I haven’t been paying too much attention to the comment section in recent days, for obvious reasons… I’ve been far too busy, and my Internet access has been far too spotty, to read every comment on every post. But it’s come to my attention that commenters impersonating other commenters has become a problem in at least one thread, so I want to make a clear statement about this. Such behavior is completely unacceptable. Anyone impersonating another commenter with intent to deceive is subject to being immediately banned. If you see this happening, please e-mail me and point me to where it is occurring.
Beyond that, I am concerned about the devolution of the BrendanLoy.com comment section into a “stuck on stupid” mode, as General Honore would say. Watching the level of discourse asymptotically approach that of an AOL chatroom is not something I relish, as I hinted to CNET News. This isn’t about protecting a blog fiefdom from “outsiders”; it is about keeping the level of discourse at a tolerable level.
To be clear, I have absolutely no objection to the comments that the VAST MAJORITY of new readers have been making. I appreciate your readership and participation in this community. But as we all know, it only takes a few bad apples to make things worse for everyone.
I may eventually institute comment registration in an attempt to discourage trollish behavior and other unwanted crap, but that would be part and parcel of the longer-term blog migration to WordPress which has been significantly delayed by recent events. For now, there isn’t much I can do, except to ask everyone to please be at least moderately civil, and if you don’t have anything remotely intelligent to say, then don’t say anything at all. (Funny comments are OK, too, but please, don’t completely hijack serious threads with them.)
If you think I’m simply prejudiced against the “newbies,” you’re wrong. I welcome all of my new readers with open arms — all except the ones who engage in assholish behavior. Those are the ones I don’t like: the assholes. I think I can be forgiven that “prejudice.” (And yes, I have been known to upbraid some of the “regulars” in the past when they have behaved assholishly. I’ve even been known to criticize myself for the occasional instance of assholishness. So this has nothing to do with “newbies” vs. “regulars,” per se. Again, this is about the overall level of discourse.)
And if you think I’m being an insufferable censor, you are, again, wrong. I have no desire to censor anyone, which is why I have very rarely done so (and have never banned anyone, except spammers, in 3 1/2 years of blogging). But I also don’t want the comment section to become so poisonous that it loses all the people with intelligent and insightful things to say, and is populated only by trolls and morons.
One last note: this post is not an attack on anyone in particular. This is a broad concern, one which several regular commenters have brought to my attention, and I felt it needed to be addressed. If you feel personally attacked by this post, perhaps that means you perceive yourself as engaging in assholish behavior, in which case your perception is probably correct and you should probably think about modifying your behavior.
P.S. I’m thinking about adding a statement like this to the comment template:
The BrendanLoy.com comment section is a community. It is a “big tent” community; all are welcome to join. But if you wish to be a member in good standing of the community, you need to abide by certain guidelines of behavior. Be civil. Avoid profanity and vulgarity except when it’s central and necessary to your comment. Mark all links which are “not safe for work” as “NSFW.” Do not impersonate other commenters. Do not engage in pointless personal attacks as a substitute for meaningful debate. Endeavour not to “hijack” threads. Most of all, try to contribute something worthwhile to the discussion. Don’t lower the level of discourse; raise it. Help make this a community we all want to be a part of.
Comments, pro and con, and suggestions on additions or subtractions, are welcome.