Home/Alan Jacobs/In Lieu of a Comments Policy, This

In Lieu of a Comments Policy, This

So here near the beginning let me share a few thoughts about my policy (such as it is) on comments. I don’t think there’s any question that as the years have gone by comment threads on the internet have gotten worse and worse, on something like a Gresham’s Law principle: bad comments drive out good. That is, the tiny percentage of people who are seriously deranged or actively malicious — and who also have way too much free time on their hands — dominate comment threads, either bringing out the worst in others or simply leading well-meaning people to avoid participating at all. No wonder some folks end up saying that comments are the radioactive waste of the web. I’m often tempted to say that myself.

Moreover, I tend to agree with the get-your-own-blog response: if you don’t like what I’m writing, then start your own blog and refute me there. John Gruber: “You write on your site; I write on mine. That’s a response.” You will be able to pursue the issues at whatever length and in whatever matter you find appropriate. So go for it.

All that said, I have to say that I’ve made friends through comment threads: David Ryan, for instance, and Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, or PEG, as we like to call him. It’s worth putting up with a lot of nonsense to make friends. All we need now is a foolproof method of comment management that eliminates trolls and fosters friendships. Yep, simple as that.

Well. Okay, so that’s not going to happen. But we can work at it. So for anyone who would like to comment here, let me present a few thoughts. First and foremost, everyone on the internet without exception should read John Scalzi’s post on “How To Be a Good Commenter” — it’s just brilliant. To that I will just add that I will never delete a comment because the commenter disagrees with me, but I will delete comments if they are either attacks on or speculations about the character and motives of opponents. This blog will be a Bulverism-Free Zone. I will also delete Announcements. You know the thing I mean: “No rational person could be religious.” “The Democratic Party just wants to destroy religion in America.” As Scalzi would put it, there’s no value added there. It’s just noise, and on those grounds I will delete, even if the comment is otherwise inoffensive. Be responsive, be on-topic, be fair-minded, and add value. Let’s converse.

about the author

Alan Jacobs is a Distinguished Professor of the Humanities in the Honors Program at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and the author most recently of The Book of Common Prayer: A Biography.

leave a comment

Latest Articles