joreth (joreth) wrote,

A Word About The Purpose Of An Online Journal

I've been getting some complaints lately about how I run my journal, so I'm going to take a little time and explain to you people what the purpose of my journal is and what journals are for in general.

One complainer actually said (in text, it's online for all to read) that the PURPOSE of an online journal is for community discussion.

I beg to differ. I argue that the purpose of an online journal is to make public one's personal thoughts. They're not completely private, that's what paper notebooks and files on the local harddrive are for. But they are for one's personal thoughts. The journal can be open to community discussion or not, as the original poster chooses. The basis for my argument is the feature of most online journal hosts that allows the original poster to screen or block comments. Of course the journal is "public" (insofar as filters and locks don't keep people out), so of course people are going to read the entries and have opinions on them. Blocking comments is not "censorship", nor is it "preventing community discussion". Anyone who has something to say about any journal can go off and say it. Just not here.

Think of it this way. Your journal is like your apartment. You rent some space in a more-or-less communal building shared with a lot of other people who are also renting space. The basic layout of all the apartments is pretty similar, but everyone decorates it according to their own tastes and everyone is given only a handful of options for how the space can be used, but within those options, everyone's use of the space is very individual. The law gives some basic rules for what you're allowed to do or not do, and the property owner gives you a few more rules that don't contradict the law regarding what you're allowed to do or not do. For instance, an apartment is a residential building, so you're not allowed to run certain types of businesses out of it because it's not zoned for industrial or business purposes. So most people probably sleep in their own apartments, but how often you sleep there, in which room, and with whom, is pretty much up to you.

You have quite a few options with regards to inviting guests over. Here are just a few of them:

  • You can keep all the doors and windows shut and locked and run around your apartment naked, singing at the top of your lungs, off-key, having conversations with your furniture, dressing your dog up in silly costumes and letting your fish help you decide what to eat for dinner. You can even incite your stuffed animals to riot. No one can hear you, so you can say whatever you want.
  • You can throw a birthday party where the whole point is about YOU. You set the rules, you arrange the games, you invite only those individuals that you want to attend, and everyone pays attention to YOU.
  • You can throw a party where you make some basic rules, but you rely upon good faith of your guests that they will respect your space and your property and you also allow your guests to invite friends. Everyone still has to abide by whatever rules you make, but you're a little lenient about what topics are discussed and you don't insist everyone take off their shoes or wear funny hats just because you said so.
  • You can host a lecture or workshop in your living room and open it up to the public to come listen to you speak. You can even advertise for it. You are letting the general public get a glimpse into a small part of your life, but you keep the doors to the bedrooms closed and you keep the discussion on topic, with you coordinating and guiding it. You decide when to take questions from the audience and when the lecture is over, and you can choose to throw someone out who is causing conflict.
  • You can invite a group of people for the sole purpose of facilitating a group discussion, in which your own opinion is not the dominating factor. You might not even say anything at all, just let the discussion run free.
You can do all of this and more inside your own home because the law does not prevent you from inviting guests or dictate the format in which you can have those guests participate (with a few exceptions - namely the exchange of money for sex or illegal substances). Your apartment management company also allows you to invite guests into your home. They give you a key to the apartment so that you can keep anyone and everyone out, or you can leave the door unlocked and risk letting people come inside uninvited. You can open your door and invite people inside if you want. They allow you to leave your windows and drapes open if you don't mind people peeking in, or you can shut them if you want to. Although the purpose of the apartment is for private living quarters, you have a bit of latitude as to how, exactly, you live in those quarters.

My journal is a lot like the second to last bullet point - that of a lecture or workshop in my living room of my private apartment. I am "renting" space from a larger complex, namely LJ and OKC, and I have to abide by their rules, but within those limitations, I can use my journal space however I want. My journal is a place for me to rant, to process, to lecture, to teach, and anyone who wants to stop by and hear me is welcome. But it is MY journal. And I will throw out anyone who is behaving in a manner that I perceive as being abusive, trolling, argumentative (as opposed to simply facilitating discussion with an alternate viewpoint), snotty, condescending, or just plain annoying. My journal hosts have given me the right and the power to do so by providing me with the options of screening comments or turning them off entirely.

You may choose to use your journal as a discussion forum, even though there are forum hosts that are more efficiently designed for such purposes. But I am not obligated to use my own journal in that manner.

A discussion forum is sort of like a gathering in a coffee shop. It's a "public" venue (even though it's a privately-owned property) where anyone can come in, have a seat, look around, listen to other conversations, offer their own comments if they feel like it, then leave when they want to. The laws and rules of the property regarding behaviour are not the same as laws and property rules regarding behaviour in someone's personal apartment. You can't run around naked, you can't scream obscenities, you can't incite riots. There are rules to decorum, but none of the rules are made by you and they apply equally to all patrons present. If your discussion group wants to meet in the coffee shop to talk about books, movies, science, relationships, why Macs are better than PCs, each member of the discussion group is subject to the same rules as everyone else, based on the property owner's rules and the laws of the land. Each visitor is more or less equal to each other in the contribution they are allowed to make to the overall discussion, even if one individual organized the event or started the discussion. That's sort of the up and the down side to meeting in a public venue.

But in your apartment, you have final authority over any guest's contribution, and anyone abusing the privilege of being allowed entry into your home is subject to being ejected from your home upon your whim. That's the plus side to meeting on private property, even rented property.

And fuck anyone who says "oh, you must be new to the internet, because otherwise you'd know that journals have been used as discussion forums for a long time and you're just not using them correctly". Fuck you, I've been online since long before online journals were even invented, back in the BBS boards and, following, the IRC chat days. Now THOSE were discussion forums. Journals, as we see them in LJ and OKC and MySpace, came afterwards (much, much later) and are designed more for an individual to publicly display the writer's thoughts (like a website) with the option of visitors to that journal being able to read what other visitors have to say about it (unlike a website - until guestbooks came around).

The journal format remains a platform for one individual to guide the direction of the topic at hand, most notably by having only the OP have the power to start a new thread, and backed up by the tools to customize how comments are recieved.

If my method was was "incorrect", I would not have been given the tools to do so by the creators of the journal.

~If you do not like what I have to say, don't read it. I didn't email this to you, you had to come here to read it.
~If you do not like how I operate my journal, get out. You have your own journal to operate however *you* see fit.

This is my house and I'll manage it as I please.
Tags: me manual, rants
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