A not-so-quick, not-so-subtle reminder as to what we are about at CougCenter

The last couple of months have seen an incredible increase in traffic to our modest little site -- January was our biggest month ever, with more than 43,000 unique visitors and 81,000 page views. That's quite a long ways from our first month of 2,299 visitors and 3,944 page views.

This is a wonderful thing; after all, the goal of Grady and I when we launched this thing about a year and a half ago was to add something meaningful to the Cougar community, and if so many people are finding time to stop by everyday, we must be doing something right.

With this increased traffic, of course, comes increased commenting on the posts and stories. This, also, is wonderful -- we truly believe it's the community experience at CougCenter that separates it from a lot of other sites, and a growing, vibrant community is exactly what we desire. Because this community experience is so integral to what we do here, we're pretty protective of it.

Unfortunately, the influx of new readers has also included an influx of commenters who either haven't understood our mission statement and community guidelines or haven't taken the time to read them. Although most of you are either college students or college graduates, I'm going to go ahead and assume it's the former, because in order to join CougCenter and comment you are asked to read the Community Guidelines. And you wouldn't ever join something without reading the fine print ... right?

With that in mind, let's take a few moments to review expectations for participating in our community. If all you ever do is read and never comment, feel free to stop reading now. But if you do comment -- especially if you're relatively new -- please read what follows so that if you are held accountable for what you write by one of the moderators, you understand why.

First of all, the mission statement, found permanently in our left hand sidebar:

CougCenter is a website dedicated to covering all things Washington State University (although we'll throw in some national stuff as well). This won't be your typical fan site, flush with rip jobs; rather, we aim to bring – and encourage – the kind of smart, thoughtful analysis about Cougar athletics you won't find anywhere else.

Everything we expect from all of you flows out of that, including our Community Guidelines. I'm not going to re-post them here, but if you haven't read them, do so now -- they're pretty explicit in terms of what we expect. Moving forward, we're going to work under the assumption that everyone has read them and that if they don't understand any aspect, they've e-mailed us their question at cougcenter@gmail.com for clarification.

In light of that, and in light of my day job as a teacher, I want to give you handful of examples regarding encouraged comments (those that meet our website goals and keep the conversation moving forward) and unacceptable comments (those that don't).

Encouraged

"Joe Tallguy really isn't bringing anything to the table. His failure to box out his man is really killing us on the defensive glass, and goodness knows this team needs to rebound better."

This comment makes the rest of us smarter. We like that.

Unacceptable

"Joe Tallguy sucks!"

"Why does coach even play Joe Tallguy? He sucks!"

"Joe Tallguy is a waste of a scholarship. Every time he plays, we stink. I hope coach yanks his scholarship at the end of the year!"

These three waste even the minimal bandwidth they take to post on the site, as none present any kind of well-reasoned, intelligent analysis.

Encouraged

"Coach really killed us by not calling a timeout there. The momentum was shifting, and something needed to be done to stem the tide. That was a poor decision."

Again, the first comment makes the rest of us smarter and gives us something to talk about.

Unacceptable

"Coach sucks!"

"Why do we even have this coach in the first place? He sucks!"

"This coach is a complete and total failure in my book. I lay this loss at his feet. In fact, I was never a fan of hiring him in the first place. I hope the new athletic director fires him and hires someone else!"

And, again, these three waste even the minimal bandwidth they take to post on the site, as none present any kind of well-reasoned, intelligent analysis.

Basically, just ask yourself this: Am I bringing something to the table, or am I merely venting? If it's the latter, don't post it.

If, however, you decide to post anyway, expect to get a little message from myself, Grady or Craig letting you know that you're on double secret probation. Do it again, and you'll get a short ban from commenting on the site. Do it again, and you might just receive a permanent ban from commenting on the site. We're serious about this.

Look, I'm as much into the First Amendment as anyone; I was a journalism major and journalism teacher, after all. But this is our community, and for the good of all of us who love it, it's going to be our way or the highway. If you don't like that, feel free to read and not comment. There are plenty of other places for you to say what you'd like to say -- go to Cougfan.com, CougZone.com, or, better yet, start your own blog where you can say whatever you want whenever you want without pesky moderators. It's free, and takes about two minutes to set up. (I recommend WordPress.) That's the First Amendment in action.

We don't fancy ourselves the comment gestapo, but understand we're serious about this. Help us make this place even better than it is now by conforming to these standards. Thanks.

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