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Passion, People and Principles

What Should My Comment Policy Say?

post # 176 — August 29, 2006 — a General post

I greatly appreciate the contributions of the many readers who take the time to comment on this blog.

It has been suggested that I should offer some general comment guidelines in order to set expectations for new readers and to assure a consistently positive experience for ongoing readers of this site.

However, I don’t want to do this alone. You’re part of this, too. So, I’ve drafted some comment guidelines here, and I’d like your reactions. What should I add, delete, modify?

When we’re done, I’ll post the finished guidelines on the blog.

Humor is always welcome on the blog, but please take this topic seriously.


Please recognize that the comments on the blog are part of a conversation between real people. We interact here with professionalism and courtesy.

Also please recognize that this is a conversation between and among all of us, not just between you and me. Try to address your comments to the broader community.

For the sake of your own privacy and that of others, please do not post phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment – you cannot assume the good intentions of everyone who reads them.

Please do not post raw URLs — which may be long and skew the page or the comment sidebar — but make the URL an actual HTML link. (Just highlight the term you want to hotlink and then click on the “link” icon in the comment editor to add the URL.)

My blog is not the place to promote your services or products to readers.

I will edit/delete spam comments and trackbacks, duplicate comments, unsupported accusations, personal attacks of any kind, terms offensive to groups when used in a pejorative manner, or comments that explicitly promote a product or service.

In addition, I reserve the right to edit/delete comments that are some combination of vulgar, vile, cruel, without redeeming qualities, and an embarrassment to the site.

If you have left a valid email address, I will let you know by email if I editor or delete your comment. If you prefer to keep your email address private, and I support your right to do so, then I will edit your comment without notice.

As an absolute last resort, I will ban repeat or particularly egregious offenders.

In short: please behave here as you would in any other public space surrounded by your family or professional peers, and all should be well.

Thank you for your understanding and support in making the discussions on this blog a productive and enjoyable experience for our entire community.


So, what do you think? What Should I add, delet, modify?


Duncan Bucknell said:

I think this are really good guidelines. This is a great idea.

Thanks David

posted on August 29, 2006

Leo Bottary said:

Nicely done.

posted on August 29, 2006

Stephen Downes said:

It’s unlikely the posting of a comments policy will actually change any behaviour. The items you list (except for the raw URLs) are common sense and widely understood. They will be followed by most people. The spammers will ignore your policy, as always. But very few people will actually read the comment policy.

I would say something like, “Thank you for the comments. Please be polite. I reserve the right to delete any offensive or abusive comments.”

As for the raw URLs – you should address this by styling the div in your sidebar to overflow:hidden

posted on August 29, 2006

ann michael said:

I’m curious. Have inappropriate comments been a problem for you? I have found that if you do the items you mention in your comment policy – the environment tends to self correct. (Except for maybe the URL issue – and directing comments to you personally)

While your policy is quite fair and well written, I wonder why you, and the people suggesting you post one, feel it’s necessary.

I tend to agree with Mr. Downes – I doubt it will be read or change behavior.

posted on August 29, 2006

David (Maister) said:

No, there haven’t been very many posts that I think are way out of line, but there have been times when (in my paternal, old-man) fashion, I’ve been tempted to drop someone a line behind the scenes pointing out my reactions.

I wondered (and continue to wonder) whether some guidelines BEFORE there are examples of “unhelpful behavior” would actually make it easier to be repsectful and polite in such situations.

What happens to your view on this if you take a real-world view on this? Does it help or huurt in an organization to spell out in advance the expectations we have of each other?

Does the fact that the blogospehere is so open change your view on the wisdom of giving a guide to expectations?

posted on August 29, 2006

Bill Peper said:

Were I to start a blog that published comments, I would post these types of guidelines (and probably “harvest” many of these ideas). They set the general tone and expectations for the exchanges, even if they cannot prevent abuses. They also afford the moderator a public criteria for editing and/or removing certain posts.

Well done, David.

posted on August 30, 2006

Ken Hedberg said:

Your guidelines add too much of a ‘censoring’ tone to the dialog. I agree with the principles of professionalism, common courtesy, and mutual respect. But, Downes and Richards put it well: the guidelines won’t change much in posters’ behavior. In fact, were I in your position, I’d worry that the tone of the guidelines might serve to constrain some commentary.

posted on August 30, 2006

charles tippett said:

david: I’m a part of another blog, in particular, that has a policy, is read by noone (typical) and in which the moderator makes gentle reminders (often public) when folks go offtrack. The offenders get the point and everyone else on the list gets a reminder as well.

posted on August 30, 2006

Raissa Evans said:

David, I’m impressed by your well-written set of guidelines and agree with this thinking. Greg’s blog too has been the target of malicious commentary, and as a corporate blog we formulated unwritten guidelines for handling such a case. However, Downes point is well taken – it will probably be rarely read, and with that in mind I like the more concise, common-sense statement similar to what he suggested.

Good blog topic, as always!

posted on August 30, 2006

Gregory Price said:


As indicated earlier by Raissa, we have had a few knuckleheads that have tried to post some inappropriate comments to my blog. We have a short delay in posting until I have had a chance to review the comment. Our system generated response indicates this to the poster as well.

We have also left posts of folks who disagree with us, so life is not always Nirvana within “fromgregshead”. Different points of view are always wecome, when handled professionally.

Warmest Regards.

posted on August 30, 2006

Tim Burrows said:

It’s a little ambiguous where it says “edit spam comments and trackbacks”. After re-reading it I now think it means “spam comments and spam trackbacks”, but on first reading I thought it was disallowing all trackbacks completely, which seemed a bit harsh!

Other than that, it’s pretty comprehensive. It may be that people don’t read the rules, but not many people read the laws of our society either (much of your legal readership probably excluded) – it doesn’t stop our politicians from writing them (and writing them, and writing them), and (most of) the citizenship obeying them.

My point is that you need to have codified rules so that there is a point of reference.

Actually, I think it’s quite clever. Many people are saying that nobody will read the rules, but haven’t we all done just that? :)

posted on August 30, 2006

David (Maister) said:

Are you saying I’m that devious, Tim? Maybe, I am, maybe I am.

If you can be up front, out in the open and devious at the same time!

posted on August 30, 2006

RJON@HowToMakeItRain.com said:

This comment is more to the blogging community at large, than directly in response to your proposed policies.

There seems to be an attitude amongst many bloggers that ANY mention of a product or service is inherently bad, and doubly-so if the product or service happens to be one offered by the person making the comment.

While I agree wholeheartedly that spamming blogs with irrelevant mention of products or services is interruptive of the dialogue, I am equally confident that a relevant reference to a product or service promotes blogging as a useful resource for the exchange of ideas and information.

Accordingly, I would encourage you to modify your policy with regard to the mention of products or service to require that such comments be relevant to the post, and the conversation that follows. Of course, spammers will ignore your request and the rest of us know that an irrelevant or inappropriate mention of a product or service does us more harm than good.




Helping Small Law Firms Make ALOT More Money!

(Please note that I believe my signature block helps readers to evaluate my comments by better understanding my unique perspective)

posted on August 31, 2006

David (Maister) said:

RJON, I’ll let others decide if they agree or not, but personally I’m not persuaded that, as you write,”my signature block helps readers to evaluate my comments by better understanding my unique perspective.)” It may, actually, invoke a different reaction than the one you intend.

Also, it is unclear why your name needs to be always given as “RJON@HowtoMAkeItRaIn.com,” and whether it is, in fact, serving your purposes.

Doing it that way is artifice – people can immediately see what you’re doing, and its not very subtle. Since you are in the business of provding marketing counsel, you may not want people to think you lack subtlety in the arts of commmunication.

posted on August 31, 2006

Tim Burrows said:

RJON, If I was to be honest, I would have to say that, while I think you always make a positive contribution to the discussion, I sometimes feel as though you are trying to close a sale. I rarely perceive this when I read the posts from others, which generally come across as more altruistic.

I don’t see why, for example, it is necessary for you to put a hyperlink to your blog at the conclusion of your post when it is already shown below your name. Surely once is enough?

Similarly, I haven’t noticed others put their comments into context by stating what it is they help people achieve. I don’t think the forum is any poorer for that.

The few times I have clicked through on someone’s hyperlink, it has been because of the quality of their comment – perhaps an interesting insight or angle that they brought to the table – not because they mentioned what they do.

Having said all that, I would encourage you to continue to contribute to the discussion, because I think you have a lot to offer.

posted on August 31, 2006

Dennis Howlett said:

David – I’m late on this. I’ve always said: my blog, my attention, my RULES. Therefore if you want to contribute feel free to do so but…I have RULES not guidelines. They’re part of the Ts & Cs. I keep them very simple and uncomplicated. We’ve got enough lawyers in the world don’t you think? -:) What I’ve found is that in the year I’ve been running my blog I’ve only had to ban one IP address from someone – you know the type – who insists on baiting but continues to use foul language in the process. Maybe I’m lucky. Having said that, I don’t think anyone reads rules, guideliness, call them what you will until something happens. Even then you’re never going to stop the Assholes as Bob Sutton so succinctly puts it. But it does make sense. At least no-one can say, however petty it may seem: ‘You didn’t tell me.’

posted on September 1, 2006

pseudo-anonymous said:

I recently received a bit of spam from no-reply@davidmaister.com and I have been receiving similar spam for quite a long time now. I did not request this.

If you can provide information to clear this up on your blog I would appreciate it.

Who are GoldInvestments?

and who is stresslimitdesign.com

If you have any answers I would appreciate them posted here.

You may also optionally e-mail me at check@pookmail.com

posted on November 2, 2006

Shaula Evans said:

Dear P-A:

Thank you for contacting us and giving us the opportunity to solve these technical problems for you. I am replying here on the blog in case any other readers have experienced similar problems.

StressLimitDesign is the company that designed, maintains, and provides technical support for davidmaister.com. (If you look at the footer at the bottom of the screen, you’ll see our company name on the final line.) We do not send out email on the no-reply@davidmaister.com; in fact, it is not set up as a real address and it is not possible to send email out on it.

No one here has heard of “GoldInvestments.” It appears that they are the party that are spamming you, using what is called “email spoofing” or “email forging” — where a spammer “masks” the actual address they are sending from behind an email address they have appropriated from an uninvolved third party. (Sort of a slick combination of spam and low-grade identity theft or pretexting.)

Nonetheless, I really apologize for your spam problems and we are happy to try to help you out.

For a starting point, he Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute’s CERT Coordination Center has an excellent page on what spoofing is and what you can do about it.

If the CERT spoofing page doesn’t do the trick, or if you’d like help that is more user-friendly (the page seems to be written for computer professionals), if you’d be so kind to drop us a note at support [at] davidmaister [dot] com, we can continue the conversation until your problem is resolved.

Best wishes,

Shaula Evans

David Maister Tech Support


posted on November 3, 2006