Comments on libcom changing

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Choccy's picture
Choccy
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Jul 31 2012 12:02
Comments on libcom changing

Is there any particular reason that the site has gone from looking like the Guardian to looking lile the BBC? I ask this as a regular contributor but also longtime forum user who has seen the function of the site change considerably.
A friend who used to post was asking if 'anyone still uses libcom?' and I couldn't really answer, but it did make me think the site is moving away from being a discussion/interactive site to being a 'news' site

As such it seems a far less participatory site than it was historically, and much more a site you'd visit, read an article, then leave.
I'm assuming the numbers for library and some news stories are high, but that's not really participatory and quite a passive use of the site. The whole up/down thing is probably supposed to make up for this with it;s illusory participation - the up/down thing always strikes me as a bit like the faux-comment forms we get after staff training 'write down your opinion in this box and we'll read it and you'll know you've participated in this'.

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Jul 31 2012 12:03

I have some thoughts about this but they will have to wait till after work

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Jul 31 2012 12:22

oh cheers for moving, should have started a separate thread myself but it popped into my head on that other one

Partly I was asking as most people I know, in three different cities I've lived in, either involved in politics or interested in it say they no longer bother with the site except for getting the odd direct link sent to them.

Again, this is in good faith as a regular news/blog contributor but I find it a bit concerning.

syndicalist
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Jul 31 2012 13:37

Choccy, if I may. As I'm over here in the US, my perspective is prolly different. I really can't speak to the partcipatory part, but I'm not much of a library user. I think those postings reflect a different politics then my own, but are, mainly, interesting.

As an anarcho-syndicalist, I tend to find Libcom good with stuff that interests my own particular politics. And this is still the place to find out info/engage others of this tendency. You can still have that sort of tendency-oriented discussion here. And I'm really glad that the flaming wars are (mostly) over.

Although Libcom has improved in terms of non-flaming wars, as an American, can't say I like much the battles the European comrades continually engage in (between, say, anarchist-communists, post-platform platformists and so forth). So, in this respect, it's sorta a pity that ABC is still down. mainly because there was a higher north american participation there .... and mainly of the latter tendency.

Lastly, while Libcom serves a good servive and place for exchange, sometimes it can be frustrating when you post something and no one replies. Well, maybe it's what I'm posting is not of interest, may be true.

Anyway, move away from the BBC style all red face, but keep the rest. Black is easier to read then that horrid blue that tired older eyes had a problem reading.

Continued good luck at transitioning formats from across the Atlantic!

no1
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Jul 31 2012 14:04

The forums have become quieter but I think the main reason for that isn't the various redesigns or the wider attempts to make libcom a less aggressive place. I think in the past libcom's forums have been dominated by a relatively defined group of people who worked out their politics here over the years. This process went through rejecting a series of political tendencies that usually involved massive flame wars - more lifestylist anarchists, primmos, platformists, etc. It seems like that process has pretty much come to a conclusion now, because the group of people who were driving it have more or less 'won' many these debates, and individually have worked out what they think, so are no longer as interested to argue it out. The simple fact is that strong disagreements animate forum discussions more than anything else. Also, a lot of people satisfy their need for political fights on Twitter these days. But much of the discussions here now happen on blog posts, which means they are usually about events outside of our milieu, that touch wider working class concerns - isn't that good?

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Jul 31 2012 14:26
Choccy wrote:
Is there any particular reason that the site has gone from looking like the Guardian to looking lile the BBC?

The designer who did the 'Guardian' design did a terrible job, left it full of bugs and couldn't get most of the things they'd tried to work, so they did another design based on the first one but created from scratch. It isn't intended to look like the BBC although it's clearly an influence, where the problem comes from is the red in the header, originally it was much brighter but we had a few complaints from people that saw it and another designer suggested making it darker. The header was also based on another news site and last.fm.

Choccy wrote:
A friend who used to post was asking if 'anyone still uses libcom?' and I couldn't really answer, but it did make me think the site is moving away from being a discussion/interactive site to being a 'news' site

As such it seems a far less participatory site than it was historically, and much more a site you'd visit, read an article, then leave.

We've not discussed moving away from being a discussion site to a news site, we've not been an effective news site for a number of years and actually made the decision to start posting analytical articles on the front page when previously it had only been news. If anything we're trying to shift the focus of the site away from news towards more discussion but this has been difficult. As social media has become more popular, more political discussions take place on facebook and twitter. We've got a lot of users who regularly post on twitter and when it went down the other day the first place they all went was facebook.

Encouraging users to engage more with the site has been one of our top priorities for years, we'd hoped that getting more bloggers and featuring them on the homepage would help create more discussions, but half the bloggers we wanted would rather publish their blog posts on tumblr than on here, despite things posted on here generally getting a bigger audience.

Choccy wrote:
I'm assuming the numbers for library and some news stories are high, but that's not really participatory and quite a passive use of the site. The whole up/down thing is probably supposed to make up for this with it;s illusory participation - the up/down thing always strikes me as a bit like the faux-comment forms we get after staff training 'write down your opinion in this box and we'll read it and you'll know you've participated in this'.

Over the last month the top three pages for the site have been the homepage, the tracker and the forum index. News and library are both below them and the most popular bit of content over that period was the no comment guide in the organise section followed by a blog post that had 100+ comments. Since December 2008 we've had nearly 5 million unique visitors and 65% were new visitors, so only 35% were repeat visitors which is still a massive improvement on the old days.

Where we've been struggling is getting new users to stay on the site once they've arrived, hopefully a more aesthetically pleasing design will achieve this and the prominence of the featured bar will encourage users to explore. We'll have to see where it goes but the new design should help with what you've outlined, what it won't do is change the fact that social media is killing internet forums.

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Jul 31 2012 15:13

If you've been trying to 'move the site away from news and towards discussion' I'd say the precise opposite has happened. There is very little 'discussion' and what there is is heavily set within admin-defined parameters that have resulted in fairly dull lifeless interaction, limited to 'i agree' or 'i disagree' and aided somewhat by the illusory-participation of the 'up/down' function.

I'm not suggesting for a second that any of this was intentional, just observing that most people I know in political groups in the UK (and I realise who 'i know' is a small subset) admit to no longer using the site and are often surprised that I still post stuff on it. I wouldn't mention these people (again, in 3 different cities) if they weren't still involved in political stuff (eg anti-fascism, anti-racist, anarchism, class struggle, union stuff etc) which is why their comments struck me as worth discussing. A common reason was 'ah the forums were really dead last time i looked'.

Some of it could be 'natural drift' but I hadn't thought about the social media aspect but now that you mention it it isn't surprising that it would have an impact on repeat usage. And if social media is 'killing' forums then I suspect there's a negative feedback loop - no one uses the forums because 'no one uses the forums' and so on til the discussion is a bit dead wink

I think Syndicalist's observation that pieces often get no comments at all is disturbing. I wonder if it is very partially attributable to people hitting 'up/down' and maybe think they'll come and justify or comment later but don't get round to it, just a thought. That and all the other stuff mentioned above.

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Jul 31 2012 15:15

I know quite a few ex users who still use forums like Urban, I never posted there, is their forum being 'killed' by social media? I have no idea, maybe multiple forum users can comment.

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Jul 31 2012 15:22

Yeah, Urban's very quiet nowadays. It'd be even quieter if the site owner hadn't let most of the banned posters from years back return to keep the boards moving.

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Jul 31 2012 15:39

Wow, how many people have been banned from here I wonder - FREE ALL PRISONERS!

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Jul 31 2012 15:46

The site has a pretty well defined culture and political focus. Anyone with underdeveloped or differing views will get a very cohesive "response" which won't leave much for discussion... Only the most obscure/irrelevant issues will see proper discussion as that's where opinions differ.

Long term it might be a problem if libcom becomes to professional and coherent but it can also be a good thing as there aren't that many ultraleft sites that are useful (news, blogs) and grown up. The problem is that you need people to pipe up and engage to keep the content rolling long term, the better the quality the higher the threshold for this to happen.

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Jul 31 2012 15:58
Choccy wrote:
Wow, how many people have been banned from here I wonder - FREE ALL PRISONERS!

grin

Something else that keeps Urban going is the social side -- lots of drinks, meetups, etc. Even the posters who have left stay in touch on Facebook, etc. LibCom doesn't really have a social side (although it did used to have the odd meet-up), although clearly, a fair few of us do know each other IRL.

(Not saying that LibCom should have a social side, like -- it'd be boring as fuck smile ).

Spikymike
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Jul 31 2012 17:43

libcom's strength for me is that it is not tied to one particular political organisation, and compared with most other radical websites, it manages, perhaps despite the predominant politics of the admin group, to span the usual anarchist/marxist divide whilst diferentiating itself from the mainstream social democratic/trotskyists left.

As a result it has built up and continues to add to one of the best current and historical libraries in our milieu.

As to what I also perceive to be some recent lack of vibrancy in the discussion threads I think no1 in their first sentence makes a valid point. To some extent my range of contributions has been much about sorting out some of my own evolving politics, though primarily in relation to the broader left communist/anarchist communist/anarcho-syndicalist/nihilist communist etc spectrum and I hope without any flamming.

This means that similar themed discussions brought up by newcommers have rarely prompted me to intervene again as a result of a lack of interest and commitment/laziness, made more so by the absense of appropriate links to often identical discussions in the past. The more detailed 'in house' discussions amongst comitted anarcho-syndicalists have similarly been of little interest to me.

I still value many of the posted library items which I might not have come accross otherwise, but here my attempts to generate some follow-up cross-cutting discussion have mostly been unsuccessful ( even with the original posters in some cases!) which is discouraging. Possibly something beyond the 'recent threads' listing which highlights library articles which have got some responses (which many don't) would help to generate some more serious discussion?

Facebook discussions have seemed too dispersed and even more disconnected from each other than on libcom and similar websites and so I have avoided it but perhaps I will be forced to overcom my reluctance . I don't use twitter.

Of course all discussion sites have there ups and down so we should not be too quick to judge based on such a short period of time.

The news items and news blogs still serve as a useful source of information.

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Jul 31 2012 19:57

Yeah, I think other people have covered pretty much all the relevant points here.

Choccy, I appreciate your views, however I think you are conflating a few things. The redesign has just been cosmetic, making it look nicer because it has been pretty ugly for years.

Yes, discussion here has died down quite a bit but I think this is mostly due to the reasons no1 and others have mentioned. Not I would argue due to the actions of the administrators. (Well, partly was us, because even though people told us they didn't like all the flaming and abuse, allowing people to abuse each other does encourage a greater number of posts, but not higher quality discussion)

Primarily that discussion forums online generally are not used nearly as much as they were. As people have pointed out, more and more discussion is moving to Twitter and Facebook. Now I think this is a problem, because it means that nobody outside small groups of friends can read them. And being able to read political discussions can help other people clarify their own ideas.

So I really hope people do make more of an effort to have those discussions here.

Secondly, like no1 says, the core of us who have been on here since the beginning don't often have big arguments with people espousing contradictory views anymore. And arguments are what fuel forum posts more than anything else.

I think that we could look into technological ways of trying to get discussion back here, however I haven't raise this before because of privacy concerns. Basically the way I think we could get additional discussion here is enabling people to comment on libcom via their Facebook, as many other sites now do (like vice.com). Also we could list social media reactions below articles/forum threads like the Telegraph do below their articles for example.

Harrison
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Jul 31 2012 22:55

Pragmatic and realistic solutions:
- full time paid forum posters
- organising of space workers
- aufheben gummy sweets

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Jul 31 2012 23:06

I'd add to that:
- removal of libcom collective
- admins replaced by BJJ1992, THE OUTLAW, SPANDAU BALLET and the one who went to the GUNSHOW.
- editorial powers given to all banned posters

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Jul 31 2012 23:09

Kenneth, Choccy, how can you forget gunshow Kenneth's name?

snipfool
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Jul 31 2012 23:25

Choccy, you said the number of articles without comments is disturbing and wondered if that could be attributed to the up/down votes. You can't up/down an article (or first post in a thread), only the comments.

I don't think the design of the site has anything to do with what you think are less active forums. If anyone has a screenshot of the design from a year ago, now's the time to remind people of it.

snipfool
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Jul 31 2012 23:34
Steven. wrote:
Primarily that discussion forums online generally are not used nearly as much as they were. As people have pointed out, more and more discussion is moving to Twitter and Facebook. Now I think this is a problem, because it means that nobody outside small groups of friends can read them. And being able to read political discussions can help other people clarify their own ideas.

Yes, even if you don't get involved, being able to follow a discussion and read the comments on a piece is really important, especially for those who are still finding their feet (and might later be able to contribute more). It's a concern if they're moving into smaller circles. I've noticed a flew blogs from Nate and his circle which discuss some of the stuff that's come out of Facebook discussions and so on - that's really useful.

no1
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Jul 31 2012 23:43

You can check old versions in the internet archive wayback machine:
2003 : http://web.archive.org/web/20031008050638/http://www.enrager.net/web/
2004 : http://web.archive.org/web/20040925050438/http://enrager.net/
2006 : http://web.archive.org/web/20060206034210/http://libcom.org/
2007 : http://web.archive.org/web/20070701001715/http://libcom.org/
2010 : http://web.archive.org/web/20100209044044/http://libcom.org/
2011 : http://web.archive.org/web/20110714231707/http://libcom.org/

Wellclose Square
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Aug 1 2012 00:08

While it galls me to be posting on a site I'd vowed I wouldn't post on any more, for anyone's information I can't help thinking that not a few people were alienated by Libcom admins' complicity with the whole Aufhebengate thing (constituting the 'defence team' for screamingly-evident production of policing tactics, strategy and ideology). Just my two penn'orth, for your information... Certainly not hanging around for Messrs W. K. Knutz's or C. Sauce's pantomime histrionics (among the few who still post, it seems), so definitively 'the last post'. If the site's been 'purged', you're welcome to it.

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Aug 1 2012 00:11
snipfool wrote:
Choccy, you said the number of articles without comments is disturbing and wondered if that could be attributed to the up/down votes. You can't up/down an article (or first post in a thread), only the comments.

Fair enough snipfool, I wasn't clear, I did mean in terms of creating a culture of not commenting generally speaking, because the kind of people who Steven originally said the 'up/down' thing was aimed at was apparently people afraid to comment because of a history of flaming so at leastthis way they could feel like they were participating - i think that the presence of 'up/down' feature solidifies the non-participation.

And I did only ask if that would only 'very partially' account for the general non-participation and then said 'plus all the other stuff mentioned above' which i'd agree is more salient.

I wasn't directly attributing the non-participation to the theme, though again, the attempts to make it look like the Guardian or BBC made threads and articles have the feel of a site that you simply visit, read, then leave - so that rather than active discussion and even, god forbid, arguments, you have a lead-piece (blog, news, article, OP) and then just a series of people nodding their heads or shaking their heads. Anything outside the admins defined parameters is removed (see Fallback's recent removal of another admins mini barely worth commenting on spat with an AF member - an example of when they can't even meet their own standards), or people calling out obvious trolls like BJJ1992 and his multiple accounts are told 'be nice to new posters' before those obvious trolls are banned in a week for borderline rape-apologism (just an example).

It all still seems part of a bizarre rebranding of the site, which seems content to pretend its past didn't happen, I am uncomfortable with that level of whitewashing. It's something that politicians do, but not sure class-struggle anarchists should really be engaging in.

In looking for KENNETH'S (can't believe I forgot that, thanks!) name I noticed that even that thread has been removed/hidden.

To be honest I'm happy enough to accept that forums generally are suffering because of social media, but like I said the comrades I'd spoken to had said they were surprised I still used libcom because 'the forum are dead' which got me thinking a bit.

Harrison
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Aug 1 2012 00:33

I'd be careful wellclose, speaking out against the conspiracy can get you banished to the red and black digital hell. why do you think samotnaf and lettersjournal no longer post here? libcom editorial board run a form of stalinist tron for dissident posters. its a binary salt mine runtime aufheben developed for special branch in C++marx to liquadise opposing tendencies and to impose their discipline upon the ultraleft

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Aug 1 2012 01:44

It's summer. I ain't tryin to spend it posting articles in the library and talking about politics in forums.

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Aug 1 2012 07:33
snipfool wrote:
Choccy, you said the number of articles without comments is disturbing and wondered if that could be attributed to the up/down votes. You can't up/down an article (or first post in a thread), only the comments.

on articles, that's correct that you cannot up/down. But we have now added a Facebook like function to them which should help at least provide some feedback to contributors/authors.

On the gun show thread being hidden, on one of the threads with people complaining about the forums we followed some users suggestions and unpublished a load of libcommunity threads which preceded the posting guidelines being toughened up a couple of years ago.

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Aug 1 2012 09:24

I think even that's quite disingenuous. Fair enough if new posting guidelines come in, remove any comments that follow new guidelines that break those rules, but a 'backdating' of new guidelines reeks of denying history. I think the only good reason for removing posts that precede current guidelines is security reasons (personal information, real names, job concerns) or clear threats/bullying.

no1
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Aug 1 2012 10:06

Maybe it would be possible to get more controversial debate going again by organising the modern equivalent of this : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SPGB_debates ?
Basically, pick relevant political groups/people/blogs, and debate important questions with them. This could take a similar form as the Parecon debate a few years ago.

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Aug 1 2012 10:30
no1 wrote:
Maybe it would be possible to get more controversial debate going again by organising the modern equivalent of this : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SPGB_debates ?
Basically, pick relevant political groups/people/blogs, and debate important questions with them. This could take a similar form as the Parecon debate a few years ago.

that sounds like a really good idea. The only problem is that it requires conscious effort and energy and a fair bit of time…

petey
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Aug 1 2012 15:05
Wellclose Square wrote:
I can't help thinking that not a few people were alienated by Libcom admins' complicity with the whole Aufhebengate thing

it didn't come across to me as complicity. some of the admins tried to defend that guy's intentions, and they were wrong to do so, but what this is 'complicity' in i don't see. (i thought he did aid and abet the police and said so at the time.)

Caiman del Barrio
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Aug 1 2012 15:19
Juan Conatz wrote:
It's summer. I ain't tryin to spend it posting articles in the library and talking about politics in forums.

Not an issue in the UK tbf... wink

Gotta say, all this importation of Facebook wank is pretty galling - I mean, do the admin actually wanna encourage Libcom posters to have the same passive, lazy relationship with the site as they do with their FB account? - but I don't really have much time for most forum threads anyway.

I value this site more for having a coherent, consistent critique of national & international political movements & mainstream news. Breaking/ongoing stories benefit from ongoing threads (I can't tell you how much I've gleaned from the coverage of the explosion of international protests last year via the forums).

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Aug 1 2012 15:42

God I must be a boring fuck. Not only do I post on an internet forum, but I think the forum has improved when it seems most people think it has got more boring.

I honestly think it has really dramatically improved over the last two years.