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A Commenting Policy Update for Spectrum


Three years ago, we announced a new commenting policy. The biggest change was the “one-comment” rule, which was met with a variety of responses. Effective immediately, that rule is going away. Here’s why:

When the Board of Directors of Adventist Forum (the organization that publishes Spectrum) came up with the one comment rule three years ago, it was for a good reason. The commenting section had gotten out of control. Clicking “continue discussion” meant wading into a forum mired with personal attacks, hate speech, and rambling banter that did not pertain to the article at hand. Our motto of community through conversationwas not being achieved.

The one comment rule was the nuclear option. And it worked. It worked a bit too well. Our conversation went from harmful to stifled. And neither of those adjectives were what we were hoping to achieve. So, when the board members met last month, they agreed to try something new.

The Association of Adventist Forums (now known simply as Adventist Forum) was created 50 years ago in 1968. The intention was to create pockets of community — forums — around the globe to engage in timely discussion of topics pertinent to Christianity and our unique Seventh-day Adventist faith. The journal Spectrum soon followed with its first issue in 1969, and the discussion evolved even more. Now there was public discourse as well as ideas written in ink, mailed ‘round the world.

Our goal of community through conversation has never wavered in these 50 years, but the word “community” has evolved and changed between 1968 and 2018. A decade ago Spectrum joined the World Wide Web as a blog, and as the internet grew, so did our online presence. We are more than just a blog now — our website is a robust platform for new and challenging ideas. Hundreds of thousands of individuals visit our site each year to read news, opinions, and essays relevant to the Adventist faith.

And we want those visitors to be able to engage with the content they read. We want them to be able to engage with each other. And we want them to do so respectfully, healthfully, and happily. The one comment rule was not effective for that. But neither was what we had before.

So, there is a compromise coming. Yes, the one comment rule is going away. But we are getting stricter with our other rules. The ones about respecting people and ideas, about being civil, about engaging in intellectual discussion rather than vicious arguments. Those rules. Those are staying. And we will be enforcing them in a stricter fashion than before. And we will be asking for your help.

Before, individuals who posted offensive comments simply saw those comments removed. And removed again. And again. Ad nauseam. And the simple fact is, we just do not have the capacity to keep doing that. We are a small staff of editors, and it is not a valuable use of our time to continue to delete comments from individuals who have shown through their actions and words that they do not have anything to add to the discussion.

Going forward, we will be suspending and/or banning commenters who cannot engage in civil and productive discourse. Creating community through conversation does not mean a free-for-all where things like personal attacks and hate speech are allowed. That is not conversation. Neither is it Christian. And so it is not allowed here. Period.

We want our editors to use the limited hours in the day to bring you great content from fantastic writers and thinkers. And we are pretty sure you want that, too. So, that is what they will be doing. And we want you to be able to engage with those ideas and your fellow commenters in a healthy and productive way.

But we need your help because we cannot do it alone. If you see a comment that goes against our rules, please flag it for moderation. Do not engage with negative comments. As us millennials like to say: don’t feed the trolls. It only encourages them. Simply flag it. If three people flag a comment, it is automatically removed by the system. If less than three individuals flag it, it remains visible until a moderator is able to review it and take the appropriate action. When a comment is removed, any replies to it are automatically removed as well. That is another reason not to engage. Because no matter how well articulated your response, it will be removed as well.

This is your community, and we want it to be a welcoming place for all who respect and love it the way we do. So, help us create that. Starting now.

You can view our full commenting policy here. These rules have always existed, but now they are in an easily accessible location. And they will be linked to at the end of each article. We encourage anyone who plans to comment to read it through and join the conversation.

A quick note on the Lounge: when the one comment rule took effect, we also decided to utilize Discourse’s “Lounge” feature for continued discussion behind the scenes for our frequent commenters. A copy of each article was manually added to the Lounge section by our editors so that individuals could comment as many times as they liked. Though the Lounge section will continue to exist and individuals are welcome to comment in the open thread, we will no longer be copying new articles over.

As has always been the case, anyone who achieves a “trust level” of 3 or higher has automatic access to the Lounge section. Trust levels are set by the Discourse system, and you can learn more about how to move up (or down) in ranking by reading this Discourse article on the topic.

Thank you for being part of the Spectrum family. Thank you for joining the discussion. Thank you for creating community through conversation.


Alisa Williams
Managing Editor



Here’s our new policy blurb, which you’ll find at the end of future articles:

We invite you to join our community through conversation by commenting below. We ask that you engage in courteous and respectful discourse. You can view our full commenting policy by clicking here.

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