March 15, 2005

Ask SpoFi: Blog Censorship: No, I'm not looking at you Pantheon, but I do hope you'll offer your opinions here, as well as everyone else ... (story inside)

posted by smithers to navel gazing at 12:12 PM - 30 comments

This story features everyone's favourite billionaire-of-the-people, Mark Cuban, and begins with a post by Mr. Cuban entitled "The Sport of Business", in which he declares that business is the ultimate sport. Besides being a patently ridiculous premise that totally misunderstands the meaning of the term 'sport', I felt that the post was, unlike most of the quality material on his blog, fairly self-promotional. So I let him know about it. The beauty of the blogosphere, in my opinion, is to be found in the comments and trackbacks that link various ideas and spaces together. To get permission to post on Mr. Cuban's blog (which is run by Weblogs, Inc.) and identify myself as non-spam, I had to supply my email address. After clicking on a URL, my comments were activated:

Mark, usually you have some really insightful and interesting things to say on this blog, but today's post was pure self-indulgent crapola. Is it difficult to type and look in the mirror at the same time?
A little harsh? Maybe. But I don't really think it was that bad, and I certainly tried to temper the negative with the plaudits at the beginning of the comment. And it certainly doesn't even come close to some of the barbs thrown around in here. When I re-visited the blog a few hours later, though, I was shocked and peeved to find out that my posted comments had been deleted. Gone. Without a trace. Just like I had never voiced a word of dissent. Naturally, I sought an explanation:
Dear Mark/Weblogs Inc., With all due respect, I am wondering if you could perhaps elaborate on the censorship practiced by deleting my comment from the Blog Maverick post on "The Sport of Business". Was the content so inappropriate? Even though I praised Mark in general, was it so wrong to call him out this one time for what I felt was a self-indulgent post? Most print publications run far worse in the Letters to the Editor, and the Internet grew because of people on electronic bulletin boards who called a spade a spade, a fact of which I am sure you are both aware. At the very least, doesn't a responsible micro-publishing empire have an obligation, if it accepts a comment and posts it, to notify the author as to why the editorial decision has been made at a later time to censor a dissenting opinion? You do have my email address, after all. I'm sorry to learn about your decision, and wish you the best in your ventures. I, however, will no longer be following. Respectfully yours, Sean Smith
Mr. Cuban's terse reply?
My board, my decision
He's right. It is his board, and it is his decision, and he is certainly welcome to take his ball and run home with it. But he does tend to dish out the negative quite heavily himself, so it seems quite interesting that he is not willing to take it as well. Has he not been called worse in the boardroom? Is he surrounded by sycophants at work? Does Mr. Cuban, sponsor of the Fallen Patriot Fund, truly believe in the American First Amendment rights that these patriots have defended? Where does the role of dissent rest in his world? But while I wanted to complain about Cuban's decision in a public forum, I also wanted to ask about what is appropriate for censorship. It seems that the flip side of the lowered barriers to entry for people to publish, is that the decision to censor also ends up having lowered barriers as well, which to me is kind of worrying. Your thoughts? BTW, I am way ahead of you in realizing the irony that this is somewhat self-indulgent. Thank you for you comments anyways.

posted by smithers at 12:30 PM on March 15, 2005

If you want to look at some deep thinking along these lines, that might scare you even more, check out the first link in my blog post last night. My personal take: yes, it is easier to censor a specific site, but since everyone is now a publisher, countering censorship is also easier. Not sure how the balance really works, exactly, but it is clearly not one-sided.

posted by tieguy at 12:45 PM on March 15, 2005

well, i've thrown similar barbs at one of my favorite bloogers, offwing's eric, and his response was much more civil & appropriate. He simply wrote an email letting me know that 'attacks' are not welcome, and not to continue with my behavior. i'm a good boy now. at least i try to be. Cuban is obviously an ego-maniac, but in his defense, 'crapola' as a criticism isn't worth a response, especially when immediately followed by an ad hominem.

posted by garfield at 01:10 PM on March 15, 2005

but since everyone is now a publisher, countering censorship is also easier Yes, to a degree, except in this particular case, capital counts: he has a far larger audience, TV access, etc.

posted by smithers at 01:14 PM on March 15, 2005

Cuban is obviously an ego-maniac, but in his defense, 'crapola' as a criticism isn't worth a response, especially when immediately followed by an ad hominem. Garfield, I agree with you to a degree, and am certainly not sitting here saying I am above reproach. It was the way the censorship was handled that bothers me the most, not that it occurred.

posted by smithers at 01:18 PM on March 15, 2005

i agree he acted childishly. "mine this and mine that, so piss off" is not the way to do things, but its a blog. F him if he doesn't choose to utilize all of a blog's capabilities, and would rather blindly soap box.

posted by garfield at 01:49 PM on March 15, 2005

You know, crap gets deleted from Metafilter all the time, and I don't think mathowie sends any kind of an explanation to folks when he does. He will answer most questions, though usually more gracefully than Mr. Cuban. Personally, I think you crossed the line with your last sentence in the comment. I wouldn't have deleted it from my blog, but I would've ignored everything you posted from there on out. Still, it's unfortunate he removed your comment.

posted by rocketman at 01:56 PM on March 15, 2005

Wow. I just finished reading the post and many of the comments, and he's got a lot of ass-lickers hanging out there. What a bunch of mooks.

posted by rocketman at 02:05 PM on March 15, 2005

right? 20 years from now when I write what motivated me when I was just starting with my business, I will write :Mark Cubans weblog

posted by garfield at 02:13 PM on March 15, 2005

he's got a lot of ass-lickers hanging out there No kidding. Sycophant City.

posted by dusted at 02:15 PM on March 15, 2005

The problem with explaning yourself, when you delete something, is that it leads to a bigger hassle: Arguing with the person over your explanation. Mark Cuban, as a Mavs owner, is famous for being responsive to customers. One woman sent him an e-mail at midnight after a game, telling him of a friend who loved the team and was fighting a life-threatening illness. Cuban replied that night with tickets in will call. How many owners could even be reached over e-mail, much less with a turnaround that fast? If I was in Cuban's position, I'd probably have a quick trigger finger on the delete button too. There's too many comments to exercise more discretion.

posted by rcade at 02:24 PM on March 15, 2005

To add to the above: it's nauseating reading some of the ass-licking, but it's a direct result of Mark's censorship. He's got a weaker, or at least less interesting, community because he's unwilling to allow criticism. Compare the discourse on "his board" to sites like SpoFi or Metafilter, where the admins are much more thick-skinned. It's not a perfect comparison, because his is a personal blog compared to a community blog, but I think it's still applies since he's opened the blog to comments.

posted by dusted at 02:34 PM on March 15, 2005

I read it and thought Cuban was doing a tie-in for a razor commercial...where's the fun in deleting the attacks??

posted by chris2sy at 04:01 PM on March 15, 2005

Business: Not a sport Businessmen: Not athletes

posted by LionIndex at 04:45 PM on March 15, 2005

Cuban should show the size of his cojones and participate here, not in this thread, but in the basketball threads. There's probably some NBA rules against playing a fantasy league but he could sure trash talk the rest of you.

posted by billsaysthis at 10:32 PM on March 15, 2005

I've asked him if he'd do an interview here, but he declined. He apparently doesn't do interviews at all. I think that his idea is to communicate directly via the blog without a filter, but as smithers discovered, he's not much interested in two-way communication.

posted by dusted at 01:23 AM on March 16, 2005

LionIndex: Too funny! Much appreciated on all the comments. I understand that my comment to him was a little petty, but you know, sometimes you just need to vent at B.S. like that and it feels goooood at the time. Then you read it a day later and it doesn't seem so clever anymore. As I hit Submit, I'm saying to myself, "this is something rcade would say." (just kidding with you rcade....I definitely appreciate the thick skins in here and the restraint of the Pantheon even when it gets a little bit says to me that the admin work is taken seriously, which is always great as a community member.)

posted by smithers at 11:36 AM on March 16, 2005

I think the difference here is that Sportsfilter is a "Community Weblog", while Mark Cuban's Website is more of an example of "A Weblog by Mark Cuban". Cuban's site is set up to express HIS point of view, not yours, while over here rcade and the boys let us do pretty much whatever we want, because the idea is that many different points of view should be represented. I don't think what Cuban did to your post was really "censorship." He just deleted your post because he thought you were being a cock. I'm not implying that you are a cock over here at Spofi, smithers, just that maybe your comment to Cuban was a bit much.

posted by Samsonov14 at 05:19 PM on March 16, 2005

But isn't Cuban's blog more akin to a Britney Spears' blog than to, say, Joe Schmo's Pierogi blog? And isn't such a high profile site that welcomes feedback in error when it is selective in what feedback makes the cut. Take Hockeyrumo(u) as a parallel. Eklund's blog is a prime example of how a high(or higher) profile blog invites criticism, as well as praise, and how badly the purveyor of a blog can erode said profile by mishandling criticism. Eklund had such little patience comments were shut off completely, which reduced my compulsion to visit his daily hearsay. As for Cuban, I never frequented his site, but visits will be even more infrequent now that I see the asslickery and general lack of critical thought on that blog, apart from Cuban's. (sweeping generalization, I know, but I saturate my ass-kissing threshold by having to endure the uppity young bitch I work with bury her snout up my 350lbs boss lady's ass. I prefer BS free blogs.) Basically, I think the demarcation between community and individual blogs isn't a sufficient distinction on which a editorial policy should be based. It's like the old adage "bad news is better than no news" or however that goes.

posted by garfield at 06:29 PM on March 16, 2005

No gnus is good gnus. If Cuban doesn't want people talking shit about him on his site (and I'm sure plenty of people post negative comments on his site everyday), he's welcome to make edits as he sees fit. If his blog advertised itself as a discussion ABOUT Mark Cuban (instead of a discussion BY Mark Cuban), then I think you'd have a good point. Free speech only applies to open forums.

posted by Samsonov14 at 11:54 PM on March 16, 2005

having to endure the uppity young bitch I work with bury her snout up my 350lbs boss lady's ass I'll paraphrase the Cuban blog comments and say: honorable Garfield, you have perfectly described the path to success in academia, science, and all things...

posted by chris2sy at 07:56 AM on March 17, 2005

Are we saying Mark Cuban is Gary Gnu?

posted by trox at 09:03 AM on March 17, 2005

noose. nice sammy. but I think you miss my point. It is also a discussion ABOUT Cuban. If there isn't a comment function, it is merely a discussion BY Cuban. However, with outside input, he fundamentally opens up the discussion to be BY and ABOUT Cuban. And to deny the 'ABOUT' facet is to deny the large amount of commenting traffic. It obviously is still a personal choice whether to delete or not delete as he is the WEBMASTER of that particualr forum. And I'll leave the flying cow of 'free speech' alone. Nevertheless, I feel Cuban's editorial policy is detrimental to the overall value of Cuban's blog, both as a unique resource and a high profile BLOG. And deeming it purely an individual blog doesn't cut the mustard, however it is one cuts a spread.

posted by garfield at 09:04 AM on March 17, 2005

chris2sy: what do you do in academia?

posted by smithers at 09:24 AM on March 17, 2005

As I hit Submit, I'm saying to myself, "this is something rcade would say." It is. But I would have trouble resisting the urge to add an extra crack about his Prince Valiant haircut. (But of course as a Mavs fan I love him. The franchise was DOA before he showed up; no free agents wanted to play there, and Kidd, Jackson, and Mashburn had to be kept on constant suicide watch.)

posted by rcade at 09:30 AM on March 17, 2005

and when I say 'you miss my point' i mean 'I failed to explain myself.'

posted by garfield at 09:44 AM on March 17, 2005

hes an idiot end of discussion

posted by dhdefrag3x at 01:44 PM on March 17, 2005

He's an idiot. End of discussion. Just trying to help.

posted by Samsonov14 at 03:35 PM on March 17, 2005

The discussion ended, Samsonov. Learn to rede.

posted by rcade at 10:55 AM on March 18, 2005

Kidd, Jackson, and Mashburn had to be kept on constant suicide watch. Too bad Dallas did such a good job.

posted by yerfatma at 05:29 PM on March 21, 2005

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