Saturday, March 31, 2012

Everyone Play Nice: A Blog Comment Code of Conduct

(Note: This post is not directed at any of my beloved regular commenters here at Just Like Cooking. You've all been very helpful, friendly, and insightful. But not all blogs can claim that luxury...)

The two-way street of blogging?
Credit: Patappo
We've all been on blogs; after all, you're reading one right now! We know that blog audiences encompass a wide swath of humanity, with different viewpoints, different cultures and different experiences. Blogging in specific - and the 'Net in general - offer some great perks at virtually no cost to the reader: expert analysis, humor, activism, and a sense of community.

But it's a two-way street. In exchange for posts and analysis, bloggers usually hope for a bit of critical or complimentary feedback. In another great example of online democratization, nearly any reader can leave a message on a blog, through the 'Comments' window at the bottom of the page. 

Lately, the tone and message of these comments, even on scientific blogs, has taken a downward turn. Now, I'm not trying for "Malaise" here, but I've thought about this, and I'd like to offer a short set of suggestions for improving the interaction between writers and commenters, and, more generally, the blogging community:

1. Follow the "Golden Rule."
2. Be professional. 
3. Offer critiques, not attacks.
4. Don't use offensive language.
5. Try not to exaggerate.
6. Think about writing your comment in stone, to stand the test of time.
7. If you still disagree, go start a blog!

"A Crisis of Blogging Confidence"
Credit: Wikipedia | Library of Congress
Let's explore these a bit. The first, usually summed up as "Do unto others," advocates simply for empathy and understanding. Suggestions #2-4 follow naturally from the first: everyone wants to be heard, but achieving that requires cogent, thoughtful statements, polite disagreement, and, when needed, clear arguments. 

For #5, I've used the word try, because exaggeration for satirical or humorous purposes is usually OK...and even encouraged! Number six addresses the (very real) phenomenon of web caching. Sites like Internet Archive, and yes, Google, keep shorthand copies of websites stored on their servers for future retrieval. What does that mean? That we write with indelible ink; the great paradox of the Internet marries the transient nature of emails and tweets to the realization that your data never truly vanishes. 

The ideal blog community promotes useful discussion, with fellow commenters joining together to crack down on "drive-by" posts which aim to inflame, incite, or indict. For the spurned, I have another suggestion (#7): write a blog with your viewpoint, come back, and link out to it from another blog's comments. Two reliable (current) options are Blogger and WordPress.

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Seattle, WA
You might say "Well, it's the Internet, what can you do?" While it's true that people go online to lose themselves for a time - in games, in music, in chat-rooms, on social networks - they're still people, and the folks writing blogs are, too. Before you click "Send," think about the person on the other side of the connection. It would make for a much more fulfilling experience, for all involved.

Now go forth, and comment!

(More chemistry to follow, I promise!)

Thanks for reading,
See Arr Oh

9 comments:

  1. Hey!) Very nice post. I will use this information in my essay for college if you dont mind) Thanks for sharing.

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  2. As long as you credit me as a source, I don't mind. Good luck!

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  3. Nice guide for the rules. Some people find it hard to follow the rules. Useful guide. It support the right way to be on the web.

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  4. Very good post guys...
    Thank you

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  5. thank u very much.ur post is great

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  6. Hi See Arr Oh !

    Very well post .
    A blogger must be unique enough to avoid unpleasant feeds.

    Thank you so much .
    Have a great day :)

    -jessica

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