Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Making this Blog a Better Place

I want to be a better blogger, and I want this blog to be a better place. So let me put it out there: We have had more than our share of blow-ups lately, and I sense little resolution. It feels like our modest blogging community has become tense, on edge, as though we are all waiting for the next flame war to erupt.

Does it need to be this way? How can we lower the DEFCON level DEFCON around here? What would make this blog a better place? (And what do we mean by that?)

If we are to improve our blog, I believe the first step is to figure out our common goals. Although our reasons for contributing are likely not identical, we can surely find some common ground. The second step then would be to outline some ground rules, or some principles of etiquette, or some rights and responsibilities as readers and contributors... But however we choose to frame it, I feel strongly that our blog could benefit from a concrete agreement on purposes and expectations.

I don't want to dictate anything, but it often helps to start with a draft. So here are my own suggestions for our common purposes for the blog: To inform, to debate, and to learn about political issues--and to make this enjoyable. An overarching (and probably overreaching) aspiration would be to change the world, especially the United States, in some positive way through our efforts.

I feel like lately we've been doing a fair amount of informing and rather a lot of debating, but not so much on the learning--and I find the whole experience less enjoyable now than it used to be. And as for our larger aspirations, I suspect our readership and influence could be growing faster if we worked at it. Here are my suggestions of what we can do to work better toward could do more consistently to further these goals, in no particular order. [Note on terms: a "post" starts a "thread" that continues with "comments."]

To inform
* Link to sources to substantiate key assertions, especially primary sources if possible. Subsequent commenters can help out here
* Define unusual acronyms and obscure jargon words upon first use in each thread
* Give people's full names and titles upon first mention in each thread
* Recognize our global audience and specify US/non-US where there could be confusion
* Maintain all original text when editing an existing post: strike deletions and italicize additions. (The HTML tags are "s" and "i" respectively)
* Contract longer posts with the span id="fullpost" tag to keep more threads visible on the first screen

To debate
* Focus posts to a couple of key points
* Respond to the key points of the original post as part of your first comment in the thread
* Acknowledge salient points made by previous commenters before adding your own
* Acknowledge explicitly any mistakes or errors you have made
* Address comments more toward the issue than the individual. Try to dispute the argument rather than the source

To learn
* Re-read the entire thread before commenting, especially the initial post
* Treat all comers equally, regardless of party or national affiliation. Be open to points of view from across the political spectrum and around the globe
* Ask real questions more often than you pose rhetorical questions
* Where possible, approach ideas from a "yes, and" perspective rather than "no, but."

To make this enjoyable
* Be polite, of course!
* Respect one another, especially each other's education and experiences
* Assume the best. First request clarification for any remarks that appear to be senseless, egregiously erroneous, or insulting
* Express appreciation for interesting posts and comments
* Thank new contributors and welcome back rare ones. (Whichever of the five editors comments next on the thread can do this.)
* Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous [George Orwell's sixth and final rule from Politics and the English Language]


Raised By Republicans said...

I think this kind of blog management discussion is best conducted via email among the blog managers - i.e. in private.

Spotted Handfish said...

I don't think the discussion can be in private, RBR. As Dr S. rightly points out, the blog community needs to be involved, otherwise you'll have no agreement about blog behaviour.

Pombat said...

I agree with Dr.S and Spotted H - this is a discussion about the behaviour of the entire blog community, not just the management of the blog itself.

Dr.S - that post clearly took a lot of time and effort, and I just wanted to let you know that I for one appreciate that greatly :-)

I started coming here out of curiosity, to learn, then realised that I could also sometimes educate. I generally enjoy both, but as you say, we all need to respect our rights and responsibilities - and those of all others on the blog - for this to work pleasantly and for us all to want to return.

Raised By Republicans said...

I think this should be private because fundamentally, this blog is a space for the people who are posting the original posts to express themselves. We have frequent visitors but I do no think they have the same claim to "ownership" of this space. I will not discuss this further except by email with the other blog managers.

USWest said...

Thank you, Dr.S in being courageous to post this.

I do agree that we need to talk about this off-line. I have some things I'd like to share on this thread as well.

Spotted Handfish said...

Fair enough, RBR, although I'm not sure I agree with your reasoning.

Regardless I look forward to hearing the outcome of these discussions.

Anonymous said...

Generally I do not post on blogs, but I would like to say that this post really forced me to do so! really nice post.

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