Commenting: The Fine Print

This page is Further Reading. The quick list of behaviours which will definitely get one’s comment (and perhaps one’s IP) plonked is in the Dodgy Shenanigans section.

Important Note: It is certainly possible for someone who does not mean to be a troll to nonetheless instigate a disruptive flamewar simply through refusing to learn about and/or abide by netiquette guidelines. If your behaviour cannot be distinguished from that of a disruptive troll, what does that tell you about the likelihood of your comments being productive?

The fine print on our comments policy is provided below: expanding on the terms used and the principles of unacceptable content outlined in the shorter Comments Policy guidelines for those with either a philosophical or antagonistic interest. This page may be useful for those who want a guide to implementing their own moderation guidelines, and especially for an introduction to advanced troll-spotting.

Repeated for emphasis: these further sections are NOT required reading (that’s why they’re set apart on a different background), unless you have been specifically asked to examine them. Commentors of general goodwill shouldn’t need to read further except to satisfy curiosity, which you are most welcome to do. Commentors who appear as trying to pick loopholes in the guidelines to throw them in our faces will find that this lessens their odds of being perceived as acting in good faith.
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Moderation Principles

Malfeasants will be moderated. Comments are subject to moderation and editing as deemed necessary to keep discussion relevant and/or respectful of others’ right to a rationally expressed divergent opinion. Edited comments will be clearly noted as having been edited in order to preserve proper authorial attributions.

no-ones-obliged.jpgModeration decisions are made on a case by case basis. Individual moderation decisions will be not be discussed publicly: if you wish to contest a moderation decision, please do so by email.

Short version: no-one has to listen to you if you are being a jerk (you remain free to publish whatever you will on your own website).

We expect disagreement to remain civil and we decline to publish unacceptable content. Our moderation principles (the long version) follow the spirit of guidelines published by BlogHer and by Larvatus Prodeo, along with a small dash of Crazybrave and the overarching principles of Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Image credit: originally uploaded by pnh

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Acceptable vs Unacceptable Content

Commentors are welcome to rationally express divergent views, just

  • don’t drown out other voices
  • don’t threadjack to ride your own hobbyhorse
  • don’t be a bullying git

Make sure that you understand what we consider civil and what is and isn’t ad hominem attacks. Fits of the vapours don’t play well here.

  • Comments perceived as threatening will not be tolerated, and may be reported. [Lauredhel’s suggested Blog Readers’ Code of Conduct] (N.B. this post may contain potential triggers regarding sexual violence)
  • Initial trollacious remarks will be disemvoweled and the commentor may be placed into the moderation filter. (Need your own disemvoweling utility? Here.)
  • Repeated trolling and/or abusive comments may be summarily deleted, or perhaps edited and roundly mocked.

Still not sure what’s allowed? Commentors who repeatedly irritate or attempt to intimidate other readers using the behaviours listed in our Glossary of Dodgy Shenanigans will be placed into moderation. Recalcitrant offenders will be banned. This list is not exhaustive but outlines a set of principles as to what is considered disruptive – any other comments judged to be disruptive will also trigger moderation.

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Civility vs Faux-Civility

On this blog, profanities and obscenities are judged an acceptable form of emphasis, so it’s OK to fucking swear every now and then. Taboo words do not define unacceptable content.

Civility is judged as respecting the right of others to disagree in principle, without descending to vexatious and obnoxious characterisations of the persons and arguments of other posters.

Meaning matters, not just the “decency” status of the words used. i.e. “coarse language” is not automatically considered incivility, while obnoxious comments that are confined to “polite language” may well be considered extremely uncivil examples of passive-aggressive negativity through the use of offensive stereotypes and other prejudicial weaselling. Obviously direct personal abuse of any sort, whether it uses coarse language or not, is unacceptable.

Related posts:
tigtog: Why so offended? It’s not like I said any bad words!
Lauredhel: Silencing with “attack”, the misuses of logic, and reclaiming emotion

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Freedom of Speech

Hire your own hall. We paid for this one. (Robert Heinlein)

This bears repeating: nobody is obliged to listen to you if you are being a jerk. (You remain free to publish your opinions on your own website.)

A quote from a post of mine on stopping cyberbullying:

Too much has been excused in the past by chanting the mantra of “free speech”, mostly from people who wilfully misunderstand the nature of the right to free speech in a liberal democracy: it’s a guarantee that the government won’t silence speech, not that any forum anywhere has to tolerate any and all speech, no matter how obnoxious and bullying.

Another blogger clarified my point further in discussion on a crosspost of the above:

It has always totally bewildered me that anyone should use the “free speech” mantra in this context, for that very reason; and interestingly it’s always the private-property cheer squad that seems to squeal the loudest about exercising their freedom of speech on someone else’s blog, which indicates to me a fundamental incoherence about their world view in general.

In a more recent thread discussing whether moderating comments is consistent with opposing mandatory government-imposed internet filtering or whether we are Huge Hypocrites, commentor Notgruntled made this crucial distinction:

You have a right to access the Internet, not to access my audience via my resources.

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Progressive Blogs Bingo Cards

We find that many antagonists repeat often seen and regularly rebutted objections to particular progressive arguments. The Bingo cards below list some of the most frequently seen arguments.

Sometimes one of the objections in the Bingo squares below might have a degree of merit standing alone, but if it is clustered together with many others from the same Bingo card, it becomes hard to credit that the arguments are being offered in good faith. If you find that your argument boils down to two or more points on one of these cards, you are unlikely to be adding anything new to any discussions here.

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Official TNH Moderator Certificate

tnh-modcert-hoyden.jpgImage Credit: originally uploaded by Patrick Nielsen Hayden and modified (with permission) by tigtog – click image for full size

Teresa Nielsen Hayden is a publisher, writer and blogger with much experience in wrangling discussions held both face to face and online. She writes clearly and firmly on what makes good moderators and thus welcoming and lively discussions/communities. Her contention is that you simply can’t have the latter without the former.

If you have a weblog or live journal, or you administer a website that has comment threads, stand up for yourself and your readers. The jerks are never going to like you, or praise you, or admit that you’re doing the right thing. And if you’re waiting for someone to give you permission to suppress and thereafter ignore malfeasants, you have it right now. If you want, I’ll make up a certificate. Go forth and civilize.

You can download your own copy of the TNH certificate here and then modify it to include your blog’s name.

PZ Myers doesn’t shepherd his comments threads quite as closely as TNH, but he also has some good points to make about various High Crimes and Misdemeanours that will earn a commentor time in his Dungeon. A short excerpt from his list is presented in the Glossary section below.

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Glossary of Dodgy Shenanigans

PZ Myers’ list of High Crimes and Misdemeanours

Below is an excerpt from PZ Myers’ page on plonking miscreants at Pharyngula. Commentors who repeatedly irritate or attempt to intimidate other readers at Hoyden About Town using these behaviours below will be placed into moderation. Recalcitrant offenders will be banned. This list is not exhaustive – other disruptive commenting habits will also trigger moderation.

  • Concern trolling
    A particularly annoying form of trolling in which someone falsely pretends to be offering advice to favor a position they do not endorse; a creationist who masquerades as someone concerned about the arguments for evolution as an excuse to make criticisms.

    Extra notes from the Hoydens: A concern troll is “a person who posts on a site or blog pretending to be in sympathy with their overall views or politics, who posts mainly to express concern for policies, comments, attitudes of others on the site”. Concern trolls come across as insincere, manipulative, and condescending.
    * Examples of concern trolling might include, “I love the ideas, but you’re making other feminists look bad.” “You have to be more polite, or other you’ll never make any converts”. “Do you think your could modify your tone?”

  • Godbotting
    Making an argument based only on the premise that your holy book is sufficient authority; citing lots of bible verses as if they were persuasive.
  • Insipidity
    A great crime. Being tedious, repetitive, and completely boring; putting the blogger to sleep by going on and on about the same thing all the time.
  • Morphing
    Changing pseudonyms to avoid killfiles.
  • Slagging
    Making only disparaging comments about a group; while some of this is understandable, if your only contribution is consistently “X is bad”, even in threads that aren’t about X, then you’re simply slagging, not discussing.
  • Sockpuppetry
    Like morphing, but with a specific intent: creating multiple identities supporting a position to create a false impression of popularity
  • Spamming
    Using the comments to sell real estate, mortgage assessments, little blue pills, porn, or Russian mail-order brides. Spammers are not tolerated at all; they are expunged without comment.
  • Stupidity
    Some people will just stun you with the outrageous foolishness of their comments; those who seem to say nothing but stupid things get the axe.
  • Trolling
    Making comments intended only to disrupt a thread and incite flames and confusion.
  • Wanking
    Making self-congratulary comments intended only to give an impression of your importance or intelligence.

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Rebooting your commenting privileges on HaT

If one has commented here before under a different ‘nym, it’s only courteous to at least alert the moderators that this is the case. We don’t demand that the connection to a previous nym be made clear to the readers, but the moderators need to know so that they don’t mistake one for a sockpuppet or a vexatious morpher should they detect a connection to a previous commenting identity. If there have been stoushes in the past, particularly if those stoushes have been with the moderators, then trying to sneak back into the commentariat under a new byline smacks of potential malfeasance: we expect to be asked to give one another chance, not for one’s second chance to be clandestinely attempted.
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We aim to keep a comments-policy moderation-principles discussion thread open (comments close by default on all posts after 60 days). If there is not such a thread currently open for comments and you wish to engage in debate over our principles and philosophy above, then by all means request that we open a new comments-policy thread via commenting (abiding by the guidelines!) in the latest open thread.

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