Official Policy on Commenting and Free Speech

by Cleveland Frowns on July 11, 2012

“I have always tried to live in an ivory tower, but a tide of shit is beating at its walls, threatening to undermine it.”Gustave Flaubert

“If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business.”Abraham Lincoln

“It’s our party; we get to decide who comes.”Nick Denton, Founder, Gawker Media

“I only read the comments.”My Sister

—————

It’s evident that the comments section is one of the best things about this website. The dissemination of useful information, the development of useful ideas, the manifestation of diverse personalities, the formation and strengthening of community bonds, and the occasional peaceful resolution of emotional personal and political disputes that takes place in the comments section on a regular basis are all highly worthwhile products of this endeavor. Of course, the world is a better place when people communicate more effectively, even at the smallest margins. And if this place is anything, it’s a place where at least some people communicate at least a bit more effectively at the smallest margins.

For that, everyone who participates or has participated in this, even in the smallest way at the smallest margins, may nod knowingly. Salute.

But still, of course, it could always be better, so what this is is an official statement of policy on commenting and free speech. 

In which it should also be noted at the outset that another thing that’s evident is the personal value of participating in mankind’s search for truth, especially as it pertains to Cleveland, Browns and things. Science is conclusive as to the manifold benefits to mental health that result from consistent honest expression of ideas, even if these ideas are only expressed in a private journal. When such ideas are processed in a healthy open forum, the benefits become exponential from there, which is why folks were nodding knowingly above.

Of course, it takes a significant amount of work to maintain such a forum, and a big part of this is keeping the comments section free from diminishing clutter. The hard part is understanding what qualifies as “diminishing clutter,” a problem made worse by the widely held misconception that just because a forum exists on the internet, anyone should have a right to a voice in it provided they follow certain basic rules involving the use of profanity and personal  attacks.

Such a rule might be fine for a place like Cleveland.com, or an outlet with similar reasons to be less concerned with what’s posted in its comment section, but to understand why a higher standard is applied here, it’s better to think of this place as a cross between a dinner party and a committee convened to solve problems. One wouldn’t invite just anyone to a good dinner party, nor to participate on an effective problem-solving committee. In real life, if the host of the dinner party or the decisionmakers of such a committee found your participation to be diminishing, you wouldn’t be invited back. Notably, this wouldn’t implicate your right to “free speech” nor any of your First Amendment rights in the slightest (unless the dinner party host or committee decisionmakers were acting on behalf of the government in denying your participation, and even only then under certain extreme circumstances). Here at Frowns, you’ve got a much better deal, because while your comment might be deleted, you’ll almost always be allowed back, which is still all perfectly fine under the First Amendment.

Of course, no dinner party or problem-solving committee is perfect, and nor is this system whereby the administrator of the forum is the one who decides what qualifies as “diminishing clutter.” Results often vary, even somewhat widely at times, but this variation is only natural, mainly depending on the amount of time and energy that the administrator has to effectively address the diminishing clutter without deleting it, or the time, energy and inclination that other members of the community have to do the same. Of course, time and energy are limited resources, and when those limits are reached, this website’s choice is to let them fall on the deleted comments rather than to risk allowing this forum to be a safe haven for ignorance and regression by leaving such comments up unaddressed.

And yes of course these decisions are personal and political. It should be understood that words and ideas matter (especially words and ideas about Cleveland, Browns and things), and that what’s right often isn’t at all what’s going to offend the fewest people (or provoke the fewest to pollute a good forum with diminishing clutter). It’s also understood that folks have their own different ideas about what’s right and wrong, that a big part of being a decent human is constant evaluation of one’s own such ideas, and that honest disagreement is what makes the world go around. While an effort is sometimes made to address even those comments that are believed to make the world a safer place for ignorance and regression, the few that get deleted are usually the ones that were made with a certain level of disregard for logic, the English language, or basic rules of human decency and procedural order. Still, as much effort as is made to avoid this, a perfectly honest, thoughtful and well intentioned comment might sometimes get caught in the vortex here, which is (or would be) truly regrettable.

Anyway, omelettes, eggs. And it hardly ever happens. The more you feel that it happens too frequently to you, the more likely it is that you should either get a better worldview, find another forum, or start your own. Or else try harder with the logic and/or the English. Under the First Amendment, you’re allowed to do all of these things. God bless America, God bless Cleveland, Browns and things, and thank you for reading and understanding. You guys are the best.

  • ClevelandFrowns

    “Still, as much as we might try to avoid it, a perfectly honest and well intentioned comment might sometimes get caught in the vortex here …”

    The over/under on how many times this has happened is 4.

    Did I miss anything here? This post is important.

    • mo_by_dick

      This is well done. I’m just here for the dinner party; I’ll leave it to the Committee to solve any problems. Long live the internet.

    • CleveLandThatILove

      That is remarkable considering the volume of comments, and that the party never really ends. At least not for a long time, I hope. Don’t know how you do it, but I know I’m glad you do.

      • ClevelandFrowns
        • CleveLandThatILove

          I’m pretty sure that dump button flashes, alarms, shakes, smokes, and probably sprays water in your direction when my comments arrive. Just a hunch :)

          • ClevelandFrowns

            Naw. Bup has been doing a really good job of keeping you reigned in. It’s a special relationship you guys have.

          • bupalos

            There are two ends to a leash.

          • ClevelandFrowns

            HEY, COOL IT.

          • CleveLandThatILove

            Are you kidding? He took like 15 years off my age…I’d give him a kidney if he asked.

  • acto

    So Frownie, you are taking away my “safe haven”.
    I can take a hint.

    • ClevelandFrowns

      This isn’t the announcement of a new policy, just a statement of what the policy is and has been. Your smallest margin is safe unless I’ve been missing something.

      • acto

        “Your smallest margin is safe”

        There is no reason to get personal about it Frownie. I was only being foolish.

  • dubbythe1

    First, was this the “important announcement” alluded to in yesterday’s post or was this prompted by comments of posts gone by and solidified into this itteration from comments on yesterday’s post?

    Secondly, Do you distiguish malicious intent versus simple devil’s advocacy? I have always enjoyed others points of view, especially since this community does such a wonderful job of backing thier statements with citation.

    • ClevelandFrowns

      This is the important announcement and you answered your second question yourself.

  • nj0

    “You guys are the best.”

    So you’re buttering us up for your terrible announcement tomorrow?

    • ClevelandFrowns

      I wish I had a terrible announcement for tomorrow.

      • acto

        May we guess at your “terrible announcement”?

        The walrus gets a long contract extension, a hefty pay raise and a new daquiri machine.
        Papa McCoy is named the new QB coach and spiritual advisor.
        LeBron comes back to Cleveland, but to try to emulate his hero MJ he plays for the Indians and corkscrews himself into the ground chasing curve balls just like MJ.
        And the worst of all….
        Our new forum rules include posting only facts, cogent logic and comments at least remotely related to the topic.
        MJ

        • rgrunds

          Terrible Announcement for Tomorrow:

          Tribe signs Grady to 10 year contract then puts Kipnis and Brantley on waivers to make room for him.

      • nj0

        Considering you cover Cleveland and her sports teams, odds that you’ll have a terrible announcement for everyone tomorrow are actually pretty good.

    • http://twitter.com/byRiverBurns River Burns

      Terrible Announcement: Is this site being re-branded as Frowns 33139…ClevelanderFrowns.com is available.

  • http://twitter.com/cpmack Chris M

    This is the place where brilliant minds assemble to willfully pool ignorance with questionable logic in order to reach absurd conclusions.

    (I don’t know who originally said this)

  • Bryan

    My insightful comments have only be edited once. I think I said something nice about Dan Gilbert.

    Overall, though, I agree with the need for editing. Keep the riff raff out.

  • http://brian23.com Brian

    I’m not big on deleting/editing comments unless they contain unnecessary/offensive vulgarity and/or threats. Just discourages participation.

    For example, I had a longer, well-reasoned version of this, but I expected it would get edited, or mocked, or deleted, so why bother?

    • mo_by_dick

      I was going to say that I think there should be more unnecessary vulgarity.

    • ClevelandFrowns

      I can’t be sure about this hidden “longer, well-reasoned” gem that you’re keeping from us, but this comment that you did post is an excellent example of a candidate for deletion on the basis of “a certain level of disregard for logic … and what’s been written here on the particular subject at issue.”

      What does it mean to say “just discourages participation” when the whole point of the policy is to discourage a certain kind of participation? Including, specifically, participation just like this, which is probably why you were so easily discouraged.

      • http://brian23.com Brian

        Guess i just wonder what your goal is? Discouraging commenting and participation hinders the growth of your site imo.

        • ClevelandFrowns

          The general goals include the dissemination of useful information, the manifestation of diverse personalities, the formation and strengthening of community bonds, and the occasional peaceful resolution of emotional personal/political disputes. Also, problem solving and dinner parties.

          The specific goal of the comments policy is to eliminate diminishing clutter that gets in the way of these goals.

          Do you want to link up on Skype so I can read the post to you?

          • http://brian23.com Brian

            I get it and they are great goals – I do think you cut short the opportunity for “the dissemination of useful information, the manifestation of diverse personalities, the formation and strengthening of community bonds” with the commenting policy/vibe. There’s just no way there aren’t many people who don’t bother because it’s a lot of pins and needles just to leave a comment. I know it’s a lot of time to moderate, so i get you gotta do what you gotta do.

          • ClevelandFrowns

            Yeah, unfortunately the axe has to fall somewhere. Given the subjects we deal with here, it’s probably just as well if its on the pins and needles types.

            http://rustwire.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/you_got_to_tough.jpg

          • nj0

            “It’s a judgment call and I’m making it… I could be wrong… but I’m not.”
            -Bill Hicks

        • ClevelandFrowns

          The like button clicks on this comment are hilarious.

      • DAT law firm

        Well, that’s circular. You don’t like his comment, so it is the type of comment that should be deleted, so it’s the type of comment that you’re trying to discourage.

        His point is perfectly logical. If people are concerned that their comments will be edited and/or deleted, then you will chill their participation even with comments that you would otherwise have wanted. In fact, the above dialogue suggests the danger of being one person in charge of assessing logic – if your prima facie impression is that it is illogical, there is no one to defend it.

        Furthermore, although an individual comment may be worth deleting, the general practice is likely to have an effect on the way that commenters feel about the website. I applaud the job you do – in fact, my presence here attests to that. But all else being equal, people are more likely to participate in similar forums where there is less or no danger that their comments will be deleted. This is true even if it’s only one comment out of a hundred, if there are other websites that are even more indulgent of the commentariat.

        • ClevelandFrowns

          Right. Omelettes, eggs. There is certainly a danger to having one person in charge of assessing logic. Good.

          You can say “people are more likely to participate in similar forums where there is less or no danger that their comments will be deleted,” and I can say “a better forum is more likely to result where folks know that diminishing clutter won’t be tolerated.” You can theorize about hypotheticals, and I can point to this real live forum. Good.

          I’m still OK assuming that the decision to comment has much more to do with the quality and nature of the content at a website than the remote possibility that a comment will be deleted. I’m also generally OK with the idea that the folks I’m most likely to lose are the folks who leave the kinds of comments I’m inclined to delete. Again, omelettes, eggs. We have a good forum here, and one that might fairly be called incomparable.

          Also, there’s nothing circular about the above. To say the policy “just discourages participation” is illogical and unresponsive to a post explaining a policy precisely designed to discourage a certain kind of participation (and one that explicitly acknowledges that there will be costs to the policy). It’s relatively dumb, in all fairness.

  • Hamfist

    As an infrequent poster here, I am going to mind my P’s and Q’s to make certain that Frownie doesn’t have to drop the ban hammer on me.

    • ClevelandFrowns

      Think your TDs, ask your Pat, don’t tell Weeds, and you’ll be fine.

      • Hamfist

        Oooof, those come so few and far between, I overlooked them.

  • bupalos

    Too busy nodding knowingly to expand on any of this. Well done. Always well done.

  • Hopwin

    Did you just canonize all prior posts as dogma?

    • Hopwin

      Specifically this portion: disregard for [...] what’s been written here in the past on the particular subject at issue.

    • ClevelandFrowns

      Again, I wish, but no. I meant to refer to trolling and especially bald non-sequiturs given that every comment is generally a part of a bigger conversation.

      “Basic rules of human decency and procedural order” is better. Thanks.

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    bravo.

    it is absolutely superb that you can articulate a goal and wonderful that that goal does not center on increasing page-hits.

    woody paige or skip bayless have achieved ‘success’ if success is measured by eyeballs… and the world is a poorer place for it. if anything points up the need for individualized/better metrics for ‘media success’ the espn/wknr/cle-dot-com models do.

    i very much like the dinner party analogy. i would invite bupalos or chris_m to my dinner party. i would not invite colin cowherd. this is not hard.

    • nj0

      Woody Paige and Skip Bayless have achieved turning me completely away from anything ESPN that isn’t an actual sporting event minus the announcing.

      Actually, that’s not fair to those two because it was more Kornheiser and Wilbon. Though when I saw Paige and Bayless coming, I quickly understood that ESPN was doubling down on that K/W dynamic and, unless I wanted sports to become a joyless thing, it was time for me to go.

    • http://twitter.com/cpmack Chris M

      And I would like to respond that I would attend the dinner party, so long as Colin Cowherd and Skip Bayless were not invited.

      • ClevelandFrowns

        Fine but Biki’s still coming.

  • mo_by_dick

    Picture in the post is a real snausage-fest.

  • bupalos

    I always wondered what an MRI of a broken heart would look like. Low and behold!

    Some fabulous smiling gentlemen from PDC Mountaineer showed up at the latest Hiram Township Trustee meeting to introduce themselves and explain how great life is about to get for just, like, everyone.

    I honestly haven’t felt this way since 12th grade. Sorry if the posts are dropping off a bit.

    • ClevelandFrowns

      Excellent potential!

      So what’s the scuttlebutt about the earthquakes?

      • bupalos

        Jesus if earthquakes were more than 1/10th of the problem with this pig I’d be dancing in the streets. Earthquakes are just the loudest spokesman.

        But yeah, after 10 years of denial by the industry that there was any possible way this could be true, it’s official now, fracking causes earthquakes: http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/story/2012/04/17/environment-fracking-earthquake-studies.html

        We’re on just about exactly the same truth trajectory with this industry as big tobacco in the 50′s.

  • Petefranklin

    Ive got twelve friends in LA (alledgedly),who know absolutely nothing about football, guess I’ll just meet them at the bar instead of inviting them to dinner.

    • ClevelandFrowns

      You are in charge of the problem solving committee.

      • Petefranklin

        I’d rather be in charge of the DRINK(ing) committee but it seems to me that since both comittees are inherently combined, I’m now in charge of both. Problem solved! DRINK!!

  • Art_Brosef

    Pretty much, dont be a shithead. Im off to the Map Room.

    Just joking. Already here.

    • ClevelandFrowns

      Brosef goes with Franklin on the problem solving committee.

  • GrandRapidsRustlers

    Multiple thanks here.

    Thanks to you for moderating the forum and thanks to all of the guests at the dinner party here with me. It remains the only place I have found on the Internet where you can disagree with someone and still listen to them without any thoughts of violence.

    Seriously…go read any comment section on any sports topic on cleveland.com.

    Once you have thought that the world is almost ending head over to Yahoo and read any comment section…

    Then come back here where everyone is an adult with varying degrees of alcohol and gambling problems with a strange MAC football addiction.

    Thanks!

    • bupalos

      Biki thinks i threatened to kill him. But i just realized that sentence started with something of an oxymoron, so withdrawn.

      • rgrunds

        ha..ha….Ha.

        oxymoron. I like that one.

  • jim

    You’re saying the first amendment doesn’t apply to a privately run sports blog? I’m pretty sure this is not what the founders envisioned.

  • http://www.autismspeaks.org/ PML
  • rgrunds

    It’s so fun here. I just had an encounter with State representative W. Batchelder. Scary guy. Not sure how he can see out of his glasses. Looks like the type of person who was sexually aroused by the fetal pig in 9th grade biology class.

  • rgrunds

    FrOrange you Fascist, you edited me! Public Figures are subject to free comment.

    J’accuse…

  • ClevelandFrowns

    How’s this for timing? Mr. Sese Seko just published his Official Policy on Commenting and Free Speech as well. I’m afraid his might be better. https://twitter.com/ClevelandFrowns/status/223401112185733120/photo/1/large

    • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

      yeah that’s funny and all.

      but the ‘fuck you and your stupid opinion’ bit is way over the top and mobute is definitely an offender. and from my ‘side of the aisle’ i find it the height of irony that so much of intolerance springs forward usually in the name of tolerance.

      anyway, accepting ground rules for discourse as linked above surely reflects a decline in western civilization.

      christ, doesnt anyone watch downton abbey here?

      • ClevelandFrowns

        Meh. You lean right and he’s on the left. I doubt you’d feel so strongly about this if that wasn’t the case. ‘Civility’ is an easy excuse for tyranny. Naturally it’s what the status quo would call for. But I doubt you’re really all that comfortable dismissing out of hand the idea that sometimes things get so fucked that the only thing to do is call the emperor’s clothes for what they are. You just don’t happen to see the emperor’s clothes the same way here, which is too bad, but if you’re feeling especially sensitive to the ‘fuck you and your stupid opinion’ bit these days, it might be worth revisiting your opinions. Think about this in terms of the Cleveland sports media landscape and you’ll probably have an easier time with it.

        I haven’t watched Downton Abbey so I don’t get the reference. (Not that I wouldn’t. Should I? I just got caught up on Breaking Bad, so …)

      • http://twitter.com/cpmack Chris M

        “Extremely rich woman believes that people should use prayers to vote for an extremely rich man, instead of using common sense”.

        Yawn. That’s a slant I’ve never heard before. Some of the comments are over the top, sure. However, when people publicly make extremely abrasive comments, they should be prepared for whatever they receive in return.

        • CleveLandThatILove

          I don’t think she was trying to be vicious. She was responding to another reader who apparently said Christians shouldn’t vote for Romney because he’s Mormon, essentially saying that religion should be the deciding factor for Christians. (It would be helpful if we knew what exactly was in that letter, don’t you think?)

          She’s obviously an old school Christian who is saying OK, if religion is the sole criteria, you must consider Obama and how he embraces Christianity. What’s abrasive about that?

          And what does her financial situation have to do with anything here?

          • http://twitter.com/cpmack Chris M

            I didn’t use the word vicious.

            Also, people with more money are more likely to vote along the lines of social policy than financial policy, simply because the current tax laws are set up to take care of people with all the money.

      • http://twitter.com/cpmack Chris M

        Also, if Ms. Pitt told me to my face “Any Christian who does not vote or writes in a name is casting a vote for Romney’s opponent, Barack Hussein Obama – a man who sat in Jeremiah Wright’s church for years, did not hold a public ceremony to mark the National Day of Prayer and is a liberal who supports the killing of unborn babies and same-sex marriage.”,

        I would probably almost assuredly drop a C bomb on her as well.

        • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

          ‘i respectfully disagree mrs. pitt and here’s why…’

          or vulgar ad hominem attack is another way to go. i am just having a harder and harder time accepting it.

          it really is indicative societal decline. hopefully will be as passe’ as the quiana shirts i wore in high school in 30 years. everything evolves. usually for the better.

          • ClevelandFrowns

            Quiana shirts… Pics or it didnt happen.

          • http://twitter.com/cpmack Chris M

            “..or vulgar ad hominem attack is another way to go”

            Any Christian …who votes for Obama…is a liberal who supports the killing of unborn babies…

            So… This isn’t an ad hominem attack? Got it.

            Also, the context with which she uses “supporter of same-sex marriage” is very much meant to be a degrading and personally insulting statement as well.

            There is no discernible difference between people like Ms. Pitt and the same people who fought to keep blacks from voting or using the same bathroom or laundromat that white people use.

  • rgrunds

    FrOrange. YOU’re getting overconfident. We’re you enthusiastic Greek chorus, not obedient syncophants. Without us, your column is diminished.

    • ClevelandFrowns

      That’s fine but you’re still not allowed to write that somone gets aroused by aborted pig fetuses unless you’ve got some proof.

      • rgrunds

        o.k….it’s just a matter of evidence. That’s a very disciplined approach. I’ll have aerial photos within a week. Jimkanicki will authenticate them.

  • mo_by_dick

    NFL Twitterers reporting that Browns select WR Josh Gordon in 2nd round of supplemental draft.

    • ClevelandFrowns

      Wow.

      • mo_by_dick

        Thinking this would qualify as the “unless something crazy happens” that Frowns is always threatening us with.

    • CleveLandThatILove

      “AJ Green potential” – if only!

    • nj0

      Nice. I like gambling on a guy whose stock dropped because he smoked marijuana. Outside of professional sports, people who used marijuana are better known as “most everyone that everyone knows.”

      • bupalos

        Looks like a blue-chip to me. Seems like a really good personality too. I like it.

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