One of my enduring obsessions is rule sets (see here for an example) and having observed this blog for a couple of months it’s apparent that many of our visitors don’t have a lot of experience with this type of forum. For those of you that fall in that category and haven’t yet gleaned this information from other posts and comments, here a quick list of guidelines:
- Read for a while and get to know a little bit about the bloggers and commenters before you post. The traditional media tends to be an environment where personalities are rarely on display and the story is (notionally) presented in an objective fashion. In blogs, the author’s personality (and the commenter’s, too) are integral to the environment, and prejudices and opinions (usually) add to the appeal.
- Inform, and where possible, entertain with your comments—in the fewest number of words. Denizens of the Internet have notoriously short attention spans, so if you’re prone to a long-winded, academic style, you’re limiting the likelihood anyone will hang around long enough for you to make your point.
- Avoid posting comments that don’t relate to the original post (spam). If there’s a chance others might think your comment does relate to the topic thread, be sure to explain why you think it’s important.
- Avoid dragging a thread off topic with your comments (hijacking). The mere mention of a related topic by a previous commenter does not give subsequent commenters license to drag the whole thread into a discussion about the pros and cons of that topic.
- Avoid making comments for the sole purpose of provoking other participants in the discussion (trolling). That doesn’t mean provocative ideas are banned, it means that you need to be tactful in your presentation and offer supporting facts and arguments when you make the comment so we know you’re beating the beehive for a good reason.
- Avoid personal attacks on the character and integrity of, well, anyone (flaming). If you believe a report, organization or individual can’t be trusted, give us arguments in a courteous and impersonal tone.
- Avoid making a comment and never returning to the thread (drive-bys). If you’ve got something you think is important enough to say, you should be willing to hang around long enough to read and respond to counterpoints.
- Be gracious in victory and defeat. Nobody knows everything about a particular topic and intelligent and informed people can disagree about solutions even when they agree there’s a problem. Most importantly, if you can no longer answer another participant’s arguments with arguments, don’t pout and start calling people names. Better you should quietly admit defeat to yourself than announce to others that you’re a poor loser.
- Links to relevant sources (where possible) help back up your argument, particularly if it’s a controversial claim. It’s good if you mention So-And-So’s research or country X’s activities to support your argument, but a link helps everyone else evaluate your claim and the source’s credentials and thinking on a topic.
- If you think the guest bloggers are missing an important topic or story, we all have e-mail addresses and welcome comments and suggestions, so long as they fit with the subject matter of the blog (In other words, don’t spam our e-mail, either).
Feel free to discuss and make suggestions in the comments–but remember–don’t just call me an idiot, explain why you think I’m an idiot.
Author’s note: These are a synopsis of common comment etiquette I’ve gleaned from participating in these types of forums for a dozen years. Your experience may vary. Some restrictions apply. Offer not valid in the Galapagos Islands or during Blue Nose and Crossing the Line Ceremonies. Guidelines may be changed without notice by order of King Neptune, or Davy Jones when King Neptune is on leave or TAD. Officers currently serving as an Executive Officer are required to “flame” someone at least once per month to maintain qualification to post.