So, how can off-topic be so popular?

"How can off-topic be so popular" was an interesting little read that got me thinking. It bothers me that people question why we post something. Most days not much else bothers me around here, but when people start to question why we find something interesting I get bothered for some reason. I think Fang may be right when he wrote "information being somehow relevant to be permitted is a factor in what we can call low-grade censorship." If an article appears to be not pertinent to you, you are under no compunction to read it, but may pass it by with asking any one else "by your leave". Better yet, slashcode gives you many options to filter our stories that you're not interested in, or just afraid to read.

But, I'll also agree with kctipton that the post was not really about libraries, and I'll also admit that I probably wouldn't have posted it, BUT that really doesn't mean it shouldn't be here. I'd love to outline the careful steps we all take in deciding what to post, but there really aren't any, at least for me. I find something interesting, and then I post it, that's about all there is to it. There is almost no offtopic for LISNews, we should post what we find interesting, while trying to keep things fair and open. There are A LOT of people who have author access to the site (actually, too many people have author access to the site now that I think about it) and they all have the ability to delete a submission, or post something they find interesting. I ask that they try to keep things on topic, and try to be "fair and balanced" in what they choose to post. I think they do a wonderful job %99.99 of the time.

Fang also got me to thinking about the LISNews numbers. Do more visits (hits, sessions, page views, how ever you want to measure it) really mean that we're doing a good job. Does popularity equate to admiration, agreement and participation? An average weekday now shows 5500+ visitors (73000 hits, 16000 page views), does that mean we're doing a good job? Was I not doing a good job 4 years ago when there were only 100 people a day stopping by? Are we on topic? Are we popular? Are we doing a good job? I've always wondered what the numbers really mean.

Someone asked me to delete a comment last night because they felt like they were being stalked by people who went on the attack. I've seen a lot of that over the past few months, a very vocal, small group of folks are really taking the fun out of reading the comments. It's not that I often disagree with what they say, I disagree with how they say it.
Personally, I try to use the comments as a place to expand and explain a story, to share something and to give something back. Unfortunately there is a growing number of people who use them as a place to act like 13 year old girls arguing over the cutest backstreet boy. I saw this coming years ago, and that was the #1 reason to move to the new code, moderation should be taking care of stupidity. There are days I just want to turn the comments off completely.

So, how can offtopic be so popular? The more comments a story receives, the more hits it gets. People are clearly coming to the site to read the stories we post, and read the comments on the stories, and read the journals.

I've whitelisted my mail now. Anyone I've sent an email to in the past few years is on my whitelist, everyone else in the world gets tagged as spam, unless they come through the contact us form. I'll be out of town and more often than not out of touch for the majority of the next week.


It's your sandbox, so you can invite anyone you wish, and set the rules as loosely or tightly as you think is proper. Now maybe I'll go to "Suggest a Story" at and post the recipe for Library Filtered Buttermilk Chocolate Pie that I made Sunday and see who wants to moderate that "story."

I've had 12 stories rejected (one was a dup that I know of) that I thought were "interesting" and "On topic" and someone thought otherwise. I've deleted 6 or 7 of my own journal entries that after re-reading them, I decided weren't interesting even for me to read even though a journal entry doesn't have to be either on-topic or interesting.

You do a great job, Blake, and provide a good service. You've encouraged comments, and sometimes that might be--"off-topic, take it to your journal."

I'd use that one for sure, though I'd be tempted to drop in some peanutbutter. Didn't we have a post for a library recipe book or something like that?

As for rejected stories, I've had 21 rejected, so I've got you beat. When I find something I don't have time to post I'll drop it in the queue as an AP and they often get rejected.

Thanks for the kind words.

Fang-face and others may feel it's their constitutional right to suggest whatever story they want, but this isn't, it's Although librarians have interests, sure, and they may even have a PAC or two I don't know about, I don't believe that every story that involves censorship or privacy or the Bush administration is LIS in nature.

"[LISNews is] devoted to current events and news in the world of Library and Information Science."

Well, kctipton...don't read those stories. It should be a simple matter...

There are so many issues facing our profession and libraries it seems we should devote more time to them.The fact that in "library land" there are so many political stands taken by our colleagues it is not surprising to find off topic issues on this site.

Our profession is dedicated to provide the needed information for people to make intellectually sound opinions. We help people have the tools to make decisions, we should not be trying to promote political issues in the guise of professional concerns. We should not be promoting international relations, advocacy of certain lifetstyles, etc. and make it sound like this is professional library interests. We need to get the public back in the library to use the resources. We should not be taking stands that might repel the public. We as individual Americans can have our opinions and we should give that right to our patrons as well.

Actually, we do have censorship here. We can suggest any story we want but that does not guarantee that they will ever appear on Lisnews. The people with author powers decide what gets the green light and what doesn't. If the story hits a nerve with an author it gets posted. We may or may not agree with it but there you go. Basically, the only thing that we can do is not read the articles/posts. It's like suggesting a book to be purchased, we might think it's fantastic but the coll. development/selectors/whomever may think it stinks. The great thing about our profession is that we're all educated people, we have wide and varied interests and that is reflected in the articles that get posted on here. Sure, we may not all agree with what gets posted but someone obviously found it intriguing enough to post. My outlook has been if I feel an article needs to be read and it gets rejected, I post it in my journal.
That way it still gets read, it's just not "news".

Fang-face and others may feel it's their constitutional right to suggest whatever story they want, . . .

And here we touch upon the fundamental problem with censorship at two different levels. First off, I do have a constitutional right to suggest whatever story I want, and the editors have an equal constitutional right to kick my ass out of here for creating an administrative burden any time I go overboard. At their sole discretion.

Second, you seem to be assuming that I actually do suggest anything and everything without any kind of restraint. This illustrates the kind of disrespect for human intellingence on which I focus in an opinion/editorial I wrote about how such disrespect is the foundation for prior>.

A good example of how self-restraint comes into play can be drawn using the article which triggered this whole LISNews affair and a follow up story by Associated Press about the sailor-mongering case which was posted to the First Amendment Center a couple of days ago.

The report in> is about how a federal judge ordered the case to go to trial by jury and it illustrates how this effort by the U.S. federal government is a misguided attack against the freedom of expression of ALL advocacy groups, not Greenpeace alone. However, it has less to do with libraries than the commentary on Ashcroft, so I haven't suggested it, even though libraries are -- or are supposed to be -- hot beds of wrong-wing expression.

The commentary on Ashcroft, on the other hand, was more relevant in that it clearly showed an abuse of due process by that person who is most likely to invoke Section 215 of USAPA. A leopard does not change his spots, and you may be certain that if Ashcroft will abuse his office, his authority, and due process through a misapplication of one law, he will not hesitate to do so using any law.

You may mistakenly call self-restraint self-censorship if you wish,
the same way Tomeboy insists that selection is merely a matter of censorship, but as far as I'm concerned both practices simply illustrate your own lack of respect for the intelligence of other people. Perhaps we should ask some of the editors what they think about the good sense and intelligence behind my story suggestions. As of 20 Apr 2004: I'm way out in front for suggestions accepted at 68, with 7 rejections, from 75 suggestions; two recent stories of mine were on the Most Popular Stories: Past 7 Days list, and one of those is on the Most Popular Stories: Past 30 Days list; I've had several others make the first list, and one or two others on the 30 day list; my stories frequently make the triple digits in number of hits. And I expect that last one is not because LISNewsterz are too dumb to figure out what a story is about from the articles posted and have to read it. I believe it is because the majority have a more profound interest in the give and take between liberalism and conservatism than conservatives give them credit for.

Aside from Fang mischaracterizing the basis of my selection philosophy, I agree with his thoughts here.

I think this issue is a bit overblown. Yes, I considered Fang's posting of the Greenpeace story, as a "story", a reach. OK, fine. That said, perhaps “self-censorship� from marginal LISNews stories would be the “intelligent� thing to do for those who take issue here.

FWIW I considered this a wonderful opportunity to debunk an organization that I consider a fraud.

Let's leave Blake, et al out of these editorial scrums.

"...illustrate your own lack of respect for the intelligence of other people"

Those are loaded words, and I don't know how best to respond to them.

Once again I feel a need to say that the hit counter has nothing to do with the quality of your (or anyone else's) arguments or the appropriateness of suggested stories. The percentage and quantity of stories accepted are also not relevant to this argument.

Keep in mind that the hits are from anyone wanting to read the initial posts and/or the followup posts. It's silly to think that because you planted the seed of a vigorous discussion that everyone is coming to the site to read just your post(s).

When I look for something to read at LISNews, I usually first note which stories have already drawn a reply. Several replies guarantees that I'll take a look. Those with 0 replies will get a look if the title seems interesting, but I don't start with those.

I'll give you credit for sometimes starting interesting threads, but I'm not willing to discuss anyone's intelligence or my regard for it.

"Perhaps we should ask some of the editors what they think about the good sense and intelligence behind my story suggestions."

That's a pretty good idea for a future poll, but I'd rather poll about the appropriateness of your stories and/or the spin you put on them.

That even people with "secret author powers" get stories bounced. I'd just naively assumed that authors could post their own stories.

Once again I feel a need to say that the hit counter has nothing to do with the quality of your (or anyone else's) arguments or the appropriateness of suggested stories.

The number of hits doens't have anything to do with the quality of my arguments, stipulated; it is an indicator of the appropriateness of the story in that it shows a significant proportion of Lisnewsterz are interested enough in those issues to check the story.

I've been reading this whole "off topic" discussion with some interest. It's not a big issue for me--if it's not something I'm interested in--I don't read it. What a concept!!

Here's the definition of "information science" from Merriam Webster online: " the collection, classification, storage, retrieval, and dissemination of recorded knowledge treated both as a pure and as an applied science"

Others have brought up that this site is titled LISNews which stands for library and information science news. Since the title includes information, there really isn't ANY thing that's been posted that ISN'T information. Posting a story certainly counts as dissemination of information.

I think that if you don't like it or think it belongs, then don't read it OR comment on it (including "this belongs in your journal")--doing that is no better than someone commenting and telling someone else not to read something.