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.
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.
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