Commenters, take note

I arrived home from work to find this in my comments for moderation queue:

“metrohillbilly has left a new comment on your post ‘A few thoughts on terrorism’:

hello..i see there are no responses posted here even though i made a polite one last week…why ask for responses if you they are not welcome?”

How odd, I thought. I haven’t gotten any comments for that post, it must have gotten lost in the shuffle. I will email this person back, since he included an email address, and see if we can get to the bottom of this. Here’s what I wrote:

“Hi there ‘metrohillbilly’–

I apologize for your frustration. I have been having some problems with my commenting system, including the way in which my comments have been filtered. It’s possible you included a word which my filtering software thinks is “bad.” (I’m not sure what it thinks bad words are, because it won’t tell me.) To my knowledge, I have not received a comment from you on “a few thoughts on terrorism”, as I don’t have any comments in moderation for that post, which would explain why it hasn’t appeared. Try submitting again and I’ll let you know if it pops up on my list.

In general, I accept comments which are politely worded, on track with the post, and from people who identify themselves. If an anonymous commenter leaves a particularly thoughtful insight, I will probably accept it, though I do strongly encourage people to identify themselves in some way*, as I believe that leaving utterly anonymous material is cowardly. As a general rule, I also don’t publish comments from people who clearly didn’t read through the material carefully enough, because I am trying to stimulate thoughtful discussion, not mindless rhetoric. I reserve the right to delete comments out of sheer orneryness, but generally don’t do it as I believe that fetters the free exchange of ideas. I welcome comments from people with differing opinions, clarifications on the topic under discussion, questions about the subject matter, or what have you.

Again, I apologize, and I encourage you to send your thoughts again.

be well,

–meloukhia/this ain’t livin’

*This does not necessarily have to mean a real-world identity (although mine is available, if you look), but I do like to see an established blog or internet presence, including a way for me to contact the commenter, as I greatly dislike drive by comments. ( e.g. ‘oooh this lady is pissing me off with this post, I’m gonna get her!’). Given the wide variety of controversial material I cover, drive bys are a concern for me.”

Here’s what I got back, about ten seconds later:

“Delivery to the following recipient failed permanently:

Technical details of permanent failure:
PERM_FAILURE: SMTP Error (state 12): 554 delivery error: dd This user doesn’t have a account ( [0] –”

Luckily for me, I got your ip address,

Please take note, kids, because I am serious here. I do welcome your comments, and I want to read them. But if you want to play with the grownups, you cannot hide behind a fake identity. As stated above, I think that concealing yourself is cowardly. No, you don’t have to send me your name and social security number to get a comment posted. But for the love of god, use a valid email address, your blogger identity, or *something* to indicate to me that you are a real human being who read and considered the post carefully before posting on it. This is common procedure on most websites, kids. Sending me comments with a fake email address indicates to me that you are not interested in a thoughtful dialogue. It tells me that you are, in fact, a drive by commenter who stumbled upon my post via a fortuitous search and got grumpy about something I said. I am well accustomed to offending people, and I don’t try to hide when I’m doing it. My email address is valid, and it is clearly posted on this site, and messages sent to it will result in replies. My real world identity is fairly obvious, and if it’s not, it’s easy to track down.

I don’t think it’s so unreasonable to ask that you identify yourself, especially when your comment is on a post covering a controversial topic that is getting linked and passed around. I will not permit my comment threads to be hijacked by drive bys. If you find this idea repugnant, newsflash, don’t comment. Or you can bitch about it to me personally at my email address. Communities have rules of conduct, and this is one of mine.