Monday, February 15, 2010

On Comments

I spend a lot of time commenting at other blogs, perhaps too much. It seems like the thing to do somehow, at least if I have anything to say. As readers have probably noticed, I usually respond to comments here, once again assuming I can think of anything to write. These are my own personal preferences, of course, and I'm not trying to insist anyone else follow them.

On the other hand, I've been asked recently by someone to engage in some sort of debate about things I've written here. My response was, and is, that if anyone has a problem with something I've written here, there's a comments section. That's what it's there for. It's not just there to say nice things to me or wish me a nice day (although I appreciate the gesture). It's one way of correcting error. Hopefully I'll catch an error before a reader does, but occasionally you do. No one needs to ask permission to do that.

If you feel something I've written is wrong, but it's mostly a feeling, tell me why you feel that way. What experience or reading leads you to that belief?

Being able to discuss an article is one of the big advantages of hypertext. I try to make as much use of that ability as possible.

There are four rules I apply to comments here:

First, please avoid really long comments that repeat something written elsewhere. A link and a summary will do fine, thank you. Be creative.

Second, it's best to be substantive, particularly if you disagree with something I've written. Just calling names and leaving it at that won't work here. For an excellent example of how to do this, although not of how to follow the first rule, read the comments here. Personally, I think this person is a crank, but he made substantive points, and someone reading that article might be interested, so he stays.

Third, don't pretend to be someone you're not.

Finally, spam is not permitted here. There are many forms of spam, but one that's shown up here recently is in the form of a basically meaningless comment followed by a link to a commercial website, say something about credit. Such links will be deleted, and if they persist, the commenter will be reported to Blogger.

A Brief Review Of The Rules

Any violation of these rules will result in removal of a comment. Short of that, though, just about anything is permissible. In all the time I've been blogging here, I don't think I've removed more than a dozen comments. Most of them were spam.

I have a somewhat deserved reputation for being harsh toward people who make comments I consider to be stupid. The reality, I think, is that I'm harsh towards criticisms that display both stupidity and arrogance. The latter, I think, is one of the leading causes of the former, and my instinct is usually to beat that arrogance back to more manageable proportions. One thing you won't develop in my presence is an overly large ego. So, if you're going to insult someone, either directly or by condescending comments, you'd better have some good reasons. I can't recall having ever treated a civil comment badly, regardless of how foolish I thought it was, and certainly try to do the opposite.

If you don't have anything to say or don't want to discuss something, that's fine. But there's no reason anyone needs to ask permission to post a comment disagreeing with something I've written.

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