Archive for the ‘Comments’ Category

A Sensible Comment Policy

September 3, 2010

R. Scott Clark has decided to institute a sensible new comment policy (no comments allowed). I am sure that some people are disappointed that they won’t be able to comment on his blog, but he will save oodles of time moderating comments. The only other comments policy that makes sense (for a popular blog, like his) is to be extremely liberal, and permit comments from almost anyone.

Comments Policy Silliness

March 9, 2010

I noticed that there seems to be some well-intentioned silliness in R. Scott Clark’s new blog commenting policy (link to his discussion of his policy). The new policy requires those commenting to provide their real names, so as to take responsibility for their comments.

Before I get to the silliness, let me acknowledge that there are small number of vocal folks who abuse what they perceive to be the web’s anonymity. That is to say, there are a number of folks who post anonymously to harass, annoy, inflame, or otherwise act as trolls. This is irritating and it leads to blog-owners requiring some additional barriers to commenting to deter these trolls.

Nevertheless, imposing a policy that says those commenting must provide their real names fails to make people responsible for their comments. First, the current policy only requires that a part of the person’s name be provided. There’s no requirement that the whole name be provided. Unless someone has a rather unusual (for the blogosphere) first name (yes, Thabiti, I’m thinking of you) then even using a real name wouldn’t help. Same, though perhaps a little less so, for family names. Even when we combine first and last names, there are still many common combinations. Adding a middle initial or perhaps a full middle name would be helpful in further reducing the number of possible people a particular might refer to.

Such measures, however, fail to provide full responsibility for two reasons. First, as the tax folks know, there are plenty of cases of people with identical names. Second, even if your social security number of passport number were provided (we have to keep the blogosphere international, after all), simply identifying a person’s name doesn’t tell you much that permits you to hold that person responsible. We would also need an address, some sort of physical description (several people can live at the same address), and for church discipline purposes, membership information.

Furthermore, in the U.S. and South Africa, as well as some other places, gun ownership is rather common. Thus, if we really want to keep folks who comment on blogs responsible, we need some ability to get to them. Thus, they would need to be required to post some sort of bond with a neutral third party (such as a bank), that the blog owner could seize if the blog commenter violated the bounds of proper behaviour – at least as an initial form of responsibility. Hostage giving by blog commenters would be another way: who is going to write mindnumbing screeds in your comment boxes if you have their firstborn child?

And, of course, not only is the mechanism proposed by my dear brother in Christ, R. Scott Clark, not enough to ensure responsibility, it is a way that’s easily foiled. I would not be shocked if Clark started to see a lot of the John Smiths and Jane Does of the Internet start commenting (in surprising volume) on his blog.

In fact, the only people who Clark’s policy will adversely affect are those morally upright folks who don’t want to reveal their real names. They are the only ones who will not intentionally violate Clark’s policy (some may unintentionally violate it, based on not carefully reading the policy, or not noticing that the policy exists), while the unscrupulous will easily beat his safeguard.

When pseudonymous comments are outlawed, only outlaws will comment pseudonymously.

>Guide to Comments – Under Development

November 18, 2006


Comment publication on this blog is autocratic, and the blog owner is the autocratic. There is no “rule of law,” there is no “freedom of speech,” and no right of “due process” for people who post comments. The combox of this blog is not your soapbox.

Non-publication of your comment is not a judgment on you as a person or even, necessarily, on your comment. More than once someone has emailed me to let me know that a comment they had made had not been published: I’d never even seen it.

Sometimes great comments stay unpublished for months, before I get around to responding to them. Sometimes great comments never get published in the combox, because I devote a blog post to answering them.

If you think your comment is vitally important for people to know, leaving it in a combox is not a responsible way for you to achieve that objective.

1. The Purpose of Comments
a) Objectively, the purpose is to edify.
b) Subjectively the purpose is to edify the beneficiaries of the comments. The primary beneficiary of your comments is going to be the blog author, since he’s the one who normally reads them. Secondary beneficiaries of the comments are the public, if the comment gets published.

In short, the primary purpose in your providing comments should be to interact with the post, not with the public in general. Sometimes comments are an efficient way of publicly interacting with the post, but not all your comments are going to get published.

2. What Happens to Comments
So far, I’ve taken the approach that I get few enough comments on my blog that I can read each one and decide whether to:

1. Post it
a. With response, or
b. Without response; or
1. Reject it
a. With response, or
b. Without response.

Comments fall in various categories.

1. Comments that are virtually always quickly approved without response or with a limited response:

a) Pleasantries: e.g. I’m glad I found this blog Thanks for that post, it was nice.
b) Supporting comments: e.g. In addition to what you said, I would add …
c) Tangential but non-controversial points: e.g. You know, what you wrote reminded me of …

2. Comments that are virtually always eventually approved with a response:

a) Polite correction of the post: e.g. “That should be Tertullian not TUrtullian!”
b) Polite disagreement with the post: e.g. I think you’re overlooking verse X, which says Y.

3. Comments that are sometimes approved, sometime rejected:

a) Random controversial comments;
b) Polite comments that include some seriously heretical doctrine or some seriously slanderous/libelous content;
c) Rude comments generally;
d) Inflammatory comments; and
e) Comments to the effect of: “don’t comment on my comments” or “delete your rebuttal of my position.”

4. Comments that are virtually always rejected, often without comment:

a) Insults, Bare Opinion Criticisms: e.g. “You and/or your post is dumb.” “I guess you won’t post this since you don’t post anything these days that could graze your monologue. “
b) Inflammatory Nonsense: e.g. You Calvinists/Christians/Monotheists/Theists hold your ridiculous beliefs because of space aliens and Adolph Hitler.
c) Strenuous Blasphemy.
d) Spam or whatever you call it when someone posts simply to provide a link for their own web site.
e) A post that links to a web site that is mostly (a), (b), or (c).
f) Posts demonstrating that the author of the post has not read the blog article he has critiquing. An example would be if I wrote an article that demonstrates that a certain group believes a certain thing (using evidence), and I receive comments that suggest the person read only the headline, like “where’s the evidence for your assertion?”
g) Posts in violation of a ban. I very rarely ban folks (as of today, the ban list is back to zero), but if you’ve been banned, don’t comment.

3. Useful Thoughts on Comments by Others

11. (warning, background images appear to be intended representations of the second person of the Trinity)
12. (the URL is a bit misleading – also, many of the guidance items are clearly facetious)
26. (warning – coarse language)

4. Less Useful Thoughts on Comments from Others


5. Ways to Keep Track of Comments

1. Many sites have comment feeds. This site is no exception. Virtually all blogs have a comment feed.
2. Many sites will let you receive followup comments by email (most blogs have this feature) or will let you receive notifications that followup comments have been posted (bloggers that use Haloscan often have this feature).
3. You can use a service like Co.mments (discussed here).

6. Reasons not to Permit Anonymous Comments


That’s all for now, though I suppose I’ll have to update this post from time to time.

May God give me the grace to show similar courtesy to the blogs of others as that which I request of those who blog here,


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