Thursday, November 10, 2005

Da Rulz

I've been thinking that I need to clarify my own policies about the rules for this blog. Readers know that I have been lax in enforcing much of any kind of discipline in my comment boxes. So far I have banned a reader only once, for flagrant disrespectful behavior toward another reader. But I have received several emails from readers with helpful suggestions about rules that might help to steamline the comment boxes and make them a happier place for everyone. Having shopped around some of the blogs I frequent, I have decided to borrow Jimmy Akin's rules (Da Rulz) and, with his permission, adapt them to my purposes on this blog. So, with appropriate emendations, here they are:
1. No rudeness. People are welcome to disagree with me and one another in the comments boxes as long as they are polite. I don't mind disagreement. I do mind rudeness. (Be sure and see Rule 20 for how disagreement should be expressed in certain cases!) Rudeness towards others on the blog is also out of bounds.

2. Stick to the subject. Comments are expected to comment on the subject of the post, not extraneous material. I do not mind an occasional off-topic reference, if the exigencies of a situation warrant it -- e.g., if someone is trying to figure out how to contact me and asks, or someone links to a newsworthy article, etc. But commentators should not consistently divert the thread of a discussion off-topic.

3. Let it be. Because of the format restrictions blogging involves, I can't engage in sustained back-and-forth discussions with folks, either in the comments boxes or in the main section of the blog. Therefore, I ask that folks say their piece and then let the subject go (for now, knowing that it will likely surface again in the future). This rule also may be invoked on discussions that, in the opinion of the blogmaster, are getting overly repetitious or unproductively long.

4. Be concise. Also because of the format restrictions, everyone must be concise. Don't go on at length about things. Pasting large amounts of text into the combox (dumping) also counts as going on at length. Going on at length constitutes rudeness.

5. Comments violating the first four rules will be deleted.

6. Readers who repeatedly violate the first four rules will be banned. (So far this has occurred only once.)

7. When I link to other sites or books, unless I say otherwise, I am only recommending that you look at the material (or book) on the page that I link. The way this blog works, I often have need to document (or book) what I am saying by linking to a very specific piece of information, and I cannot endorse other material on sites containing this information.

8. Related to rule 7, I hereby warn you that some material (or books) on sites I link may possibly be inconsistent with the Catholic faith or offensive. I try to minimize this, but engaging in apologetics -- and living in the real world -- means encountering material that is contrary to the faith or offensive. If you don't want to take a "Test everything and hold fast to what is good" approach (1 Thes. 5:21) then you should avoid apologetics blogs (and the real world).

9. Except where stated otherwise, when I recommend a book, video, or other product, I am recommending it for individuals who are mature and secure in their Catholic faith. Such recommendations are not to be taken to mean that the material is perfect and free from every possible objection that could be made against them. Nor are they to be taken as recommendations for children or for people who are insecure in their Catholic faith. People falling in the latter classes are not the subjects of my recommendations unless the contrary is stated.

10. I reserve the right to delete comments that I don't think are helpful for one reason or another (e.g., if someone who is inquiring concerning the Faith asks for a book recommendation and someone in the comments box recommends a book that I haven't read, I may delete the recommendation since I don't know if it suits the person's needs or not).

11. If you want to ask me a question not related to what's currently on the blog, don't use the comments box. Use my e-mail address listed on this blog site.

12. All mail sent to the e-mail address listed on the blog is bloggable unless you say "Don't blog this" (or an equivalent) in the e-mail.

13. The same goes for e-mail sent to other addresses.

14. I can't promise reponses to comments or to e-mail that is sent to me. My schedule doesn't permit me to make this commitment.

15. If I can respond, it may be a few days before the response appears.

16. When I respond to comments or e-mails in the main blog section, I do not use people's names (except under the conditions of Rule 15b). Instead, I say things like " A reader writes . . ." This is not to be impersonal. It has a specific reason. Individuals sometimes stumble across the blog and want to ask questions without having their identities exposed, particularly if they have a sensitive question (e.g., one involving family members or sexuality). To assure them that their privacy will be honored, I don't use names when responding to queries in the main blog section.

17. Rule 16 will be suspended for guestbloggers and regular commentators others at their request/with their consent.

18. I do use names when responding in the comments boxes since visitors have already seen (or can scroll up to see) that the person identified himself publicly.

19. When responding to e-mails, particularly e-mails sent to me at accounts not listed on the blog site, I take extra pains not to quote material that could give away the correspondent's identity. The purpose, again, is so that people won't be deterred from asking questions or feel that I have violated their privacy by exposing them in public.

20. Currently I am generally trying to do at least two or three blog entries per week. Individual weeks may vary, usually by having more blog entries than this. Since I have a job and a life and a vocation that includes more than blogging, I can't commit to more than this at present. I try to do at least this as my way of honoring those who support this blog by visiting and reading it, though it may not always be possible.

21. I very much appreciate your efforts to promote this blog by linking it on your own blog/web page or by recommending it in other forums. That is one of the key ways you can honor my efforts in producing the material that I research and write for the blog. Another way is by commenting. I love reading your comments.

22. When Blosser is addressing a 'pastoral' question (i.e., for a person asking about an actual case that he or someone he knows is involved in, as opposed to a hypothetical situation) that can be phrased in the form "Is it morally licit to do X?", do not contradict Blosser in the comments box. People asking pastoral questions on moral subjects often feel very disoriented and confused if they get a debate rather than an answer on a sensitive question about a situation they, a friend, or a family member is involved in.

For the peace of mind of the person who asked the question, challenges to such answers need to be handled differently. Instead of using the comments box to pose your challenge, e-mail Blosser. If you win him over, he'll make a correction and notify the person who asked the question. Comments violating this policy will be deleted. Widespread violation of this policy will result in the comments box being turned off for such questions.

Posts subject to Rule 22 will have a "20" at the bottom of the post.

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