Hi to all the wonderful commenters.
A couple of times recently I have tried to contact commenters offlist to discuss matters in the comments, and the emails have not been valid. Please remember that using a valid email address is a condition of using this site, and I will not allow any comments if I find that the email you submit is not valid. Of course, it may be a simple mistake, so please take care when entering the email address.
The reason I have raised this matter is this. In the past, we have had some energetic discussions on this forum, and like many places on the internet, the standard of discussion can sink to personal slurs and attacks. WordPress gives fairly simple tools for allowing or unallowing comments, and this works fine in the majority of cases. Most commenters are constructive and useful, and the few outright trolls can be easily excluded.
The problem is the grey areas: comments where I think, “Should I allow this?”, and usually err on the side of acceptance, while hoping that the tone of the dialogue will improve. But it often doesn’t, and the comments gradually descend down a slide of snark, but there’s no obvious cut-off point where I can say, “This is too much”.
I’ve read around various discussions of the issue, and one point that I read I took to heart. That is: it is the responsibility of the moderator (which is me) to engage with commenters and ensure a quality of dialogue. This doesn’t really happen through writing policies. It happens by reaching out to people.
So from now on, when I am faced with a comment that I am unsure of, rather than either allowing or unallowing it, I will email the commenter offlist, explain what the problem is, and ask if they can reconsider their original comment. I hope that this will encourage commenters to continue to contribute, and create a better atmosphere for genuinely constructive criticism.
So, back to emails: if you don’t give a valid email address, I can’t contact you offlist. Currently this applies to the commenter “What happened to Buddhism?” Can you please supply a valid email address? (Oh, and by the way, I prefer real names, although I understand that there are sometimes good reasons for using pseudonyms.)