Comment Policy

By Carl Zimmer | January 10, 2009 5:06 pm

wrestling1.jpgI moderate the comments for this blog, but only lightly. Over the past five years, I’ve had 8,720 comments posted on this blog. Out of all the people who left comments on the Loom, I can only recall banning two.

I don’t block comments from people just because they believe the Earth is a few thousand years old or have some other non-scientific notion of how the world works. I don’t mind being told I’m wrong (even if I’m right). It’s also fine with me if commenters get fierce in their exchanges with each other. I’m not going police writing style.

But I do get bored with comment threads that wander off far from the original post, into tedious viciousness, purely narcissistic self-justifications, and other pointless enterprises.

I also get bored by people who post spam-like manifestos, especially ones that have little or nothing to do with the original post and appear again and again on many different posts.

Don’t even think about using profanity. Typically I’ll email foul-mouthed commenters and give them a chance to clean up their remarks. I think you’ll find a riposte can actually be more devastating if you avoid obscenities.

I also dislike sock puppets. I don’t care what name you use, but once you enter a discussion, it’s unfair to other commenters to put on a mask.

If you engage in any unacceptable commenting behavior, I’ll usually issue a warning. Posting egregious comments or disregarding my warnings will lead to my deleting an offending post or, at worst, banishment.

If you don’t like these rules, don’t leave comments. You can always get a blog of your own where you can vent spleen to your heart’s content.

[Update: I should also add that I also filter out spam and shameless plugs for vitamin supplements and the like. Also, be aware that Discover's blogging software automatically holds most comments for moderation, using an algorithm I don't understand. So if you don't see your comment posted immediately, please don't send me complaints about your martyrdom.]

To everyone else, let the discussion continue.

PS: Comments on the blog are owned by whoever posted them. While I moderate comments, I am not responsible for them in any way.

[Image: erdnuckel at Flickr, under Creative Commons license]

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Meta

Comments (16)

  1. I’m a chemistry student from Austria and I’ve been following your blog for about 1,5 years if I remind it correctly. I think this might be the first comment I’m leaving on this blog, but nevertheless I think this might be the right post to do so. I like to following your blog, your mixture of science and society and I hope I can follow the blog for some more years.

  2. sdrDusty

    tedious viciousness, purely narcissistic self-justifications, and other pointless enterprises

    Ah, intrigue!
    OK I have to admit, I’m a bit of a rubber-necker. Actually, I like (what I remember as) the Dutch expression for it- Ramptourist- or basically a disaster tourist.

    Sometimes it is amusing to read some of that and wonder what on earth could be going on in the writer’s mind!

    But, aside from being a curiosity, such can be an annoying distraction, so I’m glad you apply some moderation.

  3. I have the same sort of policy at my blog, and it is quite the same. If people don’t like it, WordPress and Blogspot are free. I enjoy fruitful threads often as much as I do the original post to which they are attached, but quickly lose interest in hijacked threads.

  4. eshuon

    why do i no longer see the comments below articles now?…a response to the e-mail address i have included would be superb. thanks.

  5. Alan Fox

    Carl,

    Apologies if a couple of my comments caused you grief. I have been an irregular reader of your blog over the last few years and was here most recently to read Ken Miller’s guest post regarding, Behe, Kitzmiller and the blood clotting cascade, following links from Panda’s Thumb. I noted your thread on Charles Darwin, and commented about re-reading his account of the Beagle voyage. Distraction ensued. Comments are like applause or catcalls from your audience; any response at least indicates you have one!

    I think you do a great job as an ambassador for science. Keep it up!

    I now resume my role as enthusiastic lurker.

  6. My policies at This Week in Evolution are similar. I did set up a Troll Refuge for people who want to argue about evolution without going to the trouble of reading about actual data, but it doesn’t get much use.

    I also delete generic comments (“Very interesting!”) whose only purpose is to advertise an unrelated commercial site.

  7. roy

    A comment policy should attempt to mold a useful discussion, not degenerate into a bile-fest (unless it’s a blog about the liver!). If someone abuses your hospitality, by all means ban them. I find that quality tends to repel junk over time.

  8. Anonymous Benefactor

    Actually, Alan Fox made a visit to Carl Zimmers blog not for the reasons he himself suggested. He actually follows John A. Davison wherever he goes hoping John A. Davison gets banned before he manages to expose much of the Darwinian fairytale. Yaa see, John has a reputation of exposing the Darwinian fairytale in a few sentences. Alan Fox’s job is to make sure John keeps his focus on other things, good tactics by Darwinian “scientists” all around…bravo!

  9. Anonymous Benefactor

    “Alan Fox’s job is to make sure John keeps his focus on other things, good tactics by Darwinian “scientists” all around…bravo!”

    Whoops…that was a typo:

    Alan Fox’s job is to make sure John keeps his mouth shut at all costs.

  10. roy

    Remember Erik Von Danikin? Yuri Gellar? Jonathan Schell? All the great buncombe of the 60s and 70s? Where are they all now? There’s always going to be drag and waste where there’s productive work. You can’t let it get you down.

  11. I like this policy, and appreciate that you have it. I’ve seen a variety of different ways to handle the matter, and yours is more than fair.

    The one and only request I’d made is to enable comment editing. I don’t know why I only catch certain mistakes after hitting the Submit button, but even having “Preview” would make it easier to fix stupid mistakes. I think that the Discover blog software supports editing for up to 15 minutes after comment submission, because Phil has it enabled for comments on his blog. I’d say that I edit about 75% of the comments I submit for very minor grammar and spelling mistakes and also to clarify things.

    I also tend to embed a lot of links to other science stories, and occasionally may make a mistake in HTML formatting. Not being able to edit or preview comments makes me a fair bit less liable to include them. For example, I could have included any number of references to the bark beetle and aspen blights in this comment.

  12. s krishna

    I am using this site as I was unable to get your email address.

    I am a 61 years old retired structural engineer and I have been reading English literature, western philosophy, biology and physics. Of the books that I have read so far on Evolution, I found your tangled bank the most informative, extremely clear and written elegantly. I wanted to know what you have studied and spent hours on Internet searching for it but in vain.

    Can you satisfy an old man’s indecent curiosity?

    Sorry for troubling you for what you probably consider trivial.

    regards
    krishna

  13. Rkt

    Due to the offensive and unhinged nature of postings from @bz, I wonder how much longer it will be before you call a halt to his ‘have the last word’ campaign? He has nothing to say that is relevant to the science anyway? In addition to all this, he now seems determined to divert the discussions towards local political mud-slinging (which is of zero interest to someone living outside the US).
    Will you stand by and allow Darwin to be referred to as a ‘loony buffoon’, as he has resorted to lately?

  14. John Kwok

    @ Rkt -

    I agree, bz has overstayed his welcome. Thanks for posting your complaint (@ 15). I am in full agreement with your observation. His behavior is definitely delusional and may be indicative of some other, much worse, mental health ailment afflicting him.

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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.

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