Blog Comments Terms
Violating any of the Terms below may result in your account being locked. In the event that your account is locked, we may, but are not obligated to, remove comments you have added to our blog.
Please keep comments on topic (that is, specifically related to the blog post you’re commenting on).
Please keep comments cordial.
No swearing or foul language, and don’t use symbols to mask the words. The meaning is still conveyed and we don’t want it in our blog. Please keep in mind that we have readers of all ages.
The swearing part is pretty straightforward. I have no idea what ‘cordial’ entails. Some readers say rather ignorant or stupid things now and then, and I’m rather frank about that. The main impact this is going to have is that since I moderate the comments I’m going to just publish fewer comments, because I am not inclined to spend much time explaining in cordial terms why the comment was not appropriate (harsh languages is at least compact). Also, anyone who obviously misrepresents anything I say is going to get banned. I can’t be bothered to respond to a response to a point I didn’t make. I’m aware I offend people with some of the things I say, but please get angry about things I actually say, not what you perceive or intuit I say. If I mean it, I’ll say it. That’s how I roll.
I’ve been saying for a few weeks that this weblog’s comments are going to be improved with a Disqus system. Worry no more, I have a “hard date.” I’m not going to give it to you because my personal experience with hard dates in I.T. is that things come up, and delays are routine. But, it won’t be much longer. In the range of weeks, not months. All the features that I missed will be back, and you should be able to leave comments with Twitter or Facebook authentication.
Happy Memorial Day weekend to Americans. In light of my various time pressures which are going to be operationally indefinite in their temporal scope for me I need to consider various options about optimizing the comments. I generally do rather well on reading comprehension tests, so I’ve decided that if your comment strikes me as incoherent or irrelevant on first inspection I’m likely to simply remove it without warning. This means that there will be false positives, and those of you who have unfortunately been caught in the spam filter may worry, but I think in the interests of useful comments which address the substance of the posts and time management this is probably for the best. Those of you who are caught in the spam filter can email me as is the usual case; this seems to be a sporadic issue. There are of course a whole host of comments/comment styles which will result in banning, but these transgressions are usually one-off affairs by “newbies.” But again in the interests of optimal use of time I’m probably going to not bother warning people anymore, aside from directly engaging with individuals as I usually do to clarify any points made.
In this list I’ve limited it to posts which were published in 2011. For much of the blog’s history I didn’t autoclose comments after 2 weeks, so the comparisons aren’t appropriate. And comments tend to be less timeless in any case. Comments are a double-edged sword on a weblog, because they often invite the stupid to come out and play in people. But there are a non-trivial subset from whom I’ve learned a fair amount from. That learning doesn’t always have to be a case where you even change your mind. Discussion in good faith can usually sharpen comprehension of your own perspective.
This occurs every now and then…legit comments without copious numbers of links get caught in the spam filter. Regular commenter Michelle has had her comments tagged as spam twice since she’s changed her back-link URL to Scientific American. Today she tweeted me, and I noticed 4 other people who were also false-positived in the filter. To my knowledge these were all people whose comments I’d approved before. If your comment doesn’t show up after 24 hours (or immediately if you are a regular who has been approved already), please feel free to ping me via twitter, facebook, or email me at contactgnxp -at- gmail -dot- com. I apologize in advance for the inconvenience. There’s no way I can scan the spam manually, since there’s always thousands of fake-comments about how awesome my blog is in passable English to wade through. So make sure to tell me what your handle is.
So over the past few months there has been an issue where manual comment spam is getting more sophisticated. The strategy is to leave an anodyne comment with really vague references to how the post is “great” and “very informative” or something like that. The English would usually pass a grammar check, but there’s a strangeness that suggests to me that the commenter isn’t a native speaker, and quite often they link back to some spam site. Obviously I don’t post these and tag them as spam, but it’s kind of becoming harder & harder to avoid false positives while also keeping a check on false negatives.
What I’m asking is that if you want to leave a short comment to the effect of “thanks, great post!”, please think twice. The spammers have ruined this sort of polite and human interaction at this point, as I’m often suspicious now that someone who is expressing heartfelt praise is trying to get me to approve the comment so that they can get a little PageRank.I’m prompted to put this post up mostly because I’ve had some “near misses” where I assumed that an individual was leaving comment spam, when they were just being a normal decent human being.
Here’s what you can do as an alternative:
– Share my post on twitter, Facebook, Digg, etc.
– And of course, you can go old school and email me at contactgnxp -at- gmail -dot- com. I get a fair amount of appreciative emails, and if you take the time out to write something nice that’s certainly a mitzvah
Sorry for wasting your time with this. But I really need to head this off at the pass.
So today I received an email from regular commenter German Dziebel:
Razib, what’s your relationship with the Discover Magazine? Up until now I thought of your blog as more or less a public forum, rather than a private franchise. Please clarify, so we don’t bicker about ethics in public.
I have no idea what German precisely means by “public forum” or “private franchise,” though I have a general sense. Discover Magazine pays me to blog. I also have an editor who I consult now and then. For example when I discussed traffic patterns to this website I asked if that would be OK, since I know that sort of information is often material sites like to keep somewhat private. When Marnie Dunsmore threatened to sue me for “stealing her ideas” I shot an email to the editor to notify him of her strange accusations. But in general my communication with Discover Magazine is limited to technical issues, as well as some exchanges of ideas and topics to post on (this isn’t formal, the editor knows the kind of stories and papers I dig, and will send me an email or point a tweet my way).
I like it that way. It gives me time to blog. There’s a lot of interesting stuff in my “task stack” which I never get to because of the pressures of time. When I began blogging in 2002 I did so with an assurance I wouldn’t have to spend too much time on technical or administrative crap with my co-bloggers. That didn’t totally work out, but it is an ideal which I like to aim for. This post is a violation of that ideal. I’m engaging in meta blather about comments policy and what not when I could be blogging, finishing the coffee I’m drinking right now, or watching the episode of South Park which I haven’t watched yet.
If I had to condense my summary for how I run these comments, I’d say I run this place as if I’m Sulla during the period in his life when he was the dictator of the Roman Republic. Since most of you probably don’t get the allusion, I will elaborate….