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Commenter Code of Conduct, and CotW!

Before I move on to the hotly anticipated Comment O’ the Week, I’d like to take a moment and address two important issues. First, please be thankful that it’s Friday the 13th of June and the world is still here. Yay!

Second, let’s talk about you, the reader-and-sometimes-commenter. You’re our bread and butter, and it makes my day every time I see a post spark a spirited discussion or at least a string of puns.

What I don’t like is when a spirited comment discussion turns into an angry mess. It doesn’t happen too often here, but often enough that I want to address it before it gets any worse. On any blog, there will be many more lurkers than commenters, and that’s A-OK. I just want to make sure that no one is reticent to jump in because he or she is afraid the atmosphere will be less than welcoming. With that in mind, here are a few things I’d like you all to keep in mind.

  1. We don’t all agree about everything. Not only will you the reader sometimes disagree with a Skepchick writer, but quite often we writers disagree amongst ourselves. I never wanted a bunch of writers who had the same outlook and experience as me — I wanted people who can think critically, and who make me think about things in a different way.
  2. We disagree in constructive ways. When a fellow writer posts something that makes me think, ‘WTF?’, I try to figure out how she got to that conclusion. I often find that the rationale behind her thinking is sounder than I first thought. A recent example is when Sam posted in support of the FLDS parents in Texas who had their children removed. At first I thought he was nuts, but when I examined the evidence and his thought process, I came to see that the point wasn’t as outrageous as I had thought. I didn’t get angry because he had a different outlook than me, even though it’s a hot-button issue. A lot of that has to do with the fact that Sam is my friend, which is why I’d like you to
  3. Think of us like your friends. Even though we sometimes disagree, I hope we make you laugh and think and occasionally party. I want you to think of your fellow commenters as friends, too — since you’re all on Skepchick, you probably all share a similar mode of thinking, a similar frustration about Oprah, and maybe a similar sense of humor. So get along and give each other the benefit of the doubt. Of course, you should still
  4. Tell us when we’re wrong. Giving us the benefit of the doubt doesn’t mean letting us unknowingly get facts wrong or slip up on fallacious reasoning. We’re human, and that’s how we learn.

I think that about covers it. Mostly, I just want you guys to not be jerks, because I want everyone here to have fun. Except on the day that Kevin Trudeau registers to post, at which point I want you all to become the jerkiest jerks that ever, um, jerked. Okay, on to the Comment o’ the Week!

Our latest CotW comes to us courtesy of Slaytanic, who, apropos to his/her super-scary username, posted this in response to my post about the nuclear baby who did not (it turns out) eat our souls today:

SlaytanicNo Gravatar // Jun 10, 2008 at 2:14 pm

Well, if the world has to end the 12th (and apparently it will), hopefully the proto-Chucky will at least share his Evil Giant Doobie. There’s nothing that brings a more calming effect pre-apocalypse than Satan’s Mega Bomber ‘J’ lit with the purifying fire of sinful explosia.

What I want to know is… what’s in his bottle? Is it vodka, or is it the tears of the righteous?

The sin… it burns us!

I’m pretty sure it was that “tears of the righteous” gag that really did it for me. Runner-up is Expatria, who broke some kind of record when he posted at least 49 satirical responses to that thread.

So congrats to Slaytanic! You win a hit of nuclear baby’s bong, plus another year free of worldwide nuclear apocalypse.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. Well-deserved congrats to Slaytanic! That comment certainly got me to laugh out loud.

    I’m just not sure what to do next, now that I’ve set a dubious and largely imaginary record for my alleged 49 satirical responses… let’s go for 50, maybe? :-P

  2. “On any blog, there will be many more lurkers than commenters, and that’s A-OK. I just want to make sure that no one is reticent to jump in because he or she is afraid the atmosphere will be less than welcoming.”

    That’s a nice sentiment, to be sure, and I know you mean it. However, people tend to default to “this is our blog/bboard/usenet/wiki/whatever, how dare you disagree with us!”. Bad faith and stupidity are assumed when someone disagrees with the prevailing school of thought…not poking at this blog in particular, just people in general.

    My personal experience with this has been commenting on Expelled! on a skeptical Christian site, the Wittenburg door (, and responses I received after a couple comments I put up over on RealClimate (

    I posted against the grain, and got a fair amount of abuse over it…curiously, to me anyway, it was gentler on the Door than on RealClimate.

    No real point to this post, I guess, just pointing out that it appears to be human nature to assume bad faith when someone else challenges a strongly felt belief.

  3. Oh, Expatria, you ignorant slut, don’t you know that the Skepchick bloggers are so much hotter than Hitler ever was (even in his prime)… not to mention we are way less into eugenics and genocide.

  4. i don’t know, elyse…have you seen those werewolf women of the ss? they were pretty hot. maybe not as hot as us skepchicks.

    on a more serious note, josh, i think that is something that we as bloggers definitely need to be aware of. it can be easy to fall into that sort of thinking when you get the feeling that you share so much in common with your audience, you can forget that you’ll never agree with everyone 100%. i, for one, would hope to be called on it.

  5. Thanks, carr2d2.

    Just to reiterate, not a comment on this blog in particular, just people in general…heck, I’ve *been* that jump-your-shit jerk/person an embarassing number of times in my life. :-(

    It’s just something that’s been on my mind lately, and Rebecca’s post hit the nail so squarely on the head (no reason to get nasty when someone disagrees with a strongly held opinion) that I felt compelled, as one of the lurkers, to comment…granted, a bit negatively. :-)

  6. As a veteran commenter of many blogs/message boards, as I’m sure many of you are, I would say that one of the things that keeps me reading beyond the end of the blog post is the fact that we can go more than two or three posts without it regularly degrading into a shouting match and, even when it does, we can, for the most part, come to some sort of understanding. Of course, I’m a noob so feel free to flame away for that, for sucking up or for writing a horrendously long run-on sentence.

  7. Ain’t it strange that most sceptics, including myself, know about both the “Argument from Authority” and the “Ad Hominem” but can’t refrain from deploying them both?

    On the Hitler jokes, I ambivalent. On the one hand its tasteless and offensive to make jokes about Hitler et al but on the other, the Nazi’s hated people poking fun at them and ridicule is a powerful weapon against irrational belief systems such as their’s.

    It’s one thing to ridicule and belittle Hitler and Fascists and Racist/Fascist ideology, it is ridiculous, so off the mark it’s not even wrong. It’s another to belittle their crimes and by extension (albeit unintentionally) their victims.

    A good rule of thumb regarding Hitler jokes is if you can stand under “Arbeit Macht Frei” at Auswitz, crack the joke and people laugh. Then its OK.

  8. Of course, I’m a noob so feel free to flame away for that, for sucking up or for writing a horrendously long run-on sentence.

    As anyone who has ever read any of my blog entries will attest to (whoops, ended a phrase with a preposition), I am the Marie Antoinette of horrendously long run-on sentences.

    I need to blog more … I sort of forgot about it.

  9. Ain’t it strange that most sceptics, including myself, know about both the “Argument from Authority” and the “Ad Hominem” but can’t refrain from deploying them both?

    I suppose both those logical fallacies have rather soft edges, fading into the natural (and quite logical) behaviour of at paying some extra credence to an individual who seems to have proved themselves competent, and less to people who seem to be incompetent.
    Though even in that form, there’s an element of prejudice, there’s actually nothing wrong with prejudice as long as it’s actually justifiable and the underlying basis is amenable to constant revision. If someone has proven to be a genius or a moron in the past, it’s a reasonable guess that they will tend to do so in the future.

    If someone is actually respected as an expert by a whole group of educated people operating in a context where doubt and argument are permitted and even encouraged, it’s qualitatively different to where someone’s alleged standing (frequently based not on peer respect but merely based circularly on the convenience of their opinions) is used as an argument for not even doubting their conclusions.

    Effectively, at its worst, the argument from authority seems to work in a one-two fashion, not merely saying to the audience: “Someone supporting this argument is an Expert, who therefore probably knows better than you”, but also operating in a social context where it just isn’t done to question the opinions of experts (at least if they say things you want to hear).

    In a context where an audience member is allowed to be skeptical, an argument from authority seems likely to naturally assume a weaker form, being taken as more of a starting point to thinking, with the arguments of someone seeming to be knowledgeable being given greater initial weight while still subject to possible downwards revision.

    Ultimately, a great deal depends on whether someone is willing to entirely abdicate responsibility for thought to convenient experts, or to use them as some kind of guide.

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