Questions about how comments work here come up from time to time. Not sure I’ve ever written a post to explain it, although I do sometimes answer questions in comments or via private email.
Comments are managed by Disqus, which is good comments software, maintained by a company that’s easy to work with. I find that when there’s an issue they respond quickly, even if they don’t always do what I want. I understand how that works because I’m a software developer too.
Comments are moderated. If you’re on the whitelist, your comments go straight to the blog. You get on the whitelist by being a registered user, and having commented before, and not being on the blacklist.
However that doesn’t guarantee that your comment will continue to appear on the site after it is reviewed by the blogger (i.e. me).
All comments are acceptable as long as they are: on-topic, not personal or abusive, and not spam. To be on-topic it must be responsive to what’s in the post. If it’s obvious that you didn’t read the post (for example asking if I considered a point of view that’s actually discussed in the post) then it’s off-topic. The purpose of comments is to provide more information on the topic of the post, or an alternate point of view, something that an informed person would want to consider. Using words like bullshit, or drivel, or calling the author names, cause the comment to be deleted, even if there’s other value to the comment. So if you have something to say, and have crossed this line, go back and edit your comment to remove the nasty bits. If you really must question the morals or intelligence of someone here, esp the blogger, then your comments belong on your blog, not mine.
That’s an important point. By moderating your comments or placing you on the blacklist, you are not being “silenced” or “censored,” as some dramatic people have claimed. This is a very small relatively unimportant corner of the Internet. If you have something important that needs to be said, but doesn’t fit into the comment scheme here, there are many other places you can put it. By now everyone understands this.
One way to tell for sure your comment is abusive is to flip it around and imagine it was being read by the person you’re responding to. If they would have to respond by saying “I have a mother and she’s a good person,” for example, then you’re being abusive. (Someone actually said that about me on Twitter recently. I did respond in a blog post. How sad that such a person has so little to say that they have to resort to that kind of personal attack.)
An example of an on-topic comment to this post would be something like this. “I don’t like this commenting policy because I like to read flames and this site gets some great flames from time to time. I like it when people humiliate you in public.” It’s an alternate point of view which I find reprehensible, but it is on-topic, and was said without getting personal. There’s a great scene in The West Wing where President Bartlet is interviewing Debbie Fiderer for a job as exec assistant to the President. She had written a letter to the White House saying something pretty negative about the President. He hired her anyway because the letter referred to him as President Bartlet, not Bartlet or “the douchebag.” He says she’s a class act, she is, and you can tell he means it.
You can disagree, even strongly, and at the same time be respectful. That’s how I want comments done here. I don’t mind if you disagree, just don’t assume yours is the only valid point of view, and don’t call people names, and don’t spam us. It’s basic human decency, respect for everyone’s intelligence and common sense.