When I launched 6moons in June 2002, I built my site in Adobe GoLive as the software I’d learnt at Soliloquy Loudspeaker Company. It was a default move. Use what you know. Adobe’s successor was DreamWeaver which still wrote static HTML. As such there were no interactive comments. Anyone wanting to comment or critique had to email me personally. My answer would then publish with the question unless the reader requested total anonymity.
When I transitioned my site to adaptive HTML to support the different widths of smartphones, tablets, laptop and big screens, I needed a proper IT expert to customize the default WordPress code to my very specific requirements. I didn’t want the site to really look different, just behave smarter. With WordPress, I suddenly could have interactive comments. I simply had zero Jones.
Why not? In the intervening years, fora such as AudioAsylum had demonstrated the propensity for a small but vocal poster minority to poison the well for the rest with flame wars, uncouth behaviour and foul language. I saw zero upside to adding moderator policing to my list of publisher’s responsibilities. Why let poison into the system only to filter it out again right after? Who enjoys shovelling shit?
No, I’d stick to my proven recipe. Have a question? Email me. Simple. If you’re offensive, I blacklist you in my email engine to never get through again. Then I hit delete. Next. Otherwise, your question gets answered either privately or openly in our Letters/Feedback page. If it’s a very low-level question like “what’s the best amp at €1’500?”, I’ll answer it publicly such that it makes clear that I’m neither an unpaid hifi consultant, post-purchase problem solver, therapist, investment advisor nor priest. This quickly sets a tone which prevents similar questions. Why keep asking the same things when the guy on the other end clearly has no intention to go there? Works like a charm!
After 18 years of doing it this way, I also get precious little reader mail that would require policing or quarantining in the first place. Still, the moment I’d open the interactive door, I know exactly what to expect. Now I spend zero time moderating or rubbing shoulders with the few obnoxious malcontents and cyberbullies. Life’s too short for letting anyone but myself access the site to post content directly. It’s an old-fashioned dictatorship.
John recently decided to close the comments section for his YouTube videos of this site. Why spend at least a full day after posting each new review just to detox the comments? Also, why step lightly on certain topics just because one knows that they’ll set off the mudslingers? Why play to warfare in the first place when its weapons can get decommissioned wholesale?
I told John that catering to mediocrity is no viable business model for people with brains. His recent decision to close the YouTube comments sections tell me he agrees. Good man. Spend the time you save on policing to create new content which is what people come to this site for in the first place; or have more time beyond work to enjoy life. Either way, it’s a win. It’ll also leave more hairs on his head.
“Yeah but… what if I have a legitimate question that needs answering?”
Email John directly. Each time I do, I get an answer. It might take a day or two especially if it’s a weekend but I’m in no rush. And I don’t suffer the sense of entitlement that just because I think something is urgent means everyone else must agree and act accordingly. That’s actually a thing which publishers encounter. Some readers do feel so entitled. They assume that because we have put ourselves in a public position of ‘expert’ or ‘influencer’ or simply, content creator, we now owe them immediate personal access, advice and support – all free of charge of course.
Not. My IT support is on a monthly retainer. I pay him. Many months go by and he never hears from me. But a few times a year, some WordPress weirdness might need fixing; or I could want to add a new feature. Now I expect and get very timely support. I’ve paid for it upfront and he fully understands that my livelihood depends on the site’s proper functioning. It’s also why he runs an additional backup of the entire site on his end.
Readers don’t pay us (unless you support John via Patreon). Still, we do our best to help out with advice that’s within our ability to give. But at least on my part, said willingness is contingent on being approached with the right attitude. After all, my job is to write, edit and publish content. It’s not to tell you how to spend your hard-earned coin with a satisfaction guarantee on a Sunday morning at 9:00. Thankfully on my end, I meet respectful readers 98% of the time. One reason could be that I never worried about appealing to the greatest number of people. I write for a ‘university’ not ‘kindergarten’ audience. That becomes an immediate filter. It also limits site growth. But I’m fine with that.
John’s mission is to educate those who are newer to hifi or still outside the church entirely. That requires a different approach. It comes with a different set of liabilities, including video as the delivery medium of choice for hardware reviews. Still, a publisher’s need for certain base-level respect for his work and person and time isn’t changed. No matter how content delivers… if it’s free, you as the consumer of it are already in some kind of debt, acknowledged or not. It’s simply something the miscreants can’t get their heads around. Debt? Gimme gimme.
Ego sum, ita et ego merear. I am, thus I deserve.
Perhaps in their next lives, this shoe will be on the other foot. Imagine that. Oy veh.