Good advice to bloggers.

I got this off a “Comment Board” at Commonweal magazine r.e. an article entitled “

Why are Catholics so uncharitable online?”  It was posted by a Mr. Luke Hill.  I think he offers good advice to bloggers.  As for me, I moderate all comments to my blog.  It helps to keep things civil. 

From Mr. Hill:

Here are a couple of thoughts for bloggers [on controlling comments on your blog]:

1 – Have a clear and concise policy on comments. Revise as needed.
2 – Monitor comments vigorously. There are multiple tools you can use here:
*Send a private email to a commenter when you think the commenter is tiptoeing up to, or stepping over the line.
*Add your own comment in response to the offending commenter, making clear where the commenter went wrong.
*Monitor comments vigorously. Delete comments that violate your commenting policy.
*Shut down comments temporarily on an overheated thread. Let your readers/commenters know that you’ve shut down comments and why. When you reopen comments, ask your commenters to proceed carefully.
*Shut down comments permanently on an overheated thread—or turn off comments on a post you have good reason to think will lead to a flame war.
3 – Ban repeat offenders from commenting. Bans can be temporary or permanent at your discretion. After all, it’s your blog. (Just as a good bartender knows when to bounce someone who’s had one too many.)
And some thoughts for commenters:
1 – DFTT (Don’t Feed The Trolls). If you suspect another commenter’s primary purpose is to stir up trouble and cause ugly disagreements, ignore those comments. Let them be. Respond to someone else, or to something in the original post.
2 – Ask for evidence. Opponents who are seriously interested in the topic, and in engaging in public discourse, will generally provide it. Those who aren’t, won’t—and often will leave the discussion (the internet equivalent of walking out of the bar rather than admitting that one has lost the argument).
3 – Don’t assume. Online communication has almost all the immediacy of face-to-face or telephonic communication—but with none of the visual or aural cues that account for 80-90% of human communication. Humor, irony, and numerous rhetorical devices often aren’t as clear online as they are in person. If you’re writing, explain yourself more fully than you would in person. If you’re reading/responding, ask your interlocutor for clarification, or take the most charitable interpretation possible of his/her meanings.
4 – Make your response specific. The person you’re reacting to (whether liberal or conservative, ultramontanist or cafeteria Catholic) is not responsible for everyone in his/her ideological camp. (Neither are you.)
5 – Add context. Some of the best, most enlightening, most provocative and most heartening online discussions are those in which multiple commenters are adding context and detail to the conversation: a testimony of your own experience, a historical analogy, a theological interpretation, links to other perspectives on the topic. The effect becomes akin to seeing the light refracted through different facets of a particularly lovely jewel.



3 Comments. Leave new

As Blessed John XXIII said, “In essentials, unity; in doubtful matters, liberty; in all things, charity.” Thank you, bishop, for sharing this.

Thank you for sharing this advice. We all need to be more civil. Discuss the topic, don’t attack the person.

Dear Bishop Coyne

It seems a number of us bloggers are feeling a need to discuss not just combox behavior, but online behavior overall. This includes everything from blogs, their comboxes, web forums and social media like Facebook and Twitter to those producing podcasts and videos.

I hope you don’t mind my shameless plug of a new blogpost series I am starting called, Catholics in the Combox. I will be initiating the discussion, but I need participants to share resources.

I don’t know if you will agree, but I believe some Commandments are being violated online with some frequency – specifically the 5th (hatred, sinful anger) and the 8th (rash judgment, detraction, calumny). I also believe it is due mainly to ignorance about these things. I think indepth discussion is needed on specific topics in order to raise awareness. The idea came to mind to dedicate one blogpost per subject (i.e., rash judgment), which I plan to do about every 7-10 days.

I have over a dozen topics in mind already that could describe troubling online behaviors that many of us engage in now and then. I am merely going to initiate discussion; the combox is where the discussion will come to life.

We also seem to lack understanding of the virtues. Zeal for truth must be moderated or we become clanging cymbals and noisy gongs. People are trying to force their understanding of truth, or “small t” traditions on others. These things should be presented in ways that have the best possible chance of being received, or at least understood.

Few people will seriously consider a viewpoint presented in a hostile or insulting manner. What ends up happening is each of us plays to our own choir, scoring points based on how well we zing someone else. I suspect that this spectator sport is, in part, fallen human nature “on display”.

God does not force our will and when people resort to derision, for example, they are trying to force someone to accept their view. God doesn’t work this way, nor should we.

I will need participation from ordinary bloggers, facebookers, etc., but also from people with backgrounds in theology, philosophy and other disciplines. I hope to see some clerics contribute, as well.

The rules I’ve set out for participation are pretty rigid and will be a challenge for some. But, I think it will also teach us some much needed skills. For the “Catholics in the Combox” series, commenters may not name people, organizations, political parties/politicians, groups/sub-cultures (i.e., traditional, charismatic, progressive, orthodox, protestant, liberal, etc.,), or specific news stories/current events. In other words, the agendas we all have must be checked at the door in order to focus on the topic exclusively. If I allow these things to creep in, we will end up with a thousand rabbit holes, and serious discussion of the main topic will end – as it always does when that is allowed.

I hope to see a broad spectrum of Catholics particpating – that is, those who would normally be at one another’s throats on other issues out there. It would be good if we could come to some mutual understandings about Church teaching with regards to how to treat our neighbor when we disagree.

What will be left behind should be a good resource for years to come.

My introductory post is a little long, but it explains where I am heading with the series and why. Here it is:

And, my homepage to watch for the first post in the series to begin. I’m hoping to get it done this weekend, but no garantees.