion posts linked in a comm or newsletter, or even going to other arenas, and I've done that (currently I hang out at the TWOP board for my tiny fandom just because there's a mix of opinions and the discussion is constant instead of Thursday night-based), but all that can seem like a lot of work when it's so easy to just post a comment with your opinions to A's post and know, incidentally, that a bunch of other people will be reading it who might agree with you.

I do think that cereta's model is something people should read and pay attention to, and I know that I've been hurt in the past when people make negative comments on a squee-post, but I'm not sure it works normatively for the system we have in place.
[jo lasalle]:... I agree that it is rude not to honour the request. Personally, I can think of a number of ways that I'd enjoy a critical response to my squee (as well as ways that would bother me, true). Other people really don't want to hear anything negative at all. I don't think either one position should be taken as a yardstick for the grey areas. What I mean by minor faux pas isn't that it doesn't upset people, or that they shouldn't get upset. I just think that this is an issue where you don't have to be an idiot or inherently anti-social or a meanie to misread the cues in less than clearly defined circumstances.
[sophia helix]:Yeah, I know this is more about getting people to think than telling them how to behave, which I totally respect and appreciate -- I hate getting random negative comments from strangers as much as anyone else, and I would never object to schooling fandom-at-large in manners. Something in me just kicks at the idea that debate should be different here than it was on mailing lists. That's kind of my personal hobby horse, esp. when I consider it from the POV of a fandom newbie who doesn't have the entre to fandom that you and I do, and in fact I've recently found myself hanging out at the TWOP forums, generally one of my less-favorite places, because I really, really missed the flow of constant discussion that message boards provide and because the Office fandom on LJ is so tiny and mostly composed of my like-minded friends. I haven't been in a big fandom in some time, but I do remember the feelings of "why am I the only one who hates X elements??" or "why am I the only one who likes this show and doesn't want to tear it to bits??", and that it can be really hard to negotiate with those opinions in a fandom system where all the discussion turf is owned by individual fans.
[alixtii]:Yes--my first reaction was "She doesn't provide a model!" and then realized that was probably for the best.
[cereta]:I don't actually attribute it to malice, but to people just not thinking about it, although that's it's own kind of bad manners. I don't ever expect there to be consensus, but I sometimes get the feeling that even giving thought to whether your response is appropriate to the venue is a kind of radical notion in fandom. Hence the posting. And I don't think you and I are ever going to see eye to eye on the issue of critical discussion being stifled - not that I don't agree that there's often anti-intellectualism in fandom, but in a time when we all have our own spaces to shape how we choose, I've found it pretty easy to start, well, any kind of discussion I want. That may or may not be a function of my friends-of list, though. What's discouraging me lately is how often I back away from making an analytical post because I'm dreadfully sure someone is going to blunder in with a comment about how much the show/episode/whatever sucked. It took me ages (in internet time) to post anything about Torchwood, because as much as I wanted to dig into issues of timelines and characterization, I was already tired of hearing how much the show sucked or how horrible the characters were. If I've found anything stifling lately, it's that, honestly.
[cathexys]: I thought I disagreed with you on the second issue but reading your second comment I'm wondering whether I'm' actually agreeing :)

N ow, I think you're dead-on about the fact that "fandom has a nontrivial population of people who will consistently make this call wrong," and that's definitely a problem.

But I read your initial comment thinking, Oh, but I had this wonderful Mary Sue discussion in the middle of my post on kinks, and everyone just went their merry way and debated and I didn't comment and just read along and everyone was doing fine, thus kind of thinking that it really is not a big deal if people veer OT as long as they keep it civil and don't expect me to respond.

But then I realized that I have had posts were I was really interested in one thing, and after having to explain for the 20th time that this really wasn't about X but about Y, it got annoying and tiring, and I just wanted to scream. And I think you know that I have this entire theory on LJ as semipublic space that is in large parts coming out of the issue of newsletters and the (ethical?) responsibility I share when linking a post. [Now, I do believe that the LJ owner has a responsibility to speak up when pissed, which you, for example, did with SGA meta posts and at that point it would be clearly unethical to link, but I don't think the default to public posts ought to be that they're unlikable by default.]

Which isn't as completely OT as it might seem *g*, b/c I think the problem of newsletters is that there's suddenly a change of venue without the OP's awareness or consent, so to belabor the sports metaphor, it's your friend bringing a bunch of fans from the opposite to the sports bar where you hang out to cheer on your team with likeminded folks... [OK, I suck at analogies!]

Of course, Lucy, a problem you and I (and other people that engage a lot in discussion) may have is that we need to literally signal the squee/wank b/c everyone just assumes that dissent is welcome. Especially the less skilled cue readers..
[ratcreature]: Reading your theory though, I'm not sure that fandom is that bad off wrt to the social competence. I mean, it is entirely possible that I just lack experiences in contexts where people actually do better with social cues (for example leftist political groups are far harsher and also more vicious and tiring than anything I ever experienced in fandom, so maybe my samples are just totally skewed *g*) Or maybe it's a cultural perception thing, since these cues certainly aren't standardized internationally. I mean, for example at first when I joined online fandom and people would refer to some list exchange as "flame war" in retrospect (even when there hadn't been any personal insults), and half the time I hadn't even noticed it as particularly heated. It just registered as regular discussion for me. Which possibly makes navigating fandom even harder. I think for example that the level of bluntness and directness that is considered "polite", i.e. the balance between diplomacy and certain friendly phrasing vs honesty and not wasting your dialog partner's time by being too circumspect or coming across as insincere) is different here than in the US. So the perceptions of what actually is "rude" in a dialog (short of things like name calling and direct insults) vary quite a bit, and variations in either direction can be seen as "rude" so it's not like you could just err on the side of caution easily.
[harriet spy]: Oh, I don't think fans are, on average, ruder or politer than any random group. That's a question of intention, to a considerable degree. But I do think fandom has a disproportionate number of people who have more difficulty than normal with reading a social cue or dealing effectively with social anxiety, etc. Social skills and manners aren't quite the same thing. You can be very well-meaning and still lack the former. The people who used to perseverate in my LJ meant no harm at all, I'm sure.
[musesfool]: Yes, to all of this. Especially the thing about reading the cues, which I think so many fans are just *really bad* at. Some of us are even bad in person, where there are verbal and physical cues, but a lot of us are really terrible at it in text only.

I mean, I get comments like this ALL THE TIME, and invariably my (immediate, private) response is, "WTF? Why did you feel the need to tell me that?" though my public response generally runs along the lines of "Well, mileage varies!" because I am just not going to engage beyond that when someone does it.

It upsets other people more than it does me, because I really don't give a good goddamn if other people don't like something I love (I just think it's rude and pointless), but I hate seeing other people's squee harshed. I try really hard not to do that, and I expect people to not do it to others in my LJ. I believe I've made posts to that effect, but it still happens, and it still annoys me.
[miriam heddy]: One thing that muddies the question of locale and context somewhat... when we read a single person's LJ, it's often in the context of reading our entire f-list, which means that, though we may argue that a single LJ is a living room into which we've been invited to view the game, it's also that single LJ reading as part of a crowd--so maybe more like a sports bar with a hundred tables with a hundred TVs at which a hundred people are inviting you to watch with them.

The question of "are we two alone or not?" is more difficult, I think.

Or maybe it's just me?
[miriam heddy]: What makes that so hard?

In some respect, I think I want to broaden out and say that maybe there are (at least) four kinds of posts out there(and maybe they're being conflated but shouldn't be?)

1) There's the "Squee Happy happy joy joy" post, which is celebratory but not critical. It's all about emotion, period.

2) There's the "How do I squee thee, let me count the ways and back up my love with argument!" which is celebratory but also critical, in the sense that it invokes evidence and attempts to persuade, rather than simply express.

3)There's the "Yeah, it was good and it was interesting that...." post that's critical but not necessarily at all negative.

4)There's the "How can you squee when the show sucked?" or "Yeah, but did you notice how such and such sucked?" post, which is both critical and negative.

And I suppose maybe there is a fifth that's the opposite of emotional squee, in that it's entirely negative and entirely emotional--and simply expressive.

When I use "critical" I don't necessarily mean "negative"--I mean... thinky. Possibly seeing good and bad, but the bad didn't kill the joy for you.

But I think that, among some groups and some fans, the mere presence of the "thinky" comment is de facto a squee-killer, because they're defining their squee as option 1)--the thoughtless (and proud of it), pure, unadulterated, expression of *joy*. It's emotion without intellect (and I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that, or that the two modes are mutually exclusive).

A long time ago, in a fandom far far away, there were these fluffy bunnies who conflated "critical" (in the sense of thinky) with "negative killjoy hater." And at the list level, their insistence on a emotional/intellectual binary meant that a lot got silenced, including comments that weren't negative and even when being critical (again, in the thinky, not the negative sense) was a part of the joy the fan got out of the show.

So... maybe it's more complicated than Thumper's Law? I mean, even as a child, I suspected that there was something wrong with that law, if only because it divided all comments into "nice" and "not nice" when I was sure, at a gut level, that there was more to it than that.

I think that the spectrum and the differing personalities (some of whom like their joy to be emotive and some of them like their joy to be intellectual *and* emotive?) are in conflict here, speaking two very different fannish languages.

I happen to be among those who tend to hover in the happy-critical (though I certainly do have my "Guh--look at Paul Blackthorne's mouth!" emotional squeeage moments in which rational thought flees the building).)

And (this being me), I wonder if the binary--and the conflation of squee with emotional and crit with intellectual--is a gendered thing.
[cereta]:I will say in truth that I think the things people are objecting to, or at least the objections that prompted this post, are far, far less subtle than you're digging into.

Do I know people who avoid analysis and critical discussion because it harshes their squee? Sure. I've not only seen that, I've been that. I deliberately avoided a lot of SGA discussion because I knew that thinking too much would ruin my enjoyment of the show. And I actually avoided posting about Torchwood for a while because while I wanted to have thinky discussions, I didn't want to have them about whether the show was any good or not, and I just honestly didn't trust the people responding to my posts to stick to topic, and yes, those discussions would have impacted my enjoyment of the show.

However, what I would label Cheerio-pissing just ... really not that subtle. It's responding to a post that starts off "OMG I LOVED THAT!" with "I thought it sucked." It's responding to a positive, thinky post about Captain Jack's backstory with, "Yeah, I couldn't get past the first episode because it sucked so bad."

I dunno. I'm all about the crit-squee in many cases, but I think that whether anyone thinks it can and should be read without harshing the joy, that should be an individual's choice. On a list, you could make the argument of common space, etc (and I did). But the idea that it's somehow necessary or even good to go barging into someone else's space and make them see is something I've grown increasingly resistant to, not when you have a space to have your idea of fun discussion.
[ratcreature]: also feel that squee is vulnerable and that those people often take squee+crit as problematic because their squee can only exist in a hyperbaric chamber of squee, or something, if that makes sense.

Yeah that makes a lot of sense. And actually sometimes my squee is like that. Not the more robust, general reasons why I enjoy a series, the longterm-squee if you will, but the immediate OTT squee? Yeah. I mean, that squee is almost impossible to maintain, it's more you get a fix for of it, and then you can nurture for a while as collective squee with others by reliving the same experience that led to the squee and maybe even enhance it, and as an emotion it also very dependent of the specific circumstances that created it, and it can collapse fairly easily if you are thrown out of the squee-headspace. So yeah, that squee is fragile.

It is also very pleasant, so to throw someone else out of their intense squee headspace is harsh. I mean, you can't recreate it like you can more rational or more intellectual appreciation. For me the more critical squee is more dependable, and if a source warrants that kind of squee I can get there by revisiting the intellectual process and get to the moderate squee. Howeve the intense emo-squee as you call it just happens. And when I'm there it gives a good high, so to speak, and obviously I'd like to keep that,because if something makes it collapse I can't get it back.

And I guess I wish that we could just force the emo-squee people to recognize that crit. can be read without necessarily harshing the buzz.

Well, for me that only works for sources that hold up under that kind of scrutiny, otherwise, well I can't *unsee* things. I don't know, my squee can be fragile. The intense emo squee high will wear off after a while, and for some sources I'm then open to the more moderate intellectual squee, so I don't always mind. Yet I sometimes have the impulse to just be happy with the episode and stay within my squee bubble. So I won't read meta except from people whom I know are in the shared squee headspace for example, and then it kind of sucks if someone else comes into an obvious squee space and disrupts it.
[miriam heddy]: Hmm. I think I may be constitutionally different in some regards... my non-crit squee is just a warm buzz of pleasure, and it's usually about things that don't fall apart under scrutiny. I mean, it's usually not about the show being perfect, but about some element being squee-worthy, and usually that element remains wonderful even if the rest sucks (Sentinel being a case in point--a squee-worthy buddy pair in the midst of dreck). I'm not saying one way is worse than another. I just, I think, sometimes wish we could find a way to make squee less fragile, to make it less dependent on perfection? (or a seamless whole undisturbed by deconstruction?) so that the pleasure could be more durable, I guess--and more available, under more conditions.

Well, like I said, I have more durable "long-term squee" too, but that is not the same as the exuberant squee high.

I guess my squee is inherently anti-intellectual, in that I just kind of turn off critical thinking in pursuit of a purer squee high maintained in a squee-only headspace. When I'm on a squee high I just avoid all meta and discussion unless I'm sure the other is squeeing too, and then I might or might not revisit other things later. Though often I simply avoid all meta for shows I like so much that I have and want to maintain my exuberant squee.

I mean, for example, I almost never read SGA meta, and very little SPN meta, and for example if you posted your episode reaction on those series I probably wouldn't read that meta, especially not if I achieved a post-episode squee mindset. OTOH while I kind of like Numb3rs I'm not that emotionally invested in it, I mean, I like it okay and watch it, but not to the point of getting into my squee headspace, so I find your Numb3rs meta interesting and enjoy it.

To me it just makes immediate sense on a gut level to respect squee-only spaces, because it resonates with my own kind of reactions to series. I'm not sure how to explain it to someone who doesn't experience that kind of reaction. I'm not even sure whether it is the same kind of thing for everybody.

Squee for me is different from finding someone or something hot, or from liking a series, or from loving a character or a relationship and enjoying this scene or that, or finding a storyline great. It is the headspace where I don't register anything negative, I just love the series, I am happy and emotionally involved, giddy, it feels great to watch, you want to talk to others but not about anything in particular, just to share the kind of "and then *flai!!!!* did you see that? and then he *squeee!*" kind of conversation that is more mutual reassurance of shared happiness than any exchange of ideas. And to me it is obvious that a single "negative voice or even just a "thinky" response can disrupt that, it's ind of like one sober person in a room of stoned people, only the squee isn't chemically protected, you know?
[elynross]: I tend to seek out other people equally dissatisfied, and mutually bitch, rather than saying anything about my discontent to people who liked whatever it is. Hence nobody ever saw my reactions to the SG 200th episode, because I never saw anyone else who shared my reactions. *g*

I've discovered it's not a bad thing for me to keep grumpy opinions to myself, actually. I don't risk harshing someone's buzz, and most of the time, I find that bitching out loud just reinforces my own unhappiness, and never leads to any real catharsis about it. I only get that in bitching it out with other people who feel similarly.

That said, I do think it's dependent on whose LJ it is, and the context, etc. Maybe it's someone that you know doesn't mind
[impactbomb]: I have a large portion of my own flist that loved 300. But I hated it.

I solved that by not reading what they thought of it because I knew I'd disagree and didn't want to get in a fight with people I liked over something that I didn't think was worth the breath I'd be wasting in doing so.

It's not pissing their Cheerios, y'know? They liked it, I've said my piece about it in enough places, I don't need to harsh on them in their LJ over a movie because they loved something I despised, yes, I have issues with it but I've brought them up before, moving on to other things that won't make my blood pressure rise.

If I'm gonna bitch about something I'll do it in my own LJ or on the LJ of someone else who's bitching about it first, and only take it somewhere else if someone asks me to take it there, either by posting a link in response to me or by inviting some level of critical discourse and potential disagreement thereby in said post on the topic.

I'm not saying my methods are perfect or that everyone should follow them every single time, because they don't work for everyone and YMMV, as everything goes in fandom - but I think Lucy's method/thought process works because that's the thought process I use, and I have yet to find a problem with it.
[cereta]:I said above, the irony here is not lost on me: I spent years, years arguing that critical discussion was not anathema in fandom, and carving out spaces for it to happen in. And now, I spend a chunk of my time arguing that you know, it's really okay, too, if people just want to squee.
[taverymate]: I strongly believe that is in the best interests of a person commenting on a LJ or blog post to think about the context of the post and what they know about the original poster. Not because I expect - or even want - them to act in accordance with some implicit set of social niceities but because I believe it will make for clearer communication and cuts down on unwitting offense and disagreements that arise from miscommunication.

I think your analogy fails in my estimation because it miscategorizes LJs and blogs (though for simplicity's sake, I'm going to default to LJ terms) as public space that you believe can then be marked semi-public or private by the tone and content of an individual post - and that such tone and content restrictions should over-ride the public nature of LJs and blogs and the actual access to the post.

I think Miriam's analogy of LJ as a sports bar with a hundred tables with a hundred TVs at which a hundred people are inviting you to watch with them is closer to the way that I view LJs/blogs.

Closer, but I would go farther and say that the seating at the sports bar isn't a hundred different tables but one huge trestle table where the expectation is that the food and conversation is served "family style." My expectation is that anyone is welcome to sit down in an open seat and help themselves from the nearby bowls of food. An individual may be drawn to a particular spot at the table by the people sitting there or by the type of food or by the conversation. All three things (people, the particular food dish, the conversation) will vary and create unique pockets of interactions.

I think that most people using LJs/blog have an illusory - and demonstrably false - sense of privacy about their posts. Posters seem to forget that any LJ post that is not friends-locked and/or heavily filtered is - by its very nature of having been publicly posted and having public access - a PUBLIC post.

That means that not only can anyone (your best friend, your boss, your mom, your kids, a perfect stranger) read your post, they can reasonably expect that they are allowed to comment upon the post.

The public and interactive, hyperlinked nature of LJ and blogs is why people use the term blogosphere. Each individual LJ helps create the larger whole, and how aware a person is of the varied inter-connections will inevitably influence how they interact with any particular post.

If a person wants only to sit down to dinner with a small set of friends, eat a particular food, and discuss things in well-known and agreed upon conversational styles, then they should consider sending out invitations to a private party and check people at the door. That means friends-locking and and/or filtering their LJs and/or individual posts.

I'm not advocating a slew of friends-locked and heavily filtered LJs and blogs, though they can serve some individual people well. I think that the value of public discussion - including critical commentary - is immense and that fandom as a whole benefits far more from public interactions than it it harmed by them.
[cereta]:Well, let's back up to the second paragraph there.

I don't think LJ is a public space that can be marked semi-private by tone. I think the only way to control actual privacy is through the actual privacy setting.

What I'm saying is that an LJ post is the equivalent of putting a flyer on your workplace bulletin board that says "game party at my house!" I am further saying that it is not unreasonable to expect the people accepting the invitation to think about what the invitation says and what response from them is appropriate.

I can't really respond to the rest of your comment here because I'm very much not talking about public and private or who is "allowed" to comment on a post. I am talking about giving some thought as to what kind of response might be welcome.

I mean, if I make a post about SPN, and leave it public, then you are certainly "allowed" to comment with a completely unrelated, detailed analysis of last night's BSG. But is it appropriate? And if I say, "Well, you know, I haven't seen that yet, and you just spoiled me," is it reasonable to protest that well, I made a public post, so I must have expected a comment? Because I did, of course, but I sort of expected people to comment about SPN.

I am saying that some similar consideration should be given to the type of commentary, that when every cue in the post is unsubtly screaming, "SHARE MY JOY!", it's a little pissy to respond with, "Meh, didn't like it."
[taverymate]: Two examples that spring to mind of critical comments on squee-filled posts that are not pissing in other people's Cheerios (in my estimation) are the furor that developed last year over Pirates of the Caribbean and race, and the smaller kerfluffle recently about Torchwood, specifically Owen Harper.

Several folks were accusing of harshing someone's buzz or pissing in other people's Cheerios when they commented about perceived racism in PotC on posts that were squeeing over the movie. Similarly, I've seen people receive the same type of response when they've described Owen's behavior as that of a date rapist on posts that are celebrating the delights of Torchwood.

Could those making critical comments have posted their criticism in their own LJs? Yes. Some did and those posts then became another thread in the larger fannish discussion about PotC and Torchwood.

Would making those critical comments in their own LJ have the same impact as making a critical comment on a squee-filled post? No. Context does matter. Audiences differ in compositions. Sometimes a poster may not want to preach only to the choir. Sometimes (and it should be clear by now that I am not speaking of all situations) a commenter wants to mark a specific thread of discussion with their dissent and speak to that particular group of readers. To say, not everyone in the room is laughing at the same joke or sees the object under discussion as shiny and bright.

This is NOT the same thing as trolling or trying to set up a strawman discussion just to provoke LJ drama. It's not pissing in someone's Cheerios. It's saying that I disagree that what you're celebrating is the best bowl of Cheerios ever poured. It is actually past its sell-by date, or might look appealling but has little nutritional value, or even contains harmful additives.

Regarding PotC and Torchwood, I think it was important to fandom overall that amongst the squeeing about fannish objects of glee (PotC or Torchwood), that some people said: "Wait, not everyone in fandom, not even everyone in this particular fandom, or even everyone on your LJ friendslist, agrees with the squee. There are important points that being ignored or glossed over and those things need to be addressed."

Does every dissenting commenter have the same motivation or does every dissenting comment have the same fannish importance as the PotC and Torchwood examples I mention? No, clearly not. But some dissenting comments do, and that, I think, is ignored when they are all grouped as pissing in people's Cheerios.
[ranalore]:This really ties into a post I've been sitting on for months, about anti-OTPs and the right to say you don't like a particular pairing and prefer it not be pimped at you, even if it's the dominant pairing in your fandom. I haven't posted it, though, because I worry someone's going to take it as an excuse to go off in someone's comments when they're squeeing about their love for a particular pairing. I mean, I'm all for the ability to say something critical in your own LJ and comms and to posts that invite that kind of commentary (either by explicit invitation or by their own structure, including critical comments). At the same time, I've made no bones about the fact that I will kick anybody's ass who tries to harsh my squee over whatever I'm squeeing about, and I will do the same to anyone I see harshing the squee of my friends. So, yeah, not too keen on putting a post out there that might be seen as an excuse for open season. *G*

Also, your analogy is an excellent one, I think, not least because it seems like a kind of rivalry mentality is often at work in fannish pissing in people's Cheerios. Playing fandom as a zero sum game and all that....

I have a suspicion (and if I get flamed for saying this, it will frankly only prove my point) that some fans are far more interested in their "blunt" reputations than in the appropriateness of a particular comment to a particular venue. Yes, you have the truly clueless fans who can't read social cues, but my experience of the sort of comment you're talking about is that, far more often, it comes from somebody who does know better, who knows exactly how disruptive and upsetting their comment is going to be, and makes it for precisely that reason.
[klia]: Maybe this is just me, too, but I've seen the Cheerio-pissing behavior happen more often in popular fans' LJs than elsewhere. So, I wonder if it's not just reinforcing a "blunt" reputation, but also doing so in a BNF's LJ, where it's more likely to be seen?
[ranalore]: I've noticed that aspect as well. BNFs, or fans who, if they're known, are known both for uncritical squee and for what we'd call "tender hearts" in my native neck of the woods. People who are either going to react themselves or, in the case of BNFs, people with large audiences, some of whom are likely to react. Because it's not fun to poke someone if they're going to just shrug it off, you see. And in fact, this is often the way to tell if you're dealing with a commenter who's really just that clueless about social cues, because they'll usually apologize or just plain shut up when called on it, and someone who's deliberately stirring the shit, because they will do everything not to apologize for the faux pas, nor will they just let it go. Because here's the thing: yeah, you can misread a post and comment critically when the OP just wanted mutual squee. But it's pretty hard to misread the social cue in a comment that says, "Dude, you've harshed my mellow. I'd appreciate it if you didn't do that."

I love fandom, but the behavior of some individuals in it sure does its part to reinforce my cynicism and misanthropy....

My LJ is flocked by default, so I have to manually set a post to be public. When I do so, I do so on the assumption that the bulk of those commenting can behave like rational adults, matching the tone of the post and sticking to the topics raised therein (or tangenting in directions that relate back to the topics raised therein). When someone can't behave thus, or refuses to, I judge them to be a troll and respond accordingly. Am I at fault for their trollish behavior by unlocking my post in the first place? Not even.

And the thing is, I always give people at least two chances. If your first comment is inappropriate/offensive, I'll point out how it came across, and ask if that's how you meant it. If you say oops, no, or apologize, or even delete your own comment because you've realized how inappropriate it was, I chalk it up to a bit of miscommunication and move on. If you come back and persist in being offensive/inappropriate, or try to claim I owe you an apology for calling you on your rudeness in the first place, then I give you two options: get the hell out of my LJ voluntarily, or I'll ban your ass. If you apologize at that point, then I don't ban you, but I have my eye on you, and will ban you with the very next inappropriate comment. To me, this is not censorship, because it's not like I'm banning you from a community or following you into your own LJ and telling you what you can and can't say, it's simply taking charge of my own online experience.
[ranalore]: That's another thing. A lot of people seem to be approaching this issue as though all of fandom were one big community, and it's not. Fandom is hundreds, if not thousands, of different communities, some with serious overlap, some with none. Just because you like the same source I do, that does not actually mean we share the same community norms, nor that you are entitled to force me to listen to your opinion in my space. I can't and wouldn't want to stop you from stating your opinion in a public comm (unless I'm the mod and what you're stating is inappropriate to the forum as laid out in that forum's rules), but your rights end where they violate mine, and while you have a right to speak (though not a right to speak abuse), you do not have the right to make me listen. And again, I have to point out a big ol' double standard here. There's a message that squee isn't "world-changing," that it's a trivial thing, so no one should get so worked up over having their squee harshed. Yet, at the same time, requesting or telling you not to make certain types of comments in my own space is censorship and OMGOPPRESSION. Listen, either it's all "just a hobby" or it's not. Either way, house rules prevail, and calling me names doesn't cut it, whether you're calling me names in the actual comments or calling me names when discussing my unwillingness to be abused in said comments.
[stewardess]:Recently, in my fic journal, someone asked me where she could get the manip in an icon I used. I told her which comm it came from. She then commented back, "Thanks for the great laugh! Those were some really shitty manips!"

I screened her comment. I knew her well enough to know she wasn't trying to start a fight. She really did not realize that her comment was wildly inappropriate and could upset people.

But it didn't upset me. I seem to be impervious to "harshing." If I squee senselessly over, say, Martin Shaw's chest hair, and someone comments, "Shaw is a talentless hack!" or "His chest hair is gray now!" my buzz is not harshed. I must have squee of steel, or something. The negative comment is like a random leaf falling; it does no harm to my forest.

I'm reasonably decent at picking up online cues, but what is hard for any of us to predict is how a person is going to feel about what we say. Those of us with squee of steel probably blunder around and cause damage because we assume other people are like us. All of us have biases that twist what we see, even when our eyes are fully open. Thanks for reminding me to be cautious, and really think, before I comment.
[tacky tramp]: You know, I pretty much agree with your line-drawing in fandom, but not in the sports example. D happens all the time. I don't think D is a big deal. I don't know many sports fans who think that D is a big deal. For example, I used to moderate a messageboard for San Diego Padres fans, and every now and then, we'd get Giants fans or Yankees fans popping in to talk shit about our team. We'd talk shit back. And then everyone would walk away from their computers and have a wonderful day. I wonder if that's because shit-talking is an accepted norm in sports fandom, whereas it's not in fandoms for literary works (and I'll include TV shows in that). I also wonder if the predominate genders of these respective fandoms is involved in that somehow, since competitive, seemingly-angry trash-talking is more commonly associated with men, and polite, communal enjoyment is more commonly associated with women.
[vylit]: "I stopped watching after the first episode because it sucked so hard." Okay. That contributes to the discussion at hand how?

That is the kind of comment that's likely to get me seeing red. I mean, I get that we all like different things and one person's squee is another person's YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME. I don't mind people coming in and talking meta with me, even if they disagree. What I don't like is someone pissing on another person's parade and not adding anything into the discussion. They just want to make it known that they don't like/agree/see things the same way, and they do it in the most social inept way possible.

Although, I will say, while I get that everyone can use their LJ in whatever way they choose, value judgments being made on a person because they like or don't like in uncut posts is the other way to make me hit the defriend button so fast I get whiplash. Things like "people who like Supernatural are misogynists" or "fans of SGA are anti-intellectuals who just want brain candy." Whether I like the show or not, those comments are going to generate (extreme) irritation, and I don't get why people take offense to someone loving something they don't.
[anjak l]: I agree with pretty much everything you said in this post, though I digress, on the sports analogy, I know cases where A & B would be life-threatening, but D would be fairly safe.

As far as fandom goes, whatever the fannish topic, everyone has a right to their opinion - it's more the general lack of respect for this notion that pisses me off, rather than the expression of an opinion contrary to mine. If I post any of posts type A-E I have no problem with whatever opinions / discussion that results from it - what does annoy me is people who come in forcing their opinion as 'gospel' on others, and said anti-social behaviour is one of the biggest sources of wank in fandom, along with a general lack of manners.

To be honest, I generally avoid replying to such posts on journals of other people as people have different levels of sensitivity with regards to the killing of their 'squeee', as is their right as a human being. When I do feel inclined to reply, I generally read what other people have replied and then jump in if I think my thoughts are appropriate. Mostly they aren't, which is why if I really feel the need to say something at all, I go back to my own journal and reference the original post and why I don't agree with it.

With comms, I think it depends on the established rules and what facet of fandom the comm serves as to what is acceptable.

If I'm honest, due to past fandom wankery, I'm largely afraid of posting my opinions these days. What I find most disturbing is that most of fandom knows this stuff...they just cannot be bothered to apply it. *shrugs*

As for type F, I avoid those kind of posts like the plague. I personally find those to be of the type where the fen is so blinded by their perceived brilliance of whatever the fannish subject is that they lose all skills of critical analysis. Nothing is so perfect...I find those types of posts nauseating.
[barkeep]: First of all, the sports metaphor was beautiful. Secondly, I find myself in general agreement about the whole thing, including where the lines and gray areas are. Beautiful post.

And I just can't figure out why that's so hard to discern, or maybe just so hard even to think about. I have moments where this bothers me quite a bit but it's not just LJ, this behavior is observable at work and in public. Perhaps common courtesy and a sense of ... well, decorum, for lack of a better word, is not as common as we think. Or perhaps it has more to do with electronic communication and the difficulty people have communicating without the paralanguage of non-verbal cues to direct them. Of course we've developed an electronic paralanguage of emoticons and acronyms to help but I think there's a distinct lack of social cues in electronic media. Some people seem to have a lot more trouble discerning the more subtle electronic paralanguage cues and understanding where that "line" is. Of course, a lot of people have that trouble when communicating face-to-face so take this whole concept with a huge grain of salt. And a margarita.