comment aspirations

australian postage stampi love all your comments, people! one of the things i had hoped for in my goals for this year was to have more conversations on this blog, and i think that’s happening. thank you so much!

so with this in mind, i thought it’s time to throw together some comment guidelines. not because there are any big problems – actually, i can’t believe how few comment problems we have here on this blog (none of the trolls like me??) – but because with increased number of comments, i’d like to have a tool to manage any upcoming glitches.

here is what i propose:

last year, i wrote two posts on appreciative communication and improving on silence, both about comments in the blogosphere and beyond. taking the ideas in those posts, here are my personal aspirations for commenting:

  • comment with kindness and respect
  • listen carefully to others in order to understand their perspectives
  • take responsibility for my words
  • keep criticism constructive
  • respect diversity and be tolerant of differences
  • keep a balance between self-interest and the interests of others in the conversation
  • remember truth!
  • improve on silence: make the comment meaningful

yes, these are aspirations – meaning that i strive towards them but cannot guarantee i will always fulfil them 100%. when i don’t, i’m open to moving closer to them, and open to people pointing out to me that i could do better.

while i don’t expect commenters to have the same mindset, when i choose to challenge, edit or delete a comment, i propose that i point to these aspirations.

an example would be something that has been happening a bit lately. i’m getting more and more traffic from people who appear to be using mass commenting software. this is an interesting grey area. while i have no problem with people commenting here who also want to drive traffic to their sites, i’m not excited when that seems to be the sole motivation. in that case, i want to point out that i will either delete the comment or edit those areas that are glaringly promotional without adding much to the conversation.

practically, this means that i find it preferable when people state their names or their blog names when leaving comments, rather than calling themselves “lose weight now!” or some such thing.  similarly, i’m not fond of seeing bold face in a comment when i get the feeling that it’s done for promotional purposes.

then there are controversial topics like sex trade or the use of police force. i definitely want to invite passionate comments – but when it comes to name-calling or generally disrespect, that’s where the buck stops. if there is a problem, i think the first line of defense would be to point out that i’m uncomfortable with a comment, and why. if that doesn’t work, i’d like to reserve the right to edit or delete, with a preference for editing. i don’t like the idea of totally deleting a comment unless it’s obvious spam.

you are my commenters. what do you think? any – well, comments? additions?

(a little comment on the back-end of this post: it’s st. patrick’s day today, so phew,
i’m glad these are green birds! and what a nice coincidence:
the image is by
©2008 gareth taylor.
go to his profile, what he says there goes perfectly with this blog post)

10 thoughts on “comment aspirations

  1. Marc Olmsted

    We hold these aspirations to be self-evident–but also, that all comments are not created equal, and some need to be deleted, without being taken personally because they’ve been sent to a million other sites as well.
    I try to remember that behind every spam is someone trying to make a buck, and probably, in Ukraine or Nigeria or Romania, coming from a place where they have known poverty and vowed never to experience it again. If this means they cause some (relatively) rich Westerners some irritation but one of out 10.000 actually buy their pills or play their game, then I don’t think it cause them to lose sleep. I try to focus on the family that perhaps is being fed or clothed, even as I curse the complete lack of civic-mindedness and waste of time.

  2. Wendi

    I think your aspirations are admirable. I don’t comment often because I usually don’t have anything to add to the conversation, and because I can’t say whatever you said better than you have said it. 😉 I’m always interested in what’s been said, though, and I think the comments add a lot, so putting as much thought into them as into the post itself is worthwhile. Nice to encourage the exchange, rather than simply imparting information one way.

  3. jael

    your aspirations are my standard of professional communication. You have done a stellar job of keeping the commercial/mass-produced comments from ruining the flavour of the conversation. I was not aware that you had been dealing with those kinds of comments until now. I comment when I feel moved to add to the conversation. Just now I realize how tight the parameters are. For example, this comment is a bit longer than I am comfortable with, but I am keeping it.

    jael’s last blog post..rabbit hole day

  4. JohnD

    These guidelines are extremely helpful. My work involves mediating public policy issues, and the groundrules we use are quite similar. I had not thought of the comment page in those terms before, but it is clearly a forum for dialogue. People need to have awareness of the impact of what they say on the direction of the conversation, especially on mental health sites – but really in any setting where the goal is, as you point out, to remember truth and hopefully reach a bit of it through genuine dialogue. Dialogue becomes real when people speak heart to heart rather than just head to head.

    Thanks for bringing these ideas forward. I’ll use some version of them on my blog as well.

    John D

    JohnD’s last blog post..Lincoln’s Adaptation to Depression

  5. Nancy

    This reminds me of a fine balance we face at my parish church in the dtes. Everyone is truly welcome. Perhaps even especially people who don’t look so good, who may smell bad, and who “live outside”. There are a number of, shall we say, disrupters: the guy who I affectionately refer to as the Ranter, who sometimes sits at the front, and when moved, stands up and briefly rants at the rest of us. the woman who right in the middle of the service walked straight up to the virgin mary, split open a bag full of oranges and prostrated herself on the floor. the perfectly-respectable-woman who periodically attends and (turets?) utters swear words under her breath including the g-d words. All this is breaks the norms, for sure, but is absolutely ok. Then there are some who cross some invisible line – a bit too aggressive. who pees on the floor. who doesn’t simply disrupt, but starts to take over the show. those ones, a priest will discretely (insofar as possible) escort out.

    You’re like the priest. At the end of the day, this is your show. You get to decide who is simply breaking norms, and who, for the sake of the community as well as him/herself is best escorted off the blog.

    Nancy’s last blog post..Freebie (or nearly) Wednesday: free REM online, an amazing music festival in Pemberton, and the XFiles set sale

  6. isabella mori

    @marc, i feel the same way about people who spam so i want to take them as seriously as i can. actually, i have a bit of a fascination with spammers … 🙂

    @wendi “i usually don’t have anything to add to the conversation” – that’s a challenge to me! would love to talk to you about that … yes, i really want to have as much conversation as possible.

    @jael “standard of professional communication” – i hadn’t thought of that connection but yes, you’re right. (i guess it shows that we used to work together 🙂

    @john – speaking heart to heart, that’s what it’s all about. thank you! wish i’d have throught of that – i’d have made it the headline!

    @nancy – as you know, i’ve worked in vancouver’s downtown eastside (our inner city). indeed, my thoughts on this are informed by a similar church, where they don’t have “security” people but “hospitality workers”. a change of words can mean a change of heart …

    and this is spooky – here’s a big confession. i’ve never been comfortable with the term “counsellor” or “psychotherapist”. when i worked in the downtown eastside, i used to joke that i was like the village priest. the nice one, hopefully. the doddering old, slightly eccentric guy who’d not only hear people’s stories but who’d also, eat, cry, and dig ditches with them.

  7. Pingback: peaceful communication – problems and solutions

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