This is a tough subject.
As a school teacher for seven years I learned to have faith in community and also to believe in the necessity for discipline in order to preserve community. Tempermentally I tend to be lenient, but I find I get less so each year. Quick, decisive discipline coupled with the availability of forgiveness is now my model.
Which is all to say that much as we hate to do it (and by we I mean the gaggle of us who now make up AT), we've had to ban two readers in the past week, and we want to be very clear about how and why...From the beginning, AT has been an experiment in community, and it continues to be a great one with an excellent record of helpful commentary. However, there are certain junctures where one or a handful of people grow very loud and hijack the focus and intent of the community until it becomes all about them. It seems to happen about once or twice a year.
It is at these times that we put feelers out to our editors and readers in order to gauge whether the commenters in question are adding to the community and following our guidelines (which are universal), or simply pulling the ship down.
To be clear, these are our guidelines:
• AT is dedicated to HELPING people make their homes more beautiful, organized and healthy, so, too, is our community.
• Commenters are expected to be helpful, maintain the focus of the conversation and add value to the community
• humor, honesty, tough love, intelligence and eloquence are all encouraged
• meanness, ad hominem attacks, continual nonsense and boorish behavior are not
If a commenter is exhibiting such negative behavior that it has come to the attention of our editors and readers (via concerned emails) we reserver the right to ban the commenters IP WITHOUT NOTICE. In the past we used to do a good deal of emailing and communicating with "challenging" commenters to see if we could get them back on track. It did not prove to be very successful and, quite frankly, we don't have the time to do this anymore.
We always leave the door open for a commenter to come back in, if they want to change their tune. They know where to find us.
In over three years of blogging and millions of visits, we can count the number of IP's we've banned on two hands. It's been remarkably low. We hope that it continues to stay that way and we thank all our readers for maintaining the level of discourse that we all like to wake up in the morning and read.
As AT continues to grow we expect that policing our community will become a bit of a bigger job, but we're already working on figuring out ways to do it easily and fairly. One concept we're working with we call the "small button". This allows any reader to make a negative commenter's comments very small, which has the effect of quieting their volume and making it easy not to read them.
If many people "turned someone down", so to speak, their voice would eventually go unnoticed. If they desired to regain the attention of the audience, they'd only have to change their approach, and then their comments would grow again.
That's just one idea, but we're working on a bunch, which you should see integrated in the next few months.