I don’t remember how I found Making Light. It was most likely by way of one or another of a couple of authors whose blogs I follow, and it’s been…a decade, I think? Maybe a little more.
And it’s the kind of place I wish existed in “real life”, a.k.a. meatspace, because the blog owners and front-page posters are fascinating. And they attract fascinating commenters — not that there’s always unanimity of opinion, not at all, as a whole it trends toward the politically progressive end of things, but not always, and there have been some heated debates on any number of topics. One very good thing about the site, though, is that they are dedicated to moderating comment threads.
Why is that important? Because if you spend any amount of time on the Web reading, well, much of anything, you’ve no doubt seen some number of comment threads taken over by trolls, by those who argue for the sake of arguing rather than informing/educating, by those who think hammering people into the ground means they win. Making Light doesn’t want to devolve into a swamp, so they pay attention to what’s said, and by whom; they offer suggestions as needed to improve interaction; and where necessary, when a commenter simply refuses to be educated in the way interactions work on the site, their comment may be disemvoweled.
Which is, as you might guess, the verbal equivalent of disemboweling, only in this case it’s exactly what it sounds like: the removal of all vowels from a post. Ths lvs th cmmnt vlble t b rd by nyn wth rl ntrst n t, bt ds s wtht prvdng th wllflly slw lrnr wth vsbl pltfrm. (“This leaves the comment available to be read by anyone with a real interest in it, but does so without providing the willfully slow learner with a visible platform.”) Because once those types of people think they have the upper hand — that they can get away with saying anything they damned please without regard for the local standards — things get ugly fast.
To use a comparison I’ve seen a couple of different places, the blog is essentially the Web-based living room of the hosts — and you don’t get to come in and shit all over the living room without consequences. Some people have been disemvoweled a few times, learned their lesson, and stuck around, some some showed up once and never came back, and very occasionally, someone gets themselves banned.
Mostly, though, it’s like sitting around having the world’s best conversations all in one room. The posts run the gamut from sci-fi neepery (the blog owners are a consulting editor and a senior editor at Tor Books) to politics to religion to knitting to cooking to music. People even burst into spontaneous poetry. And several years ago, one of the moderators put up a post called “Have a Dysfunctional Families Day” as a way of recognizing that not everyone had a wonderful family, that in fact some people had families so bad they’d have been better off orphaned. It’s the one place on the site where anonymity is not just permitted, it’s actively encouraged if a commenter’s situation is such that they have to worry about attaching their real name or usual posting identity to this thread’s comments for fear of reprisals/retaliation/making an already bad situation infinitely worse.
I’ve commented in those threads myself more than once when life was going to hell. Some of those comments turned into blog entries here, and it’s very likely I’ll use those comments as the basis of the book people keep telling me I should write, about surviving the middle-class meltdown. When I can read them without falling right back into that headspace — it was a very unhealthy place to be, and I don’t yet have enough emotional distance from it all. But I will.
And Making Light is a big part of the reason. I could post there in the middle of the night when I was too afraid of taking any of my friends up on their offers to “call any time”. I knew I could, but part of that headspace was believing such calls would be a burden, and I didn’t think anyone else should have to carry it.
Really, the stupid crap we sell ourselves…
Anyway, for the entertainment and the education and the stretching of the mental boundaries and the help staying sane during a crazy-making time, I am everlastingly grateful for Making Light. Y’all should follow that link in the first paragraph and check them out. 🙂