For those who like to know what the rules are, here are fifteen things you need to know.
1. It’s my site, so I decide what the rules are and aren’t. Once in a while, I change my mind about a rule: if I do, I’ll let you know. But ultimately, at least in this modest little corner of the blogosphere, what I say goes, even when I’m wrong. So there.
2. You may excerpt portions of posts here on your blog as long as you give a credit and link back here. You may not reproduce entire posts. Normally, this is called “common courtesy.” Without a link and appropriate credit, it’s called “copyright infringement.” I have had a site shut down before for ripping off my content. It’s an unpleasant thing to do, so please don’t make me. I use various services to scan for potential infringement.
3. I do my best to be factually accurate. Once in a while, I may get something wrong. I don’t warranty that I’m 100% right, so if you read something that makes you want to go on a rampage, verify the information before you do so, and then if you decide to go on the rampage anyway, it’s all your fault, not mine.
4. My opinions are mine. No one else’s, except in those cases in which someone else happens to agree with me. It has been known to happen. Still, the way in which I express my opinion is still mine, even if someone else says they’d have said it the same way. There are only so many ways, after all, to say the same thing. My thoughts here are not necessarily the views of my employers, my church or even my friends.
5. Privacy is a concern for many people. I don’t distribute the email address of anyone who visits this site. I don’t spam those emails, either: any newsletter or newsfeed made available requires you to sign up on your own. Tracking programs on this site collect some user info like general statistics and location. I use this for research purposes only and do not sell this information. I do require the comment form be filled out properly with a name or handle and a valid email address. If you have a personal site or blog you wish to link to, you may fill out that line. I reserve the right to remove links to professional or sales sites if they appear to be spam.
How about commenting? Well, that’s such a big topic that it requires a separate set of its own.
1. Thou shalt be respectful. Treat people the way that you’d like to be treated. And don’t whine if they treat you the way you did treat them.
2. Thou shalt avoid excessive profanity. My general rule is that if it can be said on broadcast television — not cable — then it can be said here.
3. Thou shalt not be afraid to disagree. Some of the best discussions here happen when people give their honest opinion, even if it goes against mine. I don’t mind respectful disagreement and debate. It makes us all look at a situation closer, and often, in ways we hadn’t considered before. Join in! However, arguing beyond the point at which an alternate position has been stated, and such arguments that resort to namecalling or other inappropriate behavior will be considered trolling. Don’t troll.
4. Thou shalt not be afraid to talk to each other. Community is a big part of a good blog. Feel free to reply to my other readers. Engage them, too. There are some fine folks reading this blog and they like comments as much as I do.
5. Thou shalt not spam. If your comment goes off-topic to promote a business, good or service, or if your comment link is a business URL, there’s an excellent chance it’ll get deleted. Personal websites are fine, even those that are money-making websites. Commercial websites are not. I use several programs to monitor and curtail spam activity. Govern your comment behavior accordingly.
6. Thou shalt be responsible for what you say. If you say it, you better mean it and be able to back it up. I take no responsibility to fact-check everything you say, but if I suspect what you’re saying could be libelous, I reserve the right to delete it.
7. Thou shalt not give too much information. It’s a general rule on the internet: don’t write anything on your own blog that you wouldn’t want to see in the paper. Follow this same advice when leaving a comment here or elsewhere.
8. Thou shalt stay on topic. Please don’t try to turn a post about one thing into a comment thread about something else. It’s discourteous to other readers to go off on a tangent.
9. Thou shalt acknowledge that comments become the property of this site. This is more common sense than anything else: since the comment becomes published on this site, it stands to reason that the comment becomes part of it. I reserve the right, therefore, to archive your comment and even to respond to it in a separate post if necessary.
10. Thou shalt make use of the “Contact” tab when appropriate. My contact page is a great way to ask me a question that isn’t covered in a blog post or to send me a message that you don’t want to leave as a comment. If you tell me in the message that you don’t want your name associated with the message, I may publish the question or comment in a subsequent post, but I will keep your name out of it.
I reserve the right to edit or modify content that’s inappropriate or delete inappropriate comments altogether if they appear to violate any of the guidelines.
No one has unlimited “First Amendment” protection on someone else’s website. Govern yourselves accordingly.