Ground Rules for Comments

Over the past few weeks, the comments in certain posts have started to follow a trend that I really dislike: One commenter or poster makes an argument, and then someone who disagrees with that position attacks the writer personally, rather than critiquing their argument. This has led to some argumentative threads full of name-calling and insults.

That’s not what I’m trying to cultivate here — and frankly, it’s my blog (shared), so I can cultivate what I want to. I have put a lot of time and energy into this blog, and my co-bloggers have as well. None of us want to see threads turn into name-calling contests. It’s time to end this trend. So, here’s MY ultimatum — as one of the owners and operators of this blog. Read it well, since you will all be held to it.

1. Comments are expected to reflect different points of view. Critiques of others’ positions are to be expected. But those critiques should be of the ARGUMENT, not the PERSON. No insults.

Acceptable: Your argument is wrong.
Not acceptable: Your argument is wrong, so you must be an idiot.

2. As a general matter, we’re all believers around here. Some more so than others. You don’t have to believe in the Church, but comments that suggest that all believers are per se unintelligent or uninformed are not welcome. If that’s you’re view, you’re in the wrong place — head on over to or similar sites for ax-grinding company.

Acceptable: I don’t believe Joseph Smith was a prophet.
Also acceptable: I don’t believe Joseph Smith was a prophet, because of Adam-God, Kinderhook plates, etc., etc.
Not acceptable: No intelligent person can believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet.

3. On the flip side, it is also unacceptable to call into question a commenter’s personal righteousness. Unless you’re a commenter’s Bishop or Stake President, don’t presume to call them to repentance.

Acceptable: I think that all church members should not watch R-rated movies.
Not acceptable: You are wicked and must repent because you have said that members may watch R-rated movies.

4. Other rules (unrelated to the problems with insults):

a. We’re not an ad agency. If you have something useful to say, and you’ve said it in your blog or your book, then go ahead and mention it. But don’t comment just to plug unrelated blog posts, books, and so on.

b. Keep it intelligible. That means keeping wacky acronyms to a minimum; writing in plain English; proofreading; spell checking.

5. These rules will be enforced by the blog admins — me, Gordon, Nate, Matt. I’m not 100% sure how we’re going to enforce these; as a general matter, I believe it will be a mix of deleting offending comments, warning offenders, and where necessary banning IP addresses.

6. These rules may be added to or modified as necessary. I welcome your comments and suggestions.

I have really liked the community that has formed around this blog. I hate to have to lay down the law, but I’m quite concerned that negative comments will destroy the thoughtful community that we have enjoyed here.

17 comments for “Ground Rules for Comments

  1. April 10, 2004 at 10:47 am

    You’ve got posting fixed! Neat. Ok, so that doesn’t say anything bad about you or give a reason that I disagree with you, but I don’t (I do think that silly, troll-like posts, ought not to be made, and if made, not posted multiple times).

    I’m not entirely sure about the proofreading and spell checking. My web browser doesn’t have either :)

  2. April 10, 2004 at 11:10 am

    Agreed, and my apologies (shout-out to Adam) for prior indiscretions on my part.

  3. Adam Greenwood
    April 10, 2004 at 11:47 am

    I can’t speak for everyone but a genuine apology undoes my sense of there being a wrong.

  4. April 10, 2004 at 11:50 am

    “So, here’s MY ultimatum”


    Not to rain on your parade, but I think such “ground rules” would be respected quite a bit more if there was some indication that you had discussed this with your fellow authors and/or site administrators and then released a combined authorship sort of post. A little less “Nelson: God’s Love is Conditional” and a little more “The Brethren: A Proclamation to the World”.

    Don’t take this personally by any means. I respect you and plan on making a serious effort to follow your advice given here. But I’m sure others would be more inclined to follow your lead if your lead was coming from more than just yourself.

  5. Adam Greenwood
    April 10, 2004 at 11:55 am

    I support Kaimi’s groundrules. He has crystallized them from an ongoing discussion we’ve been having.

    I should also note that neither Kaimi nor the other administrators have exercised any serious control without consulting the rest of us, sometimes at length.

  6. Adam Greenwood
    April 10, 2004 at 11:57 am

    Note also that these rules are set in stone. If discussions of the ‘Joseph Smith was not a prophet’ variety become too frequent, I for one would prefer a change in rule.

  7. Adam Greenwood
    April 10, 2004 at 11:58 am

    Err, NOT set in stone.

  8. Adam Greenwood
    April 10, 2004 at 11:58 am

    Err, NOT set in stone.

  9. Kristine
    April 10, 2004 at 12:36 pm

    Um, Bob, that would be a Proclamation from the Brethren and Cistern.

    I am in favor of these rules, too.

  10. April 10, 2004 at 12:42 pm


    I actually referred to the Proclamation thinking of you, Kristine.

    I stand corrected.

    BTW- Do we HAVE to call them rules?

  11. Adam Greenwood
    April 10, 2004 at 12:49 pm

    I was hoping to call them SOTSIFR (Statements Of Things Semantically Indistinguishable From Rules), but then I realized I would violate the rules.

  12. April 10, 2004 at 5:27 pm

    Well, I like ’em.

    “Good fences make good neighbors. Good neighbors make good fences.” …and all that sort of thing.


  13. April 11, 2004 at 1:09 am

    As mentioned, little happens on the blog that hasn’t been discussed among the bloggers–sometimes ad nauseum. I’m all in favor of these “guidelines.”

  14. Ben Huff
    April 11, 2004 at 2:15 am

    There’s very little in these SOTSIFR (see above) that shouldn’t be obvious! Hence, perhaps, the fact that the blog has run for months now without needing these to be stated overtly.

    I have only an inkling of what discussions these may have sprung from, but I don’t think they should require any discussion to justify them. I completely support them!

  15. April 11, 2004 at 3:02 am

    Thank you, Jim. “Guidelines” was just the word I was looking for…

  16. April 11, 2004 at 8:49 am

    Just a quick test. I’ve been right clicking and then opening comments in a new tab, rather than letting the software open them in a new window, and I was just checking to see if just a normal left click would result in the system cookies working right.

  17. April 12, 2004 at 3:38 am

    Those are reasonable and workable guidelines, Kaimi. I think steady growth of “the T&S Community” makes some type of rule posting and enforcement necessary sooner or later.

    See Gresham’s Law of Blogging: Bad bloggers drive out good bloggers, unless good admins drive out bad bloggers first.

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