So I’ve been offline a lot the last few weeks – as you know we had 10 kids in our house for a couple of days the week before Thanksgiving, and I was out of town until yesterday. While a few posts have gone up, I’ve spent absolutely no time on anything other than absolute necessities online.
So it was something of a shock to me to find in my comments thread a bunch of accusations that I’d been removing comments.due to my disagreement with them. This frankly pissed me off, since I absolutely do not censor or remove comments routinely – or generally at all. Despite a general tendency of people to demand I remove trolls and enact more censorship, I hate that stuff, and I generally believe that most people when treated like adults will act that way, and when jerks are ignored, they’ll go away. I’ve been blogging on controversial subjects since 2005, and I’ve always managed to handle things this way. I can count in the fingers of a single hand the number of posts that I’ve had to remove over all the years I’ve been blogging, most of them overtly racist and involving ad-hominem attacks on other persons. So getting comments that say I’m prohibiting obscenity or deleting posts due to disagreement was something of a surprise.
My assumption was that the comments in question had disappeared due to an excess of links. At both of my blogs, posts with more than two links will get you either directed into the spam filter or often, just disappeared. Over the years I’ve had plenty of dear friends ask how they offended me with a comment, because it didn’t appear, and I’ve had to just ask them to repost with fewer links. Generally it all gets resolved by email, and it is just one of those things that I can’t do anything about at Science Blogs – hopefully an expected transfer to a new platform will fix that.
In writing my response, however, I saw my own comment disappear, and was inclined to follow it. It turns out that for reasons obscure to me (I’ve enquired of the techincal folk here), a lot of comments are being sent to spam – and some may have wandered away entirely, I couldn’t tell. I usually free up a few spam comments a week that shouldn’t have been there – there are more than a hundred right now, which I am laboriously liberating (it will probably take a while due to the stupid system here which means each one must be done individually). So if you have comments that have gone missing, they will appear again over the next few days as long as they went to spam, not somewhere else.
Most people have instinctively attributed this to a new comment policy in which I delete anything I disagree with. There are at least as many comments I do agree with in my spam filter right now, but perhaps people are less inclined to take their non-appearance personally in that case. Rest assured, I am far too lazy to ever take up a heavy-handed moderation policy, and I loathe censorship. I am merely subject to a crappy technical system. The system is an equal-opportunity deleter – it has removed several of my responses to comments as well, and seems to not care anymore whether there are links in them.
Apologies for the inconvenience – trust me, it is more inconvenient to me than you ;-), particularly since I’m supposed to be spending this week working on my book, not spending hours on my spam filter (book due next Monday).
As long as we are discussing comments, let us review the comment policy, because I did have to close comments on the Informal Economy Thread. This is a first-time thing for me – I’ve never had to do this before, never had a thread get this out of hand with personal attacks, bigotry and general stupidity, and I’m not best pleased about it. Part of the problem is on my end – I’ve had too little time to attend to it, and let it go too long. I should have intervened earlier, but was away from my desk. Still, I expect better of y’all as well (y’all know who you are).
The rules are simple:
1. No ad hominem attacks on your fellow posters. You can say whatever you want about me, any time you want – I’m a public figure and I can take it. Simply commenting on a blog, however, should not open you up to personal attack. Critique the idea, not the person.
2. No racist or other major “ist” crap – that doesn’t mean you have to be PC, and I don’t care whether you swear, but when you use the word “Nazi” it better be in a historical context and if you are a bigoted jerk, your comments will get removed.
3. No threats – period. That will get you banned.
4. This last is more of a suggestion – but it is really important. Try and be civil. The internet doesn’t bring out the best in most of us – it is way too easy to get pissy and mean. Try and imagine you are talking to these other people, and type accordingly. If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, think hard about whether you are writing it. One of the things I value so much is the self-regulating nature of this blog – I’ve been so proud over the years that I don’t have to moderate comments, don’t have a lot of trolls and don’t have a constant problem of signal-to-noise ratio, nor do I have to use draconian measures. Make me proud, folks – you can fight all you want without the nastiness charactistic of so many other blogs.
One of the things I value most in my life is the number of friends I’ve made by arguing with them. Often in life and on the internet, I’ve started out in conflict with someone, and in a good public argument, have developed a relationship. Some of my favorite friendships started out with a good fight. That is only possible when you attribute decent motives to other people who disagree with you, and when you don’t make it personal. I’m really proud of the fact that over the last almost-7 years of blogging and some two thousand posts, I’ve proved that it is feasible to be civil even on the internet, that I’ve had people ask “why is everyone so nice over here?” I don’t see that changing, and I trust you all don’t either.
Apologies for the stupid comment problems, best hopes for having them resolved really, really soon.