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Community Guidelines: Reminders, Clarifications

Major League Baseball
Let’s be “Happy” together. (That’s Happy Chandler)
Photo by Marie Hansen/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

Hey all ... One of the victims of a recent Vox “refresh” was that each site’s Community Guidelines are not as prominent, or easy to find, as they used to be. (Read the guidelines here!) It’s something we are working on behind the scenes hoping to rectify, but in the meantime we think it’s important to make sure AN’s policies are as clear, and comprehensible, as possible.

I start with a couple more specific guidelines, because they have been issues of late and we want to make sure to clarify policy before issuing too many “strikes” ...

Politics

Politics have emerged on the site quite a bit this year, and especially lately, and so we want to make sure AN’s policies are clear. The tl;dr version is that politics, which are by nature inflammatory, are not allowed on the site. This has not changed, even if at times rules were relaxed as the pandemic, and world events, made it harder to avoid and harder to moderate.

But as with anything, “politics on AN” is nuanced and so here are some thoughts around what you can expect:

- First off, we all have to accept that enforcement simply is not going to be utterly consistent across the board, if only because “strikes” are generally given in response to the community flagging a comment (which brings it to moderators’ attention) and some comments may be flagged while others are not.

In this way, bringing politics into a conversation is somewhat like running a stop sign: sometimes you get away with it and sometimes you don’t. It doesn’t change the fact that when you get ‘dinged’ it’s because you made a choice that was contrary to the ‘laws of the land’.

- Which political comments are most likely to get flagged? From our experience, it often depends on whether it sets off a whole sub-thread of replies rather than being generally ignored. So “one off” comments sometimes slip through the cracks, while comments that generate a series of replies often get noticed.

It’s also probably fair to say that if as a commenter you make one political comment, you are far less likely to be flagged than if you establish a pattern of making several inappropriate comments — any one of which might get flagged.

- There are some political comments that are intertwined with baseball, and those are probably least likely to be judged, by moderators, as violating AN’s Community Guidelines even if they are flagged. That’s why there was some natural laxity as conversations revolved around the causes and effects of a pandemic that so impacted the baseball season, and why sub-threads around COVID — which can naturally turn political — were often let go by community members and/or moderators.

Still, the goal here is to emphasize the bottom line, which is that AN is a “no politics” zone and many readers come to AN to avoid hearing yet more about politics or to be caught in the middle of a political argument. If it doesn’t relate to baseball in an obvious way, and it relates to politics in any way, you are rolling the dice with our “strike one, strike two, yer out!” policy.

“Meta”

To be clear, not everything on AN has to be “baseball related”. On AN we love that community members get to know each other, talk about a variety of topics, and sometimes banter about the oddest things. That’s not “meta”.

“Meta” is bringing onto the site your personal gripes and grievances about the site’s policies, this person or that person on AN, etc. It’s not that we don’t want the feedback or care about the opinion, it’s that AN’s readers have the right not to be forced into the middle of a personal grievance or soap box when they thought they were coming to a baseball site.

Basically, “meta” is a distraction and has potential to be toxic to a community and if you walked into Ace Hardware you probably wouldn’t expect to be allowed to scream “Ace Hardware sucks!” or “I know everyone agrees that Bettina Smithford is the worst manager in the franchise!” So Bettina appreciates you shouting it from another rooftop.

Other Than That...

Having taken time to specifically address “Politics” and “Meta,” let me close by taking the Community Guidelines back to their essence: AN strives to create a community free of personal insults, attacks, and “isms,” and in which ordinary folk can comment without expecting to be intimidated, mistreated, or embarrassed. If everyone were to follow the basic principle of “Be kind” very few flags would ever get thrown.

So be kind! And thanks for listening.