Thursday, April 17, 2008

Guidelines for comments

The primary criterion I use for approving and rejecting comments is how interesting the comment is. Mostly how interesting the comment is to me personally, although I do try also to interest my readers.

I'm right up front about one point. You don't have any freedoms or rights whatsoever on my blog other than the integrity of your text; you have only the privileges I grant you. If you want the freedom to say anything you please, get your own blog. The only unconditional right I grant is to the integrity of your text: I'll either publish your comment precisely as written or reject it entirely. (Note that Blogger, unlike Wordpress, does not permit editing comments, including my own.)

On the other hand, I do not assert any demands on you the reader: You are under no obligation to believe what I say, agree with me, take me seriously or even read me. The only demands I make are that if you quote me, quote me accurately and preserve the in-context meaning, and, of course, cite me properly.

You're may comment and do nothing more than call me a undereducated poo-poo head. Unless it's completely illiterate, I'll publish at least one such comment, and usually a few, but abuse bores me fast. I get your point; if you think I'm that dumb, stop reading the blog. SIWOTI syndrome is a losing game for everyone. Let it go, move on.

(You may, of course, tell me what a great guy I am. Praise is endlessly fascinating.)

There are some subjects I'm not interested in discussing. If you want to propagandize the merits of genocide, slavery, torture, racism, sexism, etc. do so elsewhere. Likewise, I'm not interested in patent lies, whether or not you yourself know you're lying.

This is a blog, not an academic philosophy journal. I very rarely write with complete rigor, because complete rigor is boring. On the other hand, I've been programming computers for thirty years, I'm capable of as much rigor as anyone could possibly demand. If you think my argument is insufficiently rigorous to be persuasive, you need but ask for clarification.

Criticize what I actually say, not what you think I mean. I say what I mean and I mean what I say. If you cannot substantiate an interpretation with a quotation, then you're probably on the wrong track.

Things will go more smoothly if you grant me ordinary charity.

If there's one dictionary meaning of the words I use that makes no sense at all, and another that does make sense, you can pretty much conclude that I'm using the sensible meaning. If I explicitly define a word, then I always mean the explicit definition. If my explicit definition is clearly contradictory or completely unrelated to all the dictionary meanings, you may have cause for complaint; otherwise I'm not interested in trivial semantic quibbles. You're always welcome to ask for clarification.

If a categorical statement makes no sense as a universal but does make sense as a generalization, I usually mean the generalization. Again, you're welcome to ask for clarification.

If you want to do more than just call me dumb, you need to make an actual argument.

I'm entirely unimpressed by all authority and expertise: even Stephen Hawking has to tell me why he thinks black holes radiate. You may use another's argument, but you'll have to actually reproduce the argument itself, either by quotation or summary supported by quotation, and cite the source. (I don't have access to a university library, so I prefer internet citations where available. Project Gutenberg has a lot of the philosophical canon, so that's a good place to start.) In the same sense, I'm not impressed by the assertion, even if true, that my beliefs contradict the majority opinion of philosophers, scientists, politicians, pundits, or anyone else. If I disagree with them, then I think they're wrong. I could be mistaken, but you'll still have to argue the point itself to persuade me.

Once you've made an argument, it's made. Repeating an already-made argument is boring.

Keep comments relatively short, to the point and on-topic.

If you have a longer comment that addresses multiple points or covers several of my posts, or if you don't want your work buried in comments, you have a couple of better options. You can create your own blog, publish your criticism there and bring it to my attention, either by email or in a comment. I will most likely link to your post and respond to your criticism. Alternatively, you can ask that I publish your criticism here as a post. I'll probably do so, subject to ordinary editorial standards of form and intellectual integrity.

I myself don't like to bury elaborate rebuttals in comments, so I'll either ignore long comments covering multiple points or create a new post and link to the comment.

I typically don't reproduce comments in full as posts, but do remember that by commenting here, you're giving me a non-exclusive copyright (required to publish your comment at all). If I do reproduce your comment, I will, of course, cite the original.


  1. Is there some way of placing a quote box around the comments of another person, that I have not picked up on when posting here? In the past when I have quoted someone, I just put quotation marks around their comments. If there is a way to put quote boxes around their comments instead though, that makes the exchange a little easier to read and follow.



  2. Brian, I think the <blockquote> tag is what you're looking for. (<blockquote>quoted text</blockquote>)

  3. As far as I know, Blogger does not permit the use of the <blockquote> tag in comments.

    I usually use italics to mark longer quotations in comments.


Please pick a handle or moniker for your comment. It's much easier to address someone by a name or pseudonym than simply "hey you". I have the option of requiring a "hard" identity, but I don't want to turn that on... yet.

With few exceptions, I will not respond or reply to anonymous comments, and I may delete them. I keep a copy of all comments; if you want the text of your comment to repost with something vaguely resembling an identity, email me.

No spam, pr0n, commercial advertising, insanity, lies, repetition or off-topic comments. Creationists, Global Warming deniers, anti-vaxers, Randians, and Libertarians are automatically presumed to be idiots; Christians and Muslims might get the benefit of the doubt, if I'm in a good mood.

See the Debate Flowchart for some basic rules.

Sourced factual corrections are always published and acknowledged.

I will respond or not respond to comments as the mood takes me. See my latest comment policy for details. I am not a pseudonomous-American: my real name is Larry.

Comments may be moderated from time to time. When I do moderate comments, anonymous comments are far more likely to be rejected.

I've already answered some typical comments.

I have jqMath enabled for the blog. If you have a dollar sign (\$) in your comment, put a \\ in front of it: \\\$, unless you want to include a formula in your comment.