Online news outlets and blogs don't exist in a vacuum. We write, and we make a space for comments. We encourage conversation. As I have written before, some blogs seem to get more comments than others. Sometimes following the discussion is as good as the original post.
Local news outlets have struggled with how to deal with folks who just love to be mean. The Patuxent site used to be dominated by a few choice individuals who loved to come in and shoot up the joint, making actual discourse impossible. The newer Explore Howard site seems to have more moderation. And so the gun-slinging has moved over to Patch.
Professional news sites set a policy for comments. But we, as individual bloggers, have to set our own boundaries. And that is completely appropriate. If you comment on my blog, you are a guest in my house, so you have to obey house rules.
I raise this issue because it came to mind when I was asked to speak about Dennis Lane at the recent HoCoBlogs Party at The Second Chance Saloon in Oakland Mills. (And thanks to Jon Sham and Luke Lavoie, by the way.) One of the things I thought of, but did not articulate very well, was that Dennis had his own set of rules for commenters. He was the Sheriff, but his kind of governance allowed quite a bit of hootin' & hollerin'. He stepped in only when he felt it was absolutely necessary.
I once took quite a beating when I put in my two cents on To2C. When I saw him later he winced a little when I mentioned it, but reminded me that I was a big kid and had chosen to step into the fray. He had a certain code to which he adhered pretty faithfully. He admitted that although he had been rooting for me on the sidelines, he had to let me take care of myself.
But not every blogger is looking to maintain the law of the Wild West. Dennis was good at riding that bronco, and I think he liked it. But there is no law that says that all HoCoBloggers must do this. We don't have to be Dennis, and he wouldn't want us to. "Find your voice," he often said.
Comments are welcome, but commenters should realize that for each blog there are rules of the house. To be perfectly honest, anonymous Trolls are not really welcome in anyone's house, but each blogger will handle them according to his or her own boundaries.
Some folks like the terror of thrill rides. Some are looking for the creeping dread of horror films. Some itch for the adventure of "High Noon", or "Shoot-Out at The O.K. Corral". Some, as Archer Newland described in "The Age of Innocence" want "chiefly to enjoy good conversation."
As quaint as it may seem, I find myself in the latter category: challenges of intellect, yes. Shooting for the gut, no. So, if you want to drink in this saloon, be prepared. We'll always be raising a toast to Dennis Lane, no question about that.
What comes after that? Well, partner, there's a big wide world out there to explore, and plenty of time to ride until sunset.