Only one of the blogs I contribute to has a formal, published commenting policy and that took three years before it became necessary. I just read Caliandris Pendragon’s post at SLI about how Prokofy Neva appears to have been banned on their blog for commenting. I did a doubletake when I heard about this because I’m a huge believer in free speech, even in the comment area, yes, even when somebody is being critical of me or something I’ve written.
Prokofy Neva was banned from commenting on the official Linden Lab blog too.
If something Neva wrote in the comment area is why SLI banned him and it wasn’t for something more nefarious (see my one reason that anybody should be banned toward the end of this post), then I’d be as annoyed as Caliandris.
Disclaimer: I’ve known Caliandris for quite some time and she’s on my SL friend’s list and it might appear to those who don’t know differently like we’re trying to pilfer her from SLI. Let me put that to rest before it’s ever even suggested (it hasn’t been as far as I know). I’ve been talking to ‘Auntie Cali’ about writing for VTOR for many months now. I see Caliandris experience in Second Life as being a valuable addition to the group and VTOR readers. She’s been a resident of SL for years and holds the longest membership of anybody in the group. How can we not want somebody like that writing here about SL and virtual worlds? I know whenever she decides to start writing here it will be a good learning experience for everybody in our group, myself included. I’m excited.
Also keep in mind that VTOR began publishing before SLI and was originally pitched to ZDNet over a year ago (they passed), and we cover other virtual worlds in addition to Second Life. I’d also like to see writers with active experience, particularly business-related experience, from worlds like World of Warcraft, Everquest and other MMO/MMORPG join our group and start contributing.
Back to Cali. I’m all in favor of Caliandris writing in both places if that’s what she wants to do so long as the content in each place is different (no crossposting duplicate material in both places). I’m not pressuring her as a friend or otherwise to only or primarily blog at VTOR and truth be told, she’ll make more money posting at SLI than she will here — at least at the present time — so from a financial perspective she’s better off there than here. I don’t see why she needs to make a choice between one or the other actually. At VTOR we split all community earned revenue among the active bloggers based on number of posts for the month so I wouldn’t make any more money than she would unless I posted more than her. So the less involved she was posting-wise with VTOR, the less money she’d make.
I want Caliandris to do whatever makes her the happiest and as a friend and fellow VTOR Author will support whatever her decision is either way. She did want to clarify with me if VTOR would ban somebody for making comments we disliked or disagreed with and I confirmed to her that I wasn’t in support of banning any commenters.
The only times I would support banning anybody are discussed at the end of this post. I believe strongly in protecting and supporting Free Speech and if we ask you, VTOR readers, to leave a comment, we should be extremely cautious telling you what you can and can’t say.
With that said, there are exceptions to every rule.
One thing about blog comments is managing the spam. Removing spammy comments or links is not censoring, but garbage disposal in my mind. The value of a website can be destroyed if spam is let through not to mention that search engines will penalize for linking to bad neighborhoods. Because we want visitors from search engines we need to be mindful of keeping the pages clear of spam. We’ll use anti-spam measures to filter spam left in comments at VTOR.
Now here’s my personal feelings on comments/commenters and what I’ll be discussing with the group this coming Friday at our weekly meeting:
- I’d prefer seeing commenters stay on topic. Some commenters like to carry issues from thread to thread when they aren’t related. This makes it difficult for machines (search engines) to determine what the page content is about. I would be in favor of a policy that insisted that commenters must stay on the topic of the post. This doesn’t mean they can’t disagree with the post as passionately or dispassionately as they like, it just means they need to stay focused on the topic.
- I think commenters who make defamatory statements and don’t put their name next to them are cowards. I have edited anonymous defamatory statements out of comments before — not here at VTOR, but elsewhere — because they concerned me from a legal perspective. I’m all for free speech, but put your name next to your criticism. I don’t think people who make defammatory statements should be banned, but I do support editing out defammatory statements. Make those kind of statements and thus take that risk with your own bank accounts, not mine.
- I enjoy a spirited debate and like it when people can make a compelling argument against something I’ve written. It’s interesting to watch who plays the personal attack card first in a debate. Nobody commenting at VTOR should be banned for flaming any author, myself included, or other combative behavior in the comments.
- trolls can actually help a publications. Robert Scoble hired his most famous troll at Podtech.net. For whatever reasons trolls don’t hang around blogs I’m involved with very long. Perhaps they can dish, but can’t take? Not a challenge, mind you, simply an observation.
- I’m not in favor of one-way trackbacks. Sending or receiving. A one-way trackback is when someone sends a trackback ping to the site and doesn’t have a link to the page from the trackback location. It’s the social equivalent of telling the party across the street, “hey, we have a party going on across the street, come on over” but not telling anybody at your party that there is a party across the street. There are some exceptions where one way trackbacks are ok, but they are rare.
Open public discussion
This coming Friday our VTOR group starting at 2pm PST / 5pm EST / 10pm GMT our group (SLurl: Monti 134,180,126 — held at the building next to TD Scripts) will be discussing an official VTOR commenting policy for this blog. I’m inviting you, VTOR readers in Second Life, to show up and provide your open feedback about what policy and procedures you think we should incorporate. Do we even need an official commenting policy? No promises that our group will incorporate every idea offered, but we are willing to listen, evaluate and discuss. Even If you can’t make the live show feel free to use the comments below to share what type of policy we should incorporate here.
Because we are a group, of course it is not only my decision on what the official policy will be but since it’s my company’s server, I do have one thing to add that is non-negotiable:
Any person who attempts to hack or crack the server/site through the comments or any other means will be subject to banning.
Because VTOR is on a dedicated server with some of my other sites, I do not feel this is an unreasonable request. VTOR is not using virtual hosting with a bunch of people’s sites that I don’t know, it’s on a server with some other sites from our company. As VTOR traffic grows, I could see a day where VTOR will be promoted to its own dedicated server, but until/if that day comes if somebody should disrupt VTOReality.com it could adversely impact performance of some of our other websites. That’s the type of situation where our sysadmin would be quick to start banning the offending party(ies).
Bottom line: complain, rant, disagree, flame, discuss, whatever text you want to use in the comment area, just don’t mess with our server. I am personally in favor of spirited commentary — either pro or con to what’s being written — because I feel it adds to the content on the page and helps to balance the overall material.
Your turn. What do you think should be part of our commenting policy here? Will you be able to make the event this coming Friday?