How to fit in

On occasion, it appears to become necessary to explain to the general bloggernacle populace what is and isn’t appropriate behavior here. Apparently, we’ve reached one of those moments again.

In the interest of helping out bloggernacle moderators everywhere and in the interest of not having to explain to a bunch of whiny, whiny, whinos over and over again why their behavior is considered trollish, I would like to offer some basic advice regarding appropriate blogging styles.

  • Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever call someone else to repentance on the internet (or, at least, in the comments on a blog post). You don’t know this other person. You don’t know their status before God and man. You cannot adequately judge the thought, prayer, or effort they have put into their life and their relationship to God. If you feel the need to kindly point out how they have chosen to ignore all modern revelation on a given subject, you are not behaving kindly. This isn’t to say that you can’t point out modern revelation (or anything else) relevant to the subject; it is to say that you cannot put up your interpretation as the one, true version. Finally, you should do the following before you click submit: read the comment out loud in the most angry and then the most belittling manner possible and then decide if it continues to need to be posted. This won’t solve all your fitting in problems, but it will help immensely
  • Be friendly. Although we sometimes receive criticism for being a bunch of glad handers, it is almost never a bad idea to complement someone on a post (unless, of course, it is a horrible post, which I happen to disagree with vehemently, in which case you are dead to me forever). Although you wouldn’t be able to tell it from most of my posts, most blog posts represent some time and effort expended on the part of the author. If you like it, then we will like you, especially if you have some cool insight to add. Even if you don’t like it, we will probably like you, if you disagree in an intelligent, humble manner. The internet is a great equalizer; credentials are unnecessary for participation. If you would like to participate, please make yourself welcome by…uh…making yourself welcoming. It really helps.
  • Be civil. There are times for incivility in bloggernacle dialogue. However, as a new participant, you do not know them. Your first act as a participant shouldn’t be a tirade against all these conservative goody-two-shoes Mormons who won’t let you watch R-rated movies in peace. Get a feel for what is appropriate at your blog of choice before commenting. Some time spent as a lurker can be time well spent. I am often reminded of Robert Heinlein’s observation that a community where everyone is a ruthless murderer, with handy access to death-dealing devices, is a very polite community. We all consider ourselves witty, insightful, and, on occasion, capable of dealing out rhetorical death blows. Before you start slinging your bon-mots, learn when the situation calls for it and when it doesn’t. Otherwise, you might get shunted out an airlock (or banned as a troll…which you feel is worse).
  • Finally, realize that this IS a clique. There is nothing wrong with that. I am not saying that those in the clique only want to hear themselves talk (although that is often what happens). I am saying that we built this community and that we are happy with it. This also means that we are not looking for someone, whom we do not know and have never met before, to come along and tell us what we are doing wrong. There is a place and a time for that and your first blog comment is not it. This doesn’t mean that criticism is per se bad (we do have our merry pranksters). However, you have to realize that, although you discovered this blog just last weekend, we have been doing this for a while. We have cultivated a community where we can hash out our problems in a way that is helpful for us. If you find what we do unhelpful and cannot think of a productive way to help us improve (or want to), there is a big, big internet out there for you to inhabit. Knock yourself out. If you like this space, please realize that it is here because we enforce the rules as we see fit. And, in part, those rules are arbitrary, sporadic, and nonsensical, because we are. If you want to participate, you’ll figure it out. If not, there is always Meridian, where they don’t let you comment at all.

In the interest of full disclosure, I fit in primarily because I have been here a long time. I began blogging because a friend, whose coattails I still ride, asked me to participate. When I first began to comment on other people’s posts, I thought of myself as the great threadkiller because no-one ever seemed to respond to or notice my comments. Eventually, I got my own blog, started writing my own stuff, and people took notice. Not a lot, but enough (and of the right sort) to keep me going. Authors talk about finding their audience and I found mine. I then proceeded to involve more friends in the endeavor, overcommit myself to several blogs, and then publicly leave and come back several times. I have had the whole VH1 blog story and I have, on the whole, enjoyed it.

It is, in its own way, a way that I approach God. It isn’t the only way (and I am not convinced it is the “best”), but it is a way I have done it. For now, that is enough.

For the newbs, welcome to the conversation! We are glad to have you here (just don’t forget to do your home/visiting teaching and your good deed daily). For the oldsters, we’re glad to have you. Please feel free to add your rules, your stories of bloggernacle initiation, or anything other lovingly navel-gazing moment that you need to in the comments. Ya’ll come back, ye hear!


  1. John C., you need to repent. Not sure what for, but I’m sure you know. :-)

    Seriously, though, great post. I think we all need reminders of basic blogging behavior. In the heat of the moment, and in the throes of passion, we sometimes say things we wish we wouldn’t have said.

  2. Who are you, again?

  3. I suppose this is “your” space, not mine, but as a
    “newb” that has been unjustly labeled a “troll,” I suggest that being friendly and civil includes giving the newbs (and everyone for that matter) the benefit of the doubt. If someone’s comment is unclear or is not understood, is it too much to request clarification rather than assuming that the person is a troll and even calling them such?

  4. Very good post, John. Thanks for this.

  5. Peter LLC says:

    The internet is a great equalizer; credentials are unnecessary for participation.

    Finally, realize that this IS a clique.

    I can think of at least two permabloggers who have disagreed with these assertions.

    Otherwise, awesome post. You rock!

  6. Susan,
    I am, as always, Batman.

    Sadly, we don’t always give people the benefit of the doubt. There are several tell-tale signs of the potential troll (usually some variation on the above mentioned guidelines) that result in an immediate (perhaps unjust) smackdown. If we were discussing the application of the death penalty, I would tend to agree with you. However, we are dealing with the internet, where people often drive-by, say something just to be mean, and drive off never to return. So, we are trigger-happy on the troll button. Or, at least, I am. I would recommend, once again, taking time to get the lay of the land and the mod before commenting or, failing that, being willing to explain yourself when accused of trolldom (for which simply restating your point or saying that you are not a troll do not count). I don’t usually ban on the first offense, but I am very willing to ban afterwards. I often will suggest that someone is behaving trollishly. Sometimes they take a moment to reflect on what they written; sometimes they will protest that it is ridiculous for me to attempt to dismiss their viewpoint. Only one of these reflects an attempt to “fit in.” Once again, we have created this community; if you find the strictures too restrictive, please feel free to create your own.

    That said, I am explaining the rule of thumb that I use in approach potential trolls or not cool kids. This post should not be read as a statement of BCC policy (or, even necessarily the ideal policy) regarding trolldom. The truth is that we all behave trollishly on occasion. However, some of us have already engendered enough good will to allow others to forgive us our lapses (or at least snicker about them instead of grow offended). Newbs simply do not yet have the credit.

  7. Peter, impossible!

    Welcome to the clique, btw.

  8. Peter,
    In that case, we will all just have to agree that I am right and they are wrong. I can live with that.

  9. What I think John C. is saying, “Troll,” is that what in an oldster is merry pranksterism or capriciousness is, as exhibited by a newb, trollishness (so it behooves to soft pedal over-independence of thought and especially attitude until when and if cliquehood membership would be achieved).

  10. I can get rid of trolls for you guys. I just engage them and be real friendly and they head for the hills. If I were easily insulted, I’d be hurt.

    I love this post, way to go.

  11. Jim, formerly "Troll" says:

    klh: I see how it works. I guess I’m better suited then to “observing” here rather than commenting. The admission price for “fitting in” is a little out of my budget.

  12. Anne,

  13. (Thinks to self: Just as some of us like to visit Disney World [Tibet, the Vatican, Atlantic City] but wouldn’t want to live there, Jim and I like to visit Mormon blogs, but– ! :^)

  14. This “fitting in” nonsense is overrated, I’d say. I think it’s sufficient to just not display a tendency toward self-aggrandizement or an insistence on being the center of every conversation — traits that are nasty in newcomers and established members of a community alike.

  15. John, please note that, while in some ways I disagree with you, it was a lovely post. :)

  16. JohnC
    But what I really want to know is, are you done with your dissertation? Are you going to find a real job now?

  17. Bizarro Kevin (aka kevinf) says:

    Newbs, trolls, wannabes, take heed. I had to disclose the secrets of my HC Decoder Ring to even get to see where the boundaries of The Clique were. Most humiliating experience of my life since junior high.

    Actually, getting called to repentance by a troll is generally what gets you into the clique. :) Had to smack down a couple of trolls over at one of those other blogs, and found that it was a troll magnet, so I jumped in here. I’ve found it mostly tolerant, if you do some homework, and don’t get your superhero tights in a bunch if they don’t get your jokes.

    Actually, it’s good advice to never get your superhero tights in a bunch, no matter what. That’s why I love the preview box here. I can’t tell you how many times I have changed or even deleted comments, once I had a chance to look at them.

    John C, Steve Evans can help you refine your ID from Batman to Batzarro.

  18. Ugly Mahana says:

    As one who loves reading regularly and dropping the occasional comment, I would like to thank the regulars for putting up with those of us in the outer circle – the perennial newbs (thanks for the new term, Troll) – and state that I think this post provides sound advice.

  19. Does it seem a little naive to anyone else to assume that people who are criticizing you on your blog comments actually want to “fit in?”

    I generally don’t consider myself a troll, and to my knowledge I haven’t violated any of the precepts put forth in this post in my newbishness, but trying to tell me how to fit in (with the implication that of course I want to do so) is rather off-putting and condescending.

  20. Miles, no worries. I wouldn’t want you to fit in, either (grin).

  21. I guess all I’m saying is that if I’m making a comment, it’s because I want to add to the conversation, not because I’m trying to ingratiate myself with the “clique.”

  22. Bizarro Kevin (aka kevinf) says:

    BTW, neither Bizarro Kevin or kevinf feels like they are in the clique. They are just happy, like Ugly Mahana, to be tolerated and allowed to eat the dirt in the playground. The grownups only jump in when you start to throw it.

  23. Miles and Bkf,
    Don’t worry about fitting in the clique and you will find that you fit in just fine. I don’t mean to sound condescending. I just wanted to help people figure out the right tone in these here settings.

  24. Don’t worry, John, BK and I have been hanging around these parts for most of the last year. I’ve skinned my knuckles a few times, but am quite happy to mingle on the playground. It’s Bizarro Kevin that occasionally eats the dirt. He was created to make sure that no one would confuse me with Kevin Barney, who is a lawyer, learned, and good, while on the other hand, I am confused, easily amused, and as my wife would say, the “complete husband”. I hope that’s good.

    Both BK and I want to grow up and be Ray.

  25. Tanya Spackman says:

    This is just a drive-by comment….

  26. “The grownups only jump in when you start to throw it.” As usual, I find myself agreeing with kevinf. Also, the first sentence of #23 is perhaps the most concise summary of blogging etiquette for non-trolls I have read. For true trolls, there is no solution other than banishment.

  27. Nice post.

    It would behoove some of the commenters over at fMh and MMW to remember some of your sage advice. I’m sure some of what is being thrown around wouldn’t be said to someone’s face.

  28. I am in search for the true and living Troll. :)

    Amen to the post

  29. I would add the bullet that if you think you have the Dallin H. Oaks quote on exceptionalism that will checkmate the rest of the commenters, we are already fully aware of that quote.

  30. So, what if we tell someone to repeat their sins, is that ok? I heard it in Conference!

  31. Personal message alert: FHL, you might want to redo the link that accompanies your handle. “I do not think it (links to) what you think it (links to).”

  32. cj douglass says:

    Advice for everyone: don’t take yourself too seriously. At the end of the day we’re all hacks anyway.

  33. I just wanted to say that being relatively new to the bloggernacle (observing a while with very occasional posts) I appreciate being given some guidance as to proper courtesy. I will try and be more active (when I have the time) since I now have a better understanding.


  34. Jon in Austin says:


    I prefer “script-kiddie” or “internet security researcher.” ‘Hack’ is such a negative term.

  35. Excellent post and clarification of how blog communities have formed their own norms. I consider myself a visitor, not a troll, because I am pure of heart :) and interested in the discussions. But I do know the difference.

    What does it take to get a decoder ring?

  36. Just like kevinf, you simply have to make your own and claim you received it from Steve Evans.

  37. Thanks for this clarification. I am still learning the landscape. It turns out that this is less of a public board and more of a private conversation than I realized. That is good to know, but a bit disappointing.

    I come from the old Compuserve world, where the conversation is public and appointed moderators just keep it flowing without too much rancor.

    A while back, I looked for the blog rules. But there aren’t rules. There is only the group culture, the “we”, which non-members may learn by careful observation, like a fox, or by getting swatted a few times, like a puppy.

  38. Steve Evans says:

    Clair, don’t be too upset by it all. It’s really not very complicated or intricate or difficult to figure out — we’re just a bunch of friends discussing ideas much like you’d do at a cocktail party. Dive into the conversation like you would in a circumstance like that, and voila!

    I can understand the advantages and disadvantages of a blog vs. a message board. You’re right that this is not a public board, but a private conversation — just us and a couple of thousand other people. But I’ve been in that Compuserve world and it’s no idyllic dreamland, either. That freedom comes at a heavy cost.

  39. I am currently listening to Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress as I drive to and from work. Coincidence???

    Yeah, probably is.

  40. Anne,

    There are many kinds of decoder rings, but you have to pick the one that is best for you. Ray actually prompted my claim a couple of months back. Mine generally tells me to “Be sure and drink more Ovaltine (or Diet Pepsi, or whatever)”. Steve is just a good cover story.

  41. Oh, it’s OK to be inflammatory as long as you know how to apologize.

    Worked for me.

  42. Steve Evans says:

    Seth, I can attest to that.

  43. kevinf, picking the decoder ring that works best for you sounds mighty UU to me. I’m seeking the true and living decoder ring.

  44. KyleM,

    My decoder ring is actually based on an ancient design, with two spindles in a circle, and writing that changes according to my circumstances, of very curious workmanship. Sort of an early Nephite Mood Ring.

  45. #31: Ray: appears to be in order (John C. may have fixed it)

  46. Steve, I’ll keep the party analogy in mind. Thanks.

    Actually, I find this easier than I would find a party conversation.

  47. Steve Evans says:

    Clair, that’s because in the Bloggernacle, no one can see how drunk you really are.

  48. Less-smart-of-comments can sometimes pass muster (as, sometimes mine actually aren’t deleted!) But it’s simply that they’re simply so easily checkmated by brilliant, active Mormons hereabouts that they’re easy prey to deletion simply to clear up the lines of discourse for truly invited guests trying to follow the flow of the thread. They’re slightly cringeworthy comments proffered by someone who arrived to the LDS party in a Marriot ballroom as a guest-of-a-guest, but who is, omigo…um gosh, still cluelessly clutching the ice tea that somebody had offered him in his suite. A Ron Paul supporter over at the Young Republicans meeting.

    Typical community member [e/g, a Republican]: “So-‘n’-so?! [e/g, Ron Paul]. Disdainfully grunts. “Well, he’s just an obvious…um, visitor here!” (mutters under breath: “the apostate troll!”) “Geez, just look! Doesn’t he sticks out in subtly general ways from the rest of us?!” (thinks: “Who are true believers”–in the clique!)
    [Note: In violation of Roasted Tomatoes’ principle to not make things about yourself, I’ll provide the context here that while I like Romney, Rudy, and Ron, et cetera, I’m a Obama donator and supporter–who no longer drinks alcohol and has always avoided caffeine. :^)]

  49. klh, that’s interesting. In my experience, deletion is rarely used. Actually, I am not sure what you’re saying.

  50. Steve Evans: Mmm. You’re probably right. Nonetheless I’m on occasion deleted in the bloggernacle partially for my general incoherence, I think. (I continue on, ironically incoherently.)

    For a workbook example to accompany the above blog essay’s primer on bloggernacle etiquette, I offer this example. (By explanation, I was trying to use the equality test of switching male and female referrents within my one “Beck affair” comment at an LDS sister blog. (You know, the same way e/g I’d argue that one of the only prejudices to remain politically correct is anti-Mormonism, by switching the current Newsweek cover so it read “Lieberman” and “Jew” with “Romney” and “Mormon”?) So, um, anway, in my post I asked:

    “If you LDS men were to imagine that you’ve chosen to be mister mom types and then you were to hear from the Conf. Center pulpit a spiritual support of the benefits and excellence of traditional gender roles, would you act in a stereotypically masculine way by, say, stoically and self-assuredly weathering its implied criticism of your choices while you accepted the positive aspects of the talk in the spirit offered or else by expressing blustery anger? Or would you be self-assured enough to discuss your feeling sensitive and hurt about your choice to find fulfillment through efforts in the domestic area seemingly not being validated?”

    In reaction to which Ray immediately chimed in that it was late and trolls were coming out of the woodwork and the blogger who cleverly uses the penname of Adis Parshall (joke) helpfully explained to readers that the comment Ray was referring to was missing cuz she’d sent it to the queue. So, from this, I myself would suggest that, in general, incoherence and also not having a lot of bloggernacle bonefides could be a recipe for being queued–no? :^)

  51. k l h,

    Don’t worry about it, man. Or woman, as the case may be. You fit in just fine.

    Heck, I blog here and now and then my comments get queued. Go figure.

  52. klh, fwiw, moderation and deletion also happen on blogs when comments like the one you reference in #50 are submitted after midnight (when trolls often come out of hiding, since most people aren’t awake to challenge them or delete their comments) – and especially when they immediately follow two others that are way over-the-top trollish. (ALL CAPS rants about barefoot and pregnant Mormon women, for example.) It’s more the coincidence of the timing in those cases than anything else. We all are human, and sometimes we make mistakes in this area.

  53. p.s. Ray isn’t an admin or blogger here, and neither is Ardis. Take comfort.

  54. Thanks, Steve. I didn’t even realize the implication. Went right past me.

  55. Wow! I’m surprised you guys are still talking about all this. Way to be trolls for not letting it go. You’re all banned…BANNED!!!

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