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On Discourse and Community Guidelines: Rules of the Road

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Here's what we believe at Maize n Brew.

Gregory Shamus

Four years ago, the Michigan blogosphere was ablaze. Rich Rodriguez was fired, the coaching search was a bit asinine, and then Michigan hired Brady Hoke.

Those few months were a very difficult time to be part of the online Michigan sports community. Ad hominem attacks were everywhere, comment boards were a minefield, and it was generally not a very nice time to be on Internet.

With the exception of a very small few, are of us, regardless of viewpoints, all fervent Michigan fans and all would like nothing more than to see championships delivered the "Michigan" way in every sport.

But sometimes, things don't go according to plan. And it's when the shit hits the fan that we reveal the true colors of our collective character. For the most part, nearly every member of the community has done a wonderful job at keeping the fact that we're all obsessing about 18-22 year olds playing a game alongside their education in perspective.

But some of us haven't. It's standard internet protocol in most bright places of the Web to not feed the trolls, and we ask that you continue to do the same. Reasoned responses are fine - getting personal, and executing vendettas against posters or ideas is not. Say your piece, be proud of it, and be civil.

There is one overarching philosophy here at Maize n Brew, and that it is a community where we can express our opinions about the sports we love and the piss that is Heineken. Differing opinions are not only allowed, they're encouraged. We believe this adds to the overall community by increasing the overall level of conversation and discourse on the site.

One point bears repeating, in the basest of terms: do not be a dick. That is the single guiding philosophy for comments on this site. If you are a dick in real life, or on other sites, I'm not going to begin to tell you how to live your life. But don't pollute the community here.

Dissent is not disloyalty, nor is it a crime. Passion is a wonderful thing. But here, harness it, and help us build something fun and cool and wonderful. It's much easier to tear something down and viciously attack than to constructively criticize and build something inclusive.

I can't say it as well as Dave did in 2011, so I'm reposting his fine, fine article below in its entirety.

Thank you for being part of our community. You're always welcome here.

-Shash, Zach, Josh, Anthony, Peter, and the entire Maize n Brew editorial team

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[Meta? Meta. It's officially the off-season and while there are things to write about I thought I'd take a little time to reaffirm who we are at Maize n Brew and why we do what we do. This is meta, and at some points super-meta, so I bounce from "I" to "we" from time to time. Sometimes the differentiation is necessary to get to the core of what I'm/we're talking about here, so when I'm speaking for the collective "us" at Maize n Brew, you'll see the distinction. This piece is a little long, but it's worth it. Hopefully it'll give you a little more insight into us and what this blog is all about.]

Your average sports blog really isn't that big in any context. There's usually one guy/girl writing it and it usually dies within a year without making much of an impact on anyone other than the person struggling to fill it with content. But when blogs take off, they tend to be havens for like minded souls who share the same interest on a particular subject and grow from there. Sometimes it's one guy. Sometimes is more than one. But usually the voice is consistent and the message remain constant. The story here is... well... a little different.

Maize n Brew doesn't really conform to the pre-described identity of a school specific sports blog. It's not just one guy or one voice anymore. There are a lot of different people writing here. There are a lot of different personalities and takes on events. As a result, sometimes we talk at cross purposes. We discuss the goings on of different conferences, teams, and sports. We say things that are popular and sometimes unpopular. We take separate stances on critical issues and publish them right on the front page, sometimes within minutes of one another. Here, there is no singular style or voice. It's an amalgam of so many different things.... but it works. And it's exactly what I hoped Maize n Brew would become.

Personally, I like to think of Maize n Brew like a bunch of buddies sitting around a tailgate, drinks in hand, discussing the game and sports in general. As with any group of friends, we don't always agree. We joke. We argue. We make fun of one another. We ask difficult questions. We pose even more difficult answers. But we always have fun and we try to keep it civil, you know, because we're friends. Like Michigan, we're a diverse cross-section of people. Old guys, recent grads, students, etc., and I think our diversity is one of our greatest strengths. That's why I'm choosing to celebrate it here.

One of the reasons I started Maize n Brew was because I felt there was a segment of the Michigan fan base that was under-represented in the "blogosphere". Fans with a different sense of humor. Fans whose loyalty is beyond question, but take a different track with their fandom. Fans who aren't afraid to look at themselves and laugh. In some ways, fans that aren't on the internet constantly but turn to it on occasion to find out what's going on with their favorite team.

What I came to learn as I wrote here, read other's work, and added new writers, is that there is no definable "voice" for the section of fandom I sought to represent. Frankly, there's no definable voice for any type of fandom. Especially Michigan's. Michigan means so many different things to so many different fans that it is impossible to offer a tone or style that fits everyone. Try as I might to encapsulate things perfectly, someone always had a different take on just about everything I wrote. And more often than not their point of view gave me a perspective on things that I didn't have before.

For every vocal minority or majority of fans, there is an opposite with an equally valid voice or perspective on Michigan athletics. And that's what we try to offer here. A different voice. A different set of voices. A little something for everyone.

Pulling the curtain back a little more, even after five years we're still figuring out how this blogging thing works. One of the constant struggles we deal with is managing the delicate balance between allowing different voices and views to be heard, and providing a consistent editorial position on relevant topics. What does this mean to you?  In the long run it means a little more integration between posts and clarification on our individual positions versus the blog itself. None of us believe these changes will interfere with this blog's core value, which is to provide unique coverage and opinions from multiple viewpoints and to encourage readers such as yourself to participate in the discussion. Instead, we think this will allow us to expand these conversations in new and different directions.  Let's be clear, it probably won't work perfectly, but we're going to try it anyway. We think these efforts will ensure a better experience for the you, the reader, and allow us to provide you with more relevant content.

We try not to take ourselves too seriously here, but from time to time we fail at that like anyone else. It's just part of being a fan. And that's why we're all here. We're fans. We love the University of Michigan. We love college sports. And we love to talk about it.

If you've been around here for a little while, you know we enjoy to joke around as much as we like to tackle serious questions. Whether we're poking fun of Hoke's recruiting methods, turning the Big XII into bitchy cheerleaders, tracking Stephen Schillings NFL Combine Experience, using photoshop, turning Rich Rodriguez into Al Green or Jim Delany into Biggie Smalls, we like to have fun, often at our own expense.

But we're also not afraid to tackle some difficult topics and take stances that others might not agree with. For instance, I defended Dave Brandon and his hiring process. Why? Because I and a number of people feel he handled the process well and has been unfairly criticized. By that same token there are other members of Maize n Brew who have a different opinion on the process, and I'll stand behind their opinion just as fervently. Why? Because even I don't have the hubris to tell you for certain that they are 100% wrong. I can disagree, but I also believe their perspective is equally valid to my own.

We've also talked about Rich Rodriguez' and Michigan's recruiting over the last few years. We've discussed it's impact on the coming season and how it will effect our recruiting needs into the future. Some people didn't like it, but that's their prerogative. Recently, I took on Yahoo and its journalists, in none-to-flattering commentary, for what I perceive as a woefully low and inadequate standard of acceptance for the allegations they made. When Ohio State confirmed the allegations contained therein, I issued an apology for asserting that they did not have what they claimed. Even so, I continue to stand by my critique of the manner they handled and published their piece, irrespective of the criticism I've received from others for it, be it civil and well thought out or embarrassingly insulting. Why? Because I think it needed to be said whether others agree with it or not.

The point is that Maize n Brew will continue to crack jokes, tackle difficult subjects, look at things from different perspectives, and stand by our coach no matter who it is. It's just who we are. We're a group of wildly different friends whose love for Michigan brings us together no matter how different we may be in real life. We'll talk about things that are funny, interesting, and sometimes controversial. And that's why we're going to continue to talk in different voices about different things.

Maybe you disagree, but I feel this place has gotten so much better since the arrival of Beauford, SCM, Markus, Kyle, Zach, Remember Bo, and MagnusThunder. But I'm betting you agree with me. If you want an example, look no further than Zach's recent piece on Tressel and the NCAA. I'd list even more pieces by each author, but you've already read them and know what I'm talking about. All these guys have added their voice to this site and Maize n Brew is better because of it. They've helped to offer things that I simply can't do alone or simply lack the knowledge to speak about. And I'll stand by the pieces they put up as fervently as I'll stand behind my own.

One of the great things that Michigan teaches you is that there is strength in diversity. Different opinions are a part of life and the ability to discuss them openly, even discussing something as trivial as college sports, makes us all better off. There's just too much good stuff out there, and in here, for us to limit ourselves to one voice.

Along those lines, we'd like to encourage you to participate. I know registering to comment seems weird, but it's worth it. Don't worry, we're not going to spam you or bombard you with emails. That's not what it's there for. We're going to talk about all kinds of things here and we'd love it if you'd join the conversation in the comments, or start your own in the FanShots or FanPosts. They're really easy to use and often you'll find great topics to discuss before we will. Maybe you heard something interesting you'd like to share or you've got an opinion you'd like to voice.  The one thing you'll never have to worry about here is being shouted down or insulted simply because your take on events is different. If things start to go over the top we'll let whoever's pushing the line know, but we strongly believe that the best way to deal with conflicting views is to voice your opinion respectfully. In the long run your participation will influence this site as much as anything we write. So the floor is yours, and we encourage you to join the fun.

In the future, will we try to be a little more focused? Probably, but I wouldn't put money on it being perfect. Here's what we will do. We'll continue to expect more out of Michigan, the media, and ourselves than others do. We'll get back to cracking fart jokes and dissecting the 2011 Big Ten season ahead. We'll talk about every Michigan sport and probe the world around us with a cynical, but comic, eye. And we're going to continue to tell you how we feel about Michigan and college sports in general, whether it's a popular opinion or not. Maybe you'll agree with our positions. Maybe you won't. That's your prerogative and you're welcome to disagree with us if you wish. The one thing you won't have to worry about is being shouted down or told you're a moron because you disagree with the status quo.

For five years that's how we've rolled here at Maize n Brew. If that suits you, we're glad you're here.