Policy on comments

This blog‘s policy on comments is simple. Moderation is very light, and Orac relies on his community of blog commenters to regulate themselves (mostly). Even so, try to be reasonably civil, but also realize that discussions sometimes get rather heated and try not to take it personally when they do. That being said, there are certain behaviors that even as mellow a moderator as Orac will not tolerate.

First, though, let’s list things that frequently cause questions.

Three very important first things for new commenters to know

  • First comment moderation: If you’ve never commented here before, your first comment will automatically go into moderation, for approval by Orac. Approval can take anywhere from minutes to hours. If it’s night where Orac is when you post and he is slumbering away and resting his circuits, it might take considerably longer. Also, if you change the email address you use or if you mistype your name and/or email address, WordPress will treat you as a new commenter, and into first comment moderation you’ll go again! After your first comment is approved, your comments will thereafter appear immediately unless they have certain words in them or…
  • Too many links: If you have more than two links in your comment, it will automatically go into moderation, even if you’re a longtime commenter. This is a measure to cut down on comment spam, which frequently has lots of links. If the comment is not spam and the links don’t go to porno or something like that, Orac will approve your comment during his next moderation session.
  • Automatic comment thread closure: Comment threads remain open for 180 days, after which they automatically close to new comments. If you encounter a post that won’t let you comment, check the date of the post, as this will almost certainly be the reason. Orac instituted this cutoff to decrease comment spam and so that he doesn’t have to deal with random comments after very old posts.

Now, let’s move on to the sorts of comments that will trigger a reaction from Orac.

Comments that might get you banned (or, at the least, will result in Orac doing something):

  • Sock puppeting (commenting under more than one name or pseudonym). This is one of the only offenses that, when detected, will nearly always result in immediate banning with extreme prejudice.
  • Harassment, hate speech, or threats of violence. Depending on the severity, these will almost always result in a permanent ban, and, again, Orac is sole arbiter over what sorts of commenting and behavior fall under these categories. However, such speech is almost always already pretty obvious. Threats that are perceived as credible will be reported to the authorities, along with relevant e-mail and IP addresses from the WordPress log.
  • Racism, antisemitism, sexism, misogyny, and anti-LGBTQ bigotry. If your comments exhibit any of the above, there’s a good chance that Orac will take action. Usually, the first action will be a warning. At most, you’ll be allowed three strikes before a permanent ban. At most. Again, Orac will be the sole arbiter of what kind of comment qualifies.
  • Excessive insults or nastiness. One more time, Orac is the final arbiter of what constitutes “excessive.” Basically, if you start to get on Orac’s nerves or those of his longtime commenters, that will often be sufficient justification for action of some sort. Again, that action will usually first be a warning, with repeated offenses resulting in a ban.
  • Flooding a comment thread. At the risk of being too repetitive, Orac is the final arbiter of what constitutes “flooding.” Again, if you start to get on Orac’s nerves, that is enough justification for him to take some action. An extreme example is if your comments outnumber the comments of all the other commenters on a thread combined in a thread with more than 25 comments or so. However, action would likely be taken before a thread gets to this point, because as he has aged Orac is no longer as patient as he used to be with obsessives and trolls.
  • Repetitive misinformation, disinformation, and conspiracy theories. If you keep posting antivax and science denialist talking points, it might get on Orac’s nerves enough to take action, particularly given that comment sections can now affect Google rankings.
  • Comments that are nothing but grammar or spelling flames. These won’t get you banned unless you make a habit of them, but they will be deleted with extreme prejudice the moment Orac sees them. You try typing up 2,000+ word pearls of Insolence 3-4 times a week without the occasional (or not-so-occasional) typo, cut and paste error, or grammar flub. Orac does not have an editor, and commenters who want to be his editor sometimes get on his nerves. In any event, Orac fixes such errors as he finds them, either on his own or because someone pointed them out, after which he immediately deletes comments that are nothing more than grammar, usage, or spelling flames because he believes that such comments contribute absolutely nothing of value to the discussion once the error pointed out has been fixed.
  • Threadjacking. This is a behavior in which a commenter hijacks the comment thread to steer the discussion away from the topic at hand to an unrelated topic. Note that the term “threadjacking” does not describe a thread that, as many long threads often eventually do, organically drifts towards topics unrelated to the original topic of the post. (In general the longer a comment thread continues, the greater the chance of its drifting into unrelated areas becomes.) Orac has no desire to stop such “drift,” as it is the nature of blog comment threads and can serve as a fun way to build a community. In contrast, threadjacking involves perseveration whose end result is to to actively hijack the comment thread to be about a different, unrelated or marginally related topic. A threadjacking commenter (or commenters) will keep bringing up the same unrelated topic over and over again in an obvious (sometimes even comically strained) effort to get everyone commenting about that topic, rather than about the topic of the post.

In summary, any commenting behavior that gets on Orac’s cybernetic nerves enough will run the risk of his taking some sort of action to stop it, because Orac does not like commenters who get on his nerves or too much on the nerves of regular commenters who’ve been following the blog for years. This is his hobby, something he does for enjoyment, and anything that lessens that enjoyment too much or eliminates it, even briefly, might result in his taking action. That action can range from what is sometimes called “automoderation,” where a commenter’s comments always go to moderation but are (usually) approved after a few hour wait, to an outright ban. Both can be temporary or permanent, at Orac’s discretion.

Remember, this blog is not a democracy. It is a (mostly) benign dictatorship that has generally functioned well since December 2004, starting on the original version of the blog on Blogger. Also remember that it actually usually takes quite a bit to provoke Orac to take action against a commenter.

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