I think this should be put out to the meta community. As everyone knows by now the SO blog, as well as others, experienced downtime because of a fault at the hosting provider. A lot of data was lost and had to be restored from non-traditional means. This is fine. Subsequently, a post was made on the SO Blog describing the failure and describing problems with the backup strategy as a whole.

Many users commented on the blog attempting to offer advice and so forth. Of course, this advice was met with complete and utter condescension, which, of course, is the right of the person being condescending. This was even directed at Joel when he provided simple common sense industry best practices for backup.

Essentially, Jeff's argument here was that having a disaster recovery plan was as foolish as planning for a lunar attack. All right, so at this point some decided just to chime and basically say "Hey, everyone makes mistakes but maybe there's some smart people here that are offering advice and maybe just listening is the best tactic."

So, basically I've noticed a few of these posts completely deleted with no mention or anything. I noticed then when I came back to the blog and noticed some good posts from other users were missing and then my last post was as well. These posts had no offensive language, did not rudely call anyone out (i.e. "you're a loser") or anything like that. These were just mild criticisms and my comments were essentially that everyone makes mistakes and we should just learn from what others have to say.

In fact, my original deleted comment was this:

Jeff, I really think you should just take a minute to listen to others. Honestly, if I had an employee that was partly or entirely responsible for losing a non-trivial amount of data and that employee's response included sarcastic jibber jabber about lunar attacks or any of this nonsense then he would be immediately terminated; it wouldn't matter if that employee was the lead developer or not.

It's not chocolates and strawberries but I think it's hardly worthy of deletion. It may seem like sour grapes but I think this is an important discussion for Meta since many of us have invested a lot of time in becoming members of the SO community. The SO blog and podcast is a part of that community.

It's just disrepectful to users and downright childish to have such a capricious attitude toward censorship. As well, to delete comments as if they never existed seems to suggest one is just attempting to hide the fact that censorship is occuring (there could be simply a "this post was deleted because I felt like it").

Also, there's no stated policy that no criticism is allowed on SO. It seems that it should be completely open that censorship is the bread and butter of the SO blog or it should not be going on at all.

What does Meta have to say?

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    Criticism is fine, but is this really meta-fodder? – Marc Gravell Dec 14 '09 at 21:40
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    I call Sour Grapes. – George Stocker Dec 14 '09 at 21:41
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    @George: Did you have a nice conversation with Mr. Grapes? I hear he goes on and on about the most trivial things. – Adam Davis Dec 14 '09 at 21:43
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    @Marc Gravell, well where does this really go if not Meta? The canonical response is to always go to Meta. @George Stocker, I don't think it's exactly sour grapes. There really should be some stated policy that criticism is unacceptable or what have you. I think I've argued why this is relevant to the SO community. – user138665 Dec 14 '09 at 21:43
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    Sour grapes? I guess. You say toe-may-toe, I say toe-mah-toe. Point is, if it makes people unhappy, it's not ideal, since it could drive people away. Not everyone is going to be happy all the time, of course, but someone voicing concern seems reasonable. – beska Dec 14 '09 at 21:45
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    So maybe Jeff had yet another problem and no backup of your comment? – innaM Dec 14 '09 at 22:02
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    Meta says it is a blog. It is someone's opinion and views and they have full control over it. – Troggy Dec 14 '09 at 22:11
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    Actually, I refrained from commenting there, but my favorite quote from that piece was at the end: We try to be transparent in everything we do ... – John Rudy Dec 14 '09 at 22:53
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    You'll find a lot of uncensored discussion of the whole backup controversy here: reddit.com/r/programming/comments/ae9sq/… – Ether Dec 15 '09 at 2:06
  • Now we need close votes for spam and no longer relevant, and (aside from dupe) we'll have collected the whole set! – Adam Davis Dec 15 '09 at 6:39
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    Your post is incorrect. Not "everyone" knew. This is the first I've heard of the outage! :-) – Brian Knoblauch Dec 15 '09 at 12:38
  • Get a blog and complain about it... – Miyagi Coder Dec 15 '09 at 14:22
  • I have commented on petulant moderator comments just to return and see both the original condescending comment and my response disappeared. Was mildly amusing. – Sky Sanders Apr 3 '10 at 17:22

Duly noted

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    In C the above two statements are equivalent. – Adam Davis Dec 15 '09 at 2:55
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    Does this make you the guy in the poster? This is pretty much what the poster wanted to hear. – devinb Jun 21 '10 at 10:28
  • @devinb I'm not sure, I think my teeth are in slightly poorer condition. – waffles Jun 21 '10 at 10:44

Give not that which is holy unto the blogs...

Seriously: this is why blogs are not a discussion medium. The blog author has the ability (and ever-present temptation) to simply remove any comment that makes him uncomfortable! Eventually, most blog authors fall into this trap, and only the sycophants remain...

If you have something worth saying, get your own soapbox. No one takes blog comments seriously anyway.

  • 1
    What have bloggers and politicians in common... – Ladybug Killer Dec 14 '09 at 21:52
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    I understand what you're saying and agree for things like Codinghorror, Haack's blog, Raymond Chen, etc. However, this blog is tied to this community, which is why I even bother. – user138665 Dec 14 '09 at 21:54
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    @bobbyshaftoe: Actually, that should have been your first tip-off that you were wasting your time: it's the public face of Team SO, not some back-room feedback mechanism like UserVoice or Meta. Do you honestly think they don't try to control their image a bit? – Shog9 Dec 14 '09 at 21:58
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    Upvoted for the first sentence. – mmyers Dec 14 '09 at 22:06
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    @Shog9: Control their image? That was a good one ;) After crying for help on SU, I don't think he has to care about that. – Ladybug Killer Dec 14 '09 at 22:16
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    @John: I didn't say anything about them being good at it. ;-) – Shog9 Dec 14 '09 at 22:18
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    I forgot to mention this in my previous comment: do not cast your Perl before swine, lest they trample it underfoot and turn and tear you to pieces. – mmyers Dec 14 '09 at 23:05
  • I was going to -1, but +1 for "no one takes blog comments seriously". – user27414 Dec 14 '09 at 23:38
  • Sycophants is my new favourite word, I even used it for my daily photoshop exercise, see my answer – waffles Dec 15 '09 at 0:10
  • "No one takes blog comments seriously anyway." I'd swear Jeff said on codinghorror (can't find it now) that comments are what make the blog or something to that effect. – hyperslug Dec 15 '09 at 0:37
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    @hyperslug: codinghorror.com/blog/archives/001130.html I am highly skeptical of that claim... – Shog9 Dec 15 '09 at 0:57

The owner of a blog has every right to delete whatever he or she wants. Period.

The readers of a blog have every right to choose not to read the blog for any or no reason. One reason might be the author's attitude towards those who post responses.

It's a shame that Jeff chose to disregard and delete all that advice. He can do as he likes, though.

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    Is blog.stackoverflow.com Jeff's personal blog, or one face of the SO franchise? The distinction has bearing on the appropriateness of the reaction. Either way, of course, the blog is not a democracy. – Ether Dec 14 '09 at 23:50
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    I don't the argument is that he shouldn't be allowed to delete posts on his own blog, it's if he should. – GManNickG Dec 14 '09 at 23:53
  • when someone comes in your house and gleefully takes a giant dump on the floor, I reserve the right to remove that person from the house. – Jeff Atwood Dec 16 '09 at 3:39
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    @Jeff - your definition of a "dump" is a little exaggerated. – user27414 Dec 16 '09 at 10:32

I felt your comment was not constructive criticism, and thus it was removed. You may disagree on the definition of "constructive", but it's our blog and our rules.

I also removed other comments that were not constructive.

Criticism and disagreement is welcome -- but if you can't do this in a constructive manner, then don't bother posting on the blog, because it will be removed.

If you don't agree with those rules, take it off site where you can be as Nasty As You Wanna Be, like 2 Live Crew. I find that kind of stuff boring in my advanced old age, but it is entertaining for some.

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    Constructive comment time: Be less old and crotchety, Jeff. – Welbog Dec 15 '09 at 12:24
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    But the point is that it seems like there should be more "transparency" about it. Anyway, I do disagree about the constructivity of it. Basically, many people saw complete arrogance and derision at the thought of a disaster recovery plan. I think the idea of "Settle down, everyone makes mistakes just learn from them" is pretty appropriate. Criticism and disagreement are clearly not welcome and that's ok but given all that jibber jabber that goes on, there should be more transparency about it. – user138665 Dec 16 '09 at 3:04
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    your comments were rude and unconstructive, and were removed for that reason. If you don't want your comments removed from the blog, be constructive and civil in the future. Alternately, start your own blog and post all the rude, unconstructive things you like there. – Jeff Atwood Dec 16 '09 at 3:37
  • +1 what you do on your blog is your business... – Miyagi Coder Dec 17 '09 at 16:16

Joel and Jeff have both been up front about the fact that their default method of dealing with comments they don't like is to delete and ignore (or in Joel's case hide from everyone else and ignore). Don't be surprised when they practice what they preach.

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    While they may practice what they preach, that doesn't make the practice right. – Dhaust Dec 14 '09 at 22:02
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    So you propose that it is morally wrong for them to delete comments from their blogs? The hubris is strong with this one. – Adam Davis Dec 14 '09 at 22:22
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    Their blog, their rules. At least they announce that up front. – David Thornley Dec 14 '09 at 23:02
  • actually they've made it pretty hard to permanently delete something from SO unless it is really, clearly offensive. and they talk all the time (especially jeff) about how the things you say on the internet will follow you forever. – Kip Dec 15 '09 at 3:36

The blog is not a public forum for discussion. It's a platform, not unlike a soapbox, that helps them pass out information. They allow on-topic feedback, but you don't have any right to force your opinions onto their platform.

If you have questions about backup practices, go visit serverfault.

Otherwise, respect Jeff's decision to prune anything from the blogs that he deems counterproductive to the goals of his blog post.

  • But Jeff has basically said it is such a forum. All this nonsense about the comments being the best part etc etc. I respect your view, but I disagree (although I wouldn't censor it). I think it's too charitable a view. They consistently talk about the blog and its comments as being something other than you describe. I apologize for taking them at their word. :) Anyway, even if that is the case, fine, just post a policy. I don't see how that is unreasonable for this community. – user138665 Dec 14 '09 at 22:04
  • Jeff says a lot of things that aren't strictly speaking, true. The "blog as a public forum" thing (codinghorror.com/blog/archives/001130.html) is one of them... – Shog9 Dec 14 '09 at 22:10
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    @Shog9 - thanks for the link. The quote is directly from him: "I scrutinize every comment, and I remove a tiny percentage of them: they might be outright spam, patently off-topic, or just plain mean. I like to refer to this as weeding my web garden." --> codinghorror.com/blog/archives/001009.html . I'm guessing this comment comes under the heading of "Just plain mean" - it's nothing short of, "Listen to what everyone else is saying, because I'd fire you if you worked for me." Which adds absolutely nothing to the discussion except someone's personal assessment of Jeff's skills. – Adam Davis Dec 14 '09 at 22:19
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    Mmm... Yeah, that's one of those vague rules (like, "don't be a jerk") that gets selectively enforced / dragged out now and then to cover arbitrary actions. Truth is, there's no way to know for sure what gets deleted: is it just lame comments like this one, or...? So again, if you have something you really feel needs to be said, say it somewhere where you have a bit of control. – Shog9 Dec 14 '09 at 22:26
  • (+1) Actually, I'd go even further than you did and say that it is "Jeff's decision to prune anything from the blogs period." That sentence needs no hedging at the end. His blog, his choice. He could prune positive comments too if he felt like it, or (Yossarian style) prune any comments with verbs. – devinb Jun 21 '10 at 10:26

I call sour grapes.

If your response to the blog post is, "If you were my employee, I'd fire you for [doing x]"), then you ought to rethink your response.

Maybe you had good points -- I don't know, but using a scare tactic to make your point is not effective at all.

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    That's not what he said. He didn't say "If you were my employee...", he said "If I had an employee..." Significant difference...and not a threat, either way. – beska Dec 14 '09 at 21:48
  • But that's called a disagreement. Should I censor you for disagreeing with me or vice versa? – user138665 Dec 14 '09 at 21:50
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    @beska: either way, the response is lame. Why not just say, "this is how I'd do it, and these are the reasons why"? Someone's always gotta pull the old "if I had authority over someone doing that, I'd abuse the hell out of it just for kicks" line, rather than simply presenting evidence or stating their beliefs. It's an old saw, and a dull one. Not that it makes any difference: if Jeff's gonna start deleting lame blog comments, he has a long, long way to go before he's done... – Shog9 Dec 14 '09 at 21:53
  • @Shog9, is it really abuse of power for someone to get rid of an employee that makes fun of them for suggesting to improve the backup policy? Anyway, it wasn't just my comments. You talk of abusing power; well I disagree with your comment does that mean I should censor it? Given what SO is about I think this is legitimate. If we follow your argument all the way down then the whole idea of Meta, for anything other than simple bug reports, is completely worthless. A large amount of Meta is policy discussion. Sorry. – user138665 Dec 14 '09 at 22:01
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    @bobbyshaftoe: you misunderstand: I disagree with the deletion of your comment (though think it's a bit naive of you to expect otherwise). As for firing an employee over a difference of opinion: if you want employees to do what you ask without question, never daring to raise a dissenting voice, then you can probably find such creatures... But that's a sad state of affairs. Now, if your employee refuses to do his job because he doesn't think it's necessary, that's another matter - but that's not what you wrote. Sarcastic incompetence or fawning incompetence, it's still incompetence... – Shog9 Dec 14 '09 at 22:07
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    "Sour grapes" is not applicable here. It means wanting something, and, on finding that you can't have it, acting like it was not actually that important or valuable to you. It's from a fable by Æsop, "The Fox and the Grapes". – Josh Caswell Apr 3 '12 at 17:12

I upvoted your question because you make some really good points and I do think it's important to call people to task on excessive reaction to legitimate criticism. However, I've also voted to close as the issue isn't (directly) Stack Overflow related: Meta doesn't cover blog.stackoverflow.com.

However, perhaps it ought to, as the blog is an official voice of SO, and Joel is involved (e.g. the regular podcasts posted there that they both create).

It really would have been preferable if the discussion had taken place on codinghorror.com instead, which is quite clearly Jeff's own personal site and has nothing to do with Stack Overflow. Then he could have reacted in whatever manner he pleased and the community would have less of a case to question his response.

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