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Post 60

Thursday, August 25, 2005 - 5:03amSanction this postReply
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25 August 2005

Don't know whether my comments will be welcome here, but here goes.

Point 1:

Robert (post #25) is correct, OWL was moderated, but there was very little editing done for reasons of content so long as there was at least a tenuous relationship to Objectivism. I bitched to the previous moderator about crap on OWL, and when he resigned and I took over, I hoped to do things different.

Little did I know that moderating OWL would consume a minimum of 2 hours per day, and sometimes up to 4 hours when all the back room melodrama was at its peak. It just wears you down.

So I adopted a policy that so long as the post had a minimal relationship to Objectivism, it was passed through. Which upset other people like Phil who wanted heavily moderated, highly erudite content.

I think the lesson here is that *posts* cannot be moderated for content, at least not very much. Instead the membership must be moderated to those who are capable of self-moderation for the relevant topic at hand.

As several others have observed, the ups and downs, the birth and death of these kinds of avenues is a commonplace thing. Joshua wonders whether OWL could have been revived. Probably. But if I look back at OWL and its predecessors, if memory serves, about every two to three years there was a major upheaval of some sort. So it was due. I'm sorry OWL closed on my watch, but I agree with Joshua here that there needs to be a financial model in place to make a site self-supporting and able to attract fresh viewpoints to keep it vibrant. WeTheLiving didn't have this, and long gone was the fascination with the internet that existed when OWL's predecessors were started.

Point 2:

Re Phil's request for a post-mortem on why OWL was closed, Joshua gives a more-or-less accurate, but incomplete account in his post (#27). The behind the scenes email discussion began about a month before the announcement that OWL was to be closed.

I'm not privy to all the thinking behind JWs decision, but I'm quite sure that finances had nothing to do with it. In the grand scheme of JWs business interests, OWL would not be large enough to merit even a single line-item in the budget (i.e., it would be like counting an individual pencil at an office supply company).

What I do know, I don't know for certain, and was expressed to me in private emails that are not my place to divulge (which is why the matter-of-fact announcement rather than an elaborate explanation). But the decision was not as cut and dried as Joshua's post intimates. Shifting allegiances, old relationships, all played their part. Whether it would merit a storyline on a daytime soap I don't know, but I think it would come close.

Point 3:

For anyone who is interested, the WeTheLiving.com site is still up and the archives available to former members of OWL or any of the WTL lists. How long they will be up I don't know, so if you want to download them, do it soon.

--Neil Goodell





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Post 61

Thursday, August 25, 2005 - 12:41pmSanction this postReply
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"I think the lesson here is that *posts* cannot be moderated for content, at least not very much. Instead the membership must be moderated to those who are capable of self-moderation for the relevant topic at hand." [Neil]

I agree. But I think there is room for separate forums whose distinct purposes are: i) serious intellectual learning and improvement, ii) humor, fun, social interaction, rowdy joking, iii) activism, spreading objectivism. When the three things get mixed on the same thread (e.g., you are looking for carefully considered responses and all you get are jokes or easy putdowns), then people get irritated because they feel they ought to have a place for their approach and purpose to be honored.

Wetheliving.com tried to execute this with different types of lists (e.g., Atlantis vs. Owl vs. Atlantis revised/Hell's Kitchen), but it wasn't enforced or managed completely, it seems...and the flamers, spammers, and chimpanzees simply posted everywhere and every day.

Here's an important point that will be controversial: Having seen a number of them over the years, I believe that having an Objectivist forum or website that doesn't work or self-destructs is -worse- than having no forum at all. It will further discredit the philosophy, demoralize the advocates, and teach nothing.

I view all the failed projects over the years (wetheliving, objectivity, carolyn's enlightnment website, lots of other publications, the atlas society) as ENORMOUSLY DESTRUCTIVE because they were not done right or were 'amateur hour'...even more than being undercapitalized.

"Yeah, but I had fun and learned something." Yeah, but look at all the wreckage you left in your wake. [I don't mean you, Neil, but I'm speaking of many, many, many past projects over several decades of incompetence, hubris, and lack of professional advice.]

"I agree with Joshua here that there needs to be a financial model in place to make a site self-supporting and able to attract fresh viewpoints to keep it vibrant."

That would certainly keep down spam and winnow out non-seriousness...but it would only be for type i (or maybe iii) of the three types of site i mentioned.

"OWL would consume a minimum of 2 hours per day, and sometimes up to 4 hours ... It just wears you down."

I can certainly understand that. The reason moderation isn't appealing or winds down over time is you almost have to pay someone to take soul-wearying flak from angry people who have been censored or told they need a "do over".

( Especially Objectivists who are the world's worst people at taking criticism without flying into a moral fury.

Us being so perfect and all. )



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Post 62

Sunday, October 9, 2005 - 1:06pmSanction this postReply
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Neil is right that the full story behind the collapse of WeTheLiving is more complex than what I indicated in the bullet-points in my original posting.

My purpose, however, was to cover the highlights and what I viewed as the major contributing factors -- namely, the lack of a business model and the site owner's lack of commitment to the project.



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