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Comment guidelines. [Jan. 31st, 2006|03:29 pm]

I've been reading the journals of people who aren't on my friends list quite a bit recently. The reason I mostly post friends-only is not so much for privacy (I generally use filter groups for that) but to keep out the idiots. (Yes, I know about the setting that lets you only let friends comment. I like doing it like this. Also, the fact that you're not on my friends list yet doesn't mean I think you're an idiot. It means you're not on my friends list yet.) This thought led to me writing down some things I do and don't like about comments left in my journal. And now I've written it down, I shall post it. Comments on whether I've managed to communicate my thoughts clearly are welcome. No, comments are solicited. Help me get this into decent shape, and I'll link to it in my userinfo. It's a public post and will stay that way. Edited to add: I think we're covering the "don't post like this" parts adequately; has anyone got anything to say about the "do post this" parts?

Here goes!

If you cause tedium in my journal I will ask you to stop doing that, and if you don't stop after I've asked you lots of times then I'll defriend you. There will be no "final warning" because I find policing discussions tedious in itself. This has never had to happen yet, and I hope it never does. My definition of tedium is the only one that counts for this purpose.

I get very, very bored by short back-and-forth arguments with no time taken to ponder and re-ponder in between commenting. Take your time, think about what the other person said, consider the possibility that you have nothing to add to the discussion beyond the things you've already said. Conversely, give the other person space to think about your point; immediately jumping in with a reply to every new comment they make is a very good way of failing to do this.

I get even more bored by repetition of points that someone made perfectly well the first time (I have no problem with thinking out loud, and I positively love it when someone says something like "hmm, I said X earlier but now I'm starting to think Y is more accurate", or "I've changed my mind"). I like people who understand the difference between clarifying a point and trying to make someone else accept it by reiterating it twenty times.

Single comments are never tedious, even if they're relatively content-free. Obviously-non-hostile comments are rarely tedious (the definition of "obvious" is "obvious to Kake"). Social grooming comments (that is, content-free comments used to reinforce social relationships) are not tedious unless excessive. I have no objection to *hugs* comments, but if I've not asked for comfort or hugs then I probably don't need them.

I hate the way that livejournal switches to a horrible UI when a post gets over 50 comments. If a discussion is approaching this limit, I'd prefer that social grooming comments and other less-relevant comments are taken elsewhere ("elsewhere" includes other posts on my journal), or at least postponed. Once we've hit the limit we're screwed anyway, so anything goes after that.

I love it when I get a comment on a six-month-old post. I love it so much that if it's substantive I'm quite likely to make a new, brief post pointing people at the old one, so your efforts are not wasted. I like comments that say "yes, that makes sense" and nothing more; they let me know that you've read what I had to say.

I like comments that disagree with me intelligently. My definition of "intelligently" is the one that counts; it includes things like being coherent, and showing evidence of having put a lot of thought into the matter. I also like comments that acknowledge ignorance and request elucidation.


From: mzdt
2006-01-31 04:45 pm (UTC)
I'm still quite amused (and yes, a little upset) I was expected to apologise for not being fluffy this afternoon; I thought people knew me well enough by now to know that it's my journal and I'll do what I damn well like with it. As should we all.
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[User Picture]From: tiquetoque
2006-01-31 04:55 pm (UTC)
Doesn't mean we have to like it ;)

(no, this isn't aimed at you Simon :) hello btw, we've never met. You sound lovely. Nice to have met you.)

Some journal writers are so up themselves as to be painful to read, and some journal writers are just stupid or inflammatory or ignorant or bigoted or insist on reading the wrong thing into some opinion or words.

Some journal writers use language as a twistable tool for their own purposes in an argument or response. Yes, it's a text medium, and yes, words are all we have, but come on guys.

Anyway. My point is that this is livejournal. Someone who makes a post has every right to make that post. Someone who can comment and comments has the right to make that comment. Attempts to control how someone behaves on a journal - their own (as you suggest happened to you) or someone else's (as kake is doing right now) - amount to censorship by another name :)

If you don't like the comments, just delete them already. Or use LJ's built-in features for controlling who can and can't, or screen them, or whatever :)

This is livejournal. It is what it is.
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[User Picture]From: vashti
2006-01-31 05:24 pm (UTC)
Attempts to control how someone behaves on a journal - their own (as you suggest happened to you) or someone else's (as kake is doing right now) - amount to censorship by another name :)

Sorry, but given that anyone reading here has their own LJ, or can have their own LJ with the click of a mouse, and can write anything they like there, I don't see how censorship comes into this in any way.
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[User Picture]From: tiquetoque
2006-01-31 05:34 pm (UTC)
Perhaps I used the wrong word :)

Pick a word that means "attemping to control what people post and don't post in an otherwise public forum known for its acceptance of free speech and opinionated rants", or similar, and substitute where I used "censorship".
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From: feanelwa
2006-01-31 05:26 pm (UTC)
But then, not letting random people come into my house is censorship, and so are spam filtering, only giving my phone number to a few trusted friends, walking away from a fight, asking somebody to turn off their mobile phone before we go into a theatre, ignoring tramps who shout abusive things at me, and not talking to people who I already know hate me. I don't think censorship is always a bad thing. Most of the times I censor something out of my own life, it makes it better.
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[User Picture]From: tiquetoque
2006-01-31 05:32 pm (UTC)
Completely agreed in principle :)

However, this isn't your house. I have no idea who you are (hi btw), and I can comment in response to you. Should I have a right to tell you not to respond to me? Certainly! but should it be enforced?[1]

_that_ is what I don't understand about limiting (call it censoring, controlling, undermining, overlording, fnording, bananaing) comments and posts in this forum. It's livejournal. And it's great :)

[1] I can control who comments on my journal. If I choose _not_ to control it, I'm implicitly allowing freedom to comment. That's the default for the community, and it's what makes it what it is.
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From: feanelwa
2006-01-31 05:56 pm (UTC)
Actually I'm going to try that again, I'm not sure I actually answered the question.

I don't see my journal like that, or to some extent other people's. I see it more as a small pub that the journaller rents and can operate as a public bar or as a private club. Pleasant strangers always make pubs better, but if a rude stranger comes into a pub and starts shouting at random people or the landlord, I think it's entirely reasonable for the landlord to kick them out and possibly ban them from coming back, otherwise my nice regulars might decide not to come back in case the rude person is there again.

Personally I keep most of my journal public, as a compromise between risking letting rude strangers in and allowing for pleasant strangers appearing. Possibly I think it's a compromise between myself censoring the rude strangers, or the rude strangers censoring some of the regulars, and it's my pub and I'd rather hear from my friends than from the rude stranger.

Other people run their pubs differently, and I feel like I ought to play by their rules just as much as they play by mine, because they clearly have different definitions of what behaviour counts as rude. Some of my definitions are ridiculous to some people, but they're entirely sensible to my regulars, and equally some things other people see as rude are to me entirely acceptable.
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[User Picture]From: tiquetoque
2006-01-31 06:15 pm (UTC)
100% agreed. I probably didn't explain myself well enough, or draw a connection between "Someone who makes a post has every right to make that post" and "If you don't like the comments, just delete them already".

I like Default Permit. Handle the idiots on a case by case basis, but let 'em be idiots first.

However, I find people telling me what I can and can't post in advance of me posting it to be abhorrent. That's why I was agreeing with simon and disagreeing with kake.
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[User Picture]From: nou
2006-01-31 06:46 pm (UTC)
I'm not likely to invite someone onto my friends list unless I've seen something of them elsewhere, so "let them be idiots first" has effectively already happened. Making it clear up-front what I find acceptable lets me offer people who enjoy being argumentative the option of deciding whether they'd like to participate in this space that I have some control over, or not. The other way to handle it is to not let them in at all, but I don't want to do that because some of them are interesting.

(Hm, perhaps my use of "idiots" in the reason I gave for friends-locking is confusing. By "idiots" there, I mean people who are unremittingly stupid and incapable of interesting me. I don't think that enjoying an argument makes someone an idiot.)
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[User Picture]From: hairyears
2006-01-31 06:28 pm (UTC)

Which is to say: like runs with like. I doubt that many of us could give as straightforward a definition as Nou of what is and is not welcome - or downright unwelcome - in their Journal.

The clarification you're looking for is the difference between 'private' and 'public': to restrict what people say in a public forum is censorship; but a private space is, by definition, an enclosure where much of the public world is left outside. This can be an explicit statement of the rules by the 'landowner', but is most often an unspoken consensus that emerges from the shared preferences of the participants.

I happen to believe that personal preference rules, with the force of law, in private life. If anyone feels that a need to accommodate to other peoples' leanings, likings, and limits is an imposition in the private sphere, then they must either seek to change their friends' attitudes by means that are acceptable to all, or seek new friends.

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[User Picture]From: nou
2006-01-31 06:17 pm (UTC)
Effectively all I'm intending to say is "please don't be boring at me, be interesting at me instead", and then explain what I mean by boring and interesting. Feedback on how I can change the words to make this as clear as possible is most welcome. I might also need to make it even more clear that at time of writing nobody has bored me enough to make me drop them.

"If you don't like the comments, just delete them already. Or use LJ's built-in features for controlling who can and can't, or screen them, or whatever :)"

But I find the act of thread-policing to be terribly boring, and while I know some people enjoy doing it, the only person who can do it in my journal is me. Also (in my experience of livejournal), in the case where the number of people with access to a post is large, by the time it becomes necessary it has also become impractical. And, more importantly, deleting or screening comments doesn't address the issue that I want to address - I have to have already been bored by them in order to know that I find them boring. Finally, I think your suggestions are quite likely to stifle discussion, and I don't want to do that.

In any case, the feedback I want is not so much on whether my desires are reasonable, but on whether I've managed to communicate them as unambiguously as possible. I've edited the post to make that clear; thank you for helping me realise that I needed to.
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[User Picture]From: tiquetoque
2006-01-31 06:19 pm (UTC)
I've edited the post to make that clear; thank you for helping me realise that I needed to.

Sob. Now I've to re-read it :(

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[User Picture]From: tiquetoque
2006-01-31 06:28 pm (UTC)
Feedback on how I can change the words to make this as clear as possible is most welcome.

IMO this encourages exactly the kind of microlinguistic anal to-ing and fro-ing I mentioned in the parent's parent. Life's to short for arguing over whether the word used is the right one, or whether the nuance was correct[1]. Language is a tool for communication, not (I hope!) the communication itself.

Livejournal is not[2] a forum for developing a constitution, so arguing over the tiniest little word gets even more tedious than arguing substance. You've seen me get annoyed at people emphasising the meanings of words over the meaning behind the words in other threads recently ;) Not all of us (least of all me) are perfect at expressing themselves in every informal comment they make. I believe that expecting to be perfect in this forum is a flawed objective, not only because it is such a subjective thing, but more because this is a snapshot of a moment in history.

I don't want to look back at this in 20 years and say "my god, was I that anal?"

[1] Witness Vashti's criticism (correct in hindsight, but come on...) in another part of this thread.

[2] Currently! but it could be![3]

[3] Albeit a dreadful one.......... can you design a giraffe?
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[User Picture]From: nou
2006-01-31 06:51 pm (UTC)
"It's fine as it is" counts as feedback. Thank you.

"Livejournal is not X" is such an interesting question that it's going to get a post of its own.
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[User Picture]From: vashti
2006-01-31 07:39 pm (UTC)
Accusing someone of censorship is a serious thing. I didn't question you because I thought your wording was wrong, but because I thought your accusation was unjustified.
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