Blogging Courtesy

Why I think people should use some common courtesy on the Web.

Maybe I’m old fashioned or naive, but when I visit someone’s blog and read what they have to say, I would never consider posting a nasty comment that belittles or insults the author or another commenter.

But apparently, I’m among the minority. People will say anything they like in the comments, no matter how rude or crude it is. They use foul language, they insult the author of a post in no uncertain terms, they do their best to make it clear to other readers just how stupid they think the post’s author or another commenter is. I believe they do this for kicks and to make themselves seem more important. But what they really do is show how little self control and maturity they have.

Your Blog is Your Living Room

Here’s how I see it: A person’s blog is like their living room. By putting it on the Web, they’re opening the door for visitors. They share their opinions in their blog posts. They open comments to get feedback from visitors, to start discussions about the topic. Visitors can come and go as they please, they can participate in discussions by posting comments, they can share their insight to add value and help others learn or see another point of view.

I would no sooner post an insulting comment or perpetuate a heated argument in a blog than insult my host in his home.

If I read something in a blog that I don’t agree with and I want to comment to present my point of view, I’ll word my comment carefully as not to be insulting. This is how mature, educated people start discussions, the way ideas are shared in a friendly, non-offensive environment. This is how we learn from each other.

(A perfect example on this blog is the incredible string of informative comments for the post “Podcast Playlists No Longer Play Continuously.” I posted my solution to a problem and dozens of other people came forward with their comments and solutions. We all learned from this.)

If I find something in a blog so offensive that it makes me angry, I will simply stop reading that blog. Let’s face it: there are millions of blogs out there. Why should I waste my time reading the ones I don’t learn from or enjoy?

Bloggers Have a Responsibility

Bloggers, of course, have a responsibility. Allowing rude, insulting, and offensive comments to remain on their blog only invites more of the same. It’s like allowing the riffraff of the Web to take over your living room.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about at least one female blogger being threatened on her blog, in other blogs, and by e-mail. The threats are nasty and explicit, and to an intelligent person, would seem to be the work of deranged minds. They’re certainly not funny and, if taken seriously by the authorities, would probably lead to arrests.

My question is: how could a blogger consider himself responsible to the blogging community by allowing such comments to appear and remain on his blog?

The comment feature allows moderation. It makes it possible to clear offensive comments from a blog — like wiping dog crap off the carpet in your living room.

You might call this censorship. I don’t. I call it keeping things under control, respecting your fellow bloggers and visitors, taking responsibility for what goes on in your living room.

I Keep My Living Room Clean

I’ve had offensive comments appear on this blog. Some have been directed at me, others have been directed at other commenters. The comments were removed as soon as I saw them — normally within a few minutes of being posted.

But it bothers me that they appeared in the first place. That people can’t embrace the value of the blogging community and participate in discussions as mature and responsible adults. That they spend more energy typing in verbal abuse than actually thinking about what they’ve read and how it might apply to their lives — or not. That they’re willing to waste more time typing in a nasty comment than just moving on to a Web site that’s more in line with their own personal taste.

One thing’s for sure; their efforts will always be wasted here.

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