Comments Policy

By Phil Plait | October 3, 2007 1:16 pm

I didn’t want to do this, I really didn’t, but my hand is forced.

For some reason, this past week, I have had to edit a comment every day because someone has used "bad" words in it. I like this blog to remain, if not kid-friendly, then young-adult friendly. That means getting it into schools and such, and that means I have to be a nanny.

So here is my policy for commenting here. It is neither complete nor unchangeable. But this will do for now.

1) Be polite.

That’s it. That’s my rule.

That should be easy, right? Don’t go attacking other people, don’t swear, don’t be a jerk.

I reserve the right to edit out strong language and such. I will also delete comments that go over the line, or try to sell a product, or because I feel like it. OK, I won’t do that last part. The point is, this is my blog, and if you are being a jerk in some way I will take action. That may sound rather vague. Too bad. There is no line in the sand that says Here be good, there be jerk.

Look, when you comment on a blog, it’s like you’re in that person’s house. Be polite. Flush the toilet when you’re done, or, better yet, don’t foul the place up in the first place.

Simple, right?

CATEGORIZED UNDER: About this blog

Comments (97)

Links to this Post

  1. Feed me, Seymour! | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine | October 22, 2009
  1. Okay fine, well, you know what?

    !@#@(#& you Phil!
    Yeah! You heard me! You’re a *#**$%!

    *#$$^@! @#$%^!

    (Seriously though. I can’t recall seeing many bad words, though I guess they may have been edited out.)

  2. Michelle

    If it’s yellow, let it mellow? (Nono, I don’t practice that myself.)
    :P Oooh I know! Can we have a list of bad words you will censor? Like BA’s Seven Bad Words?

    (Just kidding. I’ll be a good girl, sir. :X )

  3. Dan

    I apologize if I’ve let any foul words slip out. I don’t think I have, but I’m never sure of these things.

    As for attacking people, can I, you know, maybe sometimes pick on those people who come around demanding you write only about astronomy? I promise I won’t swear. But, those people really make me all stabby and stuff.

  4. I can’t imagine why anyone would need to use any sort of swear word when they’re talking about pulsars and quasars. I mean, wt(heck)?

  5. ABR

    As a father of two young boys, I say thanks for keeping the blog clean. I don’t want them to pick up the blue language from a blog, a bumper sticker or on a bathroom wall. They need to learn it the old fashioned way — from their father!

    Incidentally, there’s a small mess waiting on aisle “What would Newton do?”

  6. John Parejko

    Yeah, good luck with that. See the March 19th 2004 Penny Arcade for the root of the problem…

  7. Christian Burnham

    To be fair- the comments policy is highly variable across different blogs. For instance, Pharyngula, another science based blog, tends to be fairly lenient about profanity, but does crack down on time-wasting trolls.

    Not all of the bad language used in comments on this blog is done so with the aim to offend. I’m sure that many comments are just written in haste in the way people normally speak.

    Maybe there ought to be a comments policy/FAQ linked to at the top of this blog.

    I can’t remember- did we have to sign in to start posting comments on this blog? Maybe a one-off check box that lists the policies would be the answer (if a tad inconvenient).

  8. Rand

    Phil, it’s a right of passage! You’re not a REAL webmaster if you aren’t needing to nanny your comments. But seriously, there ought to be some kind of automated way so that you don’t have to worry so much. Anybody know of any?

  9. Ken

    Hi,

    Sorry to be lazy but I just can’t help myself. I was just wondering about gravity and weight. Do people get lighter the higher up they go until they’re in freefall/zero-g or is their weight constant until they go above a certain threshold/horizon/whatever at which point they’re in freefall?

    They say the blackbird pilots fly up around 600,000 feet and all are astronaut graded or something. Do you think (depending on the answer to the above) they feel any cool effects regarding downward gravity? I suppose they’re too busy being pushed back into their seat.

    Feel free to not answer, wiki has given me bad habits regarding wanting random answers to random questions on-demand. Only problem is I don’t have time to read wiki for a while yet, and even then I might mis-understand something.

    ~Ken

    p.s. Loved your blog longtime. A pity you don’t write as many science-in-movie stuff anymore but I can see how its easy to then end up being painted as “that guy who can’t see the story cos of the science”.

  10. “Look, when you comment on a blog, it’s like you’re in that person’s house. Be polite. Flush the toilet when you’re done, or, better yet, don’t foul the place up in the first place.”

    Funny, I take the exact same stance on environmentalism. While I am all sorts of foul-mouthed in real life, it comes down to knowing your audience. This certainly isn’t the place for it.

  11. DennyMo

    Thanks BA, too bad we need rules to enforce “common courtesy”.

  12. Encolpius

    Ken, dood, I get high all the time and I’m STILL just as fat.

  13. Tim G

    Get serious, folks.

    Phil will also appreciate your vote for the Best Science Blog of 2007.

  14. Edward C
  15. KaiYeves

    I agree. I am still a student, and my brothers recently reached double digits. I show them your site a lot, and they enjoy it. The minds of Bad Readers should be on the stars, not in the gutter.

  16. J. D. Mack

    So all discussions about Uranus are now off-limits?

    (Sorry. Someone *had* to post that. Guess it fell to me.)

    J. D.

  17. bjswift

    Hmm…sounds like a perl script waiting to happen….

  18. My thinking, from the first day this blog came into existence, was “it’s your blog, do with the comments what you will.”

    That said, I live in a country where nobody really cares if kids hear a naughty word or see a nip-slip.

  19. jmd

    But active galactic nuclei are so *&^%$#@!ing cool!

  20. jest

    Firing off expletives in real life isn’t too uncommon for me at work. But I like to believe a large portion of the viewers here have a broad enough vocabulary to use more appropriate words.

    Hopefully it’s contagious. I have to agree that in order to keep blogs like this accessible in schools, we gotta keep things PG at most.

  21. R. T. Merkel

    Phil,

    What is your target age group? If it’s public school age, then you might want to stop posting links to NSFW locations. Personally I’m very careful about showing my 13 year old daughter interesting items in your blog. Mostly it’s kid friendly, but as long as you post links to Cap’n Dyke or Erin O’Brien’s blogs I have restrict your blog… which I think is a dying shame.

    So If you’re intent is to educate adults, then cool and I thank you for warning us about NSFW links and editing out crude language. But if your intent is to educate kids then you might want to clean things up a bit more.

    Thanks,

    Randy, a Skeptic Father in Paso Robles

  22. There are plug-ins for WordPress that will filter profanity in comments. Here is one: http://www.webpurify.com/wp-plugin.php

    Note I know nothing about the quality of this particular plug-in. It was one of the first to come up when I did a search.

  23. Clean it is.

    If you sprinkle when you tinkle,
    Be a sweetie – wipe the seatie.

  24. ana

    Ha! I spit in your toothpaste you stupid American! Your mother was a hamster! Your father smelt of elderberries!

    Just kidding.

    Your blog is nice. Sad to read that some would not want to keep it that way. You should try publicly executing them to raise awareness about this issue. Plus, they’ll serve as an examples to future miscreants. Umm, kidding again.

  25. 1. I’m sorry. I said a naughty word lately. If you call that a naughty word. Ever seen the Daily Show? I talk like a priest compared to them.

    2. I’m confused. We can be polite and still use adult language. You really have two rules up there, not one.

    3. While I understand the desire to keep it clean (unspoken Rule #2), I also think it is unfortunate that yet another corner of the Internet has been regulated to a G rating. I’m sorry, folks, your kids already know those words. They hide it from you and you hide it from them. 99% of the people here are adults, I would think, as well, and deleting words is just plain silly, IMHO.

    Love, ya, buddy. But we talk like we talk and that really isn’t offensive.

  26. You care for the site is very much apprciated. I am a gifted education specialist who sends a lot of middle school students to your site because I trust both the information and the quality. And the kids love your style. So thank you for keeping it clean and acting as a role model to the kids.

    You do have to wonder about people who can’t talk about astronomy without foul language!

    Lynne

  27. I appreciate any effort to keep the blog Safe For Work.

    jbs

  28. Grand Lunar

    I suspected this would have to happen. I recall seeing posters with “unprofessional” language here on the blog.

    It was an eyesore.

    Between policing the boards, the blog, and making the new book, how can you keep up?

  29. Steven

    Why do people even use vulgar language? There are plenty of words in the English language that would suffice as a substitute. Even as a child I would not use such language (I’m 38 now). Casual vulgarity is a major pet peeve of mine. I for one prefer more civilized discourse. There is a great book written by Steve Allen on the subject, “Vulgarians at the Gate”. Thanks for watching the gate Phil!

  30. Quiet Desperation

    Could this not be automated?

    A simple text filer would cut that load of **** right the **** out of the blog comments. :)

    You have to train it to recognize *******ized versions of swear words, and- hey, wait a minute!

  31. Eric TF Bat

    My own blog comment policy boils down to this: you own the text of your comments on my blog, but I own their existence. That means: you can write whatever you like, and I won’t edit it. But if I consider your comment to be inappropriate, I will delete it, possibly without explanation and certainly without offering you any opportunity to argue. “Inappropriate” for my blogs is going to be different (and much more lenient) than for yours, but the principle is still a good one. I strongly dislike having to edit someone else’s words: it feels like censorship and fraud and misrepresentation and all sorts of nasty skin-crawly stuff. So this policy works for me. If you like it, feel free to adopt it too. Share and enjoy!

  32. Mike

    Right on, Phil. I find these people annoying too.

    …AND NOW WE’VE GOT A GREAT OFFER FOR YOU! From the people who bought you slurm comes…

  33. Justin

    Hello,
    I agree, keeping it clean is a good idea for the youngsters. I disagree with the automated program though, there are ways around it which it wouldn’t pick up on. Better to have a human brain behind the filter.

    With that said, I love (most) of this &%$@ing blog!

  34. SLC

    Since this is, at base a science blog, I am in agreement with a no swear word policy. For people who prefer salty language, I would recommend a political blog like Mathew Yglesias where I and other posters are not at all shy about vicious insults and 4 letter words.

  35. DenverAstro

    Phil,
    I volunteer to be your enforcer on this one. Next person who swears on this blog is gonna get tracked down and butchered. Then shortly after, I can serve up their roasted liver with some favre beans and a nice chanti…

    My mother taught me that only the ignorant swear because they are too stupid to come up with something better to say. Most of the time I live by this policy. Except when I burn my hand or stub my toe, then its a moral imperative, don’t you guys thing? So, bottom line is, no more bad @#%$ing language!
    :)

  36. tniemi

    Good speech Phil, and absolutely correct.
    We need rules and moderation, because every group is its own enemy:
    http://www.shirky.com/writings/group_enemy.html

  37. cic

    No problem Phil

    As the “resident liberal wooie-woo-woo free atheist” in a number of chats, epically during the recent years of the rise of the new McCarthyism from the far right egged on by Coulter, Limbaugh, Rove, Cheney, and Bush, Falwell, Robertson, and Dobson, etc. it seems to me that those who lower themselves to such language say far more about themselves than they ever could about their intended targets, which I’m proud to say, has usually been me ;)

  38. cic

    Justin

    I agree, “bad word filters” can’t get it all, and often get it wrong. I hosted a number of chats and a few message boards, given context, enforcing language restrictions is a job for a human. A “bad word filter” with the word “ass” in it would not only ban “Kiss my ass you …” but also, “I forgot it snowed last night and when I stepped outside I slipped on the ice on the porch and fell on my ass.”

    I have what I called a “list of auto-bans” in my IRC client which takes out many of the nasty words and terms used in chats automatically. But they are useless against “creative spelling” and things like the “s” word with a line of “i”s in it.

    At the moment my list contains well over 250 different spelling and “creative spellings” of bad words, “ph” for f as an example, and it still doesn’t get them all.

  39. Don

    I’m sorry, but I’m probably going to have to attack someone if they come here insisting that homeopathy just has a bad name because of “big pharma”, or that astrology is accurate “if practiced correctly”….

    But OK, I’ll be polite.

    That’s fair.

  40. bumhaskins

    This is off topic but I’ll be the first to say it, Happy 50 years to Space Exploration! Sputnik 1957-2007

  41. TAMU Student

    Well, I think part of the problem /could/ be people who are used to different modes of speech. Your blog is likely to attract people who have never been to college, but have an interest in Astronomy and Physics, it’s entirely reasonable that in these persons speech communities, words that are viewed as “improper” (I refuse to use the term ‘foul’… words are words!) could be viewed as less severe. It’s possible to be very rude and hurtful without using such words, and it’s possible to be polite and friendly while using these words.

    Add to this the problem that internet communication eliminates intonation, and you have a major headache.

    (Perhaps we should all type in deep transcription IPA?)

  42. Chris

    Your house (blog), your rules.

    It’s that frakking simple. ;)

  43. sil

    To Steven: If you can define what a vulgar word is without invoking opinion, then I’ll stop swearing ever.

    However, a word is a word, and just because someone a long time ago didn’t like this letter followed by that letter doesn’t mean the word itself is useless or that using makes one unintelligent. People who use these ‘words’ are sometimes far more intelligent than the norm for realizing that by controlling language, thought can be controlled and as such refuse to be constrained by what others irrationally feel is inappropriate.

    I use words considered vulgar by many in daily discourse. I use the just like any other word and in context. That does not make me less intelligent for using them. It certainly makes other people seem less intelligent for objecting without being able to iterate the exact reason why it is that those particular sounds are offensive to them.

    So I’ll repeat: Give a rigorous definition of what a vulgar word is and why vulgar words are bad. Do this and I’ll stop swearing.

    To Phil: This message is not to say that I disagree with your policy nor that I will not follow it. I agree that as long as people have these irrational dislikes for particular arrangements of letters that in order to reach a wider audience with this web site, this is a good policy. However, I do not agree with the statement made by Steven and I am merely asking him to back his opinion up with something solid since it is such a nuisance to him and his well being.

  44. tacitus

    I agree that as long as people have these irrational dislikes for particular arrangements of letters…

    Disingenuous comment. One might as well ask why you have such an irrational liking for a tiny subset of the English language, after all, any four letter will do, won’t it?

  45. tacitus

    By the way, regular use of strong language weakens it’s effect considerably. I very, very rarely swear in front of others, but when I do, people really do sit up and take notice.

  46. Thomas Siefert

    Clucking bell, no more jam rolls, three card tricks here or taking the Arthur on people. It’s all the Swiss Banker’s fault that we can no longer use words like Brad Pitt.

  47. Steven

    To Sil. Thank you for your reply. Apparently, however, there are points that should be clarified. I did not mention intelligence in my comments so I don’t know how that entered the field. However, I do believe you answered your own question by saying I should “back up my opinion”. The beauty of an opinion is that it doesn’t need to be backed up. It’s my opinion and how I choose to live my life. I never stated that anyone must cease using “vulgar” language, so I cannot meet your demand to convince you to stop. I just don’t wish to have such speech around me in my life. I just simply asked why it was necessary with such a rich language and perhaps you answered part of that in your reply. I just don’t choose to use these words in my life, you do. As for what people felt about words a long time ago, I’m afraid that that is their opinion and I am not accountable for their words. What matters is my life and how I choose to live it. If you choose to use language in a different manner that is your choice. Again, I only asked a question and stated how I live my life. I don’t believe I told anyone how to live theirs. I believe you read in my post something that was not there. I wish you well and again I thank you for your comments.

  48. I don’t argue too much with people about whether or not a swear is or should be a swear. Your blog, your rules, and far be it from me to tell you that you can’t make the call one way or another. However there are two words I hope you will not count as swear words:

    The “H” word: As far as I’m concerned, it’s not a swear word, it’s a destination. Albeit a highly theoretical one.

    The “D” word: I’ve always felt that the replacement word “darn” is so “darn” close, and the word itself references nothing specifically lascivious or disgusting. Its origin is from Middle English and Old French meaning “to condemn” or “to inflict loss”. We regularly ask for governments to “darn” terrorism. I’ve used it since I was six. After the first five times with any new teacher, my elementary school teachers would usually give up when I repeatedly asked them to justify the prohibition.

    I trust your sense enough that I don’t think you’ll delete barnyard references to donkeys and roosters.

  49. lensylinda

    Profanity, imo, just limits one’s ability to express a point of view clearly. It reveals one’s limitations. It only makes the initiator look ignorant, angry, rude, impatient, ill-tempered and difficult. I tend to skip over someone who is assaulting me with offensive language. If one’s point cannot be made w/o garbage, then maybe someone doesn’t understand their own point all that clearly?

  50. Crux Australis

    I read once that a swear word in one’s mother tongue fires up different brain bits as a swear word in a foreign language, even if one is fluent in that language.

    Just…thought I’d…pop that in.

  51. xav0971

    These are words that I don’t consider swear words: A (rearend), D (meaning darn), H (mythical place), B (if used correctly meaning female dog). Words I consider swearing are: F (sexual exercise), A-H (something that S word comes out of), other D word (unless as a proper name), S (waste by-product), B (meaning sassy)

    Phil please tell me if I will get banned from using words that I don’t consider swearing.

    Let me know if I missed anything

  52. Daffy

    Your house, your rules. No worries.

  53. jeez… steve. better not read me

    *knock*

  54. Marlayna

    @sil: You must realise that the sensation (rational or not) these words cause on others is exactly what makes them inappropriate. Feelings need not be “rational” and must be protected. That’s what politeness is all about.

    If you want to discuss why some of these words are considered offensive, as opposed to others with the same or even worse meaning, I’m sure it would make an interesting subject. But defending the use of swear words on that basis makes for a weak argument.

  55. Profanity, imo, just limits one’s ability to express a point of view clearly.

    I completely disagree. Profanity is a tool in the great toolbox of language and can be used to great effect. It can be overused, of course, but so can flagrantly untrue old saws like “only the ignorant swear because they are too stupid to come up with something better to say”.

    What limits one’s ability to properly express a point of view are “substitute” profanities such as “darn”, “fudge”, or the famously Canadian “fuddle-duddle” ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuddle_duddle ). Say what you mean, and mean what you say. If you don’t have the strength of conviction to use the proper word, then maybe the whole thought can be expressed differently without pretending to use strong language.

    It only makes the initiator look ignorant, angry, rude, impatient, ill-tempered and difficult.

    The initiator may well be angry, rude, impatient, ill-tempered, or difficult. I don’t think it makes anyone look particularly ignorant, although I think that using pretend swear words does. The initiator’s intent may well be to provoke a response, and that IS a purpose of language.

    One sentence that tells me I’m going to Hell because I don’t believe in some weird supernatural delusion is more offensive to me than a thousand tomes filled with swear words because such a sentence really does make the speaker/writer appear ignorant, rude, and arrogant, and speaking such a sentence provoke me to being impatient, ill-tempered and difficult. Odds are, I’ll even respond with strong language.

    All that said, I’m not sure why there would be very many uses of “swear” words on this blog. I can see the occasional comment with such words, but I can’t imagine that it would be a common thing.

    On my own blog, I only delete comments written in 1337-sp33k, but I also make no particular effort to tailor my blog for kids. In fact, if some parent doesn’t think their child should see my blog, that’s wholly a parental issue and not my concern. This BA blog has different objectives, and I can see why the comments are handled in the manner they are, even if I wouldn’t do it that way.

  56. Larry

    IMHO, most kids (oops–children, not baby
    goats) that are capable of reading and understanding the content of this blog have
    already heard most of the inappropriate
    words; either from friends, school, or on the street.

  57. Jeff Scarr, Winnipeg
  58. Buzz Parsec

    Most people have commented on the second issue, swearing.

    I’m a little more concerned with the 1st and 3rd issues, attacking people and being a jerk. On the 1st, I know various people have ticked me off and I’ve tried to attack what they were saying and not them personally, but I don’t know if I’ve always succeeded. (One thing that sets me off is misrepresenting what I or someone else has said. I’m thinking of a recent incident involving purported Scuds… Sometimes I later realize it was just an Emily Littella moment by one or both of us. Other times the other guy’s just a lying creationist…) Anyway, I hope I wasn’t too abusive.

    As for the 3rd, if you are a jerk, the only way to know is if someone tells you you’re being a jerk, and since you are a jerk, you probably won’t listen when they tell you… (I’m sure Douglas Adams expressed this much better somewhere.)

  59. Kurt

    Phil, here’s a good disclaimer if you need one:

    “We are the Blog, you will not swear, resistance is futile.”

  60. csrster

    Ok, but are we still allowed to say “moon” and “uranus”?

  61. PK

    Stenve, you do need to back up your opinion if you want it to carry any weight in a discussion.

    Swearing is an integral part of any language, and in the right context it is very funny (see e.g. Daily Show or better still: Stephen Fry). When you meet new people there is always the “will they, won’t they” period where you have to find out their stance on swearing. Here at BA central, it is not the place for it.

  62. Marc Connor

    Are we still allowed to say:
    http://xkcd.com/54/

    ‘cos it totally does.

  63. @ Csrster:

    I think astronomers should change the name of that planet to end that stupid joke once and for all. I pick Urectum. Now if you will excuse me I have to go drop a giant ice-cube in the ocean to end global warming once and for all.

  64. Michelle

    @Larry

    Yea… Children do know the worst words already. But the problem is that some parents still install “Net nannies” that check up these words and if one appears, whoops, the browser closes or something like that. I’m not sure it would apply to “young adults” but oh well. That would be bad if the browser closed on ‘em.

    But I think that profanity is a pretty primitive concept to begin with. Saying some syllables together is wrong, oh my. Not to mention that, in my opinion, if you wanted to say a bad word and you suddenly change it to something else, you still meant to say the bad word. Sorta makes you an hypocrite. You’re dodging the use of an appropriate word to replace it by something else we still know meant profanities like BS or f-word or weewee. Why not just say it straight.

  65. Steven

    To PK: I do not need to back up my opinion for as I explained, it is an opinion. I don’t really care if it has “weight” for it is my opinion. If people wish to follow a different path that is their choice, not mine.

  66. Nigel Depledge

    Michael said:
    ” . . .
    2. I’m confused. We can be polite and still use adult language. You really have two rules up there, not one.

    3. While I understand the desire to keep it clean (unspoken Rule #2), I also think it is unfortunate that yet another corner of the Internet has been regulated to a G rating. I’m sorry, folks, your kids already know those words. They hide it from you and you hide it from them. 99% of the people here are adults, I would think, as well, and deleting words is just plain silly, IMHO.”

    Consider this, Michael. I like to read the BA’s blog at work in my lunchbreak. Our company’s firewall has a bad-word-detecting algorithm, and it will block any website that is deemed to violate the company’s internet-use policy. That means that, while the BA’s blog comments contain no profanity, I can view them at work. Whereas, if they contained profanities, I would not thus be able to read his blog from work. This has actually happened to me with Pharyngula: our internet gateway has blocked access to certain blog entries, which I later discovered (after visiting those blog entries from home) had some foul-mouthed comments associated with them.

    So, thanks, BA for keeping it clean and keeping your blog SFW.

    R.T. Merkel wrote:
    ” . . . Personally I’m very careful about showing my 13 year old daughter interesting items in your blog. Mostly it’s kid friendly, but as long as you post links to Cap’n Dyke or Erin O’Brien’s blogs I have restrict your blog… which I think is a dying shame.”

    Well, OK, but you could just ask her not to click on any links that are NSFW. The BA always labels them.

  67. Tom

    No sweat on the policy. Sorry to hear it needed to be applied.

    I am curious as to whether there’s been an uptick in profanity since your recent anti-administration posts. That may have drawn a group to your site who hadn’t commented before, and I know a subset of them (based on my few glances into blogs who focus on that sort of thing) believe that profanity is part of good discourse. I disagree.

  68. Our company’s firewall has a bad-word-detecting algorithm, and it will block any website that is deemed to violate the company’s internet-use policy.

    This is even more inane, IMHO — companies who are worried about their employees seeing profanity. What a joke. It’s a reality, I realize, but it’s a joke. Companies are worse nannies that anybody these days.

    I think I’ve literally used one swear word on this blog. I do not need to swear here. I’m not worried about that in the slightest. The interesting part to me is that newspapers print things like “the F word” and the Daily Show beeps out the profanity and we all know which words they are referring to. It’s not the word that is offensive, because we all fill in the correct word, it’s the sounds and the letters that are offensive. That is insane.

    Phil’s blog, Phil’s rules, it’s all fine by me. I just think we are a bunch of pseudo-prudes with a pseudo morality that is inane.

  69. PK

    So Steven, of you don’t care whether your opinion carries any weight or not, why vent it here?

  70. Mark Martin

    “It’s not the word that is offensive, because we all fill in the correct word, it’s the sounds and the letters that are offensive. That is insane.”

    Quite correct, Michael. The population at-large is a bunch of Pavlov’s dogs. I can’t even keep track of the number of times I’ve reminded people that no one on internet boards have zero capacity to harm each another. It’s all just words on their screens. Being afraid of words is the stuff of bloody, infantile wars.

  71. Mark Martin

    Proofreading error above. That should read “I can’t even keep track of the number of times I’ve reminded people that no one on internet boards have the capacity to harm each another.”

  72. Dave Hall

    Is there something I missed?
    20 responses to a story about new planet formation and 71 responses to an entry about bad language on BA.

    I don’t get it.

    Hey, lets just be nice to each other for a change and pay attention to what is happening up there in that big thing above our heads–you know–that place with all the little lights and stuff shining in the dark!

  73. Steven

    Well PK. I just wanted to show that there are other viewpoints. I’ll say it just one more time. I am getting tired of writing the same thing over and over. “I” that is “me” choose not to use those particular words. I never told anyone that they can’t. Why do people keep posting on this? Please just let me live my live as I choose. I never told you that you could not.

  74. sil

    “Why do people even use vulgar language?”
    I answered this question in part. Mainly because it can be used to emphasize a point and used properly can enhance the language used to express emotion.

    “There are plenty of words in the English language that would suffice as a substitute.”
    Substitutes almost never (in fact I would say never) suffice for the proper expression of the emotion they convey.

    “Casual vulgarity is a major pet peeve of mine. I for one prefer more civilized discourse.”
    This line was what set me off. Specifically the ‘civilized discourse’ part. This line says that “vulgar language agitates me. Using it makes you uncivilized.”

    I do not wish to convey hatred or meanness or any other thing through what I am saying. My argument is with what you said and not you personally, so if I conveyed otherwise, I apologize. I am simply saying that I do not agree that not using ‘vulgarity’ makes one ‘civilized.’

  75. Thomas Siefert

    “Is there something I missed?
    20 responses to a story about new planet formation and 71 responses to an entry about bad language on BA.”

    Opinions are like jam rolls, everybody got one. It’s really hard to form or express an opinion about planet formation, so we just sit tight while BA tells us a story about the universe we all live in.

  76. Steven

    I agree with Thomas. Let’s move on to another topic. But, I must respond yet again. Hopefully, this will end this nightmare. The word civilized has to do with refinement. The definition is “Marked by refinement in taste and manners; cultured; polished.” It has nothing to do with intelligence. So, I stand by my original usage of the word. I guess this shows that words really can offend people. However, if I offended anyone by using a “word”, and isn’t that what this topic is about, then I apologize. Now lets move on. I hear there is something about Sputnik in the next blog.

  77. Wendy

    I think the issue is whether those words that connote certain agreed-upon feelings or states of mind are useful.

    Ad hominem attacks are less useful than explanations for why the person or topic is causing conflict — but sometimes it’s just a form of shorthand that works to convey an emotion or opinion in a given group.

    Explaining to a child that when he or she hears an adult using those words that it is because they are expressing strong feelings is better, imho, than just censoring the words.

    The moderator of the blog has a responsibility to protect the readers from actual, palpable harm — this has become an issue on another blog I read because one contributor was making harmful statements about another person in the same group. Censorship because of the “dirty” status of some words seems to be a little beyond the call of duty. Children have a sophisticated sense of humor, and comprehend a lot; if they have been educated about the issues, they understand and contribute as much as, or sometimes more than, some adults.

    Censorship (if you want to be one of us, you can’t say 000000) sets up its own problems. Language and the words themselves become weapons and serve to divide people, instead of bonding them. My opinion.

    Also — this blog has discussions about a lot of issues. The astronomy is nice, but I think the universe is about a lot more than the stars.

  78. You’ve not really experienced the internet till you’ve been flamed by a troll ^___^

  79. Mena

    There are also times when there really aren’t any other ways to describe stuff. When I was an offender of this policy, I did think twice about writing it the way I did but thought that there was a bit of leeway here because a day or two before there was a link to very graphic pictures of naked women. I wasn’t being rude or spiteful to anyone, there are some ideas that so called conservatives and religious folk have that are just way too far beyond belief and couldn’t think of a better way to describe what was at the link. I still can’t. There really needs to be a FAQ or at least some sort of consistency to G ratings standards, sorry.

  80. tacitus

    Quite correct, Michael. The population at-large is a bunch of Pavlov’s dogs. I can’t even keep track of the number of times I’ve reminded people that no one on internet boards have zero capacity to harm each another. It’s all just words on their screens. Being afraid of words is the stuff of bloody, infantile wars.

    Claiming that a few written words cannot harm is naive People have been driven to suicide by what others have written about them. While that is the extreme case, every day there are no doubt thousands of people who feel detrimental physical effects from something they read that was attacking them in some way. The written word can land blows that hurt more than a punch in the gut, and stay with a person much longer.

    It’s simply human nature. We care what people say and write about us, even strangers we have never met and who don’t know the first thing about us. While some might be able to shrug off an attack, there are many others who cannot, even if they try. They are just not wired in that way.

  81. Mark Martin

    “Claiming that a few written words cannot harm is naive People have been driven to suicide by what others have written about them.”

    Uh… Duh! My point is staring you straight in the face, yet you cannot see it.

  82. tacitus

    “no one on internet boards have zero capacity to harm each another”

    This statement of yours is patently wrong. People are harmed all the time by what is being said about them on the Internet boards. It may be completely irrational, but it doesn’t make it any less true.

  83. Lurchgs

    Heh – not as though your ego needed any shoring, but I’ll go ahead and add my approval to your policy. I won’t even question “Polite by whose standards?” :)

    Tacitus – assuming we are speaking of hurt feelings and not something actionable, I agree with you. However, I learned at a very early age that the only way you can feel hurt by somebody’s words is by accepting that the statement is – to some degree – accurate. So, if I’m reading a board or blog and Joe Farthertree pops in and calls me the illegitimate son of the flying nun, I can easily blow him off. Even if he’s a regular poster and I “know” him.

    It used to frustrate my boot camp instructors no end – they could get up in my face and insult me and mine to a fare-thee-well, and I could just smile at them. They don’t know me from Adam, and certainly have no idea what shoes my mother wears.

    If BA were to step in here and cast aspersions on my ability to paint left-handed monkey wrenches, I would not feel hurt, dismayed or bereft. (Not by the WORDS. I might feel a little disappointed that somebody whom I have a fair degree of respect for would stoop so low… but that’s a separate issue) Of course, if he were to cast asparagus on my ability as an astronomer/cosmologist, yeah, that would hurt. But then, it would be true. I THINK I know which end of a telescope to sit on…though I’ve never been able to find where to put the bogroll.

    But then, I rather imagine he knows jack about the telephone system, or any of a bunch of other things *I* know about.

    So there! I thumb my nose at you, oh, expanded-cranial, red-headed, nocturnal BA!

  84. R. T. Merkel

    Sorry to belabor my attempt to hijack this discussion, but

    Nigel Depledge said; “… but you could just ask her not to click on any links that are NSFW.”

    True, and I do, and I thank the BA for the warnings!

    But please note that my daughter will tend to avoid this blog because she really doesn’t wish to be embarrassed in front of Me, Mom, or her friends if she makes a mistake, or she would get expelled from school or kicked out of a public library if the mistake was made there. In addition I have some coworkers who will simply never point their kids to this blog if such links are present.

    My point is if one goal of the BA blog is to educate school kids then the BA should not provide such links and should even consider full moderation of these comments. However, if the goal is to educate adults, and sometimes the children of those adults, then everything is pretty cool.

    Randy in Paso Robles

  85. Buzz Parsec

    Lurchgs -

    You may be completely immune to unfounded attacks on your mother’s choice of footware, but you are pretty unusual in this. That’s why your drill instructors used this technique and why they were flabbergasted when it failed. It usually works, most people are not 100% rational, even when they know they have no rational reason to be offended, they still are, which is reason enough to avoid it. (You could rationalize it as an “educational experience” or “desensitizing”, but you’re not on the receiving end. That’s the “universal you”, not you personally :-)

    Saying if you’re completely rational, you know that random flames and verbal attacks can’t actually hurt you, is like saying if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear from random surveillance, the Patriot Act, or the NSA monitoring your phone calls, but to quote the immortal Samuel Spade, “Everybody has something to hide”.

  86. I think this is a good time to point out that there is a big difference between the use of “colourful language” and simply being abusive through use of such language, i.e. the difference between “That’s a f#@%ing amazing photo” and “you’re a f#@%ing idiot”.

    I think Phil is basically objecting to the latter more than the former, although neither is really necessary on a blog such as this. Being abusive on someone else’s blog is offensive, childish and unnecessary. If you disagree with the subject matter then by all means say so, but do it eloquently and to the point, without getting personal.

    Personally I’m all for keeping it nice and clean around here, so parents can have no qualms about their children learning some real facts about the universe as safely as if they were reading a book. I’ve got nothing against the use of “colourful language” in general, but it’s not really appropriate here.

  87. Mark Martin

    “This statement of yours is patently wrong. People are harmed all the time by what is being said about them on the Internet boards. It may be completely irrational, but it doesn’t make it any less true.”

    Yep, and my point still stands as true. Anyone who feels hurt by mere words on open forums (places, by the way, which by definition are not exclusively for polite discourse) is inflicting self-hurt. If Party-A is insulted by Party-B’s words, then so what? Party-A could be so disproportionately sensitive as to be beyond placability. Not all potential sensibilities can be simultaneously pandered to. Some can’t be at all, ever. If we’re to pander to everyone, then we’re saddled with what can be an authentic impossibility.

  88. Will. M

    Phil’s old job site, Sonoma State U. in CA, once had a professor who wrote a series of books on profanity called Maledicta. These contained swear words, nasty graffitti, blue poetry and the like from sources all around the world. These were interesting in that virtually every country has such an underground vocabulary which deals with essentially the same topics, often in a very humorous way (see the sections on dirty limericks, e.g.). Profanity has its place in the histories of people all over the planet, it seems. Whether it should be part of this blog’s history is the blogmaster’s choice.

  89. I got censored once. I used a word beginning with bull. ;) In the mean time I have discovered the alternative word, thanks to Carl Sagan: baloney.

    My suggestion: something near this leave-a-reply form that has info on this? A link to this post, maybe, if more info than just a link is impractical?

    An idea… might help.

  90. tancks
    this post very very helped me !

    Good Time

  91. thancks
    this post very very helped me !

    Good Time

  92. GoodEnergy

    Clean Blog. Good kind constructive words. No alternatives or substitute for bad words. No swearing. Fully support you. This one needs to be removed in the first place.

    1. Ibrahim Says:
    October 3rd, 2l007 at 1:35 pm

    Okay fine, well, you know what?

    !@#@(#& you Phil!
    Yeah! You heard me! You’re a *#**$%!

    *#$$^@! @#$%^!

    (Seriously though. I can’t recall seeing many bad words, though I guess they may have been edited out.)

  93. Ben Doom

    Bad Astronomer
    Lending his name for haiku
    Eek! Death from above!

  94. Ken

    Phil,

    Too cool! I want to tape ‘em all! My college students have a new required ‘watch assignment’.
    Thanks,
    Ken B. in Lumberton, NC

  95. Sorry Phil, this comment was intended for the Bad Universe Giveaway post. I always end following links I don’t know where do link…

  96. Nick

    Love what you do Phil. Keep up the good work! Bash that pseudo science crap the hell out of here.

    And I want some of that swag!!
    :D

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »