Saturday, May 17, 2008

Comment Challenge Day 11: writing a comment policy

Day 11 of the Comment Challenge involves writing a comment policy. I was congratulating myself that I already had done this. But when I reviewed the information I have written about comments, it is more of a 'how to' as opposed to a specific policy.

A conversation getting out of hand
The idea of a comments policy is one that has resonated with me over the last few days as a result of a conversation that was developing last weekend around a post that I wrote about the online behavior of health professionals. I wanted to discuss how we as health professionals should behave in a professional manner in the online context, but the conversation looked like it might disintegrate into a series of personal attacks on a specific person.

I was not at all sure how to deal with it because whilst I did not want to interfere with the freedom of speech, I did not want my blog pulled into other people's arguments. I also did not want my blog to get a reputation other than the one I am trying to build for it as a place for friendly learning and discussion.

I have chosen not to moderate comments because I believe it adds a barrier to commenting. And the vast majority of the time, the comments on this blog are very polite and constructive. But a policy will help me when dealing with difficult situations in the future.

Ideas for my policy
I like the comment policy used by Lisa Barrett, a midwife whose blog is called 'Homebirth: a midwife Mutiny'. She writes

I genuinely welcome your comments, whether you agree with my posts or not. Debate is healthy and we can all learn from it.

However, comments that are plain rude, demeaning or inciteful are going to be deleted pretty sharpish.

There are plenty of futile flame-wars over the Internet, where everybody wants to be heard but nobody wants to listen. This blog will not be joining them.

My policy
My policy will be based on Lisa's policy and include a few extra clarifications taken from Lorelle VanFossen in her post 'Does your blog have a comments policy?'.

In view of last weekend's events I have written this policy as a reminder to me about my online behavior as much as anything.

I have added my new policy to my information page - what do you think?

Image: 'self explaining addiction' procsilas


hbacmama said...

Handing over the chocolate.
Nothing much to say, I have been slammed pretty hard before in the comments area. I'm sure it will happen again. I like your policy, I was told that deleting 'others comments that disagree' was cowardly.
I just walk away and let it stand. There are some things that one just shouldn't even bother to try and set straight. It isn't worth the effort.
As always... I love coming to your site. Makes me dream about all those midwifery plans I had growing up!

Sarah Stewart said...

I do think you have a point and I am still mulling. I don't know, my policy may change. And looking back over the last 10 days or so, there has been some heated but constructive discussion and I don't want to interfere with that.

I walk away if the comments are on other blogs but do I want those sorts of comments on my blog? I'm still not sure. Having said that, I was advised to ignore some comments on my blog that had the potential to get our of hand and I think this has stopped the rot, so to speak.

So long story short, I think this policy may evolve as time goes by and my responses to comments will vary considerably on what/how is being said.

infomidwife said...

Hi Sarah,
as you know I have been following this story. The lesson I have learned is that sometimes it is better to read the comments from other blogs to keep up with what is happening, however if I do not agree in principle with the blog I will not make comments. I have learned to trust the gut instint when it says let it go! so there are certain blogs I will not comment on for precisely what has happened to you. You may consider this cowardly but for me it is called self preservation. I enjoy your blog and I do not think that this will have any impact on you, except get you a wider readership. Go midwife!

Christine Martell said...

Your comment policy got me thinking about respect. I don't allow people to attack others in my training classes, so I think it wise not to allow it on your blog. Your niche can raise strong feelings, so your comment policy acknowledges it subtly, yet sets a boundary. Seems like a good start, and like you say, can evolve over time.

Sarah Stewart said...

Thanks, infomidwife. If nothing else during this Comment Challenge, I have learned the importance of keeping my big mouth shut. Whether I do it well or not remains to be seen.

Christine: respect is key to how we behave and a principle I must remember to hold on. Sadly, in some areas that is not be practiced with the effect of driving midwives into a closed blogging environment.