Patently-O Comment Policy:
Over the past few years, Patently-O readers have posted over 200,000 comments to the site. Many of these comments have been excellent, thought provoking additions to the discussion of the patent law issues. As an example of this, a number of comments from the blog have been cited in articles (or to me informally) as the inspiration for further proactive work. My hope is that the comments can help to build a community, share ideas between diverse groups, and negotiate toward workable solutions to the real issues facing the patent system today.
At the same time, the comments have often strayed away from proactive discussion of law, policy, and practice — moving instead into the less productive rhetoric of meta-bickering and inside-shorthand only accessible the handful of individuals who constantly monitor the site. I have never watched any party win these arguments and the eventual result is offense to the participants and Patently-O. This situation has discouraged many from reading the comments and has discouraged even more from participating in the discussion by writing their own comments. And, it has put me in the unenviable position of de facto comment editor and nanny. The anonymity factor of internet communications has, in my view, encouraged frank discussions but has also allowed for bad behavior.
With all this in mind, I want to ask Patently-O readers to help in moving forward with a better community of comments. Thoughtful, respectful comments are welcomed and encouraged on Patently-O, but we’re also not going to tolerate repeated disruptive behavior.
For commentors, here are a few ideas to work toward:
- As you post, think about the tone of your comments. Be polite and avoid all name-calling (both implicit and explicit).
- Think about writing longer more substantive comments rather than one-liner criticisms and, when you disagree, do not be rude but instead provide constructive and helpful feedback.
- Recognize that the weight of patent law is not sitting on your shoulders. [See http://xkcd.com/386/] There is no need to challenge every comment with which you disagree — especially when the challenge is snarky or itself lacks positive substance. Rather, gather that time to prepare a post that truly explains your position or question.
- Recognize very few (if any) readers read all of the comments and most of us (including myself) do not understand shorthand references to arguments found on other threads or obscure cases.
- Re-read your comment before you hit submit–think before you send! And, although you may be writing anonymously, post written work that you would be willing to attach to your professional name.
- Do not launch an avalanche of comments in quick succession.
- Stay on topic (of patent law, policy, and practice) and avoid meta-bickering
- When you can, provide positive statements (what is correct about another post/comment or correct about the way to think about an issue) rather than only criticisms. That gives us something to build from rather than only tearing-down. To be clear, I want to encourage debate and sometimes the best outcome is to be able to define the points on which we agree/disagree.