I like to ask folks for feedback. One of the things I have to decide in the next few months as I move We Are Respectable Negroes forward is what to do about an official commenting policy.
When I started We Are Respectable Negroes I wanted to create a salon of sorts where different people could talk about topics and issues that are not receiving due attention in the mainstream media. Consequently, there is much complexity of thought and opinion surrounding the various issues addressed on this site. We talk about race, politics, popular culture, history, academia, and other issues of both private and public concern. Sometimes these exchanges can become impassioned. However, they should still be grounded in mutual respect, intellectual honesty, and rigor.
I also decided to have a relatively relaxed policy towards comments and posting. I have chosen to leave the option available for folks to post anonymously for example. I also do not require OpenId or registering in order to comment here on WARN. I did this so that new folks could feel free to contribute without being unduly hindered. Blogger's software is also not very robust in the options it allows for comment moderation. Consequently, this choice was a practical one as well.
I have a few questions--especially for those of you who read WARN but do not comment--this is also a chance for lurkers to introduce themselves as well.
Is the current tone of the comment section encouraging or discouraging you from participating? Are there issues you would like to discuss but feel that your point of view would be dismissed, subject to bullying, or otherwise rejected prima facie by other posters? Is there anything I could do as an administrator to make you more likely to chime in?
We have a nice group of folks who always comment. My goal is to broaden that community as much as possible, while still allowing for civil discourse. As we broaden the conversation, out of necessity we are going to have to ensure that some basic rules of order, politeness, and common sense are stated plainly for those new arrivals.
At some point, I am going to have to write a more formal commenting policy. For now, here are my principles going forward here on We Are Respectable Negroes. Please feel free to make suggestions.
1. Don't be impolite. Please be respectful of the other commenters. The goal here is to have a robust conversation. WARN is not a "chat site" or place to "try to get your name up" by "owning" other people. This site is also not an opportunity for you to blog by proxy. If you want to share your talking points, propagandize, write a treatise, or free ride, you should start your own web project. If you would like to offer up a guest post please email me and we can talk about your proposed idea.
2. Keep the conversation moving forward. Chime in on the topic at hand, relate it to other pertinent matters. Share some readings, links, or other material that could enlighten us. Conversations have a life of their own. That can be indulged without derailing the topic at hand.
3. Disagreement is welcome and encouraged. We Are Respectable Negroes is not an amen corner. However, if you cannot disagree without calling names, acting childishly, or generally being a jerk, then please refrain from posting. I am pretty flexible and pragmatic. Readers who have been here longer and have a track record get much more leeway than new arrivals. The rule still generally holds. Such is life.
4. I reserve the right to delete comments which are not moving us forward or that otherwise violate these very basic guidelines for civil conversation. I also reserve the right to ban repeat offenders. I have only done this on one occasion. I hope that I will never have to do so again. After talking to other people who have been writing online for much longer than me (and are much more successful at it), I am slowly coming to see the wisdom of occasionally pulling the weeds out of the garden in order to encourage growth and new life.
5. I write about the topics which interest me. I do not write for the approval of others or to otherwise please people. I enjoy learning from all the good folks who have found their way to WARN. However, I am not going to be subject to the whims of others who get upset because I do not parrot or mirror their political views, hobbies, or interests. As I always say, the Internet is a big place; feel free to start up your own project.
6. I believe in free speech. However, free speech is not a license to be rude, uncivil, harass, bully, or heckle others here on WARN. If this is your preferred means of interacting with people online it is not a good fit for We Are Respectable Negroes.
7. For now, I am going to leave the "anonymous" option available for those who would like to comment. However, I am going to be very robust in policing comments written under that category. I would suggest picking a name and using it for purposes of encouraging responsible dialogue where we can all learn by talking--and hopefully listening more--to each other.