Our discussion guidelines are now visible

guidelines_sshot.png
With the steady increase in comments to our blog posts, it was about time we publicized our discussion guidelines instead of carrying them around in our heads for you to guess. There is now a Guidelines tab on the nav bar tab that’s at the top of every page.

comments_box.gif

And there’s a reminder with a link on the comment box itself.

A blog with comments enabled is not quite the same as a full-fledged web forum or discussion board. There are both philosophical and technical differences. I’ll explain if anyone’s interested.

Here’s the text of the Guidelines. We’d like feedback on them and are willing to consider adapting them.

(Updated on 07/28/07.

forum_5.gif

Our discussion guidelines here on Locally Grown are intended to foster the development of an environment where ideas, information, and opinions are exchanged in an atmosphere of civility, trust, fun, and respect. It is best if you bring your spirit and language of inquiry with you when you visit and restrain your desire to only promote a point of view that is already formed.

GENERAL BEHAVIOR, TONE
Be responsible, be respectful, and be within the law. We assume you do not need a laundry list of no-nos to know what is covered by that. However, we do have two unusual guidelines in this area.

  • Avoid sarcasm
  • Avoid addressing a person indirectly when disagreeing with them.

Here is an example of both: “Waldo seems to think that all our problems would be solved if we would only embrace his wisdom.” These two behaviors are probably more responsible for online discussions degenerating into nasty places than outright flaming or namecalling. You may think this is overkill, but you will just have to live with it if you want to participate here.

PERSISTENT AND UNIQUE IDENTITY
Be who you are IRL “In Real Life.” Do not impersonate anyone else. It may be cyberspace, but in this instance, it is just like the neighborhood where you live, or the organization where you work. We only allow you to post anonymously (rare) if we think your comment is genuinely helpful but would cause problems for you and/or others for your name to be published. However, you still need to verify your identity with one of us via phone or email. Depending on circumstances, we might allow your comment to remain or we might ‘moderate’ it (temporarily remove it) immediately until we can verify your identity. ILLEGAL ACTIVITIES Do not engage in them here. ‘Nuff said.

CONTENT STANDARDS AND OWNERSHIP
Post only what you own. 99.99% of the time, what we want is not your formal publication-type writing but the conversational writing from your brain that travels through your computer keyboard to our blog. Conversation, please, not lectures.

YOUR WORDS ARE PUBLIC
We might highlight your comments on our blog. Or quote you on our radio show/podcast. Or package up your comments with the comments of others into a document for others to review. Reporters/bloggers might quote you. Most discussion comments are/can be archived on the web so anyone can read them and search engines can index them.

NOT FOR COMMERCIAL USE
The comment threads on Locally Grown are collegial in nature, the opposite of a mall or flea-market. If you might financially benefit from your comment, it is probably inappropriate. When in doubt, ask. Otherwise, keep the promotional stuff elsewhere.

ENFORCEMENT AND INTERVENTION
We have a virtual dungeon full of tools, tricks, and techniques at our disposal to mete out to offenders. We will try to find the punishment to fit the offense, but this is not a court of law, nor high school, so do not expect perfect consistency. Currently, our policy is to allow comments to be posted immediately instead of ‘moderating’ them, ie, reviewing and approving. (First time commenters require that we manually approve the comment, as this is a method for preventing comment spam.) If you post something that, in our opinion, violates our guidelines, our approach will usually be to:

  • Select the “MODERATE” option to temporarily remove your comment from the discussion thread/public view. This retains the original, which is important for us and for you.
  • Post a public comment of explanation, eg, “Waldo, I’ve moderated (temporarily removed) your comment because of our guidelines re: sarcasm. Please try again, and if you need the text of your original, contact me and I’ll email it to you.”

Why the public intervention?

  • Because comment threads can be subscribed to via RSS and email, they are IMMEDIATELY distributed. No matter how fast we might try to be in moderating the comment, many people will have seen it.
  • A public intervention is a great way for our visitors to learn what’s acceptable and what’s not. Our intent is not to embarrass you, but unless we say something publicly, everyone will wonder what the hell’s going on.

That’s it! Let us know if you have sugggestions on how to improve these guidelines by attaching a comment below, or if you have examples of how we’ve done well or done poorly in trying to enforce them. Ross Currier, Tracy Davis, Griff Wigley, co-hosts, Locally Grown

10 thoughts on “Our discussion guidelines are now visible”

  1. I am not sure that “real first and last name” is a good rule. Granting exceptions only to some people may call attention to people — and some of them may be afraid of, or avoiding, stalkers and the like. There are good reasons for people to avoid disclosing their “real name”.

    Also, in my experience, many people have more investment in a name that they’ve chosen and used for a long time than in the name on their tax forms. “Peter Seebach” is just some guy who draws a paycheck and pays taxes and the like; it’s “seebs” that cares about his online reputation…

  2. Hey, Peter, thanks for chiming in. Your argument makes sense for most online gathering spots but for ones based on geographic locations, especially neighborhoods and small towns, real names are important.

    If you come over to my house for a block party or a living room conversation salon, I’m going to want to know your name. That’s what we’re aiming for here. So it doesn’t always work but all things being equal, we want to err on the side of policies that enhance the F2F/geographic connections between people, and using real first and last names online are one way to help that happen.

  3. Thinking about this more, I see a serious problem.

    I recently participated in a demonstration against a multi-billion dollar international organization with a long and well documented history of systematic reprisals against critics.

    I now have an excellent reason to participate anonymously — but since I didn’t know previously that I was going to, it’s not really practical now.

    I think I’d rather see persistant identities than real names. The people who have genuine needs to be anonymous won’t always know about those needs until AFTER the unlicensed private investigator shows up to search through their garbage…

  4. Regarding addressing a person directly:

    Instead of telling Jerry B. that I also take issue with David L.’s comment #65 on the transportation thread, I might have said this:
    “Jerry and David:
    I agree with you, Jerry.
    David, I see a problem (as Jerry does) with your use of the word ‘complete,’ in your comment #65…”

    And instead of advising Jerry B. to use the SNL line on David L., I should have said,
    “David and Jerry: Maybe we should use that SNL line in response to your comment #65, David….”

    (I didn’t address David at all in that comment! Sorry, David!)

    Regarding civility:
    Can anyone, as long as we’re responding directly to another, use the phrase, “You ignorant slut”?

    Or is that reserved only for the triumvirate?

    Or to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, as long as it’s clearly an SNL allusion and intended in good humor?

    Or only when spoken by a right-winger to a liberal, and therefore faithful to the original SNL context?

    Suggestion: Add to the rules an explanation about the acceptable use of “You ignorant slut” and similar phrases that might, on the surface, seem uncivil, but are actually humorous and sometimes terms of endearment, acceptable and necessary in a small town. (Or not?)

  5. Julie, I started the ‘Politics and a Pint’ discussion with a blog post so it’s fine to continue to update the conversation thread with comments about the ones you continue to host.

    The guideline is to prevent the blatant, off-topic stuff, eg, promoting two-for-one specials in a discussion about library long-range planning.

  6. Paul, we don’t have a policy about the use of the phrase “you ignorant slut” and other terms of endearment but it’s probably best reserved for Ross and Tracy and I to use with each other. Otherwise, it’ll get out of hand in a hurry.

  7. Griff- Good idea on your part. This type in endearment, if you want to call it that, is really only safe in a close relationship. Even though some of us have had a chance to get together F2F and get to know one another better, I wouldn’t want to offend anyone who is just ignorant and not a slut or who is a well educated slut.

  8. I was an SNL fan and see the humor, but I wonder if using “ignorant slut” in this sort of online context might not be a counter-productive thing. I’m nearly 50, and considering other measures of cultural literacy, I’d bet that most visitors and commenters are not aware of the allusion.

    The result could be a readership that may not see it as an allusion and term of endearment, but as a cryptic insult (and inside joke? how fun are those?) traded among the triumvirate (or one needing regular explanation to any newcomers on a site where new visitors are encouraged), while in the meantime, visitors and commenters are prohibited to label a post “ridiculous.”

    It’s fine to promote civility, but if you’re going to do it and prohibit calling #65 “ridiculous,” then you probably have to save “You ignorant slut” for F2F during happy hour.

    Inside jokes may work in a small-town bar where some folks want to let the newcomers know they’re not “one of us,” and they can be fine when the speaker and listener are the only two in the room, or listening.

    But why use an abscure allusion online, as a moderator, and reserve same to self, when a large chunk of your audience may not be in on the joke? Is it a civil message that’s being sent? Or does it take too much risk that an uncivil message won’t be perceived?

    My suggestion: Even the triumvirate might consider avoiding it. But it’s your show. You write any rules you see fit, or that work for you.

    Then, of course, you deal with it if new visitors start calling you, or each other, ignorant sluts, and you have to explain the allusion again; all those deprived people who didn’t own TV’s, or snobs who didn’t want to watch SNL, or youngsters who haven’t seen the tapes or reruns on cable.

    Another option: Start another blog called “Locally SNL Northfield,” and allow “Ignorant Slut” and other SNL allusions there. Make it clear that it’s an SNL nostalgia blog. When someone gets off-topic, you bring it to their attention, and they can use the Rosanne Rosannadanna line: Never mind. Ask a question about what kind of restaurant folks want to see open next in NFLD, and we can all say “Cheesebugga cheesebugga cheesebugga.” It might be a stitch. For a day or two, at least. Who knows.

Leave a Reply