Blogs like this one aren't just diaries; they're conversations. Behind every essay, rant, or quip, there's a comments thread where visitors like you are welcome to comment. And over the years, I've acquired quite a few regular visitors; sometimes this place feels like the inside of a public house. It's a web community, of sorts — and like all communities which grow large, sooner or later they acquire unruly elements.
Lately I've had some cause for concern over the way some people are using the comment threads on my blog. So I've decided to lay down the law.
(If you post here regularly, or are thinking of posting here, please hit the "Continue Reading" link below.)
1: This is my soap-box.
This blog exists to give me, Charlie Stross, the freedom to say whatever I want.
You'll have noticed that the only adverts I carry are discreet links to online stores which sell my books. Running this blog is quite time-consuming, and paying for the collocated server it resides on is not cheap; most blogs that get as much traffic as mine (over 100,000 distinct views on the main page per week, last time I looked) are awash with blinking banner ads. I decided not to carry ads deliberately, because the first principle of this blog is that it's my soap-box, my megaphone. In a very real sense this entire blog is advertising for one thing — me, and my writing.
You're welcome to comment on my writing here. But just remember: I'm paying the bills. This is my soap box, not yours, maintained entirely at my expense, for my own amusement. I don't owe you anything. And by posting here you are tacitly agreeing to play by my rules.
Your freedom of speech does not compel me to publish your words. If you say something highly objectionable to me, I will delete your comment without a second thought as soon as I notice it. (Which may take some time: I have a real life, as well as blogging.) Yes, this is censorship. But remember: I'm not your government. I can't stop you saying stuff I find objectionable — all I can do is stop you saying it on my blog, at my expense. You can start your own blog right here, if you're so inclined.
3: Stuff I find objectionable
Trolling, spam, personal attacks, racism, sexism, religious evangelism, and homophobia will reliably annoy me.
Beyond that, I'm not going to give you a laundry list. If you want to second-guess me, you might want to bear in mind that I'm an adoptive Scot of Jewish ethnicity, whose religious outlook is similar to that of Richard Dawkins, who votes straight Liberal Democrat in elections, who sees eye to eye with Cory Doctorow on IP and civil liberties issues, and whose partner does AIDS charity work. If you want an SF writer who shares American conservative sensibilities, you're reading the wrong blog.
4: Stuff I don't find objectionable
I don't give a shit about profanity, as long as it's used intelligently. And I don't mind argument and contradiction, as long as it's intelligent. Again: no laundry lists here.
5: Other annoyances
Unfortunately, the server this blog is based on is sited in London, and is therefore subject to the English law on defamation and libel, which is entirely batshit crazy. Here's a concise layman's guide to what that means. I expect you to avoid making libelous postings for the same reason I expect you to avoid going into a friend's house and smearing shit on their kitchen worktop: it's smelly, unpleasant, and leaves a mess for them to clean up. Hint for Americans: your First Amendment right does not apply outside the United States, and braying about it will not pay my legal fees.
(Hint: if you want to say controversial things, read this guide anyway. There are routes through the legal minefield.)
Certain keywords will automatically get your postings held for inspection by a human being. Excessive use of links to other websites will do that, too (it's an anti-spam precaution; yes, I regularly get hit by blog spammers). I may also intervene if you hit one of my hot-buttons.
Given the volume of discussion here (I think we topped 700 posts this week) I will in due course be giving moderator privileges to trustworthy folks so they can help ride herd on the conversation. I might also be giving them posting privileges. If so, I'll add to this posting as/when I have names to name.
Update: On posting URLs ...
Comments will be held for approval if they contain more than one URL. And they will be flagged as spam automatically if they contain a link via tinyurl.com. (That's because spammers have tried using tinyurl.com links here, not because I hate tinyurl.com. There's a time and a place for tinyurl.com, and my blog ain't it. If you want to post a link, I want to be able to read the full domain name and path before I click on it.)
By hitting the "submit" button you are granting me a non-exclusive license to publish your words around the world in electronic or other forms. You should assume that anything you post here may remain on the internet and be readable by anyone at all for the forseeable future, and not just on my blog. No, I'm not planning on selling your deathless prose and getting rich; I'm just pointing out the copyright situation and the fact that my blog is crawled by google, archived by the British Library, and so on.
If you ask me to delete a specific comment of yours I will probably do so — but don't count on it. (I might not do so if I suspect that you're not the author of the comment, or are otherwise trying to make mischief.)
(Finally: feel free to vent, comment, or throw rotten tomatoes at this thread!)