Rules Of Engagement

When I began this writing endeavor I didn’t want many stipulations.  I wanted to write, and I wanted input.  Agree or disagree, it didn’t really matter too much, and it doesn’t matter now either.  So from the beginning I had only one stated rule, be cordial.  As time passed however, I discovered I had one more rule that I took for granted that everyone knew, stay on topic.  I even created a Discussion page entirely dedicated to any topic at all.  Nothing is really off topic there, and yet, it is rarely used.  Admittedly I found that this tended to bother me more than it does other authors of blogs.  I think perhaps it was that I put effort into the commentaries here and I wanted people to discuss the topic at hand.  I have seen in other forum settings that the original post had absolutely nothing to do with the content of the eighth or ninth comment.  I was always more peeved about it than the original poster.  Someone would ask a question or make a point, and it just seemed so dismissive of the original poster for someone to come in and rearrange the furniture.

I am the first to admit that there are some people who I have let push boundaries that I have held others to so tightly.  That sounds a bit unfair, but I always had a justification — for myself at least.  For example, for those who have been commenters here from the beginning, I gave considerable leeway to, seniority ought to count for something, right?  Others have been here a while and are more often than not on topic, and added to the discussion.  And because they seemed to pick up on my nitpickery and indulge me, they were granted occasional tangents.  But it is now coming to the point where some people give my page their attention (which is very much appreciated even if it sounds like I am disgruntled about their thoughts) but act as though I am the one out-of-place for having preferences in the way discussions are carried out here.  With an attitude of ‘things are gonna change now that I’m here!’  I have grown tired of people stopping in who insist I adhere to their preferred rules of discussion.

Now that a little over a year has passed and I see the things I like about comments and things I don’t.  So much to my disappointment, I am going to make explicit what my preferences are.  I’ll be honest, I really don’t think they are unreasonable.  Sure, It will make hit and run commenting a bit more difficult, but then again, if you have something worth saying, take a minute and do it right.

  1. I expect cordial discourse.  No longer will I tolerate the name calling.
  2. Stay on topic.  If for example, the post is about abortion, don’t make it about capital punishment.  A minor tangent that serves to make a larger point is reasonable, but if there is no connection, take it to the Discussion page.  All other departures are taken on a case by case basis.
  3. Be concise.  Feel free to make your comments as long as you wish.  Keep in mind that if you write an essay where a comment should be, I will address the passages of the essay that interest me most (much like dealer’s choice) or are the most relevant.  I am not avoiding your objection because I can’t handle it, I simply refuse to have an essay contest.
  4. No fisking.  I am none too fond of fisking.  Fisking is the practice of quoting in isolation each of a posts sentences and responding to them individually.  Posts are written with an overall coherence.  Isolating sentences as though they are all their own separate individual proverbs does not take the post as it was intended to be read and discussed.  Fisked comments will be treated as dealer’s choice.  I will address the points I feel are the most interesting or relevant.
  5. Stay focused.  Feel free to ask as many questions or make as many separate points as you wish, but keep in mind, this too is a dealer’s choice comment.  If for whatever reason you feel the need to offer a dozen different objections or points, I will choose the ones that interest me most or are the most relevant.  A couple of points which you think are the most important made in the span of a paragraph or two will help keep the discussion focused, and more likely to be answered.
  6. Offer reasons for disagreement.  If you disagree with my post and think I am mistaken or outright wrong, by all means tell me.  What I will not allow is someone telling me I am wrong but offering no substantiation as to why.  Once you tell me I am wrong, you’d better have a reason.  And your reason needs to be defended.  No one is in the privileged position to merely bark out “you’re wrong” without having to offer reasons why.  (See: A Burden The Hand, and Win By Default)
  7. Mind the linkage.  I don’t mind links as far as it goes.  I don’t expect to be inundated with a footnote project either.  I expect my commenters to make their point on their own.  Use links to offer a further more detailed explanation of what you have already said.  I am not going to scour the internet to research your point, you don’t get to assign me your homework.  I will not remove a link because it contradicts me, or out of spite, but if the links become too many, I may or may not (more likely not) remove them on a case by case basis.  Those commenters whose blogs are listed as recommended on my site may post as many links to their own or other websites since I trust your judgement.

This is a loose list of things that will affect the way I interact with those generous enough to give me their time and attention and will likely change over time.  I realize there will be an amount of mockery for a post such as this, but I really don’t need accusations of being evasive or disingenuous about discussing topics when I don’t conform to other’s rules for my blog.  If I didn’t want the back and forth, I wouldn’t write.

My job hinders my ability to respond thoroughly at times.  I am not in front of a computer all day so I am limited to what I can do from a phone.  My responses may be short and incomplete at times due to the hinderance of using a tiny keyboard and screen.  Many times I pass over a very compelling comment with the intent to give it the attention it deserves later when I am home and kids are asleep.  So what looks like a well thought out comment is being ignored because I answer other comments, is often me putting it off til later.  Unfortunately, I often forget to return to the comment.  It gets buried in the mix and I simply don’t respond.  I often need reminders.  Sometimes I need many reminders, especially if the reminder comes when I am not near a computer with time on my hands.  Sure it sounds like excuses, but that’s life.

I realize I will lose readers and commenters.  It isn’t very likely that I will begin moderating to the point of deletion, but I may ignore some comments for the reasons I mentioned above.  Just know that going in and don’t act surprised.  But if it is really too much to ask to help make the discussion more fruitful, then what can I say.

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