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Negativity towards Town Square

Original post made by Emily West on Feb 20, 2009

Around town, whenever the Pleasanton Weekly blogs are mentioned, the response isn't so positive. Of course, it is just a perception and not all topics are "mean" and some of them are quite useful.
Yet people say they are afraid to comment and be attacked for their opinions.

In my experience "offline," people here are seem to be much friendlier than in other communities. Why the big disconnect?

What do you think about this?

Comments (37)

Posted by Qwerty, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 20, 2009 at 11:47 am


I like the blogs and think they are a great way to discuss local events and issues. The problem seems to be a couple of "trolls" that appear now and then to spoil the party.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 20, 2009 at 1:58 pm

I think people use whatever means they can to ignore obvious concerns. I am a parent of children in the PUSD and will not voice my coincerns to administrators or the board. I do so in these blogs. For example, I will vote for or against the parcel tax, and my concerns are valid.

It depends on who you talk to. For example, the "yes" people who already are going around promoting Casey's parcel tax propaganda are doing what they can to discredit these blogs. But keep in mind these people are not that many. Have you ever visited a PTA meeting? Not that many people there. The board meetings are quite empty too. They do not represent the parents in the school district, and they definitely do not represent the community at large.

And yes, there are some blogs that are quite negative, but I think in general, posts are thoughtful and many are quite valid.

Town Square is a good place for people who do not want their name all over the place. We think of our kids, and with them in mind, prefer to be anonymous and voice our opinions, concerns and questions that way.


Posted by Jennifer, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 20, 2009 at 2:01 pm

I think these blogs can be like road rage on a keyboard. Anonymity empowers people to lash out and forget that their comments are directed at real people. I think this blog has benefits for the public discourse, but we need to use it as a place to exchange ideas and not bash others who don't share our views. Some of the comments made on threads about teachers have had very real, negative consequences for the morale of teachers in our district. I think it's sad that a minority of people can have that kind of impact on a group of people who serve the public well for modest pay.


Posted by Liz, a resident of Bordeaux Estates
on Feb 20, 2009 at 2:06 pm

Emily I am disappoint that the way you present your question you are agreeing that the forums are mean. With the exception of a few trolls I think the posts are honest without apology. This is not acceptable within our social norms especially in Pleasantville, which is the value of having an opportunity to give and receive honest input.
Because in the past PUSD has been able to label trouble makers as mean (whipping out the community of character as a weapon) they have been successful in controlling information. They have a high paid public information officer, a TV show on CTV30 and they send newsletters to homes throughout the city, they have a very powerful propaganda machine. They used to have a monopoly on disseminating information; they are of course frustrated with this vehicle of discussing unfiltered information with the public.
I don't think it is mean to post the superintendent's salary or breakdown that teachers make on average $73 per hour in Pleasanton, these are facts. Parents cannot speak publicly against the parcel tax because they are falsely labeled as teacher haters, this forum gives us a voice. The Pleasanton Weekly should be proud of this safe forum for open exchange of information, not apologize for it.


Posted by Sarah, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 20, 2009 at 2:16 pm

"The Pleasanton Weekly should be proud of this safe forum for open exchange of information, not apologize for it."

Well said, Liz. I couldn't agree more.


Posted by Emily West, Pleasanton Weekly reporter
on Feb 20, 2009 at 2:23 pm

Emily West is a registered user.

Liz, I see your point. I wasn't specifically pointing to the PUSD topics, but just in general. More often than not, the discussion is civil. And I am glad that many find this to be of value, because I think it has been valuable to the staff as well.

I wouldn't classify the blogs as mean, but having edited the forums since its inception, I assure you some topics and comments have shocked me. :)


Posted by Liz, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 20, 2009 at 2:33 pm

Bad trolls!


Posted by T. R. Ollman, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 20, 2009 at 4:20 pm

To begin with, I think this and any number of other bulletin boards actually encourage negative behavior when comments like these can be posted completely anonymously. A forum is an excellent and useful institution, and community concerns should have a place to be heard and debated, but when there's no registration required, people feel free to unleash their darkest opinions with impunity.

In particular, one problem I see in the Town Square Forum--and indeed in this very thread--is the legitimization and affirmation of troll-bashing. I understand that many people in this community own fine, expensive homes and are rightly proud of their neighborhoods and city. However, just because we trolls live under bridges doesn't mean that we're not civic-minded or concerned about local development.

In addition, some of the less ethos-driven participants have discussed the "propaganda" spread by those who support our teachers. Well, where's the outrage against all the propaganda against trolls? Were you aware of the recent study by Texas A&M that suggests that well over 94% of nursery school children still believe the slanderous untruth that trolls harass billy goats? Don't people realize that such stereotypes diminish us all?

In conclusion, please remember that online forums are places for concerned community members to voice legitimate concerns and seek truth--especially us trolls, who are usually unable to attend board meetings due to the unfortunate fact that sunlight turns us to stone.

Thank you.


Posted by Qwerty, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 20, 2009 at 5:41 pm

T.R.,

I'm assuming your comments are directed at the one I posted earlier today. There is a difference between people engaged in "lively discussion and debate" and those who choose to create controversy without shedding any light on the topics at hand. The latter are the ones I am referring to. I'm refraining from mentioned specific names, but yes, there are people who seem to be on here to create controversy and make fun of others peoples' posts without ever addressing the topic in question. That my friend, is a troll.


Posted by frank, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Feb 20, 2009 at 9:26 pm

Here is what I think about it. Maybe many people cannot distinguish the difference between impersonal counter arguments presented as debate and being attacked personally. Time and time again there are numerous examples in various threads of people taking personally things written if someone disagrees with them. When one re-reads what a poster originally wrote, there is no basis for the responding person claiming a personal attack. It mostly resides in their mind.

Sometimes people ARE personally attacked, but this, according to my observations, is not often.

There is no way that those who hold this negative view because they are afraid of perceived personal attacks are going to be convinced to participate in using the voice given to them by blogging on the internet. That's the Darwinian selection process that goes on. They just become dinosauric naysayers and are left for the tar pits.

Oops! Someone is going to say I just personally attacked them! Anyways, I note that the PW blogs are growing, not shrinking. Why would that be if they are so horrible?


Posted by New to Pleasanton, a resident of Mohr Park
on Feb 21, 2009 at 12:27 am

I am a participant on many other forums that allow anonymous posting, and I detect a much higher rate of hostile language here than elsewhere. The stated reason that I've seen some posters give for not voicing their opinions in public forums: fear.

I'm shocked that parents feel that teachers might retaliate against their children if parents oppose the parcel tax. That would be truly unprofessional behavior by teachers. Your child's teacher may disagree with you about what's best for the school district, but to think that a teacher would provide lower quality instruction to some students seems like an overreaction.

The fearful folks also seem angry, defensive. Perhaps that comes from some past history with Superintendent Casey or the members of the school board.

In any case, I think it'd be great if we could find more ways to engage in constructive debate -- for instance, to really see what pro-parcel tax people are saying, and what opponents of the parcel tax are saying, and see if we can find some points of agreement. Most of all, to find ways of disagreeing that are more useful than "opponents are anti-children" or "proponents don't understand that the economic situation makes it impossible to deal with another tax bill."

I'm pretty uncomfortable commenting here, still, because


Posted by Scott Walsh, a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Feb 21, 2009 at 7:39 am

There is another type of robbery that occurs quite often in Pleasanton amongst our kids called "jacking". Punks steal money, ipods, cellphones and whatever else they can to sell to get money. We have a "punk" group of kids that go around and do this. Fortunately the police know who they are and shake them down when warranted. I do wish they could do more but the laws that we enact through the boobs we elect tie their hands. Vineyard Avenue East from First Street halfway up towards Bernal Avenue house some of these "Punks" as well as wantabe street gang groups and again the police are on them. The schools have their hands full too with these "Punks" because of laws that handstring them. I am all for cameras in the schools. That way everyone might behave, kids and teachers. And you would catch those who interfere with the kids who do want to get an education. What happened at the Family Deli on Old Santa Rita will occur more often as we mature as a community. ..it happens. My two cents.


Posted by The Lorax, a resident of Downtown
on Feb 21, 2009 at 7:48 am

Dude, what are you even talking about? Did you post on the wrong thread?


Posted by Craig, a resident of California Reflections
on Feb 21, 2009 at 8:00 am

Hey Scott,
I agree with you but I think you need to start your own thread.


Posted by Ben, a resident of Bordeaux Estates
on Feb 21, 2009 at 8:32 am

Frank, You hit it right on. What people perceive as an attach is someone speaking in a completely honest and direct manor that can not happen in our world of true identity and political correctness. We do not want to be labeled as mean so we don't say what we really are thinking. It is such a relief to say it here and learn that others are thinking it also.


Posted by Karen, a resident of Parkside
on Feb 21, 2009 at 8:47 am

I have heard many people say Jim Ott is being ridiculous to keep whining about the mean people on the blogs. The district is not used to people saying things they do not want to hear so they think it is mean.
Oops...is that mean or completely honest and direct?


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Feb 21, 2009 at 10:26 am

New to Pleasanton,

I'm wondering if those other forums you mention are local community-based forums. I think that changes the dynamics somewhat.

I think some of the perception comes from a clash of cultures. I have a feeling that many posters on this site are rather new to this mode of communication. It seems like some posters are unable to distinguish passion from bullying or distinguish fact from opinion. Reading comprehension plays a role in this as well as how prone a poster is to allowing others their mistakes. One extreme viewpoint gets interpreted into a generalization. Because a few posters wrote about some bad teacher experience they had, suddenly everyone who is against a parcel tax is teacher bashing. Writing ability also plays a role in this. Sometimes writing can get in the way if a writer has a hard time expressing what they really mean to say. We should sit back and laugh about this.

Back in the heyday of Usenet over a decade ago, some people were just as vitriolic and things weren't entirely anonymous. It was called "flaming" and while annoying, also became a part of the culture. Some writers actively participated in it. Documents on "netiquette" were spawned in an attempt to help new people acculturate to this. A big key is to not take things personally.


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Feb 21, 2009 at 10:28 am

Maybe the next question for the PW online poll could be "How long have you been participating in online forums?" I'm afraid I might be at the far end of the bell curve.


Posted by b&w, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2009 at 11:11 am

Things are so "black & white" these days, your unpopular opinions are better kept to yourself or expressed anonymously on these boards.

In the last few months alone, liberal extremists are out for blood:

1. If you don't vote for Obama or if you have anything negative to say about him, you're a racist

2. If you believe in the traditional definition of marriage, you're a hater and a bigot

3. If you don't support another parcel tax, for ANY REASON, you're a teacher/school/kids basher and hater.

4. If you critize any of the stupid decisions Obama makes, you're again a racist

5. If you don't support the foreclosure bailout, you're an unsympathetic bastard who has no compassions for your fellow neighbors

6. If you don't support the new taxes proposed at the state legislature, you're holding the state at ransom


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Feb 21, 2009 at 11:43 am

"3. If you don't support another parcel tax, for ANY REASON, you're a teacher/school/kids basher and hater."

This one is my favorite because I don't support a parcel tax but in another thread I've been accused of being a lib/leftist slobbering at Obama's crotch.


Posted by Anonymous? Guess Again!, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2009 at 1:22 pm

Your IP address is logged each time you post and it's an unique identifier that shows exactly where you're located. How do you think law enforcement catches those online pervs?

Just go here to learn more:

Web Link


Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore
on Feb 21, 2009 at 1:23 pm

T.R...WELL DONE! I'm just devasted to read that anybody might think that there are "Bad trolls!.

This forum reminds me of the Madhatter's Tea Party! Mean, sneaky, name calling, logical and downright PC! Yup, it also get very nasty.

2009 is still young, it is never too late to came up with a plan for certain posters to take the HIGH ROAD! Never too late indeed...

Who's gonna throw the first stone?






Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore
on Feb 21, 2009 at 1:28 pm

Correction: "Bad trolls!".

come instead of "came" in line 4.

2009 Year Of The High Road!


Posted by teacher, a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Feb 21, 2009 at 1:28 pm

I'm a teacher... and I'm a registered Republican who is generally anti-tax (although I do favor this particular parcel tax because I think the benefits to our town outweigh the cost of the tax). I can understand why people are against the parcel tax, but I can also see why many teachers are feeling undervalued and over-criticized based on many of the posts from community members on these blogs. No, disagreeing with a parcel tax is not mean. Unfortunately, many of the posts have not been aimed at the merits of a parcel tax, though, and that's where the problem lies. Finally, I just want to assure the parents out there that teachers are not as calculating at retaliatory as we are being portrayed. You can speak out against the parcel tax and, while it probably won't make you the most popular people with the 100 teachers whose jobs are on the chopping block, no one is going to sabotage your kid's education. The vast majority of us chose a career in education because we care immensely about kids. That holds true whether or not we like their parents. Please stop perpetuating the paranoia.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Hart Middle School
on Feb 21, 2009 at 2:11 pm

If only it were true............

I do not support a parcel tax, I want to keep all teachers jobs. If any teachers lose their jobs they should not be mad at me but at any of you or your union that does not support a salary reduction to keep everyone employed.


Posted by Qwerty, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2009 at 3:29 pm

to Parent:

+100 on your comment


Posted by The Lorax, a resident of Downtown
on Feb 21, 2009 at 5:21 pm

"I do not support a parcel tax, I want to keep all teachers jobs. If any teachers lose their jobs they should not be mad at me but at any of you or your union that does not support a salary reduction to keep everyone employed."

Interesting. When our test scores suffer from education cuts and Pleasanton home values decline as a result, will you likewise advise homeowners not to get mad at the teachers? And what about those who count on the strong reputation of our schools for college admissions?


Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore
on Feb 21, 2009 at 5:30 pm

Some of most disturbing posts that I've read on this blog are about the salaries of Firemen. They deserve every penny that they EARN.

Grow up whiners. VIVA FIREMEN!!!


Posted by New to Pleasanton, a resident of Mohr Park
on Feb 21, 2009 at 5:36 pm

Stacey, in response to your question... some of the other forums in which I have participated are local/regional ones, and there are norms that are quirky that I have gotten used to over time. It took me a while to make my first post at the Bay Area Riders' Forum (for motorcyclists) for instance, because there are a ton of jokes about BARFing.... and that's not for everyone. But there still are clear rules about "flaming" and they are enforced by volunteer moderators.

I do have a sense that some of the folks who post here are relatively new to forums/blogging (for one thing, I wouldn't ever call posts on these forums blogs!) though I can't quite put my finger on why.

I still wish the forums could create more of a place for a constructive debate. Part of that is establishing over time a set of community norms about what is constructive. (Note, I don't mean enforcing rules or censoring the expression of opinions.) I suppose I'll just have to see how this place evolves.


Posted by Mike, a resident of Del Prado
on Feb 22, 2009 at 11:40 pm

Stacy,

I've read some of your comments in other threads and have totally agreed with you. I don't know where to peg you. By the way, how much money is Our Failed President giving you and does Michelle my Belle get mad at you for going her job?


Posted by Doo Doo, a resident of Valley Trails
on Feb 23, 2009 at 9:55 am

There is a BIG difference between being "completely honest and direct" and verbally beating up another person! It's not about the politics of left wing, right wing stuff. It is about how you treat another person when given the POWER of anonymity. How do you talk to them, conversate with them, listen to them. Why should you rationally explain something to someone, when you can expose them and embarrass them for their faults. Early on, I made a valid point on an issue and was harassed endlessly because of a misspelled word and an error in my grammar. My point was ignored.
I enjoy the honesty of my neighbors, and try not to take anything personal. I learn alot about Pleasanton here, as well as my neighbors. Thanks for asking us Emily...I'm a huge fan of yours! Keep up the hard work and always try to remember WHY you got into this buisness to begin with.


Posted by unclehomerr.., a resident of Downtown
on Feb 23, 2009 at 10:08 am


DooDoo.. you should have reposted you point and ignored the critics.

My mother taught me: "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me!" MOM WAS RIGHT...!

When I was about 45 or so, I realized everything Mom told me was right.

"Don't hit your sister!! Change your underwear at least once a week!! Save some money for a rainy day!!"

I wish I had a bumpersticker - MOM WAS RIGHT!

unclehomerr..


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Feb 23, 2009 at 10:43 am

Doo Doo wrote: "Early on, I made a valid point on an issue and was harassed endlessly because of a misspelled word and an error in my grammar."

Flaming people because of their grammar or spelling is as old as the hills, but rather useless. I don't engage in that kind of activity. It is better to afford people such mistakes. But I encourage you, Doo Doo, to try to avoid such mistakes. Proper writing style is equivalent to wearing nice clothes. You get more respect.


Posted by Other resident, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2009 at 11:14 am

I think it is interesting that the pro tax crowd insists that raises equals higher test scores. Apparently integrity makes a better slogan than union mantra.


Posted by Mel, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2009 at 10:48 pm

Your mother was wrong. Ask any kid if their parents critical words hurt them.


Posted by Jerry, a resident of Oak Hill
on Feb 24, 2009 at 12:08 am

The critical words may not have hurt but if I didn't listen what followed sure did!!!


Posted by Scott Walsh, a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Feb 26, 2009 at 9:56 am

Hey "Dude" Lorax and Craig--yeah I screwed up and submitted to the wrong thread. Thanks and sorry.


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