Most sites that have a mechanism for user feedback (usually via comments system) maintain a set of rules of conduct. On large sites, these rules may be written by legal departments and be many pages long. On small sites (such as this one) they may be quite informal and unwritten or there may be no set of rules at all. The reasons sites maintain these rules are many. Some sites want to strictly control the content and tone. Some want to prevent harassment. Some want to avoid lawsuits. Some want to control the message. Some are concerned for creating a space free of ad hominem attacks. For the most part, I don’t censor comments on this blog except in the following cases:
– Clear spam having nothing to do with the content (ie, trying to sell a product or link to a virus)
– Direct threats on an individual (ie, I am going to kill you)
– Ad hominem attacks (and not even all of these, as long as there is some actual argument along with)
And there is one overarching precondition for commenting on this site. To participate in the dialog on this site, there is one thing I absolutely demand: an identity. Since I am not writing anonymously, I expect all contributors to this site to likewise exhibit at least the most basic pretense of an identity. By that I mean a working email. Just about every comment I refuse to publish is for the same reason: A non working email address. If I can not reach the people who are commenting, it is not a dialog, it is a monologue. And if that is what they want, there are plenty of other sites that will accommodate them. I never publish anyone’s email, nor do I use them for any sort of marketing whatsoever. But a working email to me indicates a willingness to be part of a dialog.
It is also true that the ability to be reached via email (or in any way) tempers content. It is far too easy for people to act like total jerks towards others when they feel safely hidden. When there is a possibility of being contacted, people tend to think just a little more thoughtfully about what they have to say. When there is (even the slight) possibility of being identified with one’s public comments, people’s opinions are more considered. And this is how it should be.
So just in case anyone was wondering, these are my house rules.