Changes, one way or another

I have news. Scienceblogs is going to be folded into a new organization sometime soon — basically, we’ve been bought. I can’t discuss all of the details just yet, but let’s just say it is a prestigious national magazine with a healthy bottom line that will do us a lot of good. There are certainly some advantages: like I said, prestigious, and there’s also a commitment to up-to-date technology and migrating to better blogging software. There’s also an agreement that the range of topics I discuss here, including the strong dissent from religion and the atheism and the anti-creationism stuff, are acceptable subjects. So that’s the happy part of the story.

The worrisome bit: there are standards and practices to follow, which is not a bad thing in and of itself, but I do not want my peculiar voice to be compromised. That’s why I’m in this thing in the first place, to be able to express myself as I want when I want. So we’re in the delicate negotiation phase, trying to find agreements on form that don’t infringe on content, that will allow me to say any damn thing I want but maybe will require me to take an extra moment to review my articles with more cool deliberation before clicking that ‘submit’ button.

It is entirely possible that we won’t be able to find that position that is acceptable to both sides of our discussion, in which case I’ll cheerfully move on to an independent server and keep on keeping on right there. I’ll be thinking about the pluses and cons for a while.

I said “both sides,” but there are actually three sides: me, the hosting organization, and you the readers. How would you react if, for instance, profanity filters went up on the comments? Right now, it’s a real free-for-all in the comments, but I do clean up spam, ban certain elements that have demonstrated their trollishness, and will occasionally swoop in and erase comments that reveal personal information or contain nothing but bigoted raving. Would you leave if some automated software converted certain four-letter words to euphemisms, or if comments containing such words were held up until you edited them to meet the standards? What limits to expression would you accept?

These are trade-offs, so another interesting question is, what would persuade you that some limits to language are acceptable? Are there features that you think it would be worth demanding (say, user editing, or just faster performance, or free ponies with every comment) that you’d like to demand for the price of watching your potty-mouths a little more? We’re negotiating, you know — they make requests, we make requests — so tell me what’s most important to you.

I sure haven’t signed any contract with this organization yet, so it’s still entirely possible that I’ll just fly off my own way. Your input will be a factor, so speak up here, and I’ll listen. No matter what, though, things will not be the same, and there will be changes coming this summer.