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AdLib On June - 2 - 2014

HP Divorce

It was originally a marriage made in heaven. A progressive community looking for blogs in all the wrong places and a site that was new in town, liked going for long blogs on the web and was looking for a meaningful relationship.

For years, it was a wonderful marriage. Then, as time went by, the site began feeling that it needed something more than it was getting from its marriage to its community…namely, money. And so, it began flirting with others, hedge funds, high wealth individuals and corporations. The site soon turned to its community and admitted that it was cheating on them but it wouldn’t stop, instead, it insisted it loved both and wanted an open marriage. The site would agree to stay with its community as long as it could also get into bed with the wealthy and corporations. Eventually, the site became one with a corporation and that relationship became its primary one. The community became treated as “the other relationship”, bit by bit pushed to the side. Even so, it couldn’t help but be a bit of a shock to the community to get the divorce papers signed, sealed and delivered to them today.

Starting today, Huffington Post has shut down its site’s comment and blogging functionality and now is merely echoing comments people make on Facebook through the embedded Facebook interface at Huffington Post.

Huffington Post started off as one of many news aggregating sites, there was nothing extraordinary about it as a website. What led to its ultimate success and its becoming a behemoth was one thing, the community of loyal and frequent bloggers who gave it the character and social gravity to attract more and more people there instead of any number of sites. The fact that HP came to see it as a waste of money to continue to provide that service for those who made them the success they became, is just plain disappointing. It is a lesson about the nature of corporations, they certainly are not people and they do not have such human character traits as loyalty, indebtedness or principle. Not only have they now refused to dance with the one who brought them to the party, they are jumping into Mark Zuckerberg’s Ferrari and waving back at their community with a champagne glass in hand as they speed away (terminating their self-hosted blog will add millions in profits into HP’s pockets over the years).

Corporations are indeed not people, they are more like the creature in The Thing. They attach to a host body, destabilize its integrity, take over control of it, then replace what it was while still looking identical to it.

Back in 2007, I was looking for a place to call my blogging home. I registered at and audited several sites but one site stood out to me…not because of their name or the colors or fonts they used and not because they carried the same aggregated news stories as the other sites…it was the blogging community there that seemed so brilliant, conscientious and quite witty. To become a part of that community seemed to me, to be a part of something special.

There was a camaraderie there, a freedom to challenge each other and stand one’s ground on opinion but mostly doing so without being hostile. There was truly free and instantaneous expression, no automatic moderating of comments, no burdensome comment length limits and when a troll occasionally attacked at the site, he was gang-flagged by the community and his comment and sometimes account were swiftly removed. And there was of course no Facebook mandates that exposed one’s true identity.

At the end of 2008, when, unbeknownst to the members, Huffington Post was in the midst of coaxing a hedge fund (Oak Investment Partners) into investing $25 million in them, there was a sudden and jarring purge of longtime members and heavy handed censorship of comments. The assumption was that HP’s cleansing and locking down of the website would make the site look more manageable and attractive to the Oak folk. Things got so bad that some of us had taken to meeting on an old thread to evade the censorship so we could have at least the most basic of conversations (and collaborate on setting up a new place to blog as we had). At that point, we realized that the site we had known, as a place for free expression and true Progressive sensibilities, was rushing into the arms of Corporate America and we needed to find an alternative.

KQuark, Kalima and I, were among the many loyal and prolific in the HP community at that time.  When we came together shortly after that to found PlanetPOV, our goal was to recreate the kind of environment that we once had at HP, where a community of well informed, thoughtful and witty people could converse and debate with each other freely and honestly…as only anonymous blogging can promote.

This is a central problem with the Facebook commenting system HP has embraced. Sure, some bloggers can set up accounts that hide their identities but most don’t. How many people want to honestly express their political views when their boss/family members/friends/clients might read them and react towards them adversely? Who would want to potentially impact their job or business, their relationships with family members or friends? And since employers and others have taken to viewing potential employees’ Facebook accounts, who would want to possibly compromise their future as a price for freely expressing themselves?

When HP first instituted their Facebook mandate on bloggers, requiring all to join and connect their Facebook account to HP, many in the HP community were upset and understandably suspicious. Though HP may have legitimate business reasons (though perhaps not fair-minded reasons) for having taken this path, their approach in deceiving the membership about their grand scheme to go Facebook only was a disrespectful slap in the face. The members deserved better than that, to be manipulated and misled by HP so blatantly, no amount of logrolling can rationalize away that abuse of trust.

There are doubtless many good and principled people in the HP organization and of course as bloggers there. Many no doubt used what influence they could to change the minds of the corporate execs at HP who only saw their commenting system as an expense they could cut that would make them richer. When it comes to something like the press or a blog, it seems anti-intuitive to treat the most loyal followers as an unnecessary expense that could be easily cut.

And what will the Facebooking of HP lead to? Greater freedom of expression or the reverse? More insightful commentary or more generic and trivial comments and conversations? This was a complete actual comment (and the only one listed at the time I viewed the post) on a post today at HP on the EPA’s power plant emissions rules:

“Many valid points here.”

I’m not picking on this blogger, just using his comment to illustrate that the ripping away of anonymity seems to smother free and meaningful conversation.

Considering that corporations like AOL, which owns HP and Comcast which owns MSNBC, are pretty darn happy with the status quo that is making them wealthier at the expense of the 99%’s decline, empowering Progressives to come together and focus on changing the way things are is actually in conflict with these corporations’ fiduciary duty to their shareholders. As mentioned here before, the sole legal responsibility corporate execs and board members have is to make the maximum profits possible for their shareholders, they can actually be sued for doing anything that interferes with that.

So if viewed in that context, it can’t be seen as that surprising that HP has sought and found a way to increase profits by slashing their expenses on blogging…even though it is a total betrayal of those who built their business up in the first place.

Breakups are always painful. Though many may try to comfort by confiding, “There are many more blogs in the internet,” it still takes a while to process being evicted from one’s blogging home. In the end, we move on from our disappointing relationships and having learned from the past, we’re in a better position to find ourselves in more satisfying and dependable relationships.


Written by AdLib

My motto is, "It is better to have blogged and lost hours of your day, than never to have blogged at all."

292 Responses so far.

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  1. Wiseronenow says:

    Today, Arianna Huffington has her usual “Sunday Roundup” column and I thought I’d take license and revise it.

    This was a week that saw the exodus of former HP blogger’s with more than successful results. In the world of the blog-o-sphere, HP fell 2-0 to PlanetPov and/or Daily Kos, knocking the defending champions out even before the upcoming knockout rounds. In an even worse reappearance, current HP honcho’s tried to defend their assertions that freedom of expression and thought has “been so wrong about so much” on their site. But owner in chief, Adrianna Huffington, scored an unsurprising knock down herself when she believed, “History has proven that our bloggers just haven’t gotten it right as well”, but nonetheless they said adios. As they say: ‘Goooooooal!’ Meanwhile, several HP bloggers canceled their trademark user names on HP. Though HP team hasn’t changed its mind yet to their current blogging format with Facebook, so I’m partial to renaming them the Huffingtongators, the Corporatista, the Repressors, or the Misleaders. Tough to choose when they all seem so apt.

    • AdLib says:

      Very funny, Wiseronenow!

      That would be an entertaining competition, naming the HP blogger-purge regime…hmm…maybe the Silenceistas? The Muzzlers? All Quieta?

      BTW, welcome to The Planet!

  2. gyp46 says:

    In the beginning HP was a delight, back and forth commenting, even some arguments, it was simply a fun time. then came ‘censorship’ under the guise of ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘polite discourse’. Why must heated discussion be ‘polite discourse’? Passion is necessary for vigorous debate to me. Listening to untenable opinions and replying that they are ‘untenable’ is politics. Then came the mandatory FB thingy, then the actual posting to FB, that was the final straw for so many of us, at least it was for me. Using new sites has been a struggle for us ‘computer challenged’ old people, but we will learn and move ‘forward’ instead of ‘back to the stone age’ as the tbaggers wish.

    • AdLib says:

      Hi gyp46, my proposition is that folks can have passionate debates and disagreements about anything without it needing to resemble 8 year olds fighting on a playground. If the intention is to freely express one’s own opinions and oppositions, one should be able to do so freely without being censored or moderated as long as one isn’t being abusive.

      HP looked for the most administratively “efficient” approaches with little regard for Freedom of Expression. The auto-moderation, blacklist of words, censorship of any comment not flattering of Arianna or HP…while curiously allowing hateful comments to remain at times, put the emphasis on control of speech as opposed to its freedom.

      Keeping a public blog protective of Free Expression while preventing it from devolving into an unpleasant Thunderdome is a challenge, it’s harder work than just saying, “Let Facebook worry about it, we don’t want to be bothered anymore with the work or expense of promoting Free Speech.” and though nobody’s perfect, The Planet does try to err on the side of Free Expression while providing an environment that’s conducive to grown ups having grown up discussions about whatever they choose.

      Welcome to The Planet, gyp46!

      • gyp46 says:

        Thanks AdLib, for the welcome. I have high hopes, yet little expectations. We’ll see. What constitutes ‘lively debate’ is the key. Sometimes it is enlightening to ‘stir the pot’ a bit and see the response from others. If the goal is to have a site where we all agree, well that is not really getting anywhere, is it! Sometimes heated discussion is needed to wake others to the facts, not that it always ends up in the exchange of knowledge, some will not learn even with a heavy stick applied to the cranium. I have to thank ‘THE MURPH’ for his outreach to us out here looking for a home for our meager opinions. gyp46.

  3. JumpingJackFlash says:

    I posted on Huffpo for years. If you want abuse, post a pro life comment there. Will that happen here?

    • AdLib says:

      JJF, why wouldn’t you post about your pro-life opinions instead of challenge the integrity of those running this site?

      I would suggest that you read our Terms of Use, trying to provoke conflicts violates our ToU. If you want to discuss and debate, you are very welcome here but if you merely wish to provoke others, there are many sites on the web where you can do so but this is not one of them.

      • JumpingJackFlash says:

        That wasn’t a challenge, it was a question. On HP when I tried to initiate a debate on the subject I was harassed endlessly. Just trying to get a feel on the subject. If there’s not room for debate I won’t make any posts on the subject (if it comes up) because I’m not looking for confrontation.

        • AdLib says:

          Fergie said it well, you’re welcome to express your views on any issue here and as long as there is a two way street on respect for others to express opposing views, a worthwhile conversation can be had.

        • Fergie1 says:

          With respect JJF, hypothetical questions of this nature are unanswerable. How can one person speak for a collective in a forum such as this? As you know this site does not tolerate abuse from any direction. So if you have a legitimate comment on your pro-life beliefs by all means air them. As long as you don’t take exception to people who hold differing views.

          I hope that clears it up for you to contribute.

          • CAdawn says:

            Hi Fergie. I’ve been trying to find you after I received an email that you said “Hi, good to see you” to me. It’s great to see you here at PP.
            I have not been on very often lately because I was getting too stressed out by politics. I needed a break before I started to pull out my hair 🙂
            Glad to know you are here.

            • Fergie1 says:

              Hi CAdawn, thank you for your nice message also. I untick the box that says to notify me of replies via email, but I just found you again by chance! Glad I did.

              I am not a huge contributor and tend to pop in and out as well. I know what you mean about getting stressed out by politics. I agree, it’s a good idea to step away and regroup when feeling that way. I tend to do the same! I am rather partial to the hair I have! 🙂

    • S-Man says:

      10 lashes with a wet noodle.

    • funksands says:

      Water-balloon right to the face 🙂

  4. twopennygal says:

    I just went over to HP to read their LGBT news (so far, for me, it’s still the best aggregate of LBGT news). But of course, I can’t comment. And I’m glad. Since they went all FB, the comments are much less civil. It’s no longer a place for thoughtful, reasoned discourse. I’m sure they don’t know how bad it is, and they probably don’t care.

    Even if I could comment over there, I wouldn’t for fear of being called names by people who can’t make a good argument on their own.

    • funksands says:

      Penny, welcome to the planet. It’s tough to leave HP behind because of the sheer volume of well-organized information at your fingertips.

      However the content of the material and the quality of the comment environment has made it dead to me.

  5. NoSillyName says:

    Hello PlanetPOV, Goodbye Huff’n Puff! All Hail MurphtheSurf3!!! Thanks for your good works.

    One of the things I liked about HP was the simple format; looks like I’ll have to do some studying here. I do NOT have a FB account, and like many others, foresaw the HP mess when they stopped letting me comment. Sure, I could “like” the comments of others (whoop de dam do, to borrow a phrase from one of the leading thinkers on the SC), but even that little toe in the water came to an end. Shunned and discarded. ouch!

    Hoping to see many of my “fans” and Friends here at PPOV as well as making new relationships.

    Having commented there since ’07, I leave behind a slew of comments. Have any of you somehow saved yours as a reminder of times past, or simply forgotten about them and moved on? I’ve always been something of an archivist, so pondering what to do before cutting that final tie to the past.

    • gyp46 says:

      I stayed as long as I could, until all went to FB posting, it was not pleasant to watch your fan list diminish daily as good people left. Years of posts and friends gone, for what?? Arianna sold out and the ‘right’ won the battle on HP in my mind. Censorship of the English language became the norm, totally unacceptable.

    • AdLib says:

      Hi NoSillyName and welcome to The Planet!

      There are many folks here from HP as I think you’ll discover.

      Wow, I left a mountain of comments behind at HP when I left but for me, yes, I just keep rolling forward and don’t really think of what I posted, just what I want to post next. There were some wonderful exchanges we had there, I wouldn’t mind the nostalgia of looking back at ones from years ago but honestly, it would be less about my comments than revisiting the people I liked that were there.

      It really has always been about the people for me, which is why The Planet is basically what HP used to be when I liked it most. As I think will become evident quickly, It’s a great community of people here. I think you’ll like it at The Planet.


      • Fergie1 says:

        Ad, like you it was the people that I interacted with on HP that made the experience an enjoyable one for the most part. Although I DID love having a fact based reply with links, to the RWNJS who were unable to defend their position where the silence of a non-reply was palpable.

        Like you also, I have moved forward with POV but I do miss some of the familiar people from HP. I am finding though that the community here more than makes up for that. Thank you and Kalima for continuing to provide such a forum.

  6. S-Man says:

    To paraphrase Bob Marley (poorly): There is an exodus from HP hopefully it will be a movememt POV people. I like seeing all the huffugees arriving.

    • funksands says:

      S, I sure hope so too. I do miss a lot of the people I used to interact with over there. Seeing some of them here gives me hope that more show up.

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