Monday, January 02, 2006

NPI institutes comment policy

Some online communities are self regulating, others not so much. At work, I read a few message board communities, and very much enjoy the civility and level of conversation on them. Several things contribute to the lively and informative conservation.

Most of the people on these boards have been posting for awhile, so they know each other fairly well, and know what they're talking about (these are necessarily politics boards). Since they're familiar with each other, they have developed a level of respect, and aren't likely to lash out at someone that they're going to have another conversation with later on.

Also, most people know what they're talking about, so there is a level of respect in terms of what everyone brings to the table.

There are also several "everyday" users that moderate the boards. Cutting off a conversation, moving it to another section of the board, editing profane comments are all part of the moderators role. They are the grown ups in the room, and if you don't play nice, you can be asked to leave.

On at least a few progressive blogs in the Puget Sound, there are sometimes very raucous comment threads that I find tiring and pointless. The same folks end up commenting and each thread gets way out of control. Washblog should be credited with being highly commented site that doesn't fall into this category.

One site, the Northwest Progressive institute's blog, which in the past has had some pretty heated (and from my point of view) pretty pointless comment threads, is moving to change the tone. Starting today, the NPI blog will have a comment thread policy. Its pretty general, but it will hopefully be very effective:
We do not have comment threads on this blog so that Republican hacks and members of the 101st Fighting Keyboardists can drop by and leave RNC talking points, or deliberately trash this organization and the progressive movement.

The comment threads exist for intelligent discussion, and to allow readers to point out mistakes in our posts or offer additional information.

From here on out, the comments policy is as follows:

  • No profanity. We don't care what your political persuasion is - no profanity, please. There is no need for it. The radical right is trying to engage in a culture war. Their goals are to divide and disrupt. When swearing matches erupt, that's a victory for them.
  • Don't type in all caps. Over the past year, we've observed that a couple commenters deliberately type in ALL CAPS. All caps is equivalent to shouting. Again, (as you may have noticed) the right is trying to engage in a culture war. When shouting matches erupt, they win. Commenters who type in all caps will be first warned and then banned if they continue to comment in all caps.
  • Have something of value to say. We're going to be flexible with the definition of what we consider to be value. Value could be humor (including snark and satire), a polite correction, a personal viewpoint, new information, and so on. Value is a broad definition. For our policy, it covers everything that we don't consider trolling (or disruptive behavior).
The only addition I would make would be to include arguments that fall into a very general "logical fallacy" category. The downside would be that it would be hard to enforce, but every so often you come across a "Your only arguing that point of view because you're a poop-head" comment, which while it would fall under "not having something of value to say," I think it would be better to moderate that comment based on it not being a good enough argument.

No comments: