I thought the Blawgosphere was a friendly place :-(

Elephants stampeding in the #LawBlogs Room
Elephants stampeding in the #LawBlogs Room

I was surprised and saddened by the way comments on my last post (The Elephant in the #LawBlogs Room) degenerated into unwarranted personal attacks by Blawgers against other Blawgers… I thought the Blawgosphere was a friendly place 🙁

As Lucy Reed tweeted:-

bloody elephant is stampeding! *calm down dears* #LawBlogs
Lucy tries to defuse the situation with a Michael Winner (or is it a David Cameron?)

Those commentators clearly had not taken the advice of Siobhain Butterworth at #LawBlogs where she said that sometimes reflection would be better than immediate comment. I have reflected for a few weeks before responding (well I had to as I have been on holiday and not had time of late to blog).

The moderation on The Time Blawg was set at the outset on the basis that once I have approved a comment from you then a second or later comment will be published immediately without further moderation. I did not want to have to be moderating comments all the time from regular contributors. However, some of the comments that came through on my last post I would not have been inclined to let through had the moderation not been so liberal. I have tightened this up a bit and will not allow The Time Blawg to become a place to criticise other bloggers. You can do that on your own blogs if you so desire.

But why do some bloggers do this in the first place I wonder? Does the Blawgosphere have to be an angry place? I have seen this happen on Twitter as well with unnecessary personal attacks by lawyers against other lawyers or marketers. This is a great shame.

It is surprising that lawyers, of all people, resolve to such base behaviour. They would surely never do so in the courtroom or in their professional correspondence with other lawyers, contacts or clients. Why do they think it is okay to do so in comments on blog posts or in tweets?

Perhaps it is just as well that blogging for business development was not discussed at #LawBlogs. It might have ended up with a brawl in Chancery Lane!

In my next post I will explore some of the other issues that arose from comments in The Elephant in the #LawBlogs Room. In the meantime your comments are still welcome but may well be moderated 😉

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  1. It was a shame to have seen such behaviour.

    My Mother always advised me that if I didn’t have anything nice to say then I shouldn’t say anything.

    The Time Blawg has always been a place to have a polite, and if needs be, a restrained, discussion and I hope that this example of bad behaviour has not put anyone else off from engaging in polite discussion in mixed company on some quite important issues in the Legal world.

    I for one, appreciate Brian’s efforts and all of the hard work he puts into The Time Blawg and long may it continue.

  2. Brian

    I now understand why certain established bloggers have closed down their comments. I am new to blogging, but having been in legal practice for a number of years, I only wish I had come to it sooner. This You Tube video by Messrs Godin and Peters is all the inspiration I need (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=livzJTIWlmY). Keep it up. If I can add something helpful. thoughtful and meaningful then I will chime in.


  3. Brian,
    Although blogging and participating in online conversations has all the benefits touched on by the video Julian has linked to in his comment, it does have one downside. Namely, that writing something can uninhibit some people to the extent that they say things they would never dare say to others in person. The freedom it induces is not unlike the effect of alcohol (and indeed, who knows, some comments may be written under the influence of alcohol). I’ve often been surprised when meeting people who I first came across through their blog to see how different they are as people. Someone’s voice as a blogger can be quite the opposite to their persona in real life. It does sometimes happen that a big character in print turns out to be quite shy and unimpactful as an individual. I suspect that if someone expresses their disagreement on a point in discussion by putting others down then it’s because somewhere along the line they feel inadequate about themselves.

  4. I should add, following comments on Twitter, that I didn’t have in mind any particular bloggers, particularly not those I’ve met recently via Twitter. I have been interested in blogging for years, and have attended various blogging conferences and met all sorts of people who blog. That’s how I have arrived at my conclusions.

  5. I hope Brian doesn’t moderate this site too strongly! For me one of the best things about communicating on the web is that people feel free to say what they genuinely think (good or bad), more so than they would in certain situations IRL.

    While I recognise that some of the discussion and points made by certain bloggers in the last post were slightly unsavoury (and not to my taste either), I would prefer that people continue to be uninhibited in expressing themselves. We can let the ‘crowd’ articulate their disapproval (in hopefully as nice a way as possible) should any comment appear to be to anyone’s disliking. I think this way you often get some good, engaging debate and otherwise you risk commentary becoming somewhat bland.

  6. Introspection is and can be most useful…. I don’t, however, believe it is that useful when it comes to the ethereal, surreal and often irrelevant social meedja of twitter – which has a high percentage of angry tin hat wearers (at least on my time line – I enjoy their nonsense).

    I hope that all the bloggers featured on Time Blawg / UKLawblog Reviews will continue to blog – far more important than faffing abart on twitter.

    All the UK law bloggers I have read (and who have appeared on here) are enjoyable to read – even (a) if I don’t know much about their area or (b) they happen to be practitioners and, thereby, indirectly benefiting their business (Why not?).

    ironically – the Big law firms who use twitter to broadcast are far more likely to irritate law bloggers? But even then…. as I am unlikely to ever use their services – why should I worry about what they do?

    Answer: I don’t!

    Keep law blogging

    Now… I must rush off and do a ‘little light networking’ (nicked from Simon Kelner in The Indie) IRL at a bar with some non-lawyers…who don’t need legal advice… they are artists 🙂

  7. Sorry to hear you’ve been having problems mate. Keep your chin up, us bloggers have got to stick together when the going gets tough.


  8. Just thought I’d throw in my thoughts on moderation. I do moderate on Pink Tape – but this is something I have developed over time, and which I still try to keep to a minimum. This is partly because I have first hand experience of how over sensitive people can be about things written on the internet, and this can lead to all sorts of legal shenannigans – regrettably I’ve learnt to be more cautious than I would otherwise be – the vexatiously offended can be time consuming, costly and stressful. But I also moderate because it’s my lawn. Although I view it as a public space where I want to encourage debate and a range of viewpoints – anyone can toss a ball – I don’t tolerate abuse and I moderate out anything I think is likely to be defamatory or legally questionable (with a family law blog there are issues about publication of information and contempt of court). And I err on the side of caution because frankly I have better things to do than agonise about such things (although in truth I do still often agonise as I don’t like to cut people off – most often I edit and explain why I have done so). I very occasionally moderate off comments where someone is adding nothing, repeating the same points they make on every post I put up – I only do this where a public warning is unheeded. I have only once completely blocked someone. I do this in the knowledge that anyone who wants a soapbox can go and set up their own blog and orate in their own sphere and to their own audience.

  9. “I have seen this happen on Twitter as well with unnecessary personal attacks by lawyers against other lawyers or marketers. This is a great shame.”

    Oh, I enjoy so much when what I and others do is couched as “shame.”

    Brian, the shame is the lying lawyers and lying lawyer marketers that permeate social media while (most) some lawyers just sit back and cry about how mean we are and spend their days congratulating these liars for accomplishing nothing but ripping off good lawyers by selling them snake oil.

    I for one will not stop calling out the unethical in my profession, or those that have failed at my profession and now lie their way in to the wallets of other lawyers

  10. There is a happy blawgosphere. It’s just not an honest blawgosphere. It’s made up of nice people who applaud and support each other, never saying a harsh word no matter what someone else say, whether merely wrong or outrageously false.

    After all, it’s not like lawyers have any duty to speak out when another lawyer is lying or deceiving, and we can maintain that wonderfully friendly atmopshere by just keeping our unpleasant thoughts to ourselves and letting others say whether serves their self-interest. After all, if we’re all friendly and supportive, no one will ever know that any improprieties happen, and we can all pretend that we’re wonderful and people should love us and pay us.

    And really, isn’t that what the blawgosphere is all about?

    I retract every mean thing I’ve ever written in an attempt to be honest and forthright, and instead embrace every lie ever told. The only thing I ask in return is that all my new friends send me big cases where I can make oodles of money and become fabulously wealthy and friendly. Who cares about honesty and integrity when there’s money at stake.

    1. American lawyer commenters are just stupid, scum-sucking animals who deserve to be beaten like dogs and then thrown into the garbage. And then dressed funny and ridiculed, like Brian Tannebaum.

      And then made to go to a Brit dentist. Hah! That will teach them to be friendly.

      Ba******. And ugly too. Did I mention ugly. Every single one of them. And they should all stick a needle in their eye for being so inappropriate. Bu*****.

      [Note from Brian Inkster: I have edited this comment by adding in the asterisks for the sensibilities of my British readers]

      1. My boy Brian doesn’t dress funny. It’s just an accident during his circumcision. We all thought the moyel went “oy” when he went “oops.” No big deal, except for his need for bespoke trousers and his difficulties keeping girlfriends.

        So don’t make fun of my boy Brian. He’s a good boy. He never meant to hurt a fly.

        1. It’s a lie. The moyel didn’t slip. He did it on purpose. Sick f**k. Since then, his seething anger grew until now he feels compelled to wander around twitter saying mean things about Adrian Dayton just because he made up a petty little story about himself to earn a few sheckels.

          It’s no crime to want to be rich.

  11. I guess the moral here is that if you go fishing for niceness on the internet your likely only to catch the proverbial rusting supermarket trolley and old boot, and maybe the odd stray piranah!

    No idea where I’m going with that analogy.

    Best not to care. Keep up the good work!

  12. Thanks Miriam, Julian, Michael, Shireen, Anon Blogger, Jonathan, Charon QC, Ollie, Lucy, Jon, Brian, Scott (aka Yankee Hater, Brian Tannebaum’s Nice Mother and Brian Tannebaum’s Real Mother) and Michael for joining the debate.

    There seems to be a perception that I may be considering giving up blogging and also that I may be planning to moderate a lot. Neither is the case. Indeed I have already written three further blog posts (to be published once we exhaust this topic) and have at least a further 2 or 3 ideas for blog posts currently in my mind. So as Michael says nil desperandum. I am not going anywhere. On the topic of moderation I simply plan to do a little rather than virtually none at all (as has been the case prior to writing this particular post). Moderation will only be used by me in extreme cases and I will explain when I have done so.

    In the past I have had cause to moderate this Blawg (other than dealing with spam – although on the whole Akismet takes care of that for me) only twice. Once was to remove an overtly marketing (perhaps even ‘flawging’) comment. I e-mailed the commentator to advise them of my reasons. The other was to temper a comment on Lockerbie that I didn’t feel this Blawg to be the appropriate vehicle to express the comment on:-


    Lucy expressed it very well when she referred to her blog as her “lawn”. The Time Blawg is my lawn. I will tend it, water it, trim it but will not be too keen on someone making a mess of it. What constitutes a mess will be down to me. But then it is my lawn after all. But I can assure you that moderation will only be used when I consider it to be very necessary and in the interest of other readers of this blog. I am sure that is how most bloggers treat moderation in any event. By moderating I have really just gone from a situation where many comments were simply approved automatically (unusual to find on a blog in my experience) to one where I will actually have to read the comments before they are approved. On the whole they will be approved. Very occasionally they may not be. If they are not I will indicate why either on the blog or by direct e-mail to the commentator as I have done on the two occasions that necessitated moderation in the past.

    When Anon Blogger appeared in my moderation panel on this post I wondered whether or not to approve their comment. I had never had to deal with an anonymous commentator before (unless you count Legal Bizzle – although it almost feels like you actually know him). Did I want The Time Blawg to be a place where anonymous comments are made? It made me think about the Law Society Gazette LinkedIn Group. Comments left there (especially on the topic of Quality Solicitors) are often anonymous and the debate usually degenerates as a result. I sounded out views on Twitter the other night. Mixed responses but on the whole the view was to allow anonymous comments. Then it occurred to me that the back end technology in WordPress can (in certain circumstances) allow you to identify an anonymous commentator. In this case it did. So suddenly Anon Blogger was no longer anonymous (at least to me) so I no longer had to concern myself with that issue. I approved their comment. I would be interested to hear views on here on anonymous commentators.

    I decided to edit slightly the ‘Yankee Hater’ comment by adding in the asterisks for the sensibilities of my British readers. In this regard and for our American friends I will share this blog post with them: ‘Beware! Don’t Blog Like The British!’:-


    No.1 is relevant here:-

    “Don’t blog like the British, unless…

    …you happen to agree that ’good manners’ are important.

    We British are sometimes teased about being being too ‘polite’.

    We teach our children to say ‘please’ and ‘thankyou’.
    We try to see things from the other person’s point of view.
    We try not to give offense.”

  13. Thanks Keith

    Interesting post. Thanks for sharing it. I now know what to call these commentators!

    In today’s Observer is an article on “How the internet created an age of rage”:-


    I would extract the following highlights from that article:-

    “The worldwide web has made critics of us all. But with commenters able to hide behind a cloak of anonymity, the blog and chatroom have become forums for hatred and bile…

    The psychologists call it “deindividuation”. It’s what happens when social norms are withdrawn because identities are concealed. The classic deindividuation experiment concerned American children at Halloween. Trick-or-treaters were invited to take sweets left in the hall of a house on a table on which there was also a sum of money. When children arrived singly, and not wearing masks, only 8% of them stole any of the money. When they were in larger groups, with their identities concealed by fancy dress, that number rose to 80%. The combination of a faceless crowd and personal anonymity provoked individuals into breaking rules that under “normal” circumstances they would not have considered.

    Deindividuation is what happens when we get behind the wheel of a car and feel moved to scream abuse at the woman in front who is slow in turning right. It is what motivates a responsible father in a football crowd to yell crude sexual hatred at the opposition or the referee. And it’s why under the cover of an alias or an avatar on a website or a blog – surrounded by virtual strangers – conventionally restrained individuals might be moved to suggest a comedian should suffer all manner of violent torture because they don’t like his jokes, or his face. Digital media allow almost unlimited opportunity for wilful deindividuation. They almost require it. The implications of those liberties, of the ubiquity of anonymity and the language of the crowd, are only beginning to be felt…

    One simple antidote to this seems to rest in the very old-fashioned idea of standing by your good name. Adopt a pseudonym and you are not putting much of yourself on the line. Put your name to something and your words are freighted with responsibility. Arthur Schoepenhauer wrote well on the subject 160 years ago: “Anonymity is the refuge for all literary and journalistic rascality,” he suggested. “It is a practice which must be completely stopped. Every article, even in a newspaper, should be accompanied by the name of its author; and the editor should be made strictly responsible for the accuracy of the signature. The freedom of the press should be thus far restricted; so that when a man publicly proclaims through the far-sounding trumpet of the newspaper, he should be answerable for it, at any rate with his honour, if he has any; and if he has none, let his name neutralise the effect of his words. And since even the most insignificant person is known in his own circle, the result of such a measure would be to put an end to two-thirds of the newspaper lies, and to restrain the audacity of many a poisonous tongue.”

    The internet amplifies Schopenhauer’s trumpet many times over. Though there are repressive regimes when anonymity is a prerequisite of freedom, and occasions in democracies when anonymity must be preserved, it is clear when those reservations might apply. Generally, though, who should be afraid to stand up and put their name to their words? And why should anyone listen if they don’t?”

    1. Thanks Jon

      I am sure Dr Krotoski would have a field day studying some of the commentators on The Time Blawg for her ‘Cult of Me’ project 😉

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