Sunday, November 18, 2012

Renewal of Purpose / Repost from Multiply



"Am Ha'aretz ... Joseph, do you know what that means?"  Yes, I know exactly what that means, and no, this is not going to be one of those blogs in which the authors trumpets the ignorance of others. If anything, it is going to be one in which he confesses his own, frequently.

I am dissatisfied with my level of knowledge of Judaism and Jewish culture, and intend to do something about that. Talking about my efforts in this area will be a large part of what this blog will be about, as I have intended for some time. I'll also be rediscovering the other side of my heritage. "Irish?" No, French, actually, for the most part. The title, which I posted in an edit last night, is one that I chose some time ago, and it is one that I hope the reader will take due notice of, lest I unintentionally add to the wealth of misinformation on the Net.

This is a clean break with the past for this blog. You might have noticed that I have left names unnamed in most posts dealing with past drama; this was a deliberate choice motivated by my long term plans for this place. I want the silliness to be over, and I certainly don't want it to infect what is largely going to be a religiously motivated blog. The people with whom I tangled on this site (Multiply, not the Place of Refuge) are relatively obscure and easily forgotten, if one does not give them more publicity than they are ready to put to responsible use and Yahoo becomes less of an issue with each passing day. I've settled into this new location, the tedious details of doing so have largely been resolved, and now the time has come to move on to the more pleasant and interesting business that I came here for in the first place.

I have much reading to do, and much to do elsewhere before I can begin here in earnest, so I might not be posting here for some time, but when I do, I hope you'll find the new blog to be of interest, and more pleasant for its focus on that which brought me here. You will not find posts about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Israeli politics, and none about antisemitism, though these are all subjects of concern to me - others write about them quite well and in great numbers, and would scarcely seem to need my small contribution to that effort. Rather, you'll hear about the books I've read and the like. My father is waiting, so I can't go into greater detail on that now, having to run.

More later. (Posted Jun 24, '08 at 12:29 PM)




Permanent Lockdown on Commenting / Repost from Multiply



In a note added to the end of my last post, I said that I had decided that the disabling of comments on my site here on Multiply, which I had begun as a temporary response to the absence of a comment moderation option, had become permanent, and that I would explain why that was, later. It is later, now, and I'd really like to get this piece of administrative tedium over with, so that I can move on to more interesting subjects.

My original thought was that this lack of functionality was something that Multiply could be persuaded to work on. Service  (Customer Support at Multiply) had sounded favorably inclined toward the idea when I wrote to them about this, but the prolonged lack of movement suggested that this item was so low on their priority list that they might very well never get to it. Perhaps if I wrote to my fellow users and got their support, Multiply would see some virtue in making this more of a priority, and we might finally get comment moderation as an option?

So I wrote to a prominent user group, which shall remain nameless here, and the idea did, indeed, see a large amount of support from the membership. The moderator, who was not to be numbered among those supporters, responded to this turn of events by trying to game the system. Citing a rule which had not been posted in the group in question, but on another group entirely, one which I had never even heard of up until that point, she told me to take the discussion to that other group, then deleting my post and all comments so quickly, that I did not have a chance to save the HTML for the discussion. All that I could do, in order to save that discussion for later viewing, was take a series of screenshots of the whole discussion, which was up in one of my windows at the time of deletion. I was careful to overlap the screenshots, so that there could be no reasonable question as to whether or not I had left out anything. This was, after all, done for the purpose of documenting a discussion that had taken place, for later reposting.

I had already reposted my post in the suggested new group, where it had already seen a reply so ungrammatically written as to be almost entirely unreadable, aside from a brief passage in which the respondant implied that I had deleted the original discussion in order to sidestep her brilliantly incoherent question. Gently avoiding commentary on her writing, which was by far the worst I had ever seen, most of it barely recognizable as even being English, I told the reader that the previous discussion had been deleted by somebody other than myself (not feeling the need to name that somebody else at the time), then providing screenshots of the old discussion.

The participants in the old discussion, who one would assume were left with a reasonable belief that the time and effort they had put into writing their earlier replies had gone to waste, seemed understandably reluctant to take the time to start the same discussion all over again. Of course, the people the moderator and a few of her friends had rounded up, having had little or none of their time wasted in this manner, were ready to go. The moderator's procedural gameplaying had produced an uneven playing field without the unevenness being readily visible to those new to the discussion. She had abused her authority, and worse was to come. 

I had made an effort to ensure that those who had posted on the old thread would see that their work was not lost, and their effort had not been wasted, a thought that might leave them less discouraged as they decided whether or not to continue. The first thing I noticed was that doing this stretched the page out far enough that much of it went off the screen, which was bad, and trying a few different widths, I found that solving that problem created a new one - the text on the screenshots became illegible. I solved the problem by creating a new group for the posting of screenshots, where the first problem would become a nonissue, allowing for the screenshots to be displayed at their full width, and then moved the screenshots over there, editing the post on the user group so that the screenshots were replaced with a link to a group blog page on which they could be seen. Looking at my files, and adding up the image sizes, I could see that would be a very good thing for anybody using dialup. The first problem had been solved, but the second was about to begin.

The moderator, whose has the job of maintaining some semblence of order in her group, seized on my solution of the first problem as an opportunity to manufacture some drama. She manufactured a short flame in which she ranted about my reposting of the material she had deleted, reposting that same flame over and over with very slight changes in wording, just enough to throw off a spambot, but with no change in meaning. Very clearly, that was abusive posting, the very sort of thing that a moderator is supposed to be there to keep in check. What does the fourth copy of the same remark say that the first does not? Is that an effort to communicate, or an effort to create a disruption that gets in the way of communication? As bad as that should sound to any reasonable person reading this, the full reality was worse. The moderator had include brief snippets of text as illustrations, sticking them in each copy, giving the reader nothing close to enough information to reconstruct the old discussion, but puffing the size of her posts far beyond that which would have resulted from the small amount of text she had written, giving her stack of repeated comments far more of a page filling length. I deleted the duplicates, and discovered that this woman who had deleted the entirety of the original discussion, actually had the nerve to protest this act of supposed censorship on my part!

This gets even better. That same moderator went on to lie, claiming that I had left out an allegedly "rude" remark I had made to another poster, then going on to take a passage out of context. Of course, I had done no such thing. The whole discussion was there, including the remark she had pretended that I had ommitted, along with something that she really did leave out, and would go on to leave out as she persisted in repeating herself - the remarks leading up to that remark, which would have given the reader the context the moderator chose to deny him. A short time later, one of her little supporters would post a slice out of a screenshot taken of the earlier discussion as it appears when one is logged out of Multiply - ie. unthreaded, recreating the quotation out of context as she claimed that this very selective piece of a screenshot proved that I was the liar, not the moderator (fairly close to the users original words). I rebutted each, deleting duplicate posts as appropriate. The moderator and her disingenuous supporter would later go on to delete their own post, after the moderator suggested that all users do so, in order to create the illusion that I was talking to myself, forgetting, apparently, that when one does so, the system leaves a note to that effect in place of one's original post.

The owner of the group I alluded to in my previous post, without naming it or him, the one who had gone ballistic because I had deleted two posts in which the authors had lied about what somebody else had written, trying to spin that as an attempt on my part to silence dissenting views as he conveniently overlooked the fact that a number of dissenting views were left in place in that discussion for all to see, followed me into this new group to continue the insane argument that I had walked away from in his group. In case the word is dancing on the tip of your tounge, but you can't quite recall it, that practice of following somebody from place to place online is known as cyberstalking, and it is a recognized form of net abuse. The word "argument", in this case, if anything would have been a euphemism for what I had left this individual's group in response to; ranting and raving about my supposed membership in the Gestapo, from somebody who already knew that I was Jewish, and then even more abusive flammage when I asked him to tone down the rhetoric. That's not an exchange of ideas, that's personal abuse. Without apology, I deleted both of his posts and told him that I would continue to do so if he continued trying to drag that old fight into this new discussion. That other moderator then persisted in posting a series of nearly content free taunts, some minutes apart, but a few a hour or two apart, if I recall correctly. I deleted them all, without feeding that troll with any additional remarks.  

So it continued until late in the night and into the wee hours of the morning, as users, encouraged by flaming and trollage, first contributed flaming troll posts of their own, and then after those were deleted, submit flaming rants about the fact that their earlier flames had been deleted. Then, in a moment of ultimate chutzpah, his side having shut down anything resembling reasonable discussion, the moderator mentioned in the last post claimed victory, asking what kind of discussion it was, in which most of the posts were deleted. "No kind of discussion at all" would be the honest answer, but not because I had stamped it down, but because it had never been allowed to occur in the new location in the first place. The closest any of the members of that online lynch mob had come to even feigning rationality as they ganged up on a lone individual came when said moderator (from the earlier post), in a preachy tone, announced that reason was wasted on those who didn't wish to listen to it, as if ranting and raving in an attempt to browbeat somebody else into submission could, in any sane sense, be referred to as "reason"; consider the "argument" offered by said individual that moderating comments makes one a member of the Gestapo because one is trying to annihilate the individual by removing his remarks. This was the most coherent thing the man had to say, and what we see in it is emotionalism run out of control to such an extent that in real life, almost anywhere outside of a coffeehouse, a college campus or the Internet, medication and psychiatric treatment would be suggested, with few listeners disagreeing. It is utter lunacy.








I can already hear somebody saying, "Very well, Joseph, you ran into an abusive group of crazy people. It is a shame that the moderator was one of the ringleaders, but aside from that, as you say, this is the Internet, and one will find a few crazies on any site. Neither the provider nor its users can help that." True, that's a reality beyond almost anybody's control. What each of us does have, however, is freedom in choosing how we will respond to that reality. There are a few people who came over from the original discussion, took one look at the craziness in the new location, and posted notice that they were going to sit this one out. I don't blame them for doing so but I can't help but notice the reason why they saw fit to sit this one out; the reasonable expectation on their part that doing so would be pointless because of the way in which others would react. Much of this site (, not the Place of Refuge) seems stuck in the mid 90s, when the crazies ruled the virtual world, and everybody else was expected to lie low or pay homage to their madness. One doesn't have a choice as to whether or not the crazies will rant; they will, it's what they do. But one does have a choice as to whether or not one will let it work, whether one will be more positively impressed by the amount of heat shed by a remark than by the amount of light, and let's face it, these guys were not that subtle.

Consider, for example, the comment made by the moderator from the last post who, referring to the screenshots from the original discussion, demanded to know if I screenshotted everything I did, just to prove that I was telling the truth. What would that have to do with the subject at hand, and what if I did? Isn't the truth precisely what a reasonable discussion is trying to get at? Taking the self-righteous indignation out of the question, what is the substance of the complaint, other than a protest that I had made it harder for his side to lie effectively, and who but a liar wishes to see lying made easier and more effective? Yet nobody could be found who would call him on this. What some of those sitting this one out had learned to expect from the rank and file among the users at Multiply was cowardice and a lack of personal integrity, one of them explaining in a private message that he had opted out of participation in the forums, just to avoid the idiots, and that the moderator who had deleted the original discussion had a lengthy history of creating this kind of drama. Is this just another group? No, it is not. It is part of the cluster of groups Multiply uses for user feedback, all of them under the genuinely censorious moderator in question, so where would one go for a sensible discussion of this subject, and be heard by Service? How can such a discussion even begin?

In all likelihood it can't, and it certainly can't get anywhere without an extreme investment of time of the part of those trying to make it happen. This is only a website and as I have said before, I do have a life outside of the Internet which does and should take priority. I am not going to drop everything just to prevail in an online turf war. Would I like to win this one? Yes, but just how much do I want to win it? Enough to sacrifice personal relationships and abandon my studies as I devote myself, full time, to online politics? No, and that is what it takes to be part of the Cabal anywhere. That and a willingness to sell one's soul as one approaches what are supposed to be discussions as if they were wars, taking sides based, not on principle, but on strategic considerations as one builds alliances, as one seeks to win - what? I should like to think that my own soul could not be had so cheaply.

The most sensible course of action, then, would seem to be to take the path of least resistance and simply disable commenting altogether. Even if Multiply should get around to offering comment moderation, I won't change this setting. What I want at this point is what almost anybody who is left feeling that he has just taken a stroll through a bad Lewis Carroll story wants - closure. I want this to be over, and I don't want to think about this any more. I have only three contacts, and if they are interested, I can easily invite each of them to my front porch group individually and let that serve in lieu of a guestbook. As for the rest of the community, what this experience and others reported to me have shown is that most of it isn't worth much. If you were one of those leaving friendly messages on this site, yes, they were appreciated and as I look through those I might invite some of you to become contacts as well, but now that I know what to expect of most of those on Multiply that I haven't met, I doubt that they will be much of a loss.

My new outlook toward this site and its merits can be found in the settings I've chosen for my groups. They are partnered with sites on Yahoo and Google and set on "membership by invitation only, do not list in the directory of groups" - in other words, the new membership that arrives there will be coming from Yahoo and Google, aside from those visiting my own personal site. I'll be using Multiply's facilities, because they work well to the extent that Multiply has decided to work on them, and because I've found a way of sidestepping the moderation problem (let's just say that I've added an audition to the process of joining), but I am not, at this point, planning to try to be part of "the Multiply community"; I've decided to make my own community. If people want to join, that's great, if not, I do have that life outside of the Internet that I keep talking about so much, so that'll be great, too. I don't really need to volunteer my time that badly.


Any Questions? I guess I'll never know. Next subject. (Posted Jun 12, '08 at 11:25 AM)




Your comments haven't been deleted ... but ... / Repost from Multiply

I have, perhaps temporarily but certainly at least for the next year and change, disabled commenting, This is not because I don't value the comments that have already been left, none of which have been deleted - they've only been hidden, for the moment - but because as happens to too many all too often online, I've stumbled into a forum presided over by somebody who doesn't seem quite right in the head. When somebody goes into absolute hysterics over an issue so utterly stupid that I can't believe what I'm reading, and that somebody is a moderator, experience tells me to expect a wave of vilely abusive me-too responses, and I really don't need to have that kind of garbage littering my site.

I'll refrain from naming the group and its moderator, not because I feel that he deserves to be treated gently, but because I'd rather not give his efforts any more publicity than they have already enjoyed. I posted to his forum, ran into some people who agreed with what I had to say, some who disagreed, and in both cases I respected that and did what the moderator would fail to do - I responded in a civil manner. In the case of exactly two replies, however, the respondants did something that went beyond a mere difference of opinion. They responded in such a way as to mislead the reader about what the person they were responding to had said, "hearing what they wanted to hear, rather than what had been said", as I said in that discussion, a practice that no competent moderator of a group or forum will greet tolerantly.

As the saying goes, we may be entitled to our own opinions, but we most certainly are not entitled to our own facts. When one lies about what another has written, in a condescending and hostile tone no less, one is dealing in the realm of fact, not opinion, and one is trolling. One can not, as I pointed out there, dialogue with somebody doing that. The very attempt to do so historically leads to the breakdown of the discussion into an is so - is not contest that soon fills the space, exhausts the patience of the reader, who ends up too fatigued to keep track of it all, and eventually breaks down and starts taking what the trolls say others have said on faith. If such antics are allowed to continue, the honest participants eventually effectively lose control over their own words, being remembered as having said, not that which they can be seen to have said, in black and white, but what others have lied and claimed that they said. This scenario has played itself out time and time again, so often as to leave no doubt in the mind of any reasonable man as to its outcome, but the forum in question was not being run by a reasonable man.

In fact, I would scarcely credit him with being a man at all. The moderator - who one should be able to count on to be supportive of those dealing with trolls on his group, and this is maybe the most classic forum of trolling to be found - went into absolute hysterics over the fact that I engaged in a reasonable act of moderation on a thread on which the system allowed me to moderate responses. "Deleting other people's comments because of a divergence of opinion is not acceptable", he wrote, casually ignoring the fact that a good number of opinions that diverged radically from my own remained in place on the thread, not even being greeted with hostility, much less deletion. But facts were of little importance to this man, who seriously compared the moderation of obnoxious comments with the work of the Gestapo in Nazi Germany. I wrote a correction of his misstatement of what had occured, got up, took a break to calm down so that my response would not degenerate into a flame in its own right, and wrote


"Oh, and speaking as a Jew, I'd have to say that I'm mildly annoyed by the casual reference to the Gestapo for reasons that are in no way related to Godwin's Law. Ahem. The offending parties in this case are exceedingly unlikely to actually be killed by my deletion of their messages, and if it should later be discovered that I happen to have them hanging from meathooks somewhere at this very moment or should be vivisecting them without anesthesia, well, that would be news to me, and probably news to them as well. Which, in case you've forgotten your history, is the sort of thing the Nazis used to do.

Shall we take the rhetoric down a notch?"



An even marginally decent, or at least sane man would have felt at least a little ashamed of his rhetorical excesses at this point, but this person just kept rolling along, actually having the chutzpah to complain about my victimisation of him, because I had objected to his exaggeration. In any group that one encounters, the man at the top, in the long run, will set the tone for what follows; I saw no sense in remaining part of that group and departed. That I did at 11:08 my time, bringing us to the present, aside from time taken to eat breakfast and write this.

I am not unaware of the fact that there is a movement to get comment moderation regarded as a form of censorious oppression. I would put this in the same category as the earlier demand for radical inclusiveness - as the product of the collected rantings of undesirable individuals who've made the horrifying discovery that others are capable of showing them the door, and that is what I'm doing right now - showing a group of undesirables the door. I note with some regret that I'll end up closing the door on a lot of other people in the process, but, sad to say, that is how life usually works. Maybe this will be temporary, but hysteria being what it is, I just don't know.


Addendum, June 8, 11:31 pm: For reasons I'll go into later, I've decided that my disabling of commenting on this site will have to be permanent. (Posted Jun 6, '08 at 11:18 AM)




Sands of Passion, Episode One / Repost from Multiply / Jun 3, '08 1:45 PM

A Middle Eastern Soap Opera . . . sort of . . . from

If you enjoyed the first episode, more can be found elsewhere:

2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Some more groups I created that nobody will post to: / Repost from Multiply



The groups I run at Multiply:


  1. Chicago Images - post and discuss your photos taken in the Chicago metropolitan area (consisting of Cook, DuPage, Lake, Will, Kane and McHenry counties in Illinois and Lake county in Indiana)

  2. The Jewish Kitchen: Kosher Recipes - Largely self-explanatory.



      Until I see people signing up for these, I probably won't post to them 
      very often,not really having much of a desire to talk to myself.

      Posted to Multiply on May 24, '08 at 9:51 PM.





Probably my last word on Yahoo / Repost from Multiply



The middle of the road is a difficult place to be on any issue online for a number of reasons I've written about elsewhere in the past. One reason is because of the very negotiability of free speech in an online context - we have to fight for our right to be heard, and since it is easier to define what the extreme positions are, those on the extreme ends of an issue will be the first to recognize each other and the first to gather and thus be in a position to gang up on their opposition. The political lunatic fringe put that fact to good use during the last few decades, and powerfully bad experiences do tend to reinforce certain behaviors. One of them can be summed up by a quote from a troll I've mentioned before.


      "Nuance. It's what I don't do."


Nuance is something that many have learned to shy away from, with the result that now almost everything seems to be a hot button topic, one waiting for an explosive confrontation of passionately expressed extremes, from those who've become accustomed to seeing the mere refraining from offering condemnation and hostility itself be responded to with aggressive confrontation. "If you stand in the middle of the road, you'll be run over". But if nobody ever does that, then there really never is any discussion to be had, never any real communication.

This is a very bad development, but one that self-reinforces, because the expectation that an extreme position will be taken becomes so ingrained, that when one does anything else, some may perceive reversals where they do not exist, and feel betrayed, should they have offered support. One has to worry, sometimes, about whether or not this has happened.




On April 29, before I heard that the Microsoft takeover was old news, if indeed it will remain so (thank you, Mr.Icahn?), I wrote a post over on my old 360 blog entitled "The post you never expected to see (#35)" in which I urged some who had been posting over on the 360 team blog to tone down their rhetoric a little, and understand that a lot of work wasn't going to get done because many Yahoo employees, understandably and rightly, probably were making lining up new jobs their first priority. Yet here I am, urging you to go over and help vote for the 360 team blog in the race for "worst blog of all time" on the Blog Awards site. and sharing a story about a memorable foulup on the part of Yahoo's staff. What gives? What is my actual position and when will I stop waffling?

The answer to the second question is that I'm not waffling, but merely refusing to embrace either extreme. At one end, we have the "Yahoo can do no wrong" crowd and on the other, the "Yahoo is evil incarnate crowd"; one finds oneself, sometimes, called on to hold the employees to be above criticism or beyond the possibility of compassion, and with the posting of the deservedly infamous Evolution of Yahoo! 360 post on the Yahoo 360 team blog, we found how quickly some could switch from one camp to another, going from singing hosannas for the team they would not let anybody question, to screaming for that very same team's blood in almost the same breath. One actually got to see users expressing amusement over the thought of Yahoo employees ending up out on the street holding tin cups, bringing us to one reason why that cliche about the dangers of standing in the middle of the road is a terrible one.

This sort of thing is what happens when extremism becomes instinctual: if those who are unrealistically idolised are ever perceived to have slipped, the response can not be anything less than savage, because the basic humanity of the expression "nobody's perfect" becomes that which can no longer be conceptualized. In following the path of least resistance, the members of the community find that at some point, they've left their compassion and willingness to forgive and understand behind, and reasonability can not survive that discovery. However one may go into denial about the thought, in such a merciless setting, each must ask who will be the next to become a target for the wrath of the mob, and know that if he ever retreats from a position and is seen to be imperfect, that the back the bullseye will end up being painted on may very well be his own. At a time when what people need to do is start listening to each other, really doing so becomes precisely what nobody dares to do, and far from self-correcting, the breakdown in communications will only feed upon itself. Fanaticism becomes an end in itself, able to make its appearance on any issue, even ones that in saner times would have been seen as being unworthy of any real level of drama, and sometimes somebody needs to be the one to tell people to calm down and suggest that maybe, just maybe, that even if we ought not approve of overtime parking, that cutting off somebody's thumbs for having let a meter expire might be a little excessive.

Or something like that.

If one has ever experienced long-term unemployment, especially in a compassion-free zone like the present day United States, where having been unemployed for a long time is viewed as being legitimate grounds for being refused employment, with the result that the briefly unfortunate can easily become the permanently dispossessed, one knows that the words "living death" are no exaggeration when applied to that state of being. One is scarcely viewed as even being human by those around one.

In response to such an extreme reaction, one is left with one of those forbidden, politically incorrect questions that we are supposed to be too hardnosed to ask


      "Does the Punishment fit the crime?


Well, does it? Does it seem fitting that somebody's life should basically be over, sometimes at a relatively young age, merely because one is not happy with the performance of the company for which he works? How do so many people convince themselves that this would not be unjust?

In part, perhaps because of the "kill!kill!kill!" response I allude to above that comes as the concept of a happy medium is lost, and perhaps in part because of something spoken of in Monday Never Comes. In the West, we tend to speak of a company making a decision or a company doing something, or for that matter some other collective entity like an organization or a country doing so, and forget that this is at best a metaphor, a convenient conceptual shorthand for a vast array of individual choices and interactions so complex that we have trouble taking it all in. We speak of Yahoo or some other company as if it were a person, going so far as to make that fictional personhood a legal reality, but it is a fiction. Failing to remember this leads to muddled thinking when, for example, one argues that a company clearly wouldn't do this or that because to do so would clearly not be in the company's best interests. Perhaps not, but it may well be in the perceived best interests of some well entrenched employee who is not above twisting the system for his own purposes and so some of the true believers in the Utopian possibilities of the free market will be most unpleasantly surprised from time to time and sometimes, as now, will be left with the bitter rage of somebody who has been made to feel foolish, but doesn't feel free to speak of this problem openly. At Yahoo, I think, we've seen one of those moments, as users have forgotten that Matthew Warburton, the VP responsible for the Universal Profile concept, and Yahoo are not one.

There are excellent reasons to dislike Mr.Warburton at present, or at least such is the impression one might very reasonably have. There are also ones that are occasionally terrible, one of which we saw on display a few months ago in the comments section on the Yahoo 360 blog.

At a time when a company such as Yahoo is under impending threat of a hostile takeover, to fault either management or staff for the slow pace of repairs made is unreasonable, because, as I pointed out elsewhere, many in the staff will, with very good reason, for reasons management itself should have no trouble understanding, be spending much of their time looking for alternative positions elsewhere. One certainly can't blame labor for seeking to avoid the aforementioned living death of long term unemployment, or management for such reasonability it shows in understanding that. Reasonability is, in moral terms, a very good thing. Even after the threat has passed, as this one probably has, despite noises made by Carl Icahn, one might not be able to legitimately blame management for poor service, for management may find itself left primarily with the worst members on its staff, those who nobody else wished to hire, the best, brightest and most responsible employees having fled to more secure positions, leaving their former employers and us to think about silk purses and sows' noses. One can only make use of the resources one has. One might even reasonably ask whether or not one can blame the would-be raider whose attempted takeover might do such damage for raiding under a system under which the big corporate fish can so easily gobble the smaller ones. One grows or dies, and so one does what one can to grow, maybe in part because one is bad, but certainly because the system is extremely bad.

But if we start arguing that it follows that nothing is anybody's fault because nobody could have done anything other than what he did, that's nonsense, because the world is as Man chose to make it. There is always somebody making a choice. When legislators choose to make the funds borrowed to finance a leveraged buyout tax deductable, giving the banks an added incentive to take part in such efforts and unbalancing the playing field in favor of those attempting takeovers, that's a choice. While the employer of a firm may find himself stuck with those employees whose work attitudes are not the best, the attitude is something that the employee has built up through a lifetime of decisions made, and that's a choice. And when a incoming executive at an Internet firm chooses to heedlessly pursue a pet project that is guaranteed to alienate and ultimately drive off the users, cutting into the company's ad revenues and in no way strengthening it in its fight to maintain its independence merely because he has an ego driven desire to make his mark, that's a choice, one which we might rightly condemn.





Note that, at a time when Microsoft has announced that it was backing off on the takeover attempt, and so much of the pressure to relocate in a hurry was off the remaining employees, that I did not push the nonhelpful employees in support to give me back the ability to change the profile photo I mentioned in my May 19 post, the one which had been so offensively changed without my consent. I didn't even insist that they change it back. I would have liked either, but I would have settled for just having them delete that picture from my G rated profile, something that can be done by them with the push of a button, requiring no in depth maintenance work be done. How much time could complying with such a simple, reasonable request have taken? Any more than it took them to frustrate a user who their foulup has caused great difficulty by doing no more than sending him a few useless form letters? They decided to be unhelpful just for the sake of being unhelpful, and there's nothing understandable about that.

Nor is there much to be said for the practice of encouraging users to work on their blogs on a given service a mere two blog posts before announcing the closing of the very service they were blogging on, having refused to answer all questions about rumors of that closing for months, months in which those users who still trusted one's company could have established themselves at new locations. Any company whose core business, whose first business, is the running of a search engine, should know why that is a terrible thing to do to a user, how a sudden change in url, with no opportunity to link from the old location of a site to the new location, can sink a site in the rankings for years. If the service ceases to exist, even if Yahoo should keep its promise to move everything to this mysterious new service and lose nothing, how does the user place anything at the now vanished old url to help the spiders find their way to the new place? There is no sign to be seen that Mr.Warburton cares about the damage his brainchild will do, nor any that the writers of that blog were concerned by the likelihood that they would be misleading their readers into thinking that rumors that would be of reasonable concern to those readers were not true. Having thusly betrayed the trust of their audience, those select few administrators writing the Yahoo 360 team blog then infuriated their user base by claiming to be listening and valuing their input, while ignoring the fact that almost with one voice, they were asking Yahoo to please not proceed with Mr.Warburton's planned "universal profile", the users almost finding that their wishes had been almost universally ignored by their provider. Economic need can not explain such behavior.

The few are not the many, and the many are not the few. The many who have worked at Yahoo, maybe not under the best of circumstances, may defend their choice of employer by saying that beginning a career is very difficult, and that one can't always be very selective about where one gets one's first job, in an economy in which ever getting that first job is far from being a given. If so, they have my sympathy and understanding, as I know the truth of what they are saying all too well, and that sympathy and understanding for the many will not go away because of the obnoxious actions of a few of their present or past co-workers. Certainly, they won't go away because some of those people found themselves working for cretins; I think that most of us know what that's like. But conversely, my sympathy for those who haven't forfeited it doesn't carry over to those few who have, and if I seem to hold low expectations of the current Yahoo, that's an observation far more than it is a moral judgment.

Where there is no volition, there can be no imperative. Moral judgments I reserve for individuals, not for abstractions like institutions, because only the former can make choices. I hope that this cleared up more confusion than it created. More importantly, if you spoke in support of my request that a little more sympathy for the frightened yahoo employees and now wonder if I've left you politically high and dry by reversing myself, I hope that this will clear up any misunderstanding. Philosophically, I tend to diverge from the mainstream enough that those can be a problem, but I never play my friends, and I hope those friends will always know that.

Posted to Multiply on May 21, '08 at 12:30 PM.  



Vote for the Yahoo 360 team blog / Repost from Multiply

See: this post on Yahoo 360 refugees for more information.

Y!360 was nominated for Worst Blog of All Time!

This might be the year for them, so let's get out and make that happen! (May 21, '08 at 9:40 AM)