Initially, in the description of this page, I wrote

If you're seeing this prior to November, 2005, there probably isn't much point to reading this, yet. Just doing a little set-up.

but on thinking about it, saw that I was overestimating the size of the task before me. There's not a lot to be said about a ring like this, so let's just get this much out of the way, and say it now.

If you see a consumer report on this ring, understand that I offer you no promises about the accuracy of the report, unless, of course, I wrote it myself. Yes, I do care whether or not people are honest. I very strongly feel that they should be. However, keep in mind that I'm not plugged into any kind of agency, or volunteer group, I'm just a guy in an apartment looking at a computer screen. I'm in no position to confirm these claims.

Nor am I in any position to confirm any refutation of them. If you were thinking of writing in with a request that I delete a site because you feel that you or somebody that you know of is being treated unfairly by the author, sorry to hear about that, if it's true, but I don't honor such requests. Nor do I ask ring members to respond to such requests, disprove them, provide me with any evidence on their own behalf, or even acknowledge the complaintant's existence, much less work out a compromise with him.

Sure sounds like I couldn't care less, doesn't it? But that's not what it is. What it is, is an understanding of a few practical realities of online life, coming from years of experience. Guys, I'm not a judge. Like I keep saying, probably ad nauseum, I'm just a guy with a computer. One of the problems on the Internet during the 90s, was that there was no clear sense of whose job it was to hear complaints, and so it seemed that everybody volunteered for the job. The person's primary ISP, the web services he did business with, his associates online ... and if the person making the complaint was a crank or a ruthless sleazebag whose complaints were without merit? No problem. If he lost in one court of opinion, there were always others, always new angles to pursue in his attempt to get somebody silenced. From the point of view of somebody who wanted to harass somebody else with baseless complaints, the system couldn't have been better, because it was really no system at all. It was a free-for-all.

What I'm telling you, when I say that I'm refusing to hear such complaints, is not that I don't care about fairness for the one written about, but rather that I care about doing my part in the maintenance of a system where fairness for everybody is to be found in reasonable measure, and "do it yourself" justice doesn't work. If you really feel that you are being defamed, because resolving that one isn't my job, or really my place, as far as I'm concerned at the moment (*), what I'm telling you is something that should be common sense. That this is between you and who you feel is the offending party, and that if you feel that he really is committing libel, that you should get a lawyer and file suit against him. But I offer you no promises that you won't get clobbered with a judgment for filing a frivolous suit, so make sure that your complaint has merit before you pursue it, unless you enjoy poverty.

Hey, I don't judge.

Either way, I'm not an arbitrator, and I'm not going to presume to try to force anybody to the negotiating table. I'm just ... (chorus of weary voices goes up) ... "yes, Joe, we know, a guy with a computer". Well, OK then. Yes, just little ol' me, wondering why people can't bring themselves to be a little more civilized.

What gets me to put your site on the ring? In broad terms, my feeling like it. I don't buy the so-called "ethical ringmaster" concept, and frankly, more than slightly resent the loaded rhetoric used to push what is clearly, at best, a questionable idea - that admission to a ring should be based on a set of preconceived policies, applied with bureaucratic rigidity, and no room left for the ringmaster to apply his own best judgement and common sense. What I make is a judgement call, not even beginning to pretend that it will be an infallible one, and if that isn't good enough for somebody?


What will happen is that I'll skim your page. Yes, just skim it. I do have a life outside of the Internet, you know, and I'd like to have even more of one, so yes, there are limits to just how motivated I'm going to be. Having looked over it, I'm then going to ask myself questions like "does it seem plausible" and "do I feel a little worried or angry at the end of the report". The report could be a pack of garbage, but for operational purposes, as a ringmaster, I'm going to tend to set aside a lot of what would be my usual level of skepticism. You don't have to prove anything to me, if you're an applicant, but if you can - do. It makes for a better page, leaves you less likely to be pursued in court (because those you're talking about know that their action will have nowhere to go), and does more to persuade the reader.

I should point out that I don't carry rebuttal pages. As a past girlfriend's favorite radio personality is fond of saying, "I don't need to give equal time, because I am equal time". If somebody is writing about some company that took advantage of him, that company has far more access to the press than he does; the playing field starts out heavily tilted in the company's favor, to an extent that my little ring will be unable to fully compensate for. Further, were I to open the ring to such rebuttals, it would be a simple matter for a company to pack the ring with what would amount to being ad copy, written by the usual shills, to say nothing of the screaming to be expected from the long line of self-righteously opportunistic neocon worshippers of the sacred cow that is the Market, whenever somebody dares to suggest that he got less than fair treatment, or that all is not for the best in this best of all possible worlds.

Sounded kind of liberal there, didn't I? Well, I'm not. I am, however ... oops, I almost said "anti-yahoo", which could have been taken the wrong way on a former Geocities page, couldn't it? Let's say, anti-know nothing. anti-smug ignorance. Maybe even anti-frat boy. But, to take what is not at all a hypothetical example, if you were submitting a page complaining about the homophobic oppression you experienced at the hands of the Green Tortoise as a male-to-female transexual, because they wouldn't seriously consider your request to stay in an all female dorm, my response is going to be "give me a break". If you're coming here with a cause, leave me out of it. Think "nice middle class, moderately conservative, midwestern Jewish boy from the suburbs", and you might be able to guess where I'm coming from. The complaints submitted to the ring should be based in traditional, common sense expectations of right vs. wrong, not in somebody's latest vision of what those expectations should be, in the Utopia he hopes to browbeat the rest of us into helping to make.

What I expect to see is basic bread and butter stuff, like "the auto shop never returned my car", the sort of thing where, even if we don't know whether or not the person filing the report is telling the truth, no decent person could dispute that the complaintant would have been done an injustice, were the events described to have occured. Do we understand each other, now? Should the ring be currently open, and should you find yourself on this page after clicking on "join ring", this link should take you to where you need to be.

Should it not be, go drop by my ring management list and ask me to open it for you. I really am a nice guy. Please don't let my uncanny resemblence to Dr.Fleishman from "Northern Exposure", or the shrunken heads I have hanging from my doorway put you off in the least. We all have our hobbies. By the way, what's your hat size?

Your Options at this point: Visit the File a complaint ring or return to your ring, the one you were on before you came here. Or I suppose you could just turn off the computer and get some fresh air. Nobody's stopping you.

(*) I offer no promises that on further thought, that I won't change my mind on this one. I am, however, not open to e-mail discussions on the topic; this is one that I work out for myself, folks.