Reader participation can be a valuable part of any blog, especially when the comments add value to the discussion. With the launch of Design Observer 3.0 this coming weekend, we introduce a new (and, we hope, improved) comments policy.
First, some basic things about reader comments. Only a few of Design Observer's articles are written with the explicit goal of soliciting comments. We publish pieces because we think people will enjoy reading them; if a good discussion starts, that's great, but not the primary goal. While good comments are always welcome, some of our best articles have generated very few comments. We've always said around here that if you want to get a lot of comments, you need a subject that (a) almost anybody can have an opinion on; or that (b) has within it a circular argument that can be sustained infinitely without resolution; or that (c) attracts at least one or two trolls
to really get (and keep) things rolling. If you get combine all three factors, you will get lots of comments
, without fail.
As is true elsewhere on the internet, only a tiny fraction of our readers post comments. We get tens and tens of thousands of site visits a week. An article that attracts a lot of comments may get 100 of them. That's a lot, but it still means that tens of thousands of people visited without commenting. Moreover, there seems to be no relationship between number of comments and overall site traffic.
But we've learned that reader comments are an important part of our site, with many visitors enjoying them as much as the original articles. So keeping the discussion as interesting as possible is to everyone's advantage. Here, then, are the new rules for comments at Design Observer.
Keep them short, to the point, and on topic
In our earlier days, we had a problem with visitors posting alarmingly long comments, and instituted an informal rule that no comment could be longer than the article itself(!). The advent of Twitter, among other things, seems to have inculcated the online community with a new sense of self-discipline. Nonetheless, try to say what you mean
as directly as possible, and then surrender the microphone to the next person. On the the other hand...
Avoid being carelessly, abruptly dismissive
Example: "This is stupid." End of comment. Or, even more typically, since this kind of offering usually comes with a hyperbolic kicker: "This is the stupidest thing I've ever read." Sorry, this kind of rude and lazy contribution does nothing to advance the discussion, and we intend to be quicker to delete them in the future. Now, in case you're wondering: will we be as tough on careless, abruptly positive comments? (E.g., "I love this!") Probably not. But no matter whether you are feeling positive or negative, if you are bothering to go public with your view by posting a comment, please enlarge on your position so other readers can agree or disagree more thoughtfully.
Please don't ask what the topic at hand has to do with design
If it's been posted on Design Observer, one of us thinks it has something to do with design. If you are still puzzled, refer to our basic position paper
on the subject. If you are still puzzled, avert your gaze and pray that the next posted article conforms more accurately to your definition of design.
Don't get personal, antagonistic or defamatory
Just don't. Offline or on, ad-hominem
attacks degrade any discussion. Attack the argument, not the person. Life is too short. If you can, why not be nice
Don't overtly self-promote or violate intellectual property laws
Again, this is just common courtesy. If you want to suggest a link to something you're involved with, send it to one of the editors so we can consider it for our Observed column.
Be patient as we try to reduce spam comments
You may have been startled to discover comments at Design Observer on subjects that don't seem to have much to do with the topic at hand: sex, generic drugs, sex, online poker, and sex. These are the results of automated programs that post comments on blogs for some presumably commercial purpose (although the mechanism by which these entities make their money often eludes us). While we try to take them down as soon as we spot them, this takes a lot of time and can still feel like a losing battle. To deal with this problem more efficiently, we'll be instituting some anti-spam procedures, including a captcha
-type test for new commenters.
Finally, consider signing your real name
At this point, online anonymity
is considered by many a time-honored right, and we won't try to deprive anyone of their right to comment under a nom-de-blog
. However, we've noticed as a general rule that signed comments tend to be more thoughtful, measured, and make for more rewarding reading. (Conversely, the most abusive comments are almost always anonymous.) We'd love to know who you are.
We've always reserved the right to take down comments but until now have done so very rarely. Going forward, we're going to look more critically at comments that don't meet these standards. We're convinced that our visitors share our admiration for good ideas well expressed. By improving the quality of our comments, we can make this a better experience for everyone.