I'd like to dispel some misunderstandings about commenting on this blog, and to provide some real-life examples to put things into perspective. For those of you with your own blogs, if you can't relate to this yet, you will likely be able to in the future.
1. I don't see my comment. What's up?
If you don't see your comment right away, it's probably because I haven't checked the comments yet that day. I only check them once a day, and sometimes only once over the weekend. So please be patient - I typically publish them at night. If you still don't see your comment, there's another two possibilities: 1) you didn't enter the verification code after leaving the comment, so it never went through or 2) the comment was never sent, or it somehow wound up in the spam folder. Before lashing out with angry accusations, check with me first. The most likely case is that I either haven't seen the comment yet, or it never went through.
2. You're all about free speech, and yet you moderate your comments. That's unfair!
Contrary to what some believe, free speech does not apply to commenters. Most major blogs, newspapers, magazines, and websites moderate their comments in some form due to the hailstorm of crazy that is the Internet. For some real life examples, consider this:
At political rallies, only certain people are chosen to speak, and usually plan ahead of time what they will say. In magazines, they never publish every letter to the editor they receive; they only pick a few to use. In newspapers, op-ed pieces are carefully chosen from a huge pool. On the TV news, much more footage is taken than actually goes into a broadcast; it is meticulously pared down to only certain interviews or certain parts of interviews. On the radio, only certain callers are picked to speak on the air.
3. Do you block people? Why would you do that?
Yes, I do, but only when it is absolutely necessary. To put this into perspective, consider this:
Imagine my blog as my house. By entering the blog, you're entering my space. No one is holding a gun to your head, so nobody can actually force you to be here; you're here because you've chosen to be here. So imagine that you are invited over to my house for a dinner party, where there is a lively discussion going on. Sometimes tempers flare and sometimes people shout, but those who keep things civil keep the party going. Now imagine that a guest gets so angry that he gets up from the table, walks over to the middle of the living room, pulls down his pants, and takes a huge dump on the rug. Or imagine a guest grabs a knife and waves it at me and the other guests, threatening to slit our throats. Imagine a guest coming up to me and spitting in my face, screaming expletives, insults, and threats. Would those people be immediately kicked out? Would they ever be asked back? Would a restraining order seem like a bad idea?
4. Are people really that bad?
Yup, but welcome to the Internet. Since I'm just a small fish I only get a teeny helping of the Internet nuttiness; people like Dooce have to deal with it all day long. To give you an example, abusive commenters don't use their real name or email, and use a different computer every time they write. In some cases, they leave similar comments every day for days on end, slandering me and writing laughable lies about me and my character in some sad, obsessive quest to get attention. Now imagine that for one entire week of work, every day you get to your desk and a note is pinned to your bulletin board with terrible things written about you and why you should be fired, every time written in different handwriting to try to conceal the stalker's identity. What would be your reaction?
5. But isn't that the beauty of commenting on the Internet - you can be totally anonymous and say whatever you want?
Not so. Every time you leave a comment somewhere, you also leave a digital footprint - your IP address. Not only can it be used to track and block commenters, but it also shows the latitude and longitude of the IP, allowing me to see the exact geographic location where a person is writing from. To put this into perspective, consider this:
If you met someone you wanted to say something really mean or crass to, would you say it to their face, in person, given the chance? Highly doubtful.
6. What constitutes a comment that's not OK?
It depends. Racist and slanderous comments are an obvious no-no, as are direct attacks on me or people I care about. If you can't express yourself in a civil manner, it's unlikely your comment will get published. And so it is in real life.