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A few words to our new friends

Thursday, August 26th, 2010



Hi, this is Chris Satullo, WHYY’s executive director for news and civic dialogue; Dick has kindly lent me this space on the blog to make sure you see this message:

WHYY.org wants to welcome the many readers of Dick Polman’s “National Interest” who are new to our site.  Thousands of people nationally followed Dick’s blog every day at its old site, so we know that for some of you this is your first visit to our public media home.

At WHYY.org, we seek lively, robust and civil discussion of issues.

Civil does not mean “lacking passion.”  It does not mean “namby-pamby.”  But it does mean we’re looking for people to follow some simple rules of the road.

We think the NPR.org site does a nice job of explaining those rules, so let us quote from its commenting guidelines here;  just sub “WHYY” in for where the guidelines say “NPR”:

First things first: If you can’t be polite, don’t say it. Of course, we don’t want to stifle discussion of controversial issues. Some topics require blunt talk, and we’re not always going to agree with each other. Nonetheless, please try to disagree without being disagreeable. Focus your remarks on positions, not personalities. No personal attacks, name calling, libel, defamation, comments about someone’s mother, hate speech, comparisons to notorious dictators – you get the idea. And under no circumstances should you post anything that could be taken as threatening, harassing, bullying, obscene, pornographic, sexist or racist.

Don’t use obscenities –even if the word in question is often used in conversation. We’re not going to list the words we object to; you know what they are. Remember, this is a public forum and we want everyone to feel comfortable participating.

Anything you post should be your own work. You’re welcome to link to relevant content and to quote limited amounts from other people’s work with attribution and any associated copyright notice and consistent with “fair use” principles of copyright law. But that doesn’t mean you can copy and paste wholesale.

Please stay on topic. Think of it this way — if you hosted a book club meeting at your home, you wouldn’t want someone to show up and insist on discussing reality TV shows.

Rambling is the kiss of death. Keep your comments to 400 words or less. Generally, anything beyond a few paragraphs had better be very, very interesting to the larger community. We reserve the right to edit for brevity, clarity and other purposes.

Please respect people’s privacy. We love to learn about new and interesting individuals, but most people will not be happy to have their phone numbers or e-mail addresses published. Please do not share another’s contact information through NPR’s discussion threads or social networking features.

Do not “feed” the trolls. We encourage community members to report abuse by trolls. But we also ask that you not engage with trolls in the comment threads. Reacting to their provocations is exactly what they want.

Be yourself – and not someone else. Don’t post anything on the site posing as someone else. Impostors, look elsewhere for kicks.

You are solely responsible for the content you post. NPR is not responsible for the content posted by its users. We do not and cannot review all user content posted on NPR.org. However, we have the right (but not the obligation) to review, screen, delete, edit and/or move any content posted on NPR.org.”

Back to Chris again — A word or two about how our commenting software works:

A few of you said you experienced delays in seeing your comment post.  This is not because we are censoring.   We did put a block on a couple of IP addresses that were spamming our site, and a couple of you got caught up in that filter.  We believe the problem is mostly resolved now. Let us know if you encounter any more delays.

You’ll notice that our site allows you to give a thumbs up or thumbs down vote to an individual comment (as well as to give a star rating, one to five stars, to a story or blog post).

A few of you may notice that you are getting “thumbs down” votes on your comments numbering in the double digits. You  might want to take that as a signal you should begin shaping your posts more in accord with the NPR.org guidelines.

We’d urge other users of the site to continue to use that “karma” voting system to let any user who’s behaving badly know that others are paying attention and are not pleased. And, by contrast, to let people who make interesting contributions to the dialogue know that they are appreciated.

Also, a helpful tip: If you’re citing a fact or news report to support your opinion, it’s always a great idea to include a link to your source, so that others can check it out for themselves.

So have a good, rousing discussion. State your case with flair and passion.  But leave the personal insults out of it, and we’ll all enjoy the dialogue here a bit more.

Thanks, and I return control of this blog back to its rightful owner, Mr. Polman.


5 Comments

  • tom - wilmington, de says:

    Mr. Satullo,
    I used to read your opinion pieces in the Inquirer. Mr. Polman stated during a live chat that he never read the comments to his blog since he read a few years ago how some commented about his salary and job status. It would be nice if at times he did peruse the comment section if only to get the pulse of his readers and perhaps comment at some point on those who differ in view or challenge his assertions (like a fact check). It would be like a columnists commenting on the mail he/she receives. It might also educate some of his readers or perhaps hold him to a higher degree of intellectual honesty.

  • F. Inahoy says:

    The little thumb up/down buttons are a nice feature. Though my observation is that the are left/right buttons as opposed to civility buttons. But they do allow you to easily keep track of what you’ve already viewed, given that you can’t get a chronological list of the blog’s comments.

  • JimR says:

    Nigel, they are singing your song.

    • NigeltheMastiff says:

      JimR,indeed they are. I hope everyone duly notes it. But so far, most people have been relatively polite, don’t you think? (As an aside, I’m actually relieved that CD75 didn’t follow here with the hit-and-run comments.)

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