Howdy! Alex here. Welcome!
The purpose of my comment section is to provide a fun, engaging space for readers to comment on the comic, its themes and related issues. Both criticism of my work and praise are absolutely welcome. People have often told me that they find the comments here to be refreshingly positive, supportive and interesting. Most of that comes from the fact that we have the most awesome readers in the world!
But the moderators and I also try to set things up to keep this such a pleasant and constructive space. My basic comment policy is really simple: When talking to or about another commenter (or commenters in general), always use a tone of respect. Especially when you disagree. I’ve discovered that most folks do this naturally on this site, but here are some tips to keep in mind:
It means that when you post a comment, you make sure you make it clear that you think the other person is just as smart, compassionate, moral, logical, reasonable, etc. as you, yourself, are. Maybe even more so. This is especially true when you disagree with someone — in that case, you should go out of your way to let the other person know that while you disagree with their idea, you have nothing but respect for the person making it.
This isn’t the place to disparage someone or to try to make people feel bad, even if, for some reason, you think it’s for their own good. Direct insults and name-calling are obvious no-nos. As are negative statements about commenters “in general.” The goal is to participate in and encourage illuminating, engaging, fun discussion, not flame-wars. Keep it about the ideas. Make it clear you are just sharing your own opinion and that you are certainly open to other interpretations.
It’s the best way to keep the discussion on track. NOT AWESOME:
- “You are crazy if you think that The Platinum Priestess likes puppies!”
- “You’re clearly not thinking logically about this.”
- “It’s clear that commenters on this page are too naïve to see what’s going on.”
- “Here are the assumptions you are making:”
- “HOW CAN YOU THINK THAT???”
- “I really don’t think The Platinum Priestess would like puppies and here’s why:”
- “Here’s how I’m thinking about this.”
- “Here’s what I see going on here:”
- “I just want to check in to see if this is what you’re saying:”
- Remember that “tone of respect”? If you feel the need to put the other person on the defensive, step away from the keyboard, take a deep breath and go get some fresh air before commenting.
(Here is a link to a great article that goes into a lot more depth about this point. It’s actually an excellent article about how to critique other people’s creative writing effectively but the techniques apply broadly.)
The comment section is a forum to discuss ideas and and the point is for everyone to have a good time. Joking around is of course OK if it’s fun for everyone. But if the other person isn’t laughing with you, then you are doing it wrong. And if you’re being obnoxious, you’ll be asked to go. “Gross-out” humor and explicit sexual humor should be avoided for the same reason—it tends to be more provocative than engaging/entertaining for most readers, and doesn’t really fit with our tone here. If a reasonable reaction to your comment would be “Ew, gross,” then don’t click that Post button.
Obviously spamming isn’t cool here, either. But sometimes when we feel passionately about a topic, we might accidentally engage in it. So here’s the deal: leaving one comment about something is cool here, leaving several comments with essentially the same content, especially as direct replies (which Disqus usually sends as direct email to the original poster), is something we ask folks not to do. And my mods have instructions to take action when that happens. Say what you have to say, clearly, and just the once. Those who want to engage with you on that topic will do so. And then if you want to expand on that point with them, you can do so in the thread you created. But don’t just post essentially the same comment a bunch of times, and especially don’t do that as direct replies. Repetitious comments will be deleted.
Let folks like what they like—at least when using direct replies to comments. In a similar vein, if you find yourself confronting others constantly about a topic via direct reply—for example, responding to pretty much every comment in favor of a “ship” by telling the original poster (OP) why you think that pairing is unhealthy and unappealing—then it’s probably time to step back. Responding with your own thoughts to someone’s idea of fun once or twice on a page is OK, if you think the OP actually might want to engage with you on it and if you are confident it would lead to a discussion that the OP would enjoy. But if you feel the need to make the point again and again to any and all comers—particularly if a page becomes littered with a bunch of your replies saying essentially the same thing—well, that can make folks feel like it’s not OK to have their own opinion on this. Which can suck the fun out of participating in our Comments Section for that OP and have a serious chilling effect on folks feeling comfortable on our site in general. Remember, direct replies get sent to commenters’ Inboxes.
Don’t be “that guy” who tries to shout down folks who don’t feel the same way about something you do. If you think it’s a point that hasn’t been made before (or, for some reason, truly hasn’t been said enough), it’s better to just post your own original comment on the matter—once per page, and no more—and leave it at that. (And still using I-statements and a respectful tone, of course.) Those readers who actually want to engage with you on the topic can then respond to you directly (which they likely will) and those who don’t will know this is a place they can share what they are enjoying about our comic without an obligation to constantly defend it from attack.
Now, I am someone who enjoys a good debate. Because of my role as “Word of God” here, I can’t really participate in them in this comments section, but it is something I enjoy engaging in with friends. But I’ve had to learn the hard way that not everyone likes debate. Some people just want to share their opinions and ideas with their friends in peace (which is totally OK here.) And even for those of us who like debate, there are always limits beyond which it stops being fun or useful. We have a really great community here. I’m sure the last thing you would want to do is badger someone with your opinion to the point of annoyance or upset. But because all we get are typed words in the comments section, it can be hard to tell when the other person is no longer having fun and is ready to move on. And, I’ve heard from some folks, that they often feel somehow obligated to respond to direct replies, even when they don’t want to, for fear the other person will think they are being rude or cowardly or whatever. So, let me make it clear — if you aren’t having fun discussing a topic or you don’t feel like responding, moving on without comment is totally acceptable and normal here. There are places in the world where ignoring a response or comment would be considered rude. This is not one of those places.
It’s rare, but sometimes a complete lack of response isn’t enough, especially if you’ve debated this point before. People justifiably might think you’re still wanting to engage on that issue. But what do you do if you really are done defending a point of view but the other person keeps bringing it up in replies to your comments? We handle that in a very specific way here to let others know there are no hard feelings, just a desire to make clear that we’re ready to bow out and move on. When you really are ready to move on from a discussion with someone, copy-paste this into your response to that person:
Thank you very much for wanting to engage with me about this, but I've said all I wanted to say on this point and so I'm going to move on now by posting the <a href="http://youngprotectors.com/comment-policy/">Standard Bow-Out Language</a>. :) This “Standard Bow-Out Language” will link back to this Comment Section and means simply this: “I respect you and what you have to say, I have no hard feelings and, as is totally cool to do here, I’m moving on for my own reasons. Please respect my desire to move on.”
If you have received this phrase in response to one of your replies, please just move on without any further replies to that commenter on that topic. You haven’t done anything wrong—it might not even be about what you said at all—they might have just had to defend their view on the last five pages to other commenters and they are just simply done talking about this one thing. Most likely they’d be happy to chat with you on another topic. So, no need to give an explanation or apology or, God forbid, demand to know why the person is done with the conversation. What’s important is that they’re done talking about this for now and that’s OK. Just move on without further response to them and either engage with someone else about the point you are looking to make or find something else to talk about.
If, after you’ve posted the “Standard Bow Out” language as a reply to someone’s reply to you, that commenter continues to try to engage with you on the topic you bowed out of, don’t respond, instead let me or the moderators handle it. We’re on the lookout for this language so it shouldn’t take long. If it seems like we’re unaware that a commenter is ignoring your Standard Bow-Out Language request, then email me directly and I’ll take care of it.
One caveat about the Standard Bow Out Language — if you’re going to use it, it has to be the ONLY thing in your response and once you put it out there, you really have to take the high road and stop engaging with that person on that topic. This isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card for hit-and-run commenting. By using it, you are choosing to give the other person the last word in the discussion so you can move on in peace. If you use the SBOL as the last sentence of a rant or explanation or whatever, just to make sure you get the last word, that’s not cool and you’ll be hearing from one of the moderators about that. Same thing goes for later re-engaging the person on that same topic — that’s a mixed message and is confusing. If you really aren’t ready to walk away before saying just one word more or if this is something you feel you still will want to debate with that person or you feel you need them to understand why you don’t want to talk about it, then don’t use the Standard Bow Out Language. Only use it when you really are willing to be completely done and let the other person have the last word. Respect the sanctity of the Standard Bow Out Language — it is your friend and it’s for everyone’s benefit.
Then don’t respond to them and don’t mention them directly or indirectly in this comments section. If the other person is clearly out of line, send me an email and I or one of my moderators will look into it. But life is short. If find yourself incapable of maintaining a tone of respect, you are expected to move on without comment. Period.
It’s good policy for roommates and it’s good for comment sections: if you feel like you are going out of your way to be respectful and sensitive to other people’s needs, even more than you think you should if the effort was evenly split 50/50, then you are probably doing just enough. And you can feel good that you are making this one of the most fun and engaging comments sections out there.
Thank you for making this such a great community!
Phew! That felt like a lot! But the truth is, there are very rarely any problems at all here. And it’s because you all really do go out of your way to make this a fun, safe space for everyone. And if there ever is a misunderstanding, you consistently go out of your way to clear things up and try to make the other person feel OK. I see it time and time again and it makes me so proud of y’all. I know a number of creators who don’t even look at their comment section because what they see there makes them so unhappy. I read every comment because you make it so much fun for me (and the artists!) That’s a rare, special thing. Thank you so much for being so awesome.