Commenting Policy: Grand Explanatory Analogy
"The best way to think about blog commenting has been formulated by Eugene Volokh: comment threads as cocktail parties. A good comment section is a cacophony of views, a bringing-together of different voices in the best possible way. But it is not a random collection of passers-by gathered in a public space to shout at each other. It’s a hosted space, with the bloggers as proprietors. This implies a minor form of social contract: the bloggers provide a common space for commenters to meet and converse, while commenters are expected to contribute positively and politely to the experience.
"One goal of a good cocktail party is that you meet people you haven’t met before, and perhaps share an interesting conversation. But the guest list, and some broad expectations for personal behavior, are set the by organizers. Party crashers who are obnoxious, or disruptive, or even just deadly boring, may be asked to leave the party. Nobody has a right to attend whatever parties they like.
Consider, in terms of this analogy, the temptation to complain out loud about what the bloggers are choosing to blog about. That would be like showing up at a party, noticing that the only appetizers being passed around are spring rolls and bacon-wrapped dates, and proceeding to raise a ruckus about the absence of cocktail weenies.
"No, come to think of it, it’s not like that. It’s like showing up at a party, noticing that spring rolls and bacon-wrapped dates are being passed around in addition to your beloved cocktail weenies, and loudly proclaiming how offended you are at the presence of such outré finger food at this event. You shouldn’t complain about the host’s taste in appetizers; if there’s nothing there you like, go to another party. And if there is, ignore the offerings you don’t like, and enjoy yourself some weenies. Delicious, delicious weenies."
Scott Johnson originally shared this post:
This. Is. Glorious.
Editor’s Note: Way back in 2007, we here at the blog were struggling with a vocal minority of obnoxious commenters. I was stuck on a cross-country plane flight with my laptop, and took out my frustrations by banging out this proposed Comment Policy. Upon landing, I sent it to my co-bloggers for judgment. They were mildly amused, but didn’t think it accurately reflected our actual sentiments — and they were probably right. So we never posted it.
But now, since I’ve been busy and those same co-…