I ran a version of this at about this time last year. I don't know what it is about February, but there must be something in the air this month that causes people to turn negative and forget how to post well-reasoned analysis. So here it is again, albeit slightly modified. If you start reading and think to yourself that it sounds a lot like last year, you'd be correct. But I've changed and added some things, so take the time to read it.
Commenting that doesn't conform with our mission statement and/or community guidelines has become a particular problem recently, especially on the game threads. If you plan on commenting on our site now or in the future, we compel you to read this. You proceed at your own risk of short-term banning from the site if you choose not to.
If you just visit the site to read the posts and have no intention of ever commenting, please feel free to ignore this. Thanks.
Our site has grown a tremendous amount in even the last year -- our traffic is up between 70 and 100 percent from 12 months ago, depending on which metric you want to use. This is a wonderful thing; after all, the goal of Grady and I when we launched this thing about two and a half years 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 -- especially if you're relatively new. You are held accountable for what you write, and if it results in a response ranging from a gentle scolding to outright banning by one of the moderators, you need to 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 firstname.lastname@example.org for clarification.
Basically, this is the rule of thumb: Keep the conversation moving forward. Give us something reasonable -- and hopefully quantifiable -- to talk about. We love arguments. Honest. You just need to be able to back up your side with these pesky things called "facts." Conventional wisdom, canards and tired memes will get you nowhere with us, and in fact will land you in a lot of hot water quickly.
General Commenting Guidelines
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).
"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.
"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.
"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, this comment makes the rest of us smarter and gives us something to talk about.
"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. Well, except for Game Threads, which are a different animal where venting is sometimes OK.
These guidelines are a little looser. If regular posts are a group of grad students sitting around a table of pints at Rico's discussing the finer points of academia, Game Threads are the fanatics slamming pitchers of Busch Light at Sports Page while celebrating or deriding each and every play. Because of the emotional nature of games, we let a lot more go ... to a point.
A visceral reaction to a particularly important play will probably result in a comment devoid of analysis. That's actually OK by us. Exclamations are fine. Here's where we draw the line: Emotional reactions masquerading as actual analysis.
"GAAAAAH! That's the 3rd 3 in a row for that guy! Find him!"
"GAAAAAH! That's the 3rd 3 in a row for that guy! We clearly are not prepared to play this game!"
"GAAAAAH! That's the 3rd 3 in a row for that guy! Our coach can't coach!"
Which brings us to ...
There are certain topics at this site that have run their course. When we tell people to stop talking about them, it can come across as us suppressing disagreement and lead to some labeling us as interested only in "groupthink." In reality, it's that the topic has been beaten into the ground, with both sides entrenched in their line of thinking. Usually, one of the lines of thinking is backed by conventional wisdom or anecdotal analysis, knowing what you know about our mission and Community Guidelines, you can see why that stuff gets on our nerves rather quickly.
Here's a non-exhaustive list of memes that we authors, frankly, are sick of. This list might seem odd to you, but trust us: They've all been discussed extensively at one time or another at this site, and we authors have decided that there's simply nothing more to be gained by discussing any of them further. You'll note that none of them can be quantified or even reasonably proven, which leads to circular reasoning no matter which side you're on. That's just not productive for anyone.
If you choose to broach one of these in a regular post, expect to be challenged vigorously. Because of the pace of a Game Thread, if you broach one of these there, expect to be succinctly warned once, then banned for a day or two if you continue to press the issue:
- A team's preparation
- A team or player's "mental toughness"
- A team or player's "body language"
- A team or player's level of "heart"
- A team or player's level of effort
- Blaming the coach when players play poorly
- Ken Bone's halftime adjustments
- Questioning others' fanhood
- Declaring that a win/loss is definitive with regards to said team's postseason chances (unless it really is)
- Any point you choose to repeat over and over and over that others are clearly tiring of
It is completely acceptable, however, to make fun of any of these memes. If that offends you, then you probably think these memes merit further discussion, and you're probably not going to enjoy our comments very much, anyway.
If, after all of this, you decide to post something questionable anyway, expect to get a little message from myself, Grady, Craig, Brian or Kyle 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 those annoying moderators. It's free, and takes about two minutes to set up. (I recommend WordPress.) That's the First Amendment in action.
Help us make this place even better than it is now by conforming to these standards. Thanks.