A tale of two commenters

Readers, this week I had to do something I have never done before.

Specifically, I banned someone from BioE. Their comments will no longer appear here, and as the rest of you may notice when you comment, I've turned moderation on to enforce that. Unfortunately, that means everyone's comments will be slightly delayed. I apologize; I don't like it either.

There is a surprisingly common misperception about blogs: that any commenter has the right to say whatever they want in the comments, no matter how offensive, off-topic, rude, or annoying, and the blogger and the community just have to grit their teeth and put up with it. That is simply not true. Bioephemera is my blog. If you can't play nice with others, you don't get to play here. There are plenty of other sandboxes out there without any rules; I'm sure you'll be just fine somewhere else.

Let's look at this objectively. I write BioE on my own time. I don't make a living from it. Every minute I have to spend reading and deleting personal insults or wackjob rants from people who don't know me is a minute of my life completely wasted on negativity. And I don't OWE that to anyone. Life is simply too short to spend on things that make you miserable. (We have taxes, wifi outages, and cable installation for that.)

Overall, it's been a rough week. And that's why it's so appropriate that yesterday, when I was seriously wondering if blogging was worth it, I got a wonderful present (a much-coveted sciart book) in the mail from a mystery reader I've never met. That thoughtful, unexpected gift perfectly counterbalanced the negativity of my problem commenter like an exquisitely balanced Calder mobile.

On the whole, humanity is balanced in the same way. People on the internet are just like people off the internet: there are people with huge chips on their shoulders who want to pick fights, and there are genuinely nice people who do anonymous good for no self-interested reason, and there is every shade in between. It's up to each one of us to find our own balance of grace, poise, generosity and pragmatism in dealing with other human beings. In that respect blogging is no different than real life.

I consider it a tribute to you, my readers, that I've only ever felt compelled to ban one person - and that person was not a BioE regular. Many (most?) of you disagree with me, sometimes vocally, but you are a smart, interesting crowd of people, and I respect your right to disagree. In fact, I am often honored to be disagreed with by you. (could I torture syntax any more?) Most of you are awesome.

But for the record, in the interest of transparency, I am letting you know that I've had to ban someone. If that violates your sensibilities and you have to leave BioE on moral grounds, I'll respect your decision, and not take it personally.

All the best,

More like this

Amen, Sister BioE! At the end of the day you have to do what you think is right to create an environment that you enjoy. You can hope that others will too, but if they don't.....well, I suppose you can imagine what PhysioProf would say.

Well Jess,
Being banned by you is probably the greatest honor that person will ever get. I have no idea what they said, but a response from you, any response, is probably what they wanted, and they got it, with elegance, and eloquence, as usual. But, in some sense, even that person is not separate from you, or from me.

This is your virtual home. If you would not feel bad showing someone the door to your real home for crapping repeatedly on the carpet, why feel bad for doing the virtual same for the metaphorically same offence?
Free speech protection is a government thing. It does not apply to your home, virtual or physical.
In other words, no worries.
( so says this first time poster, long rss reader. )

Good for you!!!

Decorum and good manners should never be forgotten in civilized discourse. Bad-mannered fools need not be tolerated in one's discussions. I wish more bloggers would follow your lead (or mine, I review each comment ere it sees the light of day), I get very tired of threads getting hijacked by the innane, illiterate, and illmannered.

Hiya. Sorry to hear that!

I don't think I've ever commented here before, but I've been following your site for almost a year and it's, by far, one of my favorite blogs on my reader. I guess this means I have to take a more active role as a participant. Thanks for all the interesting posts.

I'm glad you experienced some good this week to balance out the negative. Thank you for keeping us safe from ugly trolls. Keep writing - I appreciate every word! Your blog is an integral element of this SAHM's intellect maintenance regimen.

Your blog is one of my favorites out of the bazillions out there. Creating it should make you happy, and if you have to cut a toxic commenter off, then so be it. Please keep up the good work!

Amen. And well said.

Trolls Aren't Us

Many blogs moderate. Don't worry about it. There are many people out there who just want to spread their "negativity" around and why should you help them?

Good for you! A bit of banning can really help a comments section. There are people who see the anonymity of the internet as an opportunity to act out their worst impulses. They shouldn't be allowed derail interesting conversations or spew hateful nonsense at the other commenters.

I think that free speech should be the standard across the internet, but that doesn't mean that every website should allow any comment, just that government and service providers shouldn't impose restrictions.

Just to support what other have said here: support your action all the way. With only one proviso: don't feel bad about banning people. We have to do it all the time with spammers... disruptive idiots are no different.

And I'm really really glad that this wasn't enough to stop you blogging. That would have been very sad.

Many thanks for all the pleasure and education you've bought to many readers over the years. You do a great job.

for the record, in the interest of transparency, I am letting you know that I've had to ban someone

Of course there'e absolutely nothing wrong with that. May I suggest that, in the interest of true transparency, you specify the causal behavior?

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 20 Jul 2009 #permalink

I'm not going to do that, Sven, because people who read this blog regularly (not you and Rorschach) might be able to guess the individual's identity if I gave specifics. It was my right to ban the person, but that's as far as it goes. I'm not singling them out for additional criticism here.