Our patience with those who repeatedly hijack the discussion thread to detract from the topic at hand has ended, effective immediately.
One of the virtues of blogging as a medium is feedback from readers and the ability for communities to hash out the ideas laid out in a post. The discussion quite often spawns spin-off posts, serving as inspiration for keeping the dialog going. More importantly, it forces the blogger to more critically examine his biases and be less sloppy in relying on assumptions that might not be shared.
At the same time, as has been true on the Internet since long before the advent of blogs, the higher the number of commenters a forum attracts, the less likely the discussion is to be fruitful. A variation of Gresham’s Law sets in, with the most outrageous commenters drawing responses in kind and those most interested in civil discussion being driven off by the toxic environment.
Many of the larger blogs have dispensed with comments altogether. Others have gone to moderated comments, which mostly eliminates bad behavior but breaks up the flow of the discussion. Others go the opposite direction, allowing their comment sections to become free-for-alls, with the top level authors simply ignoring the discussion.
At OTB, we’ve managed to maintain a remarkably civil forum these past eight-and-a-half years by a combination of active engagement with our commenters and light enforcement of our commenting policies. But the last few months, even with more aggressive enforcement, a handful of trolls are beginning to tip the scales. Rather than allowing them to dominate the discussion and drive out the good, we’re going to start actively banning them from the site.
To reiterate the high points of the commenting policy:
Remember that the people under discussion are human beings. Comments that contain personal attacks about the post author or other commenters will be deleted. Repeated violators will be banned. Challenge the ideas of those with whom you disagree, not their patriotism, decency, or integrity.
The following will almost always get you banned:
- Comments that advocate violence towards posters, commenters, private citizens, government officials, or pretty much anyone not strongly suspected of terrorism, violent crime, or a declared enemy of the United States.
- Comments that contain personal information about others such as home addresses and personal phone numbers.
- Any form of trolling, defined as comments that appear intended to send the discussion in a fruitless direction, including repeated raising of only tangentially related points.
A note about Hate Speech: We’re open to a broad discussion about race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, culture, and related issues and will generally not delete controversial comments regardless of our own disagreement. Regardless, comments that reach into any of these areas may be deleted and commenters warned or banned:
- Advocacy of violence on racial, gender, or ethnic grounds
- Use of ethnic, racial, or gender slurs
- Trolling on these topics.
To be clear: We’re talking about maybe four or five regular commenters. Our intention is to maintain a vigorous discussion forum and we’re not interested in banning people who disagree with us or passionately put forth their point of view. But our patience with those who repeatedly hijack the discussion thread to detract from the topic at hand has ended, effective immediately.