Subscribe to new Community Matters Location:

For all of you who have subscriptions to Community Matters — you need to visit its new location at and sign up for a new subscription.  Subscriptions will not automatically transfer, you must sign up again if you want to follow Community Matters.  Go to and see the subscription button on the upper right-side of the home page.  There remains some tweeking but I think that we are about 95% complete with the new independently hosted Community Matters.  Community Matters now joins the ‘big guys’ with all the horns & whistles . . . most of which I do not understand and am not quite sure what to do with . . . but it is exciting!

Thank you all for your support . . . I look forward to receiving comments and suggestions of important issues in our community.

Email Address:

Community Matters Blog Address:


Community Matters Has Moved — Do Not Post Comments Here

There have been 3 comments that will not be posted to this site . . . Please go to Community Matters at for new posts and to leave your comments.  Community Matters has been transferred to its new home at .

Community Matters . . . Seeking Balance Between Comments and Censorship

It was a bit of a lark that I decided to start Community Matters 3-1/2 months ago. Although I have done some writing over the years, I had never written a blog post or participated in regular blogging. But I had a vision for Community Matters; this would be a place that I could present issues that were important to me or that I thought were important to others in the community. I guess I figured it would be my online ‘watering-hole’ for local information. Although I had occasionally visited other blogs, I did not spend much time analyzing the ‘hows’ or ‘whys’ before venturing in to the world of blogosphere.

There was never any question in my mind that I would include comments on Community Matters. I wanted this to be forum that people would visit often; a place where they might learn something or provide thoughtful commentary themselves. Naively, I did not expect that Community Matters would become so popular . . . yesterday marked the 65,000 visitor. I did a monthly statistic check and found that February had 31,000 visitors. I guess the wintry weather forced many of us to remain indoors.

Making the decision to include comments on Community Matters was an easy decision. When it came to the decision whether to allow ‘anonymous’ comments . . . another easy decision, I wanted people to feel their identity was protected. In my opinion, a blog with comments disabled is more analogous to a newspaper editorial. But even with a newspaper editorial, readers can make public comments by sending a letter to the editor, which may be published in a later edition of the paper. A blog with comments disabled would tie the reader’s hands (and also struck me as elitist). To deny public conversation by disabling comments right out of the gate –based on the presumption that the comments would be negative or of low quality — again, seemed awfully elitist.

In my view, there’s an interesting cultural difference between a blog that allows comments and one that does not. A blog that doesn’t allow comments seems to me to be saying “this is the final word on this topic.” To me it seems there’s something formal about such publications — they distance themselves from readers; they hold themselves up as a paragon rather than engaging “on the level” with users.

As the administrator of Community Matters, I have the ability to edit comments but I made the conscious decision not to edit or to remove a comment (unless there was the use of profanity). What I was not prepared for, nor could I have forecasted, was the vitriol of negative comments. In my opinion, constant snark does not a credible blog make. But I did not want an overly processed, censored forum. The rough edges are what give Community Matters the patina of authenticity. But too much negativity and my blog can seem petty and immature. There is an ongoing desire to find a balance.

When people have criticized my choice of subjects or what people have perceived as my personal bias on topics, it has caused me pause. But I did not delete those negative comments; I did not want to give readers the sense that Community Matters had been wiped clean; especially because I myself resent censorship. I hoped that by leaving the negative comments showed that I respected other people’s perspectives and opinions.

The more difficult problem has been how to handle the negativity expressed between individuals that have posted. I have come to the conclusion that although I have been committed to letting people have their opinions; it does not mean that they should be allowed to run rampant. It’s okay to disagree with what people write, but the key word here is to respond respectfully. I do not want readers to turn away from Community Matters because of flame wars in the comment section. I enjoy passionate debate and discussion on issues; it tells me that people are engaged in our community.  However, comments that are mean-spirited, disrespectful, and off-topic do not generally make a positive contribution to Community Matters.

The question remains . . . are comments worth it?  The more I think about this, the more I keep coming back to my original position: a blog without comments enabled is not a blog.  I’m not sure what it is, exactly, but it definitely isn’t a blog.


As a postscript, I received the following comment from JudgeNJury as I was writing this blog post.  His/her comment speak directly to this topic:

JudgeNJury, on March 5, 2010 at 8:44 AM Said:

“[A]llowing people on your blog who resort to namecalling and ad hominem attacks (see John Petersen’s comments above) will not lead to open and meaningful dialogue.”

This is unfair to Pattye. A sure-fire way for Pattye to kill any chance of an open a meaningful dialogue would be for her to start censoring comments. If readers thought that Pattye might censor their comments because she either disagreed with the content or did not like the way the commenter expressed his or her ideas, they would stop taking the time to submit them and the discussion section of the blog would die.

Community Matters Was Down Yesterday . . . What Actually Happened?

As some of my closest friends will attest, around 4 PM yesterday I was in overdrive over Community Matters.  With no apparent explanation, the screen went dark and Community Matters disappeared from the Internet.  Convinced it was my computer, I madly called friends only to discover that no one could find Community Matters online. 

A very calm ‘computer’ friend assured me that it was probably a Word Press issue, and had nothing to do with Community Matters.  But I was convinced that there were people who had hacked in to the system to assure that Community Matters was offline permanently.  The funny thing is that it wasn’t just me . . . I had a number of Community Matter junkies who are dedicated followers of the blog that were likewise convinced that someone had done serious damage to my site somehow. One friend actually tracked down an administrator at Word Press and was assured that it was a network-wide problem, not just Community Matters. All I could think of was all the work that I had done and all the comments from readers . . . would we ever be up and running again? 

Within a couple of hours the Word Press system was repaired and Community Matters was back online.  To those who watched it disappear and were concerned, thank you!  I guess it was just a bit of over-reaction on my part. 

I received the following explanation from Word Press who hosts Community Matters, and thought you might find their explanation of interest. If all life’s problems could be so easily solved! Downtime Summary was down yesterday for approximately 110 minutes, our worst downtime in four years. The outage affected 10.2 million blogs, including our VIPs, and appears to have deprived those blogs of about 5.5 million pageviews.

What Happened: We are still gathering details, but it appears an unscheduled change to a core router by one of our datacenter providers messed up our network in a way we haven’t experienced before, and broke the site. It also broke all the mechanisms for failover between our locations in San Antonio and Chicago. All of your data was safe and secure, we just couldn’t serve it.

What we’re doing: We need to dig deeper and find out exactly what happened, why, and how to recover more gracefully next time and isolate problems like this so they don’t affect our other locations. I will update this post as we find out more, and have a more concrete plan for the future.

I know this sucked for you guys as much as it did for us — the entire team was on pins and needles trying to get your blogs back as soon as possible. I hope it will be much longer than four years before we face a problem like this again.

And so this is Christmas. . .

And So This Is Christmas;
And What Have We Done?
Another Year Over; A New One Just Begun;
And So Happy Christmas;
I Hope You Have Fun;
The Near And The Dear Ones;
The Old And The Young.

~John Lennon
Happy Christmas (War is Over)


My very best wishes to all during this holiday season. . . may you use this time for thoughtful reflection and appreciation for what is truly meaningful in your life. To my own family and friends, I am grateful for your support during the difficult last few months.  Sometimes there really is a silver lining when you least expect it.  In the words of Martin Luther King, We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope. 

And I am hopeful for 2010.

~ Pattye Benson