Last year, I was discussing with a slightly combative administrator of another website, who had cooked up a rather draconian Terms of Use and Privacy Policy for his own site. I’m still kind of reeling from seeing that stuff and haven’t actually commented on that on this blog.

Still, that reminded me that there was no Terms of Use and Privacy Policy for beastwithin.org. I decided to write such policy. You’ll naturally notice that this policy is about guaranteeing your access to the site (heck, it says nothing about who can access the site) and not collecting any more information from you than is necessary. (I won’t go slamming the other TOS/PP in detail here yet, but here’s a short summary: “If I don’t like you, go to hell. Your right to privacy is overridden by my right to your identifying information.” …compare and contrast, folks.)

And this week, I was talking with another friend who was having some issues with some other troublesome people. It kind of reminded me that I don’t have another bit of policy down.

Time to talk about moderation on this site, then.

As someone who actually believes in freedom of speech, it’s kind of hard for me to write a moderation policy. So, I decided to approach this from a completely different angle.

Here’s one of the ideas I’ve been thinking of for a while now: I have no control over what kind of opinions people have. However, this means that I also have no control over what kind of opinions other people have about your opinions.

It’s easy to assume that opinions exist in some kind of a vacuum. I have my opinion, and you have yours, and we assume that these two are all that we need to consider.

Of course, in reality, what we have is a marketplace for ideas. People have opinions on ther people’s opinions, which in turn means that other people have opinions on those opinions.

So what’s the most sensible thing anyone can do to preserve sanity and fairness?

Not do a damn thing.

You may present your opinion on this site. I assure you that while I may not even bother to voice my opinion, other people will have an opinion about your opinions too.

Every comment that is not blatant spam, copyright infringement or harassment is allowed on this site. I expect that people who comment here will make well-reasoned and logical comments. I expect my readers are not complete idiots and are capable of forming some coherent thoughts. I expect that people are either standing by their opinions or are willing to admit, on their own volition, expressly or implied, that their ideas might not be that well reasoned.

That’s my moderation policy.

Over the years, I’ve seen people making crazy comments on various forums. It’s refreshing to see that crazy commenters generally have never had good support from most of the thriving communities. Communities that allow or encourage crazy commenters have usually been on the road to ruin anyway. (Please don’t get me even started on how the wiki communities are doing. I made a huge rant about that already.)

It’s my opinion that if you state your opinion on a public forum, you should stand by your words. I don’t care if you prefer to be pseudonymous or anonymous. I don’t care about your identity — I care about your opinions.

And if you let out something out of your mouth that I, or people in general, just can’t sympathise with, then that’s not my problem — that’s yours, no matter where you are or who you claim to be.

I almost left the “spam, copyright infringement and harassment” clause off from the above policy bit, because I just implictly assume that everyone has a problem with spam and harassment, so if you dare to engage in those, of course everyone would see you as the scum of the Earth you are. Of course, people don’t automatically condemn those. They just prefer them to be out of sight entirely to foster positive environment. And copyright law just is what it is, unfortunately.

Here’s a thought: before you make any comment anywhere — not just this site — you should be healthily afraid. You have a responsibility toward the recipient, and you must fulfil that responsibility by at least attempting to be as accurate and constructive as humanly possible. Your actions always have consequences. Your opinions have power.

It’s okay to be critical, it’s okay to be wrong, but you should be always open to suggestions. If your criticism is unreasonable, I might get a little bit nitpicky. If you are wrong, then allow me to retort.

But if you just drop “you all suck” here and run, you should be afraid. You can’t possibly expect me to give that opinion much credence at all. And I assure you other readers are giving that kind of feedback even less credence. At that point, you really should be considering the possibility that the world at large found your insightful critique completely worthless and you just might have spent your day on a little bit more fruitful enterprises.

And — here’s the really fun part — because I’m not deleting those comments or anything, everyone in the whole world can see that someone, somewhere, just wasted their precious life on this bullshit.

It should start dawning to you that you just built a fucking monument to your stupidity.

(There is also the scenario that it doesn’t start dawning to you. In that case, I can assure to you that it is dawning to other people, jackass.)

I fancy myself as a reasonable guy. I’m not enshrining your “wisdom” and dipping it in molten gold and tell people to look at it. I’m just leaving your banality there. I could do more, but I have better things to do with my life.

And me, and other curious onlookers with half a clue, can go to bed, comfortable in their thoughts that they avoided this costly mistake.

It may not sound much, but hell, every second counts.

In theory. Oh, well, in practice too, but you get the idea.

Life is too short to be wasted.

I’ll leave you with one of the most badass denunciations of villainy ever:

Wrong! Your ears you keep, and I’ll tell you why. So that every shriek of every child at seeing your hideousness will be yours to cherish. Every babe that weeps at your approach, every woman who cries out, ‘Dear God, what is that thing?’ will echo in your perfect ears. That is what ‘to the pain’ means. It means I leave you in anguish, wallowing in freakish misery forever.”

—Westley, “The Princess Bride”