Commenting guidelines

Gina Trapani of the blog Lifehacker has written an informative tutorial called Lifehacker's guide to weblogs comments. Go read the whole thing and let us know - do Orange Politics commenters follow this guide?

These are the main points:

  • Stay on topic
  • Contribute new information to the discussion
  • Don't comment for the sake of commenting
  • Know when to comment and when to e-mail
  • Remember that nobody likes a know-it-all
  • Make the tone of your message clear
  • Own your comment
  • Be succinct
  • Cite your sources with links or inline quoting
  • Be courteous
  • Don't post when you're angry, upset, drunk or emotional
  • Do not feed or tease the trolls


I came across these yesterday and bookmarked them thinking "these would be great for OP." Thanks so much for posting this, Brian. I strongly encourage people to follow the link to read the complete suggestions. Let's talk about whether and how we should implement these here at OP.

I know I have been a violator myself...

But aren't all OP posters angry and emotional by nature? Who among us would be allowed to post?

I think those are good general guidelines for any communication, be it blogging, talking, writing, or smoke signals.

I've found OP to be remarkable in terms of the quality of commentary. Sure there are some gratuitous shots here and there . . . and plenty of comments that don't technically further the discussion . . . but on the whole, I'd say OP seems aligned with these guidelines 95% of the time.

And that other 5% . . . well that's fun and interesting too. After all, we're not just discussing issues, we're also building community. Some people are funny, some are angry, some are smart-asses, and some are just plain nice in every way. I like that diversity . . . and I think the management does a beautiful job keeping things on track.

So in sum, I'd say . . . all is well.

Well put James!

James is right. This seems like a good place to suggest you correct this typo "Try to criciticize ideas instead of people. In other words, play nice!" in your guidelines.

Very excellent proofreading, Mr. Sherman.

Done, and thank you.

Getting progressives involved in local politics is still my goal for OP, so my concern is that the large volume of comments by a small number of people is not helping with this intended purpose. While it may be fun and even productive for politicos to hash issues out together here, I wonder how appealing this is for newcomers to the site who might be considering sticking their toes in the water.

Ideally we could strike a balance...

When I first came to OP it took some time to figure out what was going on, as the site is geared more towards those who ALREADY have an understanding of local politics. The back and forth between "personalities" wasn't a distractor though. If anything, I think more depth in the original post or good FAQs about key issues would help draw in more newcomers.

That's my take after one year on OP.

My guess is that many lurkers don't post because they have been socialized not to talk about controversial things in public. I guess too that most people don't want to go on record saying something that is damaging or wrong.

I'm not sure that extra information in initial posts would draw in more newcomers. Dan (remember him) gave lots of information and often covered all the bases---sometimes (certainly not always) there was little left to say.

I would like to see more women post on OP. Ruby, any data on the male:female commenting ratio on OP?

"The purpose of is to encourage residents of Orange County, NC to get involved in their community by offering education and perspectives on local and regional issues."

You seem to be gathering feedback from newcomers to the site. As I fit that into category, I will share a few observations.

I encourage you to publish the site's goal boldly on the top of each page. I found it via the "About Us" button to the right on the front page. The goal gives the reader the immediate emphasis on "getting involved" by hearing a variety of perspectives on local concerns. This purpose could get lost in the sheer delight of reading the verbal brilliancy of the contributing writers.

It would also be helpful for me, as a newcomer, to have you clarify the context of your own comments. Are you commenting as owner/mediator, or are you commenting on a thread as a participant? For instance, a preface of "Ruby as participant" equalizes your words with others, as one perspective on a multi-faceted issue. "Ruby as mediator," on the other hand, holds the group to a code of behavior, hopefully published somewhere. (is it?)

Which brings me to wonder about your threat of censoring Wayne's comments. Within the context of that thread, it seemed rather random. Perhaps it came from a long-history: I don't need to know. It did, however, give me pause when considering (as you say above) "sticking my toes further in the water."

PS As I share a unique last name with my husband, I do not want my OP posts to show up in gooogleese, and hence leave it off my comments.

I can be reached at laura at butter1234flites dot com (without the numbers).

While OP is a place for the public to gather it is also rather like Ruby's living room. Because she works so hard to keep OP going and pays for it's existence we are all still guests on OP. We do not have absolute rights here. Thus the term "censor" doesn't really apply at OP, IMHO. In a truly public place owned and maintained by MANY people we could see controlling of ones comments as a form of censoring. Yet on someone's personal blog (living room) we should expect the host to make the final call on what is a fair comment and what is not. If the readers and commenters want more public control over OP and want to determine what is a fair comment and what is not they should do one or more of the following.
1) Get a personal blog and write on it, OFTEN
2) Make a denotation to the upkeep of OP, work like writing a guest post, money, etc.
3) Lobby you local government to create a place like OP that we can all literally own.

So please - stop accusing Ruby of censoring comments. This isn't really happening. OP is only ONE place on the web. Get a blog, write whatever you want on it, come here to OP and link to you free speech. Until we all do the same amount of work making OP happen we don't have right to do what ever we want here.

The above comment is my opinion.

The title OrangePolitics indicates to me that it is more a public forum than a "personal" blog. That said, kudos to Ruby and the other administrator(s), if any exist.


Just putting a plug in for those who use this site to help support it. We can all pitch in a few dollars to help pay for this, just like we do with public radio!

Regarding those who prefer not to use last names in postings - I do find it amusing that Ruby only seems to call people on it when they disagree with her position on the issues being discussed.

Personally, I feel that requiring everyone to post his/her full name only serves to homogenize the exchange since some of us in the public eye would prefer expressing our personal opinions without having to be put "on the record."

However, if that's the way Ruby wants to play it, I'll stop adding my two cents.

Steve, if you look at the examples I gave you, you'll see that I'm not the only person who has asked someone to reveal their identity. The tipping point is usually when someone gets quite involved in a discussion and people start wanting to know who they're debating with. It's especially helpful when your name is similar to another participant (like Steve Sherman) and neither of you has pointed out the distinction.

And you are continuing to comment here without your full name, so obviously no-one's stopping you. Some people may be less likely to listen to anonymous commenters.

Laura asked a good question about "Ruby as participant" vs. "Ruby as mediator." I generally post as "Editor" when I am speaking officially for the site, but lately the line has blurred. I felt that people weren't observing the distinction and so I stopped as well. I can go back to being more consistent about that if y'all find it helpful.

Ruby--Studies of internet lists, comments on blogs, etc, typically find that most of the commenting is done by a small portion of the reading community (the same is often true in face-to-face meetings, classes, etc., of course). 'Lurkers' can learn a lot just by reading. I find the discussion here is at a very high level of awareness of town politics, which I'm sure many find intimidating. I personally am the sort who often puts his two cents in anyway, which I sometimes regret. Virtually all teachers wring their hands about getting the 'quiet ones' to participate. At least teachers can announce that class participation counts in the final grade. You do not have any comparable mechanism to get 'newbies' or 'lurkers' out of their shell, so I think you should probably just go with the flow. When all is said and done, there is a real diversity of opinion expressed on this site, so I think it's working well enough.

Steve Sherman (NOT Steve S.)

I really appreciate Mark Chilton's willingness to participate under his name and to honorably put some of his thoughts "on the record".

Steve Sherman, that's it!

Ruby should offer free electrons to each person that participates. Post a good comment and get three electrons for free!!!

I just came across this interesting troll management tool: the troll cap (like a dunce cap). I can only imagine this further inflaming people here on OP, though.

Also there was some good discussion of these issues at a conference I just attended but I missed the session :( (I have a good excuse, my friend was moderating a different panel at the same time). Here are the notes from "Us and Them: A Blog Conversation Survival Guide."

I think we need to look at this.


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