As we embark on a bright, fresh new year, unsullied by grossly inflated presidential references to personal anatomies – rats, too late for that now – I am considering possible changes to the RC. So, your preferences and suggestions are solicited (‘DIAF’ not included).
As background, I have always been interested in this blog becoming a forum for a forthright conversation over political issues – respectfully raucous, even. Obviously, there’s been little reluctance about expressing my own thoughts. I also have no illusions that mine are the only opinions worth considering. Still, I don’t think we’ve attained a consistent ‘forthright conversation’ level.
Not unrelated to that goal, these columns have been “moderated” with a pretty loose hand. My prior experience as a Mod was with FARK.com, a topical humor and commentary site once described by Time magazine as “one of the ten best places to waste time on the ‘web.” We considered that to be pretty high praise.
Our modding model at FARK was of a social gathering where all were welcome to hang out, unless folks conducted themselves with sufficient jerkitude that they’d eventually be asked to leave. In most instances that worked well enough at FARK – and here, there have been only a few commenters excluded on that basis. A tighter hand could also subject the column to charges of censoring disagreement, especially since the general subject matter is politics, about which mileage seems to vary.
Today, however, I received the following email from Doug Miller, who occasionally comments in the threads (reprinted in-part and attributed with his permission):
“Your comment closing out your last article reminded me of a suggestion I made several years ago about implementing more stringent rules with regard to comments about your articles. Had you done something along those lines you wouldn't have had to end with this comment and I think your audience, at least measured in terms of those who comment, would be much larger today.
… the comments almost immediately get out of hand and get off on tangents. It is too bad.”
Essentially, Doug recommends that the relevance standard be tightened to maintain the thread on topics related to the blog. He believes that many more readers would then be inclined to comment. There might also be room for a greater civility (although we do a much better job of decorum here, than, say, in ESPN articles where hormone-based insults appear to be required).
Other possibilities include limiting comments to only site-registered users (I can click a box for that), or to folks who appear to be using their own names. I’m not sure those changes would be improvements, though, nor designed to encourage greater participation. One thing I will Not consider is editing comments – the responsibility for their content rests solely with the commenter. Then they either stay, or go.
SO … the floor is yours. Do you prefer the current approach, or one that excludes extraneous postings to keep threads in hand? Should I never comment, as someone once suggested as a more “mature” (?) way to go? Have you considered commenting but decided against it – if so, why? Should there be a rule against snideness, sarcasm, scorn or personal attacks? What are any other ideas – point/counterpoint (and are you volunteering)?
Kindly let me know your thoughts – here or via email. Thanks!