A few words about comments

For some reason, in recent months, some of the comment threads on this site have become filled with negativity, personal insults, and conduct unbecoming of respectful and mature conversation.

There have been over 55,000 comments left on this site in the past three years and I have generally had a pretty open and loose style for moderating them.

Amazingly, even though we’ve dealt with many contentious and emotional issues, I have only had to edit and/or completely delete a very, very small percentage of those comments. I tell people all the time that the comments on BikePortland.org are one of the most valuable components of this site. I feel that is due in large part because I have worked hard to create an environment of respect that is (luckily) heeded by the majority of readers.

But lately, I feel as though a unnecessarily critical and negative tone is creeping in, and based on feedback I’ve received from several people that I respect, that tone is driving away readers.

Contrary to what you might think, this site is not an open, public forum. BikePortland.org is not a non-profit organization. This is a private corporation (under the name of Pedaltown Media) that I founded with the intent to “inform and inspire”. My goal is to create the largest tent possible and have everyone feel welcome to come on in.

I don’t have an official comment policy, I don’t like rules (because I like to break them when necessary), and I require no log-in to leave comments. I don’t want to do anything that might stifle your opinions or your feeling that you can respond quickly and candidly about the issues. That style has served me well for three years now and I hope to continue in that vein into the future.

Don’t get me wrong. I welcome opposition and criticism, but there’s a way to accomplish that without resorting to name-calling and off-topic diatribes.

The Golden Rule of commenting is to act like we’re all having a nice, social get-together in my living room. Please conduct yourself the same way you would if we were all present, face-to-face.

Remember, a large part of this site’s success has been the quality of your comments. It would be an immense loss — not just to me personally but I think for the entire community — if that ever changed.

Thanks. I welcome your feedback and questions.

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Red Hippie
Red Hippie
13 years ago

Well done,

A delicate and ticky discussion.

princesshungry
13 years ago

well said.

Chris B
Chris B
13 years ago

Reading through the posts recently, especially the ones regarding injuries, have been really disheartening. Thanks in advance for getting us all back on track.

PoPo
PoPo
13 years ago

Nicely put.

Alison
Alison
13 years ago

Thanks, Jonathan.

I think your golden rule is a helpful visual aid to facilitate productive conversations that will raise the quality and quantity of dialogue that will improve bicycling and this great city.

Alison

Forseti
Forseti
13 years ago

Jonathan, the way you handle some of the comments, and people, you have to deal with here is nothing short of amazing. It\’s always even-handed and respectful, yet never lacks a clear expression of your views. I could not do this nearly as well as you. Given the community value of your business, you deserve accolades for that alone.

Perhaps slightly more frequent reminders of the Golden Rule of Commenting would ensure things don\’t get too far off track. For instance, it says below this box (as I type): \”Comment moderation is enabled. Your comment may take some time to appear.\” Maybe you could add a brief note after that? Or just drop in a reminder in the comments as necessary? Or perhaps this will all straighten itself out…

chuck
chuck
13 years ago

Thanks for addressing this, Jonathan. Increasingly, I\’m feeling more and more disgusted with some of the things I read on here. I\’m almost to the point where I can\’t read any comments, and need to stick to just the article. Naturally, this would be unfortunate, as there\’s usually a lot of good discussion going on in there.

Thanks for doing all of this, my friend. I know it takes a lot of time and energy to produce something like this, and it must be tough to have to watch all this negativity.

postmoves
postmoves
13 years ago

Thank you Jonathan for facilitating. You are providing a platform for perspectives to those of us impacted by the growing transportation issues both affected by and affecting the cycling community.
As a newer reader with few postings (mainly because I enjoy the educational quality from those more well versed), I am one that has run the risk of being alienated by some of the ugliness (\’passive agressive\’, \’tacit death threats\’?!?), but I am encouraged by your stance.
PayPal on the way – keep up the good work.

joe adamski
joe adamski
13 years ago

Jonathon.. spot on. This board is the result of your effort and you have the right to shape it as you see fit.

Consider requiring a log in.A And perhaps a preview option so I can look and see how it will look when posted. If one lacks the courage to own their views, the opinion is merely an opinion. If I put my name on it, I am offering something i value.

We are not a monolithic community. I expect an array of views on any topic. I value them, as I glean a clearer view as a result of everyones contributions. At the same time, I would encourage everyone to read what they have written before they hit the send button. What may have felt witty as I write it may end up cruel or demeaning when I read it.

It still holds that I should have my name on it, for if I am on point, I know I have added to the conversation. If I am not, I might need to be called on it.

djasonpenney
13 years ago

Here, here, Jonathan. Two words: \”be constructive!\”

Personal attacks and rants just puts us at the same level as the journalists at the Sorrygroanian. (oops, is that negativity again?)

Adams Carroll (News Intern)
13 years ago

\”s a newer reader with few postings … I am one that has run the risk of being alienated by some of the ugliness\”

thanks for sharing postmoves, folks like you are one of the main reasons I felt it necessary to address this issue right now.

joe adamski, re: anonymous comments
I don\’t mind anonymous comments… the content is what I focus on, not whether someone leaves a name or not.

and yes, i would like to have a good preview function… have had one in the past but the technology was not perfect so i ditched it.

forseti: that\’s a good idea… and I\’ve done that in the past… however i find it tricky to write just the right words. i don\’t like to tell people how to comment or have them misinterpret what I mean by saying, \”please use respect when commenting,\” or something like that. i will work on something and see how it goes.

D.R. Miller
13 years ago

It\’s a sign of the success of this site as a community forum that you have to address this issue, and I too hope that the comments can remain as open as possible. You\’ve done an amazing job so far of setting the tone.
I like Joe\’s suggestion of a Preview step before sending it off to the ether.

Speaking for myself I know that I like to think that I am reasoned and polite but that it is very easy for the cleverness and wit of someone who is gentle in person to come across as mean spirited and snide in a bare written format. Second looks are always a good idea.

B.C.
B.C.
13 years ago

It is unfortunate that as a website or blog with comments gains more and more popularity, there tends to be an increase in the number of negative commnets.

This website regulary sees articles with 100+ comments after it, many of them constructive, but obviously there have been enough negative comments that you felt obligated to write an entire article about the issue.

Let\’s hope that people people begin to respec each other on this site, because if we cannot even respect each other here, then how are we going to do it on the roads where lives are actually at stake.

Graham
Graham
13 years ago

But long, wordy posts are still OK? Whew!

The Golden Rule of commenting is to act like we’re all having a nice, social get-together in my living room. Please conduct yourself the same way you would if we were all present, face-to-face.

Ayep, well said. And well-illustrated here (excuse the re-post):

http://xkcd.com/438/

There\’s a rule I\’ve heard about angry email: write it, put it away, then look at it an hour later. It\’s amazing how well that lets one prune one\’s anger from an email, because you see the anger for how damaging and useless it is. Works for forum posts too.

Diogo
Diogo
13 years ago

I believe that I’m probably one of the people you’re addressing, even though I don’t feel that I have engaged in personal insults. But I do know that my style of commenting is usually very blunt and critical. I personally don’t think that that is a bad thing: I actually find one of the great qualities of internet forums that it somehow brings this bluntness that allows for raw ideas and p.o.v. to be exposed directly, without all the ceremonies of other environments, where imo so-called civility and politeness more often than not prevent the potential richness of debates to take place. Many people, for example, would not feel comfortable openly expressing their contempt for stupid laws in public, but they may in the internet. So sometimes, I think, the content of an opinion itself can shock and offend people regardless of the form it is presented, especially when it’s about values. As I see it, there’s a difference between insulting and being blunt – but other people may not recognize that difference. And what if I actually feel negative? Niceness can be a bad thing – there are some good authors who denounced the tyranny of decorum which disallows critical thinking. Off-topic is also a matter of perspective since things are often about context and background.

Having said that, I’m aware that this is your website and that it is your right to censure or block my comments. I may not like it, but I definitely wouldn’t take offense. Feel free to do it and also to tell me when you don’t like it if you want. I say that because I may not always be able or even want to measure my form of expressing my opinion according to the average person’s sensibility – they certainly don’t measure theirs according to mine. I definitely don’t want to be a bad guest, but the job of judging how appropriate my comment is may just have to be up to you sometimes…

Graham
Graham
13 years ago

B.C.:

Let\’s hope that people people begin to respec each other on this site, because if we cannot even respect each other here, then how are we going to do it on the roads where lives are actually at stake.

You bring up a good point: internet snarkiness and road rage share a similar dynamic. They both present a certain amount of anonymity, which frees people to let loose with a rage they wouldn\’t in more civil circumstances.

I\’ve often though that being more civil online is good practice for becoming more civil on the road.

Robin
13 years ago

Well said Jonathan. Now this would be a perfect excuse to have another bikeportland.org social hour. Let people have a chance to put names with faces again.

ambrown
ambrown
13 years ago

Yes Please.

Thank you.

Joe
Joe
13 years ago

Great Job!, shows leadership in a direction we all want to go, foward.

Thanks for all your hard work and the people out there that make this a great site.

Joe

Uh-huh
Uh-huh
13 years ago

Personally I think the tone of your posts lately have become jaded and cynical.

The tone of your posts is why I\’m removing this site from my RSS reader, not the comments.

kennyboy
kennyboy
13 years ago

Right-on Jon.
I\’m with Alf, the militant knee-jerk rants in the comments on bike portland are off-putting, as is some of the bike culture in Portland. But I live and ride in Portland, as I have in various U.S. cities and Amsterdam. Cycling in Amsterdam is mature, California cities are hit or miss, Atlanta is lethal, Portland is sublime.

But there are occasional bike/enemy-vehicle incidents which bring out the ranters. Thing is, I think it\’s mainly blog-rage. Motorists express contempt at cyclists, motorcyclists hate the \’cagers\’, cyclists sneer at skateboarders and everyone looks down on rollerbladers. There\’s enough vehicle bigotry to qualify Portland for Southern state status, even though most people in these categories also use one or more of the other vehicles they express contempt for.

But it\’s mostly in the comments. Sure you see stupid and dangerous people in all the above categories, but riding day-to-day in Portland is great–people are for the most part, friendly, courteous and laid-back. So please don\’t gauge Portland by the silly headlines and commenters, although if it keeps you from moving here, that\’s cool.

btw, in descending order I use bikes, motorcycles, and infrequently, my station wagon when I need something that won\’t fit on the other two.

Cross-posted to bikesocial.blogspot.com

Metal Cowboy
13 years ago

Thanks Jonathan. Just this morning, while carting the boys from Nopo to Sellwood on our bike train, I found myself getting alittle down about the bike community – all the while, cyclists were waving, being respectful of each other along the esplande and sharing the road with me ( and I know a tandem, trailabike, trailer combo can be hard to pass, follow behind and navigate around etc.) then I realized, it wasn\’t the actual bike experience in Portland I was upset/drained by, It was the negative, disrespectful and at times stand-offish comments made in recent posts, especially to people just coming to the game. So here\’s a sincere thanks for addressing this and alerting everyone egarding how we should treat each other – but this doesn\’t mean folks can\’t make fun of me, inject humor into posts and offer up spirited debate.

Jack
13 years ago

well said!

Michael C
Michael C
13 years ago

Here, here. There\’s already too much division in the community already.

Diogo: If other people regularly have difficulty distinguishing your comments from insults that should be a clue that you might adopt a different tone. It would serve to only enhance the interchanges you have with other people and make people more open to your ideas.

BTW: can you approve my forum account?

Toby
Toby
13 years ago

I think the purpose behind logging in order to post is so that your comment is tied to you, a specific individual. However, that would only work if said individual was who they said they are. ie, we know that \”Jesus Christ God of War\” is who he says he is, but who\’s this Adamski fellow? Is he really the Joe I know? 😉

Besides, I think that logins are prohibitive to new posters. Speaking only for myself, I wont hesitate to login to a site that I frequent, but will be less likely to register (and return to) a site that I\’m new to.

I\’ve always appreciated the light moderation, but there are always those that continually put the glass NEXT to the coaster. You can count their visits by the number of rings on the coffee table.

andy
andy
13 years ago

If I may provide another blog as an example: Dave from Blazersedge runs a one of the best sports-related blogs I\’ve read, and he is careful to moderate it so that the conversation in the comments doesn\’t get personal or ugly. He has a pretty simple and straightforward set of guidelines for conversation on the site, and he is not averse to banning those who ignore the guidelines. As a result, it\’s usually a pretty good read (at least it is if you like the Blazers). It might be worth thinking about, at the very least.

Toby
Toby
13 years ago

Oh, and a preview feature would probably assist the dorks (who, me?) that leave stuff out and have to add follow ups!

Rule with a gentle heart but an iron fist.

BURR
BURR
13 years ago

or you could have a conversation with Donna B. about how the BikeForums.net site is moderated…

Gravy
Gravy
13 years ago

Thanks for the guidelines
I like this site due to its
\”ear to the ground nature\”
Please keep up the GoodWork

Deborah
Deborah
13 years ago

Thank you Jonathan

Aaron
Aaron
13 years ago

Have you considered going with the BoingBoing approach of disemvowelling comments that cross the line?

Maria(in pink)
Maria(in pink)
13 years ago

Are there cocktails being served in your living room, Jonathon? I\’d love an absolute grapefruit juice before I ride home.

Nice job on KBOO this am. And of course I agree with your request for civil posts, as do all civil folk I\’m sure!

= )

Zaphod
13 years ago

Thanks Jonathon.

It\’s not hard to contribute an opposing and controversial position in a civilized way.
Saying, \”I disagree and here\’s why…\”
is vastly superior to
\”You\’re an idiot and my thinking is smarter because…\”

Writing in this way helps not only to avoid the pitfalls of personal attack but also improves the quality of the comment because you are forced to think about how to best articulate your position. Maybe during the process we all might better understand the others point of view.

matt picio
13 years ago

Aaron (#30), did you actually mean \”disemvowelling\”? Because that\’s pretty cool.

t mns tht prsnl ttck psts bcm mstl nrdbl, lk th sntnc m wrtng hr.

I think that\’s kind of awesome!

Aka
Aka
13 years ago

Nice post! maybe you should have named this post \”comment about the comments\” =D

Rich Wilson
Rich Wilson
13 years ago

\”That style has served me well for three years now and I hope to continue in that vain into the future.\”

I think you mean \’vein\’. Sorry, I\’m a grammar nerd.

Scott
Scott
13 years ago

Nothing wrong with a little razzing, as long as its not to personal. come on guys..

Pete
Pete
13 years ago

Disemvowelling – sounds violent! Not to be confused with \”disavowing\” of course…

I like the login idea; it improves accountability. I also like (collapsible) threaded comments. They logically organize responses to comments without requiring a reference, for example:

matt picio (#34): nc dsmvwlld sntnc y wrt, wtht gttng bld n yr hnds vn! 🙂

Kris S
Kris S
13 years ago

Thanks Jonathan, right on the mark. Your level-headed style of addressing this issue serves as an excellent example on how we all should try to interact on this forum. And most of the time, I think the comments here are head-and-shoulders above what one gets to read on other popular public forums.

PS: I noticed that another reader recently posted a comment with the same handle that I normally use (Kris). All fine with me (nothing controversial about his/her comment), but maybe that would be another good reason to consider requiring a log-in for posting comments. As your community of readers grows larger, we are likely to see more and more cases of readers sharing the same handle (especially if they just use their first name), which could add confusion about the identity of a certain commenter or the opinion held by a certain person.

JP
JP
13 years ago

It\’s nice that you\’ve addressed this since I hesitate whether or not to reply since some conflicting comments aren\’t even constructive but rather juvenile and taunting. Yes, lately I\’ve left your website pissed. Overall, it\’s not worth it. Good luck!

L
L
13 years ago

Oh good Lord no disemvowelling please. It\’s a passive aggressive reaction and will only provoke more negativity. If you must delete, delete and be done with it.

Cameron
Cameron
13 years ago

I posted my disappointment with the Myra/redlocks story and immediately after that the discourse improved. To some degree I wish I could take that post back.

I think much of the reason that it improved was Jonathan\’s response to the criticism. He stepped up and answered with his honest and heartfelt opinion.

I would like to thank you Jonathan for setting such an amazing tone on this website. I enjoy coming here to see what\’s happening with the bike community around me, and I appreciate the hard work that is involved and the courage to speak the truth as you know it.

Donald
Donald
13 years ago

Insulting online is the new driving.

(keep up the great work neighbor.)

((I always thought .org was reserved for non-profits. I must be wrong.))

Ashley
13 years ago

Thanks for the post Jonathon. The comments were turning into what felt was the horror of utube comments. I hope the commentary will continue to function without rules.

c
c
13 years ago

My 2 cents: As readership grows (which your excellent site deserves) it is inevitable that quality of commenting will degrade without moderating (or user rating) of some kind. This is true for every blog I can think of.

I really like what YOU are doing with the site. I suggest you do something to keep the comments up to the level of your posts. Otherwise, users like me will just stop reading the comments (but not your posts!).

Dan Kearl
Dan Kearl
13 years ago

I applaud your editorial! I go to your site daily and lately have been amazed at some of the comments posted. It seems sometimes that cyclists deserve some of the ridiculous venom spewed at us. Some of the posts on this website are approaching the kind of crazy rhetoric I have listened to on talk radio. You do need to edit some of this.

peejay
peejay
13 years ago

Hey, I was first with the disemvowelling idea, on the Last Thursdays post. Credit where credit is due, folks!

I like it because modifying a comment in that manner leaves it readable (sort of) for those who really care, but is a clear signal for those who don\’t want any nastiness to avoid. And, it prevents the troll from crying \”I was censored because you don\’t want the truth to be known!\” or some such drivel.

Another way perhaps is to change the text color on offending posts to something very similar to the background color. It accomplishes the same sort of thing.

Marissa
Marissa
13 years ago

well said Jonathan. I firmly believe that if you wouldnt say it face to face, then dont say it in a forum or comment section. It all boils down to one word – respect.

Eagerdrone
Eagerdrone
13 years ago

I think you do a great service to your readers Jonathan, and I appreciate the time you and each of the readers take to communicate bike issues to Portlanders and beyond.

I enjoy reader comments for the variety of perspectives, some completely rational, well thought out and on target, some humourous, and some not so thought out. I\’m not the type to become downcast by the ideas of others and I can take a few swear words. In fact, I\’ve had one of my comments moderated. I think I made a derogatory remark. I didn\’t think my comment negative at the time I wrote it and was surprised to see it had later been ** out. In any case, I wasn\’t upset that it had been edited because the gist of what I intended was still present.

joeb
joeb
13 years ago

I also hope this site can continue to function without rules, although I do appreciate that personal insults are deleted. That\’s an easy one. There are threads that descend into tiresome argument that I wish didn\’t happen, but editing/censoring… well, it\’s really not possible.

I love that you post quality articles and then expect the comment section to discuss, fleshed out, chewed up and complete the POV. And unfortunately sometimes the comments derail. Some days, including yesterday, can get rough and as Metal Cowboy said, it\’s a downer. Some posts I avoid for a time knowing the dialog will include a lot of negativity, but my addiction draws me in anyway. And some times I get concerned, but there are nuggets of brilliance and humor mixed in and it always comes back. I am so glad you still have the passion to keep it going.

And since I missed last quarter\’s donation, now\’s as good a time as any to double it up.