Human Transit welcomes and encourages comments from people who want to
- share relevant information, including narratives about their own experience, or
- ask questions, or
- engage in thoughtful conversations that could potentially transform or enrich their own views.
The following policies and guidelines are intended to foster such an environment. I reserve the right to delete comments for violating any of these policies.
1. Help Fight Spam by Not Resembling It
As spammers grow increasingly clever, I’ve been forced to introduce a new policy: If the primary link on your name is to a commercial website, I reserve the right to delete the comment as spam. In fact, I’ll only do this if the comment is otherwise suspicious, but because I can’t delineate everything that might make a comment suspicious, I have to be clear. If you want to be sure your comment survives, don’t provide a link to a business as your main web address. (Obviously, you can link to anything inside your comment, as long as it’s germane.)
2. Provide a Valid Email
Address (not published with comment)
It is not necessary to reveal your name to post a comment, but you must have a valid email address.
TypePad will invite you to provide an email address to submit a comment. The address is visible to me but not to other readers. This address must
be valid. I reserve the right to email you at this address to verify your comment, and to delete your comment if the email is bounced back as undeliverable, or receives no response. I reserve the right to delete comments with no email provided, though I generally don’t as long as the comment looks genuine.
3. Say Where You Are
Human Transit is an international blog, with readers in many cities around the world. Ensure that your comment will make sense to this audience. You are encouraged to discuss your own city’s situation, but if you do, be sure that readers can tell which city you’re discussing. Do not expect your readers to know the name of your local transit agency. Instead, say something like: “Here in Portland, TriMet has done this…” Government agencies — even in the United States — should be located clearly: ‘the US Federal Transit Administration,’
4. Be Careful with Abbreviations
If an abbreviation has been used in the post or in earlier comments, it’s OK to use it. Otherwise, spell it out, and put the abbreviation in parentheses. For example, say “US Federal Transit Administration (US FTA)” if you’re going to refer to FTA later. Only internationally obvious abbreviations (US, UK, UN, EU, NATO etc) can be used without this gloss. If in doubt, spell it out.
5. Write in English
The standard English of any English-speaking nation is fine, but keep the international audience in mind. (For example, it would be technically valid but unhelpful for me to write that “the pollies have been rorting our super.”)
If you cite a source in another language, provide a translation, but also link to, or provide, the original-language text.
6. Isolate Minor Factual Corrections
Corrections of fact are welcome. Where appropriate, please include a link to a factual source.
If you point out a minor factual mistake in a post, where “minor” means “not affecting the validity of the post’s argument,” I may make the correction with strikeouts. However, to retain the long-term readibility of the blog, I often just make the correction silently, i.e. leaving no trace of the prior error. If I do this, I will also delete the comment that pointed out the error, as it will have served its purpose.
If I’ve made a major error in a post, I will typically add an update to the post correcting it, often pointing to a new post. In extreme cases, I may delete an erroneous post entirely, or replace it with a simple note indicating that the post has been withdrawn.
To this end, it’s helpful if direct corrections of factual errors are not combined with other comment material, as that requires me to edit your comment to remove the trace of the correction, which can sometimes be hard.
7. Be Careful with the Second Person
If your comment uses the second person (you, your, etc.) you must specify whom you are addressing. This is easy to forget in the heat of discussion, but since TypePad comments are not threaded, your comment may appear at some distance from the one you’re responding to. A standard format for this is “@ Bill” when responding to commenter Bill. But it’s fine if you just start with “Bill, …”
If no addressee is specified, I will assume that “you” refers to me, and this may cause needless misunderstanding.
Texts addressed to others not present, such as texts copied into a comment from a letter to someone else, are not appropriate comments, at least not without a framing introduction explaining what they are and why they are relevant.
8. Be On-Topic
Comments should be related to the topic of the post. This is interpreted very broadly.
Comments frequently turn into conversations between two or three committed commenters, and this is often fine. However, if you find yourself in such an exchange, re-read the original post on occasion, and try to re-engage with it in your discussion. This helps ensure that that the conversation stays in a range that other readers (who have been drawn by the post) will find relevant.
9. Raise New Topics by Email, not Comment
Rather than using comments to raise new topics, email me, using the link under my photo. If you feel there is an important topic that needs discussion, and that you’re qualified to discuss, offer me a guest post on the topic. If you want my own views on a new topic, ask me via email. If you do, be sure to enclose links to any source documents on the topic. (Note that I am doing this as a volunteer*, so have very limited time to do research.)
* If you would like to pay me to write this blog, you should definitely email me!
10. Link to Relevant Sources
Links to relevant sources, including other Human Transit posts, are always strongly encouraged.
11. Avoid Profanity
Words widely identified as profanity are neither necessary nor appropriate. HT is an environment where appearing angry doesn’t make you sound smarter or more effective.
12. Avoid Invective and Abuse
While it is normal to feel frustrated when engaging with people who have different views, the only way to keep conversation constructive is to avoid invective. Invective is a pejorative statement about a person, rather than about his/her views. Recent examples (which I’ve deleted from comments) include “x is a loon” and “x, you are being either obstinate or stupid.”
Factual statements about a person’s views or qualifications, e.g. “x is a longtime opponent of y,” or for that matter “x engages in invective,” are generally fair game, especially if supported by links to relevant sources or examples.
When I see invective statements in comments, I reserve the right to edit them out of the comment, or delete the comment entirely. I may also leave them, but note that invective almost always reduces the credibility of the person who utters it. There is always an invective-free way of saying anything that needs to be said, including any valid critique of another person’s views.
People can be obstinate. If you find that a commenter is simply not getting your point, consider not replying, or replying with only strictly factual corrections. Sometimes letting an obstinate comment hang at the end of a thread is the best way of refuting it. Failing that, consider the final tip:
13. One Final Tip
Finally, if you’re starting to get into a heated exchange, try this technique: Don’t state a judgment. Instead, ask a question.