I am going to introduce a moderation policy, partly so that those who comment know the basic ground rules and partly so that I can try and be consistent. Ideally, I’d like the discussion to be civil. I do, however, realise that this is a contentious issue and that frustrations are inevitable. So, I don’t mind a bit of snark and maybe some strong words. What I would like to see avoided are vitriolic, personal attacks. I’d also like people to try and give the benefit of the doubt, at least initially. Maybe engage in a manner more consistent with how one might engage face-to-face, rather than on an online forum.
There are, however, some things that I would strongly discourage. These are
Libel/defamatory: If you’re going to accuse someone of something, either have evidence or make it very clear that it is your opinion.
Obscene: Expect any obviously obscene words to be moderated.
Ad hominems: As I mentioned above, what I would like to see avoided are vitriolic, unpleasant, personal attacks. As they say, play the ball not the man/woman.
Thread-bombing: As much as I enjoy getting comments on my posts, try to avoid bombing a thread with lots of unrelated comments. Try to stick to one conversation at a time.
Answer questions: If, during a conversation, someone asks you a question, either answer it or explain why you’re unable to answer it. Don’t simply change direction. It makes it seem like you’re trying to avoid an awkward question.
Repetition: Asking questions, in general, is encouraged. Asking the same question over and over again, especially if it’s been answered, is not encouraged.
Being disruptive: If you’re going to make a comment, try to make it constructive and in context, rather than simply a comment aimed at disrupting a thread.
Conspiracy theories: I would like to avoid lengthy discussions about contentious topics such as the behaviour of climate scientists and others. If you do wish to introduce such a topic, you’re going to be expected to provide some fairly convincing evidence. A couple of emails between a few individuals, is not going to qualify as evidence that all climate scientists are devious. Basically, if you choose to introduce a discussion about whether or not we should judge climate scientists by the behaviour of a few, expect your comments to be moderated or the discussion to be terminated quite quickly.
Sockpuppetting: I’m more than happy for people to comment anonymously. Would be ironic if I wasn’t. However, stick to one identity. If I find out that someone has been commenting under more than one identity, then that would be sufficient for me to ban them from the site.
Trigger words: I’ve added some words that will automatically trigger moderation. Currently they’re idiot, liar, fraud, and troll. I may add more as time goes on. They’re not banned completely; just make sure that you use them in the right context and that they’re applied appropriately.
It’s mine: It’s my blog and I reserve the right to delete a comment for whatever reason I like and without any requirement to explain why.
Some news: Rachel has, very kindly, offered to help with moderation, so I won’t be the only person able to step in and help to keep commenters from straying too far from what’s expected.
So, that’s it for now. This could continue to evolve with time, but you probably get the general idea. If anyone has any other suggestions, feel free to make them. I should also acknowledge a level of bias. I’m clearly on one side of the debate and as much as I would like to be completely unbiased, that is probably unlikely/impossible. I may well have more sympathy for those who’s ideas are backed by actual scientific evidence than those who’s ideas are not. I’m not suggesting that I definitely will be biased, simply that it may be impossible for me to completely hide my scientifically-backed biases. I’ll do my best to be as balanced as possible as long as those making comments do their best to appreciate that I’m simply trying to do the best I can. Also, there is just me and Rachel, so we can’t guarantee that we’ll always be available to intervene and moderate all discussions.
This blog is also turning out to be both more time consuming and more stressful than anticipated. Some moderation may be based purely on whether or not I/we can face dealing with how a particular comment thread is evolving. This is not a public service and so, in general, any moderation decision is final.
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Good moderation policy. I just read it for the first time just now (and I don’t know what took me so long to get around to it) but I think these are really good guidelines. If only they weren’t needed! I do, however, disagree with the idea that questions should be discouraged. Aren’t questions the basis of all science? Though I know this is unintentional, it really seems like that would steer the atmosphere away from scientific discussion…. Could you please help me understand why you decided on that part of the policy? Thanks, hope I’m not taking up your time.
Thanks. The point about questions was not that they are specifically discouraged, it’s that asking the same question over and over again, once it’s been answered, is discouraged. Either you agree with the answer and move on, or you disagree and say why. There’s also the problem of JAQing in which people appear to be asking questions, but are really making statements framed as questions. Hence, they’re not actually interested in an answer to their question, they’re using a question to make a point.
I hate it when they do that. Sometimes people think that conversations need to be manipulated right down to the psychology behind them, and they make it into a game, a battle. *Why* can’t they just *talk* and pose questions like normal people, and not make it into a game of strategy??? It can be enough to drive you crazy! I call it strategical criticism.