I like to mix it up in the comments sometimes, especially when I think a comment is unfair or dishonest, or focuses too much on motives rather than on the strength of an argument.
After all, it’s the internet. And many of us have seen that cartoon of the man hunched over a computer in his living room while his wife beckons him into the bedroom… “Just a minute, dear, someone is wrong on the internet!”
But back in May I pledged to try to do better. I haven’t always lived up to my pledge, but I’m still inspired by a post a friend left on Facebook six months ago:
How to compose a successful critical commentary:
(1) You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.”
(2) You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).
(3) You should mention anything you have learned from your target.
(4) Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.
I know I want to do better. Do you?
As of now I appear to be winning.
(Please consider voting and heloing me keep it that way!)
Those results are even after votes were removed from my total because a commenter said he had voted for me multiple times. Let’s not give any reason to have me disqualified, please don’t do that.. 🙂
Here’s the thing. Elliott and I have our disagreements about a lot of things. Reminded by the Facebook post above, I’ve tried hard lately to keep those disagreements completely substantive. I think that rudeness and snark gets in the way of understanding.
And I’d love it if y’all treated the comments the same way. I don’t delete comments unless they’re extremely graphic or reveal non-public information about others, and I’ve only ever banned two people from commenting here. I don’t intend to change that. But I also didn’t love some of the comments on the post about United’s new elite status spending requirements yesterday.
It’s your forum to share what you think, but it comes across much better when we elevate the discourse. For instance, when I’m asking you to vote in Elliott’s poll it’s fine to say it would be great if my blog won (or didn’t win) because of the differences we have. But I’m not sure it’s the right place to trash him.
At the same time I am reticent to edit or delete comments, or ban commenters, except in the most extreme cases. That’s because it’s an easy move from banning abusive and rude comments to considering strong disagreement with me to be abusive. I think it’s important to have a space to vigorously disagree with me, to offer contrary ideas, and to hash those out. And I don’t have sufficient confidence in my Solomonic abilities to always draw a clear distinction.
Maybe I’m wrong about all this, but it’s my tentative thinking, to try to do better myself and to ask the same for the comments. This remains a request of course, not any sort of change to how things are administered, let’s see how we do.
That’s my feeling, although I’d love to know what you think: What do you think the right way to handle comments is? Should they be moderated or not?
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