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Sep 09 2011

Comment policy

I was going to wait to do this until my archives had moved over. But I think I need to go ahead and post my comment policy now. This blog’s new home here at Freethought Blogs is getting a metric shitload of comments… which is hugely exciting, don’t get me wrong, I’m tickled pink. But while most commenters here are familiar with my comment policy from the old blog, and are generally good about adhering to it, there are some new commenters who aren’t familiar with the standards of this blog, and some of the ways that they’re different from many other blogs.

So now seems like a good time to spell out my comment policy. For the most part, violators of these policies will get at least one warning; repeat violations will result in comments being edited, disemvowelled, or deleted, and may result in commenters being banned.

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

In comment threads in this blog, I encourage lively dissension and debate. I do not, however, accept personal insults aimed at other commenters. I am fine with vigorous and even snarky critiques of ideas and behavior — but when that crosses the line into personal insults, I stop being fine. “That’s a stupid idea” is okay (I’d personally prefer it if you worded it differently, and if your critiques of ideas consistently takes that tone I might ask you to dial it back, but just by itself it won’t get you banned). “You’re stupid” is not okay.

UPDATE: Actually — I’m going to amend this. I’d personally MUCH prefer it if you don’t use personally insulting rhetoric aimed at ideas. I’m not going to absolutely rule it out — yet — but I’m going to VERY STRONGLY request that you not do it. If someone is being infuriating, please take the high road. Be the bigger person. Find the pleasures of skillfully disemboweling someone with icy politeness. And do not play the “But they said it first!” game. Do not assume that, because someone else was insulting first, therefore it’s okay for you to be insulting back. Do not escalate things. Dial things back.

I also 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 Sam Harris 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 Harris 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.

Again: 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. Cut each other slack. Don’t leap immediately to the worst possible interpretation of what somebody is saying, and 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. This is not, for instance, Pharyngula. I love that Pharyngula is Pharyngula — I have big fun over there, and I think it has a hugely valuable place in our community. But I also think there’s value in having a place where people can get their ideas vigorously critiqued without getting a faceful of venom. I want this blog to be one of them. Please respect that.

2: No trolling. I am defining “trolling” as “deliberate attempts to pick fights or get a reaction.” Disagreements and debates are fine; trying to stir up shit and get people mad for your own entertainment is not. I expect people to comment here in a good faith effort to express a sincere view, and possibly to persuade others of that view. If you’re just poking people with a stick to get them riled up or to “try to get them to think,” your comments are not welcome here.

3: 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.

And 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.

4: 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.

5: No bigotry or hate speech. Again, I welcome lively discussion and debate on controversial topics. I do not, however, tolerate bigotry or hate speech in my blog. “I oppose same-sex marriage, and here’s why” is an acceptable comment. (I find the content reprehensible, but it won’t get you banned.) “Fuck you, faggots” or “Die, faggots” will get you banned, with no warning.

Yes, people have a First Amendment right to express these ideas. I’ve spoken passionately in defense of that right. People do not, however, have a First Amendment right to express these ideas in my blog. (See below for more on the “This Is My Blog” principle.)

6: No religious proselytizing. I accept, and indeed encourage, comments here from religious believers who disagree with my atheism. Again, I welcome lively and vigorous discussion with people whose opinions I disagree with. But if you’re only going to spout your beliefs without being willing to engage in discussion and debate about those beliefs, your comments are not welcome. If you make a comment here that all non-believers are going to burn in hell, and other commenters ask you what evidence you have to support your assertion, and all you do is repeat your opinion that all non-believers are going to burn in hell without answering anyone’s questions or engaging in any conversations about your belief… that’s proselytizing, and it will get you banned.

7: Keep nitpicking to a bare minimum. A little nitpicking can be informative and entertaining, and if I misspell or misuse a word or phrase I want to be informed of it. But I hate, hate, hate it when a blog comment fixates on one word or sentence in a post or another comment, while ignoring the clear intent and context of the rest of the post or comment. I consider it a form of trolling. Don’t do it.

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

9: Do not behave atrociously in other blogs. If you are barely walking the line of acceptable behavior in this blog — but you have a pattern of foul, demeaning, sexist/ racist/ etc., insulting, violently threatening, or otherwise reprehensible behavior in other blogs — you will be banned from this one, with no second chance, and no warning.

10. Don’t be an asshole. If you are barely walking the line of acceptable behavior in this blog, but you are consistently being unpleasant, nasty, snide, sarcastic, nitpicky, assuming the worst possible intentions, or otherwise just generally being an asshole — towards other commenters, or towards me — you will be banned from this blog. If I’m feeling generous, I’ll give you a warning first — but I make no promises in that regard. If the entire tone of a conversation is going south, and it’s clear to me that you’re the one making it go south, you’re gone.

11: The usual legal stuff. No copyright violations, no threats, no incitement to violence, no slander.

And finally — and perhaps most importantly:

12: 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 else 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.

There is a very important basic principle at work here — the Principle of Benevolent Autocracy. Spelled out more clearly: This is my blog. Mine, mine, mine. I ultimately have the right to moderate the comments here in any way I like. As it happens, I generally moderate this blog with an extremely light touch: I don’t delete comments simply because I don’t agree with them, and I don’t ban commenters simply because they disagree with me. But if I chose 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. 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. But in my blog, please respect my right to moderate it as I see fit.

If you think the specifics of my moderation are unfair or inconsistent, then by all means, 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.

That’s everything for now. If you have questions or feedback, please let me know. Thanks, and enjoy the blog!

99 comments

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  1. 1
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    One thought. Since I imagine you agree, I would suggest adding that unreasonably uncharitable interpretations – including both obviously deliberate misreadings and hard-to-believe-not-deliberate misreadings as well as flat-out cherry-picking and quote-mining – of others’ statements are intellectually dishonest and contrary to the kind of discussion you want to foster here.

    I guess this is kind of redundant with the “no trolling” specification, but I’ve observed at other blogs that are now on FTB that even people who loudly reject “trolling” often believe they have a sacred right to (the most common manifestation of this behavior) ignore what the OP or other commenters are actually saying and respond to some stereotype they have in their heads that those statements vaguely reminded them of. :/

  2. 2
    Rob Harrison

    No proselytizing? O, man!? How’s a guy supposed to engage the fundies? Oh wait. There a Facebook page called “The Bible,” and “Jesus Daily.”

    Snarky? You bet. I went to the Bible page and asked a simple yet pointed question about one of the many errors in the “inerrant” word to see what sort to of discussion would come of it. Hoi! I wasn’t impressed. I had folk telling me that x looks like Y looks like Z. I had one person tell me the authors were TOO inspired. A whole lot of blind faith in something that the Bible doesn’t actually claim for itself(inerrancy).

    So I’ll abide by these gawt dayamed rules. Benevolent dictator; yea right…………….

  3. 3
    Tim Martin

    “But I also think there’s value in having a place where people can get their ideas vigorously critiqued without getting a faceful of venom.”

    What is the value in having a place where people get a faceful of venom? Yes, I’m talking about Pharyngula.

  4. 4
    HankFox

    Back when I was a more energetic blog commenter (pre-blogs-of-my-own), I got the “Posting extremely long comments is a form of comment hogging/hijacking” thing more than once.

    Considering how easy it is to scroll down past a long comment, and that no actual ink or paper is being used up, I never quite got the Why of it. Sometimes, when you’re dealing in complex issues, it takes a while to fully explain a position or concept.

    (Of course I respect the rule, here and elsewhere.)

    But then, I also don’t perceive a comment made in all-caps as shouting. I think it’s ANNOYING, yes, and reflects badly on the person doing it, but I’m sometimes surprised at the vehement reaction to it by certain other commenters — as if the Marching Nazi Vuvuzela Band had come into the room and actual deafening noise was being produced.

  5. 5
    Reverend PJ

    The value of having a place where people get a face full of venom is simple, some people like that form of interaction. If you don’t then don’t go to those places. I personally enjoy polite discourse and no-holds barred poo flinging. In addition to personal enjoyment, I suspect the venom-rich venues are a grew place to relay just how angry folks are about a topic.

  6. 6
    Ani Sharmin

    Pharyngula’s great, but I very rarely venture into the comment threads there, whereas I very much enjoy reading the comments on your blog. Also, I love that you used the phrase “Principle of Benevolent Autocracy”.

  7. 7
    MisterJohnGalt

    Oh well, nice knowing you, Greta.

    I’m perfectly familiar with the purpose and effect of anti-trolling, hijacking, hate speech etc. prohibitions — to censure and shut down any intelligent disagreement with the blogger’s position. Ultimately, you end up with an echo-chamber ruled by a close-knit band of sychopants. It’s never about limiting nasty epithets or personal insults, which are condoned if not actually encouraged when committed by the regulars. Spend a few days at Pandagon or Feministe if you’d like to see the policy in practice.

    I ran a blog for several years without deleting a single comment outside of computer-generated spam. Where their stupid and offensive comments? Plenty of them, but guess what — you can avert your eyes if you don’t want to read them.

    What fascinates me is how “property rights” (it’s my blog!) are always invoked to defend such policies. It’s a legal defense, certainly, but as no one disputes the legality it’s really being used as a moral or policy justification. However, it’s still an attack on the general principle of free speech, despite the presence of a government actor. And I’ve also noticed that the property rights defense is rarely approved of when the same bloggers are interested in appropriating someone else’s private property — the property targeted, whether the airwaves, a shopping mall, or a home, magically becomes a public accommodation for the purpose of suiting the agenda involved.

    So, good luck, and goodbye.

  8. 8
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    What is the value in having a place where people get a faceful of venom? Yes, I’m talking about Pharyngula.

    I’m not sure what you mean by venom. I’ve always been comfortable with bluntness even to the point of being harsh, despite occasionally objecting to genuinely gratuitous abuse (of myself and third parties), but I’ve mostly stopped commenting there because the culture that’s developed has become extremely toxic in terms of intellectual honesty.

  9. 9
    Tim Martin

    @azkyroth: I’m referring to that genuinely gratuitous abuse you speak of. Two things, specifically:

    1. Telling someone to “go fuck yourself” in response to their arguments.
    2. Responding to someone’s arguments with arguments of your own, and also, for good measure, telling them to “go fuck yourself.”

    The first is completely pointless. The second at least allows for discussion, if one person is saintly enough to not be bothered by the personal attacks launched at them. But it’s an empirical fact of human nature that vitriol tends to make logical discussions less-than-logical and less-than-helpeful. And considering that the people who use such invective seem to be doing so solely because they’re angry, I see no rational reason to support it. And I’m not alone in this – Greta apparently doesn’t support it. Neither does Jerry at Why Evolution is True, nor Russel at Metamagician and the Hellfire Club.

    PZ seems to be an anomaly in being okay with commenters treating each other like total assholes. My question, to Greta or anyone who would like to answer it, is what is the benefit in this?

    P.S. to Greta: There’s no comment nesting AND no numbering? That’s going to make continued discussions difficult!

  10. 10
    Maria

    “P.S. to Greta: There’s no comment nesting AND no numbering? That’s going to make continued discussions difficult!”

    Agreed!

    Speaking as the person who *blush* more than once have replied to the wrong post, or used the wrong name, I’d love some kind of feature like this. Also when I don’t feel like jumping in and only wants to read the comments, it can also be rather confusing sometimes to follow who is replying to who, especially when many people are replying to several others at the same time.

  11. 11
    Chris

    Sounds fair, Mom :)
    (On a personal note, Greta, you bring some joy to my days…. thank you.)

  12. 12
    Doug Kirk

    @Tim Martin

    There are people who post there and like to post there, and it has formed a community that doesn’t actively discriminate or incite violence and hatred. Therefore it has value.

    It may not have value to you, but that doesn’t mean it’s value-less. I don’t like Pokemon cards or LARPing. I don’t see the appeal. That doesn’t mean that an organization that supports Pokemon card-players or LARPers is valueless.

  13. 13
    Xtina

    HankFox:

    “Considering how easy it is to scroll down past a long comment, and that no actual ink or paper is being used up, I never quite got the Why of it. Sometimes, when you’re dealing in complex issues, it takes a while to fully explain a position or concept.”

    Part of it is probably that it starts to feel like the person is using the blog as their own platform, when it’s not their blog.  If it takes three scrollings* to get past one person’s single comment, I don’t think they’re being considerately thorough, I tend to think they’re being obnoxious.

    It’s like trying to have a conversation in meatspace, with people taking their five minutes or so to respond and discuss, and then one person spends 45 minutes explaining their viewpoint.  There’s a small chance that they are in fact that awesome — I’ve encountered a few — but a far greater chance that they really like to hear themselves talk.

    (Length of a comment, in my mind, is relative, rather than absolute.  For the most part.  If most folk are writing one- to three-paragraph-long comments, writing a 15-paragraph-long comment is obnoxious.)

    (* I really wish I were exaggerating.  I should find that link…)

  14. 14
    Xtina

    MisterJohnGalt:

    “I’m perfectly familiar with the purpose and effect of anti-trolling, hijacking, hate speech etc. prohibitions — to censure and shut down any intelligent disagreement with the blogger’s position.”

    I am utterly confused by your seeming assertion that anti-trolling, hijacking, and so forth fall under the heading “intelligent disagreement”, even leaving aside the scads of evidence that Greta obviously allows intelligent disagreement.

  15. 15
    Walton

    Sorry if this is off-topic, but I just wanted to ask: Why don’t you have a sidebar with automatic links to your recent posts and recent comments, like the other Freethoughtblogs do? The lack of a single list of recent posts or recent comments makes it rather awkward to navigate. (Particularly as the FTB search function also doesn’t work very well.)

    Sorry for whining… just a suggestion that would make the blog a lot easier to follow (IMO).

  16. 16
    Tim Martin

    @Doug Kirk: You’re right. I was assuming that all of these blogs had similar goals – one of which being to have substantive discussion. If commenters at Pharyngula enjoy sacrificing discussion so that they can have flame wars, and if PZ is okay with that as well, then they are acting in concert with their goals and there’s nothing I can say against it.

    My question still stands, however. “What is the value in having a place where people get a faceful of venom?” Greta loves that Pharyngula is Pharyngula. Ok, why? Why on earth would you love that?

  17. 17
    Classical Cipher, Murmur Muris, OM

    Pharyngula regular here. Please stop mischaracterizing the commentariat. Especially you, Tim Martin – I think that your caricaturing of the environment of Pharyngula is fairly egregious. We do, in fact, argue and discuss intelligently and with substance. We also spit venom. Often, the subjects of discussion are things that matter a whole lot to us personally, and we* see very little value in holding back when people have shown themselves to be so stupid/callous/annoying that discussion with them is stressful and pointless. PZ’s whole moderating ethos is different from Greta’s (and I respect both, and will do my best to follow Greta’s policy while I’m here). While Greta shuts down outright trolling and offensive behavior right away, PZ relies largely on his commentariat to shut down trolls. It works for us, and we have in fact created a supportive and educational community there.

    *While I know that there are others in agreement with me about this, note that, of course, I don’t speak for the whole Horde.

  18. 18
    Midnight Rambler

    P.S. to Greta: There’s no comment nesting AND no numbering? That’s going to make continued discussions difficult!

    Hmm…I see numbers, just like on the other FTB blogs. I thought that was implemented universally.

  19. 19
    cag

    Can quoting the bible as an answer to anything also be discouraged? Make the christians put their blatherings in their own words, as for us the bible has no meaningful answers.

  20. 20
    Maria

    “Hmm…I see numbers, just like on the other FTB blogs. I thought that was implemented universally.”

    I just popped over to Pharyngula to check, and yeah the comments are numbered there, but… I don’t see any numbers here O_o

  21. 21
    'Tis Himself

    “What is the value in having a place where people get a faceful of venom?” Greta loves that Pharyngula is Pharyngula. Ok, why? Why on earth would you love that?

    You need a thick skin to survive at Pharyngula, where a spade is not only called a spade, it’s called a fucking shovel. However venom is not the only ingredient. Intellectual discussion, skepticism, ardent argument and even compassionate companionship are also found there. If venom was the be-all and end-all of Pharyngula, it would not be one of the most popular blogs in the intertubes.

    If you don’t like Pharyngula, then don’t go there. Just don’t sneer at those of us who inhabit the place.

  22. 22
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    “What is the value Pharyngula?”

    is the question…..

    Well, what is the value of 4chan? I personally have never once been to 4chan /a/ or /b/. Not once. Nevernevernever.

    But I **have** been to “I can has cheezeburger?” many a time. In a highly uncensored environment you get nastiness, certainly, but you also get creativity because people aren’t worried about the consequences of failing the board’s standards. With little risk for failure, you get more people willing to try more often. You might say that the nastiness itself will drive people away. The very first time I posted on Pharyngula, I pointed out that PZ had something using grammar that clearly created a universal meaning, about a topic where many exceptions exist.

    I said something approximating, ‘I’m sure that you, PZ, probably mean “most” and just didn’t say it, but I wanna argue in favor of saying it.’

    PZ thought this was incredibly nitpicky, especially b/c AFTER a regular or two immediately jumped on me saying how inane my comment was and that I clearly had no capacity to understand what PZ was saying EVEN THEN I jumped right back in & said, no, I understood PZ perfectly well, but I think even if it’s possible to know what PZ’s saying without the word, “most”, it still should be in there b/c saying what you really mean is worth the time it takes.But instead of getting banned for nitpicking or trolling, they just flamed the idea that precision writing was necessary because anyone smart enough to be worth arguing with is smart enough to get the context. I posted 2 or 3 responses after my OP, and then walked away from it.

    But, and this is key – I got to come back. And I didn’t even have to read the other comments if I didn’t want to. I could have just made my post without reading a single other comment and then continued to neither read nor respond to comments, even PZ’s. That makes the risk extremely low. Where for someone who doesn’t know me & sees my first comment as “mitpicking” and bans me will not get my comments any more.

    And won’t get a lot of others anymore.

    This works. All you have to do is count the comments on 4chan (which, I’m going by report here) are reportedly to be multitudinous, or even the comments on Pharyngula, which are much higher than the vast majority of blogs.

    Having a comment system that is forgiving of bad behavior results in much commenting and good creativity. If you don’t like the sty in which you find these pearls and prefer to go rooting through your nummy, nummy, high-protein trough instead, that’s fine. But there is proven value in having a comment thread where venom doesn’t get one banned.

    The value isn’t the venom, but the venom and the creativity both have the same root cause, and you can’t limit one without limiting the other.

  23. 23
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    oops, if it wasn’t obvious, “I can has cheezburger?” is a site that is the direct result of a joke on 4chan that became a running joke, that became an internet meme that became a site that has been a source of humor and solace for me.

    I suppose it you didn’t know where ICHC came from, the 4chan/ICHC connection might have looked more than a little random.

    Sorry about that everyone!

  24. 24
    Doug Kirk

    @Tim Martin

    The pharyngula commenters have beaten me to it (lurker here who reads pharyngula for the articles and the comments but without the time to comment often myself) but bluntness does not require a sacrifice of discussion. It’s entirely possible to discuss something substantive while speaking plainly and without playing nice.

    I, for one, can’t stand passive aggressive whining, people who clutch their pearls at the first sign of the word fuck, and people who think that the moment one starts discussing things passionately means that person is wrong. I like that PZ clamps down on it in his own way. I like that Greta clamps down on it in her own way.

    I especially like that pharyngula has a reputation for brutal honesty and venom; because it ensures that when someone like myself reads the comments there, nonsense is not treated with any of the deference it thinks it deserves.

  25. 25
    Tim Martin

    @Classical Cipher and ‘Tis Himself: I doubt this is the place to get into a long discussion of the pros and cons of Pharyngula’s comments section. But since I’ve been accused of mischaracterizing and sneering, I will answer to those claims.

    Venom certainly isn’t the only thing you get at Pharyngula. I stated myself that you also get arguments. And though I didn’t mention things like compassion or companionship, I will not deny that those can be found there as well.

    That said, what I asked was “what is the use of venom?” I said, “But it’s an empirical fact of human nature that vitriol tends to make logical discussions less-than-logical and less-than-helpeful.”

    No one has answered the question.

    Furthermore, I do have a relatively thick skin when it comes to being told I’m wrong, as should anyone who engages in rational debate. But what is the purpose of having thick skin so that people can call you a fucking idiot?

    Lastly, there is no sneering here, unless you consider it a sneer whenever someone finds fault with you or something you’re involved in. I have issues with Pharyngula’s policy. So do some of the people I’ve seen comment there. So do, apparently, other bloggers, because Russell Blackford and Jerry Coyne step in and moderate or chastise (for lack of a better word) whenever name-calling starts on their blogs. Do you think that’s 100% personal preference? Or do you think maybe asking people to tone down their anger leads to better discussions?

  26. 26
    llewelly

    There are many ideas – creationism, global warming denialism, sexism, racism – which are so full of falsehood, or so repugnant, they do not deserve consideration. To treat them with courtesy is to present the false impression that there are “two sides” to the story, to contribute to the illusion that considering them is something more than wasting resources on an idea that is destroying people.

    Some ideas do not deserve polite discussion. That is the utility of venom; it is the pharyngula community’s way of showing which ideas are so monstrous as to be undeserving of consideration.

  27. 27
    StarStuff, a soulless cunt

    @ Tim Martin

    Personal insults during a debate are never fun, but it’s understandable. We’re all just human, which means we get upset and angry about things we’re passionate about. Insults are to be expected from time to time. If the person you’re debating is still bringing up legitimate points, then personal insults are irrelevant. As for the Pharyngula community being full of venom, I personally haven’t seen much of that. I’ve seen kind but passionate people debate thing and help encourage each other when someone really needs it.
    However, Grata has every right to run her comments section how she sees fit and I respect that as I’m sure most Pharyngula regulars will.

  28. 28
    John Morales

    Greta, your comment policy is clear and unambiguous (and may I say, still rather generous).

    (The illustrations are pretty damn good, too)

    [Disclaimer: Pharyngula regular here, trying to toe the line]

    Tim, re

    [1] Lastly, there is no sneering here, unless you consider it a sneer whenever someone finds fault with you or something you’re involved in. [2] I have issues with Pharyngula’s policy. So do some of the people I’ve seen comment there. So do, apparently, other bloggers, because Russell Blackford and Jerry Coyne step in and moderate or chastise (for lack of a better word) whenever name-calling starts on their blogs. [3] Do you think that’s 100% personal preference? Or do you think maybe asking people to tone down their anger leads to better discussions?

    1. You seem to think that’s a good thing.

    2. No-one is forcing people to read or comment there, you know. Surely if you’re for adhering to Greta’s guidelines here, you should also be for adhering to PZ’s there.

    3. You ask those questions as if you were they were dichotomous. They ain’t.

    That said, yes, I think what one has issues with is pretty much just personal preference, and that the robustness of a discussion is orthogonal to its quality.

  29. 29
    consciousness razor

    That said, what I asked was “what is the use of venom?” I said, “But it’s an empirical fact of human nature that vitriol tends to make logical discussions less-than-logical and less-than-helpeful.”

    No one has answered the question.

    An empirical fact, eh? Empirical facts generally carry citations, not bare assertions based on one’s opinions.

    If I said something like this…

    “Two plus two equals four. I don’t want to talk to you no more, you empty headed animal food trough wiper. I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.”

    … would that make my equation of two and two with four less-than-logical (assuming this means illogical) and/or less-than-helpful (assuming it’s my job to help you with addition)?

    Is it logically impossible for me to have helped you, in this hypothetical discussion we were having about the sum of two and two, by answering your question while insulting you and your hamster-mother and elderberry-smelling father? Or is there empirical evidence of some kind that this will merely tend to be the case, as often as you might deem significant and enough to make the less-than-nonvenomous environment at Pharyngula serve no use whatsoever?

  30. 30
    Mattir

    I’m crossposting this from Pharyngula, but it captures my feelings about the Pharyngula Tone Problem™ perfectly:

    I love when people complain about Pharyngula’s brutal Commentariat. It’s like they’re reading some totally different blog from me. Or they’ve advanced some dumb-as-fuck argument and been too clueless to apologize and/or agree to disagree, turn off the computer, and come back in 12 hours to a different thread. Even when the original comment/argument is ambiguously worded, or even misinterpreted by the Commentariat, the number of fools who will hang around, become progressively less coherent, and end up getting themselves banned, is astonishing. I’ve gotten better at spotting these fools so as to avoid stepping in to point out that they wrote something ambiguous – not worth my time to rescue such spectacular flameouts.

    For crying out loud, if I, a homeschooling, 12-step enthusiast, Boy Scout leader natural pantheist/humanist Jew, can participate [t]here without undue difficulty, anyone can.

    Greta, I promise to behave myself here. For that matter, I mostly behave myself on Pharyngula, though.

  31. 31
    'Tis Himself

    That said, what I asked was “what is the use of venom?” I said, “But it’s an empirical fact of human nature that vitriol tends to make logical discussions less-than-logical and less-than-helpeful.”

    No one has answered the question.

    So under pressure you grudgingly admit that there is some useful discussion at Pharyngula. Then you go right back to complaining about Pharyngula’s tone.

    In answer to your question above, which incidentally is not the question you originally asked*, the venom is a reaction to stupidity, bigotry, willful ignorance, and other high crimes and misdemeanors. Right now at Pharyngula there’s a discussion about a guy who believes “a woman has no right to select a husband for herself, but that she is to be chosen by a man and marriage is to be an unbreakable arrangement between the man and her father.”

    Now this statement can be considered calmly and dispassionately and dissected without rancor and acerbity. I’m sure you can find places in the interwebs where such discussions take place. Or the claim can be greeted with all the disdain and virulence it deserves. Apparently you feel that a discussion of blatant patriarchal behavior should be carried on in mild-mannered tones. Obviously the Pharyngula commentariat disagrees.

    Furthermore, I do have a relatively thick skin when it comes to being told I’m wrong, as should anyone who engages in rational debate. But what is the purpose of having thick skin so that people can call you a fucking idiot?

    If you don’t want to be called a fucking idiot, then don’t act in such a way that you set yourself up to be called one. As for you claiming to have a thick skin, I submit you’re suffering from a modicum of self-delusion. But that’s just my opinion.

    As I said before, if you don’t like Pharyngula, then don’t go there. Nobody is holding a gun to your head and forcing you to read it.

    *You said originally “What is the value in having a place where people get a faceful of venom? Yes, I’m talking about Pharyngula.” Nothing there about empirical facts, human nature, less-than-logical, etc. But I’m not accusing you of shifting the goal posts because the first part of your question is your initial whine about Pharyngula. The second sentence is just more tone trolling, so I’ll let it pass, but only because I’m feeling charitable.

  32. 32
    Mattir

    With regard to why it’s useful to have a place where one gets called a fucking idiot:

    It helps one learn how not to be a fucking idiot far more effectively than a metric fuckton of nice pearl-clutching tone arguments do. Furthermore, the more colorful language makes it easier to reach the non-commenting readership and influence them not to be fucking idiots.

  33. 33
    Maria

    I’ve been reading Pharyngula as good as every day for the last three or four years or so, but I’ve very rarely commented, maybe only once or twice. It’s not because I think it’s an unusually venomous place though. I’ve been at other places where the tone has been just as harsh, or worse (and that doesn’t always have to do with just using bad words). The JREF forum… Atheist Media Blog… The Richard Dawkin’s Forum, before it was shut down…

    It’s more because the comment section is so big! No matter if you read the post only two seconds after PZ posts it… something like twenty people have already replied to it when your’re done reading, and there are usually not much to add. I see someone I don’t agree with that I want to say something to… twenty others have already slammed into them before I even get my thoughts down :-D I do often enjoy reading the comment section though.

    Greta Christina’s blog is very good in that not only does she write in a way I really like, and mostly about things that interests me, but the comment section is still manegable. Actually getting into discussions now and then, or just comment, and still keep track of things (somewhat, hee…) and not “drown in the deluge” :-D is still rather easy. Greta has also been interacting with people a lot herself, which is nice, and so on…

    I think her rules are fine, even though I have myself come close to going too far a few times I fear… Things do get heated sometimes.

    In any case I don’t see much meaning in comparing Greta’s blog with Pharyngula. No matter your interests, blogs, communities and forums on the Internet works in different ways, have different cultures, and different policies and rules, and one can’t expect that all places online that deals with the same subject will all look the same. That’s why one of the most common advice for newbies everywhere is to lurk a bit in a new place to see what’s acceptable there, and to check the rules. I agree it’s not a violation of peoples’ free speech to have your own rules on your own blog, that’s silly! Sure Greta can be criticized and questioned about her rules, but she’s under no obligation to change them.

  34. 34
    Classical Cipher, Murmur Muris, OM

    I doubt this is the place to get into a long discussion of the pros and cons of Pharyngula’s comments section.

    Hm. I would generally agree, but if this was your position, you probably shouldn’t have asked repeatedly and disdainfully about the pros of Pharyngula’s comments section. It’s hardly reasonable to ask an insulting question and expect no one to respond because you asked it in the wrong place.

  35. 35
    drbunsen, le savant fous

    Or do you think maybe asking people to tone down their anger leads to better discussions?

    You’re positing Russell Blackford’s and Jerry Coyne’s blogs as exemplars of the “better discussions” that allegedly result from this approach? Really?

  36. 36
    Greta Christina

    What is the value in having a place where people get a faceful of venom? Yes, I’m talking about Pharyngula.

    Others have given many good answers, but I’ll chime in with one that hasn’t yet been mentioned:

    PZ gets hundreds of emails every month from people saying they changed their minds about religion because of his blog.

    Its value is therefore evident.

    For many people much of the time, having their ideas contradicted in a calm, respectful manner will be more effective. But for at least some people at least some of the time, there is a real effect in the shock value/ wake-up call of being told that their ideas are fucking idiotic and that they are fucking idiots for thinking that way.

    If that’s not true for you, I totally understand that. I personally prefer a different tone myself — hence, my comment policy. But I recognize the value in a place like Pharyngula, where readers and commenters have no doubt that people are speaking their minds.

  37. 37
    Greta Christina

    Oh, and re threading and numbering and so on: I’ll deal with that when I get back from my trip.

  38. 38
    'Tis Himself

    I’ll deal with that when I get back from my trip.

    Which reminds me, I’ll do something about my procrastination tomorrow. Next day for sure.

  39. 39
    Brock

    I find comment-threading makes it difficult to follow the overall discussion. I can’t just scroll to the bottom of the page to see what’s new.

    The best comment/reply system I’ve seen is the one used at Balloon Juice. When you reply to a comment, it appears at the bottom of the discussion, but there’s a hyperlink to the comment that you are replying to.

  40. 40
    John-Henry Beck

    I have a couple of issues with Pharyngula’s comments myself.

    The main one is simply the volume. It always seems too late for me to try to get in to any discussion.

    The other being that venom. I do agree with the idea that it should be okay to call idiotic ideas fucking idiotic. What irks me is how often I see what appear to be simple misunderstandings, where one commenter clearly misunderstands another’s post and immediately jumps to a worst-case interpretation and starts calling the other a fucking idiot from which it just degenerates. While when I’m reading the postings it appears to me that they may not actually disagree much, or there’s a legitimate issue to discuss that’s been lost because the initial leaping to conclusions results in little more than a flame war and talking past each other.

  41. 41
    Patricia, OM

    *Snort*

  42. 42
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    What irks me is how often I see what appear to be simple misunderstandings, where one commenter clearly misunderstands another’s post and immediately jumps to a worst-case interpretation and starts calling the other a fucking idiot from which it just degenerates.

    QFT, but the key observation is that this is a problem with the local culture, not with the comment policy itself.

  43. 43
    Mattir-ritated

    What irks me is how often I see what appear to be simple misunderstandings, where one commenter clearly misunderstands another’s post and immediately jumps to a worst-case interpretation and starts calling the other a fucking idiot from which it just degenerates.

    This does happen. But when it degenerates, it’s generally because of the original commenter’s inability to clarify what xe meant and then leave it alone. Also, lurking is a very good way of figuring out the folks one should avoid – every Pharyngula regular I know has such a list and only engages with those folks when a day of sitting around flaming is just what feels great (and won’t piss off one’s real life family).

    It’s not the most functional place on the planet, I suppose, but an ability to TURN OFF ONE’S COMPUTER, or at least stop hitting the refresh button goes a really long way towards making it more fun.

    And as to the volume, even the most dedicated regular takes time off and does not read every thread, or even most threads.

  44. 44
    MisterJohnGalt

    I am utterly confused by your seeming assertion that anti-trolling, hijacking, and so forth fall under the heading “intelligent disagreement”, even leaving aside the scads of evidence that Greta obviously allows intelligent disagreement.

    xtina, “trolling” etc. are the catch-all phrases for banning disagreement. Can you imagine if the government announced it would crack down on “trolling” speech? No one would trust it to make the proper distinctions — because, in fact, there are no proper distinctions. It’s always just a ruse to crush dissent. Again, take a look at Pandagon, Feministe.

    There is dispositive evidence of Greta’s intentions. She’s announced she’s going to delete comments and ban commenters. A single deletion is sufficient for me to abandon a blog and dismiss its owner a a closed-minded ideologue. Just as I would a candidate for public office who proposed a new slew of FCC regulations to “protect” the public airwaves (see: Sen. Charles Schumer).

    Free speech is a two-way street. Private bloggers can ban commentors, and private commentors can boycott blogs. I prefer blogs which believe that the remedy for speech you don’t like is more speech, not less speech.

  45. 45
    'Tis Himself

    MisterJohnGalt sez:

    xtina, “trolling” etc. are the catch-all phrases for banning disagreement. Can you imagine if the government announced it would crack down on “trolling” speech? No one would trust it to make the proper distinctions — because, in fact, there are no proper distinctions. It’s always just a ruse to crush dissent.

    Greta is quite clear about what she considers to be trolling:

    I am defining “trolling” as “deliberate attempts to pick fights or get a reaction.” Disagreements and debates are fine; trying to stir up shit and get people mad for your own entertainment is not.

    Disagreement is not trolling. Trying to start a fight is trolling. I’m disagreeing with you but I’m not trying to get you angry with me. Ergo I’m not trolling. If I were to make a comment (WHICH I’M NOT) about you having the nom du blog of an egotistical rapist from a third rate novel then I would be trolling. Notice the difference?

    There is dispositive evidence of Greta’s intentions. She’s announced she’s going to delete comments and ban commenters. A single deletion is sufficient for me to abandon a blog and dismiss its owner a a closed-minded ideologue.

    You must abandon blogs all the time. I don’t believe I’ve ever been at a blog for longer than a week or two without seeing someone banned. Twice or thrice I’ve abandoned blogs because I thought the blogmeister had banned someone for the wrong reason or for no reason at all, but that’s rare. Usually it’s quite obvious and reasonable why someone gets banned or has their comments deleted. I’ve been banned twice, once from the FREEP for being a liberal and once from a fundamentalist Christian blog for being an atheist. Both times I understood why I was being banned.

    Greta does not have a heavy hand towards banning or deleting posts. And she almost always gives ample warning that she’s going to do so and why.

    Lastly, it’s her blog, her rules. I’ll obey her rules and I don’t expect I’ll be banned.

  46. 46
    Mattir-ritated

    MisterJohnGalt:

    I trust you have no problem yelling obscenities in a church wedding?

  47. 47
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    MisterJohnGalt:

    xtina, “trolling” etc. are the catch-all phrases for banning disagreement.

    [citation needed] — preferably, examples of Greta herself doing this.

    And why is it that I only see trolls attempt this excuse?

    There is dispositive evidence of Greta’s intentions. She’s announced she’s going to delete comments and ban commenters.

    What blogger DOESN’T?

    A single deletion is sufficient for me to abandon a blog and dismiss its owner a a closed-minded ideologue.

    Yeah. I bet you totally stop reading a blog once they delete a comment, even if it’s just a spam comment. Because, after all, one deletion makes you closed-minded.

    So does one acknowledgement of another person’s opinion as possibly valid make you open minded?

    Free speech is a two-way street. Private bloggers can ban commentors, and private commentors can boycott blogs. I prefer blogs which believe that the remedy for speech you don’t like is more speech, not less speech.

    SPAM Okay,SPAM good SPAM SPAM SPAM riddance, SPAM SPAM SPAMMITY SPAM SPAM SPAM WONDERFUL SPAAAAM, WONDERFUL SPAM~!

    SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM
    SPAMMITY SPAM~!
    WONDERFUL SPAM~!
    SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM~

  48. 48
    atheist

    @ MisterJohnGalt September 10, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    xtina, “trolling” etc. are the catch-all phrases for banning disagreement. Can you imagine if the government announced it would crack down on “trolling” speech? No one would trust it to make the proper distinctions — because, in fact, there are no proper distinctions. It’s always just a ruse to crush dissent. Again, take a look at Pandagon, Feministe.

    The extra-hilarious part is how “MisterJohnGalt”, named after an advocate of absolute property rights, is angry that Greta Christina pointed out that this is her blog & she can do what she wants on it.

  49. 49
    MisterJohnGalt

    I trust you have no problem yelling obscenities in a church wedding?

    A church wedding isn’t a forum for the free and open exchange of political and philosophical ideas. A blog like this is (or at least was). If Greta announced that she intended to enforce the speech code applicable to weddings (silence, vows and prayers), virtually everyone would desert it it (wouldn’t you?) I’m deserting it now because while the new code isn’t exactly wedding-like, it’s sufficiently narrow-minded, restrictive, vague and arbitrary that I really don’t care to be in the intellectually company of the kind of people who would tolerate it.

    I don’t use obscenities at weddings or blog comments. It’s not my style. However, I would attend a wedding of a friend who forbade obscenity (or political speech) at it, but would boycott that friend’s blog if the same wedding-like rules were applied to the comments. The distinction between a wedding and a blog comment section are self-evident, so I hope this point doesn’t need too much more explanation. Think of it this way: the fact that they don’t allow cheeseburgers in a hospital operating room isn’t a condemnation of cheeseburgers, any more than a prohibition against operations at McDonald’s is a condemnation of operations. It’s just that different forums have different purposes. Nobody would go to a hospital or a McDonald’s that lost sight of is purpose.

  50. 50
    Maria

    “I’m deserting it now”

    Hmm… you wrote on the 9th already that you were leaving. How long does it take to desert a blog? O_o

  51. 51
    MisterJohnGalt

    Setar,

    (1) I didn’t delete comments or ban comments at my blog, as I said. Apparently Pharyngula doesn’t really either. I’ve never seen it happen at Volokh or dozens of other blogs I’ve frequented over the years. But where it does, the first sign is a post announcing an anti-trolling, hijacking policy, etc.

    (2) I noted my exception for computer-generated spam above, so your “refutation” may not be so clever as it seemingly appears to you.

    (3) I can’t point to examples of any comments deleted or commenters banned by Greta, but I guess that would be because such practices by definition don’t leave a trace. But my decision is primarily based on past experience. I assume that Greta (if she frequented other blogs as a commenter) would abandon one if the proprietor announced that racist, trolling or hijacking comments were welcomed. She wouldn’t hang around waiting for examples.

    (4) Another (though not primary) objection to Greta’s announced policy is that the commenter who remain are rather shallow and unanalytical. They provide poor analogies and examples, don’t carefully read the comments they are responding to, and consist mainly of unsubtle sarcasm and insult. I find those sort of comments more offensive than any obscenity or slur, but they never get deleted.

  52. 52
    MisterJohnGalt

    “I’m deserting it now”

    Hmm… you wrote on the 9th already that you were leaving. How long does it take to desert a blog? O_o

    I’m making an exception for this particular thread (unless my comments are deleted or I get banned earlier). I try to give people the courtesy of a response if they have replied to my comments. Even if I decide I’m never going back to a particular restaurant, I finish my coffee and leave a tip . :)

  53. 53
    Classical Cipher, Murmur Muris, OM

    MisterJohnGalt: Slowest… flounce… ever.

    Not all spam is computer generated, and not all “disagreement” is worth reading. We had a troll on Pharyngula a while back that did nothing but post one-line comments with terrible grammar consisting almost entirely of racial slurs and racist insults. (After receiving the typical Pharyngula response he added sexist slurs to his repertoire as well.) There was nothing beneficial to anyone about having those posts there, while there was harm in leaving them up. Also, comments that reveal private information about other commenters in order to intimidate them or subject them to danger should obviously be removed. (I have seen this happen several times.) I don’t know how you could disagree with that. I find your ham-handedly absolutist position amusing but not unexpected, given your nym.

  54. 54
    atheist

    @ MisterJohnGalt September 10, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    I’m making an exception for this particular thread (unless my comments are deleted or I get banned earlier). I try to give people the courtesy of a response if they have replied to my comments.

    Oh, so it’s courtesy that’s making you come back? I thought you just couldn’t bear to let someone else get the last word… how silly of me. And why should Greta Christina ban you when you’re giving us all such an amusing comic spectacle?

  55. 55
    Maria

    I thought the McDonalds =/= Blogs analogy didn’t hold water!

    It’s been a day, you don’t go back a day after to finish your coffee. You’re not so much responding respectfully to people as keep making the same point about what a blog is and should be, and what policy they all should follow (yours, coincidentally, go figure) and complain that people are insulting when you (in a rather passive aggressive way, I must say) yourself call people shallow, and so on.

    I find those sort of comments more offensive than any obscenity or slur, but they never get deleted.

    Ah, I see, the ‘stooopid people are offensive’, eh? And that is just the point, Greta decides what should be deleted here, not you! You don’t agree, fine! You know where the door is, you’ve been in and out of it with a butthurt “goodbye” several times!

  56. 56
    MisterJohnGalt

    Classical, you’re a fairly good example of what’s left over once such policies take effect. I will grant, however, that your notion of what constitutes “harm” and “benefit” are interesting — if not even remotely worth addressing. If I were running this blog, I would deem your comment to be “trolling” or “hijacking.” But I wouldn’t delete it, because that would simply encourage some other flavor of sychophant to take your place.

  57. 57
    MisterJohnGalt

    atheist, Maria,

    The quality, comprehensiveness and logic of your responses is certainly impressive. I particularly commend Maria on the “not holding water” critique — that totally blew apart any argument I had. As did atheist’s reference to an “amusing comic spectacle.” It’s quite self-evident what he means. In my shame, I retract my assertion that the analogy between this blog and a church wedding isn’t EXACT.

    I am so glad that Greta will be left with the commenters she deserves.

  58. 58
    Maria

    I am so glad that Greta will be left with the commenters she deserves.

    Yeah, but the question is, when will she be left with them?

  59. 59
    atheist

    @ MisterJohnGalt : September 10, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    Isn’t it past time for you to “Go Galt“, removing your wonderful talents from the commenters here in the hopes that the blog will burn down without you?

  60. 60
    MisterJohnGalt

    Maria, oh, she’ll be left with them IMMEDIATELY as to all other threads. I’ll remain on this thread for an eternity, though — I don’t want you to feel I’m ignoring you. Courtesy, you know. And I owe it to atheist.

  61. 61
    Maria

    “I’ll remain on this thread for an eternity, though — I don’t want you to feel I’m ignoring you.”

    *LOL* O__o

    Seriously, I actually laughed out loud at that! Are we five now? I’m picturing a little kid running around yelling “I’m gonna stay for-evvver, I’m gonna stay for-evver, and you caa-an’t stop me *sticking tongue out*” :-D

  62. 62
    Aky

    Never commented before on here, so I suppose it’s time to bust that cherry.

    @MrJohnGualt and the others going “omg any moderation whatsoever is wrong freedom of speech!”: Do what you like, and have fun reading through the “lol wtf” and “stfu retard” and “illegible 1337 1m s0 c001 1 can use numbers randomly!” trash the noobs of the internet litter about, but I applaud Greta Christina’s willingness to clean up the trash.

  63. 63
    Reverend PJ

    Yeah, but the question is, when will she be left with them?

    @Maria, Thanks for making me LOL.

  64. 64
    MisterJohnGalt

    Maria, an eternity will be necessary to fully appreciate the profundity and depth of some of the responses to my comments. As I pointed out, I originally missed the obvious and direct comparison between screaming obscenities at a wedding and leaving a comment that the blogger disagrees with. Since you thought it was a reasonable an incisive comment, you didn’t object to it, but maybe you have failed to realize how perfect the comparison was. Could it be that it was not even an analogy? Perhaps cursing loudly at a wedding and typing a political observation are the very same physical act?

    That is something that I could discuss for years. I hope you will join me in that metaphysical exploration.

  65. 65
    MisterJohnGalt

    @Maria, Thanks for making me LOL.

    THERE we go. That is the sort of genius I like to see in blog comments. If only there could be thousands like them on every thread. Reverend PJ, thank you for restoring my faith in the intelligence and wit of Greta’s following. Why, I think I’m reconsidering my decision to desert this blog! Instead, I might just leave dozens of comments on every thread!!

  66. 66
    Maria

    Hmm…

    I have probably been a bit immature in a few places up there as well!

    MisterJohnGalt, stay in this thread and/or the rest of the blog, or not! It’s certainly not my place to tell anyone to leave or stay.

    I think you’ve misunderstood the comments above from me and others as being truly invested in you leaving, and I don’t think that is what it was about. I don’t think anyone really cares, in that way. That whole thing came about from pointing out things in your posts we didn’t agree with, found a bit contradicting, or… a whole lot of ‘saying one thing, and doing another’. Among a lot of other issues with your posts, it was therefore also pointed out that you keep saying you are leaving, but are still staying, days after! That’s all, not an attempt to actively drive you out. We didn’t say “Be gone!” We were saying “Uh, why are you still here when you keep saying you don’t want to be here? O_o” and questioned your motives behind why you keep posting.

    Personally I actually don’t care if you hang around for a short time, or forever, in this thread or the others. We can ignore you if we want to, after all, and as I say, it isn’t our place anyway to decide who stays or leave.

    Having said that…

    “Maria, an eternity will be necessary to fully appreciate the profundity and depth of some of the responses to my comments. As I pointed out, I originally missed the obvious and direct comparison between screaming obscenities at a wedding and leaving a comment that the blogger disagrees with. Since you thought it was a reasonable an incisive comment, you didn’t object to it, but maybe you have failed to realize how perfect the comparison was. Could it be that it was not even an analogy? Perhaps cursing loudly at a wedding and typing a political observation are the very same physical act?”

    I have no idea what you’re talking about! You think all things I chose not to object to, I think are reasonable?

    “I don’t want you to feel I’m ignoring you.

    That is something that I could discuss for years. I hope you will join me in that metaphysical exploration.”

    Getting a tiiiny, creepy feeling here…

  67. 67
    MisterJohnGalt

    You think all things I chose not to object to, I think are reasonable?

    Perhap not, but I do suspect you think that they’re MORE reasonable than the things you DO object to. Clearly, you thought the wedding/blog analogy was more reasonable than my McDonald’s/hospital example, which you thought was so self-evidently unreasonable that you dismissed it without explanation.

    I didn’t misunderstand anything. I made a simple point about the my experience with “trolling” standards. You and others disagreed for reasons you couldn’t coherently explain, and decided to misinterpret my objection as one to spam or whatever other red herring you could conjure up to avoid my point. And now you’re misrepresenting my sarcasm as “stalking.”

  68. 68
    Reverend PJ

    THERE we go. That is the sort of genius I like to see in blog comments. If only there could be thousands like them on every thread. Reverend PJ, thank you for restoring my faith in the intelligence and wit of Greta’s following. Why, I think I’m reconsidering my decision to desert this blog! Instead, I might just leave dozens of comments on every thread!!

    John, I’m so glad to have helped you reassure yourself of your superiority. Your comments bring to mind the majority of wanna-be libertarians I’ve head the dubious pleasure of interacting with. Most of them demand that everyone respect their position, yet they are unwilling to show the same courtesy to others.

    In this thread you’ve complained about Greta’s commenting policy, made loud proclamations that you’re going to leave, stated you’ve already deserted this blog, that you’ve made an exception for this thread, made broad characterizations of the commentariat here, and then decided you’ll stay just to spam everything. If you’re so unhappy with Greta’s policies, feel free to not read and comment on her blog. If you’re willing to follow the principles of your name-sake, and presumably Ayn’s ideas, then you’ll respect Greta’s rights as the proprietor of this blog to dictate the terms of discourse. As it stands you appear to be interested in whining, and the only concern I have about my previous comment is that I enabled more whining.

    Can you provide a good reason why your views on what constitutes an acceptable form of discourse should trump Greta’s, or for that matter anyone else’s in their (virtual) home?

  69. 69
    Maria

    You misunderstood my snark! It wasn’t about comparing your analogy to others, or dismissing your analogy in the first place. It was just about me being snarky about using foodplaces at all as an analogy to a blog. You used it the first time to show that things have different functions, and then to show that it has the same function as a blog. Might be that I misunderstood analogies all around, but it wasn’t about the church analogy being better than your analogy, or the other way around. You’re wrong, that I don’t mention all other arguments is not a reason to think I liked those better than yours – there are probably other reasons I did :-)

    Oh, I think you did misunderstand THAT part.

    “And now you’re misrepresenting my sarcasm as “stalking.””

    Ah, well… You have to admit you haven’t exactly made yourself known around here for your sense of humor! :-)

  70. 70
    'Tis Himself

    I’m obviously missing something here. MrJohnGalt is complaining furiously about the Ebil Overlord’s Overlady’s draconian banning/deleting-posts policies which stifle free speech. Yet somehow there seems to be a shortage of people actually getting banned or having their posts deleted. Could it be that MrJohnGalt is overreacting to something which hasn’t happened yet?

  71. 71
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    Your lair, your rules, feel free to whack me on the nose if I step over the line.

  72. 72
    Greta Christina

    Just to clarify a few points of fact:

    I have, in the past, banned a handful of people from my blog (in the old, pre-FTB space), and deleted/ edited/ disemvoweled some comments.

    I have always done so with transparency: posting a public comment explaining that I had done this, and briefly explaining what the grounds were. (The exception to this is commercial spam, which I happily delete with no announcement.)

    I have never done so because a commenter expressed disagreement with my opinion. I have only ever done so because commenters violated my policies about civility, trolling, comment hogging, etc.

    I have banned people who agreed with my opinions, and people who disagreed with them, in roughly equal numbers. (For evidence of this, please view the comment thread on my post about Elevatorgate. If you can stomach it.)

    The exception to this policy is in the comments on my Atheists and Anger post, which have remained almost entirely unmoderated. I have deleted commercial spam there, and one comment that contained a direct threat of violence. Otherwise, I have left the comment thread as is, and left comments up that clearly violate my comment policy, and which I would normally delete/ ban. The circumstances of that post and of the response to it were exceptional… so I made an exception.

    Conversation in my blog has somehow survived, and remained lively and vigorous, with a wide diversity of opinions being expressed, and without dissent being shut down.

  73. 73
    MisterJohnGalt

    Can you provide a good reason why your views on what constitutes an acceptable form of discourse should trump Greta’s, or for that matter anyone else’s in their (virtual) home?

    I can’t give a good LEGAL reason, no, but I’ve never purported that there was one. In fact, if Greta’s policy were to allow only comments that said “lol lol lol ha ha ha”, (and only exactly those words) I couldn’t give a good legal reason why my view of what constitutes acceptable discourse (reasoned arguments addressing the actual substance of the post) should prevail. And if her policy were to allow only hate speech, spam, and personal insults, YOU couldn’t provide a good legal reason that your standard (whatever it is) should prevail. There isn’t any. Her property rights trump all.

    As to non-legal (property rights) arguments, there are plenty. They coincide perfectly with the arguments leveled against government regulation of speech. A government regulation against “trolling” speech, against “hijacking” speech, against “hate speech” would be immediately condemned, for basic reasons of freedom having nothing to do with the distinction between public and private property.

    It’s interesting how many traditionally “right wing” arguments now being offered in defense of the new regime. “If you don’t like it, you can leave.” “You’ve haven’t been censored — yet.” “The censor will apply the rules in a fair and reasonable manner.” “Both sides get censored equally.” “The debate has been vigorous enough.” I doubt any of you really believe those rationales — beneath it all, you know the only good reason is that it’s HER blog, and that the notion that censorship somehow promotes open discourse is an empty ruse.

    On the other, perhaps there is too much speech in the world. The wise, intelligent and fair-minded editors of the Washington Post, The New York Times, ABC, CBS and NBC offered viewers plenty of opportunity for differing voices to be heard, with the pollution and crudeness of the typical amateur blog. And if they overstepped the limits of reason or decency, the FCC stepped in to restore the status quo. Those were the days!

  74. 74
    'Tis Himself

    There is a major difference between the government setting limits on free speech and a private individual setting limits. Pornography is free speech protected by the government, yet my employer has forbidden viewing porn on company computers. The government will not stop you from calling me a fucking asshole, yet if you do so then, according to her rules, Greta will sanction you for doing so.

    “If you don’t like it, you can leave.” “You’ve haven’t been censored — yet.” “The censor will apply the rules in a fair and reasonable manner.” “Both sides get censored equally.” “The debate has been vigorous enough.” I doubt any of you really believe those rationales — beneath it all, you know the only good reason is that it’s HER blog, and that the notion that censorship somehow promotes open discourse is an empty ruse.

    If you bring a gun into my house I’ll ask you to remove it. If you refuse then I’ll ask you to remove yourself. If you refuse that then I’ll get the infamous “men with guns” to escort you out. It’s your right under the Second Amendment to carry a gun. It’s my right to refuse you your right while you’re in my property. My property rights supersede your right to carry a gun. In a similar way, Greta can tell you what you can and can’t say on her blog.

    As for your “open discourse is an empty ruse” whine, I haven’t seen you being stopped from continuing to whine about something that hasn’t happened. You pretend your free speech is going to be stifled yet it hasn’t. Or are you just doing pre-emptive whining in hopes that if you whine long and loud enough Greta will ban you for being a whiner and you can then say “told you so”?

  75. 75
    Reverend PJ

    @MisterJohnGalt

    Her property rights trump all.

    If you take this position, then everything else you said in the post is whining. It’s not about rights, it’s not about right and wrong, it’s whining. If your base premise holds, then you have no rights here. Going on about legality is a red herring, I didn’t ask about the law. One small area of common ground I have with many libertarians is that right and legal are not always the same. I asked you if you could give a good reason, and you state you can’t.

    It’s interesting how many traditionally “right wing” arguments now being offered in defense of the new regime. “If you don’t like it, you can leave.”

    Funny, I wouldn’t consider reminding someone that they are under no compulsion to remain somewhere a right or left wing position.

    ” I doubt any of you really believe those rationales — beneath it all, you know the only good reason is that it’s HER blog, and that the notion that censorship somehow promotes open discourse is an empty ruse.

    Frankly I dislike censorship and spend a significant part of my time and money fighting it. The problem here arises when someone decides they’re going to be an asshole for the sake of being an asshole, then you must make a choice. You can have a free-for-all like Pharyngula and hope that the commentariate drowns out the asshole or you can step on the asshole and support the rights of everyone else in the discussion to carry on the discussion. The position that free-speech,or any right, is unlimited is shortsighted. To quote my sister when I find myself whinging about something, “It’s not just about you”.

    Earlier you said the you delete computer-generated spam. Why do you do this? Deleting computer-generated spam is censoring some person who is trying to express themselves. By deleting such spam you’re engaging in censorship, imposing your rules on another. If you really believe that your property rights trump all, then good on you. If on the other hand you truly believe that there are reasons to not censor that transcend the public/private divide and you censor anyhow then you’re just a whiner who only wants to play by their own rules.

    On the other, perhaps there is too much speech in the world. The wise, intelligent and fair-minded editors of the Washington Post, The New York Times, ABC, CBS and NBC offered viewers plenty of opportunity for differing voices to be heard, with the pollution and crudeness of the typical amateur blog. And if they overstepped the limits of reason or decency, the FCC stepped in to restore the status quo. Those were the days!

    Strawman much?

    You do realize that when you use a blog, you’re using a system that was developed with tax dollars?

  76. 76
    MisterJohnGalt

    There is a major difference between the government setting limits on free speech and a private individual setting limits.

    Never disputed this. But please, keep bringing it up over and over again. Much easier than addressing any arguments I’ve actually made, which involve free speech principles which do not turn on the public/private distinction and the blog owner’s obvious legal right to establish any rules she wishes.

    Let me put it this way: as a commenter (assuming I don’t get deleted by Greta), I have the “right” to address your arguments any way I wish. I could simply type “nyah nyah nyah” or “lol” or “you are stupid” or “you are just whining.” Those, of course, would be silly, irrelevant, nonsensical responses. To argue “but I have the right to post such comments” doesn’t remotely address the content or value of the comments.

    If you take this position, then everything else you said in the post is whining. It’s not about rights, it’s not about right and wrong, it’s whining.

    I see that now you’ve taken to punning, playing what may seem to you to be a clever little word game between a blog owner’s “right” and “right” and wrong. I suppose next you’ll argument is correct only when it rhymes.

    Acknowledging that a blogger has a legal “right” to censor comments, to post cat pictures, to spew hate speech does not automatically render all criticism of those practices as “whining.” Indeed, much of the other commentary on this thread, while recognizing Greta’s right to whatever comment rules she wishes, argues that Pharyngula’s commenting model is the superior one. Is that whining too? It seems to me that the “whining” objection could be interposed as a response to ANY comment that disagrees with what the blog owner posts — once you recognize her “right” to state her opinion, nothing else matters, no?

    Not clear what your point is with respect to taxation, unless you’re arguing that the use of my tax dollars to indirectly support Greta’s blog gives me a say over her commenting rules.

  77. 77
    Tim Martin

    Others have given many good answers, but I’ll chime in with one that hasn’t yet been mentioned:

    PZ gets hundreds of emails every month from people saying they changed their minds about religion because of his blog.

    Thank you, Greta, for your answer. I don’t agree with the statement that the other answers given were good ones – they sounded more like excuses for why people can’t be civil with others, and false dichotomies between “treating people uncivilly” and “being completely dispassionate.” But, if being called an idjit fuckwit works for some people, then I must accept the validity of that reason.

  78. 78
    Reverend PJ

    @MisterJohnGalt

    Not clear what your point is with respect to taxation, unless you’re arguing that the use of my tax dollars to indirectly support Greta’s blog gives me a say over her commenting rules.

    Nothing of the sort. The internet protocols were developed as a tax-payer funded project. I’m curious if you subscribe to the idea that taxation is theft. If so, your use of the Internet means that you are benefitting directly from theft. Your tax dollars don’t support Greta’s blog, but if you are a US citizen then your tax dollars do support the Internet today.

    If you accept the concept of absolute property rights, then Greta gets to set the rules for her property and you have no rights with respect to that property except what she grants you. Even if you don’t accept the concept of absolute property rights, the case can be made that since Greta provides the venue she gets to set the rules. In turn you get to make a free choice, follow the rules or don’t. If you choose not to follow the rules, Greta gets to make a free choice about whether or not your violation of the rules should result in banning. One would think that a person who appears to identify with John Galt would be happy to see Greta operating in a way that I assume is consistent with her self interest.

  79. 79
    'Tis Himself

    Tim Martin has chimed in once more to tone troll:

    I don’t agree with the statement that the other answers given were good ones – they sounded more like excuses for why people can’t be civil with others, and false dichotomies between “treating people uncivilly” and “being completely dispassionate.”

    Tim, you’ve already made the point that you don’t like the tone at Pharungula. We understand you’re a tone troller. As I’ve said before, if you don’t like Pharyngula then don’t read it! Now please stop whining about one blog at a different blog.

  80. 80
    Tim Martin

    @’Tis Himself: What’s the matter, don’t you like my tone?

  81. 81
    'Tis Himself

    What I don’t like is your whining.

  82. 82
    MisterJohnGalt

    Reverend PJ,

    I have right to say what I like in this comment. You have acknowledged that right. Therefore, I am right and you are wrong.

    Your argument amounts to little more than that.

    I haven’t said anything about my views on property rights other than that I recognize a blogger’s right to set rules for the comment section. My arguments have all been addressed to whether deleting “trolling” or “hijacking” comments is a wise policy for such a right-holder to exercise. All your arguments have been devoted to the notion that the property right automatically makes any comment deletion policy wise. It’s a rather limited, and obviously poor, argument.

    You’ve also expressed an odd obsession with my screen name. Perhaps that’s because you’re a reverend, and thereby a holder of irrational beliefs and superstitions. From now on, I’ll make this assumption a centerpiece of any response to your arguments.

  83. 83
    'Tis Himself

    That someone with the nom du blog of “MisterJohnGalt” isn’t an objectivist libertarian is unlikely. However since “MisterJohnGalt” has been denying property rights and whining that property rights might supersede his right to whine as much as he wants, it appears that “MisterJohnGalt” is flying false colors.

  84. 84
    Reverend PJ

    @MisterJohnGalt

    No obsession with your screen name really, just mild amusement at the choice. You’ve also done a pretty good job of parroting the wannabe libertarian line, so I’m assuming you lean that way. We haven’t talked about the wisdom of Greta’s policy, nor have you actually asked my opinion on her policy. However, since this is her turf my opinion frankly doesn’t matter and if I find it too obnoxious I’ll simply stop visiting. I note that you seem uninterested in actually addressing anything I said and have instead decided to assume I’m some sort of mystic/theist/magical thinker.

    Have a nice life, I’m sure you’ll continue to feel smugly superior.

  85. 85
    Tim Martin

    @’Tis Himself: If you don’t like my whining, you’re free not to read it.

    …You know, just like I’m free not to read Pharyngula if I don’t like it.

  86. 86
    MisterJohnGalt

    There you go with that crazy god-talk again, Reverend. Have a nice life :)

  87. 87
    Maria

    “I’ll remain on this thread for an eternity, though”

    Seems like this wasn’t sarcasm after all :-)

  88. 88
    'Tis Himself

    ’Tis Himself: If you don’t like my whining, you’re free not to read it.

    I was hoping that I’d shame you into not whining. But apparently you’re too involved in your whining to give it up. So go right ahead and whine. Just remember, most people stop whining before they reach puberty. Maybe that’ll be true for you.

  89. 89
    Tim Martin

    @’Tis Himself: Your concern is noted.

  90. 90
    MisterJohnGalt

    Maria,

    I’ve decided that this blog’s readership’s need for an education outweighs my selfish need to improve Greta’s comment policy. You’re welcome!

  91. 91
    Maria

    “I’ve decided that this blog’s readership’s need for an education outweighs my selfish need to improve Greta’s comment policy. You’re welcome!”

    How does (fake) flouncing improve comment policies, exactly? You don’t actually believe the mere act of you announcing your leaving there somewhere at the top of the page would have encouraged her to change it, do you?

  92. 92
    MisterJohnGalt

    How does (fake) flouncing improve comment policies, exactly? You don’t actually believe the mere act of you announcing your leaving there somewhere at the top of the page would have encouraged her to change it, do you?

    Maria,

    Excellent question!  As I so aptly put it my seminal work, The Art of the Flounce, “the threat is stronger than the execution.”  My fake flounce (FF) already has improved the comment policy, and the comments themselves.  Specifically:

    (1)  The FF provoked a series of inferior and poorly-reasoned responses which highlighted my own brilliance and the necessity to retain commenters like me.  Although I included a few typos and flawed arguments, I did so deliberately so that you would not lose hope and leave after you concluded you were conversing with a being of perfect intellect.

    (2)   The fear of losing me as a commenter precipitated Greta’s complete capitulation to my demands with her 4:00 a.m.  comment.  If you read between the lines, you will recognize that her “clarification” is in fact an abject apology, bordering, quite frankly, on  an invitation to guest post.
     
    (3) The FF has caused you to ask me questions, rather than to continue to make statements as if you actually know something.  Your recognition of the teacher/student relationship is the first step is achieving the humility necessary accept the full gift of my wisdom.

  93. 93
    Flewellyn

    The FF provoked a series of inferior and poorly-reasoned responses which highlighted my own brilliance and the necessity to retain commenters like me. Although I included a few typos and flawed arguments, I did so deliberately so that you would not lose hope and leave after you concluded you were conversing with a being of perfect intellect.

    The FF has caused you to ask me questions, rather than to continue to make statements as if you actually know something. Your recognition of the teacher/student relationship is the first step is achieving the humility necessary accept the full gift of my wisdom.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Well done, sir! This is hilarious. An excellent parody of an objectivist’s precious mix of extreme arrogance and clueless ignorance of how reality actually works. Until this last comment, you had us all going that you really WERE such an arrogant fool, but now I see clearly that you must be posting in jest. I commend you on this wonderful send-up, and thank you for the entertainment.

  94. 94
    Maria

    “I commend you on this wonderful send-up, and thank you for the entertainment.”

    I must admit I’m kind of impressed too :-)

  95. 95
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    With regard to why it’s useful to have a place where one gets called a fucking idiot:

    It helps one learn how not to be a fucking idiot far more effectively than a metric fuckton of nice pearl-clutching tone arguments do. Furthermore, the more colorful language makes it easier to reach the non-commenting readership and influence them not to be fucking idiots.

    After all, who better to give people a wake-up call than a bunch of total cocks?

  96. 96
    llewelly

    For those not in the know, The Art of the Flounce is not an original work in its own right. It is Atlas Shrugged, with the plot removed, so only the rants remain.

    (Peikoff should sue. Plagiarizing Rand is his privilege.)

  97. 97
    Timothy (TRiG)

    There was a suggestion above about threaded comments. Please please no. Threaded comments are not good for long conversations. They make the board impossible to follow. Every time you visit the page, you have to scan the entire conversation to find new posts.

    TRiG.

  98. 98
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    Greta, I’m a fallible human being. I get & post drunk sometimes, I post when I’m tired often, I’m flawed and messed up and ..human. Also I can’t type for .. whatever.

    But I like your guidelines and I respect them and I respect you and I’ll do my best to follow them.

    If I err please let me know and I’ll try to correct myself or reign myself in. I’ll try not to hog too many things even when its my pet obsessions. (Astronomy & SF mainly) I’ll try in short to do the right thing by you & hope I manage to pass muster.

    One last thing : Thankyou Greta, great blog. I enjoy your writing, your humour, your sense, intelligence, style – and your cat photos.

    Cheers :

    - StevoR

  99. 99
    joeb666

    It was worth reading the entire thread just to read this comment:
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2011/09/09/comment-policy/#comment-1677

    I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard at a comment.

    You sir, are brilliant.

  1. 100
    D.J. Grothe Replies… and I Reply Back | Greta Christina's Blog

    [...] And I have banned supporters of my positions, as well as detractors, for failing to follow this comment policy. (Note that some of these posts don’t just disagree through reasoned arguments but engage in [...]

  2. 101
    Comment Policy – An Update | Greta Christina's Blog

    [...] have just made some updates to my comment policy. Please take note of the following [...]

  3. 102
    Sex Workers – An Invitation to Tell Your Stories | Greta Christina's Blog

    [...] NOTE ABOUT COMMENTS: The comment policy for this post is different from my usual one. It’s at the end of the post. Pay careful attention to it. Violators will have their comment [...]

  4. 103
    Sex Workers – An Invitation to Tell Your Stories « escorts are for women too

    [...] NOTE ABOUT COMMENTS: The comment policy for this post is different from my usual one. It’s at the end of the post. Pay careful attention to it. Violators will have their comment [...]

  5. 104
    Race and Inclusivity — A To-Do List | Greta Christina's Blog

    [...] NOTE: This post has a different comment policy than my standard one. It’s at the end of the post. Please read it and respect it. [...]

  6. 105
    Atheism Plus Website/ Library/ Resource Guide – Crowdsourcing! | Greta Christina's Blog

    [...] NOTE: This post has a different comment policy than my standard one. It’s at the end of the post. Please read it and respect it. [...]

  7. 106
    Atheists of Color: Updating the List » Greta Christina's Blog

    [...] note: This post has a different comment policy than my standard one. Please read the entire piece to the end before commenting. It’s not that [...]

  8. 107
    On Trayon Martin and the George Zimmerman Verdict — and What “Freethought” Does Not Fracking Well Mean » Greta Christina's Blog

    [...] note: This blog post has a different comment policy from my usual one. It appears at the end of the [...]

  9. 108
    Secular Meditation: How It Helps With My Depression » Greta Christina's Blog

    […] note: Depression. Obviously. (Also note that this post has a somewhat different comment policy than usual: it’s at the end of the […]

  10. 109
    Depression, and Mental Health as a Balance Beam Over a Pit » Greta Christina's Blog

    […] note: Depression. Obviously. (Also note that this post has a somewhat different comment policy than usual: it’s at the end of the […]

  11. 110
    Some Comments From Fans of The Amazing Atheist » Greta Christina's Blog

    […] know why). And many have been held in comment moderation. These comments push the boundaries of my comment policy: among other things, they re-state points that have already been made and addressed multiple times […]

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