We initially intended to shut down the comments section entirely, for two reasons. First, the nastiness and digressive stuff was making it hard to read. Second, the guarantee that the subject of a post would be jumped on by anonymice, and nonymice, was dissuading people from telling us stuff.
This Los Angeles blog, which was central to the Mayor’s race there, also worried us. The comments section got bogged down as time went on. By the end, as one person involved in that campaign put it, “the comments are nothing but ugly, pointless, and often racist rants by people caught up in the campaign.” Also, largely unreadable.
Sifry also pointed us in the direction of Jeff Jarvis‘s metaphor for the comments section: this isn’t the public square; it’s a conversation taking place in our living room, or our newsroom.
That means that we will, occasionally, delete specific posts that cross some of the lines we’ll take a first shot at outlining here. It also means we’ll throw people out who break the rules a couple of times. This is going to be subjective. Sorry. We’ll try to do it rarely.
Here’s a first pass at what’s not allowed: nasty ad hominem/feminam(!) attacks; scatology; quick-on-the-draw uses of “criminal,” “racist,” “anti-semite,” and “homophobe;” relentless self-promotion.
In other words, the stuff that would get you shut out of any other conversation.
What is allowed: criticism of individuals, particularly of public figures; open discussion of race (this is New York politics!); the 7 dirty words; digressive restaurant recommendations; partisanship; anonymity.
We’re still not sure what to do about the person who called Brian Hardwick a “bearded baboon.” Unacceptable nastiness? Friendly abuse?
(NOTE: The new comments software will ask you for a name and email address. Those are both optional. You’re welcome to be anonymous.)