Dirty Laundry

Dirty Laundry
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This post is meant to serve as an open discussion regarding how I should run the site from the standpoint of moderation.  I figured between the private emails and discussion that sprung up on Jerry Doby’s post, it was better to get it all out in one place.

Let me preface by saying I apologize for attracting anyone to Writer Beat under false pretenses. But as time progressed I've come to the conclusion that, generally speaking, people don't enjoy reading short stories and poems by unknown authors.  Perhaps on occasion they'll read and enjoy something different (like Hack Away at the Unessential or Compassion) but generally speaking they want to debate.  

It has become my mission, from a site traffic standpoint, to facilitate the debate via attracting opinionated writers and stoking the fire via weekly email blasts.  With traffic gradually increasing each week (btw, I’m spending nothing on marketing) I believe this is the right course of action.



Autumn Cote Added Jan 15, 2014 - 8:17am
Bryan, I took the liberty of copying and pasting your message in
Doby’s post:
Autumn - As you are using "Free Speech" to support your reasoning to allow racism to flow and be a distibution point on WB, can you then explain how writing an article which also contains promotional content and IS protected by Free Speech, is so bad that an account will be deleted?  Seems pretty double-standard to me.
A double-standard would be to allow someone to write anti-Jewish posts but not anti-Muslim posts.  Not allowing someone to use our site and hard work as an advertising venue is an acceptable limitation of free speech...IMHO.
Autumn Cote Added Jan 15, 2014 - 8:18am
I think what it comes down to is not so much freedom of speech here as much as it is simply what Autumn wants. Autumn wants racism, she keeps it. Autumn doesn't like promotional material, she terminates the account after a few warnings despite freedom of speech and the wild west being ok with it. Autumn doesn't like a lot of links, she tells the writer and so on...
To date, I haven’t deleted a single post or banned a single author.  I’m not sure what tomorrow may bring, so I’m leaving the door open just in case I need to act. 
Autumn Cote Added Jan 15, 2014 - 9:44am
Regarding legal advice, correct me if I’m wrong but anyone can provide legal advice as long as they don’t claim to be a lawyer and/or charge a fee.  But even if they did claim to be a lawyer, because we’re still a nation that supports anonymous free speech, I doubt Bey is guilty of breaking any laws. And it’s even a bigger stretch to suggest that by allowing Bey a platform to express his opinions, I’m in some way culpable for him providing false legal advice.  Further shielding Writer Beat from any wrongdoing, is the fact we have a disclaimer claiming we’re not responsible nor do we support what our users say.
Autumn Cote Added Jan 15, 2014 - 1:01pm
@ Void

I remain unconvinced that I’m doing anything illegal as it relates to legal advice.

Moving forward, I recognize that I’m the sole arbiter but in case you haven’t noticed there is no fee to use Writer Beat and no corporate headquarters for a staff of moderators. So perhaps that doesn’t make us “credible” in your mind, the current format is all I can afford.

Regarding Bey, he’s free to speak his mind on Writer Beat and you are free to ignore him. Freedom is a good thing.
Autumn Cote Added Jan 15, 2014 - 1:07pm
@ Bryan
I appreciate the fact that what works today may not work in the future.  I’ve decided to basically allow anything and everything but I hear your warning loud and clear.  I disagree that I’ve done anything to “support” Bey.  Bey uses the site to express his opinion and share a link or two.  Perhaps that’s not how he originally used the site but it is now.  
Autumn Cote Added Jan 16, 2014 - 7:31am
@ Everyone
If another website exists where such a high quality conversation like this occurs with regularity…I’d like to know it.  Until then, I think Writer Beat is the best site on the internet and appreciate all of your thoughts and opinions.  I just wish I could convince more of cyberspace (and Bryan, Michael Payne, Robert Becker, Adrian Dyer) to agree with me.    
@ Bryan
I said “basically allow everything and anything”.  If I left out “basically” I would have exposed myself to everything you said.  Perhaps a better word would have been “almost” but I thought I got my point across. 
If I’m at fault for young people becoming brainwashed by racist speech, aren’t the writers of the Constitution equally culpable?
Regarding your comment starting “…lastly”, I disagree with every word.  It would have been nice to exchange our thoughts and opinions on Writer Beat. 
@ Detlev
Last night I watched a news report of an adult woman brought to tears by the personal attacks.  She was black and married a white guy and most of the attacks were racist slurs.  I wonder, where was she when the teacher provided the students with the most valuable rhyme of all time “sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me”? 
Needless to say, I have little sympathy for someone that gets all bent out of shape for being called names, especially if it’s in cyberspace.  I also think the name-caller is the one that ultimately embarrasses himself or herself (was that grammatically correct?) for resorting to childish name calling.  That being said, if and hopefully (because it will mean Writer Beat is a smashing success) when I need to take a more professional approach to moderation, I will. 
@ Void
I just spoke to a lawyer, he said I was right and you were wrong.  
Chip Ballard Added Jan 16, 2014 - 11:32am
I read Autumn's brief piece above, about inviting open discussion, the  I read the following comments, and I must be missing something. Is there another piece drawing all these comments re free speech, racism, lawyers, etc?
Autumn Cote Added Jan 16, 2014 - 3:12pm
I honestly don’t know what you’re asking from me anymore.  Do you think I should delete Bey’s account in the face of all these users that disagree with you? 
@ Bryan
Your concerns seem entirely related to what may happen to Writer Beat in the future.  You seem to agree that nothing is all that bad today.  Why don’t you quit the site when your fears of what it likely to become of Writer Beat are realized rather than right now? 
@ David & Bey
I’m going to start another Writer Beat 3.0 article and address your comments about improving the site there.  
Chip Ballard Added Jan 16, 2014 - 6:43pm
Johnny Fever Added Jan 17, 2014 - 1:41pm
My two cents:  Tarhaka, a somewhat illiterate (have you seen his punctuation) used car salesman is having a ball fucking with all of you.  How can any of you take a man wearing a poobah hat seriously?  I tip my yamaka to you Tarhaka…good show! 
Autumn Cote Added Jan 18, 2014 - 6:50pm
@ Diana & Void
Most of the comments I read think the approach I’m taking towards content and moderation is the right approach.
Autumn Cote Added Jan 19, 2014 - 7:10am
@ Diana
My vision of the site was far different than what it has become.  I thought it would be a place for novelists, poets and oped writers to congregate.  It’s obviously 95% political opeds, which I don’t see as a bad thing, just different from what I thought it would be.  The issue with Bey would have died long ago if it wasn’t for Void making such an uproar and then convincing Bryan and others to join him.
Prior to starting Writer Beat, the thing that annoyed me most about the blogosphere was bias.  Perhaps Writer Beat is unbiased to fault but based on my personal beliefs and supported by most of these comments, I think my vision is the right vision.   Oh and by the way, the Constitution agrees with me. 
@ Detlev
If I were you I would delete your comment and paste it as a new post.  I have some thoughts to share but no longer wish to see comments on this post.  
Autumn Cote Added Jan 24, 2014 - 7:33am
Many thanks for your words of encouragement. The interesting thing about this whole discussion to me is that even if the Constitution and the majority of these comments disagreed with me, I still believe in my heart that Writer Beat should allow almost anything. I also believe strongly that anonymous speech is an important tenet of free speech despite the fact the rest of the blogosphere seems to be attempting to rid itself of anonymity.
The site Writer Beat was modeled after only prominently features the articles which its editor’s deems worthy. Writer Beat gives that power to our users. The result is a website truly free of bias. If another website exists that can claim the same unbiased approach to their content…I’d like to know it.
Pamalien TW Added Jan 24, 2014 - 9:12am
@ Tarhaka, if that's how you feel; why are you still here?
Autumn Cote Added Feb 3, 2014 - 10:01pm
Thanks for the compliments and your words of encouragement.  When I first started approaching people to join Writer Beat I focused mostly on self-described writers and authors.  Unfortunately the non-political writers mostly submitted advertisements for their books and few would comment on the work of other writers. In my opinion, comment activity is the key to our eventual success, so their lack of it really infuriated me.   
Thankfully, the political writers saved Writer Beat.  They do all the things the non-political writers didn’t do such as comment on the work of other writers and release content rather than advertisement.  And because we don’t decide which content appears prominently, Writer Beat is one of the few blogs (for lack of a better word) without an agenda.  For all these reasons, I’m totally fine with Writer Beat serving as platform for political writers to vent. 
I’m well aware of the general nastiness that occurs throughout the site’s comment pages.  Perhaps it’s stunting our growth, perhaps it’s the reason people enjoy Writer Beat. Based on the comments in this article, I think the right course of action is to stay as invisible as possible. I just hope the fact we disagree doesn’t stunt your interest in staying an active user.  
Jeff Kunkel Added Feb 4, 2014 - 6:06am
@David Shimtzon: re: your Jan 16, 2014 - 7:33pm comment:
Quite revealing...  Thanks!
Jeff Kunkel Added Feb 4, 2014 - 6:10am
Hi Again, Autumn.  I understand.  Thanks for your reply.
Autumn Cote Added Feb 10, 2014 - 2:29pm
While I appreciate your kind words, I disagree with your assessment of our users. To be sure, some users resort to simplistic arguments but I think the majority of the discussions are far more intelligent than what you’ll find on the rest of the blogosphere. The blogosphere is mostly filled with cat videos and baby pictures.
When people do discuss politics, they do it with like-minded people barring the occasional troll that stops by to cause trouble. Writer Beat offers neutral territory for all sides of the debate to make their presence known.

Clearly venting can be a cathartic experience but I also think our platform has generated many productive conversations (this being one of them). It takes courage to post your thoughts to Writer Beat because it won’t be read by members of your social network. On Writer Beat you’re asked to expose yourself and then defend your positions. I applaud anyone that blessed our pages with your thoughts, even if only in the comment pages.
Many thanks for the comment.
PS - If you want to see animosity you should read some of the emails I receive. 
Autumn Cote Added Feb 11, 2014 - 2:11pm
@ Tantra
I believe political discourse is very much like football teams trying to win the game.  For example, if one side thinks the minimum wage should be raised and the other thinks it should be lowered, I don’t see these people “working together”.  So there is plenty of animosity towards the other side and often the dialogue ends up getting nasty.  Because of the nature of political discourse and because we feature many different points of view, Writer Beat is not for the thin-skinned. 
As it relates to the quality of our content, we agree, there is some very good work and there is some very bad work.  I personally enjoy reading the poorly argued and reasoned articles as much as the good ones.  The only articles I dislike are thinly veiled advertisements to read some book or visit some other website.  
Autumn Cote Added Feb 12, 2014 - 7:10am
@ Tantra
The NYT and WSJ journal comment was not mine.  Your response should have been directed  at him.
@ Emperor
You could be nicer.  
Autumn Cote Added Feb 13, 2014 - 8:56am
@ Joel
Because this is the internet, I equate the dialogue to skiing with a helmet-cam. With a helmet-cam one is far more brazen than normal. 
@ Brandon
So?  If Writer Beat is a superior platform to where you came from, what’s wrong in doing whatever I can to find more participants?
@ Gary
You have the power to delete any comment made in any of your articles.  But if you’re asking how I would handle it, I wouldn’t delete the comment.  I liked your response but I personally would have said:
The first amendment affords me the right to discuss anything I want to discuss.  If you don’t like my content you can exercise you’re right not to read it.  Speaking of fairy tales, what was the name of that guy that parted the Red Sea?
Autumn Cote Added Feb 23, 2014 - 7:16am
I love the fact you’re verbose.  I feel like there are a ton of outlets on the internet for one-liners and character count limits, Wirter Beat is not one of them.  One point of clarification, I wouldn’t describe Writer Beat articles as journalism.  Obviously, everyone is free to submit whatever they like to the site, but I can’t think of a single article that I would describe as an example of journalism.  Most submit political opeds, which by definition are meant to persuade and not necessarily inform.  
Autumn Cote Added Feb 23, 2014 - 12:21pm
Great comment!  Most definitely a political oped can both inform and persuade.  Equally true is that an informative piece would be uninteresting without knowing how the author feels.  Does that make almost everything a political oped?  Probably not, but it does raise questions as to what "journalism" even means?
Ttime for me to get the dictionary and google "Jade Rabbit".
Autumn Cote Added Feb 24, 2014 - 6:11am
Because the comment count of this article is now at 173, I'd like to issue a response in a new thread.  Something where your last comment starts a new article which discusses the pros and cons of writer beat.  I'll leave it up to you if this new thread originates from your account or my account.
Autumn Cote Added Apr 14, 2014 - 6:15pm
A mobile app would be nice but I have a long list of improvements I'd like to make to the site before we spend money towards a mobile app.  Besides, the site works OK via mobile device right now.  Generally speaking, don't you think Writer Beat lends itself towards the desktop user?
Rusty Smith Added Apr 21, 2014 - 10:32am
Autumn I do like the fact that you have not censored content because I like to hear from people whose world view is completely different from my own, even when they have opinions and beliefs that I think are outrageous.
Where else but a forum could I go to argue with someone who HATES my guts and opinion, and learn what makes them tick without putting myself at risk?  
Without forums like this people like me run the risk of being ignorant of views, opinions and facts that they might not otherwise be exposed to because their just not going to see them if all they talk to is their own circle of similarly thinking friends.
If you're a liberal and get all your news from ABC news, you're never going to know what the conservatives who watch Fox News are all upset about and the same works the other way around.  Who knows, you might actually change you mind about something, if you knew more about what was going on.
I'm one of those strange people who would love to talk to everyone, including the wacko's like Hitler, and Charles Manson, so that I could better understand what makes them tick.  I don't respect people who don't even want to understand what motivates people they don't like.
Surrounding yourself with people who think like you do may be comfortable, but it's no way to expand your horizons.
Autumn Cote Added Apr 22, 2014 - 9:33am
@ Rusty
In addition to agreeing with every word you just wrote, what I like about Writer Beat is that you get to read how Everyday Joes argue their positions.  I just wish I knew how to bring the site to a larger audience.  I say this not for reasons related personal financial gain but because I truly believe we built something special.  Something that takes our eyes off Facebook, Candy Crush and stupid cat videos and feeds our hunger for intellectual growth via debate and discussion.   
Rex Added May 14, 2014 - 7:01pm
I am very pleased with what I have read so far and have joined several discussions. I will be joining several more. I like interacting with thoughtful people who care passionately about the issues. The united states has lost that discourse. David S seems rather full of himself and if anyone is a candidate for removal it should be him. His is the type of attitude that seems to be the norm prevent anyone from saying anything that is not PC. I am so sick of the PC crap very few people say what they actually think. I was very pleased to be invited to this forum. I hope it stays open despite opinions like David's.
michael d zitterman Added Aug 29, 2014 - 6:10am
mark henry smith Added Sep 30, 2014 - 3:38pm
Hey Autumn,
Having recently entered this arena, I must say, man, people are touchy. You hit the wrong nerve and they jump. But the site has got to be about attracting interesting writers, as you say, people unafraid of a little controversial discussion. As I've said before, politics isn't a game of intellects, it's a game of attrition, and if you can be beaten down, you will be. I'm very pleased that you found me, posted a better picture than the dog, even though I still laugh when I see it. I will do my best to help bring in more readers and writers by posting my work through writerbeat. I think it could work out well for all of us. Love and peace, Marko 
Autumn Cote Added Sep 1, 2015 - 2:10pm
Please visit the linked article below where I will respond to your comment:
The Beat Goes on IX
Greg Sturmer Added Sep 2, 2015 - 5:53am
Hi Autumn
Bit late on this but on the lawyer and advice front.
As a profession lawyers are as territorial as lion's on heat. Given that in every single case 50% of the legal advice actually given is a costly exercise in failure, (one side losses) you should not worry about an nonsense point.
Truth be told anyone can give anyone else legal advice and representation as a "friend" provided the person receiving the advice or representation wishes it so.
This has absolutely zero to do with freedom of speech.
Also hate crimes or in fact crimes of any kind including intellectual property theft, treason and a raft of others are crimes full stop.  It is never an infringement of freedom of speech to enforce a laws and action criminality.
The problem you have is in the area of incitement.  If any of your contributors can be shown to be inciting a criminal act, then you become guilty of aiding and abetting a crime if you know it is happening and do not take action.
Racism in itself is not an issue.  I am not, but I could be a racist, it is my right   I do not however have the right to action my racism, or encourage others to action theirs.
My understanding is thus that the expression of any opinion no matter how vile, is legally fine, but the moment that author crosses the line and seeks to incite others to actions based on those views, you as the publisher have a legal duty to take them down and can be charged if you do not.
A policy forbidding adverts on the site is simply a policy and again has absolutely nothing to do with free speech.  Like any site if people do not wish to observe the policies of the site they can always find a better place to play.
Autumn Cote Added Sep 2, 2015 - 8:39am
Please visit the linked article below where I will respond to your comment:
The Beat Goes on IX
Rusty Smith Added Sep 2, 2015 - 10:49pm
It's your web site, run it your way and if people object all they have to is close the window.
I'm all about what I can learn from people who are dissimilar to me and enjoy debate but so far have never removed a post from anyone that commented in any of my forums.  
I never read things like poetry, but that's my choice.
Autumn Cote Added Sep 3, 2015 - 5:40am
Greg and Rusty,
I’m trying to keep my most recent article filled with questions and comments related to Writer Beat.  So my response to your comments can be found here:
The Beat Goes on IX
Autumn Cote Added Sep 3, 2015 - 3:07pm
What gave you that idea...wink wink
Autumn Cote Added Oct 6, 2015 - 11:52am
Many thanks for the comment.  I will see responsd in this article:
The Beat Goes on IX
Norton Louis Added Nov 17, 2015 - 6:38pm
Hey Autumn,
I keep on trying to Unsubscribe from a post that has your old friend James Convey (Speaker of Truth) dumping flurries of posts.   When the button says 'SUBSCRIBE' I get email notifications.  When it says "UNSUBSCRIBE" I get email notifications.  Is the button broken?
By the way, while not as irritating as some past posters, it sure is disappointing to have an interesting back and forth dialogue with an author turned into a manifesto of literally dozens of back-to-back posts by a disgruntled and uninteresting loudmouth.
Free Speech is dead....long live Free Speech!  LOL.
Autumn Cote Added Nov 17, 2015 - 8:41pm
The unsubscribe button works for me.  Does it only not work for Speaker's comments or in his articles?  Or does it not work for anyone? I get irritated by that too and that's why we have the unsubscribe button (assuming it works).  In the future, please make comments about Writer Beat in my Beat Goes On IX thread.    As always, many thanks for using Writer Beat. 
Norton Louis Added Nov 17, 2015 - 8:48pm
I scrolled through over 130 posts to find your Beat goes on and finally found this post.  Is there a way to search for a specific post?
I was thinking, I use multiple devices.....do you think they have to be unsubscribed on all of them to not get notifications?  To answer your question, I don't know if it is just his posts that I cannot unsubscribe to...he is the only person I have tried to get away from!
Autumn Cote Added Nov 17, 2015 - 9:29pm
There is a search feature, it’s located on the main page near the top.  Or click this icon: http://writerbeat.com/advanced-search/
My Beat Goes on thread is located here: http://writerbeat.com/articles/6502-The-Beat-Goes-on-IX
Please play around with the subscribe icon in other articles to see if it’s working.
One more thing, I would love it if someone would give this article a comment:
Doug Plumb Added Sep 10, 2016 - 10:43pm
People always want to hang their saviours and that is why democracy never can work. Don't get too democratic.
Don't take it all to seriously. You are doing fine IMO.
Edgeucation Newmedia Added Oct 19, 2017 - 10:08pm
Well Autumn, 
You actually have a somewhat decent Alexa ranking so you must be doing something right.

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