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Comment Policy

Computer_keyboard
I’ve known for a while that I should write a comment policy for this blog. But I kept putting it off. Not out of any resistance to it, but simply out of laziness: I’m lazy about doing things that don’t need to be done immediately, and the blog seemed to be doing okay without an official comment policy. The overwhelming majority of commenters understood the “lively but respectful,” “listen to each other and cut each other slack,” “don’t treat each other like enemies” tone that I try to set here, without my needing to spell it out.

But it’s been borne upon me in recent weeks and months that I need a comment policy. This blog has been getting more heavily trafficked: and in what’s probably an inevitable result of that, comment threads have occasionally been getting more aggressive, and I’ve been having to intervene more than I usually like. I’ve had to ban my first commenters, and close my first comment thread. So to make it clear that I’m not doing these things on a mere whim, I’m posting my official comment policy. (I should have done this sooner; for that, you all have my apologies.)

Crown_of_Italy.svgI’m going to start with the all-important Reminder of Benevolent Autocracy: This is my blog.

Mine, mine, mine.

I ultimately have the right to moderate the comments here in any way I like. If I choose to ban all commenters whose names end in the letter W, or to delete all comments that post at 1:13 in the afternoon on any 17th of the month, I would be within my rights to do that.

Newspaper_boxes
And it would not be censorship or a restriction of free speech. Again, I refer you to the This Is My Blog principle. This is my free speech area, in which I am free to say whatever I want, and which I am free to moderate in any way I see fit. If I were a newspaper publisher, I would have the right to decide which letters to the editor I did and didn’t publish. Think of comments here as letters to the editor. My right of free speech means that I have the right to decide which letters get published in my newspaper, and which ones don’t.

Or think of it this way: Commenters in this blog are guests in my home. And I have the right to decide who I let into my home and who I don’t.

If you don’t like my comment policy, you’re free to visit other blogs… or indeed to start one of your own. Starting your own blog is cheap/ free. You can say whatever you want in your own blog, and you can set up whatever fickle, autocratic comment policy you like.

Now. That being said:

W
I’m not going to be fickle or autocratic, and I’m not going to ban all commenters whose names end in W. In fact, I generally moderate this blog with an extremely light touch. In three years of blogging, I have, as of this writing, banned only two people from commenting, and shut down only one comment thread. I don’t delete comments simply because I don’t agree with them; I don’t ban commenters simply because they disagree with me.

But I do moderate. This is my official comment policy. Violations will cause me to intervene, with varying degrees of severity, including warnings, editing or deletion of comments, disemvowelling of comments, closing of comment threads, and temporary or permanent banning from the blog.

Anticapitalismo2
No advertising in the comments. Comments with obvious commercial content will have their links stripped at best, and will be deleted and marked as spam at worst.

No flame
Be respectful of other commenters in this blog. No personal insults; no namecalling; no flame wars.

In this blog, I draw a distinction between criticism of public figures and criticism of other commenters in this blog. If you want to call Rick Warren a bigot or Richard Dawkins a fascist, Ted Haggard a hypocrite or Christopher Hitchens a fucking asshole, that’s more or less okay. (I prefer that people keep that sort of rhetoric to a minimum even about public figures, as it tends to shed more heat than light; but I’ve been known to indulge in it myself, so I’m not going to insist that other people consistently hold themselves to a higher standard. Excessive use of it may result in consequences. Occasional use of it is cool.)

But if Warren or Dawkins or Haggard or Hitchens were to show up in this blog and start commenting, I would ask people to stop that sort of language immediately. When you talk about public figures, think of yourself as an op-ed writer. When you talk about other commenters in this blog, think of yourself as a guest in my home, engaging in conversation with other guests. If you can’t be civil, then take it outside.

There’s a difference between criticizing ideas and actions and insulting people. When you make comments in this blog, please draw that distinction. Lively debate is fine, but keep it respectful. Listen to each other and cut each other slack. Don’t treat each other like enemies. If you prefer a more aggressive style of online conversation, there are other blogs where that’s considered standard and indeed desirable. This isn’t one of them.

Piggie
No comment hogging or hijacking of comment threads. When I moderate, I don’t just watch for things being said in individual comments. I also watch for patterns over multiple comments. And one of the patterns I watch for is comment hogging: excessive commenting by one person, to the point where that person’s conversation is dominating one or more threads. If you’re essentially using this blog as if it were your own, then maybe you should be starting your own blog. If you already have a blog, maybe you should be posting there.

Addendum: Posting extremely long comments is a form of comment hogging/ hijacking. I’m not yet going to put a hard upper limit on comments…. but if your comment is very long, please consider writing it as a post in your own blog instead, and posting a summary and a link in the comments here.

Blackboard
No repeated attempts to bring up the same topic over and over again. Again, when I moderate, I watch for objectionable patterns across comments as well as objectionable content in any given comment. And one of those patterns is bringing up the same topic of conversation again and again, in multiple comment threads, regardless of whether it’s relevant to the topic currently being discussed.

I get that a certain amount of topic drift does happen in comments, and I’m (grudgingly) okay with that. But bringing up the same topic again and again is potentially very problematic: especially if it’s a topic that’s irrelevant to the post at hand, and double especially if it’s a topic that’s proven fruitless and poisonous in the past.

Troll
No trolling. I am defining “trolling” as “deliberate attempts to pick fights.” Disagreements and debates are fine; trying to stir up shit and get people mad for your own entertainment is not.

RESPECT
Respect my right to moderate my blog. If I’m asking commenters in a thread to dial down the hostility, then please dial down the hostility, or take yourself out of the thread. If I’m asking commenters to stop feeding a troll, then please stop feeding the troll, or take yourself out of the thread. If I’ve had to shut down a comment thread, then please don’t try to revive the thread elsewhere: drop it, or take yourself out of the blog. If I’ve asked you to stop commenting, or to limit your comments to a specific nature (e.g., links to your own blog posts where you’ve replied to my posts), then please respect that request. Etc.

If you think the specifics of my moderation are unfair or inconsistent, email me and let me know. And if you’ve been put in the doghouse and want to be let out, email me and let me know. But don’t treat the very fact that I moderate my blog as censorship or a violation of your rights. It’ll result in you going straight to the top of my Think Hard About Banning This One list (not a long list, but I do have one), and may even get you banned immediately. And it’ll result in me giving you the giant horse laugh.

Law books
The usual legal stuff. No copyright violations, no threats, no incitement to violence, no slander.

I think that’s it. If I need to add anything later, I’ll let y’all know. Thanks, and have fun!

Comments

  1. says

    Keep on going. I’d like to offer one improvement: keep the unintentionally funniest commenters around long enough so that we can play with them before you eat them.

  2. gruntled atheist says

    Very nice comment policy. I wish sometimes that people who put up very long comments would post a summary and a link instead.

  3. says

    I wish sometimes that people who put up very long comments would post a summary and a link instead.

    Good idea. I’m amending the comment policy to incorporate it. Thanks.

  4. says

    Of course, while it’s a given that any blogger has the right to moderate as they see fit, including banning all comments, it should be noted that those who choose to not allow any comments – or not allow any disagreement – generally take a lot of flak elsewhere in the blogosphere. Hell, it seems that banning comments in general is a tacit admission that your arguments won’t hold up to rational argument. That’s not always the case, of course – sometimes it’s just people new to blogging shifting in from an older form of media who aren’t used to taking comments – but it seems to happen quite a bit.

  5. says

    Just to clarify, infophile: I’m not suggesting that I’d ban all comments from my blog. It’s hard to imagine ever doing that: comments are easily half the fun of blogging, if not more.
    I’m talking about banning all comments from a particular commenter. And I wouldn’t do it because I disagreed with the content of their comments. (In fact, one of the two people I’ve banned from this blog was someone who was taking my side in an argument.) I think even a cursory look at the comments in this blog would make it clear that I not only allow disagreement, but encourage it.
    I realize that people who get banned (or otherwise restricted, including getting warnings about potentially being banned) may well accuse me of doing so to stifle their opinion. There’s not much I can do about that, though, except try to be consistent about my comment policy, and make sure in my own conscience that that’s not what I’m doing.

  6. says

    So… is now the right time to mention to everyone the SUPER CHEAP DEALS I have on all the COMPLETELY NATURAL MEDICINE I offer to INCREASE BLOODFLOW TO THE SEXUAL ORGAN OF YOUR CHOICE and give you MIND-BLOWING ORGASMS?
    (Offer void to pancreas fetishists.)

  7. Bachalon says

    Not that I’m anyone, but I thought I’d toss in my appreciation for the time and effort you put into this. It couldn’t have been something you wanted to do.
    Good to see you cutting off the “censorship!” cry at the pass.

  8. says

    A fair and sound policy all-around, I must say, though I humbly request, in the event you find one of my comments inappropriate, I’d rather have it deleted completely than edited. Not that I’m so vain as to think I’m likely to stand out from the crowd enough to yiu’ll remember my specific request so much as pointing out that there are people out there who feel this way, and it might be something to keep in mind in the process of moderating your blog.

  9. says

    I love your blog! your views on atheism and feminism. I specially love your weightloss( for want of a better word) pieces. Exactly my feelings- only so well articulated. Sorry for commenting here- but I did not know where else to. I bookmarked you only a few days ago- and am just wondering why like PZ Myers’ and Hemant Mehta’ blogs, I did not do so earlier.

  10. Locutus7 says

    Greta, I posted a fairly anodyne comment to your most excellent article on Atheist Seal of Approval article (it was comment #6). It made it to the comment section, but then disappeared seconds later.
    Just curious, was it something I said?
    Thanks in advance, L7

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