Commenting on Engadget: a human's guide

As you may have noticed, the other day we shut down comments on the site. Things had gotten a little out of hand and the complaint emails we were getting from readers were stacking up, so we decided to take some Engadget time to do a little cleaning up while reflecting on how we can do a better job moving forward. In case you're wondering: yes, we've flipped the switch back into the "on" position -- but there are some noteworthy items we'd like to point out. To start with, Justin and Dan (our devs) made a minor improvement to the frontend of our comment system, and we now provide an option to switch off the comments entirely if you don't want to deal with them. This is cookie based, so it should last for all your sessions on the site. Additionally, we've enabled a few backend tools which will help us moderate a little more effectively and efficiently, thus helping to keep comments clean and comfortable for everyone who wants to join in the discussion -- not just the loudest of the bunch.

Furthermore, we recognize that our comment system isn't perfect, and we're working with our developers right now to dramatically change things. We can promise you guys that we spend (and will spend) a lot of time thinking about how to make this a better community, and make the commenting experience more enjoyable and useful to everyone. You have our word that we're listening to you, and there will be noticeable changes for the better in the near future. And guys (and girls): definitely provide feedback on this post or via our contact email addresses. We want to hear what you have to say!

Since we've gotten the ball rolling again, we want to make sure everyone is aware of just what we expect of our community here, so we're going to lay down our ground rules (most of which have been culled from our FAQ). Here we go:

In general: The Engadget comments section is a place for our readers to engage in discussion about the posts -- it's really that simple. We encourage that discussion, and we'll be the first to admit that lots of times our readers offer insights that lead us to update our posts, or direct us to entirely new angles and stories. We love that, and we love our readers. We seriously do.

Some basic ideas on commenting here. We think that comments should always be on topic. We encourage and welcome debate, even if it's fervent, because we know how much you care about this stuff -- we care about it, too! However, your comments should be reasonably polite and wherever possible, lighthearted. Making personal attacks against other commenters, publications, or our own editors seriously degrades the community and quality of the discussion, and it won't be tolerated.

While we're fine with disagreements, we're not that crazy about being the battleground for epic fanboy wars. We want you to debate, but when that debate devolves into name calling and / or cyclical fanaticism (especially when you've moved way off topic), it's not a good use of anyone's brainpower. Also, if you've come to Engadget for the express purpose of whipping people into a frenzy (or whipping yourself into a frenzy), don't expect to stick around very long. It's easy to spot the folks who want to have a healthy debate and the folks who just want to troll. On that note, we encourage our readers and commenters to reach out to us personally and report other commenters who seem to be acting inhuman... or inhumane. Together, we believe we can improve the quality of comments on the site. We are aware of the fact that any system like ours can be gamed -- and we're aware of the fact that people actually do things like make multiple profiles and argue with themselves simply to cause problems. Just be aware we'll delete and ban you for that, too!

Comment deletion: There are many reasons your comment might be deleted, but here are some of the most common ones. Spamming of any type, be it human or robot-generated, is always deleted. If you're trying to sell something in comments, you're a spammer. Trolling is also unacceptable -- we recognize that a lot of you trolls don't even realize that you're trolls, but believe us -- you are. We'll delete your comments if we feel they're disruptive or annoying. We also delete comments that are racist, sexist, overly obscene, or offensive in any way. We delete comments which are personal attacks -- whether directed at an editor or another commenter. Finally, we reserve the right to delete any comment at our discretion (please see below).

If you create a history of trolling or other offensive behavior, we'll just ban your account. That means that your username, email, and potentially IP address will be barred from our system, and you'll no longer be able to comment.

You deleted my comment. Isn't that censorship? No. Engadget, along with its partner Weblogs, Inc. and parent company AOL allow comments in order to further the discussion, engage our readers, and to let interested parties have a good time (and maybe learn something)! Engadget's commenting sections are NOT open forums where you can say whatever you please, and commenting on Engadget is not a right of law passed down to you in the Constitution. Engadget is a news site and a business. The editorial staff does not delete comments without good reason, but deletions are always at the discretion of the editors. There are thousands of active commenters on Engadget, and we try to keep the comment sections a fun, engaging experience for all of its readers.

Why can't I up / downrank an editor?
Well first off, because he / she is an editor. That doesn't make them better than a regular commenter, but it does mean that when they have something to say, we feel it's important that all readers can see it, whether they like it or not!

There's a comment that's offensive to me. What can I do about it?
Well, as already mentioned, you can downrank it. Furthermore, there's a "report" button above the ranking icons on all comments which will alert our staff that the comment has been flagged. We do look at reported comments, and delete where we deem appropriate. Keep in mind, however, that we know who is reporting what comments, so think before you report -- you don't want to be on our watchlist for reporting a comment for no reason at all, because that doesn't help anybody, does it?

Finally, we realize that we're ultimately responsible for the tone of comments here, and moving forward, we're going to be more vigilant about watching out for problems. We love Engadget, and we take full responsibility for its quality. We also love our readers, and want to make it a safe, enjoyable place for all who wish to participate. Now say something hilarious!