08 June 2020

Revising TYWKIWDBI once again

These are turbulent, rapidly evolving, and extremely interesting times, and it's time for TYWKIWDBI to evolve as well.

This blog has gone through various iterations (always at the same address), with early tweaks in the layout, the headers and footers, the sidebar contents, topics for the posts, and even the translation of the acronym (twice).  The sites I harvest have changed (many have died), and the material I select has varied, as have some of my views.

Today I decided to recheck how much I've personally changed by once again taking the Political Compass test.  I've done this before, and blogged about it, in 2007, in 2009, and most recently in February of 2018 (charts at that post show me to be slightly to moderately - but not dramatically - left of center and more libertarian than authoritarian).   Here are my results from today:

So I'm now more deeply embedded in the lower left quadrant.  I don't think that represents a change in my attitude toward the issues, but rather a more vigorous set of replies, clicking agree/disagree strongly rather than just agree/disagree.

I encourage all readers to take the survey here.  Feel free to post your x/y coordinates in the Comments section if you wish.

This drift in my personal political compass will inevitably inform the choices I make about what to blog and what insights to offer about the source material.  It will also (immediately) affect the comments written on the posts.

As TYWKIWDBI enters its fourteenth year, it now sports an accumulation of over 16,000 posts, and equally as important over 57,000 comments.

This is actually not a public blog.  It is certainly not a commercial one, eschewing even a hint of advertising or click-related revenue, and not even displaying a tip jar.  I started this blog in December of 2007 as a personal venture, as a way to share interesting stuff with my family and friends.  After a while outsiders started finding their way to it.  I distinctly remember in January of 2008 writing a post in greeting to a visitor from Argentina, and noting at the time that "so far this blog has been viewed in 31 of the United States plus Canada, the U.K., Greece, Pakistan, Argentina, Mexico, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Finland, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Brazil, Panama, and Sweden."

As time went by, some visitors became regular "followers" (currently 1621), and some have become regular contributors via the Comments sections of various posts.  It has pleased me to no end to see the insight and expertise displayed by many readers here.  About ten years ago when Andrew Sullivan was a prominent blogger, he offered this advice:
"Take your readers as part of your community. This is a dialogue, not a monologue. With any luck the dialogue then becomes a conversation. No single person knows very much, and what he knows he soon forgets. So the collective consciousness, or collective mind, of the world out there is what... is really what we’re trying to do..."
I have been told by some readers of the blog that TYWKIWDBI is one of the few places they visit where they routinely read most of the comments on the posts.  But comments vary enormously in quality (exemplified here).  Back in 2009 I wrote a megapost about what I considered to be the main categories of comments, summarized here as...
A) Comments that enhance, clarify, or correct
B) Handclaps from appreciative readers
C1) The “loyal opposition” begs to differ
C2) The “vehement opposition”
C3) “The Fringe” wishes you were dead
D) Profanity
E) Mindless spacefiller and comments by Captain Obvious
F) Please feed me with a spoon, Mommy
G) Spam
H) The Troll emerges from under the bridge
It seems to be taking me forever to get to the point here...

There has been a longstanding trend towards less civility on the internet, and TYWKIWDBI comment threads are not immune.  I have wasted uncounted hours moderating and intervening in shit fits and cat fights between polarized, vehement, and uncompromising readers - to the point that for controversial topics I have recently started closing comments to save myself time.  That has been necessary on posts regarding religion (where the snarky anti-religious comments are worse than the skeptical nonreligious and pious pro-religious ones) and politics.

For posts regarding Donald Trump, the polarity seems absolute.  There appears to be no middle ground regarding his tweets or actions.   The other factor influencing potential Trump-related posts is that many people (myself included) don't want to see TYWKIWDBI filled with such material when it's already widespread everywhere on the internet.  To that end I started sequestering most of my Trump material into "Trump clumps" (sample here), but I stopped doing that a year ago.  My bookmark folder where I store Trump-related material currently has 249 links in it.

My dilemma now is that I don't want to write posts and leave the "comments closed," because I really do appreciate and enjoy the best comments (categories A and C1 above).  If the comments are closed, the post just becomes me screaming into the void with no echo returning.

And I don't want to skip the controversial topics altogether, because this blog ultimately will serve for me as an ongoing diary of my senior years, and I want to be able to look back at the way we were.  There is so much going on right now, and I want to provide a forum where these issues are read and discussed.

So here's the new editorial policy of TYWKIWDBI.  Controversial topics will continue - and accelerate.  All posts will have open comment threads.  But all comments have to be reviewed by me before becoming readable by the public. And I'm going to curate ruthlessly - continuing to delete any comment that insults another reader and also any comment that I consider inflammatory or that I find offensive.  I make no pretense of being "fair and balanced," and snarky comments from readers in the blue quadrant of the top image in this post are probably doomed.

We'll see how it goes.

Update one year later: open comment threads on predictably controversial subjects are too much of a hassle to curate.  I am not pre-emptively closing comments on some posts just to save myself time and psychic energy.


  1. I'm not too far from you on the spectrum. -6.63, -4.97...a little lefter...a little less libertarian.

    I appreciate your introspection and willingness to occasionally revise your blog policies as well as your openness in doing so.

    And I like your blog. Thanks for continuing to publish it.

  2. Hmm. I took the political compass test many years ago. I remember it being structured very differently. Interesting.

    Anyway, Minnesotastan, you have done an outstanding job of building a body of work and a community here. You should be only congratulated, not criticized. Your openness about your approach to comment moderation is proper.

    I stopped blogging about politics many years ago. Of course, I never did it at Neatorama. I have long looked at that website as a refuge from the tensions of the political sphere. Surely there must be some place with is free from it. And, perhaps, if people can of opposite political beliefs can find joy and humor in a post, then Neatorama makes the world a better place.

    I fear a future where too many people view political opponents as enemies to be eliminated. I foresee walls closing in on me and my family, threatening my job and well-being. I fear being quietly crushed by a soft totalitarianism. I hope that we follow the advice of Rodney King and just get along with each other.

  3. I'm -2,-2.56 (economic, social) and in the same quadrant as you (albeit not as near the edge as you). This represents a significant shift to the left in the last 10 years or so for me.

  4. It's certainly your blog, but given what we've learned about the dangers of living in intellectual echo chambers over the last 3.5 years, deleting everything you disagree with seems contrary to the previous point of providing "a forum where these issues are read and discussed."

    That being said, reading this post reminds me that this blog serves for you to document YOUR thoughts above others. I think I know what quadrant I'm on, and for what it's worth I'll do my best to keep my comments substantive and respectful.

    1. Your point about self-isolating leading to distorted thinking (only watching MSNBC or FOX etc) is well-taken and was a factor I debated when deciding my new policy. But when someone with a MAGA hat starts to argue with a Social Justice Warrior in the comment section of my post, its tiring and depressing for me.

      I probably shouldn't have said I will limit comments to those that agree with me - rather I'll post comments I can tolerate.

  5. Economic Left/Right = -6/63
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.87

  6. Love this blog. Pretty close--I'm directly left of yours by two squares. I get in trouble with some of my heterodoxy. For example, I think mothers ought to spend at least the first five years in close contact with offspring, pretty much being homemakers. On the other hand, I 100% support the full range of reproductive options, at government expense. Good enough to qualify me for "cancelling" on the left.

  7. I have a similar policy for comments on my site. I hope this helps you cut down on the types of replies you (and, honestly, just about all of us on the Internet) don't want to see.

    And I scored Left Libertarian as well.

  8. Economic Left/Right: -7.75
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.46

  9. I was surprised at my score on the political compass test. Economic - +2.13 - Social - +1.03. I thought I would be in the far, upper right hand corner. Not all of the questions gave me answers that I really like. Some of them need more nuance.
    On some of them, my views as a conservative pastor conflict with my views as a patriotic American. As I've gotten older, I've learned that some issues are not always as cut and dry as I wish they were. Some are. I may retake the test and write down some more of my thoughts on the internal conflict I have with some of the questions.

    You know me and (roughly) where I stand. You have always been thoughtful and considerate to my responses even though we are probably nearly polar opposites of each other. I thoroughly enjoy reading this blog. It's one of the few that I visit nearly daily.

    There have been a few comments I have made in which some predictable readers jumped on me, but I honestly don't mind. If I met those readers in person, I believe we could have a civil conversation.

    I'm not a major fan of Trump, but I agree with many things he has done. I do feel that you sometimes set your sights on some things about him while ignoring things equally ridiculous in the land of liberals. However, it's your blog and I always learn something here. :)

    1. Yes, Timothy, I do "know you" and where you stand, and I appreciate your always thoughtful comments, none of which I have ever deleted. Yours are exactly the kind of nuanced, sincere comments which this blog needs.

  10. Economic Left/Right: -6.0
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.21

  11. Economic Left/Right: -7.13
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -8.15

    Canadian. Retired Educator. Dog walker.

  12. Thank you, thank you, thank you

    I have never had a social media account, I watch zero television news, and I try to avoid partisan politics.

    TYWKIWDBI is one of my favorite places to visit online or off. The posts are informative and refreshingly free of vitriol or agenda.

    I appreciate the new endeavor with comments and all of the time and effort involved, you putting something out into the world that has value. With that said, I implore readers and commenters to work very hard to uphold the the spirit of this safe space by adding depth and perspective without preaching, impuning, or brining the ugliness of the larger internet into TYWKIWDBI

    Please keep TYWKIWDBI special

  13. almost dead center. I think it must seem nice to be more "certain" about things :)

    1. I think the increasing certainty is a side effect of aging, combining more decades of experience with a progression of inflexibility in thinking.

  14. (side note: It seems more authoritarian than libertarian to restrict views you disagree with ;) However, I certainly understand the desire to avoid the shouting matches common on the internet)

  15. Economic Left/Right: -6.25
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -4.05
    Yeah, you and I are going to get along juuussst fine. :-)

  16. Interesting test. My results

    Economic Left/Right: -1.5
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -5.44

    Kind of right where I thought I'd be.

  17. I was a card-carrying member of the Republican party for decades. But the party changed, and the rate of change started increasing exponentially, to the point where I do not recognize any human decency anymore. Even so, my score surprised me:

    Economic Left/Right: -7.25
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.05

    I think the questions did not provide enough of a range of answers, and were geared toward a current-USA viewpoint. This makes me appear more liberal than I would say I am. It also shows the Overton Window in action, because how I would have answered these same questions 40 years ago would have been, if anything, more 'liberal' according to this chart, despite having been an active Republican voter at the time.

  18. The question of comments has always been a problem from the very start of blogging. The owner/moderator of a such a personal endeavor as blog has to please themselves first—if they don’t all the joy in doing it quickly evaporates. You’ve achieved a great balance: all your posts are elegant, edifying and enjoyable. Don’t let anyone become between you and your passion.

  19. Surprised me to see people from the same party (US) in different quadrants, but I guess that's how it is. In any case, I'm just two squares away from you, but maybe unsurprising as a Swede ��

  20. Thank you for posting the link to the political compass. I'm very close to you on this "spectrum". I have sent the link to family members who likely are a long way away from me. I think this gives us a place for conversation, and hopefully an understanding of where our ideals diverge. Thanks for all the interesting articles you've posted here!

  21. Bravo!
    Excellent, informative, and wonderful.
    If I may offer some constructive criticism; don't let the trolls get you down.

  22. Oh, good! As I was reading, I was dreading seeing you announce that you will no longer have comments at all. That does make a reader feel somewhat cut off.

  23. Economic Left/Right: -6.0
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -4.31
    I too eschew social media other than through links from blogs I visit like NAG, MissC, Book of Joe, or here.
    It has been my experience over the years that in this blog you have been honest in your wonder of learning new things, and pretty tolerant of opposing views if they are civil.
    This is and always will be your party so you shouldn’t have to suffer trolls and fools.
    Bottom line, ya done good Sir thank you.

  24. I got Economic Left/Right: -6.88 and Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -4.46 I took this test a few years ago and the new one seems to have overwritten the old one. the name is different but the dates are the same.

  25. -8.38 -8.87, so I'll be waiting for you down in the left bottom corner comrade.

    I've been reading your blog something akin to religiously for an uncomfortable number of years at this point and left at best half a dozen comments, usually to add some related resource. So I am perhaps not the most invested in the subject. But much as my compass score would suggest a skepticism in the free market, I'm also not a big believer in the market place of ideas. At the end of the day every possible venue for comment does not have to be drafted into the culture war, such as it is, and you certainly don't have to bear witness to it.

    Andrew Sullivan is after all a certified Bad Gay™ (https://tinyurl.com/AndrewSu) feel free to slip the surly bonds of his advice and ruthlessly delete any and all comments arbitrarily. Start with this one, I won't judge you :)

  26. Economic Left/Right: -6.5
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -7.79

    From Germany. I don't think our average here would be at 0/0, but already in your and my direction.
    Lately (mostly on reddit), I have found myself deleting a lot of comments again, without posting. I have also found myself unsubscribing from several subreddits and mostly sticking to very specific ones.

  27. My dot is almost exactly the same place as yours:
    Economic Left/Right: -5.5
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -5.9

  28. Economic Left/Right: -5.75
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -5.49
    I live in South Korea and by chance many years ago found this blog while looking for something to read outside of the usual media streams. I love the variety of material you post and links you provide on the side. I often share this with friends and encourage them to follow TYWKIWDBI. There is always something here to make you think, even the battling squabblers.
    Thank you for what you do.

  29. Your Political Compass
    Economic Left/Right: -7.13
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -8.26

    Came here to say that my position has always been where yours is now, but decided to take the test again, and yep, have moved even further left and libertarian. Funnily, my political choices are often made through a much more pragmatic lens than my personal political beliefs might lead one to believe. For example, most people who know me are surprised to find out I supported Liz Warren for prez (VP for Biden please), and have zero time for Bernie Sanders.

    Love tywkiwdbi and have been a faithful reader for a long time. Keep up the excellent work!

  30. Economic Left/Right: -6.63
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.41

    I discovered TYWKIWDBI by accident many years ago. It very quickly migrated to the top of my weekly readers. I appreciate what you do and enjoy your site very much. Thank you for what you do.

  31. One the moderating. It is YOUR blog. You can do whatever you want to. If you want us to dress up in a pink tutu and type comments while snorting rice up our noses, than that is your complete right to do.

    If you don't feel like moderating, then don't. If readers need a personal outlet, they can start their own blog.

    Sully is right that your readers are your community. But always remember that you are the community's benevolent dictator, and that Sully had to stop because blogging nearly killed him. [And I say this as a Dish-fan that had several comments published]

  32. Eco: -7.13
    Soc: -6.31

    This blog does seem to attract that lower left quadrant.

  33. Economic Left/Right: -8.13
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.46

    Was sure I would end up in the green quarter somewhere.

    All I can say is fair play to you Stan for your commitment! I do not dip into the comments much anywhere anymore, as you said, it just seems to be endless arguing, without one side ever having a lasting impact on the other (from my guess anyway), do people come away from internet arguments and actually mull things over afterward? I would like to think so, but I or we do not usually get to see it.
    These are interesting times alright, a year that will be remembered many years from now for many reasons. Might be a useful thing for future individuals to look back on and read the comments of the outraged and the apologists

  34. I'm interested in your taxonomy of comments. Where do humorous comments fit into this schema? E and H?

    1. As I originally categorized comments back in '09 -


      - humor would typically fit in the "E" (mindless spacefiller) section. Humor as an amplifier of a useful comment is a bonus, but humor alone is typically someone drawing attention to themself.

      Now get off my lawn...

  35. My results as of 2020, which I'm intrigued and pleased to see are fairly close to yours. Probably why I enjoy this blog so much.


  36. Hmm...I scored just about the same as you did far down and to the left in the square.

    Economic Left/Right: -6.88
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -7.59

  37. I took the test before looking at your results. When I came back to this post, I thought for a second you had posted MY results. But no, we're just very close on the political spectrum. No wonder I like your blog so much!

    My results:

    Economic Left/Right: -5.75
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.31

  38. My monthly "get back and see what's new on your blog" night,... and I was very satisfied to read this post on your thoughts about blogging, and comments. It's rare I get to find another blogger putting them self online, in contrast to the information and education posts that are always fascinating.

    I equally find the look back at your earliest work intriguing, as we've been doing this about the same number of years, and it's amazing to me that from simple beginnings, and few viewers, an evolution of content, and from your post, some introspection, result into what your blog has become.

    One thing puzzles me.. "This is actually not a public blog" ? Huh? It's not encoded for only those you give a key to, nor is it subscriber access only, or any other method I can think of to limit the readers numbers or to block people that frustrate you (Comment type F, G, H people)... so, how is this not public?
    Are you referring to that you are the only one posting?
    Very curious, I did not find an explanation in the context of the sentences surround that statement. Unless it's that you didn't make an effort to build a following (advertising). I get that. Ditto.

    None the less, compliments once more on your content quality, and focus.
    Also, I can assure you it's remarkable to have your ratio of followers to traffic stats. That's a sure indicator of a high quality of interesting content that keeps people tuning in.

    "We'll see how it goes."
    I hope it goes on for a lot more years, I like your style, and your willingness to use your spare time to share interesting stuff with the rest of the internet.

    Jesse, Justacarguy blog

    And PS, thanks for identifying those little skipper butterflys, I've wondered for decades what they were called, because when driving cross country, I've plastered them across my cars like a dog with a garden hose pointed in its direction

    1. Your point is well taken - I was rather imprecise regarding the public aspect of this blog. It clearly is in the public view - but I meant to say I don't publicize it (no trading of links, no SEO tactics etc). It's as though I were having a BBQ in the front yard for friends and family, and anyone passing by is welcome to stop and chat, but I don't put signs around town "eat at Stan's."

      I haven't encoded the blog or taken it private because I really do appreciate the comments of (most of) the readers and find them typically to be useful additions to the body of the posts.


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