I already have a Moderation policy page, but thought I would add another that clarifies (and updates) my comment policy. It is quite nice to get lots of comments on posts, but it can also become difficult to manage and can lead to all sorts of frustrations (for me, Rachel and others). To avoid this, I think I’m going to start deleting comments, or preventing commenters from making more, if it seems that comment threads are being derailed by one or a few commenters. Below are some of my thoughts on what I expect. These are just guidelines, so bear that in mind.
If you want to make a basic constructive comments or express an opinion about something in the post, go ahead. As long as you make it clear that it’s your opinion and that you’re not trying to goad one of the other commenters into responding, that should be fine. I’m quite happy (and keen) to hear what others think.
I would encourage people to ask questions, especially as some of those who comment here are quite knowledgeable and can probably provide a better answer than I can. However, if you do ask a question I would encourage you to do so because you don’t know – or are unsure of – the answer yourself and because you’re interested in the answers that others might give. You, obviously, don’t have to accept any of the answers to your question, but at least engage honestly. Also, try to stick with that theme, rather than jumping around to something else if you don’t like the answer given. If you’re going to move on to something different, at least respond – first – to those who attempted to answer your question.
If it appears that you already know the answer to your question and the reason for asking was so that you can then challenge whatever answer is given, I (or Rachel) will just stop the discussion. There are subtleties to this. I can envisage someone asking a question of another because they can’t see how the other could given an alternative answer. That’s fine as long as it’s clear that you’re trying to get the person to explain why your view is wrong and not trying to simply start a flame war. Essentially, just be honest. Don’t pretend you’re interested in learning more from others if you really aren’t.
Constructing an argument
One of the biggest issues I have is situations where someone (who should be capable of doing better) seems unable to actually construct a coherent argument. If you think you understand something and your explanation, or view, differs from those of others, try to actually construct a coherent argument. Provide evidence (links to other work). Maybe don’t state that your evidence is somehow infallible. Just throwing the results of different studies around isn’t really all that helpful. People will want to know why your evidence is somehow more convincing than the evidence of others. Essentially try to have the kind of discussion you might have if you were face-to-face in some kind of professional environment.
Also, if you do start a discussion about something, finish it before moving on. Don’t simply hop to a new topic before you’ve acknowledge the response you get from others. If you want to change topic, try to find some way to end the previous discussion.
Just a general thought. Please try to treat others with respect, even if you do disagree with what they’re saying. Rachel and I will do our best to get rid of those comments that don’t satisfy this new comment policy so there shouldn’t be any real need to respond unpleasantly to those comments with which you disagree.
Anyway, those are some of my initial thoughts. I’m going to do my best to be tougher than I have been. I won’t always succeed. I’m aware that some get frustrated by how some of the comment threads progress. I appreciate your frustrations but maybe bear in mind that this isn’t some kind of professional service and I don’t really know what I’m doing. I’ll try to do my best, but won’t always get it right. Rachel will also, I assume, do her best and will probably do better job than me. Remember, the referee’s decision is final.
At the end of the day, I would prefer having shorter comment threads in which the comments are constructive and valuable, than lengthy comment threads that may seem impressive in number, but that aren’t all that valuable for those who might want to try and learn something. Anyone who has any thoughts of their own feel free to make them in the comments – as long as they satisfy these new comment policies 🙂 .
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