Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Six simple rules for commenting on my blog

You may have noticed that, when you go to comment today, there's a note about comment moderation being turned on. I hate having to do that, because it slows down the flow of discussion (especially when I'm away from my computer for a while), but the number and degree of poor behavior in the comments the last few days told me it was time to slow the flow for a day or two (or more) until some people start behaving better.

Most of you are wonderful, smart, funny, and add so much to the discussion that other critics frequently express their envy about the quality of the comments here. It's not an understatement to say you guys are just as important as I am to what makes this place special, and often times more.

But there's been a boom in the overall number of comments lately, and with that has come people who either don't know the rules, or don't care, so after the jump, it's time once again to run through the things you should keep in mind before commenting:

Rule #1: Be nice. This is an opinion blog, and a place where people can and should argue passionately for their point of view. But there's a difference between arguing with passion and arguing with hostility. If you can't find a way to express your viewpoint without insulting other commenters, or getting strident and self-righteous -- say, equating your opinion with fact, and deriding other people for not seeing the truth of your words -- then either tone down your words until they're more respectful to other people, or don't comment.

Rule #2: No spoilers. There are many, many places on-line to read and discuss the latest scoop about who's dying, who's going into a coma, who's about to have sex with a ghost. This is not one of them. Here, we only talk about episodes that have already aired (and only aired here in the States, when it comes to Brit import shows like "Doctor Who"). No discussing stuff you've read on other sites, no discussing previews for upcoming episodes (which have become increasingly spoiler-y in recent years), no discussing the hot rumor that your second cousin's best friend's former roommate heard while hanging at the craft service table on "Private Practice." Anything I consider even vaguely spoiler-y gets deleted. Period.

Rule #3: No talking/asking about shows I haven't blogged about yet. I am only one man. I can only watch and write about so many shows in a given day. Sometimes, it may take me days or even a week to get caught up on certain shows I follow. Sometimes, I may just skip over an episode and come back with a post for the next one. Posting comments in, say, the "Chuck" thread to ask, "When are you going to write about 'House'?" is not helpful. I'll get to it when I get to it. Or I won't. And what's really annoying is when those questions then lead to lengthy discussions in the comments about the show I haven't blogged about yet (and, likely, haven't even watched yet).

Rule #4: No politics. Things got really ugly around here in the run-up to the election, particularly any time I would write about Tina Fey as Sarah Palin and everyone on both sides lost their damn minds. Given that we live in the world, and that many shows deal with current events, it's impossible for politics to never come up as a subject, but if you can't discuss it only as it relates to its use on a show, don't discuss it. Saying you find Fey's Palin impression funny (or not) is fine. Accusing the party you don't endorse of being socialist or fascist is not fine. If you can't relate your point to the show and only to the show, don't do it.

Rule #5: If you can't be bothered to at least skim all the comments yourself, don't comment. This has come up a lot lately in discussions of shows like "Lost" and "Battlestar Galactica," where the comments routinely pass the 100 mark, and sometimes edge close to 200. After the number of comments reaches a certain point, we start getting comments that begin with phrases like, "I don't have time to read all these comments, but has anyone thought about (a question that 12 other people already asked and answered)?" I understand that your time is valuable, and it can be a pain to go through all the previous comments, but it shows real disrespect to the people who already commented, and it's also really irritating for the people who actually do bother to read every comment.

Rule #6. What did I say about being nice? Given that most of the recent violations have been about Rule #1, it bears repeating. This shouldn't be that hard, but sometimes, it is. Talk about the shows, not each other. Period.

I'm going to leave the comment moderation on for the rest of today, and possibly overnight (even though it means everyone's "Lost" comments will have to wait for approval until morning), and then we'll see. I really don't like doing this, but it's either this or I start being much less reserved when it comes to deleting comments I feel are over the line.

So behave, everybody, and we can get back to the fun business of arguing about TV. Cool?

73 comments:

Granola Mom said...

Mucho respect to you for doing it this way. I don't go on to many other sites for that very reason: I don't want to read all the rudeness that goes on.

Nor do I want to know what's going to happen on my fave shows before it happens.

Thanks for keeping your blog a nice place to visit!

Andrew said...

Ooh, ass-kicking Alan? This should be fun to see.

gina said...

Thanks for keeping this a place where you can find thoughtful - and civil - discussion about shows that I love.

Anonymous said...

I don't have time to read all these comments, but has anyone thought about.. Kidding ;)

Kathie said...

Totally agree with the rules, I don't understand why so many come on these sites with a chip on their shoulder and just want to start arguements.

Last year I stopped watching the previews because they showed too much or gave the wrong impression of what will happen. I would rather just watch as things unfold. The no spoiler rule works for me.

LOVE this website, the best place to read and talk about all things TV!

Pandyora said...

Part of what makes this site great is the quality and civility of the comments, especially on long running serials like BSG. Thanks for keeping it that way, Alan!

After seeing the picture for this post, however, I am starting to worry about Alan's dog Wolfie...

Alan Sepinwall said...

After seeing the picture for this post, however, I am starting to worry about Alan's dog Wolfie...

I was debating between the T-1000 finger wag and a Dikembe Mutombo finger wag, and ultimately decided that T-1000 was more on topic, since I still write about "Sarah Connor Chronicles."

Anonymous said...

Alan : Internet Forums :: Dalton : Double Deuce

Alan Sepinwall said...

Alan : Internet Forums :: Dalton : Double Deuce

Hey, pain don't hurt.

Jin's english tutor said...

I was debating between the T-1000 finger wag and a Dikembe Mutombo finger wag, and ultimately decided that T-1000 was more on topic, since I still write about "Sarah Connor Chronicles."

For another week, at least.

Ant to quote Chief Wiggum, "If you don't show us, we're never going to learn."

I blame the damn Facebook.

dez said...

I realize it's more work for you, but I'd be fine with you keeping the moderation up for awhile if it means that the trolls who've been posting random weirdness here lately lose interest and move on.

Of course, I say I'll be fine with it now, but LOST hasn't aired yet, so I might be going a little nuts with impatience later on :-)

Nicole said...

Have you noticed whether or not the nasty comments have come more from Anonymous rather than posters with names? It's easier to snark when no one knows who you are and maybe requiring posters to register would reduce the nasty posts.

Just a thought.

Tracey said...

Would it be a violation of Rule #1 if, after someone wrote "I don't have time to read all these comments, but has anyone thought about...", I replied, "I don't have time to read your question, so I'm not going to answer it."? :^)

But seriously folks... thanks for trying to keep it civilized around here. I hate when the signal-to-noise ratio gets too low, as it does in many blogs. You run a good ship around here, and I'm glad you're taking the initiative to keep it that way.

Jordan said...

This'll keep the whiners in check. Just kidding, that's the other site.

Michael said...

rule #2

someone is making it with a ghost?

and when is the Mutumbo finger wag not the appropriate finger wag?
"Get these spoilers out Mutumbo's house. Now which ghost ghost wants to sex Mutumbo"

Alan Sepinwall said...

someone is making it with a ghost?

Fortunately, you haven't been watching "Grey's Anatomy" this season.

Aaron said...

Alan,

I haven't read all the comments or the blog post itself, but when are you going to review House?

:) Keep up the good work. It's a blast reading it.

Hatfield said...

If I ever had doubts about why I truly come here, the Dikembe Mutombo references and impersonation in this comment thread have answered them.

Seriously though, way to regulate. I've noticed lots of whiny comments and one genius who I'll take the "fan running on the field" approach to (I'm sure you know who I mean) in recent days, so this post is not all that surprising. I must confess, though, I enjoy it when you respond directly to a whiny fan, so I may miss that a bit...

Dan said...

Alan, when are you going to write about 24?!?

Kidding. Hopefully this post keeps the violators out. I think some of the posts with lengthy comments may dwindle now...as a lot of the comments were back and forths between two commenters arguing points.

That would be a good thing, and hopefully cut down on the "I don't have time to read all the comments..." comments.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Any time is a good time for a Mutombo impression. Anyone have a good YouTube link for Wilbon doing his? Or the one of the entire Rockets roster doing theirs?

Marty said...

Love the sight. I am a loyal reader of both your reviews and the comments. It is a great site for its intelligent, funny, and thought provoking commentary.

I was wondering about a word count on some of the comments. It has happened where one poster has a comment almost as long as your review. Seems excessive, and can turn me off to a discussion.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I don't want to discourage other people for being thoughtful and even going on at length. Sometimes, the comments show greater insight than my reviews, and I feel that only adds to the quality of the discussion. If you only want to see me ramble on, you can always feel free to scroll past the longer comments.

Brian said...

This is the best place for intelligent TV discussion. Well done, Alan.

Pamela Jaye said...

other site?

anyway,
gotta love a site where you can't even discuss the previews at the end of the show (and I'm serious - cause I've stopped watching then too - along with clips that people bring to talk shows. sometimes I skip em, and sometimes I just wait till after the show airs to watch the talk shows. hmmm... I think I have some Calista and Rob Lowe I haven't watched, come to think of it)

Bunch of weird posts in Asian characters last night. Sorry for the 5 edits yesterday (I saw a blogspot blog with a Preview button yesterday - will yours do that? probably too much work for such a rare problem)

I wish the anonymous people would just pick a name and stick it in. So we could call them something. With the amount of trouble it takes to sign up at your real column, I can see not wanting to enforce signup (if that's the case)

Does speculation equal spoiler? I have mixed feelings on that one myself.

Pamela Jaye said...

oh no. I just saw the preview button. additional apologies for yesterday.

Stylist Mick said...

I would have gone with the T-1000 liquid sword hands of destruction picture myself but to each his own use for scolding purposes.

dez said...

I'm kind of with Marty, not necessarily on a word count limit, but perhaps urging those who basically post their own reviews to post them elsewhere and then link to them here (some of your posters already do the link thing, so it's not unprecedented)? I don't mind long, insightful comments when they are responding to what you posted or what others have posted, but when it's obviously someone just taking advantage of your site to post their own reviews, it kind of bugs.

barefootjim said...

Here's a helpful hint to determine if someone else has already left the same comment you want to leave, but you don't want to read 100 posts: use your browser's in-page search functionality.

It's a quick way to see if somebody else has already beaten you to the punch.

Since I'm on the West Coast AND I time-shift, I have to do that a lot.

Taleena said...

Yay Alan!

Civility is a dying art and we need to encourage it. I *especially* appreciate the no politics rule - I am looking at you Treacher, I read you for politics not Alan.

BTW, I know you plan on blogging Cupid, but are you going to do anything else with some of the mid season shows like Kings, Castle or Ted?

TimmyD said...

Yeah, Alt-F (or Cmd-F for mac) works wonders for sifting through the comments. Maybe you can give people that tip on your more popular reviews Alan.

LA said...

Bravo. I really enjoy this blog in equal parts for Alan's review and for the intelligent commentary it inspires. I think, overall, it is one of the more polite active blogs on the net, but a little reminder tweak never hurts.

barefootjim - Thanks for that idea. I'm West Coast, too, so this will come in handy.

marenamoo said...

You and Maureen Ryan are the best TV journalists and reviewers on the web (I would include Matt Roush but he has disappeared from the web). Your insights and the resulting comments are always topnotch. I am sorry that you have to police your comments - Where is Miss Manners these days?

It helps that I love the shows that you review - Life, Chuck, Burn Notice.

Mo Ryan said...

I blame Twitter.

Thanks to Alan for keeping things so enjoyable here. I can tell you from experience, it takes a lot of work behind the scenes.

I could not agree more regarding this point: "But there's a difference between arguing with passion and arguing with hostility."

Many, many people were upset with a recent BSG episode. What was dismaying on my site was not their objections to the episode but the aggression and hostility with which they expressed their views. They had to prove that they were "right." Sorry, but "right" does not equal "loudest." Or "angriest."

Fortunately most people kept their heads. I'd rather turn off comments entirely than let a few very angry/aggressive people ruin it for everyone.

In any case, thanks again for posting these rules. I shall post/steal/link to them myself.

Michael said...

No need for impressions when you can have the real thing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POkyWhh3Ihw

Mutombo on a horse (which is apparently DM's idea of what regular life is)is golden. I can't imagine another phrase that would peak my curiosity in the way "Mutombo on a horse" might.

Matthew L said...

I'm going to leave the comment moderation on for the rest of today, and possibly overnight (even though it means everyone's "Lost" comments will have to wait for approval until morning), and then we'll see.

Which will mean lots annd lots of "I haven't read the comments yet, because they have't been posted, but has anyone thought about..." comments for Lost.

In any case, I completely agree with all the rules.

And thanks for providing us with a place where we can have some intelligent stimulating discussion about television. I realise it is a lot of extra work for you, and it really is appreciated.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Oh, Michael, thank you for that.

"What's the name of that store?"
"Pasta Pasta. It was named after pasta."

Alan Sepinwall said...

Oh, and here are the Rockets doing their Mutombo. Shane Battier's is, not surprisingly, the best.

Chris said...

Alan: Given the increasing popularity of your blog, and the consistency with which you post - have you considered maybe trying to commercialize it a little bit? A few banner ads here and there? You'd certainly deserve to make a few bucks from the effort!

Jennifer J. said...

Alan,

Thank you for restating all the rules. I hope it will smooth things out quickly.

You have a wonderful blog; I really enjoy reading it. I look forward to commenting more in the soon to be civil future. :)

Echoing someone else: thank you for giving so much of your time and yourself to this blog while we reap the benefits. :)

Cannot wait for Lost commenting. I'll have a question that I hope you see and are able to answer....

Devin McCullen said...

I have no desire to break the rules or ruin anybody else's posting experience. That said, I do watch the previews, and there are occasional times when I've been tempted to say something just because I can see the discussion going off on a fruitless path. The 2 times it happened (both LOST related, natch.)

1)The episode where Charlotte collapsed at the end, and you (Alan) assumed that she was dead. I saw her in the preview, so I knew she wasn't, and I don't really think they were trying to make us believe that she was - in danger, yes, but not dead. Would that really have upset you to find out?

2)After "316", there was speculation about what the next episode was going to be. Of course, from the preview, you knew it would be All Locke, All the Time. That time, I wound up posting "If you want to know what the next episode is about, go look at the title". But would anybody have been upset if I put up "Next Episode: Locke", which is all I wanted to do?

Again, I understand the reason for the no-spoiler rule, but there are times when I just feel that really basic info couldn't hurt. But I will obey.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Devin, in hindsight, those probably would have been okay, and I've likely done similar things in the past. But the preview/spoiler thing is such a slippery slope that I feel more comfortable keeping it as a hard-and-fast rule. I know someone like you can be trusted to use good judgment, but once I open it up even a little, then it becomes a flood, and I wind up being spoiled about things I didn't want to know about.

Stef said...

I love your blog, Alan, and I really commend you for keeping it such a friendly and positive place. I've sent many friends your way to read your great reviews and the many interesting comments. I first found your blog related to LOST, but as others have said you write about so many of my favorite shows that I keep coming back. And, thanks to your suggestions, I've discovered several shows that I wouldn't have watched otherwise. Thanks for all you do!

Anonymous said...

I love your site, but I hope this doesn't mean you expect me to be nice to all the shows you watch or the writers when they write a really crappy episode or claim to be a feminist when their writing goes against that.

Anonymous said...

BTW, love the no spoiler rule. I'm sick of Kristin at E just blabbing away spoilers left and right. She's a dolt sometimes!

Alan Sepinwall said...

Hey, if you've read my reviews of "Studio 60," or "Grey's Anatomy," or most of "Heroes" seasons two and three, you know that the "be nice" rule primarily applies to the other posters, not the shows we discuss.

Anita said...

Hey Alan (& Co.),

I read you blog daily (no pressure, Alan!). I rarely comment, as I find the discussion in the comments tends to touch on the points I'd had - and I don't want to be redundant. Sorry to hear there are Newbies who did not bother getting a "feel" for this place before going full-troll.

Double sorry for the additional work this gives you.

Not sorry for the thought of Allan kicking sum bootay!

Andrew said...

Even if some shows are better than others, given how spoil-tastic some shows previews are (ahem, BSG), I think weighing on the side of caution is better as far as spoilers.

But how much is too much caution? Is it fair to report that certain actors will be guest starring in future episodes? (I think that it is fair game and it isn't worth overthinking.)

Today's word verification is "saxedn", which I'm assuming is a contraction for "saxed in." It is defined as what happens when you can't leave your house because Branford Marsalis is playing saxophone outside your door.

groovekiller said...

Sorry for the extra work, Alan. Please do know that we do appreciate all your hard work and the white paint on the F5 key on my laptop is worn away looking for your recaps after BSG & Lost.

EOTW said...

Alan...Are my LOSTS posts OK? I tend to scribble thoughts down between the commercials and then post the whole thing along with my POV on each ep. You haven't had a problem with them in the post, so I hope I'm still good to go here. Thank you.

Alan Sepinwall said...

EOTW, to be honest, I'd prefer something more cohesive than the list of real-time reactions you had to the episode, but I also don't want to start introducing extra rules, and sub-rules and sub-guidelines for posting. The six (really, five) I introduced above seem more than enough for now, though at some point I might reconsider the Anonymous posting thing (since you can create your own handle without having to register or log in).

You have good things to say. Don't stress it too much. The point of all of this is to have fun while we talk about TV.

Anonymous said...

You can create a handle without registering? How do you do that?

Alan Sepinwall said...

One of the options under Choose An Identity is Name/URL. Just higlight that and punch in whatever name you want to use. You have to do it every time, but it makes it easier to distinguish all the commenters. Doesn't have to be your real name, just something distinctive.

Michael 8-) said...

Bravo, Alan!

You've become my go-to blog for TV stuff, and the annoying comments that violate the above rules are not only aggravating for some of us to read... but they add to the long list on comment-heavy entries.

Has anyone else noticed this recent surge in "troll" comments on blogs? I've noticed this problem on a few that I follow, and the blogs are on widely divergent topics, too.

It's kinda odd, but most folks are opting for some sort of moderation or registration to comment.

MCB said...

Alan, I'm sorry this has become necessary (largely because it's a drag on your time to moderate all comments). I just wanted to say thank you for taking the time to create such a great place for people who love TV to talk about it, and for taking the extra time to make sure it stays a great place.

And thank you for not extending the "be nice" rule to this season's "Heroes" or "Grey's Anatomy" :-)

dark tyler said...

I think you're all a bit too harsh on this year's 'Grey's Anatomy', to be honest.

Other than that, yay. Anything to bring down the spoiler-trolls.

todmod said...

Just another thanks to Alan for the forum - I rarely post but the comments here are as interesting as any site.

And you can't go wrong with the civility rule - I'm all for a wide range of opinions/views on the shows, but the "i'm right, and you're an idiot to think otherwise" attitude of some won't be missed in the slightest.

Girly said...

Reading your blog and the comments have become part of my ritual when I watch some shows now.

Thanks, Alan, for hosting this space online and for the time you spend on it. I welcome the moderation, especially since I am on the west coast, and read every comment before posting (which is exactly why I don't post much). Again, thanks!

RSR said...

Another big thanks to Alan!

This is my go-to site almost the minute I finish an episode of a show that you follow. Especially when it comes to Lost because for some reason no one in my dorm watches it and I love the insight I get from reading your reviews and all of the comments.

Even though I don't post very often, I really appreciate you keeping this a spoiler free, friendly place to discuss our favorite topic. Keep up the good work!

Adam said...

Zounds, I only recently broke my "lurker" status and posted on BSG. I believe I was nice! Silliness aside, I've long resisted the "blogesphere" as I tend to think its one of the intertubes' least bright children, yet the humor and intellect of this blog is not only a testament to Alan but to the community this has created. Keep up the good work Alan and fellow tv viewers of the interweb.

Pamela Jaye said...

This is my go-to site almost the minute I finish an episode of a show that you follow.

metoo.
There's often something I need to get off my chest, or just see if anyone else felt the same way I did about something.

With Mad Men it was more about the subtleties of the show. I often missed them, so it added a lot to come here and find them pointed up or discussed (or debated)

(I typed this all a few minutes ago, but an errant key combination sent me to Granola Mom's profile and my post to the stratosphere)

Thanks to Alan for keeping things so enjoyable here. I can tell you from experience, it takes a lot of work behind the scenes.

having moderated a chat room, a mailing list, and a message board at one time or other, I know this is true and add my kudos.

Zach Haldeman said...

Not that I think Alan should impose a rule against it, but it also kind of bothers me when people post comments on series they clearly don't like to begin with, especially when they do so repeatedly. It adds nothing to the discussion and just kind of brings everyone down. (For example, a certain commenter in the Chuck thread the other night, and I'm pretty sure I've seen that on the Lost threads too, but I do tend to skim those.)

The_Brain said...

It's like "Girly" & RSR totally read my mind.
I always come to the site after watching my shows. It's nice to her opinions and discuss what happened.

ps: Denny Duckett is a cylons

So Cal said...

Alan-

To be a bit redundant...Thanks for all you do with the blog!

I have been reading your blog for a couple of years now, and have picked up some shows (and perhaps Chuck, like i mentioned on that thread from the last episode, and you made my appreciation of deep, dense shows like "The Wire" and "The Sopranos" so much better with your great summaries

Also, thanks for treating us as peers here on the blog. You even answered a question i had concerning the last Wire episode about Slim...you went out of your way to ask a producer of the show for the answer!

Really appreciative and keep up the awesome work!

Craig Ranapia said...

Alan:

John Scalzi has a rather nice corollary to Rule #1: "A good rule of thumb is to comment as if the person to whom you are commenting is standing in front of you, is built like a linebacker, and has both a short temper and excellent legal representation."

And one small suggestion: Would it be possible to turn off the ability to comment anonymously? I don't know if anyone has noticed this, but I think there's a correlation between anonymity and toxicity.

Tracey said...

@Craig: Ah... thank you for mentioning John Scalzi. He became my hero with his Crazy Screechy Monkey post, which is really indispensible advice for anybody (author or otherwise) dealing with trolls online.

If you haven't read the Crazy Screechy Monkey post, run, do not walk, to this link:
http://www.scalzi.com/whatever/004739.html

Karen said...

Well, I HAVE read all the comments, and I know that others have already thanked you for being a great blogger AND expressed sympathy for your having to add work to your load for moderation comments, but I'm going to add my name to the list of those saying that.

I know that I did once get slapped for getting cranky about politics on SNL, but I've tried to be a good do-bee ever since. Of course, I know you were angry with me; just disappointed.

Kensington said...

I'd like to comment in favor of anonymity. I prefer it because I just don't like the idea of being easily Googled. The compromise is that I stick to the same moniker wherever I go, Kensington, and I behave as if it weren't anonymous. In other news, if I wouldn't post it under my real name, I don't post it under "Kensington."

Not all anonymous posters do so to hide behind craven behavior, and in my experience there's no shortage of obnoxiousness from those who proudly do it under their real names.

Kensington said...

Instead of "in other news," I meant to write "in other words."

Craig Ranapia said...

Kensington:

Fair points well made, but I'd note they're made by someone who (consistently) uses a handle -- as opposed to posting as A. Nonymous. I often disagree with you, but you're worth the effort. :)

Elena said...

Can see why you want to do this, hope it goes well. Moderation is a lesser evil than using one of those screener programs that scan for potentially objectional words. On a blog early this week, a glowing comment on a movie got rejected for containing "objectional content" which was totally mystifying to me. Only thing I could think of what that one or more of the words I used could be taken in a negative way, but I really couldn't figure it out.

Kensington said...

That's a fine distinction, Craig (handles vs. sheer anonymity).

And thanks.

Tracey said...

@Kensington: Not really all that fine of a distinction. Comments are more interesting when you have a sense of the person behind them, of the likes and dislikes behind an opinion, and you can't build that sense if the same name is used by a lot of different people. Nobody wants to read a comment and wonder, "Now wait... is this the Anonymous who likes Heroes, or the one who hates it, or the one who has never seen it before, or is this some new Anonymous I've never read before?"

April said...

Do you have an amazon wishlist or a paypal tipjar? You have really enhanced my enjoyment of The Wire, Mad Men, Deadwood, Freaks and Geeks, (complete with intelligent comments and strong spoiler policy), and it almost feels like I'm "cheating" to get this for free, when if you had a book or sold bubble bath, I'd have thrown you some $$ by now.

If not, then let me again just THANK YOU for spending far more time than you need to, in order to make this aspect of the web a more civilized and intelligent place.