Well, our e-mailboxes are full, and the results are clear: No one is happy! It seems like for one reason or another, everybody is upset about the comments section these days. Some people want us to ban a few perennially controversial commenters, others want us to stop deleting their "entirely tame" comments, and still others want us to shut the whole thing down entirely, possibly to replace it with an edited letters column. That last option sounds potentially appealing, but if possible, we'd like to keep the comments around. Because when comments threads really work, they offer one of the few genuinely unique pleasures of the internet, a dynamic conversation that can't be replicated with overly edited content. However, the threads haven't really been working quite that well so far. Because of generally good experiences in the past, we've probably been a bit too lenient with our moderation here, and have erred on the side of inclusion even when it has allowed a few notable threads to descend into name-calling and blatant trolling. There is probably no way of avoiding annoying or useless comments altogether, but maybe putting a few policies into writing can help a bit with our signal-to-noise ratio.
So starting today, the following commenting rules are under effect:
1. Comments which include ad hominem or abusive attacks on writers, commenters, or figures featured on the site will be deleted.
2. Comments which are racist, sexist, or otherwise offensive will be deleted.
3. Comments which stray too far from the topic at hand (especially when of a promotional nature) have a very good chance of being deleted. If you want to share a link, send it to Dan or myself, and maybe we'll post it. Otherwise, it better have something to do with the post or resulting discussion.
4. Comments designed to start or prolong unnecessary, unpleasant, and/or just plain ugly arguments (i.e., trolling) will be deleted.
5. Commenters who repeatedly post comments that are deemed abusive in one of these ways will be warned via e-mail. If they continue to post comments of an unwelcome nature, they will be given a week's suspension. If a third warning is necessary, the commenter in question will be banned pending further review.
That's it for now, though we reserve the right to add new rules if and when they become necessary. Remember, debate and discussion are welcome, but is important that these arguments stay civil. If you have any questions, feel free to ask below or via e-mail.