TJP on Patheos Comments Policy

[Editor’s note: this comment policy was first posted and discussed — along with the Ignatian “plus sign” which is behind all of it — here.]

Here’s the basic theory behind our comments policy:

We want to allow all comments, especially including those that disagree with us or are critical of us — but we want even more to have a space that encourages real dialogue.

Put another way: if you’re more interested in standing on a soapbox and shouting than you are in actually talking to other real people who may disagree with you in good faith, you’re in the wrong place. If you get a little thrill of excitement when you get to tell someone why they’re wrong — well, succumbing to that temptation is where trolls come from. Don’t become a troll. We like you better as a person.

So, if your comments (either in tone, frequency, or content; examples below) are hindering the larger community’s ability to have a meaningful discussion, you’ll be warned (with a link to this policy), and then banned if necessary. We also reserve the right to delete without advance notice comments that are inappropriate, especially when they are ad hominem or involve a personal attack.

And, yes, comments will be evaluated solely at the discretion of the bloggers here. If that’s a problem, it’s a big internet, and we hope you enjoy having your own blog elsewhere.

Here’s some examples of of what we’re trying to avoid. This list is not meant to be exhaustive — if you find some novel way to derail conversation in the comments box, congratulations! We’ll moderate for that too.

  • Over-commenting or dominating a conversation
    If you are always the first to post, or if you reply to every single thread, or if you reply more than two or three times, or if you always have to have the last word — you’re starting to become the guy at the party everyone else tries to avoid having to talk to. Don’t be that guy.
  • Don’t be this guy.
    Image: XKCD’s “Duty Calls”

    Also don’t be this guy
    Sometimes people are wrong on the internet. You can’t always fix it. You definitely shouldn’t keep trying endlessly if the first attempts fail.

  • The leap to denunciation
    Don’t presume to know that someone else has bad motives — particularly, don’t presume that their motives involve heresy, lack of orthodoxy, or any other failure of fidelity or good will. It’s pretty much universally unhelpful; it amounts to pointing across the room and shouting “HEATHEN!” If you’re on the verge of attributing malice or bad faith to a writer or another commenter, step back, take a deep breath, and ask them a (respectful) question to help better understand what their motives are.
  • The too-long-to-read comment
    If you’re approaching or exceeding the length of the original post, you’re doing it wrong. You’re likely also going through a point-by-point refutation, which is, again, starting to make you that guy no one wants to listen to.

Updated on Sept. 15, 2014 to add:

  • Comments will automatically be closed to new submissions 7 days after the post was published. We may choose, depending on the state of the discussion and our availability to moderate, to close comments earlier or later on particular posts. If you wish to contact us about a post where comments have been closed, please email
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