Disclosure and De-Crumbing

A comment from reader Cee on How To Set Up A Buffet:

Jordan, this blog is getting really confusing. Who doesn’t know how to do this? Read over what you wrote. Is this blog about pointing out the extreme obvious? Note the zero comments. I felt the same about your “instructions” on turning a wine crate into a TV stand. This stuff is not content. If you’re supposed to be an “expert” on something tell us something we don’t know. Same with the weird carpet promotion thing. Who of your readers needs or cares about that? Is this a carpet blog? I don’t get it. I really like you and this site in general, but I think there is a major identity crisis going on, that weirdly I did not feel with when you were with NS. I also think it’s absolutely crucial that you disclose what you get paid for and what you don’t, what you get for free and what you don’t. Same with how you treat comments; it’s obvious you delete manically. Please set the rules for this. You don’t fool anyone when it’s just really positive comments, mostly from people who know. I don’t know who this Alejandra person is but she gushes at every word you write. That’s fine, but when people see the same names gush over and over and not a word of criticism (at least not a word that stays on the blog for long) you wonder. I think you’re revealing being rather green at the internet game. And I really do want to see you succeed!

My response:

Hi there Cee,

I get what you’re saying, but the truth is not everyone knows this stuff: that’s why so many articles exist explaining how to, for example, set up a buffet table (everyone from Martha Stewart to eHow has a snippet on this somewhere on their site). You know how to set up a buffet – maybe a lot of people do – but really, everyone doesn’t.

Look, I get it: I am under more scrutiny for the tips and advice I provide because this is at heart a personal blog…and that opens me up to a lot more criticism than if, say, I was a staff writer for RealSimple. But take RealSimple: in this month’s issue, they provide step-by-step instructions for decrumbing a toaster (which, yes, include unplugging the thing), and advise turning on a fan to get rid of the smell of mildew. Imagine if I wrote that? “Congratulations, Jordan, for knowing that turning on a fan can help diffuse bad smells; how’s that Harvard degree treating you?” I write about things that I think are interesting, and that I think are helpful, and I do my best to provide content every single day. I’m also not an expert, and never said I was (that’s a NonSociety thing that I don’t agree with); I’m a writer who pulls ideas from my daily life and supplements them with research, and my interest lies in the lifestyle sphere. I know the BetterTV segments that I shot down south were a little odd out of context, but since I had covered my trip down there, I thought it’d be nice to put up the finished product. I totally love that job, and I’m proud of the work I’m doing for them.

Re: deleting comments, I just went onto my Disqus, and verified that I have deleted exactly nine comments since starting RG. Here are the reasons I delete comments: overt antagonism (being called, for example, “repulsive” – as one commenter called me – is not constructive in any way, and I think it’s understandable that I don’t want that on my site), or when a commenter starts treating my site like their personal platform (that J.J. person should start their own site; mine is not the right venue for his/her 300 word diatribes). Also, for some reason a comment occasionally goes into “Spam” or “Unapprove” when I didn’t do anything to it (my comments are unmoderated); I go through those folders occasionally to pull out anything that went in there by mistake.

Re: lack of comments…sure, there are sites that get more comments, but two sites that I enjoy reading (Vie Society and Brooke Parkhurst’s site) get an average of 1 comment per post, from what I can tell. That’s not because they’re bad sites – they’re FANTASTIC, in my opinion – it’s because they’re not comment-driven sites (like, say, RBNS). It’s a different thing altogether. I’ve noticed that when I write very personal posts (like Love and Living Rooms, although 90% of the comments were, sadly, lost in the transfer over to the new incarnation of RG), I get more comments. I guess there’s just more to say about something like that then there is to say about a post on a restaurant.

Re: getting paid – I do disclose, and I have never failed to do so, even pre-FTC ruling. Those giveaways? I’m not getting paid for them, unless you see the “Sponsored Post” button or a crystal-clear disclosure statement at the bottom. Sometimes I like a product, and I want my readers to try it too…and I think giveaways are fun.

While I’m on the topic of disclosure: if I hear one more word about my “trust fund” I’m going to go insane. I do not have a trust fund, although I would be absolutely thrilled if I did. Kendrick and I support ourselves. It is tough. We are doing the best we can. I’m trying to build a career (freelance writing and television hosting, as supplemented by the income I get from working on this blog), and lord, is it depressing that being attacked comes with the territory (I’m not saying you’re attacking me; I’m saying that sites like this one seem to incur the wrath of certain readers).

I apologize if this sounds defensive; I’m not in the best mood this morning, and…I guess I am feeling attacked. I’ve had conversations like this one both via email and in the comments so many times. I don’t know how to keep explaining that I never said I was an expert; I don’t know how to keep explaining that I disclose whenever I get paid for a post. I do. I will. And that should end it…but it won’t. So what do I do? At some point, do I just start ignoring comments that accuse me of these things? I don’t want to do that – I don’t want to ignore anybody – but it’s frustrating, confusing, and demoralizing to have to explain this over and over.

I try to stay very positive here (and in general), but…I guess I’m just feeling pretty miserable today. I’m 28 years old, I’m transitioning from a career that I didn’t love to a career that (usually) makes me really happy, and I’m just doing the best that I can.

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