Participating in our new Community feature should be pretty straightforward.

You reach the Community by selecting that option from the blog’s top menu bar, or by going directly to www.scotusblog.com/community.

To participate in the Community (as opposed to just reading what others have written), you have to register.  You give us your name (which will be displayed with your comments) and a valid email address.  We will not provide this information to anyone.

Here’s how to participate:

To register, select “Register” from the “Account Management” box on the right side of the Community page.  The process is straightforward, and you will be provided a password that you can later change.

If you have registered and are returning, select “Login” from the “Account Management” box and of course enter your User Name and Password.

From the Community page, select one of the active topics.  Right now, there is just one.  A new topic will be added each day.  As of the end of the week, there usually will be five active topics simultaneously.

Comments are organized as “threads” – i.e., discussions of particular sub-issues under the main topic.  For example, in the discussion of what the Court “should” do in the health care litigation (our first topic), there will be a thread on how the Justices should resolve the question of Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause and another thread on whether the Court should rule that the Commerce Clause issue shouldn’t be decided yet.

If you are logged in, you can reply to any comment in any thread by clicking “Reply.”  Or you can start a new thread of your own through the link at the bottom of all the discussions.

We will be moderating the Community aggressively.  This is not a public forum.  It is our site.  We’re spending a lot of money to create a Community in which people feel that there is a vibrant, civil debate.  If you don’t like how we administer it, don’t participate.  If you do choose to participate, we’re very grateful and pleased to have you.  Great comments inspire more participation.  Mean and insulting comments lead people to stay away and reflect poorly on us.

Here are the moderation tools we’re using initially.  We will “promote” certain comments and commenters.  The user’s name will reflect the number of their comments we have promoted.  A promoted comment will also appear in yellow to stand out.

By contrast, we will also delete comments that we regard as inappropriate in tone, and ban repeat offenders.  Participants who have had a comment banned will not have subsequent comments appear until we have reviewed them.  For everyone else, comments will appear immediately.

We don’t yet have the ability for readers to report offensive comments.  But we are building that feature.

We also will exercise our discretion to ban off-topic comments.  This is likely to be the trickiest issue for us, because it involves line drawing about the substance of comments (as opposed to their tone).  For example, the health care discussion asks what the Supreme Court should do in the ACA cases.  At some point, comments will devolve too far in the direction of (for example) the law’s general merits or demerits in providing health care or interfering with free markets, issues that aren’t particularly relevant to the Justices’ decision making on any reasonable conception of what the Court does.

We will be deleting off-topic comments, but not banning commenters on that basis.  And if we delete a comment for that reason, we will email the author to explain.

One thing we can promise is that we are not deleting comments and banning commenters to tilt the discussion in a particular direction.  After almost a decade of publishing the blog, we believe we have earned our reputation for objectivity and neutrality.  We will collect and occasionally publish the comments that were deleted and that caused participants to be banned, so you can see how we are moderating the Community in practice.

We hope that you will choose to participate.

If you have any questions, please email kborkoski@scotusblog.com.

Posted in Community, Featured

Recommended Citation: Tom Goldstein, Participating in the SCOTUSblog Community, SCOTUSblog (Oct. 3, 2011, 8:50 AM), http://www.scotusblog.com/2011/10/participating-in-the-scotusblog-community/