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Moderating User Comments

Since we began publishing user comments, we've struggled to maintain a balance between making this as open a forum as possible and keeping it relevant for people who'd actually like to have a reasoned, non-aggressive conversation about the things we cover. (We'd like to have reasoned conversations all the time.)

For the record, this has never been a democracy; we've just been very conservative with the use of the delete button. But as the comments have increased, so have the number of trolls–people who are clearly here not to engage in any meaningful way, but just to derail conversations with ridiculous, occasionally offensive bullshit. They drive the readers that we'd like to have here–even the ones who hate what we're doing– away. We believe that the reasonable readers–even those who hate us–don't like the trolls, either. We will follow this advice, and hope you will, too: Don't feed the trolls. Responding to somebody who's simply trying to annoy you is giving them exactly what they want.

We don't like to delete anything, and we'll continue to be quite conservative about what gets the axe. That said, we reserve the right to delete the following:

-- Racist, homophobic, sexist posts. If your argument or joke requires the use of such things, your argument or joke sucks.

-- Completely off-topic rambling. It might be hilarious, but this is not the place for it, and it tends to derail the whole comments thread. Marginally related is fine. (See also: blatant trolling.)

-- Blatant plugs for your own website that don't relate to the topic at hand.

-- Extremely aggressive, insulting posts, especially those with absolutely no point to make. Unacceptable: "You're a dick!" Acceptable: "Only a dick would watch Con Air six times in a row!" Better: "You watched Con Air six times?! You should've taken IQ tests before and after to see how it affected you."

Free-speech lovers, you should be mostly okay. We will not delete aggressive, insulting posts that have a point. (As much as we find "AV Club is a bunch of hipster douchebags; they didn't put this movie I liked in the Inventory!" silly, go ahead and post it.)

We don't want to stifle debate, but we do want to encourage conversation. If the signal-to-noise ratio favors the trolls and the random insulters too heavily, it eliminates the reason we starting using a commenting system in the first place. Our job is to provide interesting reading, not to police comments; hopefully this will provide some answers to those wondering why posts (occasionally) get cut.

As for as whether "Firsties!" will be deleted… We were hoping they'd go away on their own, actually.