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January 25, 2006


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Doug Hoffer

Kimball said:

"Deborah, for example, is the rankest and most uncivil among us so far but we have learned to ignore her when she goes off the deep end and address her when she doesn’t."

I agree. Most of the commenters are able to passionately debate ideas without being uncivil. Others lack the self-control to politely disagree, or reasonably limit the volume of their posts. Most of us are capable of ignoring those who lack this level of courtesy.

I do think that limiting the quantity of posts a commenter can make would be a mistake. Sometimes genuinely interesting conversations crop up among commenters, and I truly enjoy many of them.


I vote for using the power to delete. The Volokh Conspiracy uses the delete button frequently and they still get plenty of vibrant debate.

Also, it's a bit hard for occasional readers to go through long threads, and particularly un-worthwhile if it's half flames.

Albert Alschuler

Here's a kind word about my detractor Deborah Spaeth (a/k/a Ms. Pottymouth). She apparently uses her own full name and email address when she comments. I wish others would. That's what the form requests --"name" and "email address" -- and perhaps the blog administrators should underscore that they'd actually like people to do it. Why do so many hide behind pseudonyms, first names, and initials, and why do they fail to provide addresses? I'm not much of a blogger, but if that's the norm, I don't like it.


"Why do so many hide behind pseudonyms, first names, and initials, and why do they fail to provide addresses?"

True, anonymity provides an opportunity to act in an uncivil manner without bearing the consequences to your reputation.

On the other hand, there are at least 2 reasons why I value anonymity:
1) I can post commentary that my employer or client would not appreciate;
2) I have an opportunity to play "devil's advocate." It is worthwhile to bring strong criticisms to positions I otherwise agree with, see how people respond, and not have the discussion sidetracked by accusations of inconsistency with other posts.


I'll second what Anon said above about the value of pseudonyms in these and similar forums.

I would add that pseudonyms are not just offensive masks that one may wear while being less than civil, but defensive insulators to be deployed against the less than civil characters that one may from time to time encounter in otherwise interesting corners of the internet. I'll be keeping mine.

The email I provide is active. If anyone wants to correspond, please just keep it civil.


How about:
Have a button at the top of the post "Hide Repeats," which, when pressed, will only show the first comment by each commenter. That way, people who are looking only for comments related to the original post do not have to wade through many posts by a few people bickering. At the same time, those who enjoy bickering still have their forum.

Some people have argued that it is quite easy to skip by the rude or irrelevant comments. To some extent, I agree: I might look to the author of a post and decide to skip it, and an author's use of all-caps is strongly correlated with me not being interested in the content. However, when I see a large number of comments on a post, it discourages me from participation. I suspect what I have to say has already been said to some degree and given I don't want to read through all the comments, I figure my comment will not be read by others. I would guess that other people feel the same way. Thus, a large number of angry commentators talking to each other will drive out other who simply want to make a point on the issue at hand.

I think The Faculty Blog should first ask what are the benefit of comments they want to gain. If the bloggers want responses to the post, your policy might be different than if you want to provide a forum for a conversation among your readers. I like a comment area to be focused on the post, but many commentators look for a forum to have a conversation with each other.


I'm not sure how your format works, but many blogs require people to register. They approve comments, but if an individual has made several approved ones already, then their comments appear without waiting for approval. This prevents both spam and anonymous diatribes; people can still register anonymously, but their posts will have to be approved.

If certain people (e.g. Deborah) find the posts so bothersome that they cannot keep their comments civil, I would suggest that perhaps they should simply read other blogs they find more acceptable. I feel the same way about some blogs (Democratic Underground, etc.); rather than make insulting comments there, I just don't read them. Non-civil comments are neither going to promote critical thought nor convince anyone (especially professors) that their opinions are problematic.

William Rothwell

My favorite comment systems allow branching of discussions so that if two people want to go back and forth in a conversation that interests them, they can do so without impeding the ability of others to start new threads. I find the main problem on this blog is that two people will carry on a conversation (often an interesting and valuable one) that tends to clog up the comments section for those wishing to present new views. As an example, I'd point to the back and forth between T. More and Deborah Spaeth in the most recent post from Prof. Stone.

I think the best comment system on the net is the heavily moderated one on Slashdot, where posts are voted up or down based on quality, and, by default, only the highest rated comments are visible in full. I understand it's probably hard to implement a system of that sophistication on typepad, though.


One technological possibility for self-moderation of comments is that used by craigslist: Provide a button that, when pushed by a requisite number of commenters, will delete the uncivil comment. Experiment with the requisite number to determine how much you wish to protect the commentor from the community/protect community from uncivility.

Kimball Corson

Has the censure of two posters on Muhammad Cartoons, Free Speech, and International Relations chilled everyone into silence?

Kimball Corson

After thinking about it, let me suggest that after 9/11 and because of the threats against us and our liberties by the world of Islam within and around us, we really are going to have to redefine the permissible parameters of free speech here and elsewhere, and probably also some of our Fourth Amendment rights, and both in directions of loosing some of our liberties in these regards.

History will look back on this era as being pivotal and compromising of our values, because these problems are not going to go away. I had hoped that 9/11 would pass because of the fluke it largely was in terms of the damage casued, but now I think not. Indeed, we ourselves, if we did not create these problems, certainly have exacerbated them. I cannot see our Western values prevailing world-wide and in the long haul, certainly not as we have postured ourselves in the present and for the future, and too, not with the patterns of Muslim immigration into the Western world that we observe. The world of Islam rises on the world stage as America descends.

The French proverb, quoted elsewhere here by Roach of Louis Veuilott comes to mind, "When I am the weaker, I ask you for my freedom, because that is your principle; but when I am the stronger, I take away your freedom, because that is my principle."

Kimball Corson

If I decided, in my own mind, that something someone says offends my religious beliefs or sensibilities, and if I act sufficiently outraged about it, should that someone be censured here? Or must that someone know in advance that what he will say will so offend me? But am I not offended either way? Or must there be a group like me that is offended? With a torch, I alone might do much damage, while many more of my persuasion might only march in protest. Does that matter? Do numbers of those offended matter? Or is it only that the probability of one who could do damage increases as the numbers of those offended increase? If I alone threaten harm, regardless of the consequences for me, should my demand for a retraction here be met? What restraints or lack of them should we have to accommodate or not accommodate each other in these regards? And why? What if my religious sensibilities are empirically and demonstrably foolish? Does that matter? Does it matter how different or radical they are from those of others? Then too, is censorship – which should require answers to some of these questions – a business we want to be in?

Kimball Corson

In regard to the note appearing here which reads:

“Comments are moderated, and will not appear on this weblog until the author has approved them.”

Is this not censorship in the first instance? Does it not chill the exchange of ideas? Does not the delay of review also chill discourse? Are not the conditions of approval unclear? Is not this approach most unChicagoan?

Kimball Corson

Did Deborah pack up her marbles and leave? Was she told to leave? Or is she just licking her wounds before again drawing her declarative and profane sword?

Kimball Corson

To more limit the topics that can be pulled up in a date range is too more limit discussion and debate. It is easy enough to schroll down, but harder to search for the right range. The ranges should be much broader.

starsze panie

Nice a website, great job !
Regards from starsze panie

The Law Fairy

lol -- did someone intentionally post spam here to justify filters?

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