Welcome to the Party

After considerable discussion amongst ourselves, here is the deal about commenting on the blog:

We used to say that Savage Minds is not ‘an academic conference’ but rather the ‘bar at the conference’ — not formal and staid, but vigorous and lively while still being (perhaps being even more) substantive than the conference itself. We realize now that this metaphor no longer works for us. Savage Minds is not the bar at an academic conference. It is the party in the hotel room at 2 in the morning.

For those of you not familiar with this metaphor, let me explain: a major part of the American Anthropological Association annual meeting is not actually the papers, or the bar afterwards, but the parties that get held in the conference rooms of participants in the evening. Sometimes these parties are organized by department — someone from Columbia throws ‘the Columbia party’, someone from UCLA volunteers the ‘UCLA Party’ — but at other times it might be a particular association or special interest group.

To outsiders these parties seem like sad attempts of middle-aged people to recreate the uninspiring bacchanalia of their youth, but to sad, middle-aged academics they are riproaring fun: dozens of people crammed into small hotel rooms, bathtubs filled with ice filled with bottles of booze, animated talk, people jumping up and down on the bed. In fact things can get quite lively at times — I remember one party where a department chair, numbed into resigned silence, actually rented a second hotel room so he wouldn’t have to sleep in the same place where he hosted his department party.

We think that Savage Minds has now become a hotel room party. Just to make the metaphor perfectly clear this means:

This is our party: This blog is a private place. We have to clean it up and sleep in it afterwards, and the guys who rent us the server will make us pay if you break the furniture and steal the towels. If you are an angry drunk, or start hitting on people, or otherwise behave badly, we will ask you leave. If you don’t like it, get your own room/blog or stand on the street shouting, where you have a constitutional right (in the US at least!) to do so.

We’re Taking Responsibility: One of the things that shocked us about the comments on this blog were how many people described us as ‘moderators’ of the comments. We had never thought of ourselves as ‘moderators’ — we thought of ourselves as ‘authors’. We thought our guests could be moderate by themselves and at any rate we weren’t their mothers — or their super-egos. But apparently people want/need/already-consider us to be moderators. So we will be more involved in moderating comments.

Community Standards are Getting Thicker: One reason we did not feel right ‘moderating’ comments in the past was that we did not feel we should tell people what this blog should be. Many of the early comments on our site challenged what we wrote about and how we wrote about it: we were too male, too white, too privileged, too academic. Bleeding-heart liberals that we were, we welcomed a community that actively challenged who we — and anthropology — might be.

That has changed. You don’t need an invitation to a hotel room party, but you do need someone to tell you the room number. This blog has a more defined set of community standards now and we will moderate as a result of a thicker set of norms because we have a more definite sense of who we are.

To a certain extent, this decision is a post-facto recognition of the trend this blog has taken towards a more academic, less ‘public’ tone. Earlier minds like Oneman/Dustin who were big on writing articles about having great sex or whatever have fallen by the wayside, while the rest of us are five years on to academic careers where academic topics matter more and more and take more and more of our mental space. I think this is a great loss to the blog and would die to have, say a female indigenous anthropologist who does native title come on the blog, write three posts a day, and kick our asses. If you’re out there — let us know!

That said, you will be dismayed to hear that we pretty much have no hard and fast rules about what it takes to get moderated, or even what steps we are Ultimately Prepared To Take. Perhaps over time we’ll manage to make our expectations explicit. But now that we are officially enforcing our academic habitus we are assuming this stuff goes without saying because it comes without saying.

In the future, thought, if you find us asking you politely to moderate your tone, or quietly suggesting that you’re shouting, please consider becoming more ‘moderate’.

We’re Not Voting Anyone Off The Island. Yet. : Several commentors suggested that we more actively ban people from the website — and a few even had a short list they wanted us to take a look at. We thought long and hard about this, but ultimately decided to take the high road.

The Panic Button Works, We Promise: We have installed a plugin that allows users to flag comments that they believe are Pure Concentrated Evil. Please note: the button works, but it doesn’t currently tell you that it worked. Trust us, it does. This is really meant to be used in cases where you think something absolutely needs our attention. Please don’t use it to express mild concern with someone or as a secret way to send us little messages — we won’t reply to feedback through the panic button. We will only reply to panic through the panic button. Please refrain from using it unless you are sure you are facing Pure Concentrated Evil.

I think that’s all: More involvement, and active but by-degrees-arbitrary enforcement. We got a nice, quiet little beach community here, and we aim to keep it nice and quiet. So… let’s get this party started, play safe, and have fun. Thanks!

Alex Golub is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. His book Leviathans at The Gold Mine has been published by Duke University Press. You can contact him at rex@savageminds.org

2 thoughts on “Welcome to the Party

  1. First off, I just want to say, thank you for giving me a peek at what goes on at these conferences. I was going to let New Orleans go this year due to budgetary constraints, but I have now decided to look into it again. Hitting on people at these parties is looked down upon?? Really? If so, this is nothing like the chemistry conferences I attended 20 years ago.

    On that topic, I don’t see anything in your how-tos that provide any beginner advice for how to navigate one of these conferences. What is the best strategy for newbies? What are your tips for good networking at these things? How do I get invited to the party with tequila?

  2. “think this is a great loss to the blog and would die to have, say a female indigenous anthropologist who does native title come on the blog”

    What does this even mean?

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