Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Proper "netiquette" for comment boxes and a new policy for TSP

We are changing our policy here; for at least the near future, all comments will be moderated before they appear in the comment boxes.

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. 


hjphilips said...

Feedback: I think at this point, its the best thing for the sacred pages. There has been a lot of unnecessary spam. You will very likely have less comments in the comment sections, however people come here primarily to read these articles. It's the balance between letting people comment, and having an easy access to constructive critiquing...or for some an easy access to non-constructive spamming intended to tear down the body of Christ. I'm sure there will also be comments that would have been on here but will be blocked.

Ultimately if someone is real or at least there intentions are real and their posting without mal-intent and want to say something and add something really meaningful, then they will say something. There are a lot of blogs that require comment moderation.

My main though in this would be to see how things go with requiring using an account. If comments are vacant (even the long running loyal members of the blog decide not to contribute), then perhaps allowing other names on again but still moderating all comments. In a world free of spam the preferred method would be using account names. Online this does two main things: It limits spam, and prevents cyber bulling. However ultimately the greatest filter for spam or harassment of any type, is the blog authors. I think you have made a really great decision and hope to see people still contribute.

God bless

heidi keene said...

Yes, I agree with the need to put such a policy in place. For some months now, the comments have been monopolized by unconstructive combat or exploited as a vehicle to publish personal life histories with such vanity that even fellow commenters voiced objections to such abuse of TSP's comment space. As expected, these objections were rudely repudiated and ignored. I have witnessed commenters who were constructively discussing the blog, leave the page and not return as a result of uncharitable comments. I have also witnessed commenters who had a very good discussion going on- be interrupted by the silly vanity or nasty aggressive comments of one or the other fellow commenter. Sadly, I have not seen these 'honest' names back in the comments in the last months. Thanks for managing this ongoing issue so that the rest of us may enjoy constructive engagement over these most important posts.

Michael Barber said...

It is stunning to me that I'm still getting comments--which have not been approved--where people drift into topics like the status of blogs they want to start or discuss past posts.

Thomas Renz said...

It is a little more work for you and can be frustrating for commenters who live in a different time zone but I reckon it's a good move. I do not often read comments, on this or other blogs and your very first point alludes to the main reason. I am pleased to see it flagged up so early. I like the other points too. Keep up the good work!