I made two changes to our About page, both of them to clear up potential ambiguities.
The first grew out of a comment from Cheryl Johnson concerning the content of BloodhoundBlog and the possible consequences of Realtors or lenders emulating our outspokenness on their own weblogs:
Verbum sapienti: A word to the wise, that is. We are a real estate industry weblog, and much of our content concerns real estate marketing tools, technologies and techniques that real estate professionals might use in their own businesses. But: We are not appealing for business here. We are not selling real estate or loans or investments, and we are not walking on our tip-toes to avoid offending potential clients. If you are building or hope to build a lead-attracting real estate weblog, BloodhoundBlog is not a model for you to follow. Many of our contributors have client-focused weblogs, and those can be good models to work from. In addition, we wrote a book called Real Estate Weblogging 101 that explains how to build a successful real estate weblog. But BloodhoundBlog is written to be controversial, and we do not — and should not — care whose toes we might step on.
The second is an amendment to our comments policy to clarify what kind of conduct results in a comment being deleted or a commenter being banned from BloodhoundBlog. In this paragraph, the added language is underlined:
Comments policy: Everyone disagrees with us about something, and we welcome this: It’s how we learn. We encourage a free and spirited debate about the issues we raise here. We police comments with a very light hand, deleting comments and banning commenters only for extreme obscenity, flaming or flame-baiting, plagiarism, spam, impersonation (sock-puppetry) or copyright infringement (a fair-use quotation with a link is fine). This warrants emphasis: We are all about ideas, and, because of that, we are very strict about bad behavior. If you get the notion that your fear or anger or rock-ribbed moral fire accords you the right to abuse or insult or brow-beat the other guests in our salon, you will be ejected with dispatch. Nota bene: When you’re done, you’re done. Anyone can make a mistake, but if your behavior is palpably malicious, you will be banned from BloodhoundBlog forever.
We don’t have many problems, but the problems we do have are almost always flaming or flame-baiting — essentially just bullying. Even then, most of the problem cases are so outrageously malicious that I don’t even bother with them. I set the moderation bot to ban the commenter, then forget all about them.
The interesting cases are the gray areas, situations where I think the commenter may not have intended to offend. In those circumstances, I’ll send an email pointing out the offensive text and offering to let the comment go through if that copy is excised.
What happens next is always an eye-opener.
Most people will say something like: “Dang! You’re right. My apologies.” Or: “I am so glad you killed that! I hit post and instantly regretted it.” Or simply: “I didn’t know I was in the wrong. I’ll do better from now on.” Those folks I don’t worry about, not ever again.
The rarest few will instead mount the nearest high horse and say something like: “How dare you try to censor me?!” Or: “I have a First Amendment right to say whatever I choose!” Or simply: “Go [omitted] yourself!” Those folks I ban forever without a backward glance.
The point and purpose is simply this: We have built an important, useful and stimulating intellectual salon. It works as well as it does because we maintain high standards for our contributors and guests. I learned early on that bad behavior drives out the good, and so I am very careful to make sure that people who strive to dominate debate with obnoxious behavior are excluded from our soiree. Good ideas are always welcome. Bad behavior, never.
And even though — when you are building your own real estate weblog — you ought not emulate BloodhoundBlog in the large, many real estate webloggers have used our About page as the model for their own. You don’t have to be quite so snarky, if you don’t want to, but our comments policy is a good way of making sure that misanthropes don’t hijack your weblog and chase away all your guests.