That's not to say that we don't want to hear your thoughts. We most definitely want your input! (Yes, you. . . The more the merrier.)
However, we think we need to be more deliberate about supporting responsible, relevant, and thoughtful dialogue.
Be assured that this does not mean that all disagreeing comments will be rejected; far from it! Disagreement can be stimulating.
Nonetheless, we do believe we need to keep conversations here on track. Indeed, online discussions are famously prone to drifting off course.
In fact, this has become a real issue in higher ed, in particular in the burgeoning field of eLearning. Specifically, there has been a great deal of discussion around the issue of "best practices" regarding online discussions. Thus in conversations about eLearning there has been increasing attention on the importance of promoting "netiquette", i.e., "etiquette" for posting on online forums.
In light of this, to help support an effective online educational environment, we at JP Catholic University have developed our own "netiquette" for student posts in online message boards.
I think it is high time for us to take what we've learned in eLearning and apply it to moderating discussions on blogs--this one in particular.
Below, then, is a modified form of our JP Catholic Netiquette. I'd like to propose something like this for our comment boxes. I don't expect all who post here to read through these guidelines. I realize that the blogosphere remains an informal environment. Still, I think it is good to have some statement about some pitfalls to be avoided.
I'd truly appreciate feedback here. I'd be especially in learning if other bloggers have developed a kind of netiquette for their sites.
If you have any ideas on how what I have presented below can be tweaked, please speak up in the comment box. I do want to keep the netiquette list relatively short. Maybe we can somehow condense some of these. Perhaps we can crowd-source this a bit and then finally post a finalized suggested netiquette for comment boxes.
Consider the following a conversation starter.
Netiquette for TheSacredPage.com
1. Those who post comments should be respectful of others' time. Comments should, as much as possible, be economical and to the point. Long-winded posts that involve multiple parts (e.g., "Part 1," "Part 2," etc.) should most definitely be avoided.
2. While comments certainly need not be "formal" in tone, to be taken seriously one should attempt to speak with clarity, use proper grammar, and be mindful of spelling. Writing in a sloppy fashion suggests carelessness of thought and undermines one's credibility.
3. Comments should be on point. Comments should not digress into lengthy autobiographical accounts. Consider this: If your comment has more to say about you than the topic at hand, you need to rethink what you have written. In fact, avoid the attempt to "hijack" a conversation by seeking to turn the discussion away from the topic at hand. Never post commercial advertisements, self-promotional information, or other kinds of spam.
4. At least one substantive reason should be given for disagreement. Merely expressing disdain for another's position without providing an evidence-based argument is frustrating and unproductive.
5. Always take a respectful tone and remember that asking questions of others is always preferable to making accusations. In fact, always assume that others are sincere and attribute to them the best motives possible. If such is not the case, there is no use in continuing the conversation. Also, be aware of issues that might arise due to cultural and language differences.
6. Do not dismiss others' perspectives by simply assigning a label to them (e.g., "conservative", "liberal"). Such categories are hardly ever helpful.
7. Avoid writing in all caps, especially when disagreeing. Such writing is perceived as shouting and is considered rude.
8. When someone else makes an error (e.g., incorrect spelling) and / or does not follow proper netiquette (e.g., becoming wordy), think twice about whether it is really helpful to correct them.