Six simple rules for commenting on my blog: the sequel

When I first got the offer to join HitFix, I made sure that I would have the authority to keep enforcing the commenting rules from my old blog, which had gone a long way to making this a very smart, very civil community without a lot of the abuses you tend to see on most internet forums. And for the most part, everyone in the new community has played along.

As I said back in the Blogspot days, most of you are wonderful, smart, funny, and add so much to the discussion that other critics frequently express their envy about the quality of the comments here. It’s not an understatement to say you guys are just as important as I am to what makes this place special, and often times more. And I want to continue keeping it that way.

Lately, though, things have been getting testy, and I’ve had to delete a fair number of comments that have crossed the line in one way or another. And it occurs to me that while I frequently refer to the rules when I punt a comment, I’ve never actually published a full version of them on this site. And given that I’ve been at HitFix for almost a year and a half, that’s long overdue. So after the jump, here are the six rules you’ve got to obey in order to keep playing in this particular sandbox, mostly copied over from the original blog, but with a few tweaks to acknowledge some recent offenses.  They’re not hard – most of them, in fact, can be loosely translated as “Don’t be an asshole” – but the anonymity of the Internet makes it easy to forget to do them.

Rule #1: Be nice. This is an opinion blog, and a place where people can and should argue passionately for their point of view. But there’s a difference between arguing with passion and arguing with hostility. If you can’t find a way to express your viewpoint without insulting other commenters, or getting strident and self-righteous — say, equating your opinion with fact, and deriding other people for not seeing the truth of your words — then either tone down your words until they’re more respectful to other people, or don’t comment. Talk about the shows, not each other.

Rule #2: No spoilers. There are many, many places on-line to read and discuss the latest scoop about who’s dying, who’s going into a coma, who’s about to have sex with a ghost. This is not one of them. Here, we only talk about episodes that have already aired (and only aired here in the States, when it comes to foreign import shows that air on different schedules). No discussing stuff you’ve read on other sites, no discussing previews for upcoming episodes (which have become increasingly spoiler-y in recent years), no discussing the hot rumor that your second cousin’s best friend’s former roommate heard while hanging at the craft service table on “Private Practice.” Anything I consider even vaguely spoiler-y gets deleted. Period.

Rule #3: No talking/asking about shows I haven’t blogged about yet. I am only one man. I can only watch and write about so many shows in a given day. Sometimes, it may take me days or even a week to get caught up on certain shows I follow. Sometimes, I may just skip over an episode and come back with a post for the next one. Posting comments in, say, the “Chuck” thread to ask, “When are you going to write about ‘Up All Night’?” is not helpful. I’ll get to it when I get to it. Or I won’t. And what’s really annoying is when those questions then lead to lengthy discussions in the comments about the show I haven’t blogged about yet (and, likely, haven’t even watched yet).

Rule #4: No politics. Things got really ugly on the old blog in the run-up to the 2008 election, particularly any time I would write about Tina Fey as Sarah Palin and everyone on both sides lost their damn minds. Given that we live in the world, and that many shows deal with current events, it’s impossible for politics to never come up as a subject, but if you can’t discuss it only as it relates to its use on a show, don’t discuss it. Saying you find Fey’s Palin impression funny (or not) is fine. Accusing the party you don’t endorse of being socialist or fascist is not fine. If you can’t relate your point to the show and only to the show, don’t do it.

Rule #5: If at all possible, make an effort to skim the comments before commenting. This one is arguably harder to follow/enforce than it was in the Blogspot days, given that a lot of shows routinely pass the 100 comment mark and some shows like “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad” blow past 400 without breaking a sweat. That said, we frequently get comments that begin with phrases like, “I don’t have time to read all these comments, but has anyone thought about (a question that 12 other people already asked and answered)?” I understand that your time is valuable, and it can be a pain to go through all the previous comments, but it shows real disrespect to the people who already commented, and it’s also really irritating for the people who actually do bother to read every comment. All I can ask on this is that people make a good faith effort if they can, and that you try not to act like the first person to posit an incredible theory if there are already several dozen (or hundred) comments before you arrive.

Rule #6. What did I say about being nice? Given that most of the recent violations have been about Rule #1, it bears repeating. This shouldn’t be that hard, but sometimes, it is. Talk about the shows, not each other. Period.