General: February 2006 Archives

Commenter clinic

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Rush Limbaugh isn't the founder of the syndicated talk radio genre -- Larry King should get the credit for that -- but he has set the standard in many respects. I don't listen often any more, but I always enjoyed it when he took the time to explain why he ran the show a certain way and how his rules contributed to the success of the show.

A lot of talk show hosts focused on the callers and measured the success of the show by the number of people wanting to talk. Rush pointed out that there were far more listeners than callers, and that the show was for the listeners. Callers had no right to bore or irritate his listeners to the point of provoking them to tune out.

Rush has always made it clear that his show is about what he thinks, and the callers' role is to interact with the issues he raises. Callers who want to talk about a different topic are turned away (except on Fridays, when he allows more leeway), and callers have to be able to make their point succinctly. Dissenting views are welcome, but you're expected to be polite and engage in a conversation, not a shouting match. It's his show, his rules, and he's built a substantial audience by running it his way. Those who want to do things another way are welcome to start their own radio show and build their own audience.

I haven't done this consciously, but Rush's approach seems to have shaped my approach to running this blog. It is after all BatesLine, and it's about what I find interesting and what I think about it. This is my blog, not a bulletin board or a forum. Comments, even dissenting comments, are welcome, but try to stay on topic and keep it polite. As it's my place, I am the arbiter of what is on-topic and what is polite. Those who want to do things another way are welcome to start their own blog (much easier than starting your own syndicated radio show) and build their own audience.

I've written previously about my comment policy, and in that entry you'll get a general idea of what I will and won't approve.

In the last week I've declined to approve seven comments.

Five were from a frequent commenter here. These comments made some interesting points, and even included compliments for me, but they went way off-topic, and some were also quite lengthy. A comment like that can kill a conversational comment thread or trigger a flame war that has nothing to do with the blog entry at hand.

The other two were from someone who had never commented before, writing under the pseudonym Tommy, with the e-mail address, and an IP address of, which is a Cox cable internet address. later e-mailed me to ask why I hadn't posted his comments.

I referred him to my comments policy, which he misread, responding by e-mail from (assigned to

I see; so you don't post any dissenting opinions. Maybe you should put some kind of disclaimer on the comments form so people don't waste their time.

In fact, after I replied to his first e-mail, it occurred to me that it would be helpful to provide a link to my entry about comments. I had already added it to the template and rebuilt all the individual entries before I received that second e-mail.

Although my general rule with comments I reject is "never apologize, never explain," I think it would be useful to take a closer look at these two comments, because they illustrate how to make an interesting point in a rude way. Rush Limbaugh used to do "caller clinics" -- he'd take an unscreened call and explain the call's good and bad points to help listeners understand the screening choices he makes.

In that same spirit, then, here we go with a BatesLine "commenter clinic." Let's start with the first comment from "Tommy", posted to the entry about "planned shrinkage":

is really, really interested in BatesLine today -- 16 visits! Tell Mickey I said, "Howdy!"

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the General category from February 2006.

General: January 2006 is the previous archive.

General: March 2006 is the next archive.

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