Comments in the Cracker Jacks

People on this side of the computer need to remember that there are people on the other side as well.

Lately I, and several of my blogging buddies, have noticed that far too many comments on various Patch articles and posts are hostile, negative, often off-topic, and sometimes just plain crazy. Not all Patch commenters take this approach or enter into the warfare that is out there, but a handful of people are definitely taking the pleasure out of intellectual and meaningful dialog.

That’s why I liken finding a good, useful comment to finding the prize in a box of Cracker Jacks. If you dig around, you’ll find it, but you’ll have to get your hands dirty and deal with a lot of nuts.

Anyone who’s been around the Odenton-Severn Patch long enough has no doubt gotten to know those who should automatically be ignored. These commenters find themselves often entering into hostile arguments without furthering the article or adding to the conversation.

Then there are some who try to claim that their First Amendment rights have been violated when their comments are deleted. The First Amendment doesn’t protect all types of speech and while you have the right to pretty much say whatever you want in your house, you don’t have those same rights in my house without being asked to leave and never return. The same goes for a Web site. The Patch Terms of Use, that all commenters agree to, state:

While we encourage people to be honest and post what’s on their mind, communities thrive when people care about each other, and as such, Patch expects all of its users to be respectful of others. This means that whether you are being complimentary or critical, whether you are agreeing or disagreeing with the subject of an article or another user’s comment, you should act in a civil manner and refrain from personal attacks – after all, these are your neighbors.

Unfortunately, I think we’ve all seen this violated over and over again here on our Patch site. And if you continue to read the Terms of Use, you will see the express prohibition of defamatory, abusive, profane, harassing, or threatening language. These are the only comments that I’ve seen removed. And for all the recent inappropriate comments that someone had been leaving on my blog posts, I only asked for some to be removed because they crossed the line from being about me to being about my ex-wife. As a blogger, I accept and welcome the risk to my name being out there and readers’ being able to comment on my thoughts. But I won’t accept personal comments about my ex-wife or anyone else for that matter.

I think it is a great policy that the Patch doesn’t require real names to register, but that also leads to some of this. As a blogger, I am registered with my real full name and a photo. I think if everyone who commented had to stand behind their statements with their real name, we may see some less hostility and more civility.

So next time you want to comment on an article or a blog post, just remember why the Patch is here. It is to promote and cover our local news. It is our neighborhood. It is our news. And, at the end of the day, it is about us. We should respect that and each other enough to keep our comments civil. Of course, we can and will disagree, but keeping it respectful and productive is why many have died to protect our First Amendment.

At the sound of the bell, come out swinging, but keep it clean.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Ronald August 22, 2012 at 01:42 PM
This really sounds personal. I wish you both the best and hope you can work it out. The registration portion of signing on to PATCH could be used to identify bloggers. I think that everyone should have the ability to blog confidentially. Some vocations make it against policies to even be on blogs (god forbid we should know the truth about people). Still - the rules need to be applied evenly and fairly. AND that one A _ _ h _ _ _ needs to be protected and stood up for in order to protect the rights of all.
Tommy Warshaw III August 23, 2012 at 11:01 AM
Well said Jason. Unfortunately the internet will always be a three-ring circus for the ignorant and just plain loony. I agree in concept that people should have to use their real names when posting, but there is no true way (at least not that is simple) to verify that person is actually who they say they are.
Jason Humm August 23, 2012 at 11:36 AM
It would be interesting to see the impact of making people register via Facebook would have on the level of civility in the comments.
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