It is with some relief that I remind myself it is not my job to convince others that I am right.

If I’ve not changed any minds though, this past couple weeks on the site have been rewarding in other ways.  I’m a close follower of site stats here, watching every day to see where the traffic is going, where it’s coming from, etc.  There is a typical pattern for every post, even the ones which get a boost from higher-traffic sites, and that is that traffic diminishes over time, often pretty sharply, even when they’ve drawn solid, insightful comments.

This month for the first time though, there’s been a healthy cohort of readers who’ve come back every day, presumably to see what was new in the comments, even when there were no new posts.  And that’s the kind of paydirt I’m looking for.  I do write for the site, but my job here as editor is to build a space that wraps up peoples’ attention like that.

So, was my part in this a contribution of sober, reasoned analysis?  Did I respectfully take into account all points of view and offer my insights on the merits of each?  Was I judicious in my choice of arguments, thoughtful and careful in my concern for consequences?

Or did I stake out an extreme position and charge in to defend it with battle cry in full throat like the iconic video game character Leeroy Jenkins, thus leaving my increasingly dismayed allies to pick up the pieces?

Leeroy Jenkins, sometimes misspelled Leroy Jenkins and often elongated with numerous additional letters, is an Internet phenomenon named for a player character [in] World of Warcraft. The character became popular due to a video of the game that circulated around the Internet. The phenomenon has since spread beyond the boundaries of the gaming community into other online and mainstream media.

The video … features a group of players discussing a detailed battle strategy for the next encounter while one of their party members, Leeroy, is away from his computer. Their plan is ruined when Leeroy returns and, ignorant of the strategy, immediately charges headlong into battle shouting his own name in a stylized battle cry. His companions rush to help, but Leeroy’s actions ruin the meticulous plan, and all of the group members are killed.

I love Leeroy; I think it’s a hilarious scene (you may or may not agree, but you really have to watch the video to know).  While I wouldn’t be so amused if traffic had tanked this month, when I reflect on what readers have found so compelling recently I’m not a little bit fascinated and entertained by the parallels.

All of which is not to take away from, but rather to play up the riches brought to the site by Stephanie, Diane, Rachel, Gwen, and the recently more vocal Isabel.  The Leeroy dynamic would never work if they weren’t bringing real substance to the conversation – and they do.  All appearances to the contrary, I do know how lucky I am to have them around.

Here’s the thing:  I think there’s room enough for more than one point of view in this recent conversation.  I’ve referred a few times now to the idea of The One vs. The Many, and it seems like we’ve gotten drawn into a competition to decide the One Right Answer here.  That’s not likely to end well.

On Thursday, slacktivist offered up a great ground-level survey of comedian Sarah Silverman’s sense of humor vs. that on display in the controversial Groupon commercial that aired during the Super Bowl.  One takeaway was the idea that there can be bad places to tell a good joke, which I think resonates well with the emphasis Gwen and I especially place on context and situation for autism — and especially well with the discomfort commenters felt this week while applying my perspective to situations where it was not helpful.  Likewise, the heedless enthusiasm of Leeroy Jenkins is something I would never, ever want to see excised from the world, but you know … time and place, dude, time and place.

Thing is, here on the net all we ever have is here and now.  Or everywhere and everywhen.  Internet Metaphysics is not my strength, but I think things are bound to feel crowded from time to time when we’re all bringing our own situations to the same table.

To reply directly to just one of Stephanie’s comments, where we had been discussing how much faith we ought to place in peoples’ ability to resolve cognitive dissonance about all that is contained on the spectrum – on bright days, I do have faith that folks will sort things out correctly, but on the more numerous days when I lack that faith I’ll act just the same, simply out of habitual defiance.  I am, as a psychological test told an employer of mine once, “likely to use time as an ally.”  My life affords me the ability to be comfortable staking out my position and waiting for the world to come around to it.  Stephanie’s does not.  Leeroy notwithstanding, I’m okay with that; there isn’t just one way to do this.

I expect Leeroy will be back though from time to time, in one guise or another – it can be argued he’s been here all along.  I agree entirely that he is bad for certain times and places, but if I’m reading recent events correctly, he has at least some popularity around here, and a way of bringing out the best among the locals.

on 02/18/11 in Art/Play/Myth, featured | 9 Comments | Read More

Comments (9)


  1. Isabel says:

    Hey Mark. Just had to let you know that I just LOVE Shift Journal!

  2. Mark Stairwalt says:

    Phew! And here I was worried I was coming off as an a**hole (not that I might not still be …). But thanks. :-)

  3. Jonathan says:

    I’ll chime in here and say how much I love Shift Journal as well. Even when there is disagreement, it’s level headed and down-to-earth, and both sides are truly trying to listen to each other. I find that incredibly refreshing.

    I think I’ve read every single post since its inception in 2009. Thanks to Mark for putting it together and maintaining it so well.

  4. KWombles says:

    And now I am intrigued at what I have missed recently. :-)

  5. Mark Stairwalt says:

    Jonathan — this is still The House that Andrew Built; he’s responsible for setting that tone in the first place. But you’re welcome. Glad you like it.

    KWombles — it was this of Gwen’s what set me off:


    which led to:


    and so on. Who says I surround myself with sycophants? 😀

    (I like your spectrum icon there; I’d never noticed that before)

  6. Mark, I know the vulnerability that you feel about having staked some ground and been very vocal about it, but the fact is, I don’t think that anyone thinks badly of you for it. I certainly don’t. Even though we disagree, I respect your ideas and the way you present them. You don’t engage in ad hominem attacks; you don’t use words like a blunt object; and you’re very engaging and thoughtful. I thought that the discussion last week was awesome.

  7. Mark Stairwalt says:

    I’ve more or less outlined this already, but I see part of the work that needs doing, and that I can do, to be pushing the envelope, or more accurately, dragging the frame off and away from the more toxic placement we’ve found it to be in. If we can demonstrate that ideas that may seem 5x crazy can at least be entertained, then ideas that may have once seemed 1x or 2x crazy to large groups of people can begin to get some traction — and other more toxic ideas that once seemed acceptable can come into question (you may have seen this proven technique at work in another direction in an elective office or legislative body near you). But yeah, it can be hazardous work — thanks.

  8. Stephanie says:


    As autism is a spectrum, we need a spectrum of voices to depict it accurately to the public at large. Yours is no less valued (by me) for not always being in-tune with my own. Nor are your concerns any less real than my own.

    One of the great strengths of Shift Journal is your ability to collect writers who not only write effectively, but also care about each others’ differences and each others’ similarities.

  9. Mark Stairwalt says:

    Thanks Stephanie. Boxers gotta spar, teams gotta hold scrimmages … theater’s gotta have drama. 😉

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