Friday, April 06, 2012

New "Comments Policy" at RMWMTMBM

Well, we managed to make it almost six whole years before having to address the problem of internet trolls on this blog. Not a bad run, all things considered.

The practice of not "moderating" discussions or insisting on comment "approvals" has been intentional on this site so far. In my view, the delay caused by comment approval forms often interrupts the natural flow of a good conversation and, what is worse, has a tendency to raise suspicion in the minds of potential commenters about the integrity or impartiality of the discussion as a whole. Of course, the advantage of giving people reason to stop and consider whether or not they want to enter the fray is also one of the greatest benefits of a comments-moderation policy, which is why so many high-traffic sites maintain those policies. (This has not, until the last year, been what I would consider a "high-traffic" site, though I have good reason to believe that I may need to amend that judgment.) What a site gains with comments-moderating, as I see it, is a more coherent, sophisticated, mature and "nicer" type of conversation. What it loses are many of the characteristics, good and bad, of real public discourse. So far, this site has erred in the favor of the latter.

For better or worse, the internet forum is the new agora. It is where people speak in public, where ideas are measured for value and traded. However, today's "speaking in public" differs from what took place in the agora of old in at least one significant respect, namely, that internet fora allow persons to speak anonymously or pseudonymously. And that is where the trouble begins. There are many good reasons to elect to speak anonymously or pseudonymously... and many bad reasons to do so. (Full disclosure: When I began this blog in 2006, I was a candidate on the academic job market and elected to operate under the pseudonym "Doctor J," which I have maintained to this day. Since then, I think I've made it very easy to discover who I really am for anyone interesting in doing so. I don't consider my pseudonym to be a "cover" anymore; it's more of a persona now.) I've not moderated discussions on this blog so far because I've always been reluctant to join in the chorus of snobbery that hrumphs at the prospect of engaging in conversation with the hoi polloi. There have been many, MANY, comments on this blog over the years that were not what I would consider "smart," or sophisticated, or reflective, or conversation-furthering, or even nice. But, the truth is, that's how conversations are sometimes when they're conducted in the public space, with strangers, about matters on which there are many (more or less) informed views.

Alas, because of the last conversation on this site (and at the gentle prompting of my good friend and fellow-blogger, Dr. Miller), I have become convinced that my policy of totally-unrestricted commenting may in fact have reached the point of diminishing returns. So, in order to safeguard against a mass-exodus on the part of this site's productive (and much-appreciated) conversationalists, I'm instituting the following rules for commenting, effective immediately:
ReadMoreWriteMoreThinkMoreBeMore's COMMENTS POLICY:
ReadMoreWriteMoreThinkMoreBeMore is a site dedicated to open and productive discussions about ideas. Anonymous and pseudonymous comments are allowed, but discouraged. This site, like many sites, will include discussions of issues about which many people have very strong personal views. Readers are encouraged to speak openly and honestly, even if they feel that their positions are unorthodox or unpopular. Passionate, even heated, discussions can be healthy and profound learning experiences and are excellent opportunities to refine one’s own thinking and values. However, commenters are required to treat their fellow discussants, especially those with whom they disagree, with respect. We will insist upon professional decorum and mutual consideration from everyone at all times. To wit, comments of the following sort will be subject to deletion:
  • Comments that are abusive, excessively profane, contain ad hominem attacks, or that can be reasonably understood to be threatening.
  • Comments that are off-topic.
  • Comments that promote hate or violence of any kind.
  • Comments that are blatantly spam.
  • Comments containing accusations of, or making assertions about, matters of fact that are demonstrably false.
Not all posts will be subject to comment moderation. When comments are to be moderated, an indication to that effect will be noted in the post. Under no circumstance, ever, will comments be deleted simply for disagreeing with post's author or for departing from the general consensus of other commenters' views.
I hope that readers find this policy to be as minimally regulatory as possible, and I hope that I don't have occasion to enforce it very often. I think that I have a fairly indulgent definition of what counts as appropriate "netiquette" (see my post on that here), so one shouldn't expect that every discussion henceforth on this blog will be of the afternoon-tea ilk, but I will do my best to avoid conversational train-wrecks.

Thank you again for your continued support of this site.

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