Nov 18, 2007

Etiquette for Comments

(Last revised Nov. 21, '07) Making Progress is an experiment. I am trying to create a site strictly for discussion of ideas that intrigue me as a student of history -- a site free of interpersonal struggles.

Etiquette is an art. It applies principles and rules of individual behavior to social situations in order to facilitate trade. This Etiquette section has two purposes: (1) Facilitate the trade of ideas in this forum; and (2) Simplify moderation and thereby save time for me.

Post only serious, relevant comments. Posted comments can include, for example: (1) a disagreement, which means identifying a flaw and offering a superior alternative if possible; (2) a reformulation of particular points in your own words, for feedback; (3) a discussion about methods for approaching similar problems; or (4) a question. Post personal comments -- positive or negative -- privately to me, not in "public."

Address ideas not individuals. Do not address, name, cite, or quote me or another commenter. State your target idea in your own words, and support, refute, or question it. Formulating others' ideas in one's own words is hard but educational work.

Addressing ideas only is difficult for many individuals. Here is a model example: "The supposition that 'worldview' is the genus of both religion and philosophy is invalid because ... [and so forth]." Addressing ideas only means decoupling the ideas from their particular personal sources in this forum and dealing with the ideas not the sources. Do not say: "Burgess, your supposition that 'worldview' is the genus of both religion and philosophy is really stupid [or brilliant] because ...." Likewise, do not say: "Burgess's idea of making 'worldview' the genus of both religion and philosophy is intriguing because ...." Again, mentally decouple ideas from their particular personal source--and then in writing deal with the idea only. Of course, if you need to document a source (which always applies to citing Ayn Rand), do so, for example: "... as Kant said in Critique of Pure Reason, B234, ...."

If your screen name is not your full true name or does not link directly to a page on which your full true name appears, then sign your comment with your true name at least in some truncated form--e.g., J. Smith for John Quintius Smith III. Unless your first name is unusual (like "Burgess"), state at least an initial for your last name, to avoid confusion with the names of other commenters with the same first name. Make no anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Be sure to at least link to your homepage, unless you are using your full true name. Identify yourself. I want to know, to some extent, the individuals with whom I am communicating. If you prefer anonymity, post elsewhere. (However, see Post Script.)

Support the good. I value Ayn Rand, as well as Leonard Peikoff, Peter Schwartz, and others associated with ARI. I delete posts from writers--such as Kellyites, Brandonites, and libertarians--who attack those I value or who sanction such attackers, e.g., on home pages.

Follow the other usual rules of etiquette. For example: (1) Write grammatically. If for you English is a second language, please say so. I admire anyone newly trying to communicate in English, which is a very difficult language. (2) Capitalize properly, especially "Objectivism" (not "objectivism"). (3) Use a spell-checker unless you are normally an excellent speller. (4) Write with civility; use no vulgarities. (5) Be dignified.

Provide contact information. I am a novice weblog moderator trying to learn the system's capabilities. I have not found a way to communicate with commenters before publishing or rejecting their comments. (The software gives me only those two choices.) If you innocently violate the etiquette, but provide no email address allowing me to tell you what is wrong, I must therefore reject your comment without explanation. The burden rests on you to comply with the etiquette and to provide a channel of private communication (e.g., through your blogger profile or homepage).

Burgess Laughlin
Author, The Power and the Glory: The Key Ideas and Crusading Lives of Eight Debaters of Reason vs. Faith

P. S. -- Nov. 20, '07: Edits of comments that mistakenly violate etiquette. My standards of etiquette are unusual; and, for some individuals, they are difficult to follow. Some individuals who have inadvertently violated etiquette have, nevertheless, offered pertinent comments. Unfortunately some of these individuals have given me no way to communicate with them about the etiquette problems. Rather than reject their comments, I have decided to edit them, when I have the time and interest, and post them myself, but still credit the source, where warranted.

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