On adding nothing to the conversation

Like many but not all feminist blogs, and unlike many but not all geek blogs, we here at Geek Feminism have a comment policy which intending commenters should read: comments that don’t adhere to this policy may not be approved, or they may be edited or deleted as necessary.

We’d like to specifically point out that unacceptable comments include those that “add nothing to the conversation” and when we say “the conversation” we mean a geek feminist conversation.

Providing an exhaustive list of ways not to add anything to the conversation rather defeats the point of the policy (comment policy discussions are prone to rules-lawyering), but one specific example we’d like to be clear about is apologist comments, especially from people who on the periphery of a particular incident: “that wasn’t sexist”, “you can’t be certain that was sexist”, “that was sexist but he didn’t mean to be”, “that was sexist but not bad enough for a blog post” etc etc. We tend to allow a limited number of these comments, but let me assure you, we receive enough of them for each incident that approving them all would mean that our conversation would not be remotely geek feminist.

Apologist comments are therefore likely to be deleted, or to not be approved in the first place, especially but not exclusively where some have already appeared on a post, and where new comments coming in appear to repeat the same points. If you would like to comment along these lines, we advise you to make a blog post on your own blog instead. We accept trackbacks and will generally not delete them when they disagree with us unless the post they point to is actively creepy and triggering.

For our feminist readers: we are interested in hearing if you feel the policy or the application of it is making you feel unsafe or unable to have geek feminist discussions.

Note that comments on this post are themselves subject to the comments policy.

26 thoughts on “On adding nothing to the conversation

  1. Melinda

    This strikes me as reasonable. It’s a little distressing, several decades on, to be having the same discussions over and over and over (and really quite distressing that the techie community appears to have regressed over those decades). I don’t see value in providing a platform for the same tired, apologist arguments that were old 30 years ago. For whatever it’s worth I like the comments policy at I Blame the Patriarchy: http://blog.iblamethepatriarchy.com/patriarchy-blaming-the-twisty-way/guidelines-for-commenters/

    1. dsalo

      Whew. That policy scares me!

      But I’m all in favor of the one here. I don’t come to GF to read the same old blood-pressure-raising apologias that are everywhere ELSE on the web.

      1. koipond

        IBTP’s pretty awesome, funny and intense and in turn so is the comments policy.

        There’s a good level of moderation, just enough to let everyone realize that there’s a whole pile of apologists at the gate, but not enough to let them overrun the keep.

        1. koipond

          Here I mean. At IBTP all apologists are simply willed out of existence or held up to be made fun of at a future time.

  2. jadelennox

    I like a policy that lets through honest argument, but doesn’t let through too many posts of the 101 or deraily nature. Too strict moderating might block some posts that shouldcome through but really, do we need endless argument in which guys congratulate other guys for their verbal-only, between-guys commitments to “diversity”?

    1. Mary Post author

      I didn’t quote it in the post, but we have “To quote Hoyden About Town: Be at least one of: feminist, friendly, amusing, or perspicacious. Two is even better!”

      Obviously it’s a little hard to prove, but our moderating isn’t astoundingly heavy-handed. The specific problem here is that we get a lot of seemingly genuine apologist comments which by themselves are (depending on your energy that day) only mildly annoying if that but if which approved en masse would be a very effective derail.

    2. Skud

      If you don’t mind me putting you on the spot a little bit, how do you feel about the comments on today’s Mark Shuttleworth thread? Do you think it hits the right spot, or could be stricter (i.e. delete/moderate some of the comments there), or less strict (i.e. let through more of the sort of thing that’s there)?

      My personal rule of thumb is usually a “three strikes” sort of thing for comments that are just kind of mildly disagreeing in a not-adding-much way — the first two get through, but the third and subsequent get deleted.

      1. jadelennox

        I felt like that post could have used stricter moderation, to be honest. Your conversation with Jono was what I was referring to in my comment above, in which he really just never got the idea that two men congratulating each other about diversity in a non-diverse environment does not a commitment to diversity make.

        That on its own wouldn’t have been a problem if 7 out of 19 comments hadn’t been variants of “he didn’t mean it”, “women don’t like to code”, “they were trying to trap him”, etc. The three strikes rule means that multiple people can each make one 101 post and the overwhelming result is that the women in the thread spend the evening answering 101′s instead of talking about the comments in any deeper or potentially solution-oriented manner.

        1. Skud

          Yeah, I felt like we really could have done without the whole Gustav/Jeff thread there. Well, let’s see how people feel about it, and we can always go clean up if consensus suggests so.

          (EDIT: I was misunderstanding something in the WordPress config, so I deleted my blatherings.)

  3. Skud

    Just wanted to talk about this:

    and when we say “the conversation” we mean a geek feminist conversation.

    I think we should also keep in mind that “the conversation” is not a single blog post, but is the broader discussion of geek/feminist issues. Just because something is being said for the first time *on that particular blog post* doesn’t mean we’re not sick to death of it from the last 100 times we had nearly identical discussions.

    1. koipond

      As a commentator, should we have a policy or a habit that basically says if anyone says anything heavily on the 101 scale then we should link them to the feminism 101 site, or something on the wiki and leave it at that?

      1. Skud

        Well, should the linking be done in public comments, or privately by email to the commenter? If privately, whose job is it to do that? I’ve done this in some particular cases, but on the whole I don’t, because a) it can be tiring, and b) it then opens me (or whoever does it) up to that commenter wanting to follow up at length in personal email.

        1. koipond

          Well it was more of a “we don’t need to answer your question because you obviously didn’t do any research before you spoke” kind of cut off type idea rather than anything else. A “don’t feed the trollz” kind of thing. That change the answer?

  4. Christine

    Being so new here, I’m a little hesitant to say much. From what I’ve seen, though, I like the comment policy and moderation here for the most part. It helps prevent the sort of behavior I see on Slashdot any time someone so much as mentions something that bothers them personally. Feeling safe to discuss these issues is very important to me but so is having some freedom in that discussion.

    Regarding the Mark Shuttleworth thread, as soon as I saw behaviors which reminded me of the “FOSS Sexism Claims Met With Ire and Denial” ‘discussion’ on Slashdot, I simply stopped reading, so I am can’t really comment on the moderation.

  5. Laughingrat

    Thanks for creating a safe space for feminist discussion. 99% of the internet is, often coldly and deliberately, a very dangerous place for women.

    While we’re discussing comments, I’m sorry about my hugely long comment yesterday–didn’t realize how long it would be until I hit “submit,” but then I figure apologizing in-thread would just add to the gaffe. Alas.

    1. spz

      99% of the Internet, very dangerous? Heh. Only to ones sanity, if one doesn’t learn to skim. :P

      I’d not terribly mind if not only argumentative but also friendly posts got moderated away if they only repeated points already made. Live is short and an argument usually doesn’t need a vote on validity to be a good one. Even if that would kill 80% of my own comments ;-P

      1. Mary Post author

        I’d make the following arguments against moderating friendly comments: 1) community building is important; a big part of being a woman geek in many parts of geekdom is feeling at best like a curiosity and at worst utterly alone in your views and experiences; 2) a lot of women can use practice at speaking out, argument and anger.

        1. Daedala

          3) Moderating feminist comments is incredibly common; more is not needed. I submit that the same cannot be said for moderating anti-femist comments.

  6. Asad

    I’m a blog comments liberal myself, though I respect the right of sites to have stricter comment policies. I’m just glad that there are still places on the internet that allow respectful (and sometimes acrimonious but enlightening) discussion of first principles, though I find them getting more dilute in the Internetular sea and harder to find.

    1. Skud

      Just wanted to point out that if you wanted there to be more Feminism 101 discussion forums on the internet, you could start one.

      1. Asad

        Eh, if I can’t even consistently maintain my own blog, what are the chances of me actually doing that? :) Isn’t, heh, the whole point of the interwebs to satisfy my passive consumption?

        But seriously, I actually meant this in a more general sense, not *just* about feminism. I guess it was inevitable as the internet has exploded that we’d see a huge fragmentation of the opinionated parts. I kind of miss the days when web discussion boards had just taken off, and USENET wasn’t the spam-sewer it is today, and for instance both sides of e.g. the Mideast debate could easily be found in the same place. I think that blogs in particular have led to this fragmentation as they led to more of a “we’re the owners so nyaa” sort of top-down approach to site development.

        As for feminism 101, well, there are “first principles” issues that I don’t think are 101 issues, in that they require considerably more exposure to the material to be argued in full. For instance, the nature and ramifications of objectification.

  7. Dorothea Salo

    Incidentally, one effective tactic I’ve seen GF posters use is (paraphrased) “[derailing technique X] will not appear in the comments to this post.” It may well be a little wearying to use every single time… but anticipating 101-type objections and explicitly shutting them down in advance does seem to work.

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