Sunday, January 28, 2007

Blogchix get no respect

Here is my rambling rant-response to this post at Dance of the Puppets.

One of the unfortunate things I see on the net often mirrors something that happens in retail with some customers. A customer will make some assertion about something they are not satisfied with and then keep pressing forwards with it. They continue to pursue a problem that was quickly fixed as they requested (and more besides). In no time at all the customer has escalated a situation to absurd levels because pride does not allow them to stop or step back.

Something similar is what I believed occurred between Marionette and Scipio. That's how it looks to me, but then I'm not inside either of their heads so it may be something that they will have to disagree to agree on.

I have always seen Scipio's comic blogging site as an extension of and part of his business. If I was in a similar place I would feel reflexively defensive or proprietary about a shtick that I might see appear on another site. One problem at the non-professional level of blogging is that the participants are not taken seriously and are seen as a community of amateurs. Often, original content is seen as fair game for others to exploit beyond the spirit of fair-use. Questions would arise, and I think fairly so, in regards to familiar content showing up when it was not part of any recent blogging activity or an example of 'sharing the joke'.

When I started the Head Injury Project documenting Hal's mishaps in a flickr set I was concerned I would be annoying or stepping on the toes of a blogger I liked. In the beginning I acknowledged the entire project started because Scipio generated the idea. As far as I know, he didn't have a problem with me doing it. If he did I would have shelved the idea at the time so I am grateful he didn't. Hal's injuries are one of those amusing artifacts of the comic book market of the era. Companies could recycle ideas knowing that an event would not likely to be recognized by readers a few months after it was printed due to the majority of sales being from impulse buyers. The images are there for posterity and I don't mind if anyone uses them as long as they recognize the effort that went into finding, cropping the panels and posting them. I only update it now as I come across samples during normal reading or unless someone points one out. I should check all my old JLA books for examples but I get cross-eyed reading all those Silver Age books in one sitting.

As far as I can tell (geography, reader counts and site hits aside), comic book bloggers are actually a kind of a small and interconnected community. There are many, many of them out there on the net but the relationships among them are actually kind of limited and nearly incestuous. I may have that assumption entirely wrong but from someone not using my blog for business promotion that is how it looks from my side. Wherever I look I see the same names repeatedly appear. That means I either don't search far enough out from familiar environs or the community is as localized as I think it is, regardless of geographic location. Nearly every comic book site in what I call the Local Group of the Blogverse kind of feeds off the others a little bit. A certain post will pique interest in a subject and everyone will enthusiastically join in on the fun, picking up and running with ideas, memes and subjects until the gag ages and another replaces it.

Like most bloggers I have experienced seeing a few posts on other sites that were similar to some of mine, but the out-of-context panel game has a small board to play on so I mentally file it as coincidence. I've also seen a few that were direct swipes (not just from text-mining for spam) and one that I believe was an honest error in re-posting by a 3rd party who did not know where they got the image from. I pointed it out to the re-poster only because it required some extensive photo-manipulations on my part (extensive for me, because I am not that good at it) and because I was feeling sensitive that day about recently discovering many of my posts cut and pasted onto spam sites and linked to bogus home loan scams thereby giving the impression that I condoned what was being sold. There was even one instance of entries being buried 4 pages deep on what was represented as a "comic book news site". Normally not a problem with proper linkage but search results took the user clicking through not to the article and not to my site but to the main page, which was selling back issues of comics for improbably low prices.

In a March 2006 post Marionette riffed on and expanded on a concept that has since grown beyond it's origins (though still 'belonging' to Scipio) that many found humorous and contributed to. Recently a similar post was made. To be honest, when I saw Scipio's recent entry I assumed he had re-posted something of his own from the past for some reason because the gag seemed familiar. The ensuing reaction from Scipio seems a bit much for a good-natured 'gotcha' from her as a result of two very different bloggers address a variation on a theme several months apart.

To "come down off the fence" as someone put it, Scipio's comments to Marionette were insulting and dismissive. It would have been more productive to see a response more in the line of "Hah? Gosh darn it, how about that! Small world, indeed." instead of a mean-spirited sniping referencing greater site hits and readership over the other (and therefore intrinsic worth and greater justification to exist). The community we are all a part of is small, the thematic sources are limited and the type of humor 90% of bloggers employ is similar enough in style that some duplication of posts is inevitable. The comments by Scipio were rude and uncalled for, especially as they were directed to someone who made the mistake of thinking they are a welcome part of the community when it seems to have been made clear that they were in reality only merely tolerated. I'll remember that for the future.

I'm not going to remove any links or stop reading the work of either Scipio or Marionette as a result of their disagreement as some have pledged to do. One real fight between Fake Internet Friends is not enough to make me consider missing out on good content of two intelligent, funny and insightful authors. The poor attitude displayed by Scipio will however, factor in any personal decision I make to patronize his retail establishment in the future either online or in person. I'm hoping that all the friendly blogging relationships I've experienced so far are actually stronger and more respectful than the most recent event has depicted them to be.

I'd appreciate any rational discourse on the subject tangentially. Say, on how some bloggers are treated by the mainstream or more established players. For example, do feminist or inexperienced bloggers often get the short end of the respect stick and gets treated like the new kid who just wants to have fun and tries to join the Magic: The Gathering games at the local RPG store.

Understandably, Scipio has locked the thread against comments at his site and I have less a problem with that than others do. I understand that he must weigh what is good for his business, which his blog represents like it or not, and the usual free discourse that most visitors expect in a public forum. I think he did the right thing for his site since I suspect any further discussion there would have rapidly degenerated into internet screaming matches with posts written all in Caps. Any discussion of the event itself should please take place over at Marionette's blog, which still has the relevant thread open for comments.

Tags: Thunderdome


  1. In some ways it's disconcerting. I saw the posts and it didn't register for me, at first, the connection. But I can see the points of similarity.

    There is a lot of sloppy crediting, and lack of it, on-line that I've always found disturbing. Especially shifting between blogs, print and discussion boards.

    Heck, a recent Comics Journal news item had whole quotes from an on-line discussion board that I'm one of the moderators of, with only a "from an on-line discussion" mention. No clue of the website of origin.

    Heck, I'm seen people popping up with stuff on discussion boards that seemed "inspired" (to put it politely) from blogs, including my own, without attribution.

    I'm of the old fashioned opinion to always reference where you saw things. If you uncover, or are told, that something you did is similar to someone else's work. Mention that. At the very least sometimes great minds to think alike.

  2. It's tough sometimes.

    About a year ago I did a post on the relation between the Golden Age Holyoke Cat-Man and DC's Catman, only to be informed by Scipio that he had done a very similar approach a year earlier.

    I had no memory of it, but apologized and he took it all in good humor.

    Months later, he printed panels where Robert Kanigher (off screen) retconned Wonder Woman by literally sticking all the Silver Age characters in a drawyer.

    I had done a similar post earlier, but never said anything. I'm sure he never saw my post, and he'll always have twice as many readers as my blog anyway.

    In terms of Marionette and Scipio, I've sensed a bit of tension between the two in earlier comment threads. It's too bad, but I guess not everyone will always get along.

  3. mwb: I have a theory about that. I'd say some things are lifted from forums without a hat tip because of the nature of the board itself and the desire of participants to keep one online world separate from the other. I am in a few places not under the 'Sleestak' name (skeptic boards, politic forums). Like George, I don't want those worlds to collide.

    Fortress Keeper: No, they won't. I've noticed a few snarky comments dropped here and there elsewhere that, unless I suddenly require meds to reign in the abrupt onset of paranoia, I am sure were directed at me as a blogger personally. The digs made me raise an eyebrow when I read them but I've managed to ignore the few ones I've noticed.

  4. That last seems weird. Like, "Ha ha! That's a funny post, Mike!


    Not like that stupid SLEESTAK guy!"

    It just seems weird, but then, comics bloggers and readers are weird people.

  5. This all seems to by cyclical. Most blogs don't last very long, so there's a lot of "new" folks coming in, and lots of "old" folks going away and making room for new "old" folks. Plus, everything is new to someone, and inevitably the same things get talked about by different people sometimes.

    I'm with you on wanting to stay out of the whole thing. It does remind me of something along the same lines which happened to me when I was a "new" blogger, and one of the "old" bloggers trash-talked me for daring to have a different opinion about one of his pet writers. Because I hadn't been blogging as long as he had, and therefore my opinion was worthless.

    Of course, I'm still here, and he's no longer around in any significant capacity, so there you go...

  6. As someone who has decided to crank out an entry every business day, I'm not above swiping the occasional image, but I'm very careful to keep my content totally different. In the case of using the same joke, however, that's lame. I once found a similar joke I had used and once I double-checked and saw that the other blog had appeared first, I deleted the post. It seemed like the gentlemanly thing to do.

    It's a shame folks don't worry about the other guy these days.


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