Ricky Brown’s article today (read that first!) regarding the (new) comment policy (there are no comments) recently implemented by the PopSci website reminded me of an internal debate we had here at Amazing regarding comments and the solution that I offered the members of the blog team, a lesson I learned while working security at the Iguanacon Worldcon in 1978. A lesson that I’ve used to good effect in a variety of different circumstances over the intervening years.
I was working security at Worldcon, a job that requires the ability to remain awake for at least 72 hours straight while maintaining the air of unflappable calm, poise and unflinching common courtesy – at least insofar as the guests of the convention are concerned. All the while steeling oneself to be prepared and capable of responding quickly, effectively and competently to any conceivable emergency that might arise. Like fruit bats in the restaurant.
Yes, an impossible task, yet one that is met with stunning professionalism time and again by those who accept the task.
At this particular Worldcon the staff had imported a Brit to head up our communications net. If I could find my program book I could probably tell you the names of these people, but the book is currently unreachable and I can’t retrieve their names in memory, despite the fact that they impressed me mightily.
The convention had set up a real FM broadcast station (every security person had a walkie-talkie – and an ear bud), which, according to the British accent explaining the do’s and don’t to us during our final preparatory meeting, meant that there were certain words we were NOT ALLOWED to utter over the air ways.
Our instructor then went on to display an intimate knowledge of the rigors we were about to undergo – Sysiphian and Herculean in nature – with the following (paraphrased) advice (that he purportedly brought with him from his military days):
“You’re going to be tired and frustrated and annoyed and bothered and at some point someone is going to say or do something that may prompt you to utter one of those words you aren’t allowed to say. Don’t do it. Instead, simply say ‘I Love You’. We’ll all know exactly what you’re really saying; you can vent your spleen, say it any way you want to, get it out of your system and move on. You’ll get your say (in code) but you can’t really offend someone by saying I Love You, no one can take it seriously, and above all the FCC won’t be suing the convention.”
Our policy here at Amazing Stories is that your comments should be on subject AND directed to the subject, not the author of whatever statement has given you apoplexy, not the people behind the other comments that just made you throw your monitor through the window. If you don’t like what was said, tell us why, but don’t get into discussing the ancestry, intelligence or lack thereof, implied sexual habits or obvious lack of credentials of the author – that’s not the point.
But. But, if you really can’t contain yourself; If that vein on your temple is threatening to pop, if your finger has just pushed a key right through the bottom of the keyboard, if your body temperature is setting off the fire alarm – go ahead and tell the author of your anger exactly how you feel about them and make the FCC happy at the same time. Type “I Love You” into the comments field, hit return and then go do something fun. We’ll all know EXACTLY what you’re saying.
I’d much rather have the comments section turned into a love fest than have to turn them off. And who knows? Maybe you’ll get an “I Love You” in return. Ghu knows we need ALL the love we can get!