Thinking about commenting? Awesome. Read on for the guidelines and guardrails.
Imagination: activate! Form of: allegory!
Imagine for a moment that I invited you to a cookout at my house. It’s one of three days during the Virginia summer that isn’t murderously hot. The skies are blue, the clouds white and fluffy, and the temperature is a silky 75°F (24°C for my metric system friends). Although we don’t know each other well, your calendar is clear and the thought of fresh air, tasty eats, and meeting new people is too good to pass up. You accept my invite and make your way to my home.
By the time you arrive, there are several cars parked in the long skinny driveway and a few on the street out front. You don’t know what to expect, but you do know that you don’t want to get blocked in by other partygoers. Once that happens, you’re committed until the bitter end – or until you work up the nerve to initiate the dreaded driveway car shuffle. Street it is.
Confidence bolstered by your parking decision, you follow the sounds of music and merriment up the driveway and toward the open gate of the privacy fence. Walking into the backyard, you see several clusters of people engaged in small talk – some sitting on patio furniture, another group on the screened-in porch, and a couple stragglers having a private discussion. There are also small children frolicking, two couples lobbing beanbags embroiled in intense corn hole battle, and an opportunistic Goldendoodle making rounds in hopes of a snack. Eddie Vedder’s familiar mumblesinging of Yellow Ledbetter plays in the background.
I come and greet you, gratefully accept the bottle of wine you brought, and begin introducing you to my friends and family. So far so good. You feel welcome, seen, and much more comfortable than you’d expected.
After the customary greetings and first-round of small talk is complete, you assimilate into a group on the porch. I offer my take on a current event and follow it with a story that is tangentially related. At the end of my self-deprecating tale, some people laugh, my wife rolls her eyes, and others counter with questions or share their thoughts on the topic. The mood is light, the conversation is friendly, but the discussion doesn’t sit well with you. When others continue to express or imply agreement, you find yourself slipping into prickly preoccupation. What I, and others, don’t know is that the current event we’re discussing is a hot-button topic for you. What was benign chatter to others, was offensive to you. At a break in the dialogue, I look over to you and ask your opinion.
“What do I think? I think you’re all freaking idiots. I’m amazed that you actually believe that,” you say to the group, their smiles clinging to their faces until they realize there is no punchline coming. “People like you disgust me. You should all go some-where and, I don’t know, die or something.”
Good thing you parked on the street.
The point of my story is not to trivialize Fictitious-You’s offense. All the feels are valid to Fictitious You. People have disagreed about pretty much everything since the beginning of time, and will continue to do so until our planet is a desolate, frozen husk orbiting a dying ember. Our perspectives, passions, and beliefs are shaped by nature, nurture, and a lifetime of experiences. We are not automatons. We will disagree. We will take offense. For something. Sometime.
Still, would you ever respond like that at a party or other social event? Probably not. You might draw a conversational boundary, make others aware that it’s something you’re really passionate about, offer counter-points, or at worst, excuse yourself from the conversation. But I don’t think Real You would react like that. I mean, you’re reading a Comment Policy. You’re good people.
I wrote my silly and extreme story to illustrate one and only one point: this is how people treat each other online. Every social network, blog, and forum containing humans and their thoughts attracts these types of responses. People see the wafer-thin veneer of Internet anonymity as license to treat people like garbage. buzzer It’s not.
If the cookout scenario above played out in real life, I would ask you to leave. The same is true here in my digital home.
Could we get to the policy part of the policy?
This is my house. Kindness is king. The Golden Rule rules. If you are rude to me or my other guests, I will eject you from the party. That means I will whack your comments and block you from commenting on the site in the future.
Any comment containing overtly racist, abusive, sexist, or similarly toxic content, will be instantly nuked. I will also delete any comments that I interpret as aggressive, hateful, combative, ugly, or otherwise inappropriate. My house, my call.
If you have a book, website, video, product, service, or thing that is relevant to the discussion, you are welcome to introduce said thing in a non-spammy way as part of your comment. If the sum total of your comment is a link to your thing saying “CHECK OUT MY THING!!!!!”, it will catch a moderator’s bullet. If the majority of your comments on my blog promote your thing (even if individual comments meet the non- spammy requirement), those comments will also be purged.
I should also mention that Hyvor, my beloved third-party comment system, has its own set of rules and filters. Its robot brain may auto-blast your comment for any of the aforementioned offenses without any of my involvement.
While most of the site should be pretty low friction, I recognize that the humanity section is fraught with potentially polarizing content. It is possible, if not probable, that you will disagree with me on some the topics discussed there. I don’t write to needle or offend. I write because, well, I want to write. I process my life, including the deeply personal bits, through writing. This blog is where I do my processing.
But what if I don’t like what you have to say?
First, content is organized in a way that should make it easy for you to avoid any high-friction topics. You don’t like what I have to say about fantasy? Music? Tech? Humanity? Don’t read. Sure, streams may be crossed from time to time. There will inevitably be some spillover between categories, but the tag taxonomy should help guide your clicks.
Second, consider this an invitation to share your thoughts, ask clarifying questions, express your difference of opinion. I just ask that you do so like you’re a guest in my house, because you are.
Third, there is no third. However, I will say in closing that many of my friends have different backgrounds, beliefs, and opinions. Diversity is a good thing. Just because we may need to agree to disagree on a particular topic, does not mean that we can’t be friends. It just means that we’re “people.”
Comments are open, as is my inbox.