For my website I developed one community guideline. I put it under my ‘About’ section and it says this:
“1) You can comment whatever you want, but if I think it doesn’t belong on my website, I will remove it.”
I feel like this is the best guideline I could make. In theory, I could come up with an extensive list of don’ts, but what would happen if someone wrote a comment that was completely fine according to my guidelines, but personally I thought it was a bad comment? Of course I wouldn’t post it. If I did that, however, what would be the point of guidelines that I wouldn’t always follow? I have no intention of lying to my audience.
That’s why the one guideline I settled on is broad. I welcome critique and harsh words towards myself on my website. Even if the critique is not critical and just a long rant about how I’m an idiot, I don’t really mind. That actually sounds kind of funny and I’d love to see that on my page.
Despite this, I do recognize that if my website were to get big, I would want firmer guidelines in place. The world is a nasty place, according to Jon Ronson’s TED talk on online shaming.
I should be careful, as Justine Sacco had only 170 Twitter follows and still got torn apart by the world. I don’t think that anyone could get too offended by yarn bombing, but you never know.
The Guardian also noted that the majority of abused writers on their website are women. It’s a good thing I’m not talking about feminism or I’d be torn apart. Perhaps because I’m doing such a traditionally feminine task no one is out to get me.
If there were many people on my site having conversations in the comments, I’d want better guidelines. I don’t mind people bashing me, but I would want to protect the people on y site and make it a safe area for them. My one guideline would still work in that case, but if I had many people mingling on my site, I’d need guidelines in place to regulate their conversations. One person doesn’t have the energy to moderate comments 24/7.
At the moment, though, I don’t think my website gets enough traffic from real people to need firm guidelines. And even if I did put guidelines, would anyone really listen to them? The Guardian has extensive community guidelines, but still face abusive comments on a daily basis. The best guidelines for me are the ones that give me wiggle room to assess comments on a case-by-case basis. Implementing my one guideline will be easy since I have control over which comments get posted. And since no one has commented thus far except Suzanne and spammers, I think I’ll be okay.