Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Commenting Etiquette Manifesto

I promised a follow-up to my last post about the necessity for blog comments and now here we are!

Commenting Etiquette
With comments comes great responsibility, not only for the publisher of the blog or site but also for the commenters. Every comment has the ability to spark greater and deeper conversation on the topic at hand, however some seem to instead enjoy tearing down and endless arguing and debate. In light of this, some have proposed on their own blogs some guidelines for commenters to live by, just as forum administrators have been doing for years.

One that has particularly stood out to me recently is the comment policy proposed by DesiringGod.org for their blog. Having just recently introduced commenting on their site, DesiringGod.org proposed some general guidelines that they ask those who comment on their site to stick to. Their two foundational principles for commenting are be kind and be sincere. I do believe they've hit the nail on the head. These two guiding principles can greatly enhance everyone's enjoyment of blog comments.

Be Kind
The internet is social. We have the opportunity to interact with literally millions of other people from all over the world. What a privilege! No other generation in the history of mankind has ever been given a greater opportunity for social interaction. But when we interact online we seem to forget that there are other human beings on the other end of that blog post or comment string. Just as we desire to be treated kindly when we go to the store, or hang out with our friends at home, or interact with our coworkers, in the same way we desire to be treated online. Commenting in light of this reality can greatly change what we say or even how we say it. Being snarky at the writer of the post or the other commenters becomes taboo when we work to be kind to one another and value everyone's experience on the site.

Be Sincere
In the same way we desire to be treated well we want people to be real. No one likes the liar or the snake, always second-guessing their every move and never trusting a single word. The internet allows for an extra layer of anonymity (at times) leaving some to think they can say whatever they want (even if it's false, borrowed, stolen, or just plain insincere). But anyone who keeps up with news online can readily tell you that nothing is ever private here. So, if you're being insincere with your remarks, borrowing other people's words and passing them as your own, or just plain lying, you're going to get caught, sooner or later.  Let's all be sincere. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Quote your sources. Have an opinion, for sure, but don't hide behind layers of sarcasm and mis-direction.

Other Guidelines
The DesiringGod.org comment guidelines go on to list several other best-practices that I thought were worth mentioning:
  • Stay on topic.
  • Be coherent.
  • Limit the length of your comment to 300 words or so.
  • Only link to items that are relevant.
  • Post your own work.
  • Don't self-promote for the sake of self-promotion.
  • Don't respond to provokers.
So, next time you're commenting on a blog think for a moment about what and why you're saying it! And for goodness-sake, have an opinion!

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