It is not an easy thing to turn down the burner on a successful alchemical setup, an opus contra naturam which has been known to actually produce gold out of base metals. Shift Journal has contributors who have on occasion made this happen, taking time not only to reply to arguments and statements which have been made (and responded to) over and over (and over) elsewhere, but also to create light instead of heat in doing so. There have been exchanges where newcomers to neurodiversity blogging (and others) could read and come away better informed about the context of the disagreement—rather than bored, confused, or put off at the unrelenting impasse. That at least is how I’ve seen things, and as I do take newcomers to online autism discussion to be an important audience to reach, I’ve seen value in having contributors who were up to the challenge of responding to any and all commenters.
Value though is a relative matter, and those same contributors have by and by made it clear that a comments policy would be appreciated, especially if it were to relieve them of the need to be responsive to the sort of comments which have had their fifteen minutes of fame and more already. It was recently pointed out to me in fact that there seems to be no more than ten or twelve longtime commenters responsible for most all of the concern trolling and nay-saying encountered on neurodiversity blogs. While the argument for kicking them to the curb would be no different were their numbers far larger, this seems as good a time as any to let them go their way as we go ours.
Below, see Shift Journal’s comments guidelines, effective Labor Day weekend, 2010. These will have a permanent home on their own page, linked to from the sidebar, and are subject to change as time and circumstances unfold. In effect then this post stands as an archive version, as it will not be edited to reflect future changes.
We are at work here. What that work may be will vary with when and who you are visiting, however workplace rules for visitors apply here as they do in the brick-and-mortar world. It is commonly understood for instance that when visiting a brick-and-mortar workplace, one is not at liberty to pop into this or that office or cubicle in order to inform the occupants that they are not doin’ it right. Such behavior might reasonably be met not with discussion, but with a call to building security and an armed escort to the parking lot; similarly inappropriate comments here will be removed from the premises by means of that virtual trap-door known as the delete button. To the extent this is at all a departure from standard social media practices, it is aimed at supporting the notion that Shift Journal’s primary mission is reflective.
Readers and contributors alike are invited to reflect on the nature of autism past, present, and future; the opportunities here are for expanding and refining vision and perspective rather than restricting them. Contributors are well aware that there are raging controversies in the larger autism world. Shift Journal seeks to occupy a position that is removed from the front lines of these controversies—a still, calm center or “safe space” where offense and defense are not vital concerns. Friction will arise between contributors as it will at any workplace; however engaging with outside detractors is not a priority. Autistic is assumed here to be a legitimate way to be in the world. With this as a given, contributors can go on to craft and float ideas; to play with possibilities; to store and share language that can be carried into conflict, or used to build fresh understandings of autism in contexts other than—and larger than—the current “autism wars.” Comments which further this mission are welcome; comments which detract from it are not so much unwelcome as they are irrelevant.
If there are truly egregious errors which must be called to our attention, visitors are invited—as one might do with a brick-and-mortar outfit—to use the contact form. Genuinely constructive criticism, offered thus away from the grandstand view of the comments section, is much appreciated—and may result, even if we disagree, in a request for you to submit in publishable form. Concern trolls and naysayers on the other hand—however well-intentioned—are encouraged to assert their relevance by the digital equivalent of picketing across the street. Nothing, after all, would announce to the world that we’ve all arrived as would the establishment of counteringshiftjournal.com. ;-)
(Thanks to Rob Beschizza and Ron Gruber—and commenters—in this post at Boing Boing for helping me to clarify my thoughts here.)
Present and future contributors are asked to consider that in coming months especially we may or may not see some extra-tempting softballs in the comments, which somehow just beg for a reply. Be warned that if you get to them before I do, and you have chosen to reply, I may well delete your reply along with the comment which tempted you. Just sayin’.