Comment Threads: Refining the Rules

I’ll be frank here: once a comment thread goes beyond twenty-five or so, I quit paying attention unless it’s my post. For the latter I accept responsibility for monitoring what goes on. For the Baron’s posts, which are much more frequent and elicit many comments, I have neither the energy nor the desire to act as policeman, and he doesn’t have the time.

After twenty-five comments or so, there is nothing new to be said. It’s a MEGO (my-eyes-glaze-over) experience for everyone but those involved in putting forth their arguments, ad infinitum.

BoxersThe exigencies of the present situation have caused several discussions between the Baron and me as to the best way to handle the problem of overly long threads. As they travel interminably down the page, these marathon sessions are usually dominated by two or three people, though not always the same crew in each thread. Have you noticed there seems to be an inverse relationship here: as the same few people continue arguing there is usually a rise in temperature without a parallel increase in light?

I remember when Wretchard, The Belmont Club’s proprietor, instituted a rule limiting comments to three per person per thread. He included himself in that constraint. If you’ve read Wretchard, you know he is an eminently sane and accommodating fellow. Thus, if he felt impelled to establish such a rule, there may be wisdom in it.

Can you see it coming? The new rules for Gates of Vienna?
– – – – – – – –
First the old rules, since it is obvious they need reiteration:

1. Civility: No name calling, gratuitous insults, personal slurs, denigration of someone’s intelligence, etc. Cleverness and/or subtlety in this regard don’t count. Denigration, no matter how well-phrased, still reflects badly on the attacker.

2. Temperance: No exhortations to commit violence or foment insurrection, etc. And no imprecations against whole groups of people.

3. On-topic: We generally don’t delete off-topic comments, but reserve the right to if they are excessively long. A brief off-topic mention of something you think we should know is perfectly fine.

4. Decorum: We are a PG-13 blog, because the parents of homeschoolers allow their older children to come over here to further their education. Please make your point without resorting to foul language or explicit descriptions.

5. Brevity: Limit comment to less than five hundred words.


6. Four comments per person per thread. Period. This will save lots of headaches for the blog administrators – all we have to do is count.

7. No portage of old arguments over to new posts. In other words, back to number 3: commenters must stay on topic.

Boxing WomenThere is also a codicil to #5: commenters may not divide up a thousand words into two run-on comments separated by a “continued”. Anything over five hundred words is an essay and not a comment. It belongs on your own blog. Please feel free to leave a link to your essay and readers may follow it to take up the conversation there.

This whole thing is a headache. If implementation of THE NEW RULES doesn’t work, newer rules will be even more draconian. I refuse to permit my blog to become a dysphoric swamp.

Gates of Vienna is not a democracy; the rules of the house are those imposed by the proprietors. This is a private space into which people are welcomed to read and, if they wish, to leave their thoughtful responses to what is on offer.

The bickering will stop, at least on this blog.


34 thoughts on “Comment Threads: Refining the Rules

  1. Can understand it. But to be truthful i didn’t like it one bit. Specially the 4 comments rule. If two or three are arguing let them be who will notice it anyway?

  2. Like last speaker I’m a bit ambivalent about the four limit rule, not for myself though as I’m well aware that there are other commenters here more well versed than myself. But it would be a shame if a good debate is haltered because of that limit. Aside from that I don’t mind the changes. I don’t want to point out any special commenters but you are probably aware that here is a few good commenters and even a few more than that but they don’t comment that often. And as I said, for my own part it won’t be a problem. At least we won’t see so many rahklos’s in the future.

  3. Rocha–

    f two or three are arguing let them be who will notice it anyway?

    A great many people notice it and they have shared their displeasure with me. The consensus is that “letting them be” degrades our blog.

    “Two or three arguing” is not the description of a congenial forum. They can take it out in the hall, but from now on, it won’t occur

  4. OMMAG–

    You have hit the nail on the head. Wish I’d thought of that…

    …actually, I did, but was less much less succinct than you:

    here seems to be an inverse relationship here: as the same few people continue arguing there is usually a rise in temperature without a parallel increase in light.

    Law of diminishing returns is spot-on. Thank you.

  5. It’s a shame.
    It’s bad for the blog.

    But it is ours, do as you want. I know you are only trying to do the best despite all hardships.
    I’ll comment less…

  6. Afonso Henriques said it all.
    I’ll comment less too. But i do think you are really harming the blog and as for the being congenial a cemitery is congenial, in my view a little bit of arguing make things grow. Hope that it works or you change your minds soon enought.

  7. I think you may find that arbitrary limits meant to discourage arguing among two or three very engaged people may bring a more bland product. The people who may silently enjoy these engagements if they’re well fought like following a high level tennis match are presumably not writing to you so are the complainers really representative?

    It is very hard to do justice to some topics within a 500 word limit if one’s not allowed to split a longer thought process among one’s allowable 4 comments and not everyone has a blog where they can take it.

    However, it’s certainly your prerogative to set any rules you wish as I argued on another thread recently. So be it.

  8. I have gotten used to skipping over long comments and multiple comments by the same person as I think I got their message in their first foray. However, I have engaged (not recently) in rather long thread arguments that I thought to be worthwhile.
    I think I brought new info to the argument with an additional comment.
    But hey, this is your forum so make the rules that you will. I actually didn’t notice that bickering was a problem. Maybe that is because I skip over a lot of stuff.
    I would just like to take this opportunity to thank you for the content of this site and the ability to discuss the issues you present.

  9. Dymphna:
    “6. Four comments per person per thread. Period. This will save lots of headaches for the blog administrators – all we have to do is count.”

    Good rule. It will make comments more precious, causing people to write with greater attention. The quality of comments will increase. And it is indeed easy to enforce.



  10. You can never please everyone, no matter what one does or implements.
    This is a great site where I can find information, education and for the most part, excellent commentaries and opinions. Being a blog wrangler can be exhausting and very time consuming. I think what you have proposed is reasonable and prudent. Time will tell and adjustments can always be made, if required.

  11. Hmm. While I acknowledge the problem – entering a long threat which you didn’t follow is not easy, either – I do have reservations about the “4 comments only” point. Some of the very best threads here, like the ones we had on Georgia last year, were way over that.

    I believe that in some cases, exceptions deserve to be made from this one.

  12. Bah! If I’ve been away long and have a lot of GOV to catch up on, I start with those topics that have the most comments. Fjordman’s essays are the exception.

    The heat warms my old and cold heart. And if I’m rewarded with lots of my favorite guys and gals, (going more than four each) so much the better. I understand the need for civility and the avoidance of cussing, and keeping it blunt and to the point, but frankly, seeing two, three, four smart people duking it out is pure joy to me.

    So, IMHO: 1,2,3,4,5,7 fine

    N°6 please reconsider.

  13. I’d advise you all to read Laine’s comment.

    When I didn’t comment on GoV, what differentiated GoV from other sites was that in GoV I could simply accompain the commenters, their various comments and interactions covered by civility and freedom of thinking/speech and then, it’d be easy for the most part to see “black on white” where the reason lies.

    *Black on white is not racism, black on white is a local expression that means extreme clarity, like black letters written in a white sheet.

  14. I agree with IoshkaFutz and Henrik here. The really golden moments in the history of GoV have been such long threads. Here are a few from the nostalgic gallery:

    And the Banned Played On
    An Army of Midgets
    Surrender, Genocide… or What?
    What Can We Do?

    Just to mention a few.

    But clearly different people like different things, so as other people declare here, they are not inspired by this.

    But this is not really the point here. The thing is that the Baron and Dymphna have to spend far too much time in policing the forum, and they want to find rules that make it simpler for them so that they can spend more of their time doing useful things. If we see it in this way it’s pretty easy to respect the decision.

    Nevertheless, I’d say that Dymphna’s negative description of long threads is coloured by the fact the the last long thread bailed out. But the reason was not that it was long (nevertheless I agree with the point that long threads are harder to moderate).

    Dymphna: As they travel interminably down the page, these marathon sessions are usually dominated by two or three people, though not always the same crew in each thread. Have you noticed there seems to be an inverse relationship here: as the same few people continue arguing there is usually a rise in temperature without a parallel increase in light?

    The two people of the marathon race in this case (the last long thread, which bailed out) were me and Free Hal. And while, by the end of the thread, also the two of us we had both agreed that it had become a waste of time (quite as Dymphna is saying), the reason the thread bailed out was not due to that. I and Free Hal have always addressed each other civilly.

    Furthermore, the long threads in the history of GoV have not been dominated by marathon sessions by 2-3 people. See the examples I gave above.


    It is very hard to do justice to some topics within a 500 word limit if one’s not allowed to split a longer thought process among one’s allowable 4 comments and not everyone has a blog where they can take it.

    1. GoV is using Wretchard rules now. It’s new, it’s different.

    2. It’s very easy to start your own blog. Just a few clicks and it’s there.

    Some of us might dislike the new rules, because we are not used to them. But try to see the opportunity instead of problems. You can use it to your advantage. With an interesting blog post (replacing your previous essay length comment), which you link to here, you can get a lot of traffic to your site. Since there is this need for long threads, the people who are into it will look for alternative places.

    I think it is very generous of Dymphna and the Baron to hand over this appreciated “segment of the market” to smaller bloggers. While of course, a smaller blogger that is too successful might end up instituting Wretchard rules himself 🙂

  15. Do not change the rules….it would mean the spirit of solkhar is still around while we all may feel on surface he was banned.

    On a little scale it is also a pattern how “radicals” can change something, even being defeated.

    Go back mentally also to all the semi-democratic measures which are or might be introduced to control our muslims in the West. This would be a parallel.

    R.Spencer lets deliberately some muslims writing in his web. Talking to them is an immunization process and school book by itself.

    There is a danger of becoming a self-convinced club. Aging after a while. We may be wrong in this or that, but as long as we desire to word pure truth, we have some true youthfullness circulating in our veins.

  16. The combination of 6 and the codicil to 5 is particularly bad. If something is worth saying, it is worth saying in detail. If someone chooses to spend their two thousand (or even fifteen hundred) words detailing their argument rather than reserving any for rebuttals and counterarguments, why’s that a problem?

    No, I do not have a blog and will not make one; I don’t care to broadcast my thoughts at the world in general. I learned a while back that that’s a waste of time. If I have something to say it is generally targeted to specific people.

    This sums up to “go away”. Which is, of course, entirely the owners’ right. It’s a shame though.

  17. There’s nothing wrong with changing the rules if you see fit, but I think enforcing a 4 comments per person rule is a big mistake. In my opinion, it will stifle discussion and lower the quality of the discussions on threads.

  18. Sometimes four comments is simply not enough for a discussion or to make clear one’s position; Especially as the topic evolves by hearing the other side’s point of view.

    One could implement a “report” button, so if anyone feels offended or name calling starts (which is something I can hardly imagine looking at the civility present in this blog) individual comments could be reported and one of the administrators could intervene. Without the admins having to plough through every single comment in long discussions.

  19. Natalie,

    Yes this will change the discussions here, but the situation as it is is impossible for Dymphna and the Baron.

    See the advantages of it instead. You can post teaser+links to your blog and move the discussion over there. Which will be very good for your blog!


    You should really start a blog. You write well and very interesting stuff. One of your last emails I would like to have permission to post at my blog (after my break though, it will be part of a series). And hey, you are already broadcasting to the world in general by commenting here 🙂


    All in all, it’s about changing perspective and like the new situation (“gilla läget” as we say in Swedish). And see the opportunities instead of the problems.

    Actually this relates to the discussions we had about the coming paradigm change (change of economic order, change of world order, change of belief system), and what I have been saying about my attitude about that.

    If we for the purpose of this argument call GoV’s old moderation regime, with long threads etc., the “Western civilization”.

    And we call Dymphna’s new rules the “New Paradigm”.

    Then I welcome the fall of the “Western civilization”, and I have already learned to love the “New Paradigm”

    However, likewise I never desired this change. I’m still sentimental about the old days, but I’m not looking back.

    And yet another parallel to these discussions about paradigm change, is that it is impossible for me to know what the change of paradigm would be. There are too many unknowns about the future. So I cannot tell, I want this or I want that, I can only say I welcome the change and I’m mentally prepared to adapt.

    So when Dymphna’s “New Paradigm” came it was not what I expected. But I have already learned to like it, and it makes sense. The only thing that the can be known beforehand is that the things in the old paradigm which were unsustainable — which were the ones that made it necessary for the paradigm to shift — will be the ones that are bound to disappear. And I can already see it coming. That’s why a paradigm change should be welcomed, and I welcome this one.

    This attitude, this way of being able to change perspective, makes me a happy man. You should try it too. And this change is nothing compared to what you are about to face in the near future. So mental preparedness for changing perspective is a good quality to cultivate, to meet the future ahead of us. Looking for opportunities instead of lamenting a past that is not coming back.

  20. I seldom write real long posts so I won’t have a problem with that and not with the limit rule either aside from having a real lousy short term memory, so I might forget after a while. I can live with being snubbed off should I forget but I hope we don’t get banned for it? I will TRY not to forget but I forget things easily though.

  21. I hardly ever comment here, but I like finding an old post/thread on a topic and follow the debate it sparked. And I especially enjoy the long ones.
    Don´t forget – GoV is both a source of news aswell as a historical record. In my mind these additional rules prescribing number letters and comments is the wrong move viewed on a larger timeline.

    First of all – They are simply not enforceable! since any person is able to break the rules by commenting under different names and accounts, they will not achieve the objective

    Secondly – the rules seem condescending and does have an unfitting flavor of socialist besserwisserei

    Thirdly – the law of diminishing returns would only apply if the topic presented in a given post were exausted in the comments section, this is most certainly not the case.
    And I am afraid that it will be years before GoV will have to worry about the diseconomy of scale

    Suggestions – If you are fed up with trolls and worried about the new “GoV watch” vermin, then add a commenting system like disqus or intense debate. Or do it the old way… ignore it.
    But please don´t tell free and well intended people how many letters they are allowed to type, or exclude them from commenting on a post, after cracking some jokes in the beginning of a thread. It will change the lovely athmosphere.

    Thats my oppinion atleast. But I respect your judgement however it falls out.

  22. Well, i do not like it because i have never had the feeling that there was a problem. Im very much on Babs line in this case.

    However, the postings of Baron and Dymphna are great and for me their insights are the main reason for visiting GoV. So if these rules mean less policing time and more writing time, im all for them!!

  23. erdebe said..
    @conservative swede

    That last comment of yours must surely be over 500 words 😉

    Erdebe: It was 450 words. Conservative Swede is careful.

    It’s unfortunate that people who post here find the limits on comments unpleasant. I assure all of you who don’t like the new limits that you are not nearly as discommoded by that limit as I was when I had to police very long threads.

    And the request to keep comments civil? What a joke that turned out to be.

    That was violated on a daily basis, though often the snarky, mean attack was put in the middle of a lot of other verbiage in a long comment with several “continued”.

    Brevity is the soul of wisdom. If something cannot be said in less than two thousand words (four comments x 500 words), then it needs to be on someone else’s space. That is simply blog etiquette.

    I am no longer willing to play policeman in order to avoid being closed down by Blogger for something someone else says in our comments.

    It is tedious, toxic work when you do it day in and day out and I am unwilling to do it anymore.

    If anyone has alternative suggestions for a work-around I’d love to hear them.

    I can count to four, which means I know I have one more comment left on this subject.

  24. 437 to be exact.


    Many of the people who say the new rules are too limiting, actually never (or very rarely) post more than four comments. I’d say that 90% never ever write as many as four comments. And another 5% do it extremely rarely.

    I should have been the one complaining here 🙂

    So these new rules will in reality not be limiting for 95% of the commenters. The only thing they will miss are the long threads with inspiring (and often hot) discussions. However, these long threads have been rather few. And smaller bloggers can host them at their sites, should the need occur. And if Dymphna is on vacation maybe the Baron will even make an exception 🙂

    Rollory: If something is worth saying, it is worth saying in detail.

    GoV is very generous with publishing essays from their readers. That is a good (better!) way of channeling this. And thus the most important discussions can link on, not as long threads, but in the blog articles. I.e. more visible, more well written, more civil.


    Someone asks if one would be banned for writing more than four comments. Obviously not, that comment will just be deleted.

    However, someone said the new rules wouldn’t work, since one could easily register a new account in order to add additional comments. In such a case, as a moderator, I would ban that person, simply because it’s something that causes so much trouble for me. (I used to be forum administrator at a much more chaotic forum. So yes I’m fully aware of the considerations D&B have to take).

    The new rules makes good sense, and have also been tested before in reality. 4×500 words addresses perfectly D&B’s main concern: the volume that has to be moderated. And the result will be: shorter threads with well written comments of higher quality (a concept that Charles Johnson would never understand).

    This is how it works:
    Less volume -> more time for D&B -> better moderation -> better quality.

    AND: with only four comments people will think more carefully about what they write each time. Further increase of quality!

    AND: with only four comments few people will choose to waste any comment on personal bickering. Further increase of quality! And personal bickering will be deleted anyway as of now!

    That’s 3 x quality increase.

    The specific problem with the 500+ comments are that they might not be essays but tedious rants, with something very nasty in the middle of it. A pain in the neck for a moderator.

    So we will end up having better comment threads to read and less nonsense to wade through. And our essays we should send to the Baron by email, or post at our blogs.

    Having done this sort of moderation myself, I can appreciate how nicely this all fits together (and what it takes). Dymphna’s new rules are ingenious.

    And it’s good to see Dymphna back in shape. She’s quit eating small potatoes and is feeding on bloody steaks. An effective moderator has to be a carnivore — I know 🙂

  25. I vill obey da rools. Only a liberal complains about rules. I like to write long and windy posts and spice them with curse words. I will gnash my teeth and suffer and submit to the superior wisdom of the Irish lady. Viva Dymphna!

    If she forbade the use of the vowel “e” maybe complainers like me would have an argument.

    My only doubt in all this is what constitutes a crime for the Blogger people. I’ll go find out by myself. It probably has something to do with wide spectrums and the brotherhood of man.

  26. @conservative swede

    “Erdebe: It was 450 words. Conservative Swede is careful.”

    “437 to be exact.”

    Ofcourse, im just teasing a bit!! There is no fun in Islam. But we can have a chuckle every now and again.

  27. Hi Dymphna,

    I think this idea makes sense. Worth a try anyway.

    And, if you have a duty to your readers it’s to keep the blog running!

    Best wishes,


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