So it has been a long time since we last posted comments guidelines and standards. To put it in perspective, the last time we talked comments with y'all, the iPhone 5 hadn't been released, Android fans were using Jelly Bean and Facebook had just gone public. A lot can change in the course of nearly five years, but one thing that's remained constant is our dedication to our readers. To that end, we wanted to take a minute to answer some questions, explain some features and, frankly, lay down the law when it comes to the comments section and our social channels. Pull up a chair and read on to find out what you need to know about Engadget's comments and community.
Why do we have a comments section?
Comments sections get a bad rap: Everyone is familiar with the adage "Don't read the comments," and that didn't become a common refrain because comments sections are full of hugs and puppies. Even so, there are some genuinely interesting conversations happening in our comments section, from personal experiences with gadgets to incredibly technical explanations of hardware, and we're often impressed by what you have to say.
We have a comments section because we sincerely enjoy having a place for our readers to discuss the articles we write -- and our readers often provide us with insights that add to the story, shed light on new angles or help us update the facts in the post. Many of you rely on the comments for additional information and alternative opinions, all while many other publications have opted to shutter their comments sections (or just use Facebook). We've kept ours open because it's valuable to you as readers, which makes it important for us too.
While the rules of internet interactions naturally vary from one website to another (and in some cases are unclear), we took the time to rethink our guidelines and have laid out a detailed policy on what does and doesn't fly here.
Commenting basics: features and functions
First, a few technical details. While the basics of logging in and posting a comment are largely the same as they've always been, there are a few handy features in our current system that are worth highlighting.
Editing and deleting. The options to edit or delete your comment can be found in a drop-down menu; the arrow for the drop-down menu appears when you mouse over the upper-right area of your comment. (Mousing over the upper-right of someone else's comment will allow you to report that comment; more on that below.)
All links require approval. This means that any comment containing a URL will be held in "pending" until it has been approved by a moderator. Moderators will refuse comments with links that are broken or that direct to spammy or inappropriate content. We know the delay in approving comments with links isn't ideal, but it helps keep a large amount of spam from getting through. Also, please don't resubmit a link over and over again; each one will still wind up in pending.
Banned words. We have a list of banned words that will automatically remove a comment. No, you cannot see this list -- but we will tell you that it largely consists of insults, swears and name-calling-type stuff. Any comment with an f-bomb is going to get pulled (no matter how you spell it), but we're pretty lax about the other "blue" words as long as you're not swearing at somebody.
Notifications. If you do not want to get an email notification when other commenters like your comment, reply to your comments or mention (@) you, you can disable all of that in your profile settings. (You can access settings by clicking your username next to the alert bell.)
Commenting basics: behavior
There is pretty much one golden rule here, and it's "don't be a jerk." Please, don't be rude or mean or nasty. We appreciate that you care about these topics and our stories (hey, we care too). But no matter how fired up the discussion, please be civil.
Don't jump down people's throat because they made a mistake or disagree with you. Don't be insulting. Don't call people names. Don't make personal attacks. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Try not to jump to conclusions or make assumptions. Have some patience and compassion; everyone comes here to be a part of the community. No one comes here to be ridiculed or belittled. Treat your fellow community members and the Engadget staff with respect. Be nice, and if you can't be nice, then at least be tolerant.
There's a comment that is offensive. What can I do?
Please report it! The "report" button can be found on any comment by mousing over the upper-right corner of that comment; a drop-down arrow will appear, and from there you can select the "report" button to alert our staff. (We don't currently have tools for community moderators, but we haven't ruled out the idea.)
Every comment that's reported to us is vetted by moderators; we delete those that we deem inappropriate or feel are in violation of our guidelines. Rest assured, we will not delete comments just because they're argumentative or because someone has a different opinion than you. For more details on why comments get deleted, see the list below.
There's a problem with the article
Every single writer and editor for Engadget does their best to produce stories that are clearly written, concise and informative, not to mention error free. However, every writer and editor at Engadget is also a fallible human being capable of making the occasional misstep. If you see a mistake in an article, be it a typo, an imprecise technical detail or a broken link, please do us a solid and let us know (because we'd obviously like to fix it!). You can holler at us by adding #articleerror to your comment, which will flag your comment for our moderators.
There's a problem with the comments section
If, however, you are experiencing a problem with the comments system or functionality itself, then please let us know by emailing us with as much detail as possible at firstname.lastname@example.org, so we can alert the developers.
We prefer to keep a light hand when moderating, but there are still several reasons we might remove your comment. Here are some of the most common reasons for deletion.
- Spam of any kind (human or robot) is always deleted. Trying to sell something in the comments, pitching us about your product or repeatedly posting discount links and referral codes all count as spam. Posting the same comment over and over again also constitutes spamming.
- We don't currently ban all swearing by default, but all f-bombs are going to get caught automatically by the banned-words filter. Profanity directed at another person -- be it a commenter or staff member -- will pretty much always be deleted.
- Comments that are racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic or otherwise hateful will be removed. Suggestions that someone is mentally ill, disturbed or should "take their meds" will be removed. (Let's just assume everyone's already taken their meds, OK?)
- Any comment that contains a threat, that threatens violence or that encourages self-harm or violence toward someone will be deleted. Comments that threaten other commenters or staff members will result in that member being banned from the community.
- Name-calling. Perhaps unsurprisingly, name-calling in a comments thread does not encourage a positive response. You should be able to have a conversation without resorting to name-calling --- and that includes Engadget's writers and staff members. Our banned-words filter will automatically pull comments with a variety of ruder terms, so keep it classy.
- You're just slagging on us. If all you have to contribute to the conversation is how much we suck, are biased, don't deserve our jobs, can't perform our jobs, are shills and/or have been bought out by Apple/Samsung/Microsoft/Google, then don't be shocked if your comment disappears (or, in extreme cases, if you are banned altogether). We're perfectly willing to hear constructive criticism, but we are also under no obligation to let you insult us without merit.
- Comments that are unnecessarily political, polarizing or incendiary are at risk for removal. Please don't jump into a thread just to say things to incite other people or tick them off; that's pretty trolly (and boring). Please don't make generalizations or stereotypes to draw conclusions about another commenter (i.e., "all you millennials/liberals/Trump voters").
- We reserve the right to delete comments that are off topic. This includes comments that complain about comments being closed on another story; hijacking the thread to a different article only reinforces the feeling that we were right to keep comments closed on the initial article.
In short, we want the comments section to be like an interesting conversation happening in a college classroom: thoughtful, respectful, insightful, funny and interesting. What we don't want is a comments section that's like a fight on a kindergarten playground: pushy, mean, spiteful and requiring adult intervention.
We want our comments section to be a place where our readers and staff can interact civilly, learn from one another and participate in an awesome community. And as much as we know some of you like to break out the popcorn and watch the fanboy fights, that's not really the kind of community we're looking to host.
Articles without comments
Here's the real deal, straight up: We are not required to have a comments section on Engadget. Likewise, we're not obligated to have comments open on every article. While we strongly prefer to give the benefit of the doubt and leave comments open on all stories, there are going to be some instances where it makes more sense to leave comments closed.
Our desire to leave comments open comes down to a number of factors, including the proportion of comments that have violated our rules or guidelines, how many moderators are available and how contentious the comments section has gotten on articles on similar topics. A closed comments section is not an invitation to call us names, hijack other threads or otherwise pout about it. We don't want to close comments and will only do so when absolutely necessary. Please respect that and know that the best way to make sure comments sections stay open is to treat one another respectfully and follow our guidelines.
"This is just censorship and you're afraid of hearing feedback"
This is a common complaint we hear when we delete comments or close comments sections. And to this we have to say: Nah, man. Let's be clear about this: Commenting on our site is not a right of law passed down to you in the Constitution, and Engadget's comments section is not an open forum where you can say whatever you please. Engadget is a news site and a business, which along with its parent company, AOL, allows commenting in order to further the discussion, engage our readers and let interested parties have a good time. Commenting here is a privilege, not a right, and if you must be nasty, well, then ... it's a big internet and you can do that on your own website. And to be frank, if we really didn't want to hear feedback from our readers, we wouldn't have a comments section at all.
If you create a user history of trolling, harassment or offensive behavior, or if you only visit our comments section to act like a total jerk, congratulations! You will get banned. That means your user name, email and potentially IP address will all be barred from our system and you will no longer be able to comment.
What do we mean by "trolling, harassment or offensive behavior"? Hate speech of any kind is always unacceptable. If you just dropped by to say something nasty concerning someone's race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, disability or age, don't be surprised when you find your privileges revoked. If your only purpose in life is to comment on all of our articles to tell us how much we suck and deserve to be fired, then bye, Felicia. If you can't seem to have a discussion without attacking another commenter, using insults, calling people names or cursing at someone, then you're outta here. If at any point you threaten another user or an editor with any form of physical violence or encourage them to commit acts of self-harm, you are no longer welcome here.
We know that the comments section has been through a lot of bumps and bruises over the past few years, and we're dedicated to making upgrades and changes that will improve the experience for all of our users. You can help make the comments a better place by observing our guidelines and reporting comments that show disregard for our community. We don't want Engadget to be just another site where people "don't read the comments" -- we want the comments to be a reason to come to Engadget.