Introducing the streets.mn Comment Policy and a Call for Moderators (CFM)

At the recent meeting, the streets.mn Board of Directors voted unanimously to adopt a new comment policy that will help clarify the kinds of comment and discussions we value on the site. One main outcome of the new policy will be a clearer picture of why and how comments get moderated, and hopefully this will help the streets.mn comments, which are already far above average given the nature of the internet (admittedly low bar!), become even better.

Before I go into it, we want you! streets.mn needs some interested folk to step up and join our official Moderator team.

Here’s what we’d expect: An hour or two per week reading streets.mn comments and making sure they are fitting in with our new policy. Answering or sending emails to make sure we have good communication between moderators, commenters, and the board.

Responsibilities: You’d be answerable to both our board and our reading/commenting public. Together as a group, you’d be responsible for making sure our comments section stays true to the goals of the site.

Interested? Please email Dana Demaster at ddemaster@streets.mn. Include a sentence or two about yourself. Thanks in advance!

Here’s a bit of background. Over the years, as we have gathered feedback from people about what they like or don’t like about the site, discussions of the streets.mn comments have been a consistent theme. One one hand, many people enjoy reading the comments, and I have heard people say that our comment discussions are one of the big assets on streets.mn, full of people sharing opinions and expertise in ways that add a lot of value to our writers’ posts. On the other hand, I have also heard multiple times how alienating the comment thread can be for many people. The comments can sometimes be too negative or exclusionary, and turn people off from sharing their thoughts and perspectives.

(Granted, this is a problem for just about every online discussion! That is one of the double-edged features of the internet, in general.)

Because we lacked a detailed comment policy, moderating and managing the comments has been a bit haphazard and muddy. Did a comment get deleted? Why or why not? Who decides? How do streets.mn writers, commenters, and board members make decisions about whether to moderate a comment?

None of these answers were clear, so over the last few meetings, the streets.mn board worked on a vision and approach to making the comments section a productive welcoming place. At a meeting about three months ago, the board devoted time to discussing what we liked and didn’t like about different comments sections in various parts of the internet. Out of that, we were able to identify a few goals and values we want to see in the streets.mn comments discussion, things like openness to new ideas, a lack of vitriol, and honest exchanges of different opinions.

At the next board meeting, we worked out some trial language to append to the comments box. It’s been floating down there on the page for a few weeks now, just below the place where you type a comment.

And finally, at the board meeting this last Saturday, we adopted a new policy that we hope will help us reach those goals.

Here it is:

The mission of streets.mn is to expand and enhance the conversation about transportation and land use planning through research and informed commentary. The comments section is an important part of that conversation. It is a place to add knowledge and experience, discuss issues more deeply, and learn from each other. We encourage civil, engaged conversation. Our moderators have broad discretion to remove comments that violate our comments policy.

When commenting, please remember that everyone has knowledge and experience and it may be different than your own. We would like everyone to feel comfortable and think of streets.mn as a safe place to learn and participate in these important discussions. Think before you type, keeping in mind that tone can be difficult to understand in this format.

Comment guidelines

  1. Be who you are in real life. You do not have to use your real name, but you do have to provide us with a valid email.
  2. Be responsible, be respectful. Avoid sarcasm – it doesn’t translate well to this medium. If you disagree with someone, do so directly. Rather than, “Mark seems to think everything would be perfect if we did it his way,” try, “Mark, I disagree with you because….”
  3. Come with an attitude of learning. You may be the expert and we want to learn from your experience, but avoid talking down or dismissing other commenter’s experience. Rather than, “I have worked in this field for 100 years and read all these studies and I know you are wrong,” try, “I’m interested in hearing more about your experience. I work in the field and the research says something different.”

Comments that may be removed or flagged by moderators:

  1. contain vulgar or abusive language, personal attacks of any kind, or offensive terms that target a specific ethnic or racial group, socioeconomic class, familial status, LGBTQ people, gender, religion, or age.

Comments will be immediately removed that are:

  1. spam;
  2. contain an invalid email address; or
  3. promote services or products (non-commercial links that are not relevant to the blog post or comment are acceptable).

If a moderator deletes a comment, they will post a public comment of explanation. This is not meant to embarrass people, but it is a way to visitors to learn what is acceptable and what is not and, if we do not say anything publicly, everyone will wonder what happened.

The bottom line: do not be a jerk. We want everyone to feel welcome and you can help make that happen.”

Sounds good? Let us know what you think in the comments.* Meanwhile, thanks for reading, writing, and commenting on streets.mn!

* Meta!

Streets.mn is a non-profit and is volunteer run. We rely on your support to keep the servers running. If you value what you read, please consider becoming a member.

2 Responses to Introducing the streets.mn Comment Policy and a Call for Moderators (CFM)

  1. Jenny W
    Jenny W May 24, 2017 at 1:44 pm #

    I really appreciate this policy. Thanks to everyone involved for trying to make the conversation more positive and inclusive!

  2. Hannah Pritchard
    Hannah Pritchard May 24, 2017 at 5:02 pm #

    I just….I wanted to come here to comment on the comment policy.

Note on Comments

streets.mn welcomes opinions from many perspectives. Please refrain from attacking or disparaging others in your comments. streets.mn sees debate as a learning opportunity. Please share your perspective in a respectful manner. View our full comment policy to learn more.

Thanks for commenting on streets.mn!