05 December 2010

Growing pains

I hit a small milestone the other day here at the A-Unicornist: I passed 10,000 visitors. I have no delusions of grandeur, of course; my blog is still really small, but all things considered, I'm happy with the growth I've achieved in my first year. My old blog, The Apostasy, was exclusively about theology and philosophy. I figured I could produce more consistent content (while still retaining substance) if I broadened my horizons to include related areas of science and skepticism. I'm proud to say I feel I've achieved that goal.

Along the way, I've garnered some great regulars and had some random visits from many guests. For the most part, people have been courteous to me regardless of their views. I've had some very thought-provoking discussions with some very smart people, received praise from very nice people, received spam from very crazy people, and received insults from some really pathetic people.

Tonight I was perusing my comments – for some reason my Disqus notifications aren't getting to my email all the time (even my junk folder), so I found some new comments. One in particular was from some toolbag who thought that he undermined an argument of mine with a few clever word plays, but all he did was misrepresent my views and display a fundamental misunderstanding of some basic concepts of science. Then he spent two paragraphs dishing out some pretty entertaining attempts at insults. I wrote a whole response, not sinking to his tone but responding to his arguments and then sternly but politely admonishing him for the tirade of insults.

But then I remembered the days when I participated in the forum of a video game webzine. There was one user in particular who was very intelligent, occasionally made interesting points and often stimulated discussion. There was only one problem: he was a dick. He just couldn't resist the urge to treat people as lesser beings, constantly infusing otherwise worthwhile conversation with subtle (and not so subtle) insults, condescending tone and patronizing hubris. I had a number of arguments with the owner of the site in which I strongly urge we just ban him, but the owner just offered frail warnings and pleas for civility that were never met. Eventually, he crossed the line one too many times, and the owner finally agree to ban him. Unfortunately by the time that happened, many regular readers had left because they'd grown tired of the uncivil tone pervading the forum.

So I went back and deleted my response. Then I deleted the original comment and banned the user's IP address. Here's the deal: I can see no reason at all why I should entertain that sort of incivility. We can disagree without being disagreeable. And even if there are some worthwhile ideas embedded within the vitriol, it doesn't excuse such pathetic behavior. To my mind, those who resort to vitriolic tirades and petty insults are only doing so out of their inability to think and converse rationally. Tonight I realized that as my blog grows, more people of all stripes will read it. I have to decide now that there will be absolutely zero tolerance for those who lack the intellectual and emotional maturity to engage with others courteously. I won't warn them. I won't try to win them over by being the nice guy. I won't beg and plead. This is my turf, and I get to make the rules.

To all you regular visitors who've gotten me past my first 10,000 views and especially to those who have offered me praise, commentary and constructive criticism: thank you. Here's to another year!

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