Town Square

Post a New Topic

The reason we have Town Square.

Original post made by Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2011

I respect the authority of the Weekly editors to moderate and remove disrespectful comments, particularly those of threatening, vulgar, or hateful nature, but I do question the reasoning of closing comments to registered users once we get into deeper, meaningful and even informative discussion.

Provided discussions remain polite and respectful to others involved, and do nothing bordering on libel or hurtful to any individuals mentioned in a particular news item, I can't see the wisdom of closing a discussion between thoughtful individuals obeying all the rules. If a person flags a particular discussion, do they automatically get their way to close an interesting discussion which they don't happen to like? If two or three people are getting their point across and the majority of other readers have lost interest in that discussion, what harm does it do to those who are respectfully discussing the deeper aspects of a topic. Isn't that the way intelligent people become better informed of others' point of view and perhaps even change their position on a difficult subject?

If the only reasons for having a Town Square Forum is to make superficial comments which are never allowed to get below the surface, then we are really nothing more than a heckling crowd of onlookers. If, on the other hand, we can enter into meaningful discussion with complete strangers in a safe setting, we are actually serving ourselves well and it could even be argued, educating ourselves in a unique manner.

If one individual, or even a too cautious editor, can effectively prevent a thoughtful dialog from continuing, then, in my opinion, it is similar to the child who brought a ball to the playground who doesn't like the game the other kids want to play, so takes the ball home to stop anyone having any fun.

If we can't have meaningful discussion, obeying the rules of good online and yes anonymous behavior, then I wonder exactly why Town Square was initiated in the first place.

Thank you for the opportunity of allowing us to say our piece.

Comments (16)

 +   Like this comment
Posted by +1
a resident of Stanford
on Jun 6, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Agree.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 6, 2011 at 3:41 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

The problem is that when discussions get serious some anonymous posters go well beyond the limits of propriety. Closing the posting to non-registered users allows the Editors to more effectively control such behavior. Registering is an innocuous process that still permits anonymous posting.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bill Johnson
publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Jun 6, 2011 at 5:16 pm

Bill Johnson is a registered user.

I don't know what topic you are referring to so can't provide an explanation as to what may have caused an editor to limit future postings to registered users. But I can make a few general comments.

When someone registers their objection to a comment by clicking on "Report Objectionable Content" it simply flags the comment for our editors. We don't take any action that we otherwise wouldn't have taken when we reviewed the comment ourselves. Most reports of objectionable comments are simply from people disagreeing with the comment and we take no action at all.

We limit a topic to registered users when we believe it has begun to degenerate into disrespectful comments, broad-brush derogatory statements or excessive sarcasm. Our goal is to create an environment where anyone can feel safe in posting comments that actually leads to a constructive discussion. From our experience, we also know when a topic will quickly go south if it is not restricted and we will sometimes preemptively limit it to registered users. For example, almost any crime story that involves a suspect from East Palo Alto usually attracts many comments that we believe are disrespectful, intended to inflame and often racist.

Becoming a registered user is as easy as providing us with a valid e-mail address so we can communicate directly with that person if necessary. That is a low bar, and one that we have decided is quite reasonable when a topic is particularly sensitive or the participants are overly hostile in their comments. I don't think that leads to superficiality in Town Square. Even a cursory reading of past topics shows many very deep discussions on controversial issues, some that were limited to registered users and some that were not.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Samuel
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 6, 2011 at 5:37 pm

"We limit a topic to registered users when we believe it has begun to degenerate into disrespectful comments, broad-brush derogatory statements or excessive sarcasm"

Bill,

Could you please offer a few recent examples?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 6, 2011 at 5:40 pm



Bill Johnson

The knownothing Anti Catholic thread should have been shut down after the first few posts.

No publisher in America would have allowed any of those vile comments if they were directed at Jews, Unitarians, Hindus or atheists.

It seems to be open season on Muslims--but that is another matter.

Today a thread about Congressman Anthony Weiner was shut down

Anthony Weiner is a taxpayer paid politician who lied multiple times to voters and American taxpayers about his sleazy behavior, some of it conducted on Federal Government devices and time.

Any CEO who did that would be fired ASAP.

Anthony Weiner, if he were bathroom attendant could indulge in such sleaze and deceit with impunity

We do not understand why a thread about the admitted corruption by a member of Congress was shut down

Please clarify?

Thanks


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bill Johnson
publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Jun 6, 2011 at 5:47 pm

Bill Johnson is a registered user.

These topics aren't "shut down," they are just being limited to registered users. The Weiner topic is a great example of a topic that if not restricted, would within hours become riddled with disrespectful and distasteful commentary. For users that want to participate in that sort of discussion, you may go to another site that allows it. But we aren't interested in that on our site.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by al norte sm
a resident of another community
on Jun 6, 2011 at 6:03 pm

And the title of the Anthony Weiner thread isn't "riddled with disrespectful and distasteful commentary"??

With all due respect, change it or remove it entirely.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 6, 2011 at 6:11 pm


Bill

Our main question is why do you allow religious bigotry and Anti-Catholic comments?

The issue with Anthony Weiner is his lying and claiming that he was hacked--a false allegation of criminal behavior--in fact hacking a Congress member can be a serious felony.

Anthony Weiners behavior is a major topic at WSJ, NYT, NPR, MSNBC, The Economist, London Times, Guardian etc today.

None of the comments on the Anthony Weiner were salacious or sleazy--they were concerns about his integrity as a politician and his lack of fitness to serve in the US Congress--WSJ, NYT, NPR etc are making the same point-- right now


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 6, 2011 at 6:15 pm

I find sharon's complaints hysterical, given that she is one of the leading offenders when it comes to disrespectful and vile comments. Her targets over the years have been jews, israel, gays, democrats, obama, people who criticize the pedophiles in the catholic church, people who stood up to phelps and his wacko church, to name just a few. Funny how I remember in a recent thad that sharon stated that arnold acted like a gentleman in the way he handled his sleazy affair. What again means is that any topics containing comments that are in opposition to her own should be shut down. People who live in glass houses....


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 6, 2011 at 6:18 pm

Sharon-criticism of the catholic church is not anti-catholic nor is it bigotry. You just do not like people disagreeing with your comments.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by al norte sm
a resident of another community
on Jun 6, 2011 at 6:21 pm

Sharon:

I was pointing out the juvenile title of the thread. You conveniently ignored and went after the Congressman.

So to be clear, you feel that the title of the thread is not "salacious or sleazy"?

Am curious your views of the recently reelected Diaper Dave Vitter. His public record of prostitution, an *actual illegal* act, seems most hypocritical for someone who ran on a family values platform.

Your thoughts?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 6, 2011 at 6:39 pm



The issue with Anthony Weiner is that he lied multiple times and made false allegations that felony crimes had been committed by someone hacking his accounts

He is unfit for office--he is history.

Svatoid made false allegations that I have attacked Jews---prove that allegation " Svatoid" or apologize ASAP.

Criticism of the current Leiberman/ Bibi regime is legitimate for American taxpayers as we handout $5 billion per year to Israel.

The hasbara/propaganda campaign to stifle legitimate criticism of the current bib regime has been a huge hasbara fail

Their formula was--criticism of the lieberman/bibi regime = anti antisemitism =Nazi = Holocaust denial = hate speech = hate crime

This hasbara/propaganda campaign has backfired big time.

Americans are free to criticize the policies of any client state they dole out $ 5 billion+ per year to.

If the client state does not like the criticism--

Then it should return to American taxpayers the $ 5 billion + per year handouts back

--with interest.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by al norte sm
a resident of another community
on Jun 6, 2011 at 6:53 pm

Thanks Sharon! You COMPLETELY ignored the questions and went straight back to attacking the Congressman. You have zero say about his ability to serve, as I do with Diaper Dave Vitter. It is up to their constituents.

So to be clear, you feel that the title of the thread is not "salacious or sleazy"?

Diaper Dave Vitter's public record of prostitution, an *actual illegal* act, seems most hypocritical for someone who ran on a family values platform. Your thoughts?

Third question: can you make it through a single post without bringing up anti-Catholicism, Israel or MENA?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2011 at 6:54 pm

Thanks for the feedback, Bill.

I would mention that the very recent discussion about the Roman Catholic Church, although had some comments about the recent events in Menlo Park and some did want to continute on that specifically, but others had started an interesting discussion on the history of the RCC and its rules for celibacy of its priests changing over the years. I found this interesting, particularly when links were provided to show some of the history and arguments.

As someone who likes to find out the reasons why the status quo exists, I found some of this history and the links insightful and thought provoking. In my everyday life I would not meet with someone who had spent time studying these issues, so discussing these online was something I could not otherwise do.

A little longer ago, I was involved in some very thoughtful discussion on the subject of whether putting the poster's real name as opposed to an unregistered or even registered moniker added any weight to the points being made. I had even been swayed to some extent admitting that if the person stated that they had experience in the field and could prove it as well as sounding knowledgable on the subject, that the name did help. I also pointed out that anyone could call themselves J. Doe, rocket scientist and register, and soon prove themselves completely uneducated in the topic being discussed and their comments are no more valid just because they had registered.

My preference not to register is more to do with my own safety on the net. The Weekly staff know my URL, but by registering my name also, they then know more about me and my online behavior than I would like. I am not saying that any one individual staff member would be interested in keeping record of my views on various subjects, but it is theoretical possible and that is what would concern me.

As to registering and using a pseudonym v. not registering and using a "real" sounding name, who is to know if it is true. Therefore the comments should stand for themselves. I take more notice of a thoughtful comment from someone who sounds experienced on the subject regardless of their name and even a name like "Gunn parent" tells me much more than J. Doe, would ever do, if for example the discussion is about traffic on Arastradero.

Anyway, I appreciate the fact that I can shyly enter into conversation and discussion with people who know more than me on various topics and I would never meet otherwise. I enjoy the debate and have learned quite a bit about many things by being involved in Town Square. Thank you for giving us this opportunity even if I don't agree completely with closing a topic for registered users. I appreciate completely the fact that some posts are edited and have even flagged some I thought were obscene or completely disrespectful. But, this is your editorial decision to make and you have your rules. I don't like some of the other discussion boards out there that do not curb the tone of discussions, so I appreciate all that you to generally keep discourse respectful here.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Norm
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 14, 2011 at 10:42 am

Norm is a registered user.


Quick on the run.........

Big problem in many discussions, esp. political, is people:
follow personal bias (varied basis)
re-frame history to fit their argument
ignore history as convenient (pick an choose relevance)
disregard context of event
don't know the facts, only the myth....

Even radical, scary opinions have their place. We need to see the evil to appreciate its presence, to know its strenghts and weaknesses if we want to effectively changelle it and beat it back.

Consider....
Had more people read "Mein Kampf" when the drivel was printed, could the moron been elect dog-catcher?????


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Norm
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 14, 2011 at 10:47 am

Norm is a registered user.

BTW
Paul Revere DID NOT ride into Concord to deliver the warning. Also, he was court-marshalled for cowardace later in the war......

Who was president when the southern slaves were freed?


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


To post your comment, please click here to Log in

Remember me?
Forgot Password?
or register. This topic is only for those who have signed up to participate by providing their email address and establishing a screen name.

Grab a Bowl of Heaven soon in Mountain View
By Elena Kadvany | 0 comments | 2,963 views

Don't fund the rape culture at my alma mater
By Jessica T | 36 comments | 2,847 views

Quick Check List for UC Applications
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 0 comments | 2,033 views

Mothers, daughters, books, and boxes
By Sally Torbey | 4 comments | 1,194 views

Campaign Endorsements: Behind the Curtain
By Douglas Moran | 10 comments | 1,080 views