Thanet Star

On topics and staying on them

When you post an item on a blog that has comments you start a topic for discussion. In effect you are the toastmaster. It seems only polite that should I visit your blog and join in that I stay on topic.

There seems to be a murphy-esk rule that dominates Thanet blogs that the topic is closed when the topic count passes 20. This "rule" and it's impact on our local blogging scene (one of the best local blogging scenes I know of) is an indictment of our current lack of ability to pull our collective heads from that place where the sun never shines.

Surely we can do better?

I would like to propose a pledge. To keep one's one comment on topic, to use the power that is ours as blog owners to encourage our guests to do likewise and when necessary to "remove weeds from the garden".

I know that there are some that would say that removing comments we don't like or that take things off topic is somehow an affront to freedom of speech. I would suggest that pissing in other peopleís comments is an affront to the very privilege of access to on-site commenting.

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; the right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.

What is absent from this statement is any indication that one has a right to anonymity or protection from the results of your expression of opinion. So while the inalienable right exists for you or I to hold an opinion it also exists that others may hold an equal and opposite opinion.

Additionally the right to be published where-ever and however you like does not exist. Only the right to not be denied use of a given media. So what does that mean in Thanet?

To start with the right to share in digital format your opinion on political, cultural, commercial and religious issues are underlined. This right is reinforced and made real by the fact that you or I can access the Internet and use the World Wide Web to publish out thoughts. Free blog platforms exist in the form of wordpress, Live in Thanet, MySpace, Blogger, Facebook and many others and with inexpensive hosting plus a wealth of free platforms (if you require further control) there should never be a reason not to find your own space.

But in counter point to this your blog and my blog are expressions of opinion and your blog expresses your opinion and mine expresses mine. That means that nether of us has an inalienable right to comment on any other blog beyond our own. On our own blog we have the right to delete, remove, edit, mock, reformat or otherwise act upon the contributions of others.

Never forget that the comments of your blog is a space that your provide as a courtesy to others as a privilege. If I com to your blog and abuse that privilege to rant off topic, to annoy or to insult (or worse) I should expect to be find my contributions unwelcome and often removed. When that happens I would have no right to complain because the blog owner controls the content and not I. Independent and fair do not enter into it.

Again as a "counter point to the counter point" if I want to appear fair and balanced then I may wish to forego the right to remove comments in order to to foster friendships with people that might like to comment. We all do it but it has become a custom to allow others to abuse the space we offer. With the exception of outright spam we rarely nudge our guest back on topic.

Take for example Thanet Star in which I have a large array of comment tools to filter spam, to destroy trolling (aggressive comments designed only to "get a rise") and so forth. Even so only the truly offensive and the outright spam gets deleted. What has started to bite are the long, long, comments that seem to have no real relation to the topic at hand.

These comments often hurt or end the legitimate discussion and frankly are no fun to read. As my part towards the pledge I will explicitly be looking out for this verbal diarrhea which is better suited as a blog post on the commenterís own blog (you have no excuses for not owning at least one somewhere). Whenever the comment is very, very, long and I can not find how it relates tot he topic we are discussing I am going to be deleting them from now on for every one's benefit as I am sure that others will be just as baffled too. Feel free to re-comment in abbreviated form - brevity is an art and hard to master I'm willing to let you try again.

The Pledge

1. I will do my best to stay on topic when ever I comment.
2. I will do my best to guide others to do likewise.
3. I will encourage my guests and visitors to stay on topic. If all else fails, if there is no other option, I know how to move, hide or delete comments on my blog and will do so when I must.
4. Deleting or moving off topic, excessively aggressive, untruthful or hate filled comments is a service to my readers

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