Comments policy

The following page contains an explanation of the policy regarding comments on this site.

Firstly, comments must be more or less ‘polite’, as measured by social standards common in Renai’s home country of Australia (similar social standards apply in other Westernised countries such as the United States, Canada and the UK). This doesn’t mean you need to maintain the sort of conversation level you would use with your mother. It just basically means don’t be rude to other commenters or Renai. You may disagree with opinions published on this site, but you should respect their right of people to hold them.

Secondly, comments must be respectful of authors themselves. It’s fine to analyse and debate the quality of an author’s work in a constructive manner. But the moment things descend into personal attacks or sustained negativity against an author or their work, this is stepping over the line. Obviously writing quality differs markedly between different authors, and personal preference comes into how we feel about their books as well. But in general, we need to respect the immense amount of personal effort any author has put in to their work.

Thirdly, comments must not harm the discussion. This sounds a bit nebulous. So what does it really mean? “Harming the discussion” is a blanket term which covers quite a few ideas. For example, it may cover, but not be limited to, the following examples:

  • Obvious and repetitive trolling to get a reaction (for example: “All science fiction books published after 1990 suck”)
  • Comments which might be defamatory in nature or breach copyright (for example: “Joe Bloggs is a plagiarist”)
  • Comments which display a lack of rationality or reasonableness (for example: Comments which avoid acknowledging substantive issues raised by other commenters in relation to their argument)
  • Comments which inject demonstrably false information into the debate (for example: “all fantasy books are inspired only by Tolkien”). Often I will leave these be, if other readers correct the record. But if it’s done consistently, it’s a problem.
  • Comments which constantly change the subject to off-topic subjects, often in self-promoting areas. Occasional off-topic stuff is completely fine, but if commenters are constantly trying to push an agenda not related to the current topic of discussion, that will become a problem.
  • Comments which are highly self-promoting, especially if they don’t disclose conflicts of interest

I realise the term “harming the discussion” is a bit vague, and that I haven’t precisely defined all of the cases in which it will be used here. However, I am completely fine with that. The reason for that is that this site is not a democracy. It is a dictatorship run by one person (myself), and I (and any other moderators I appoint) will decide whether the term applies to any given situation.

Deletion and banning policy
To make it clear, if I see a comment on the site which breaches these rules, I will instantly delete that comment or at best partially censor it, if there is value in the rest of the comment. If I see that same commenter post a number of similar comments, I will ban them for a period of a week from the site. If they infringe the policy after that time, I will ban them for good. Once a year (on December 31), I will clear the list of banned commenters and let them onto the site again.

If you feel your comment has been unfairly deleted or you have been unfairly banned, your remedy is easy: Contact me directly about it. I will reconsider the case, especially if you can get other readers to agree with you that the deletion or banning is unfair.

I want to emphasise that I don’t expect this new policy to affect the majority of readers — in fact, I anticipate that 99 percent of comments will be completely fine. It is aimed at promoting positive, rational and useful discussion on this site. And I will in fact only rarely use it. I will in fact actually proactively ignore some ad-hoc breaches of the policy if I think the commenter concerned is acting innocently. But one key factor is consistency — if I see people consistently harming the discussion, I will stop them.

I hope all this makes sense!