Finally, My Guidelines for Commenting

Dear Readers and Commenters,

The comment section has become a key part of WOLF STREET, thanks to our informed, engaged, and thoughtful commenters. The comment section is where people add their experience, insider knowledge, data, or points of view, or where they ask related questions that we as a group can try to answer. Many readers have told me how enriching they find the comment section.

This has also been the place to point out factual errors and (sometimes hilarious) typos in the articles. We appreciate that.

This comment section is like a living room where interesting and knowledgeable people are invited to share their views in a comfortable environment, without shouting or invective. There is a good amount of disagreement, and that’s great, as long as it is fact-based and civil.

WOLF STREET is a business, finance, and economics site, not a political site. Readers from across the political spectrum are invited and should feel comfortable. So when writing a comment, for those moments, we check our political views at the door, so to speak. It’s OK to mention politicians and policy issues. It’s not OK to descend into partisan bickering.

First protect your privacy. This is not a guideline, it’s up to you, and you can do it however you want. Most commenters are already doing this:

  1. Use an alias as screen name when you log in, instead of your real name, or you use your first name (such as “Mike”), along with a number to keep all the Mikes separate, such as “Mike009.”
  2. Use a fake email to log it; or an email that is used exclusively for logging into comment sections and the like but is not used for personal stuff or business.

Over the years, I’ve been trying to develop some guidelines. But enforcing them isn’t always easy. When I moderate comments, I try to tread fine lines, navigate gray areas, cling to slippery slopes, and walk across thin ice — not always successfully. “Errors have been made,” as they say.

To make this easier to navigate for everyone, I have finally written down some guidelines. I hope they will make things a little clearer. I may update them as I go.

1. Try to stay on topic. Comments out of the blue on some totally unrelated issue are potential fodder for the comment shredder.

2. The comment section is not a link dump. A link to a source when needed is encouraged. But links on unrelated topics tend to go into the comment shredder.

3. If about 5% of the comments under one article are yours, it’s time to back off. So if the article has 80 comments and 4 are yours, it’s time to slow down. If you’re in a substantive constructive discussion with another commenter, some back and forth is OK. But once this discussion is starting to hog the comment section, or becomes argumentative, it may get blocked.

4. If comments by the same commenter keep saying the same thing, they become a “broken record,” and broken records are tossed out.

5. Comments that are in bad faith, badger other commenters, or attack other commenters ad hominem become fodder for the shredder. If you criticize, please target the comment, not the person.

6. Comments that insult our authors or other commenters will likely not make it. This includes terms of endearment, such as “libtard” or “fascist.”

7. No name-calling. Use the correct names of officials and politicians. For more pizzazz, add their title (President Trump, President Obama, etc.) A great way to get comments blocked is by using descriptors or nicknames (such as “Hitlery” or “Orange Face”).

8. WOLF STREET is not the place to post propaganda, including industry propaganda. It’s not the place for theories about 9/11, assassinations, CIA actions in the 1970s, and other historical events.

9. WOLF STREET is not a website about war, the Civil War, WW I, WW II, WW III, a “coming” civil war, nuclear war, etc., what might have caused them, or what might cause the next one.

10. Other triggers for blocking: Discussing religion, race, or sex; diving too deeply into stereotypes; or calling for acts of violence against an individual or groups, or in general terms.

11. WOLF STREET does not tolerate any kind of hateful speech or bigotry. Violators may be permanently barred from commenting.

The comment section has a set of tripwires that will stop comments in their tracks. These comments then go into the moderation queue where they may languish for a while. Perfectly good comments can also get caught up in these tripwires. But they will be released at some point. So be patient.

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  83 comments for “Finally, My Guidelines for Commenting

  1. Michael says:

    Excellent. Thanks for these.

  2. Thistimeisdifferent says:

    No comment ;-)

  3. HBGuy says:

    Thank you – I wish more sites were as thoughtful and constructive.

  4. Todd says:

    Awesome! Its why I really like this site. Well written, factual, yet entertaining articles are what make this site great. My only wish is that there were more articles everyday.

  5. 2banana says:

    Aliens? I didn’t see anything in rules about not talking about aliens…

    :-)

  6. Jack says:

    Excellent! Wolf Street is perfect as outlined in your statement. I have always been fearful that this site would become like
    Zero Hedge.

    • RR. says:

      Correct.
      With Modern Blogosphere Anonymity,
      Obscenity and Eloquence are so often Confused,
      (One with the Other)

      Please Keep Up The Good Work
      RR.

    • OutLookingIn says:

      Yes. The “original Tyler Durden” used to post on Seeking Alpha, which I always paid attention to. When that ‘non de plume’ was banned from that site and Zero Hedge came into being, I began following closely.

      At first the comment section was very enjoyable and intelligent. With the likes of Cognitive Dissonance, Turd Ferguson, and many others. It did not take very long for the comment section to be taken over by sophomoric moron’s, who posted utterly complete, useless and obscene posts.

      Wolf – You are to be commended for managing such a fine site as this.
      Thank you.

  7. Alec says:

    I know these are not hard and fast, but I still wanted to make a quick comment regarding rule 3: it makes a lot of sense, but I think it could use a minimum threshold for those instances in which there are not that many comments to begin with. That 5% when there are eighty comments makes sense, but shortly after an article has been posted, when there are only ten comments or so, you can easily have 20% without hogging the discussion (one original comment, one reply, and maybe one clarification and you are there). Just a thought.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Yes, if your comment is comment number 2, you have 50% of the comments. That’s not the problem :-)

      When there are 20 comments and two are yours, you might want to wait with number 3 though. If you forgot something or want to correct your prior comment, add it, no problem.

      In reality, I don’t count comments. But if I see a flood comments from one commenter, I start counting. This is very time-consuming. And I’d rather not. So just use common sense.

  8. T.J., not the real tj says:

    This is great to see. Thank you

  9. Lester Pierson Esq. says:

    Eminently reasonable guidelines. I haven’y comment until now due to all of the extraneous blather. I will comment selectively in the future. Greatly appreciate the viewpoints you share especially those on Don Cojones.

    • kitten lopez says:

      oooh! Don COJONES!
      nice one. KAPOW!
      Don Quijones, when someone ELSE calls you something like THAT, you get to use that name everywhere and whenever you want. even and especially your driver’s license. you tell La Dona to call you DON QUIJONES and it’ll be a good day night afternoon on top of the sink or wherever.

      (by the way there should’ve been a rule against letting the esquire’s comment go ignored THIS LONG like that. where the hell is Petunia? Alex? wake up, people. i’m trying to take a break but i was like REALLY???)

      Don Cojones. now you can run amoke, mount things, and prosper.

      Don COJONES. beautiful…

  10. RoseN says:

    I’m having a hard time with this rule:

    WOLF STREET is a business, finance, and economics site, not a political site. Readers from across the political spectrum are invited and should feel comfortable. So when writing a comment, for those moments, we check our political views at the door, so to speak.

    In my view, these areas – especially economics – can’t help but spill over into the political. For example, we may have a discussion about Amazon taking over everything, and it seems reasonable to mention that a political party makes no attempt to block monopolies. I understand that we don’t want to berate someone for their beliefs, but we seem to be creating an artificial separation.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Like I said, there are all kinds of gray areas, hence judgement calls. So a mention “that a political party makes no attempt to block monopolies” would likely pass without problems, but just remember and mention that the other political party didn’t/doesn’t either. None of them did. You enter partisan politics when you use something like this to diss one party, when in fact, both are guilty of the same thing.

      • two beers says:

        This is an important clarification, Wolf. Apart from a few social issues, partisan politics is little more than a circus sideshow distraction, and is wisely avoided. OTOH, politics — as the study of power and policy in general — is intrinsic and inseparable from finance, business, and economics. One might as well try to describe a football game without mentioning the football than try to discuss finance, business, and economics without acknowledging how they are shaped by politics.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Upon second thought – thanks for bringing it up – I think the way the rule was written was too confining and unrealistic. I have now added this:

      “It’s OK to mention politicians and policy issues. It’s not OK to descend into partisan bickering.”

      • Say did you read Doug Noland on the Warsh appointment? Noland tends to equivocate, this is pure Fed Man Love, gushing, effusive. The entrance of the Sound Money Gods into Valhalla. I won’t give you the link.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          You should have posted this comment under my last Fed article where it belongs, not here where I posted a list of guidelines whose #1 item is to try to stay on topic :-)

          But yes, Noland’s article is interesting. A lot of people would like to see Warsh in that job. But I doubt that Trump would want the markets to be left to their own devices. This could be brutal. So if Warsh gets appointed (which I doubt), it will likely be after an understanding between him and Trump that deregulation yes, but don’t walk away from the markets. That’s my guess.

          It’s very easy for Warsh to write editorials in 2015 and 2016 that hit the nail on the head (cited by Noland). But if he is the Fed chair, I think he will change his tune.

  11. Kenneth Logins says:

    Thanks Wolf!

    WS has been a top read for years, the comments too, but recent quarters have seen the comments going awry.

    I’m very grateful to see rules that basically keep things on topic and respectful.
    Calling David Dickinson ‘orange face’ for example, has no place WS!

    Thanks

    Dave

  12. Jim Graham says:

    Pity that you are forced into doing a lot of non-productive work.

  13. Gershon says:

    Good to see the rules spelled out for all and sundry. I will abide by them, as difficult as that sometimes is. I would request that they be prominently displayed or linked on the site so this post doesn’t vanish from view in another month or two.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Thank you :-)

      I will put a link in the navigation bar; and I will put the link in comments from time to time so that new commenters get to see them too.

      • Gershon says:

        While I who have scrupulously observed these guidelines know that this post was in no way aimed at me, it’s good that the other serial violators in here – you know who you are! – now have the opportunity to mend their ways. (Shakes head piously.)

  14. Alessio Calcagno says:

    Great, I totally agree.
    No orange swan event.

    (Little suggestion. Can u move this “leave a reply” section at the top of the comments?)

    • Joe says:

      Respectfully, I request that we keep the reply form where it is at the bottom, to encourage commenters to read other commenters before unknowingly parroting someone else’s comment.

  15. Anders Gronskog says:

    Dear Mr. Wolf.
    While we are on the subject og comments.
    Do you wish to enlighten me on why some names shows in blue text?

    It makes sense that your name does, but every now and then some (to me) unkown name does it also.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      When you post a comment in the comment box, you see three smaller boxes underneath it, including “website.” You can put the URL of your own blog into this box. This is not required, but an option. Once the comment is posted, your screen name becomes blue to indicate that it is a clickable link to your site. Readers can click on it to go to your site.

      Dozens, sometimes hundreds, of spammers a day use this function. But they almost always get caught by my mechanism. But if you have your own blog, put your link into the box.

  16. I’ve watched two popular blogsites implode, Dailykos, and Zero Hedge. In both cases they were taken over by a militant culture. Kos was taken over by Democratic party supporters (who were bashing progressives) and Hedge by (Russian?) trolls, calling anyone names who criticized then candidate Trump. I understand from the bloggers position that these people represent an audience, however artificially conceived. You start out with the best of intentions and the next day cyber trolls are paying your rent. I like this site and I realize success in these matters comes at a price. There is no rule against politics, just the general opprobrium.

    • Thunderstruck says:

      “I’ve watched two popular blogsites implode, Dailykos, and Zero Hedge.”

      Boy howdy, you got that right!

      ZH has turned into a racist, anti-Semitic cesspool. Once I pointed out that they were essentially a duplicate of DrudgeReport, they gave me the boot. They have strayed so far away from finance focused reporting *and research* that it is hard to even categorize them any more.

      I haven’t been back since, and I don’t miss it one bit. I had been a commenter since the early days when you had to complete a simple math exercise to post.

      • Haus-Targaryen says:

        As a ZH “megaposter”, what you describe is pandemic there, however — it isn’t without reason.

        As the lines between finance, politics and “social justice” become ever more blurred by identity politics — expecting certain aspects of events at hand from not being discussed is naive, I do believe.

        While the quality of poster on ZH has deteriorated since I began commenting there some five years ago now, the relevant of what is being discussed hasn’t changed.

  17. Judy says:

    Can we mention and point out your permanently bearishness despite record highs in the stock market and real estate market? Or will that be banned?

    Your site is in part entertaining bc it is sensationalist bearish, and it’s enjoyable to bag on the misery of others.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Your comment tells me that you don’t understand this site. When I say “bubble,” it’s BULLISH because prices rise, by definition. So there are a lot articles on this site that are bullish by definition. When I say that bubbles can’t exist forever, it’s reality (and not a forecast) because that’s how it is. We peel back the layers of the onion and try to show things beneath the layers that are otherwise hard to see. I don’t forecast stock movements. There are enough hype organs out there that do that.

      So if you post nonsense that shows you don’t understand this site, and if there are no facts in your comment that dispute what I’m saying, if it’s just foggy misconfigured generalities — as your comment just now — then why should I let it go through more than once or twice? It will certainly be a “broken record” after that.

      • chris Hauser says:

        it’s tough to call the drop when you want to play the game. but you’ll know when the drop is real, when there has been no one around for a while, and the field is yours.

        it takes a while to get there. i remember looking at real estate in 2007 and 2008, and resisting the need to win the bid.

        now, to return to topic. those are well thought out guidelines, succinctly stated. and, they are open to modification via open sourcing.

  18. Rg says:

    Very reasonable policy. Thanks for your efforts!

  19. pythagore says:

    Another great feature (not sure how difficult to technically implement) would be a way to contact other commenters. People on Wolf Street come from so many varied backgrounds and have fascinating things to say or industry experience that is potentially relevant for investors. It would be neat to be able to either 1) click their name and contact them (without revealing their information), 2) have an @USERNAME function where their attention can be drawn to the response.

  20. TJ Martin says:

    Thanks for laying these out in specific detail rather than the somewhat generic piecemeal bits and bobs in the past including one on one .

    Might I suggest leaving a link to this on the home page for future reference ( for all of us ) and does this mean we all start again from scratch ?

    TJ Martin ( the real TJ Martin .. jocularity intended )

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Just added the link to the navigation bar at the top for laptops/PCs. On smartphones, click on the hamburger icon at the top left to get the menu.

      I will also post the link from time to time in the comment section.

  21. prepalaw says:

    Amen Wolf. Very sensible.

    peter

  22. 91B20 1stCav(AUS) says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, Wolf, for all of your efforts to maintain your blog a place for what seems almost a vanished necessity for a functioning civil society-that being civil, informed, and factual discourse! And thanks to all commenters who realize and have observed this necessity. A better day to us all.

  23. michael Engel says:

    1) which subject make comments volume flow / fall asleep.
    2) Can you expand the core, the names that keep comments alive.
    3) What can spark anonymous readers comments to appear, before their name disappear.
    4) Is repetition, on the same subject make volume fall asleep.
    5) Is there any “grand vasir” tagging people email for alert.
    6) DQ Catalonia is a political subject, wrap with some economic data, in
    contrast to your policy. DQ excel !! Is that a signal : new subjects on other
    European states, plus a nerdy wrap. Why don’t you enlighten your readers on what’s going on in the world.
    7) Do you create a data bank on people commenting.
    8) Do you welcome provocative comments that bring response, keep comments flow and reach high volume.
    9) Where are the paying customers, mingle with us, the free loader customers.
    10) Can you adjust “printing” your blog to people east of Caliphonia,
    to enable easy access.

  24. Samurai says:

    Thank you Wolf for the sensible guidelines and the great articles. May I suggest an upvote/downvote button? I find it quite to see which comments are most valued by other readers. The downvote can also help get rid of off-topic or otherwise pointless comments.

  25. raxadian says:

    So arguing about the economics causes of war is not okay?

    • Joe says:

      Or the economic consequences of war?

      I have a feeling that war will become a strong economic determinant in the next 12-18 months.

  26. Rules (10)
    1. Don’t contradict me.
    2. Don’t change the subject.
    3. Thou shalt not lie.
    4. Communism resides on the ash heap of history.
    5. No drinking. No drugs.
    6. No trolls.
    7. It doesn’t have to be true. But it must be interesting.
    8. No censorship based on political correctness.
    9. Keep it real.
    10. Graffiti is verboten.

  27. Teee Tooo says:

    If you intend to post facts that demonstrates that Wolf is wrong don’t bother – he will delete it.

  28. Steve C. says:

    #8 is a shame, it wasn’t until I started researching the multitude of false flags, lies we’ve been fed for many, many years – that I now feel I am truly able to make informed decisions. But it’s your website, it has great info, so I respect your rules.

  29. will says:

    Out of curiosity, any color on how many messages don’t get through? I’d imagine 90% of them are spam-bots, but of the remaining 10%?

    It’s one of the very few sites I ever post on (and lurked for a long time before) partly because I don’t like feeding the web-spies, but partly because it’s one of the few sites with good, on-track comments and decent discussions. (the other sites I do post on are overwhelmingly small community videogame forums, for similar reasons).

    Cheers, appreciate the commend moderation Wolf..

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Spam ranges from a few dozen a day to a few hundred a day. Essentially none of them get through. In terms of percentages, I don’t track the data. So I don’t even know the median number of comments per day.

      There are a few topics that bring out the trolls, which is harder and more time-consuming to deal with. But I know which topics those are, and I prepare myself for it.

      In terms of the other comments that end up in the shredder: I try to keep that to a minimum, but I don’t track it, and so I don’t know how many.

  30. Alec says:

    Is it me, or some of these comments are beginning to sound like a good example of why we need these guidelines?

  31. Tyronius says:

    Excellent set of guidelines on the comments section. At the risk of promoting another blog site, I rate the comments section here as almost as educational and interesting as that of naked capitalism. I believe your guidelines will help close the gap.

    In spite of my business degree, my University sent me out into the world woefully uninformed about economics in general and how it informs and is affected by so many outside influences.

    Your site has been an essential part of my education and the comments section has been an important component of that.

    Thank you for your efforts, gentlemen. In a world of big media selective reporting along with ever more determined disinformation from other sources for selfish purposes, such clarity is as cherished as it is rare.

    • Bobby Dale says:

      I have a difficult time with Naked Capitalism, though well researched and very well written, they seem to have an ivory tower view, ignoring human nature and a belief that more government oversight is the solution.
      Wolf Street has a broader, more realistic view point and presents economic subject matter in terms that we of only two semesters of college econ can understand.
      Thanks to Wolf and DQ for the site and I believe these simple rules should keep it relevant.
      And when I ask questions in comments I actually am looking for an answer.

  32. ft says:

    I am guilty of some banter with other commenters where we had something in common to share that probably wasn’t of much interest to the commenter population as a whole, and I’ve seen others pair off like this too. I hope that remains tolerable because it adds a warmth and feeling of connection to the experience here.

    You run an excellent site, Wolf. I don’t know how you do it, but I’m glad you do.

  33. David Calder says:

    Wolf Street has to be my favorite news site for things economic and for the comments section. Once in awhile an over-the-top political partisan slips in and for the most part gets ignored and how refreshing is that! Most of the replies to a comment are sincere and respectful and sometimes enlightening.. I’m glad you took the time to spell out the rules but for the most part most posters were pretty decent but sometimes we did take things into a tangent or off topic altogether… Good rules to write by.. Thanks..

  34. Bruce Kowal says:

    Good idea to set rules. There are already too many sociopaths in the blogospere, and, analogous to Gresham’s Law, they will drive out the good. As many have noted of Zero Hedge. Everyone making a comment should imagine they are at a lectern facing five hundred sharp minds, and post accordingly.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Just some additional info on “… facing five hundred sharp minds…” This site has nearly 200,000 unique visitors per month, and articles are read between about 4,000 and 40,000+ times. I don’t know how many of these readers also read the comments, but quite a few. So the audience for your comments could be much lager than just 500 :-)

      • Chris from Dallas says:

        Wolf, what about adding these stats into your guidelines?

        I had no idea there were that many visitors. How humbling if even 10% read the comments. Just knowing this makes me want to post better, more complete comments.

        Keep up the great work. +1000 to all the positive comments above.

        THANK YOU!

  35. Agnes says:

    Informative as always. I, also, watched Zero Hedge go from an informative site to a childrens’ smear party. Web sites are similar The Commons, that become destroyed without rules and regulations. The best example I know in the USA of a functioning Commons is the road system. Yes, there are rules. Yes there are cops. Yes, people get pinched for infractions, fined, and/or arrested. Please keep the rules and keep up the good work.

  36. Gordon Gekko says:

    8. WOLF STREET is not the place to post propaganda, including industry propaganda.

    Take note. ;)

  37. Dos Tacos Mas says:

    Thanks for the site and sensible discussion guidelines. Like many others I’ve given up on ZH. I frequently find the wisdom in the comments section of websites and it’s just depressing to see the trolls out in force. I rarely post anything unless I think it will advance the discussion in some way. Very much appreciate the thoughtful discussion from many of you. Maybe we can all “agree to disagree, agreeably!”

  38. Kasadour says:

    Wolf:

    Are you still using individual word filters? I recall using the word “trump” as it’s normally defined, and my comment was tossed. The filter thought I was referring to POTUS.

    Good rules and thanks for taking the time.

    Kim

  39. thatblackwoman says:

    the rules are logical. i am glad you have rules. lawlessness tends to be unsuccessful.

    i rarely comment anywhere on the internets. i comment here because your data is consistently excellent.

    the folks on this website are correct about ZHedge and DKos. both sites are stuffed with trolls. i love zhedge despite itself.

    for some reason, i read all WStreet comments with a british accent. i guess i think most of them are british.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Here’s some data on WS readers: 65% are in the US, 10% are in Canada, 5% are in the UK, 4% are in Australia, the remaining 16% are scattered around the world.

  40. thatblackwoman says:

    way off topic side note: has anyone seen any white papers on the global impact of demonitisation?

    i have been lookin for months. cant find any.

    stay blessed everybody.

  41. rex says:

    These guide lines seem perfectly reasonable and fair. I now understand why a recent comment of mine went into moderation and remained unposted. Thank you you your patience.

  42. Karen says:

    Excellent guidelines, eloquently stated. Listen up people, Wolf is doing the world an enormous and often thankless service, so let’s not blow it!

  43. Karen says:

    And let’s not tamper with DQ’s chosen moniker. It’s an artful blend of the sublime and absurd. Moreover, the cojones would lose their magic without Quixote leading the way ;-)

Comments are closed.