“Hey, whatever happened to ol’ what’s-his-face?”

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been trying an experiment behind the scenes — so far behind the scenes, I haven’t told anyone, not even my fellow bloggers, about it. It’s been on dealing with the falling level of discourse on this site.

In the past, I’ve been pretty light with Olaf’s Troll Hammer of banning. I’ve swung it only a few times, when the offense to my sensibilities was so great that I saw no other alternative. I fretted about it beforehand, publicly announced it, and expressed my regrets. That seemed to work in the short term, but the problem kept coming back — and usually worse.

So shortly after the beginning of the year, I started trying a new approach. Every now and then some commenter would say something that just went too far. I’d do a cursory review of their more recent comments — the last 50 or so, usually — and see if the one that caught my attention was an aberration, or an exemplar.

If it was the former, I’d let it slide. But if it was the latter, Olaf’s Hammer would be set aside for the garrotte. A few mouse clicks, and that IP would never post here again. No fuss, no public spectacle, no massive discussion about the commenter’s relative merits — they just disappeared into the aether.

So if anyone was wondering what happened to Hugh, spurwing plover, dalleceneri, aRepukelican, and a couple of others, there’s your answer.

So, why am I mentioning this? Like I said, it was an experiment. Banning people quietly didn’t seem to do any good. Banning them publicly wasn’t much better. So here’s Phase III of Operation Mind Your Manners: a public statement asking people to act more civilly — with a few figurative heads on pikes to demonstrate resolve.

This is an equal-opportunity measure. While the detractors of this site have been disproportionately represented, it has not been totally one-sided. And I’ve noticed that a few of our more boisterous backers have defended their actions as saying things like “the authors haven’t asked me to tone it down, so I won’t.” (Yes, jhow, I’m talking to you.)

They can’t say that any more, because now I am publicly. Knock it off, jhow, scrapiron, Rob LA Ca., and a couple of others who know who they are.

I started at one point coming up with a set of rules, but was persuaded that it was more work that it was worth. Instead, I’m going to just say a few things that ought to be clear to most people:

  • Don’t be a dick.
  • Don’t type things that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face — especially if they were big enough to kick your ass.
  • Repeated personal attacks against the authors here are a surefire way to get their attention — but it won’t be the kind you like. Go after articles, positions, and statements all you like; we’re grownups, we can take it. But get too personal (dalleceneri went way, way beyond the pale in this category), and we’ll show you the door. Think “Roadhouse.”

Some time ago, Kevin Aylward (he’s the guy what owns this whole shebang) entrusted me with the authority to manage this page. Writing, editing, and policing are all part and parcel of it. At the time, he gave me no specific instructions, guidelines, or rules — essentially he said “do what you think is best.” This might not be “best,” but it’s the least worst I can find.

There will be some who don’t like this one bit. They’re welcome to go to other blogs, start their own, or even sign up for the Wizbang Bomb Squad and write there. But they will not be welcome on the main page.

To steal a line I recently discovered, “The ones who stay will make this a better community, and so will the ones who leave.”

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