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Housekeeping note on comments

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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Over the past month or so, I’ve been pleased to see the number of comments grow on my posts. I want my posts to spark discussion, because I don’t have all the answers when I write an article. Readers are encouraged to post a comment or send an email or tweet if there is something interesting and constructive to say. Unfortunately, not all of the comments have been “good”. A lot have been nasty, either attacking me or other readers, which does nothing but derail an otherwise healthy discussion about science, and I fear, dissuade others from commenting.

Our blogs editor, Bora Zivkovic, wrote a lengthy article about blog comments, and I’ve been thinking about how to cultivate a better sense of community on my posts on ‘Plugged In’. Go read it and come back.

So from here on out on my posts, I’ll be actively moderating comments. I want you, the reader, to feel comfortable to post your thoughts, ask questions – basically to further the discussion! It’s my hope that more readers will feel comfortable to comment without fear of being flamed.

Now, there’s a thin line between trolling/bullying and a normal comment, but here are some things in particular that will not be tolerated:

·      Name calling, insults, personal attacks
·      Conspiracy theories. Enough already!
·      Debating established climate change and anthropogenic global warming science
·      Links to Watts. Seriously, this is a science site.

Things that are encouraged:
·      Links to other scientific articles, papers, reviews
·      Data and facts (!)
·      Questions for me or other readers
·      Technical or professional experiences about a topic

The “bad” comments are mostly on the climate change posts. (Seriously, what is it about climate change that riles y’all up?) But this policy applies to all topics. Hopefully it makes for a healthier discussion, and maybe some of you who have been holding back on commenting will feel comfortable to do so.

Frankly, I don’t want to waste my time reading comments about conspiracy theories, or how climate science is a cult or equivalent to religious dogma. But I will read them in my inbox long enough to delete them and spare everyone else. There are more important things to discuss, like the intricacies of data that world class scientists report, or new technologies and challenges – not theorizing about some Stonecutters-esque cabal that makes up bogeymen for research grants.

I’m also thinking of other ways to discuss the posts and topics that we talk about here, perhaps moving some discussions over to Branch, because dialogue is important to the scientific process. I’m open to suggestions and would love to hear your thoughts/experiences.

If you have a problem with this policy, take it offline and email me.

As always, thanks for reading. – David

David Wogan About the Author: An engineer and policy researcher who writes about energy, technology, and policy - and everything in between. Based in Austin, Texas. Comments? Follow on Twitter @davidwogan.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. M Tucker 12:52 pm 02/1/2013

    Thanks David! I admire and appreciate the policy Bora has taken and I think you are making the right choice. I visit your blog because of the interesting subjects you take on.

    In this post you ask, “Seriously, what is it about climate change that riles y’all up?”
    Well I have my own thoughts regarding that and I will keep them to myself because they will not alter the situation and I don’t think the intention of this post is to foster a discussion about that. However if you post anything regarding the Higgs particle or the Higgs field or the LHC or evolution you will also see quite a bit of very questionable posts and the trolls will come out to play.

    I’m looking forward to your next post!

    Link to this
  2. 2. davidwogan 9:00 pm 02/1/2013

    @M Tucker: Thanks!! I have my own thoughts, too. The Internet is great in that it allows people to share information easily – sometimes too easily!

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  3. 3. David Marjanović 2:12 pm 02/13/2013

    I’ve spent a long time thinking whether to write this…

    Links to Watts. Seriously, this is a science site.

    Uh, sure. But now that you’ve simply cut the discussion off, I can’t explain to the denialists what makes Watts’ blog not science. I can’t even respond elsewhere to the comments they made here, because those comments are deleted. They aren’t simply evil, they’re wrong – but this assertion is now all I can make. When you cut a discussion off, the denialists keep being wrong, and so do the underinformed among their readers.

    Cutting down on manufactroversies and the emotions that surround it will gain you readers. It will also lose you readers. I’ll go back to staying away from this blog.

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