When transparency does not equal erased

Image via reading.sexy.

This week I’ve been feeling like that episode on Buffy where things turn invisible, except it’s just on one corner of the blogiverse, and it didn’t really hit home for me why it means more to me than it did — especially as a blogger — than when I read the post about my deletion form Boing Boing, Violet Vanishes. Snip:

(…) And here’s where I make another disclaimer — when my responsibilities at the Chronicle involved SFGate, hell, even before that, when I was editing SFist, when people would send me enraged emails/post ranty blog posts about the policies of either publication, there was always a part of me that thought “Then don’t read us! There’s a lot of sites on the internet, and if you don’t like how we run things, well…” Just because a site is popular doesn’t make it a public utility, I get that, and folks can run things the way they want.

There are only a few people I would go back on that thinking for, and Violet’s one of them. So, I gotta ask: where the hell did her Boing Boing posts go?

Jackson suggests that she “rubbed someone at Boing Boing the wrong way,” which takes me back to hoping that their MT4 build is unstable, or maybe their site migration got fucked up (sorry, my 6A friends! Gotta consider all the possibilities!). Because, man, Boing Boing has been such a leader in web transparency, ethics, and decency (not the sex is bad! kind of decency, the be a good internet citizen! kind of decency) that if Jackson is right? That would totally fucking suck.

Of course, these questions are all just that — questions — because no one from Boing Boing is writing back to anyone who’s asked them what’s up. And maybe that’s because it’s none of our damn business, maybe it was a deliberate act based on an emotional personal decision. But if it was, I call bullshit.

My approbation or lack thereof isn’t going to impact Boing Boing a whit, and, like I said, that’s their house, and they can run it the way they want. But Violet’s my friend, and until I hear that Boing Boing’s archives are all fucked up, I’m not going to give them another damn pageview. And not just because, as Jackson says:

Because BoingBoing wields the awesome power of traffic and Google Pagerank, and to bestow such benefits on a blogger and then take them away can be a severe punishment in terms of advertising and affiliate business lost.

But because I know that — because Boing Boing taught me — that we’re supposed to call out sites that do shit like that. So that’s what I’m doing. (…read more.)

Update: See also, Boing Boing’d.

Update 2: More to read, especially this astounding post William Gibson Completely Deleted from BoingBoing Archives (also seen at worship the glitch). The comments on this post are also very thought-provoking and indicate more strange behavior.

Update 3, 06.30.08: In the comments of this post, people are noting that their (admittedly off-topic) comment queries on Boing Boing are being deleted, and over on Eve Batey’s blog a comment asking about it posted in the “comment moderation” post at Boing Boing have been deleted. Weird, weird, weird. Check out these posts: MetaFilter: Boing Boing Finds 21st Century Trotsky?, Violet Blue is Now A 404, Violet Blue Vanished From Boing Boing? (NSFW, Eros Blog), Drama Llama, Tech Macro: Boing Boing Deletes Blogger, Not the First Time?.

Update 07.02.08: Apologies for the delay in updating this post, I’ve been on deadline for my column while this has all been going on — though you’ll see I’ve been active in the comments here. I have only posted about this issue twice (including this post); a week after I posted my original item calling attention to the disappearance, BoingBoing responded to the LA Times blog post (indirectly, anyway), and admitted that it had happened (calling the removal “unpublishing”), without explaining why. My character was attacked by BoingBoing bloggers and BB’s comment moderator. There is much allusion to me being a bad person and that I had done something so egregious that I was a “strain[s] of evil”, among many other confusing things. I still have no idea what they’re talking about — except that it seems to be personal? — and really don’t understand why I’m being attacked, nor why they’re stating they kept it a secret (and are behaving this way) out of “kindness” toward me. I may have never been in a more bizarre situation. They revealed that this had actually happened a year ago. I didn’t notice the missing posts until a reader pointed it out to me last weekend. No one has explained anything to me, and no one is saying what the reasons actually are or are not, and the speculation is astonishing — and leading to more character attacks all around. Their post has over 900 comments and it is currently BoingBoing’s most commented post to date.

There is so much media about this, it’s difficult to capture it all in one update. In no particular order… Boing Boing and the Unpersoning of Violet Blue, The Boing Boing post that launched (not quite) a thousand comments, BoingBoing explains Violet Blue posts (sort of) (LA Observed), Boing Boing Responds to Violet Blue Brouhaha (SFist), Violet Blue Purged from Boing Boing, Boing Boing Talks Back (AdRants), Boing Boing Speaks out on Blue (SF Weekly), LA Times: Violet Blue still in the dark about her ‘behavior’, Regarding BoingBoing’s factual dispute on Monday’s Violet Blue post, BoingBoing and Violet Blue: Game Frakkin’ Over; Valleywag: Did the Internet’s free-speech guardians try to hush up a girl-on-girl love affair? and How Xeni and Violet’s Boing Boing affair went sour (note: except for what’s in my email, there is a lot of stuff there that I have *no* idea what they’re talking about), Any sufficiently advanced information is indistinguishable from noise (ZDnet, UK), The Media Cool Kids: Never As Cool As You Think (Gawker), It’s Like Watching Your Parents Calling Your Teachers A Bunch of Doody-Heads, BoingBoing vs. Violet Blue. I think there is more, and I’m sorry if I missed anyone.

Blogging has given us the power to self-publish, and gives us concrete, findable voices in a world that used to have its information sharing controlled only by the powerful few. We were tired of locked down communication channels run by people who never had to give reasons or sources because they didn’t have to. Blogging has torn those walls down. In this light, the notion of “unpublishing” is antithetical to the exact empowerment that blogging brings. No wonder so many people are upset.

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  1. I was “disappeared” from BlingBling last March after having been a reader for several years. You see I made the mistake of actually posting something that disagreed with Ms. Hayden’s opinion. I had the temerity to question one of Ms. Hayden’s posts saying that Mr.Doctorow hadn’t changed any of his opinions about Microsoft just because M$ was now an advertiser at the site

    I politely stated my opinion that it would not surprise me if someone would tone down their anti-M$ rhetoric in exchange for tens of thousands of advertising dollars. I also pointed out how Mr. Doctorow hadn’t made a single anti-M$ rant since they took on the advertising account – which was quite uncharacteristic of him.

    My post was mutilated and then deleted. My posting privileges on the site were revoked. Several of Ms. Hayden’s blogging minions then came after me with rather personal (and quite unfactual ) attacks which I could no longer defend myself against. they were left up on the site.

    Well frack that – I moved on and got my nerdy-news elsewhere. And I waited ..

    Bwa Ha Ha ha ha!
    Payback’s a bitch.
    And they did it to themselves which is even sweeter (and entirely predictable).

    You go violet!

  2. That’s very sad. Your articles on BoingBoing helped make me feel more comfortable thinking about sex and sexuality. Happily, your site’s still up, and I’ve been visiting your site more often than BoingBoing for about a year now. I have to agree what many of the other posters have said, the lack of communication on this issue is rather disrespectful.

  3. I just dropped this on BB. We’ll see how long it lasts (none of my other comments ever have). But I think it goes a long way to explain the psychology of why this has become such a monster.

    The fact that many BB supporters at the moment (and BB themselves) keep feeling the need to bring up that this is a “PERSONAL” project/blog/whatever is distressing to me.

    It’s only personal in that, it’s owned by them. Which, great, do whatever you want with it. But don’t forget, the INSTANT you release something to the public, it is no longer your own.

    Any writer worth their salt knows this. Any artist, any journalist, anyone who labors (even if only for love) and shares their work PUBLICLY must understand this. Or they better never step into the public realm.

    Yeah, it was yours, until you hit submit. And then it became the product of the world. Which is odd because I thought that BB understood this with the constant ranting against Copyright. Yes, I know they are different, but conceptually the BB argument and mine are intertwined.

    BB needs to understand that, this may have started as a personal thing, but it was only personal until the first person got their hands on the original stapled copy. And once it got online, it became even more personal.

    And so, when they hide behind the “It’s our site, we can do what we want” defense, it smacks of naivety and makes them lose credibility.

    Add to that the circular and vague explanation of their actions and it just widens the gulf between them and credibility. They’re not journalists. They’re bloggers. But they still have responsibilities. And the handling of this shows that they either don’t understand, or care for these responsibilities.

    And that’s sad, because unfortunately, BB is one of the things that sets the standards for how the web and the people using it should act and behave.

  4. It’s the same as “slut-shunning*” back in those long ago school days. I didn’t go along with it then, I’m not going along with it now.

    *Goes like this:
    Someone to someone else: “Put out! Put out! Put out!”
    Someone else: :puts out:
    Someone to everyone else: “OMG! Someone else is so gross! They PUT OUT!”
    Everyone else: “EWWWWW! Stay away from someone else!”
    Someone else, wondering: …wtf…?

  5. Susannah has deleted several entire blogs in the years I’ve been sex blogging, and when she does it, she never leaves behind so much as an “I’m outta here.” My theory is that from time to time, her discomfort with being a “sex blogger” or (this time) a “sex blogger” overwhelms her ability to cope with it.

    Judging by one of the linked posts above, it looks like the most recent incarnation of The Reverse Cowgirl may be disappearing down the memory hole one day soon.

  6. this is pretty neat, you can see the missing posts here — http://www.violetbluevioletblue.net/

    via Digg: http://digg.com/celebrity/The_Violet_Blue_posts_that_were_unpublished_by_BoingBoing

    it has me wondering, now that we know it was Xeni who deleted the posts, if any other authors’ posts were removed in the purge.

    and thanks everyone for the support and kind words. not too many of those about me going around lately. I’m making a point not to step into any of the allegations and character assassinations stuff. let me just say that insofar as “romance” goes, I was the pursued, not the pursuer. a lot of untrue things are being said about me, but it’s interesting to see who’s “teaming up” to vet their grievances with me or my work, and it’s certainly agitated my stalkers, who have been eagerly jumping in the fray. I am going to have a very interesting book to write from all of this. also, @ MichaelK — a close friend made a nickname for her a while back. he calls her The Obtuse Cowpat.

  7. Last night I added my own voice to the 1300+ comments on the Boing Boing thread. As someone who has been reading Boing Boing for almost a decade, and been a fan of Mark Frauenfelder’s work in Mondo 2000 and The Happy Mutant’s Handbook prior to that, I wanted to express my considered opinion on the matter, and that opinion was that when you have as much cultural sway as Boing Boing does, “unpublishing” a contributor’s entire body of work from your website and then not coming clean on the reasons behind it veers dangerously close to a loss of integrity. I mentioned my disappointment in Boing Boing and that this was the first time I’ve ever had doubts about their oft self-vaunted commitment to “transparency” and “full disclosure”. I spent over an hour composing my comment, attempting to be fair to both parties involved, and trying to weigh in diplomatically while still making my disappointment known.

    This morning when I woke up, my comment had been deleted. The comment immediately prior to it, as well as the one posted right after it, were still there.

    I have no idea what it was that I may have said, what toes I may have stepped on, when I clicked that submit button last night. I’m a reasonable and open-minded person, not a troll, and instead of reacting emotionally as so many other commenters had, I was simply asking for more information before making up my mind on the matter. Clearly I said something the bb editors felt was out of line and so instead of responding to it, they simply erased it. And that was pretty eye-opening.

    If Xeni would just pony up and clarify her rationale behind the move, I would be more than willing to consider it. But instead, all I’ve seen are vague inferences to Violet’s character as a person, strident claims that the bb editors are fully within their rights to do anything they want on the site without having to explain it to their readership, and self-righteous bullshit about how baffled they are that this has turned into such a big issue. bb has every right to self-edit, but they do NOT have a right to take an action like this and then act like wide-eyed naifs about the response. It’s insulting to the intelligence of the readers.

    And for that reason, I’m taking a break from Boing Boing right now. It was a poor and foolish decision and I’m coming to realise that this may be the way they have chosen to approach the way they do business. For all their up-in-arms declarations of the rights of consumers and the common folk, they’re acting an awful lot like those corporate entities and organisations who refuse to submit to accountability to their core market. They have a certain journalistic responsibility which they have no problem holding others to – traditional and blog journalists alike – but which they apparently consider themselves exempt from.

  8. @MichaelK – I saw that post. It made me giggle. Mostly because, the whole time she’s inside bitching about “hacks” she’s not out LIVING IT ZOMG! And what was with the token “just because” photo. Distraction from her yawn-inducing, pointless, rant about writing and what makes a real writer?

    What really gets me about this whole thing and it’s constant unfolding, is that, Boing Boing went and did their silly little interviews to TELL THE TRUE STORY…and of course, said absolutely nothing new. And ALL of this “shitstorm” could have been avoided if they were just like “Yo, we didn’t like X. We did Y. And you know, maybe we could have avoided Z. But we just felt right about X and Y.”

    And wtf is up with their moderators. Damn. Talk about psychotic. BB needs some stelazine in the water stat!

  9. Violet, I just wanted to say “thank you for taking the high road”. For whatever reason, this little soap opera has sucked me in, and I’ve been poking around a bit and trying to figure out what happened. It’s plain in all of this that you’re willing to let your public historical record speak for itself, all of your posts mentioning BoingBoing and its participants are intact, and you haven’t been making unsubstantiated or ad-hominem attacks.

    Or making links in my archives go mysteriously 404.

    My only participation with any of the participants in this spat is to link to them occasionally, I don’t really have a horse in this race except that I’m more likely to link to people I feel are worthy of promotion, so my stakes aren’t that high, but I’ve formed some impressions based on how people are acting and reacting, and your reactions do you credit.

  10. The too-vague-to-contradict character assassination shit they’re trying to pull is just foul smelling. It’s probably a good thing they’re acting this way though;If they weren’t trying so hard to get their readers to think of you as ‘somehow’ sinister without giving any specific reasons, I might have assumed that you must have done something. I thank them for keeping me from making any stupid assumptions

  11. I love internet drama, but it sounds like there are some strange personal things going on here and hurt feelings, and that bums me out. Also, the misogyny directed against you in the Boing Boing comments is completely revolting. Maybe you’re obnoxious IRL — I have no way of knowing — but the hate-on that some of these people have for you nauseates me. Stay hot and keep blogging.

  12. For a while now, I’ve regularly read boingboing, mostly for no other reason than perverse fascination. How could something so dull be so popular? There are dozens of other blogs that republish the exact same material, and for the most part they have more nuanced, intelligent commentary. They certainly aren’t as self important and pretentious as Xeni/Cory/etc.
    Violet Blue, on the other hand, is fairly new to me. While I am aware of the blog, I don’t live in SF and I had never read anything by her… So today, I came upon the boingboing fiasco, wound up coming to the blog, and hurray, you have a new reader.
    Silly story, popped back into my head while writing this post: I was in germany two years ago at a music festival. The Streets came on and played some songs… He wound up going on a long rant about how Aphex Twin had criticised his music, and then started calling AFX a wanker, etc. Aphex Twin was up next… he got on stage, said absolutely nothing about the comments and belted out some amazing music. I think it was pretty apparent to everyone that he was a hell of a lot more talented, and no dignity was lost.

  13. Hey VB…have you contacted BB about their ginormous mess? It’s just so odd that…

    1) BB didn’t alert you and tell you they were removing all mentions of you from their blog. Even more so that they did it in such an amateur way, as if standards and practices, and basic web etiquette don’t matter to them.

    2) You saw all of your posts were gone and didn’t just send a ‘what’s up?’ to the people at BB that you know.

    I love what BoingBoing does. I love what Violet Blue does. This is all just to bizarre to comprehend.

  14. Here’s the thing, Al. When you say “This opinion is completely wrong” without actually HAVING a discussion, you aren’t actually interested in discussion. You’re interested in discussions that center around a particular area, and not the one that was brought up.

    I have no problem with discussion. I have no problem with you saying, “Sexist? I wonder why someone would think that. Does anyone have an answer?” But that isn’t what you said. You said, “There is no reason to think it is some sort of sexist thing.”

    So, you know what? You can say you’re interested in discussion. What I see is that you’re interested in the discussion that you want to have and no other. You realized that you aren’t in control of the conversation so you left it with a nasty parting shot.

  15. Or, more realistically, Emily, as soon as I realized that lotu5 wasn’t really interested in what I had to say, except as a springboard for polemics, I decided not to be the vehicle. I took the time to read the link posts about Etech and simply didn’t see the problem. In fact, it looked like lotu5 was spoiling for a fight (with Cory and now with me) for reasons that are, in the end, unknowable to me. You can say “well played” all that you want and you can tell me that I am not allowed to dismiss things all that I want but, in the end, these are all simply opinions. I’m interested in actual discussions, not simply being the vehicle for someone else’s rants.

  16. Al Billings:
    I don’t see any further value in engaging with you in this, especially since, as a white male, you’ll probably dismiss anything that I have to say.

    Well, at least you got the last word in.

    You can’t dismiss sexism as a white male without providing something more. You can’t just shut down the conversation and say “clearly, this isn’t sexism, and I know because I’m a dudely dude” without getting some pushback. Sorry that the world doesn’t work how you might want it, but you aren’t in control of this conversation.

    And, as soon as you realized it, you left. Well played.

  17. But hey, look on the bright side. At least you’re in really awesome and powerful company of all the people that BB wants nothing to do with or actively seeks to piss off.

    Ursula K Le Guin, EVERY freelance artist that has a website of their work (yay BoingBoing’s support of that “silly” orphan works act) and…China.


  18. I think this is the first time I’ve been to BB in nearly a year. I’ve pretty much declared them to be bogus, after several of my comments were very non-transparently removed.

    BB and it’s crew, for all their arguments about not being evil, and being open, etc. really is just so much horse shit. But really, when 90% of their posts are either “ZOMG STEAMPUNK!” or “ZOMG MY BEST FRIEND/MOM/CORY WROTE A BOOK!!11!!!” followed by some asinine comment about how no artist should want to make a living from their art, and anyone that does is a bad person.

    Maybe you should be giving away your books for free. Maybe that’s what they took a set against. HOW DARE YOU CHOOSE TO PROFIT FROM YOUR EROTICA ANTHOLOGIES!!!

    I digress though. BB doesn’t have any of the integrity they so desperately claim to cling to. And their most recent post talking about the “blog war” is just so transparent in it’s lameness. The fact that they’re unwilling to even contact YOU regarding what they perceive as your flaw…well…that just makes them…ZOMG CHINA!!!1!11!!

    And all of this “Well it’s their private thing, they can do what they want.”

    Well. Guess what. ALL OF THE INTERNET PROVIDERS ARE PRIVATE COMPANIES. Same with the webhosts. Same with most big corporations. And…if they pulled this kind of stunt…BB would be ordering petitions and bake sales. So wtf.

    F ’em Vi. You’re awesome. <3 You. And all the fluffy kittens in the world <3 you too.

  19. lotu5, you clearly have both a chip on your shoulder (more like a mountain, it seems) and see what you want to see. Good luck in your life. I don’t see any further value in engaging with you in this, especially since, as a white male, you’ll probably dismiss anything that I have to say. Later.

  20. What a sad, ugly situation.

    Violet, I did discover your blog thanks to BB. But these days, I visit your blog five times as often as I check BB. As a frequent reader, I am extremely puzzled as to what of your behavior they’re referring to. I don’t personally know you, but I have reason to believe that you’re about as much a straight-shooter as they come. And once again, you’re embroiled in a situation where former friends/colleagues are turning on you. I’ve been on the receiving end of similarly weird behavior. It simply feeds my misanthropy to see how easily these situations pop up.

    Unfortunately, I have little of substance to offer, except for moral support.

  21. This is just creepy. It’s even more creepy in the light of BB statements that it is a “personal” blog. It’s like periodically photoshopping people out of your photos because they have annoyed you.

    It’s also really stupid. How could Boing Boing have imagined that this would go undiscovered forever? I’m surprised it took this long. Once it was discovered, there was really only one way for Boing Boing to deal with it (aside from the sensible approach of restoring the stories). Send a note (or call) Violet and explain the offense. Follow-up with a simple post saying “We have explained or reasons privately to Violet.”

    If their goal was to deny Violet the benefit of traffic from Boing Boing, I imagine they have failed miserably. I think BB has mentioned the Streisand effect once or twice.

  22. @Al billings: Right, no sexism, racism or homophobia happens here in our little utopia called the internet. You should see this comment in the william gibson article:

    “Posted by: Emily – 06/30/2008

    Oh, that’s TOTALLY unexpected; sexism is called out in a post about many other things, and here come the concern trolls to pat you on the head and make sure you know how wrong you are.

    There there, little girl, it isn’t sexism. I can tell, because I’m a Very Important Man.

    Thank god we have you guys to explain everything to us bubbleheads.”

    Like I said, this issue is clearly about BB deciding who’s deletable and who’s not, based on whatever criteria that is, and in this case, it happens to be a woman. Oh, and surprise, surprise, lots and lots of the people discussing this online are using totally dehumanizing language to talk about her. And no, its not about sexism, not at all. You’re right, we should use more precise language so that people don’t try to call stupid shit like “reverse sexism”, no, its about male supremacy. Thanks for reminding me.

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