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The hardest part of doing better on the internet (at least for me, and in my experience for many others) is following these rules. I don’t always get there, but I’m always trying.

1: You could always be wrong.

2: Remember that people criticizing a group of which you are a member are not criticizing you personally.

3: Do not deploy knee-jerk defenses of organizations or groups you enjoy, people can defend themselves until you do the research. Sometimes they can continue to defend themselves after you’ve done the research.

  • 3b: The following can almost always defend themselves and are likely not worthy of you excusing them. Consider carefully before penning defenses of these folks:
    – Multi-million dollar corporations
    – Government officials
    – Societies of significant size
    – High profile people acting in insulting ways.
    – Groups in which you are a member of a minority when the majority is acting badly. Everyone already understands it’s Not All … whatever.
    – Groups in which you are a member of a silent majority and the minority is acting badly. If you’re silent about them acting badly, you are in the wrong, or at least not right.

4: When listening to or reading others, believe their experiences and statements first, doing research where you have doubts second.

5: Inaccuracies don’t imply conspiracy or attack in every situation. Nor do some inaccuracies in a larger work invalidate the whole.

6: All personal experiences have validity, even if their experience of something is different than yours.

  • 6b: You may disagree with their conclusions, but the experiences happened.
  • 6c: No one knows your context, you don’t know anyone else’s context unless they outline it explicitly. Act accordingly.

7: Always follow the principle of least harm. If there are two options and one could potentially hurt someone’s feelings and the other doesn’t, and both get your point across, use the one that isn’t harmful.

8: Criticism of your speech or work, no matter how snarky, is not an attack. Don’t take it personally.

  • 8b: Criticism of your work, or others’, does not take away your ‘free speech’. Nor does moderation by others. Nor does others refusing to amplify you.

9: It’s never ‘well, that’s the way it is’. Positive change comes from challenging the status quo.

  • 9b: People who challenge the status quo are not attacking you for not doing so.
  • 9c: People who don’t challenge the status quo are not explicitly attacking you for doing so.
  • 9d: Only you are responsible for your attempt to challenge ‘how it is’ and you should encourage, though not require, others to do so.

10: It doesn’t have to be about you, your group, your interest or your beliefs. Not everything is about you.

  • 10b: A conversation that has nothing about you need not also cover you or your particular group. People not talking about you are not automatically inviting you to add on a conversation about you.
  • 10c: Talking about ‘not you’ or yours is not a statement that no one should talk about you or yours, nor is it an attack on you or your interests.

11: Whenever possible, amplify other voices instead of paraphrasing, repossessing, or repeating.

12: Everyone deserves the benefit of doubt. Every person deserves your respect of them as a person.

Extra(obvious) rule: treat others as you would wish to be treated.


Jumping to conclusions, from The Phantom Tollbooth.

I’m releasing a new WordPress plugin today that allows you to use shortcodes to embed comments and comment threads into the body of stories.

It’s called Response Stack.

The goal is to build stories out of comments and help both the original story and the discussion around it live on. You can see the first story we built with it live on

I’ve long been of the opinion that comments are part of the stories that they run on. Many organizations will give up control of their comments to an external provider, or turn them off entirely. I think that’s a bad idea. The authors of our comments (the non-spam ones) are contributing to the conversation around our work and that means they’re growing it. They deserve our respect and those conversations deserve our attention.

Gawker’s Kinja shows that the comment section as an area where each comment can expand into its own universe. That’s good. That’s not everything. Allowing comments to grow into their own stories on our websites is a great idea, but it’s not really a journalistic one. Journalism sites succeed when there’s a sense of editorial decision-making. There’s a decision to write or to aggregate a story. That decision is a big part of what creates value and interest for readers.

The way some comment systems have reflected that is by allowing editors to select a ‘top comment’. That’s an OK idea, but it breaks the commenting section, it takes a thread of conversation and breaks it up by trying to pull out individual ‘good’ items. I’m not particularly excited about that.

At CFO Magazine, we’ve been thinking about open threads, the life-cycle of articles and how we can help useful or exciting articles continue to live and thrive past their publication date. Out of our discussion came the idea of a reader response post. These aren’t a new idea, but I wasn’t able to find a tool to make building one easy. Nor did I really like the old formats sites had built them in (mostly supplanted by embedded Tweets now).

The initial goals:

  • Keep the comments we embedded ‘alive’.
    • Continue to connect comments to their original location on the old post.
    • Replying is easy.
  • Make it easy to create response posts.

To accomplish this, I made it possible to embed individual comments and entire comment threads using their ID numbers and made sure that users could continue to click to the original positions or the comments and even reply to them while in the body of the new story.

So, working with our editorial and management team at CFO, and building on work being done by Human Made to develop into a better WordPress site, I built a better tool and now we’re opening it up for use by anyone. If you have any problems, just comment here or open an issue on the GitHub repository. If you have ideas, contribute to the project!

Keep an eye out, I’m hoping to make this even easier to use and to expand this tool with more ways to build on your readers’ comments in the future.


How it works:

Response Stack uses WordPress shortcodes to pull comments (and comment threads) into a post from other posts on the same site. To get the shortcode working type the following into its own line in your post:

[responser comment=”id” thread=”depth”] where id is equal to the integer ID of the comment and depth is equal to the integer depth of the thread of comments you want visible.

Readers looking at the comments can even respond to them within the shortcode’s post, submitting threaded replies that will then take them to the original conversation.

You can find the comment id by looking at the hyperlink attached to any comment datetime stamp (on the post or in the comments page of the dashboard), where it will be in the format of http://site/post-link/#comment-CommentIDNumber.

Response Stack assumes you are using default WordPress comments. Support for other commenting systems is to come. If you’d like to add support for your commenting system, contribute to the project GitHub at:

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