The first version of Daylight Atheism's comment policy was posted at the beginning of this blog's existence. I'm happy to say I haven't had to enforce it often. Whether through simple good fortune or whether something about my writing attracts thoughtful commenters, I think the level of discussion here has met a very high standard so far, and naturally I'd like to keep it that way. It's occurred to me that the original policy may have been too vague. Therefore, I'm writing a new one that explicitly enumerates what is not permitted. Most of this, I hope, should be common sense, and regular visitors should have no need to read it all; but just in case it ever becomes necessary, here it is.
Comments and trackbacks that fit one or more of the following descriptions will, at my sole discretion, be edited or deleted. Also at my sole discretion, I reserve the right to ban from this website, temporarily or permanently, people who repeatedly violate these rules. Except in truly egregious cases, I will not ban anyone for a first offense, and when I edit or delete a comment, I will try to contact the commenter to explain my decision where practical.
- Uninvited preaching. Daylight Atheism has always been and will always be open to all good-faith participants, no matter their beliefs. I do not require that people share my viewpoint in order to comment here, and I invite theist visitors who want to offer a correction or express their disagreement with something I have said to speak their minds. Such external voices are welcomed and valuable, since they prevent this site from becoming an echo chamber where atheists gather just to agree with each other.
However, Daylight Atheism is not a place where atheists congregate just so they can be more conveniently targeted for proselytization. Nor is it the place for you to announce the founding of your new religion based on the revelation God personally gave you last night. If you are a religious believer and wish to leave a comment, you are welcome to do so, but that comment must be relevant to the topic of the post and must express a substantive point. Mere avowals of personal faith, invitations for us to attend church, threats of hellfire, cut-and-pasted religious tracts, rehashings of apologetic arguments irrelevant to the topic at hand, and other activities that fall under the category of uninvited preaching will be deleted. I advise my regular readers not to respond to such comments, since I will also delete replies to them so as not to break the thread of discussion. I may occasionally create open threads to debate these issues, but that is not the primary purpose of this site.
- "Spam" comments whose primary purpose is to sell, advertise or promote any product or service. Spam whose purpose is to advertise commercial products is the bane of the internet, and I expressly reserve the right to take legal action against anyone who tries to use my site to promote their product or business without my explicit permission.
Not all sites that engage in commercial activity are necessarily spam. If you have Google ads on your homepage, that's fine, and is not a barrier to you mentioning your site in a comment. I will not generally regard this as spam. However, if in my judgment the purpose of a site is primarily to make money, as opposed to attempting to inform, amuse or edify, I reserve the right to remove references to it. For example, an affiliate site littered with pay-per-click links is likely a commercial site. Personal sites whose primary purpose is to sell a book or film will usually also qualify - though I'll be more willing to relax this rule for sites promoting books and other media relevant to the topics discussed on this weblog.The category of spam also includes comments advertising non-profit groups and even other blogs, if that is the sole purpose of the comment. If you are in any doubt, ask yourself this question, because it is the standard I will use when judging whether a comment is spam or not: does this comment contribute something substantive to the discussion, or is it placed solely to call readers' attention to something irrelevant? If you have a personal site you wish readers to know about, the comment form has a field for the commenter's URL for a reason. Put the link there and be tactful about it.If there is an external site that makes a meaningful point that is relevant to the discussion, that is substantive and is fine to mention. However, do not splatter your comment with long lists of links. That is also advertising and will be treated as such.
- Copyright violations. The wholesale unauthorized reposting of copyrighted material is against the law and against my rules, and will be dealt with accordingly. Fair use, on the other hand, is acceptable and encouraged. If you are responding to or commenting on a copyrighted work, a good rule of thumb is to quote only as much of it as you need to make your point, and link to the rest.
- Comments that express no original thought. The mindless recitation of Bible verses, for example, or cut-and-pasted text from other websites, is likely to disqualify a comment. Famous quotes relevant to the point of a discussion are acceptable, although I prefer at least a brief explanation of how they are relevant.
- Comments that promote or incite violence or criminal activity of any kind.
- Comments that threaten, harass, slander or defame any person.
- Unauthorized disclosure of the personal information of any person.
- Comments that attempt to impersonate any other person.
- Comments that express hatred of a group based on race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, or any other immutable characteristic. Criticism of people's beliefs and opinions is fair game.
- Personal attacks and insults. I realize that posts and comments will often contain strong, direct criticism of people we disagree with, and it may not always be easy to tell what crosses the line. Therefore, I'll err on the side of caution in moderating comments for this reason. But that doesn't mean there isn't a line, and if I feel that the degree of personal attack in a comment is excessive or inappropriate, I reserve the right to take action. A good rule of thumb here is that any criticism of a person should stem from their actions or beliefs on the topic at hand. Speculations about your opponent's personal hygiene or dubious ancestry, to name two examples, have probably crossed the line. Attacks that make sweeping and unsubstantiated generalizations (i.e., "all theists are morons") are likewise going too far, and I reserve the right to edit or delete those.
- Comments that contain excessive amounts of profanity or vulgarity. Daylight Atheism is a weblog for adults, meaning I will not limit myself or others to discussing topics that our society deems it permissible for children to hear about. But because it is a weblog for adults, I expect commenters to conduct themselves in a mature and civil manner. I consider the excessive use of vulgar or profane language to be the mark of an unserious mind, and it will be dealt with accordingly.
- Comments that are wildly off-topic. A certain amount of topic drift is inevitable in any long-running discussion, but I insist that comments on a post have some connection to the topic of that post. In my opinion, if a discussion has wandered far afield from the original post topic, I reserve the right to redirect it or close it down. However, I'll generally be willing to create open threads where the discussion can continue - just ask.
- Repetitive comments. This includes, but is not limited to, posting the same comment in multiple threads, posting the same comment repeatedly in one thread, and "sock-puppet" comments in which one person leaves multiple comments that are purportedly from different people to create the illusion of support for a particular person or viewpoint. I reserve the right to delete any or all of these repetitive comments and to ban any user using sock-puppet posting identities.
- Trolling. I define trolling to be any comment, on-topic or not, that is written in a deliberately inflammatory or provocative style so as to stir up an angry reaction. As mentioned above, I expect commenters to act in a mature and civil way, and I will not hesitate to remove people who cannot or will not do this, so as to keep the flow of conversation from being disrupted. If you're in any doubt, ask yourself: Does this comment express an honestly held opinion, even a vehement or passionate one, or is it only intended to provoke and anger?
- Comments objecting to, complaining about, or arguing with any decision to delete comments or ban users for violating any of these rules. All such decisions are final. If you have an issue with a moderation decision, contact me by e-mail.
- Any comment posted by a person who has previously been banned for other violations of these rules.
All the items in this above list can be summed up concisely: Don't be a jerk. The reason I have comments is because I want people to share their views on the topics I write about, and to have a conversation that will enlighten and benefit all participants. So, if you have something to say, either about a post or about another comment, leave your thoughts. Use the comments for the reason they're here and there will be no trouble, and that will make all of us happy.
UPDATE: Also see the revised and expanded comment policy.