comments, crankiness, and civility

One of the things I’m proudest of about this site is the incredible commenters we have here. I’ve long said that this site has some of the best commenters anywhere on the internet — smart, thoughtful, helpful, and civil.

But in recent weeks, there’s been more aggression and personal nastiness in the comments section than we usually see here. It’s still far from the majority of comments, but it’s there. To some extent, this is probably the effect of a growing readership and increasing number of comments. But we’ve been through growth periods before without that happening, and I’m committed to ensuring the same is true now.

The bottom line: It’s no more appropriate to be nasty to other commenters here than it would be to come into my home and be a jerk to my other guests. If you wouldn’t say it across my dinner table to a fellow guest, please don’t say it here.

So consider this a call to return to the civility that typically reigns here. Specifically:

  • Don’t be rude to fellow commenters. If you’re tempted to be snarky or aggressive with someone here, please resist.
  • Don’t nitpick people’s spelling, grammar, or word choices*.
  • Make a good faith effort to welcome dissenting opinions. This site would be very boring if we all agreed all the time. I want dissenting voices and debate here. I do not want personal attacks or harsh comments toward people who disagree. (And I absolutely don’t want anyone called a troll simply for disagreeing. In fact, I’d like to ban the label here. If I think someone is truly trolling, I’ll address it.)
  • Be sensitive about pile-ons. If dozens of people have already criticized a letter-writer for something, it’s going to be more helpful to offer something constructive.
  • Please pick a user name. It’s hard to keep track of multiple Anonymouses in conversation.

* While we’re on the topic, I also want to ask people not to get into lengthy side threads about things like language choice. While language is important and a couple of comments on a post along those lines is fine, ultimately it’s not the mission of the site … and it’s alienating to many readers who are glancing at the comments to see if they might like to participate. If you’re a new reader who sees 30 comments debating some fine point of language that isn’t germane to the letter, you’re likely to (a) miss the more substantive discussion about the letter and (b) go away and not try again. And that’s at odds with my mission here.

Thank you, and now back to regular programming…

{ 564 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Related — I’m working on requiring a user name (but not an email address) to comment. Until that’s put in place, I’d very much appreciate regular commenters who go by Anonymous picking a user name voluntarily! It’s harder to follow discussions when there are multiple Anonymouses, and I suspect that just using a consistent user name does something to promote civility.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Oh sorry, no, I didn’t mean “regular commenters who generally use a user name but go anonymous for a couple of comments for a reason.” I meant regular commenters who always go by Anonymous despite commenting regularly (as opposed to someone who drops by to comment once or twice, who I realize are less likely to adhere to community norms, or even know about them).

        1. Audiophile*

          The email is optional, right? It’s really just tied Gravatar or if you want to have replies inboxed to you.

        2. Mike C.*

          Maybe establish a tradition of calling yourself “OP” or “OP#3”, something along those lines.

          1. Abhorsen327*

            That doesn’t really work for the open threads, but I think just using a different username than usual should suffice in that case.

        3. Anonsie*

          I kinda wanna keep mine but I wonder if people ever catch that it’s a play on Anansi or they just think it’s a regular anon

      2. Sunflower*

        Although I am anonymous with my name, when I want to be really anonymous to the AAM community, I have a different name that I will rarely post under. Or I just make up something on the spot. Usually whatever the first thing I see on my desk is matched with a color ‘Pink keys’, ‘black sunglasses’, “Red stapler’ (lol). It’s especially helpful on things like open threads that get soooo long. It’s much easier to follow threads and find yourself in it.

        1. Red Stapler*

          That is an awesome idea Sunflower. I’d like to call Red Stapler, cause it both is something on my desk & there because of Office Space. Unless you object. :)

    1. Anonicorn*

      How about “Anonymous” derivatives? I usually comment with this name, but would certainly change it to lessen confusion.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        No objections to derivatives! It’s simply “Anonymous” itself that I’d like to alter. Variations functioning as a regular pseudonym are fine with me.

        1. Anon #2*

          Hi, Alison,

          I usually post with this username (“Anon #2”). Do you consider that to be a unique enough derivative? If not, I’ll gladly come up with a new username!

    2. ChristineSW*

      This might be a good idea, as seen in the discussion below about people (accidentally) using someone else’s username. Would you be able to make it so that you can’t have a username already taken?

      1. Ruffingit*

        If I may make a suggestion, one thing that would be supremely helpful as well is if, when referencing letters, people didn’t just say #3 or #4. I know it’s a bit more work, but it would help if they said something like #3: OP with snaggletooth boss. I find myself scrolling back up to see which one #3 or #4 was.

        Not a make it or break it thing, but just saying it would be helpful if anyone wants to do that.

        1. bearing*

          How about if Alison starts five threads immediately after posting, by posting one brief comment for each OP, and people post comments as replies to her originals?

          It’ll bump all the discussions down one level in depth, but they’ll be sorted by OP#.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            More hands-on than I want to be (and the posts often auto-publish while I’m doing other things so also not technically possible), but I appreciate the suggestion! I think ultimately there will just be a little messiness, but hopefully not too much.

            1. Sarah*

              Is it possible to change the short answers so that each has their own post? This would avoid the messiness in the comments altogether.

              1. TheSnarkyB*

                But that goes against the spirit of the short-answer posts. And it would also make for days in which we have like 7 posts and days where we have 3.

                1. Gjest*

                  To me it is the same amount of material, just broken up into bits that are easier to digest. IMHO it would be easier (nicer?) to read through the comments of 5 small individual posts than 1 post with comments from 5 unrelated small questions. But just my opinion.

        2. Kelly L.*

          I will confess to sometimes having two AAM tabs open at once: one to read the comments, the other to keep the post in view.

      2. Jessa*

        That’d be a problem we have a JessA (as I presume their last name starts with an A) and a Jessa (short for Jessica, moi.) We seem to be okay with both of us, but one of us would have to give it up if duplicates were not allowed.

    3. Jamie*

      Speaking of usernames – anyone having trouble coming up with some just let me know. Can I name people in tomorrow’s open thread? Ha!

      Okay, so here’s a plan…anyone who posts as anonymous Alison lets me name them and we’ll do some wizardry to link it to their IP so the name will be permanent.

      Keep in mind two of my cats are named Gryffindor and Sham-Wow – and I once had a snail named Corey Feldman and a fish named Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle.

      You want your moniker left in my hands that is one risky roll of the dice.

      And of course I’m just teasing…I’m very punchy at the moment and it’s sad how much this fictional project is amusing me.

      Seriously – open thread tomorrow just ask and I’ll name you. And no wizardry – we can’t put the sticking charm on it. Just my gift to you nameless anonymi.

      1. Liz in a Library*

        I am so sad that I already have a name… Also, I have a cat named Grawp, so I enjoyed your HP-named fur baby.

      2. Jill of all trades*

        I’m off tomorrow so I was thinking of coming up with a list of user names that I haven’t seen here and posting it in the open thread tomorrow so people can lay claim to them. And suggestions for alter egos for those times people just don’t want to be their usual self.

      3. ChristineSW*

        Oh darn – I already have a username (though I wish I’d come up with something a bit more clever). I’d be honored to be named by the one and only Jamie. Hehe :)

        1. Jamie*

          Open thread tomorrow – I have the perfect one for you.

          And you don’t have to change – no crime in having a nickname. :)

      4. Mints*

        Haha you should do this! Ctrl+f all the anons and rename!

        I was joking in another thread that if AAM used an auto name generator, they should be slightly embarrassing (like “Fish Microwaver” “Lunch Stealer”) to encourage naming, and now someone used Fish Microwaver!

        So I am 100% in favor of this

        1. Anonymous*

          Yep! I always thought we had great pet names at our house: Mr FluffyPants the hermit crab and a fish named ‘sunk’, but I would absolutely give a Jamie nickname a spin.

        2. Mints*

          I’ve always liked your name, Turanga Leela! How’s Fry these days?

          (I’ve been wanting to make a Leela costume.for ages, but never get around to it)

          1. Turanga Leela*

            Thanks! I’ve thought about doing a Leela costume as well, but I’m not sure how to get the eye right.

    4. Windchime*

      I’ve been thinking about the dynamic here lately, and I have a theory but I’m almost loathe to bring it up. But I will anyway. Is it possible that some of the lack of civility comes from having the frequent open threads, where we are free to say pretty much whatever we want? I love, love, love the open threads; it’s my Friday evening reading so I would hate for them to go away. But I wonder if it has maybe given some of us a little more of a feeling of…freedom, I guess. Freedom to not quite stick to the rules of civility which normally are found here.

      It’s just a theory. I’m not suggesting the open threads go away at all; quite the opposite. I guess we need to just remind ourselves that we are in Alison’s living room and we should all behave with courtesy and kindness. I will certainly make more of an effort.

      Sometimes I’m late to the party (west coast and all) so I comment before I read all the other comments. I can see how that might look like piling on, even though I certainly don’t intend it that way.

      1. Natalie*

        I haven’t noticed the same issues in the open threads, though – it’s usually drive-by commenters in the regular threads. Some of the particular drive-bys I recognize don’t seem to ever appear in the open threads – indeed, they apparently never come back at all.

        I suspect this is just a side effect of AAM getting more popular.

    5. Blue Anne*

      We seem to have a number of people who go by the name “Anne” here, which admittedly isn’t even my real one. I’m the blue haired accountant, so I think I’ll upgrade to Blue Anne to make it a bit more clear. :)

  2. steve g*

    Yes ma’am! I hope I wasn’t one of the offenders? I’ve said things on here that were totally not nit-picky or negative, to me, and have been surprised that people responded to me as if I was trying to be nit-picky. My pet peeve recently has been the holier-than-thou attitude, someone admits something unflattering and then ten people respond with some version of ‘i’d never in a million years do that,” which isn’t particularly useful, and may not be honest.

    Thanks for the steady posts though!

    1. So Very Anonymous*

      Yes, the “I’d never do that” comments get offputting, especially when they pile up.

      1. Clerica D. McClerkykins*

        Particularly when they’re just not realistic. “You lied to your boss to get out of a company get-together? You actually thought you could lie and get away with it? I don’t know who raised you to think that was okay, but I know I couldn’t live with myself if I’d told a lie.” It’s like, really? It’s sad enough to have to play “I would never”; at least don’t pick a behavior that it’s a near certainty you do yourself whenever it’s convenient.

  3. CanadianWriter*

    I have been commenting here for like three years as Anonymous out of laziness, sorry!

    Thank you for addressing the pile ons and the rudeness. :)

  4. LBK*

    Totally agreed re: the general quality of the comment sections here. Not that I don’t absolutely love Alison’s posts (I even eagerly refresh around 11 and 2 waiting for the next update!) but seeing insightful, intelligent, civil discussion in the comments is one of the big things that got me hooked here and has kept me coming back. Hopefully it stays that way!

  5. MentalEngineer*

    I’m a big fan of the following comment policy (the one-ish other person here who reads philosophy blogs will recognize it as belonging to Daily Nous):

    “Before you comment, imagine the following. You are seated in a comfortable chair at a table with all of the other commentators. You have gathered to discuss an issue of mutual concern, and you are aiming to learn something from the conversation. Take off your shoes if you’d like. Wriggle your toes. Appreciate the wonders of everyday life in the twenty-first century. On the table in front of you is your favorite beverage. Through the window is your favorite view. And seated next to you is a child, who you brought with you for a lesson on how to discuss controversial issues with strangers. Are you imagining all of that? Okay, now try commenting.”

    I like the use of positive connotations rather than a list of prohibitions, which I think is also what you’re aiming at here as well (apart from a few specific things).

      1. Vicki*

        Nah. Instead of an imaginary child, I shall envision Olive lying nearby, waiting for the first irritated raising of vices before deciding the scene is not cattable.

    1. Bryan*

      I also like the child aspect. I have seen good helpful comments that just add “you idiot” at the end and it’s like really, did you really need to throw that in.

    2. fposte*

      Oh, I really like this. I also think it’s helpful to imagine other people as feeling the same way and assume their intentions are similarly participatory.

    3. Sydney Bristow*

      That is a great way to think about it!

      Alison, thanks so much for what you do here. You’ve truly created an excellent community and I appreciate all you and so many of the commenters do to keep it that way!

    4. Fee*

      Some people I know personally could really use the above guidelines when commenting on their friends’ social media activity!

      Really like the dining table analogy Alison :)

      I like that you are not enforcing username validation but not email addresses. I actually posted as Anonymous completely unintentionally yesterday. I guess it’s cached my username before but didn’t on that occasion – I didn’t notice until the post was published.

      1. Jen RO*

        Can I ask what objection people have against email addresses? Is it because it’s an extra step or because of privacy? Cos, you know, it doesn’t have to be a real address…

        1. BOMA*

          I think it’s mostly due to privacy/spam issues. I know I’m getting increasingly tired of having to give out my email for every website I come across (or at least, that’s what it feels like).

          1. Mona*

            I hae three email address, one is for professional (Admin organization and job search), the 2nd is for bill pay receipts, the 3rd is for coupons/junk mail. That’s the email address that I give out the most.

            1. Jen in RO*

              I use my actual email address to get the gravatar, but wordpress doesn’t check emails for validity, so you can enter pretty much anything.

              (I’m asking this because wordpress has a built in option for requiring an username *and* an email adress, but requiring username only would be harder to implement.)

            2. manybellsdown*

              I do this too: my regular email, my real-name-cuz-I’m-an -adult email, and my “spam can go here” email. Just grab a throwaway Yahoo address and use that to sign up for stuff.

    5. Tinker*

      I really like the “child” aspect — as well, I’d add that I’ve seen some cases where folks might benefit from imagining that they’re discussing thus-and-such an issue in the presence of someone who they like and respect who is affected by it, or who is a member of the group they’re discussing.

      I’ve seen it happen, here and other places, where folks have been not ill-intentioned but perhaps a little thoughtless in venting their frustrations regarding managers in general, employees in general, certain age groups, certain subcultures, and things like that, in a way that is a bit unkind to say to the faces of people who are those things. And yet, it’s almost certain that they’re doing that very thing, because the community here comes from a fair number of different backgrounds.

      I don’t think that the people who do this do it deliberately, most times, and hence it strikes me as particularly unfortunate when this sort of thing happens.

    6. SA*

      The Daily Show used to have kids read transcripts of Congressional discussions and it really helped highlight how sub-juvenile some of them were.

  6. Chocolate Teapot*

    And I know imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but there can be only one Chocolate Teapot!

    However if anyone would like to be a Marzipan Coffee Pot or a Caramel Sauce Boat, be my guest. : – )

      1. Abhorsen327*

        Since my parents have a cat named Oreo who is rather gassy sometimes… been there, done that.

        1. Jill of all trades*

          I have enough land and somewhat lax county ordinances; I’ll take the Caramel Sauce Goat and give it a home :)

      1. Audiophile*


        Can I be Caramel Sauce Boat Jr? (Seriosuly, I had a card company send my card with Jr at the end of my name and I’m female. )

        1. Caramel Sauce Boat*

          Sure, but if you are going to carry the Caramel Sauce Boat name, we should have a conversation about brand consistency. None of that “salted caramel” malarkey.

          1. Audiophile*

            I had the salted caramel cake from TGI Fridays and it was awesome sauce.

            And that should have said ‘credit card’ in my previous post.

            1. *Original* Caramel Sauce Boat*

              Perhaps you should be Salted Caramel Sauce Boat or Awesome Sauce Boat if we can’t agree on a standard.

              1. Audiophile*

                Haha. I see I’m not the only one who likes salted caramel. I’ll admit I much prefer original caramel. I understand the importance of brand consistency. I will let someone else carry on the Caramel name.

  7. ChristineSW*

    Great post Alison, the comments have been getting a bit unwieldily (sp?).

    Quick question though: What if a regular reader wants to be anonymous for a specific comment? I try to avoid doing that, but sometimes I want to make a comment but worry that someone might figure out who I am (since my username isn’t exactly unique or creative, lol). That being said, I’ll absolutely respect all of your guidelines.

    1. L McD*

      Personally, assuming this isn’t going to be a sign-in-based thing, I’ll just make up some random name for temporary anonymity from now on. It’s not really any more taxing to call myself (just glancing around my desk) “Mug of pens” vs. “anon for this,” you know? As long as you use a new one every time you want to be anonymous, no one will pick up on a pattern.

      Now I’m going to keep looking around my desk to think of new funny names. Scissors Advil. Shortbread Yoda. I better stop before I run out.

  8. Kelly L.*

    Sounds good! I’ll try to rein in my own snarky urges and hopefully we’ll all do the same.

      1. Kelly L.*

        I still love it! But you can have it. I’ll never remember to keep putting it in when my data’s been cleared, etc. :)

  9. Bryan*

    Thanks for this reminder to everyone, one of the best parts of this site is the civilized and intelligent comments. I have never understood why people behave they do. I know they have the anonymity of the internet but do you get something from calling someone else an idiot? And if your comment is just flinging poo instead of a thoughtful discussion, they’re not going to care what you say anyways.

    Also about the language nitpicking, we should probably all think of it as the same as not nitpicking a hiring manger’s wording when job hunting.

  10. Susan*

    Yeah, I usually read all the comments because I often find them engaging, but I’ve felt really bad recently about the pile ons. I’m like “oh this poor person sought honest feedback and now probably feels like crap” (not because of the original post, but because apparently the whole Internet is against them). I sympathize with commenters too, though, because I think there are different kinds of commenters. Some people read everything and some people just give a comment without doing so, and you can hardly blame them for not wanting to read 50 comments. Maybe a quick skim would help!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think that’s definitely part of it! When you read all/most of the comments, it feels like an ongoing dialogue, and so when you see the 50th comment criticizing someone for the same thing, you think, “Geez, lay off the OP already; she’s been told that 49 other times.” But some of those comments come from people who aren’t reading everything that’s already been said and are just leaving their own thoughts — which is also a legitimate way to comment, but can feel jarring when you’re someone who approaches the comments from the ongoing-dialogue perspective.

      1. Mike C.*

        Yeah, I feel the same way to be honest. Sure, we’ve all been guilty of it, but it is really jarring if you come to the party late.

        1. fposte*

          I’ve thought of this too. While TWOP was pretty draconian in its forum rules, I really liked the direction to read the discussion first before posting a comment. I know that comes at the expense of some spontaneity, but it’s really good for limiting the unintentional pile-on effect.

          1. Prickly Pear*

            TWoP was my first Internet forum, and even now, I’ll backtrack and read from where I left off on forums I’m not registered on. 15 days or 15 pages, get going!
            (I cannot believe that TWoP is closing. Sunrise, sunset…)

      2. businesslady*

        regarding the potential for unwieldy comment threads–I apologize if this has already been discussed, but would it be possible to add a “subject” header to the submission system? commenters might more readily read other people’s observations if it were easier to see which threads were related to a particular issue. I’m thinking things like “re: #4,” “on low-performing workers,” etc.–I know some people do this already in the comment itself, but it would be even more helpful if it were in bold or something, & a separate field that encouraged everyone to identify a general topic.

          1. books*

            what would be super helpful too for unwieldy comment threads is an expand/collapse – so that i can collapse down the threads that get long and unneccesary and see what the meat of the discussion is (and secondly, when im coming back to the site, can much easier find something i wanted to see further comments on)

          2. Mints*

            We could do that ourselves with a bolding work around, with no work on the back end
            If super users / trend setters started it, it might catch on

            LW#2 pen stealing

            Try only using pens with your face on them to deter thieves

            1. Jen RO*

              Can I suggest italic or bold italic or underline? The first time I read your comment, Mints, I thought someone called “LW#2 pen stealing” was another commenter.

              1. TheSnarkyB*

                I think that’s a good way to do it, Jen. Also, re: your comment below- if you out RO in parentheses, maybe people would revert to just Jen instead of Jen RO?
                For a long time, I didn’t know that that meant Romania, so it would have felt rudely over-familiar to chop off half your username in referring to you.

        1. Evan in the USA*

          (While we’re talking about usernames, I’m going to follow the suggestion from last week and start adding my country. Was it you who suggested it, Jen?)

          Yes, subject lines might help sometimes. But how often? I frequent another forum that has subject lines, and maybe one in every hundred posts has a useful subject. The rest of the time, we just leave them blank or put in some vaguely-distracting joke… so we, or at least I, get in the habit of skipping over them. Which sort of defeats the purpose.

          1. Jen RO*

            Wasn’t me, but I like the idea. (Unless mentioned, I always assume commenters are from the US!)

            1. Jen RO*

              Oh, and not that it really matters, but I like it when people just call me “Jen” as opposed to “Jen RO” :)

          2. The RO-Cat*

            IIRC it was Sandrine from France who proposed to – and started to – mention the country in the handle.

        2. Persephone Mulberry!*

          I would love a subject line. It would be especially helpful for folks like me who like to check back throughout the day for new comments on a specific chunk of conversation that I wanted to follow but haven’t personally commented on (so I can’t ctrl-F for my username).

        3. Nichole*

          I would really like that! Often on the short answer posts there are one or two that I’m very interested in reading comments about or looking for OP updates, but I get lost in all of the different topics. As Nyla mentioned, it would be useful on the open threads, too-I rarely read them because the volume of comments is overwhelming, but would love to skim a topic or two.

        4. Not So NewReader*

          I like the idea of a subject line because it could slow down some of the quicker fingers and cause people to think about what the main point of their comment actually is.

      3. A Bug!*

        Pile-ons are a problem for me! For most of them, I spend too long writing the comment and forget to check to see if it’s no longer necessary before I submit it. For others, I just can’t resist the urge to hear myself type, I guess. I’m working on them both!

        It would be really useful to me if there were a preview button that would refresh the comments and then show me what mine’s going to look like if I submit it.

        1. Jamie*

          Okay – I totally admit that I am also fond of the sound of my own typing…and I, too, am going to be conscious of reading everything first and only responding if I truly have something new to add.

          That said…and I’m trying to word this properly because I don’t want it to sound like I am dismissive of the pile on issue…because I totally get that it’s a problem. But I’d hate for you, or fposte, or Mike C or…I can go on forever …to not comment because someone said something vaguely similar.

          There is nuance even in agreement – a way of fleshing out a point that may have been made, but in a way that will resonate differently with different people. And there is value is the aggregate. One person says X fine. 1000 people say X that’s too many comments. But in the middle is where you feel the pulse of the common sentiment – when there is one. There were a couple threads where we were universally united in opinion. And it may have only been a couple. If 1 person expressed that thought and no one else did, because it had been said – you don’t see the consensus. One person may be wrong. The other thousands of readers and hundreds of commenters may be busy or not interested. But a comment section of people with hundreds of comments shows how this little subset of the public shakes out on things as a whole.

          So if I promise to behave myself and comment less (after this thread) can you all promise not to withhold valuable feedback and interesting thoughts just because you aren’t taking a wholly new stance on something?

          1. Audiophile*

            I don’t think anyone wants you, of fposte, or Mike C or Ruffingit to comment less. I can’t be alone in feeling that you all add something to the discussion even when you’re saying similar things. And as someone who’s had a question posted and now regularly posts/whines in the open threads, I look forward to reading your comments.
            The pile-ons about language get annoying. As Alison has said in the past, she’s fine with people correcting her but it can get too crazy when people start correcting each other. One mention of the error should suffice. I’ve made errors when posting, one person pointed it out and I moved on and so did they.
            The pile-ons for heated discussions can get a little crazy as well and I’ll admit, I stay out of the sandbox in those cases.

          2. hild*

            Your whole third paragraph was brilliant – I could have never articulated it, but you captured it, exactly. In order to get the “pulse of the common sentiment” (love that), we’ll have to wade through some random, flip, or unhelpful comments. I think that’s just the way life is. Sometimes I feel like what I’m saying is really just echoing others and not really adding much (like right now, ha!), but what you just said makes me feel better about it. Because you’re right that everyone responds differently to different writing styles and trains of thought. There is something for everyone here if we can keep it generally positive and constructive.

          3. A Bug!*

            There is nuance even in agreement – a way of fleshing out a point that may have been made, but in a way that will resonate differently with different people.

            This is a charitable way of looking at it and I think you’ve certainly summed up my motivations as well. Thanks for it!

            I think I do have a tendency to want to expand on a point, or to clarify my own reasons for taking a particular position because my reasons are often different even if they end up in a similar place. If someone else is reading and doesn’t agree with other people’s reasoning, then maybe they’ll relate better to mine. Not because my reasoning is objectively better, but maybe because their brains work more like mine.

            Tangentially, I try really hard to validate both sides of a discussion when I comment, without making value judgments. I really hope that I am generally successful in this, and if I’m not I may have to take a step back and reconsider my commenting.

          4. Hooptie*

            Jamie, please don’t stop commenting even if it may seem repetitive. While I love tons of the regular commenters here, I always, always look for your posts because either you make me laugh or make me think. Your particular way of wording things resounds with me, somehow.

            1. Ruffingit*

              I agree, I too look for Jamie’s posts and always read them. She has a way with words that I relate to and makes me think.

          5. Windchime*

            Yeah, as someone who is on the West coast (USA), if there was a requirement that every thing I posted had to be totally unique and original, I don’t know how often I’d be able to comment at all. It’s mostly all been said by the time I get here because I’m 3 hours behind.

            1. Lindsay J*

              This is one of the reasons I don’t comment very often – I feel like by the time I get here everything I want to say has been said already.

          6. TheSnarkyB*

            I agree with you wholeheartedly, Jamie, and I am intentionally piling on to show you consensus: please don’t comment less!
            And I have been really distracted recently and unable to come to the threads as often, but I also tend to be a late commenter and have some sort of nuanced agreement to make. I think I’ll keep doing it, but only after reading the whole thread first to evaluate how nuanced it really is.

          7. Bea W*

            If I had read through all the comments first I’d likely never comment between the being overwhelmed and not having time. I am slow when itcomes to both readingand writing.

      4. Candy Floss*

        A bit of a different POV on pile-ons. They do get out of hand, no argument there. But most of the time, it feels like the same 10-15 people are commenting here in almost real time. If you don’t comment on things that have already been said, there’s not much opportunity to comment at all.

        1. Windchime*

          Ha! See? I just said the same thing upthread because I hadn’t gotten to your post yet. I have nothing original to say, sigh.

    2. nyxalinth*

      When I see the criticism going on at length, I will usually take the stance that everyone already has all the negative commenting covered, and I try to say something positive while not invalidating any reasonable comments already made. It sucks to be on the Slam Train, though. It’s been done to me, though, so I know how it feels (not here, of course.)

    3. Robin*

      Yeah, I was one of the earlier commenters in one of those, and then a lot of people piled on after me, and I felt bad in hindsight. I thought about going back and adding a comment about how I empathized with the OP’s situation, but I figured it would get so buried no-one would see it.

  11. Kelly L.*

    Oh, also, is there a way to report a comment if we think it’s really out of line, or should we just assume you will see it? I don’t mean calling them out in the thread as a troll, but a sort of behind the scenes “report to moderator” function.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think assume I’ll see it. I used to read every single comment but have abandoned that as the number of comments have gone up, but I do skim them as they come in, enough that I should spot anything that really crosses a line. (That said, if something is outright hate speech or something like that, feel free to flag it — it could help me spot it more quickly than otherwise. But that’s actually pretty rare here.)

      1. Kelly L.*

        I didn’t even know we had a flag function! Or do you just mean email you? In any case, thanks for the info! :)

    2. Just a Reader*


      I got into something unpleasant here last week and have felt icky about it ever since to the point that I’ve pulled back commenting.

      I think a report button is a good idea, for egregious posts.

      1. Arbynka*

        Was it the whole “millennial management” thing ? That got pretty rough :( I just wanted to let you know I appreciated your comments, especially because it is hard when you start getting slammed for it. But you made me consider some points of view I did not think about before.

        1. Just a Reader*

          Thanks. That felt like a pile on for having a different point of view. I did not enjoy it.

          1. Joey*

            I know I’ve had a few piling ons, but I always assume the majority of it is a mob mentality. Doesn’t bother me a whole lot because I look forward to dissenting opinions way way more than a “yeah, me too.”

          2. WFBP*

            I, too, felt you had some good points in that discussion. It’s just kind of reality that people might be judged by their generation, as awful as that sounds, especially when they exhibit key traits that generation is known for.

            The push-back did seem like a pile-on to me as well.

          3. Blue Anne*

            I’m not at all surprised that you didn’t enjoy it. It was a little painful to read. I think you were all making interesting points there, but there was some underlying nastiness to the discussion that just wasn’t on.

            1. WFBP*

              To be clear, Blue Anne, are you calling Just A Reader nasty? Because that seems to go against what AAM is asking for here.

              Hopefully I’m misreading your post.

                1. Blue Anne*

                  Yes, as AAM says here. I’m not calling *any* individual in the discussion nasty. Just with the way the whole thing went, I’m not surprised that Just A Reader found it very unpleasant. I definitely would have. :(

                2. WFBP*

                  Ah. In response to Blue Anne’s post below (since i can’t reply to it), I totally agree with you!!

                3. WFBP*

                  Hm, having trouble posting a reply here, trying again. Since I can’t respond to Blue Anne directly, BA, I totally agree with you. (and btw, love the avatar)

      2. monologue*

        I agree. I think as volume increases either a flag button or someoen moderating each comment is necessary to maintain a good discussion. Posts like this one are better than nothing but increased moderation is the best way to fix a comment section problem.

        Also, sometimes someone is dissenting just to get a rise out of people and not because they actually hold that opinion. personally if it was up to me, I would moderate those types of dissenters.

        1. Jamie*

          Moderating each comment – as in lag time as each needs to be read and approved before being posted?

          If that’s what you mean it will absolutely kill the conversational aspect of this forum dead. That type of lag time makes it not worth posting at all. Even if Alison had someone sitting there 24/7 doing nothing but moderating posts it would be too slow and bring the conversation to a halt.

          And I’d hate to think of her work comp bills after the carpel tunnel claims of her poor fictional worker who had to moderate open thread!

          1. Kelly L.*

            Yes. I saw that help to kill another blog. The moderator of that one is nowhere near as industrious as Alison, and would leave the internet for sometimes days at a time, and any sense of threading was lost. Tons of comments would be nearly identical–since no one could see what anyone else was typing–and there was no sense of a conversation.

          2. monologue*

            No, that’s not what I meant. I meant someone should be reading through the comment sections and removing the crap in order to maintain good discussion quality in a high volume forum. Either that or there should be a flagging system and the flagged comments should be reviewed and removed as needed. I really think high volume forums do not work without one of these two things happening.

        2. TheSnarkyB*

          I agree with you that those are issue that occur on the Internet in general, but they don’t really occur here.

          A flag option would be useful (as would an up vote style +1), and maybe will become necessary over time, but right now, this community doesn’t require such close scrutiny as comment-by-comment moderation.

  12. Jubilance*

    Thank you for saying this. The civility of the comments & commenters here is one reason why I continue to share. It really brings down the entire experience to go from reading intelligent discourse to someone correcting grammar/spelling, or being snarky/rude/offensive.

    I agree with Susan that more commenters should at least skim the comments before posting their own – I do this and if I find I don’t have anything new or valuable to add to the discussion (because others have already expressed my view) then I don’t comment. Alison, is it possible to remove the link that sends people straight down to the comment box? It won’t prevent people from just hitting the “end” button but maybe if they have to scroll they will be more likely to skim the comments first?

    1. KitKat*

      Now that’s an idea. I really like the theory, but I can see it being a pain in the rear for things like the Open Threads.

      Then again, there is the magic that is the “end” key…

      1. Delurking*

        Perhaps it could be possible to have the open threads set up differently than the question threads? It makes a lot of sense to have an “end” button on the open thread so you don’t need to scroll through 900 comments to start a new sub thread, but there could be advantages to not having it for a question thread with only 100 comments that all relate to the original question.

    2. some1*

      I think it’s especially important to read the comments in case the LW posts with new info that changes things.

      Or in the case of the LW who took up the funeral collection, Alison had updated saying that the coworker claimed to have looked online for a ticket, but later commenters were responding as if the LW had taken it upon herself to decide the coworker wanted to plane ticket money.

      1. Pseudo Annie Nym*

        Yes! I know it gets to be a pain in the butt and more work for Alison, but would it be possible to update certain posts if new, relevant information comes from the OP in the comments? There was the reader update recently about the person in the doctor’s office who had to take time off “Hunger Games Style.” The new post talked about Person #1, Person #2, Person #3, and Christine…but Christine wasn’t in the first post. She had clarified something deep in the comments. I had to go back to the original and wade through all the comments to understand what was going on with the update. (And, I know that on a list of Awful Life Problems that this isn’t very high up, but I was really interested in how that one turned out.)

      2. Not So NewReader*

        It’s easy to find Alison because she is in the blue. But the OPs are a little harder- it is helpful when the user name is “OP#”.

        1. Ruffingit*

          I would love it if OP comments could be in yellow or something like that so we could easily find them. Just saying :)

      3. Mints*

        I’ve noticed that too. Maybe it’s just a personality thing? Because irl conversations I do the same like, wait for the obvious comments (did/agreeing), and then I just comment if I have something distinct to say. And on here, I tend to read alot of comments before commenting, instead of just adding a new comment at the end.

        You’re right that it gets a little tedious to read comments after an OP has clarified something, without taking into account the new info. But like I said, it might just be communication styles, without a way to address it in page layout or anything

        1. fposte*

          Now that I think about it, though I have no problem with reading the whole thread initially, I sometimes miss the new posts in existing subthreads and just see the new standalone comments that got added to the bottom. So when an OP posts in a subthread, I think I’m not the only one who misses the update there.

  13. TheExchequer*

    I feel pretty priveleged to be a guest at your table, so to speak. Thank you for putting so much work into creating a safe, welcoming place. :)

  14. A Teacher*

    My favorite part is that no one “steals” your user name. Another blog I used to post on, I had a set name and then one day I logged on and someone else posted with my name, when I clarified it wasn’t me, the other person said I was lying…it got ridiculous, and I stopped posting there. Granted A Teacher may not be the best name but its what I’ve been using the past year so changing would be weird to me.

    1. OriginalYup*

      Actually, I’m modifying my commenting name right now from Yup to the above because I just came across a comment that was posted under my commenting name but not posted by me. (I’m sure it was unintentional, though.)

      1. TL*

        That happened to me here! But I just commented under it saying, “Hey, this isn’t the TL that regularly posts” and TL 2 graciously modified their name so it didn’t get confusing.

        People here are generally so polite if you see someone using a handle you already use, I think you can just leave a polite note and they’ll change it.

        1. OriginalYup*

          For a second, did you wonder if you were in the Matrix? :)

          I agree, other Yup would probably happily oblige but I’m glad to add something a little more descriptive — and in honor of TBT — going forward.

      2. ChristineSW*

        This has been a challenge for me. I’ve had to change my username a few times, either because someone else used just “Christine” as their name or I felt nervous about being identified. I finally settled on ChristineSW.

    2. The Real Ash*

      I hate to say that it isn’t true. I used to be the only Ash here for a while, and then there was another Ash that started posting about a month ago. I posted a few replies to their comments, saying something cutesy like, “Hey, there can only be one Ash!” or something, but they’re still going by Ash, hence the name change for me.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I think it can be tricky when you have a name that might be your real name or initials or nickname and could also be someone else’s, because it could be natural for them to pick it too without realizing it’s “taken.” And even if you point it out, they might not see it if they don’t read all the comments all the time. (In other words, I think it’s not about discourteousness and more about understandable inattention.) I like your solution though.

        1. Turanga Leela*

          Yes, and it can happen even if it’s not your real name. I’ve discovered that I’m the second Turanga Leela here–I had never seen anyone use the name before, but I was reading an old post and found a comment left by a TL who is definitely not me. She hasn’t posted in a while that I know of, but original Leela, if you’re out here, let me know! I didn’t mean to take your name.

        2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          Victoria HR and I made this change a while ago. I was posting as Victoria, then she became a regular and things were confusing for a while. I declared myself Victoria Nonprofit (and accidentally declared her Victoria HR, which may or may not have been what she actually wanted to be called!).

          1. Victoria, Please*

            Wow, a place with multiple Victorias! Victoria, Please is because so many people upon first meeting me will then call me Vicki, Veronica, Virginia, Vivienne, or Vanessa. Please, it’s Victoria, thank you.

            1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

              YES. There is something weird about the “V” names that causes people to get screwed up. I can’t count how many times I’ve been called all of those.

          1. Ash (the other one!)*

            I go by Ash on a number of sites so really don’t want to change that here, but I think with the addition of “the other one” we’re distinct enough.

        3. Lindsay J*

          Yeah I made the switch from Lindsay to Lindsay J awhile ago because someone else started posting as Lindsay. I don’t post often enough to want to try and claim the name, and I know I’m certainly not the only Lindsay on the Internet, so I figured it was easier for me to switch than to ask the other person to.

    3. Jamie*

      It’s not stealing and it doesn’t bother me because I don’t have a patent on my name, but it is always weird when every once in a while someone will post with just Jamie. (as opposed to JamieG who is a totally different person.)

      Whomever it is never said anything I felt I needed to disavow – but it always takes me aback trying to figure out why I wrote something I don’t recognize and where’s my gravitar. :)

      1. Colette*

        There were a couple of posts a while back where someone posted as Colette. I replied to one of them with something like “Hi, other Colette” and they haven’t posted under that name since.

        It’s an unusual name and I assume it wasn’t done deliberately to confuse, but the potential was there, so I wanted to point it out.

      2. hild*

        I know it’s not you if there’s no Hello Kitty attached to it. :) The gravatars are helpful, I think.

    4. Gene*

      This is where having a Gravatar avatar comes in handy. If I see an avatar I recognize, I don’t even look at the name.

      If someone is truly trying to “steal” your username, it won’t prevent it. In the case where they just use something they probably don’t even know is in use, it will set you apart from the other A Teacher

      1. Jamie*

        I agree – the gravatar really does help. It took me forever to do one, since I mistakenly thought putting in email would make it visible to the public…but once I figured it out it’s been super handy.

        And nothing wrong with a theme if you have a compulsive need to change icons with your moods.

          1. Jamie*

            She, like me, is freaking sick of winter and if I can’t be on a beach chair sipping a french martini in an iced-tea glass than at least she can be. :)

            and thanks – back atcha on the comment comment. :)

            1. TL*

              I don’t think I commented on it when you first came back, but I really did notice when you were out!
              (I thought it might be creepy to note it when you came back because I had opened the comments and you had posted your first comment just about a minute before…)

      2. Jen RO*

        Yes, please use gravatars! They make the comments section so much easier to follow! And I always enjoy seeing the new Hello Kitty :)

      3. Mints*

        Okay, I’ll try to think of a gravatatar. I’ve been meaning to but I don’t want to use my face.
        Positive peer pressure!

          1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

            Did you put your email address in the “E-mail (Optional)” box above? I think that’s how Gravatar knows it’s you. It doesn’t make it possible for anyone to see your email address, though.

            1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

              I wasn’t patient enough. Apparently 15 seconds isn’t the same as 5 to 10 minutes. :)

    5. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      I’ve been posting by just “Elizabeth” for several years now. I was the only one for a while and enjoyed that, but understandably others have posted with the same name. I’ve just kept it, figuring “well, I’m the Elizabeth with the blue name” (since I linked my blog, though I haven’t actually updated that blog in maybe a year – but I didn’t want to change the link because it was part of my ID here – circular reasoning, eh?). But this thread has nudged me to differentiate myself more and finally upload a Gravatar!

      1. ~anon...*

        Elizabeth the Ginger, I had no idea that having your name blue meant a poster was linked to a blog! Thank you for mentioning that – what an interesting site! – you have a new follower now :)

        and O.M.G! Marmoset Marmoset!! I can’t stop smiling..
        (you all should go there NOW and check it out. you’re welcome :)

        Thank you!!

    6. Kate*

      If you put in your email and link it Gravatar you get an icon and it would be harder to copy you exactly. I get use to photos more than names personally.

  15. Anon for This*

    As someone who wound up being the target of a personal pile-on of nastiness in response to a question I submitted, including nit-picks about a single word I used in a reply I left, thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you.

    (My pile-on predates this current influx, but it continued even after you asked people to stop and it really, really sucked.)

    1. Joey*

      I don’t really get changing to anon from your regular name. You’re anonymous both ways. I have no idea who you are unless your name links to something personal. I don’t think I could ever pin down anyone’s real name. And even if I did what could I possibly do with it that wouldn’t make me look like a lunatic.

      1. Jamie*

        We have over 1000 members on the Linkedin group so I get it – sometimes you want to say something that doesn’t tie to your username which ties to your real name over there.

        Or even if not a member there – sometimes people share something personal to help someone else that they don’t necessarily want people to associate with their usual username.

        I get it – I’ve done it.

        1. Joey*

          But why wouldn’t you want a real workplace problem associated with you. It’s not like everybody’s going to think you’re an idiot. I haven’t met anyone that can always come up with the best answers on their own. I don’t think there’s any shame in sharing a problem and asking for help.

          1. Jamie*

            Of course not – but sometimes to convey the problem accurately you need to be somewhat specific and it may not always be flattering to those of whom you’re speaking.

            Quick example –
            If I post about a problem I’m having with my HR (chosen because she’s never a problem – she’s super awesome and will likely read this!) there is only one…so if you know me from work you will also know who she is. So if some people here know my name and where I work…or when I mention AAM to people irl I don’t want anyone being able to search my name and tie posts about specific people driving me crazy to me.

            And some people use the same nicks at different sites and don’t want too much specific info about what they do out there for people to google the nick.

            And for personal stuff like when we’ve had posts on domestic violence or other touchy issues people have posted their experiences to help others…not everyone wants others to associate shared personal stories with their regular nick used for workplace issues.

            1. Liz in a Library*

              This is why I’ve done it, too. I sing the praises of AAM all the time and know several people in my personal life who comment here. If I don’t want to accidentally identify someone else involved in an issue I’m asking about, I might change the details or temporarily change my name for just that question.

            1. A Bug!*

              There is also the fact that there are people on the internet who are vindictive beyond all reason. I comment anonymously because comments are fully public. I know it’s unlikely, but I’m really not keen on the possibility that someone might get upset at a comment of mine and start harassing me in my real life. It wouldn’t even need to be a person who actually comments.

          2. Anonow*

            I have used it for times when we discuss addiction issues since I am a recovering alcoholic. I use a derivative of my real name normally for posting and don’t want anyone to make the connection.

        2. Ruffingit*

          Also, let’s face it, even in an anonymous forum, you have the problem of attributing certain things to certain people. We may all have anon user names for the most part, but people do form relationships for better or for worse with others even having never met them in person. Those relationships can sometimes color the advice you give someone. We’ve all done this in real life and online. If you like Sue for example, then you’re more apt to be fair and compassionate about her problem than you are to someone you don’t particularly care for. Human nature. So I get why people do the double secret anonymous thing because it can sometimes help to remove that bias factor.

      2. Anon for This*

        Well, given what I was asking about and the level of detail I needed to give to ask the question, it would have been very easy for people I work with (who know how much I love this blog) to guess that the question Allison answered for me came from me. So, I didn’t want the username I normally use to comment associated with that question.

        I also don’t want that pile-on associated with my normal username. A whole bunch of people decided I must have been a terrible manager and an oblivious person, and I would really prefer that not color the rest of my interaction here.

    1. Anon Accountant*

      When I read your post, my mind went to “if you liked it then you should’ve put a name on it” to the tune of Beyonce’s single ladies (put a ring on it) song beat.

      Just a sign that it’s good that it’s almost Friday! :)

  16. Katie the Fed*

    I’ve been gone for the last few weeks – apparently I need to go back and read some discussions.

    And yes, I love this blog in large part because of the commenter community.

    1. Just a Reader*

      At the risk of being creepy, you’re one of my favorite commenters–witty and spot on with advice and insight.

      1. Jamie*

        At the risk of being creepier – where have Wilton Businessman and the Snarky B gone? Their contributions are missed…at least by me.

          1. Jamie*

            Totally miss her – but she just had a baby so I know why she’s afk. :)

            Apparently her child means more to her than hanging out with us – honestly, the priorities of some people!

          2. ChristineSW*

            Ooh that’s right, I miss her too. But happy to hear about her new baby. Rana, if you’re reading, congrats!!!

          3. Rana*

            Aw, thanks you guys!

            Yeah, I’ve had the baby – she’ll be 5 months old tomorrow! (The time, where does it go?)

            I’ll try to pop in here more regularly, but, honestly, there are so many posts and comments now that I just get overwhelmed. :(

        1. Jen RO*

          I think Wilton posted yesterday in the busyness post – saying he was to busy to read it :P

        2. TheSnarkyB*

          I’m still here!! Also, (unless I really missed something) SnarkyB and TheSnarkyB are the same person, I just tended to forget in early days which one I was using. So now I’m sticking with this and I’m gonna pick a Gravatar. This year (since Sept) I’ve been interning 26hr/wk at a hospital with archaic computers and regulations, so I’m only ever on AAM on my phone anymore, which leads to sore fingers (you know I like my long elaborate comments!!) or piling on bc I’m not gonna read a 700 comment main thread before commenting. So to avoid both of those, I don’t comment as much anymore
          BUT BUT BUT:
          I’m gonna be done with my Master’s program in 6 weeks!!! And then I’ll likely be back home (here) in full force
          I still read all the posts and most of the comments! And I’ll be on the open thread today! You, Mike C, Fposte, and more seem to be holding it down awesomely without me though!

      2. Liz in a Library*

        Uh…at the risk of being way creepier, I was sort of wondering where you had been. :D

        1. Katie the Fed*

          awwww, thanks! Not creepy – I notice people gone too. I was on vacation. I totally unplug when I go on vacation :D

      3. Katie the Fed*

        well thank you – that’s really sweet! If only I could find a way to do this professionally :)

  17. Meg Murry*

    Just a suggestion – put a link to this post on the “how to comment” page. Or some sites even have a link to the commenting policy right next to the words “Leave a Comment”, for another thought.

    Another site I use fairly regularly added a “report” button, but its really easy to accidentally hit instead of “reply” – so if you do add a report button, be aware that you’re going to get a lot of accidental reports

    1. Evan in the USA*

      Or take the idea from Reddit of having “report” pop up “Are you sure?”, and you need to click “Yes” before a report’s sent?

    2. JMegan*

      Speaking of usernames, I’ve been wanting to tell you for ages how much I love yours! Meg Murry is one of my favourite fictional characters of all time. :)

  18. MaggiePi*

    Another thought would be maybe adding the ability to collapse threads or sub-threads. Then when a certain thread goes completely on a tangent it’s easier to skip it. Also in the posts with multiple OP letters it would be easier to skip to the ones for a certain #. Just a thought!

    Also, I am only an occasional commenters and just picked this name. Please someone let me know if it’s taken. Thanks!

    1. De Minimis*

      I agree, some kind of formatting change would help, although I don’t know if it’s feasible. Think it would help with the “piling on” effect somewhat–was thinking of the case a couple of weeks ago where the OP was really responsive to some fairly tough criticism, but it was lost in the sea of comments that continued on…

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes! Collapsing threads are high on my list for any major upgrade in the future. (I don’t know how easy or feasible it will be, but I want them.)

      1. Jill of all trades*

        Sort of (but not really) related, could you add the date to the open thread titles, like “Open Thread 3/28/2014”? I think it’d make it a little easier to track them in the past postings links to the right. I wanted to ask before tomorrow’s is published.

        And thank you for all you do!

          1. AMG*

            I know it’s been brought up in the past, but haven’t seen it in this post: a ‘like’ button.

          2. Audrey*

            This is a good idea. But… could you possibly use an unambiguous style for the date? Such as 28-Mar-2014? I know this particular date is unambiguous, but many are not – Tuesday will be 4/1/14 or 1/4/14 depending on where you live.

            And I echo Jill’s thanks!

      2. Jamie*

        I love collapsing threads – like they have on Reddit.

        I know you’re working within parameters of the application you’re using so I kind of cringe when people want things which seem easy because they see them elsewhere, but aren’t really doable without a major overhaul and/or platform swap.

        If you ever need a hand researching feasibility of different ideas just shoot me an email – I’m happy to help.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        Bleah, I don’t like them because then I can’t search for a specific comment, but I’ll adapt.

        I like what Jill of all trades suggests about the date on the Open threads. :D

        1. MaggiePi*

          The solution to this is set ups that have an “Expand All” and “Collapse All” option so you can expand and then search. I’m sure somewhere someone could even make a built in search function but I’m sure that would be way down the To Do List (and understandably so!)

    3. Diane*

      Yeah, like Reddit style with the ability to up vote/ down vote and even AMA Gold for those who are especially awesome. ;-)

      1. Jamie*

        Ahhhh…fellow redditors! I just fell backwards into the joys of reddit a couple of weeks ago and it’s my new online habit. I haven’t posted anything yet – just the ultimate lurker.

        I love, love the point system not just for fun but it gives you a real feel of the sentiments of the community. A nasty post which is downvoted to heck shows a community which doesn’t tolerate that kind of thing. A nasty post with upvotes…find another sub.

          1. Diane*

            Some of the AMAs are fascinating. I always search for weird stuff and then lose an hour of my day lol

      2. Ash (the other one!)*

        I think the up/down could be abused though… it adds a layer of exactly what AAM is getting at here in terms of meanness.

        1. fposte*

          Yes, I’d hate for an OP to come back and comment and end up under a pile of downed thumbs.

          1. Jamie*

            I was thinking more for the comments themselves.

            IOW you say something and get up votes and I post “Idiot!” at you …then everyone down votes me which tells the new people watching that the cogent and thoughtful people have community respect and idiot shouters like the fictional me do not.

            I would think the votes on the letters themselves would be more along the lines of if it was an interesting topic and not an indictment of the OP.

            And now I’m debating fictional rating systems…it’s been a long week. :)

            1. fposte*

              Surely the internet has disproved the theory of the Wisdom of the Crowd :-).

              I was actually meaning in the comments too, BTW–I just tend to feel a little protective the OPs, who are opening up their lives to us, and then we really want them to post in the comments–and if one of them did and got massively downvoted it would make me so sad.

            2. Jill of all trades*

              I think having an up button/arrow to show agreement would be good and reduce the number of “+1″s, but I think a down arrow wouldn’t serve well becuase of the potential for abuse – idiot shouters get called out pretty quickly here even if Alison is busy. I remember some post from a while back (like a year or more) where someone got out of line and you stepped in and handled it like a badass. You totally earned points with me :) So I don’t see a need for a down button – the community as a whole handles that better than any number of down arrows would from a new reader perspective.

              1. Jamie*

                Me? Wow – I have no recollection of that but that sounds awesome of me. :)

                You and fposte are so considerate on the subject – I’m all about tallying data and you’re thinking about people. Valid points and you’re right – if we need to be judgy we need to use our words. Civil, polite, and tempered with kindness.

                1. Fish Microwaver*

                  I confess to having never even looked at Reddit. I do know they have something to do with narwahls and bacon however, 2 of my favourite things.

              2. Clerica D. McClerkykins*

                Even an up arrow can be abused. Imagine you’re an OP who posted about, idk, being fired right after announcing a pregnancy. You scroll down and see a comment that “there must be more to this story” and that you’re using the pregnancy as an excuse to sue when you were probably just a bad employee. Then you see 19 upvotes next to it. Gross.

                1. Jill of all trades*

                  Ooh, you’re right. I didn’t think about that. I just wanted to stop wading through “+1″s and “me too”s.

    1. businesslady*

      hear, hear! I can’t even count how many people I’ve recommended AAM to, & I never miss a post. the balance of interesting, useful, funny, & empathetic is just really satisfying.

  19. Marquis*

    I know I asked this before, but it would be super nice if there was a way to know if the OP is participating in the comments. Maybe even add a bolded line as an update to the post just to let us know?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think realistically not for right now, because I’d have to do it manually and it would be more work, but I agree it would be nice to have.

      1. books*

        Yeah – a nice to have (but it means you have to do the work) is if an OP leaves a response in comments w/a resolution, to link to that comment from the body of the post.

      2. JustMe*

        Hmm. It’s too bad you couldn’t have OPs colour-coded like your posts are (just with a different colour, obviously).

      3. TheSnarkyB*

        But maybe there’s a way for other commenters to do this manually, like the first Regular Commenter to post/reply to an OP clarification or response could say something like “thanks OP for writing back!” Or something more unique. And then we all know that in every post “thanks OP” is the phrase to CTRL+F for.

  20. OriginalYup*

    I’d like to thank the commenters here who consistently go out of their way to be courteous and thoughtful in their responses. Many of you really do set the bar high in approaching touchy subjects in an admirable way, and in giving constructive advice with plenty of self-awareness. I’m always impressed when I see someone proceeding with brains and grace instead of hopping in to sling the mud. It elevates the discourse, and the rest of us along with it. Please keep it up. :)

    1. Sunflower*

      Yes I always want to come on here and say this. I don’t post or comment on any other websites and I know I come into the open thread with non-work related topics and it’s amazing how supportive and sweet the majority of the commenters are.

    2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Yes! My fiancé was so confused about why I always read the comments here, because in many places the comments are the very dregs of humanity. I’ve been impressed that, even as AAM has gotten more popular, the comments have actually stayed relatively thoughtful and civil. People generally come here to try to be helpful or insightful, and even if they sometimes forget themselves and get harsh, it’s nothing like the trolling, political grandstanding, racist/sexist joking, etc. that fills so many other comment boards.

      1. Fish Microwaver*

        My SO doesn’t understand my obsession with AAM either. I like Alison and the other posters here. I have learned a lot and become a great deal more professional from my study here. I consider it professional develpment.

        1. AMG*

          I have to say, I feel the same way. There have been times when I have struggled with something at work, and I imagine myself writing in and getting responses from Alison and commenters back. Then I take the ‘advice’ and it really helps!

  21. Arbynka*

    As English second language speaker, I really appreciate the “not picking on spelling, grammar..” I already have to watch it so much at work. The hardest thing is probably the sentence construction and flow. Even after all these years I have to focus rally hard if I want to sound like a native speaker – aka if I don’t want people to be able to tell it was written by non native speaker. (And I still have people helping me with that as well) So I admit, when I am here, I let that guard down. Now, if I ever write something that quite does not make sense, I do not mind one bit being asked “what do you mean by this” or “did you mean..” But it is so great to be able contribute without feeling judged for the style of writing :)

    1. Arbynka*

      And of course it suppose to be “really” not “rally” and of course this happens in a post about grammar and spelling :)

      1. The RO-Cat*

        Yes, nit-picking usually adds nothing to the discussion, but as an ESL myself I learned quite a lot of real-life English (and more) from that type of comments…

        1. Jen RO*

          I usually enjoy the nitpicking, but it’s because I am a grammar and style nerd and I don’t have anyone to talk to about it in real life! It’s also comforting to learn that even native speakers get pronunciation wrong sometimes (I really liked that sub-discussion a couple of weeks ago, and I learned new things!).

          1. Arbynka*

            He he , grammar nerd, love it :) I guess for me it’s more like I don’t think I can really learn any more. If you point out my mistake you do not have to tell me how to correct it. I know. I just cemented some things in my mind and unless I put effort into focusing… You know. There are mistakes I keep making over and over and over… I wish somebody corrected me every time at the beginning.

            What I still love is to learning new, local words. Like when I visited in-laws for a first time up in Minnesota and they kept asking if I want a “pop” with my dinner. Pop :) – we call it soda down here.

            1. Jen RO*

              If it helps, until recently when you said you were from the Czech Republic, I was convinced you’re American.

              1. Arbynka*

                Really :)))) Yes, I am originally from Czech Republic. I have been living in the US for 16 years now. BTW, same to you, if you did not have the RO in the handle I would not guess you are not a native speaker. I visited Romania a long time ago. I was 12. I would love to go visit again.

                1. Jamie*

                  I always forget you’re not American.

                  I know Jen is from Romania – but the way she writes I hear her in my head as English being her first language.

                  You and Jen put my linguistically challenged self to absolute shame. I admire your ability in this so much.

                2. Jen in RO*

                  I’m glad you hear me as American, because my actual accent sucks! I’m quite proud of my English skills in general, though! They are the result of 25+ years of studying the language in one form or another, so it’s not exactly a piece of cake – and English is the easiest language to pick up because you just can’t avoid hearing it. (I started very basic English classes in kindergarten at age 4, but honestly the three biggest factors were: Cartoon Network when I was 7-8, pirated sci-fi books in English when I was 14 and Amazon didn’t ship here, and talking to my guildies in WoW every day. I love foreign languages, but realistically I’ll never be this good at any other because English is the only language that is *everywhere*.)

                3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Jen, I constantly marvel at your English. You sound exactly like a native speaker (at least in writing); you have an ease and facility with the language that many native speakers don’t have in writing. You nail informality and even colloquialisms perfectly without sacrificing correctness. It’s truly impressive.

                4. Arbynka*

                  As I said, Jen, your English is excellent. As far as the accent goes, I think unless you grew up in the country or are raised by a native speaker, a bit of accent always be there. Mine is not very strong but people always pick it up :”Oh, what a cute accent. Where are you from ?” And sometimes in makes me sad I still have an accent so I say “Wisconsin” .

                5. AMG*

                  Wow, Jen, I never knew you are from Romania (I noticed the RO but never made the connection). I always imagined you as a native speaker too. Well done!

                6. Jen RO*

                  Thank you guys :) You gave me a warm fuzzy feeling. I’m double-glad you think so because my job involves writing in English, for (sometimes) native English speakers, and I want my docs to feel as professional as possible.

        2. fposte*

          To me, there’s a difference between discussing variants–“Oh, we always called those sneakers”–and saying “The way you said this was wrong.” I know they’re sometimes all happening in the same conversation, but I think the former encourages people to participate while the latter discourages them, so I much prefer the former.

            1. DrJulieSunny*

              What if, instead of getting involved in a long thread about grammatical issues that could be either a typo or an indication of someone’s larger problems with grammar (e.g., non-native English speaker or even a learning disorder), the grammar experts (that’s not sarcastic! We can all use some feedback about our writing every now and then) contacted the writer back channel instead of lambasting them on a public forum. I know I wouldn’t mind that.

              1. Sharm*

                I don’t know. I think that’s up to the individual. I know that if I received a private message in response to my post that had nothing to do with the content of my post, but everything to do with a grammar mistake, I’d be hurt. Call me a sensitive flower if you will. But I know it’d feel like a slap in the face to me.

                I get what you’re saying, but we’d have to have some kind of LinkedIn-type indicator that says, “Likes being corrected on grammar in private” for this to work.

                If the post itself was about grammar, that’s a different issue.

          1. Jen RO*

            Yep, you’re right – not because I don’t think there’s worth in helping people spell/write better, but because this is not the place.

            1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

              Yes. If you wouldn’t correct someone’s grammar face-to-face, don’t correct it online. And I would normally only correct my students’ grammar face-to-face!

              If I were waiting for a bus and someone asked me in broken English, “This bus go zoo?” I wouldn’t say, “You mean, ‘Does this bus go TO THE zoo’,” I’d just tell them if they were at the right bus stop or not.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            Language is fascinating to me- everything from regionalisms to tracing the ancestry of a word.

            I don’t know if it would be worth it to do but I would love to see a no fly zone for criticism where people could just write in their explanations for words or how they remember to use this word not that word and so on.

            I have learned so much when people have discussed these things in earlier posts.

            1. LD*

              Maybe that’s an option for the open thread, the subject being grammar or correct word usage or how you know it’s correct and tips and such. I’d love to read that because I am a word enthusiast and someone who appreciates an elegant construction of an argument or a sentence and thoughtful use of grammar. I find communication so interesting.

          3. Mints*

            Agree! The “y’all” discussion awhile ago was really interesting
            And around the same time I took a quiz with questions like “what’s the bug that lights up” (fire fly, lightning bug) and I really liked seeing the weird vocab I’ve never heard

            That being said, 90% of my AAM is mobile so I don’t really care that much if there’s an autocorrect that didn’t interfere with meaning, and don’t care of it’s pointed out

  22. Contessa*

    Thank you, I appreciate this message. The language debates had almost made me stop reading the blog.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Can I ask: What do you mean when you say the “language debates”? Do you mean nitpicking about words or grammar? Or do you mean long threads about potentially oppressive language (like “thug,” “show hos,” etc.)?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Both of those. I think it’s fine to say “hey, you might not realize this but word X has racist/sexist connotations in many communities,” but I want to avoid it blossoming into something that takes over the thread, particularly in these days of many hundreds of comments per post.

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          I know that I’m a major participant in these kinds of conversations, so let me say: I hear you, and I’ll be mindful of those conversations from here on out.

          But here’s what I struggle with: It’s exceedingly rare (not just here, but in life in general) to say “Hey, ouch. It’s problematic when you say ” and get a response along the lines of “Ooh, sorry. I didn’t think of that. My bad” or even “I never heard that! Can you help me understand what the problem is?” The response is nearly always “What??! I’m not racist/sexist/oppressive. Lay off.”

          … and what are we (who are challenging oppressive language) supposed to do with that? It doesn’t sit well with me to let that lie, particularly if others chime in in support. My hope is that the person who behaved oppressively will reflect on what happened and think about whether they can do something differently going forward; that’s not going to happen if I call attention to something and a half dozen other people roll their eyes.

          It’s your house, and I’ll follow your rules. But in the spirit of pushing back on things I suppose I’m pushing back on the idea that we have to sacrifice (what I believe is) the important work of breaking down oppressive language in order to have a thoughtful, well-connected, focused comment community. I might even argue that anti-oppressive conversations are necessary for that kind of community.

          …. and if you want this conversation to move elsewhere (open thread, individual email), I respect that too. I certainly don’t mean to take over the comments on a post about not taking over comments. :)

          1. NylaW*

            If it wasn’t for me reading comments like “hey that’s problematic and here’s why…” in online forums and blogs, I would never have changed my way of thinking or opened myself up to being more aware of these things. So I for one, welcome it. :)

            1. Kate M*

              Same here! I really find pointing these things out productive and necessary. Even if someone doesn’t mean to be offensive, like someone said below intent doesn’t necessarily matter. And it’s discussions that society should be having.

              That being said, I of course will follow AAM’s rules. I don’t want to sidetrack the actual questions. Just pointing out that these conversations really end up helping some people, like me.

          2. Joey*

            I think the point is that there are so many words that people use everyday that are offensive to someone somewhere that you risk sidetracking too many discussions.

            1. TL*

              I think it’s fine to say it once or twice but I know a whole lot of times I’ve read something, raised an eyebrow and gone to the comments, fingers at the ready – only to realize everyone and their mother got there before me and I really have nothing to add to the conversation.

              The piling on can get excess; it’s fine to point it out but it’s not good to keep on harping about it. (I’ve definitely been guilty of it, though.)

          3. Not So NewReader*

            Well said Victoria.

            A few weeks ago, I found myself in a group discussion where I referred to a group of people as XX. I wanted to crawl under the table when I found I should be saying YY. (Not mentioning the group because that is another point on its own.) I have no intention of ever slamming anyone. But honestly- I did not know that XX had moved to YY. That is fine I will switch but more important is that I do not make these mistakes in the first place.
            I read the news everyday- I try to stay current–I just don’t know how to prevent this stuff from happening.

          4. Anonymouse*


            Personally, I find it a lot more off-putting to see such language use pass unchallenged. It makes online spaces feel much less safe.

            1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

              Agreed. I suspect that people coming from an anti-racist activist background are going to look at this differently than others. What makes a space “safe” to me is precisely this kind of conversation; I recognize that conversations about oppression can feel quite unsafe for others.

            2. fposte*

              I think, though, that there’s a difference between a space whose priority is safety and support and one like this, that seeks civility in service of its more informational goal. It’s really hard to achieve a safe space without a certain unanimity, and I think there are few enough civil places for us to share discussions with people who see things very differently than we do that I would really like to retain that here.

          5. fposte*

            I’ll differ slightly and say that I think it’s okay for people to say “But I didn’t mean it that way” or “But I’m not sexist”–I think it’s important that these be conversations, not lectures where the person addressed has to just say “Random Internet Person, now that you have told me of my error I will change.”

            I’m all for breaking down oppression, but I think breaking down oppressive language is not a good image for me; it sounds very finite and immutable and inarguable in a way that I don’t think is an accurate reflection of real language or linguistic effects, and I think it suggests a discourse that is more important than anything else–how can we talk about creamer refill if there’s oppression going on? I also think that it can end up chilling discussion rather than expanding it, and it therefore can undermine some of its own goals there.

            1. Jamie*

              That brings up another issue. So I use a word. Someone posts that it can be considered offensive.

              I consider that and think about what they said and come to the conclusion that I don’t agree and I continue to use the word. How is that received by the person who pointed it out? Do I now look like I’m being deliberately offensive, or that I didn’t even consider their argument?

              So does it get pointed out each time – even if only once per that would be weird.

              You hit the nail on the head for me. It’s the discussions on those things that are helpful – not the policing of vocabulary itself. And if it’s agreed that this isn’t the place to have those discussions about the social mores behind the words…then the policing is left to stand alone and it’s hollow and off putting.

              And of course those conversations are important – but it’s about time and place. I don’t publish my audit calendar in the church bulletin and I don’t watch tv in my jammies at work. Time and place.

              1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

                I’m practicing withdrawing from this kind of conversation, so there’s a lot that I’m not going to respond to. But I will say that I reject the notion of there being a time or place at which oppression isn’t addressed.

                1. A Cita*

                  I know we’re talking about not adding +1s, but I want to let you know I support what you’re saying about time and place, Victoria. (I also agree with what fposte said–as I am typically wont to do–but to me these aren’t contradictory.)

          6. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Again, I want to be clear — it’s fine to say it. What I want to avoid are the lengthy back and forths about it, and I want to ask everyone to be as thoughtful as they can about that (and to know that I might step in when it is getting lengthier and — in my judgment — detracting from the topic of the post).

      2. Anonymous*

        For me, it’s the long threads about potentially oppressive language when it’s clear someone didn’t mean them that way. Add in the holier-than-thou, I would *never* do that additude and I almost can roll my eyes right out of my head.

        1. Jen RO*

          This. Those kinds of threads (including cases where the tiniest remark is interpreted as discriminatory) make me stop reading the comments… or turning into the devil’s advocate, which might be even worse.

          1. TL*

            I actually like it when you chime in with a differing point of view! I don’t usually agree but you always make a well-reasoned case that doesn’t attack anybody.

            But, yeah, sometimes it gets ridiculous in the comments.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            Or afraid to say anything.
            My writing/speech will not withstand that level of scrutiny.
            It just won’t.

            1. Jamie*

              This is a real consequence of that. Mine won’t either.

              There have been times, especially after one particular derail about a word I used, that I reworded things several times trying to avoid words that I don’t think are issues just trying not to offend anyone anywhere.

              And I ended up killing the post more times than not because trying to avoid words that might offend someone somewhere is like walking blindfolded through a mine field – tens of thousands of other readers…if you try to avoid anything that could offend anyone you end up saying nothing because it becomes too daunting.

              So I went back to just using my own compass for how I express myself because it’s just untenable to run everything through other people’s filters. If there are consequences to that in the way others view me I can live with that.

              That’s not to say things don’t change and evolve and I love so much about linguistics and how languages are alive and are constantly evolving. But I think it’s prudent to wait for any given change to become accepted in society as a whole before we start policing each other and assigning malintent where there is none.

              Otherwise you end up with a very small group of people who can speak because they are all working from the same glossary.

              1. Jen in RO*

                I started a comment earlier (about the letter involving coworker affairs and the vindictive jilted lover) by saying the OP is ‘a female who is friends with the person involved with the male coworker’. Not because I wanted to dehumanize the OP, but because ‘female’ and ‘male’ sounded better to me with their parallelism … and then I went back and changed it to ‘woman’ because I want in the mood for hearing that I was harming the perception of women in the office or something.

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  What concerns me here is what if you had missed that discussion?

                  I don’t get to read everything that is posted here. I am sure many others do, inevitably someone is going to misstep.

                  I had a woman boss call me the c-word. Sticks and stones and all that. But I wondered if it was a gateway for worse comments. So I nipped it- on the spot. She came back and apologized later. She was amazed that I said “thank you”. But that is part of adult behavior. The two go hand-in-hand. Yes, speak up, but be prepared for an apology and let it go.

                  My opinion of the boss actually went UP because of how she handled things directly.

          3. Contessa*

            Jen (and Anonymous and Jamie), this is exactly what I meant. The end effect, as Jamie pointed out, is chilling comments in general. If XYZ thing that I wrote caused such a firestorm even though I thought it was innocuous, I will be leery of posting seemingly innocuous things in the future–because what if it’s not REALLY as innocuous as I think it is, and I get attacked again? (I’m speaking in general terms, I have not been personally attacked on this blog for the use of a word in a post on another topic).

            I have deleted comments because of the fear that someone could take something the wrong way and decide I was being offensive (I did this several times in the costume thread, actually. I ended up saying nothing, but I must have written about a full page of comment text throughout the day as I tried to re-word and re-word so that no one could possibly find a way to call me a racist because I think kimonos are pretty).

        2. Anonalicious*

          That’s the thing about oppressive/offensive language, it’s not about intent. You can not intend to offend someone all you want, but the fact that they are offended when they read what you wrote doesn’t make what you said not offensive.

          1. Jamie*

            And I think this exchange illustrates the point Alison is making – it’s so easy to get lost in the back and forth on what’s offensive.

            We can’t sit as arbiters of every thing everyone else says – because then all conversations will devolve into policing each other’s wording as the topic is left in the dust.

            I’m guilty of chiming in on these as well – and will make it a point to keep my fingers afk going forward. But honestly it is hard when, at times, I see someone with whom I agree (on this issue usually Jen) getting vilified or tarred with a brush I feel is unfair. So the impulse is there to jump in and lend a supportive pov.

            Sure – just because someone didn’t intend offense doesn’t mean something wasn’t offensive…but the flip side of that is just because someone is offended didn’t mean what was said was offensive.

            We all have different lines on this and I think Alison is 100% right in addressing this.

            1. NylaW*

              Maybe we need to limit the comments on such things and say once someone has pointed it out, everyone else let it go. For me it can be really hard not to speak up when I come across something that hits me, in a very personal way, as offensive.

              1. NylaW*

                This is of course unless the topic of the letter and discussion is actually about something that is racist/sexist/homophobic/otherwise offensive. In those cases I think it’s fine to talk about it in more detail because it’s more central to what’s going on with the letter writer.

              2. businesslady*

                yeah, I think the issue here is that if it’s just an FYI, there’s no need for everyone to weigh in on the history of the term in question & their own personal experiences with it–& if it’s something that’s more complicated (I’m thinking about the fascinating, but decidedly heated, debate that arose around cultural sensitivity and Halloween costumes) it’s not necessarily productive for the various different camps to continue hashing it out in the thread of an otherwise unrelated post.

                I absolutely think we should continue to call out potentially problematic language if & when it arises. but once it totally derails the discussion (or just becomes an endless echo chamber of “well I don’t think so” “well I do” ad nauseum) it’s hard to say that’s doing any real good.

                1. Jamie*

                  From a practical perspective I’m not sure how that works, though.

                  To use a totally hyperbolic example say I find the use of the term FYI offensive. So I make one civil post about how FYI is problematic because XYZ.

                  It would be really hard to let that just stand there as if it were fact when it’s my opinion.

                  So someone else chimes in saying it’s not offensive and there we go.

                  I do understand the thought to just put it out there as an FYI – but if the practice is to not challenge that then it’s letting information stand as fact when it’s not…which would be weird.

                  If I posted that exempt people need to be paid for OT and you could dock their pay people would (rightfully) be all over me correcting that so others don’t read it and spread my misinformation. So having a side topic where assertions can be made without challenge will be an issue on a blog with a lot of logic based people – especially the owner. Do you let it stand uncontested without debate as if it’s a universally accepted truth? Not helpful for a place people come to learn stuff. Or do you allow debate which derails everything?

                  It’s a complicated issue. As a society we agree on many words that fall into the offensive category – those aren’t up for debate. But outside of that category (and we know what they are – we’d risk our jobs for using them at work) there isn’t consensus on what is and isn’t offensive.

                  As long as there is such division on what is problematic or offensive I would think the only way you could do the FYI thing is to make sure they are all worded in such a way to indicate that some people find X offensive and not state it as if it’s a fact. That is a lot of language policing for someone.

                2. KellyK*

                  Jamie, that’s a really good point about not letting misinformation go unchallenged. I think it’s a little different with language and offensiveness because that’s a topic that’s inherently opinion-based. It’s not like employment law where X is either legal or it’s not.

                  In most cases, if a term isn’t so obviously offensive as to be unrepeatable in polite company, it’s pretty apparent that whether it’s offensive or not is a matter of opinion. Obviously, the person who used it thought it was fine.

                  My general thought would be that if it’s okay to say “by the way, a lot of people consider ‘chocolate teapot’ to be offensive because XYZ, and the preferred term is ‘cocoa kettle'” then it’s okay to say, “Wait, are you sure about that? My sister makes chocolate teapots, and that’s what she calls them. I’m pretty sure she’s said ‘cocoa kettle’ sounds silly to her.”

                  I think it’s once you get *past* a single “This is a problem.”; “No it’s not” that it turns into an unproductive sidetrack.

                3. businesslady*

                  I take your point , Jamie, & I think KellyK said it better than I did. once a disagreement arises on the issue of language-appropriateness, it’s highly unlikely that it’s going to be anything other than a stalemate–so however justified & impassioned the participants are, it needs to end as soon as it’s clear that we’re at an impasse. like, maybe there’s been a few times in history where someone’s said “& then, after their 15th repetitive comment, they convinced me” but you’re probably not going to change anyone’s mind in a forum like this.

                  (this is clearly your cue to disagree with what I just wrote so that we can turn this into a meta-derail. :) )

                4. Jamie*

                  Ha – no I was going to agree with your premise that regardless of right or wrong very few, if any, change opinion because someone else has more stamina for the argument.

                  It’s like being told to relax. In the history of the world has any angry person ever calmed down upon being told to relax? :)

                  As a society we have to start retiring the stuff that just doesn’t work!

                5. KayDay*

                  “& then, after their 15th repetitive comment, they convinced me”
                  literally* lol’ed at this.

                  *and I mean literal in the literal not figurative sense.

                6. businesslady*

                  oh my god, the other day I got a massage for the first time ever (some nice people gave me a spa gift certificate) & at one point the therapist leaned down & whispered in my ear “try to relax.” her job immediately became a million times harder in that moment. (also–I thought I *was* relaxed! I just have a lot of tension in my back, okay?!)

                  see also: “calm down.”

          2. fposte*

            I’ll differ slightly on that too, though. I totally agree with the old “intent isn’t magic,” but it’s also not completely irrelevant. I also think that there’s a tendency to want to immediately conflate intent with use without considering context, and that’s unsupportably reductive–it depends on our all sharing the same context.

  23. JenTheNiceHRGirl*

    There was a situation on here a few months back that really bothered me and made me think twice about commenting. Someone had made a comment and it wasn’t rude or mean, but apparently what she said ticked someone off. That person went on a rant about how horrible the original commenter was and was way far off base on many of the facts. Then others started piggybacking onto the rant and everyone just started slamming the original commenter. It was crazy and I have never seen anything like it on here before. The original comment wasn’t even bad. You would have thought that the commenter said she likes kicking puppies or something. I like AAMs reminder that we all need to be professional and respectful even when we don’t like someone’s opinion.

    1. Trixie*

      One of my favorite mountain biking events in Arizona kicks off the festivities of a reminder to Be Nice. Hard core road warriors but they take the warning to heart and its good to see in action because it just makes the event all that more fun for everyone.

    2. some1*

      I felt that way in the threads about the LWs who were felt ill about smelling cigarette smoke on coworkers. I commented because I felt like I offered a unique perspective as someone who smokes and I felt attacked for it.

      The consensus of the internet at large is that smokers are all glassbowls who deserve derision and this blog isn’t an exception based on my experience.

      1. Jen RO*

        Coming from a country where smoking is very socially accepted, that thread had me going ‘wow’.

        1. Arbynka*

          You know, it is really weird back in CZ. Smoking is not as socially accepted as it was before but so many people still smoke. I am always very surprised how many young people smoke there now days. It seems like “my” and older generations are or did quit but looks like they are failing miserably from stopping the younger generation from smoking. And by younger I mean the high school kids and older.

          1. Jen in RO*

            Honestly I wish less people smoked here too.
            1. I would have no reason to smoke myself (I’m a social smoker)
            2. I could go out and not smell like a chimney when I come home.

            I think my biggest shock was learning that in some places the smoking break is *not* the best way to meet your coworkers! I bought an e-cig with no nicotine just so I could keep socializing :)

      2. TL*

        Ack, I definitely played a part in that.

        To be fair, I’m much more likely to engage if it’s a regular commenter and whose opinions I can respect – like fposte or you or Jamie or BCW – because I feel like it’s worth engaging, in that I may learn to understand a different point of view.

        But I think that can make it more difficult if it’s something you feel passionately about already.

        1. some1*

          Your comments weren’t even disrespectful, even though we weren’t in agreement. I was thinking of the people who commented and no relevant points or solutions just, ‘Smoking is gross.”

          1. TL*

            Oh, thanks. I was worried I got a bit out of line with that discussion. I did learn a lot, though, so thanks for being willing to talk.

            I didn’t realize there were so many of those comments – I tend to roll over them and not really even notice them – but they’ve never been directed at me.

      3. Hooptie*

        That thread was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me, in a good way. I was dithering about quitting smoking and once I read those comments that was all it took for me to get the Chantix prescription. But at the time, I was also very uncomfortable because as a smoker I tried to always be very considerate of non-smokers.

      4. LPBB*

        I’ve never smoked in my life, but so many of my loved ones do. In fact, my boyfriend has been trying to quit for years and keeps relapsing. I’m so sympathetic to people who smoke responsibly (i.e. respectful of non-smokers, being downwind, etc), but the internet is so vehement that people who smoke are actively trying to kill everyone around them that I hesitate to speak up.

      5. JenTheNiceHRGirl*

        Yeah, I remember that one …. some commenters can forget that there is a real person behind the screen name. Everyone has a different view and that is what makes this blog and the comments so interesting and entertaining.

    3. Jax*

      I got a pile-on for admitting that I stayed home because of snow. A few commenters made it their personal mission to point out all the ways I could have made it into work, and it turned into a ridiculous back and forth that served no purpose. I think those pointless “dog tugging on a chew toy” arguments are what drag AAM down.

      Anon: “I love to pack leftovers for work!”
      Jane: “Leftovers stink up the office!”
      Anon: “Leftovers fit my budget.”
      Jane: “So does salad. And it doesn’t stink.”

      You know where it goes from there.

      1. BCW*

        Is anon a protected class? I kid, I kid. But yeah, those type of things happen WAY too often

      2. fposte*

        Hmm, yes. I’m definitely prone to being the dog with a bone myself, so I understand the impulse. I think it can help to remember that that this is an airing of views and not a pleading of them–there’s no case to win here.

        I also like the cunning old Usenet dictum that the winner of a flame war–change here to “an exchange”–is the person who gets the *second* to last word. Sometimes when I’m really involved, it feels like the last word has a bonus score attached, but there’s really no extra prize involved in convincing somebody that it’s not worth talking to me about this any more.

        1. Jamie*

          You just took me back in time to when I had to read arguments between strangers at a 2600 baud rate.

          This comment was a Tardis for me.

      3. Aunt Vixen*

        > all the ways I could have made it to work

        The creativity of the commentariat here is something that’s been driving me bananas lately. (And I may seem new, but like I said when I started commenting – long-time reader.) I think it reached its zenith with the non-funeral-attending co-worker, but it’s turning up in a lot of threads, the *reaching* for explanations with less and less connection to the evidence in the original question.

        1. Clerica D. McClerkykins*

          I agree, though I wouldn’t even mind the reaching so much (maybe a couple degrees less) if everyone got the same benefit of the doubt. But you have everyone rushing to defend the funeral skipper but then right around the same time telling the one OP with the interrupting coworkers all the different ways he must be driving them so crazy that they can’t stand the sound of his voice. And somehow it frequently ends up more acceptable to do something horrible than to be the one it was done to. :/

        2. LPBB*

          I came in too late to the thread about the employee with the flat tire to contribute, but good god almighty, there were some people who were determined to not accept the idea that sometimes shite happens and otherwise responsible people may not be able to be responsible that day.

    4. Jill of all trades*

      I don’t know if you’re talking about the same instance, but a couple of months ago I lost a huge amount of respect for a newer commenter because of the way they responded to someone whose comment was totally legitimate, not antagonistic, and just offered a different angle. Even when Alison came to the defense of the responder the new commenter didn’t back down and didn’t apologize for what she’d said (which actually was rude). The new commenter has stuck around but I read all of their comments now through that lens. I’ve never been one to comment all that often mainly because I arrive a bit late to the party, but if that post had been one of my first introductions to AAM I would have bailed out pretty quickly instead if being a reader for a couple of years now (I’m on PTO today and chilling which is why I have the bandwidth to post enough comments today to make up for 2 years of lurking ;)

      1. Anonymous*

        I’m curious why you feel the commenter should have backed down in the end. Whatever they felt wasn’t automatically wrong just because someone (even the blog owner) disagreed. I have more respect for someone who stands by what they said (aside from legitimately changing an opinion) than someone who just goes with the herd.

        Also, it’s possible they had more context about the particular commenter than you did; they might have lurked longer and seen a pattern with that person or had an encounter that you missed which changed things. A lot of what goes on…well, anywhere, not just here, depends on context.

        1. Jill of All Trades*

          The new commenter called the frequent and thoughtful contributor “troll” just because she didn’t like what was said. It was actually along the lines of “I don’t know who you are, but you must be a troll!”. It was rude to resort to name calling, regardless of the fact that the responder wasn’t actually a troll. And several people actually stepped up to defend the legitimacy of the comment and Alison stepped in particular for the responder herself as definitely not a troll.

          Along with the context was the admission that the new commenter was new to the blog and not a long time lurker, which is why she didn’t recognise the responder who was using an actual handle/user name that she’s used for quite some time.

          I’m not one to toss away my baseline level of respect for someone over nothing. She was rude, she resorted to name calling when she didn’t like what was said, and she dug in her heels about it.

  24. Kai*

    Thank you for the rule about not nit-picking grammar. It makes me crazy when someone makes a thoughtful, interesting comment and someone else comes by just to point out a typo.

    1. businesslady*


      :) I’m a huge pedant, & I’ll never be able to stop myself from correcting my OWN egregious typos (because I’m neurotic like that), but I completely agree that there’s no point in mentioning it to other people unless you’re legitimately confused about what they were trying to say–& even then you should be seeking clarification, not critiquing their prose.

  25. Sanonymous*

    I guess I’ll be the weird one here, but I love the language debates. Usually they are what keep me coming back to look for new comments. This is a particular draw when the questions are really, really simple, and don’t need any deep conversation.

    What pushes me away are the simple question/answers that turn into a huge debate far beyond the actual question. Those pile-ons are nutty. Occasionally entertaining, but nutty.

    Creamer supply->Who’s in charge of kitchen->sexism in workplace->sexism in general->no there isn’t->yes there is->this is just like “new issue”->wait that depends on county and so on. Sometimes it’s just about your coworker stealing your creamer! :-)

    1. BCW*

      Amen to that. Things that are so simple often quickly spiral into a sexism/racism debate and it gets ridiculous at times. Like you said, sometimes it really is just a simple question, without underlying themes of oppression

    2. A Bug!*

      I don’t necessarily like the language debates, but I do enjoy brief detours into language discussion when it’s something that’s not been beaten deeply into the ground already. I have learned things here I didn’t know before and am grateful for it. The problem is that the detours rarely end up being brief!

      I was disappointed to arrive at the “millennial” discussion after it had already become very heated, because I felt that there was something worthwhile to discuss, and for once the language discussion was actually completely on-topic. Alas.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I think it’s helpful to go back to the original post and re-read OPs question. There is a lot of scope creep- where the digressions have digressions. The discussion- although it might be interesting – does not really help OP that much because it is too far removed from the question.

      1. A Cita*

        Scope-creep: yes, that’s exactly it.

        I do like the language debates because I learn from them (I actually really appreciated the perspective on “thug”). But I do agree that it goes too far when people start using ad hominem attacks on certain posters or project sinister intent or willful ignorance on posters they disagree with, rather than just articulating their points on why they disagree with what was said.

  26. Malissa*

    At first I was afraid I my crankiness yesterday bleed into my commenting. ;) Setting something back 30 days for a lack of a signature…..frustrating!

    But I’ve noticed the snark sneaking up a bit, and for the most part I just scroll on past. But I do love that it’s being addressed. I’d hate for new people to think that was normal around here.

    1. Jamie*

      To piggyback on this with a weird aside a couple of years ago – long before this recent increase in crankiness…someone responded to one of my comments asking me if I was okay, because I was being cranky* and it wasn’t like me.

      It totally took me by surprise that 1. someone on a forum “knew” felt they knew my tone well enough to think something was off…and B. that they were totally right. I was having a really crappy day and it absolutely bled into a couple of comments.

      I’m still kind of both flummoxed and touched that someone I’ve never met outside of a comment box knew me well enough to read me. Kinda spooky – but it speaks to the fact that this is a little community of real people. Real people who will sometimes (oftentimes) disagree – even passionately. There have been some very passionately debated topics on here where stands were taken and it was done with civility and respect and well articulated arguments.

      Whether I agree with the premise being posited or not, I almost always learn something from an eloquent argument.

      Trouble happens when people forget the community part and treat everything like a stand alone comment.

      Drive-bys of opinion, if you will. Stopping long enough to toss and “idiot!” in a comment is like driving past a group of people talking and tossing a cup of soda at them. It’s more than rude – it’s disrupting.

      *(I feel I need to clarify – I was terse and cranky…I didn’t attack anyone. I don’t do that.)

      1. Arbynka*

        “We should move to England, the worse they have there are drive by arguments.”

        “There is Reginald, let’s get him” Car stops next to a guy.

        “Oooh, Reginald…. I disagree”

        Sorry, when you said drive by opinions that just got into my head. And well said, Jamie :)

          1. Arbynka*

            It is from Family Guy, the episode where Peter accidentally puts hit on Luis. Mob tries to shoot her and then Peter says :”we should move to England..” And they show the scene with drive by argument. That makes me laugh every time I think about it. I am going to check the Very British Twitter now.

          2. Iain Clarke (UK, no, SE, erm...)*

            That twitter link is now occupying my Swedish wife for ages – she keeps on saying how “you” they all are to me…

      2. LV*

        I somehow read “little community of real people” as “real community of little people” and that provoked some interesting mental images.

      3. Katie the Fed*

        I had the same thing happen here – someone called me out for being kind of harsh and I read it again and was like, huh, you’re right. I AM being kind of harsh and that’s out of character for me. (I think it was on workers at a nursing home who didn’t want to stay overnight in inclement weather).

  27. anon all the way*

    I’m mostly a lurker around here and have been for a long time. However, I’ve commented a few times. I think this advice is great, AAM. I think maybe it would be helpful too (although this is a lot of work) to consolidate some of the open thread Friday posts under topics. I appreciate those posts a lot because it’s a good place to hear a lot of different points of views. Maybe if there were sub-topics, someone could quickly scan through them and read the comments before adding something that may have already been said.

  28. Liane*

    Thanks for bringing this up, Alison. I feel for you & appreciate how you keep this place so polite and even fun. I volunteer as the Lead Moderator on a game/geeky website’s busy forums. It’s generally as polite as this one, but ever so often my Mod Staff and I have to deal with Trouble.
    And I have seen a lot more of the rude posts here than is usual. Every time I do, I have to tell myself to just go on to the next good post, because it’s almost reflex for me to hit a PM button and tell someone, politely & professionally, to cut it out *now!* unless they want the Site Owners to get involved & they are (cue Vader breathing) ” less merciful than I” lol
    But here, that’ s Alison’s job so I can just have a good time and learn something

  29. Keith Matthews*

    I’ve been using my real name–drat! Now I’ll have to come up with a pseudonickusername…hmmmm….

    I don’t want to use my website name, ’cause it will seem like a blatant, self-serving way to plug my site (tempting, though..ha!).

    Oh, WTH. I’ll just be “Rev,” from now on.

    Question: do you ever look @ our websites and judge us accordingly? I know it’s optional, but do you ever sneak a peek? Just wondering…

    1. Jen RO*

      I am not Alison, but I do look at the commenters’ sites or blogs. I am very curious by nature. I also admit that I like it when I can connect a regular commenter with a face/name/job via the LinkedIn group.

    2. The RO-Cat*

      I admit I almost always look at the websites / blogs linked in the handle. You never know what new things you can learn. And trying to put something material (as if a website is “material”) to dress a nickname is a little mind game I play with myself all the time.

    3. TL*

      I do if the person leaves an interesting enough comment. Or if their name is sufficiently intriguing. I think I spent a good hour digging around the golddigger’s site.

    4. hild*

      Definitely look at the links attached to the name. Mostly I just want to know what people look like and am intrigued by the blogs/sites people link to.

      1. Jamie*

        I went to golddiggers site to see her engagement garbage can and then read the rest of her blog. It’s awesome to see the people behind the comments.

        1. hild*

          I agree, which is why LinkedIn is kind of nice to match faces and names. Though, Jamie, you (and fposte) remain the ultimate mystery. However, at this point I think it would almost be strange to see people we haven’t already seen. Because I know we all have images in our minds of eachother. that would be a cool survey – to find out how the regular readers envision the regular commenters.

          1. Jill of all trades*

            I’ll say this: I didn’t realize that I had a certain amount of idea or expectation about how any of the commenters look until they voluntarily post something about their looks (hair length, hair color, height, etc) that rattles me because it is absolutely and completely different than what I built in my head. Every time. I’ll end up checking the name three times because there’s such a disturbance in the force.

          2. The RO-Cat*

            I went to the LinkedIn group, because I seemed to have a foggy memory about fposte and voila! there she is, in the very first discussion thread (you have to dig to the Earth core to find it, but it is there).

            Jamie… remains a mystery. A cute, pink-HK-pajama-wearing one, but mystery nonetheless.

  30. DrJulieSunny*

    Agreed agreed agreed. I would love to see required user names so that you can maintain the integrity that you’re aiming for in your incredibly helpful blog. A thought that just came in my head – can you add an option for other responders to “flag” or “report” a particular comment?
    Thank you, Alison!!!!

  31. Lili*

    Oh, I love this blog more and more (even if my Very Important Life-or-Death Question went unanswered, sigh…)

    oops, was I off-topic?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yet another reason for following Alison’s advice- time spent doing X or Y, means less time for folks who may not post as often, if at all.

  32. EngineerGirl*

    Thank you for posting this. I’ve really pulled back commenting lately because of the on line bullying on dissenting opinions. I’ve also seen demonizing of “the other” – that is assigning several negative attributes to a person because they espouse an opinion that someone doesn’t like. Ironically, I’m seeing this more from people with less work experience. Look – if someone with experience tells you that something is a certain way, they aren’t saying that it is OK. They are just telling you how it is and how to navigate it.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Yeah, many people get stuck on the “But it’s SO UNFAIR” train and that doesn’t really go anywhere. Something may be unfair, but it’s also reality and you have to deal with it as it is. We can talk all day about how unfair, unethical and evil something is, but at the end of the day it’s still there so discussion of how to handle/get around it is going to be more productive than anything else in my view.

    2. Sharm*

      I agree with you on this. To me, it comes down to pragmatism versus idealism. I feel like the whole point of this blog (or at least, one of Alison’s main goals) is to help people figure out their current situation, knowing we don’t live in a perfect world. So the self-righteous, “But it SHOULD be this way!” feels so useless to me. That’s not the world we live in! That’s not the point of the discussion!

      Anyway, I hear you. I have noticed you share similar opinions to me, and that they tend to be the minority view. And that’s tough around here, especially when it’s coming from a place of practical advice.

    3. Joey*

      I for one welcome your comments and a healthy debate. Even if we disagree its helpful to understand the rationale behind other perspectives.

      1. tcookson*

        “Even if we disagree its helpful to understand the rationale behind other perspectives.”

        This. I’ve been guilty of thinking that people who can’t just go with the flow have something wrong with them (too rigid, lack of imagination, etc.), but reading people’s comments here on why they feel that way about certain things has reminded me that others are shaped by their experiences and that their reactions are just as valid as mine; it also made me feel like kind of a heel for not getting that in the first place.

    4. EngineerGirl*

      I want to add that a lot of people seem to take offense so easily from certain words. I think that the take-offense-phenomena has to do with the internet and the ability to hang out with people that think like you. If everyone thinks like you then you won’t get offended. And you start to think that your opinion is correct because everyone you socialize with thinks like you. You never learn how to deal with differing opinions.
      In the old days you had to hang out with whatever group of people was available. That meant that you most likely spent time with people that were different from you and didn’t think like you. You couldn’t just leave if you didn’t get along because there was no where else to go – so you had to work it out. You also took offense less for the same reason – if you were easily offended you’d be fighting all the time with the only social group available.
      I’m seeing the let-it-go and work-it-out strategies less and less these days. Instead there is name calling, demonizing, and bullying.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I do think some of the hostility I’ve seen here recently is premised on an assumption that all good people agree on certain basics, which in fact all good people do not at this point agree on (even though I wish they did, in most/all of these cases), particularly in a group as varied as this one in terms of geography, politics, class, age, race, and other factors. And so then people get upset or irate that someone is taking issue with something that seems so abundantly obvious to them, when in fact it is not at all obvious to plenty of others.

        And particularly frustrating to me when observing this: As someone who comes from an activist background, I feel strongly that the way to win people over to your way of thinking is not to attack them. That’s far less effective than talking with them kindly and explaining how you see it, without implying that they’re a bad person for seeing it differently. And it drives me crazy when I see those conversations unfold the first way.

        1. EngineerGirl*

          And the other side of activism: Finding out the concerns/tripping points of the opposition so you can address those issues and win them over. But that takes lots of discussion. You won’t find out people’s concerns if they don’t trust you enough to divulge it. And attacking people never puts people in the trust zone.

        2. fposte*

          I also think the Internet overemphasizes speech. Obviously, I totally get why–we are what we say here, since we can’t really *do* anything. But it’s not like language (or any other single factor) is a core sample that neatly reveals the truth about who we entirely are–we’re each varied and changing and even self-contradictory. I think another drawback of forgetting the person behind the words is that it’s easy to forget that that person I’m disagreeing with may in practice be nicer than me, more generous than me, harder-working than me, more honest than me–that the point of disagreement isn’t actually a defining moment in the complex mosaic that is an individual human.

          1. A Cita*

            Right. Having only one modality of interaction extracts a singular aspect (how one communicates in [typically very quickly] written form in a very particular medium) of a complex individual, who is context driven and changes over time, and creates a false, homeostatic universe and representational artifact of that person. But people read and interpret those words from their entire, ever changing, contextual self. So perhaps it helps to read those words with this in mind.

        3. ChristineSW*

          I feel strongly that the way to win people over to your way of thinking is not to attack them. That’s far less effective than talking with them kindly and explaining how you see it, without implying that they’re a bad person for seeing it differently.

          OMG yes!!! In one of my LinkedIn groups last week (not the AAM one, no worries!), someone used a less-than-favorable phrase relating to people with disabilities, and one woman just JUMPED down the guy’s throat. And she’s a disability awareness advocate!! I’m all for using appropriate, respectful language, but I think some groups get so wound up sometimes.

      2. Jen in RO*

        This comment makes me understand… well, the Internet, so much better. I was calling it ‘hive mind’ but your explanation is spot on. One of the reasons I like the AAM comments section is the fact that there are dissenting opinions, and every time the discussion degenerates into the ‘language police’ I remember my brief forays into feminist sites and the hive mind feeling I get there – ‘you disagree? well then you’re either a troll or brainwashed by the patriarchy!’ (Maybe there are some communities that aren’t like that, but I haven’t found them.)

        1. Sharm*

          I’ve had to stop following on feminists on Twitter because I am so tired of this attitude you describe. I’m an immigrant feminist of color, and the people on “my side” drive me BONKERS lately. I need a break from them.

      3. Tinker*

        A lot of times people have ways that they speak among insiders — the way liberals speak about conservatives or conservatives speak about liberals when they think they’re in a homogenous group, as one of the more common examples. Except that often enough, especially on the Internet, they’re not, and they end up saying something that would be obviously offensive to say to someone’s face in person, accidentally to their face on the Internet.

        I think this is part of what caused the problem in the Millennial thread, for instance. There were some folks who seemed like they were more used to talking to their peers about “those Millennials” or to Millennials as junior employees from whom they expect deference, who then unexpectedly encountered fellow working adults — peers in this context — who are Millennials and felt offensively mischaracterized.

        1. A Cita*

          Yes, this is a very known social phenomenon. It’s part of the reason that celebrities get into so much trouble with Twitter. Btw, I always enjoy you’re very insightful comments here. I think you’re new-ish to the community, but whenever a skim the comments section, I always stop to read yours.

  33. Rayner*

    On the one hand, I get that this is AAM’s blog, and that she has to try to seem welcoming to new readers – and that many of the comments do venture down the road towards obsessively corrective.

    On the other hand, I dislike the fact that some of the biggest of the issues would be easily solved with layout changes, such as being able to collapse comment threads, creating usernames, comment titles (idk what to call them) etc without changing the content of the comments at all.

    Maybe it’s because I hang out in different places, with many many more comments, or maybe it’s because Alison wants to keep a tighter reign on things than other blog owners (and that’s her prerogative) but I feel like restricting commenters because they’re picking over language choice – which can be important – or discussing complex issues that can’t be just solved in three or four comments is a bit… idk. Off. Doesn’t sit too comfortably with me.

    Discussion is important, and people bring different perspectives here that give issues new voices. Bringing things like weight, or race, or sexism into the mix with all those different voices, and you’re bound to get passion, closely followed by irritation or frustration and that’s a part of the process.

    Perhaps it would help to cut things down more – instead of five q&as, aim for two batches of three, which will help slow the generation of comments and keep people moving instead of getting stuck.

    Either that or post more boring posts XD

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Layout changes cost significant time and money at this point, and don’t always go smoothly because they can affect other things that stop working. I have a wish list, but how many of those become reality is heavily dependent on those factors. I know it sounds simple to say “just make this layout change,” but it’s actually not simple at this point.

      I actually don’t think I keep a tight rein on commenting here at all. I’ve traditionally pretty hands-off about it. I’m sure you can find people with looser reins than I have, but I’d dispute that mine are particularly tight! And to the extent that I do step in, I think there’s a connection between that and the overall environment that we generally like here. (I’d be interested in hearing if others disagree with that though.)

      I agree that the issues you’ve named are important. The reality, though, is that lengthy side discussions about them, when happening regularly, can over time detract from the mission of the site, if people stop commenting, don’t start commenting, go away entirely, or drown out more germane discussions. And ultimately my priority is to protect the fundamental mission of what I’m here to do.

      1. Jax*

        I agree with Alison. Side discussions shouldn’t take over the entire conversation.

        An example is the debate over whether the term “thug” is racist. The letter writer was asking if her staff would respect her less after finding her tied up and robbed, but the comment thread went down a language rabbit hole. It’s annoying to readers who come here for work discussion to find themselves in the middle of that.

        1. Rayner*

          I have to say, I think I missed that one.

          Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm…. *waves hand* I can see both sides, and I wouldn’t like to see productive discussion stifled – not that I think Alison would do that on purpose, if at all – but on the other hand, that kind of commenting can get out of hand. As it apparently did.

        2. De Minimis*

          I participated in that one, but really wish I hadn’t. That was one of the first things I thought of when Alison posted this.

      2. Candy Floss*

        “I actually don’t think I keep a tight rein on commenting here at all. I’ve traditionally pretty hands-off about it. ”

        I’m not sure what you are comparing this site to, but in terms of the internet as a whole, this place is rigid (that is not a criticism – it’s a statement of fact, exhibit A: YouTube comments!). And compared to say, the Gawker group of sites, also pretty controlled as far as comment guidelines.

        Again, I am not saying that is a bad thing, just found your remark surprising given how insane online comment sections are known to be. You ever want to scare yourself, go look at the comments on Yahoo News stories..oy!

        My main issue with posting isn’t the guidelines, I think they are fine, I just find the number of comments generated to be really daunting to get thru. I know it’s a good thing for you that people are engaged and active, but it does make it hard for those who can’t visit that often to really participate in the comments section.

        for a comment section to have any usefulness, someone needs to take a firm hand because the internet has proven millions of times over that comments, boards, what have you will devolve pretty quickly without that.

        1. Jamie*

          When I think of rigid I think of TWOP or those places where all posts go into moderation before posting.

          I think Alison runs this place like the proctor in HS study hall. She doesn’t micromanage what everyone says and does…but if people get disruptive and annoy others she’s there to take care of it.

          She’s not handslappy at all…nor does she tolerate pearl clutching…which is awesome, but on the other side she doesn’t let people poop on the carpet. There is a reason you don’t see people like us en masse in the youtube comment section. Or running amok on the dark side of 4chan.

      3. Rayner*

        Swear to God, I read that as German discussions. Wondered why you wanted to encourage that.

        And *waves hand* Can totally see why you want to control that, considering your blog is not a social issues blog per se. It’s an employment/management/related areas blog so you have to keep it on that focus.

        Your new rules are tighter than most I’ve experienced because they monitor content beyond “No slurs, no trawling personal journals/websites for troll material, and no spam.” Tighter, but not mega restrictive, imo. But that’s totally your prerogative to choose to introduce them in a way to maintain your blog’s focus.

        And I didn’t know layout changes cost money. Time to promote your book again XD

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Layout changes only cost money because I don’t have the technical expertise to do it myself or the time at this point; the set-up we have now (to accommodate this level of traffic, interaction, etc.) is more complicated than an out-of-the-box WordPress blog. (I think that might be the part people don’t realize; that’s why it’s not as easy as it can be to implement some changes on a smaller site.)

          Anyway, to be clear, these aren’t new rules, per se. They’re requests from me of how I’d like people to approach commenting here (as well as a framing so you understand why I might step in more quickly in the future).

          1. Rayner*

            Mmm, that’s what threw me about the ‘no layout changes because they cost’. Most wordpress blogs I visit are free so changes happen often.

            And guidelines then. “Constructive Guidance to Effective Commenting” :D

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              (Well, I’m not saying no layout changes. I’m just saying they’re often not easy or free, and it’s helpful for people to be aware of that.)

              1. Not So NewReader*

                The collective knowledge of the posters here is staggering.
                I wonder if we have some that would help you for free when you are ready. I understand that there are more costs than labor- so free labor does not fix everything.

                Tapping the collective genius of the group intrigues me.

                I am not much of a techie but if I were I would volunteer my time. This is worthwhile and helpful to so many people.

            2. Jen in RO*

              You can do some things for free on WordPress, but some (most?) of Alison’s needs require custom development, since the functionality is not available in WP or a plugin.

              1. Rayner*

                Yeah, I get that now.

                If they happen, it’ll take time, and Alison will need to do it on her own budget, rather than anything else, because it’ll cost.

                Before I wasn’t aware. Now I am.

                1. Jen RO*

                  Didn’t mean to pile on :) I think that most people haven’t worked with WP before, and I have, so I sometimes feel this urge of sharing my infinite wisdom… (My own attempts at customizing WP usually fail miserably.)

      4. Windchime*

        I also agree. Side discussions are fun (until they turn mean), but the focus of the site is career-related and should remain that way as long as that’s Alison’s focus.

        There is another site that I sometimes read just for fun. I’ve seen it mentioned here so I know some of you also read there. The comments section is almost always totally unrelated to the blog content. The post will be “Hey, here is a good deal on a work-appropriate thing to wear”, but the first comment will be, “Can anyone give me an idea of where to stay when I visit Tuscany?”. It’s almost bizarre, how the comments are totally unrelated to the content. I would hate to see that happen here.

    2. Joey*

      You may disagree but I don’t come to this site to read comments about grammar or people’s word choices.

      1. Rayner*

        Neither do I, but I find that I learn when people explain things about words or construction of sentences. I don’t come here to learn about employment law in California because everything is different in California but I learn that too. I don’t come here to learn how to please an IT personage a la Jaime, but she’s taught me to bring food and never to pretend it was the computer that did it.

        Come here for the employment advice, go away with that plus a brainful of info on other stuff too, that’s been my experience here.

        1. Joey*

          I wish I had the time to do that. Unfortunately most of the time I only have at most a few minutes at a time to spend here and the topic at hand is what I’m trying to cram in.

          1. Clerica D. McClerkykins*

            Lmao, awesome reference to the are-you-as-busy-as-you-think-you-are post! XD

        2. tcookson*

          Yes, learning that the IT tech can see through my claims that the computer hates me has been invaluable. And has probably saved me from further embarrassing myself.

  34. Meg Murry*

    I would agree with others also that some of the “piling on” effect is coming from the volume of comments – if I’ve already scrolled through what seem like a lot of comments, I’m not necessarily going to keep reading all the way to the end before I add a comment to a thread – because I probably won’t be able to find my way easily back to that spot. I agree with others that due to the volume of comments you have now, 5 questions in one thread is too much – 2 or 3 is probably enough – possibly split the 5 questions and answers thread into 2 separate threads?

    1. James M*

      +1. Although going further, I think Alison has a good idea of which Q&As are likely to evoke the most discussion. Simply having a maximum of one such per thread would probably be effective.

    2. Clerica D. McClerkykins*

      I’ve always felt like responding to an existing comment is different than reading the question and immediately sailing in with a new comment without checking to see if it’ll be redundant…or, similarly, skimming a few comments here and there down the page and then scrambling to add one that says the same exact thing but starting with “Yeah.” If I were an OP and saw a small handful of threads that disagreed with me, it would feel less like dogpiling than “original” comments over and over that all followed the leader.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Reducing the questions would also take some load off Alison which has been a concern of mine for a while. I favor any idea that keeps Alison from burning out!

  35. The Other Dawn*

    Even though I have my user name and I’m a woman, I personally like “Mr. No Name.” That’s what we used to call one of my cats. We adopted him from a local rescue and they didn’t know his name, so they wrote on his name tag, “Help! Get me out of here!” His owner died and no one wanted the cat so they dropped him off with no name, no vet papers, nothing. So we dubbed him Mr. No Name, which eventually became Oscar.

    The other one I like is “Rotten, with no emotions.” I used to be a teller manager and that’s what my tellers called me. With affection, of course. It just refers to my matter-of-fact manner and the fact that I would tell them to take an aspirin if they complained of a headache, go to the doctor if they’re complaining about recurring pain, etc. DIBS on this one, just in case I ever want to use it. ;)

  36. James M*

    Please pick a user name. It’s hard to keep track of multiple Anonymouses in conversation.

    It’s “anonymice“, FYI…

    … sorry, couldn’t resist!

  37. Who Are You?*

    As a newer reader of your blog, I have found that in the last several weeks the tone of the comments section has become quite unpleasant. Personally I find having to tiptoe around conversation in order to avoid being referred to as troll or being ripped apart verbally for defending a unpopular thought has kept me from commenting as often as I would like. Additionally I came very close to not coming back to this blog at all after the whole mothers who work vs. the stay at home moms debate that went on in the comments section of the “busy” article. Comments like the ones listed there yesterday are the reason I no longer visit parenting websites and blogs and it was very upsetting to me that an article about being busy at WORK suddenly turned into something ugly about parenting choices.

    I think everyone needs to remember that comments left here are like email. It’s difficult to clearly interpret tone and intentions without hearing inflection. Keeping that in mind (in addition to the invitation of an imaginary child to the conversation–love that btw MentalEngineer!) the tone should change soon! :)

  38. Grey*

    The only thing that annoys me about the comments are all of the “+1s”. It’s the modern equivalent to posting “me too”. It’s pointless and adds nothing to the conversation.

      1. Jamie*

        I agree – it’s a fine line but they do have the value of showing wider agreement than just the person making the comment. It’s like casting a vote in an opinion poll.

        I know why some don’t like them – but there’s logic behind doing it. Besides, those who want to subscribe to the comments in email have to post something to do so.

        1. KayDay*

          I have mixed feelings on them….I can’t be the only person around here who has gotten so used to “liking” smart/funny/witty comments that it seems almost weird to really appreciate something someone wrote and not virtually high-five them for it. It also makes me feel good when people +1 me. But, because they are really unnecessary and they take up space on an already crowded comment section I’ve stopped doing that.

            1. Nina*

              I can see the issue with +1, but I’m not crazy about upvoting because I’ve seen threads devolve into popularity contests over who can get the most upvotes. Or, the comments with the most upvotes tend to be the only ones read and the rest of the comments are ignored.

              1. Jen RO*

                I really think that this community will self-regulate (and I would only lobby for an “up” button, not a “down” one). I’ve seen it done well on some blogs – admittedly, with much less comments.

          1. ChristineSW*

            I’m mixed about that too. I’m guilty of doing +1 or similar posts, but I try to reserve those for posts that I absolutely resonate with. I can see how it can be annoying though when there’s already several hundred comments.

    1. Grey*

      +1s are the the main reason I don’t subscribe to any of the posts. I don’t wish to receive an email every time someone nods their head in agreement. It can be frustrating to open an email and follow the link only to discover there’s nothing there to read.

      If you agree with someone, why not take a minute to tell us why?

    2. Rayner*

      If people agree with someone or they’ve made a fantastic comment that can’t be improved upon, +1 is a good way to signal your approval without repeating yourself.

      I like them. It shows people are reading and agreeing, or find a comment worthwhile.

  39. The RO-Cat*

    OK, gravatar added… this is just a test (sorry to add useless comments, but I know no other way to check).

      1. hild*

        Is that a fish? I thought that at first, but I think it’s the Romanian flag in the country’s silhouette? I don’t say this to make you feel bad because I was staring at that for a while, but I think it’s Romania based on my comment right below.

        1. Jamie*

          Without my glasses on it’s a fish.

          I see now I was wrong – but it will always be a fish to me now. :)

          Today I’ve set up 5 new workstations and 12 upgrades of Office while supervising a naughty data migration…clearly my vision has been damaged by an excess of progress bars.

          1. hildi*

            I only caught it because I thought it was CatB and he’s from Romania. I still think of ThursdaysGeek gravatar as a palm tree. Took me a long time to realize it’s a spider and all I see is a palm tree. :)

            1. Jamie*

              It was a palm tree to me when I printed one of her posts and hung it on my fridge. Then I realized it was a spider – yummy.

              1. KJR*

                Oh nooooo….it IS a spider?? All this time I had talked myself into thinking it wasn’t, although I couldn’t quite place what it was. Severely phobic over here! I think I will keep pretending it’s not.

          2. Jen in RO*

            When I was a kid, we had a patriotic story in the textbook about the shape of Romania. Supposedly it looks like a bouquet of flowers, with the red part being the stem (dipped in the Black Sea) and the yellow and blue (plains and mountains) being the flowers. Even at 7 years old I thought it was bullshit.

    1. hild*

      Did you used to go by a different name around here? You don’t have to say it if you are trying to leave the old handle behind, but I now I am convinced you are who I think you are. Have we visited on the linked in group and are in the same industry?

      1. The RO-Cat*

        I smiled at Jamie’s “fish” remark :-D It’s Romania dressed in national colors.

        Yes, I tinkered with my handle a bit (the initial CatB went to the sewers when another – or more – Cat, Kat and various other handles appeared). Not really to leave it behind, just trying to make it more… personal, I guess. That’s me allright! [waves hands frantically]

        1. hildi*

          I’m slowly altering mine, too. Just wanted to check that it was you – it’s nice to have the continuity with people!

  40. nyxalinth*

    I accused someone here of trolling once, because I thought they were being a bit mean and victim blaming in their comments. Also, I was having a bad day. Normally, I do understand the real difference between being a troll and saying things with which I disagree or seeming a bit mean IMO. No more of that from me. If I can’t word how something struck me properly, I’ll pass in silence.

    The language thing: I’m usually pretty easy-going about it, but if it is coming from someone I really don’t like or they’re being a nickname for Richard, I can’t resist sayings something sassy. Like if someone says “Their too stupid…” I will say “Their WHAT is too stupid?” I usually try to be nice and let it slide, though!

    1. hildi*

      “If I can’t word how something struck me properly, I’ll pass in silence.”

      I think that’s a really good rule of thumb and I’m going to remember that in my personal communications, too. If I can’t articulate my thought process, then I need to pass or go away and formulate my thoughts better (so said by someone that usually makes overly long comments here).

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I think sometimes a lot of people fall silent.

        I wonder if we can do more to help by doing redirects- “Oh, good point, but let’s get back on track here.”

  41. DaydreamBeliever or WorkingAsDesigned?*

    It’s time for a more unique anonymous username.

    Now taking votes on either DaydreamBeliever (dreams are awesome!), or WorkingAsDesigned (a nod both to my industry and to Hello Kitty Jamie).

    Cast your vote! :-)

    1. Jamie*

      Need you ask? I love the Monkees but WorkingAsDesigned is I wish I’d thought of it perfect!

  42. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

    I’ve linked a few times to a blog post by Ariel (who runs Offbeat Bride) about how her biggest mistake was creating the Offbeat Bride Tribe (a forum for readers who are actively planning weddings). It just sucked up too much of her time and resources, and she hasn’t been able to monetize it.

    It occurs to me that although you haven’t intentionally created a forum system, given the active nature of your comment section, you’ve accidentally ended up with something similar that’s sucking up too much of your time and attention. I don’t know if Ariel has any advice on this, but she runs a meta-blog about the workings of her business (the “Offbeat Empire”). It’s possible a search of her archives might turn up some useful community management ideas.

    Here’s a link:

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        No problem! I stopped reading Offbeat Bride years ago (after I got married), and when I switched RSS feeders I never re-added Offbeat Home… but I love the “peek behind the curtain” aspect of the meta-blog.

  43. One Last Anon*

    First, I promise I’ll have a user name next time. I am so glad you decided to address this. I haven’t been to this site in months prior to coming back about a week ago for some advice, specifically because of the increasing hostility, snarkiness, holier than thou attitudes, that while still in the minority, was on a noticeable uptake in the comments.

    1. MR*

      I just commented about this below, but what you said does get to the heart of what I am talking about. Well said.

    2. Trillian*

      Agreed. I’d added AAM to my block list on my usual browsers so I wouldn’t drop by for a quick break and come out with my mood on a downer. I’ve been in communities that have turned toxic with unrelenting language and attitude policing, splitting and pile-ons, and I could see it beginning to happen here. Ironically, the communities that seemed to be most vulnerable to this are the ones that are in sympathy with the underlying aims of social justice. The wretched hives of scum and villainy roll on untroubled.

  44. NEP*

    Thanks for this. The civil and constructive exchanges that are the norm here are so enjoyable and helpful. Great to put out these reminders to reinforce that.

  45. Kate*

    I don’t know if this is possible or not, but I would love a reply notification function that wasn’t for the thread overall, but for replies to your specific comment. I wasn’t sure which one the box below did and I clicked it last week and 400 emails later I won’t do that again.

    1. Jill of all trades*

      I accidentally did that on this thread and ~95 emails later I discovered the manage subscriptions link that will let you unsubscribe and Stop The Madness in the inbox. Just putting that out there for anyone who’d never noticed that link and feels regret over that check box.

    2. A Cita*

      There was a discussion about this on the LinkedIn group and Allison did try to find a way to create the function, but alas, it couldn’t be done within the existing template.

  46. MR*

    I don’t have the time to read through the 400+ comments, but I did want to add my two cents, particularly when it comes to the third item.

    I’ve seen far too often that when someone has a dissenting opinion, that they get often get savagely attacked by the regular commenters. It’s quite disappointing and it would be nice if they were not so harshly criticized and sometimes chased right off the commenting section for speaking up.

    If this is truly a place where dissenting opinion/thoughts/comments are allowed, those that ‘flame’ are going to have to be called out for doing so.

    1. A Cita*

      Yes, I agree with this. We had a regular commenter here who often offered a great perspective, but who stopped commenting because of continual attacks and I was sorry to see them go.

      Also want to echo a couple of things (from this and from other, various ones in this section):
      – I often don’t have time to read through all the comments, and sometimes want to add a point. I imagine that’s true for a lot of people, so it’s going to happen that comments come in and only reiterate what others have said.
      – Side convos/tangents: I feel that way about them when they aren’t heated discussions on language/etc. For instance, the long tangential threads on girl scout cookies. Or the the posts about an annoying co-worker behavior that leads to a million comments with people telling stories about their own annoying co-worker or pet peeve, with no added advice on what they did to address it. But I get it; it’s a part of the community building here. But it means I’m more reluctant to read all comments, or even any comments when I see the comment section has 500+ posts.

      Those 2 can be fixed by collapsed comments, as suggested, but I know from writing website code off of WordPress, that it’s difficult to make major alterations like this without scrapping the whole thing and starting over. I just add these points so that folks can have more compassion about other folks who may comment without reading all of the others.

  47. Confused*

    I actually look forward to people who disagree with my comments arguing their pov, they may say something I hadn’t thought of. People are mostly respectful. But I’ve also had a few of my comments just picked apart by someone here and it’s made me reluctant to comment or reply.

  48. HannahS*

    Thanks for doing this! I’m another lurker…I sent in one short question a while ago that was answered in a Five Answer Friday (or something) and bookmarked this in my head as a place to ask questions while I enter the workforce–I read every post. But lately the side discussions with people making wild assumptions about the OPs really turned me off from writing in.
    I especially hate the comments that discuss the OPs personality, like, “The OP seems immature/petty/inconsiderate/not happy enough/etc.” because they don’t address the issue at hand and there’s no way for the OP to defend themselves. It seems like lately commenters have been taking OPs really personally, if that makes sense. As if the OPs are having problems AT them, instead of asking for advice.
    So I really appreciate you taking the tone of the comment section seriously!

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Yeah, I *really* agree with what you’re saying about the guesses commenters make about the OP. “You sound like a new grad” comes up allllll the time.

      1. Chris*

        Thank you for mentioning this- I wrote in before Christmas and did receive valuable advice on my problem, but the added commentary about how I seemed immature or new to the working force struck me hard. I think our desire to construct a complete personal profile around several paragraphs gets out of hand at times.

        And just to add in, some people inside the issue lose the ability to view the problem from the outside looking in (I know I do at times) and we shouldn’t be nitpicking them personally for it. Did I seem immature? Looking back, yes, I did. Was it the huge issue I thought it was? Not exactly, but I did lose sleep over it and stress, so for me in that moment it was the biggest problem I was facing.
        Sorry about the mini-rant, but after reading all the personal comments mixed in, I was really taken aback and embarrassed to bring my question here. Which is what shouldn’t be happening when people come looking for advice here.

        1. OP #5 PBK*

          Me too, Chris. In the first thread of comments about my question to AAM, the commenter didn’t fully read my question and made assumptions while answering in a condescending tone which was echoed throughout the thread. More people piled on, asking for details. I didn’t feel comfortable giving out any additional personal information when I felt attacked for what I had already shared.

          I was called “wildly out of touch” because I had a question about something that was new to me. I felt that I was being shamed for moving from a blue-collar job to a white-collar field. I didn’t respond to the comments in the posting because frankly I just wanted to get out of there. I didn’t feel welcomed into a community at all.

          I’m glad this is being addressed by AAM and that you commenting here are supportive of a more civil discourse. I may even begin to read the comments to future postings.

  49. Jean*

    Confession: I’m commenting without first reading all of the other comments (long day; exhausted).
    Comment: Alison, thank you for creating this vibrant online community and for your current efforts to keep it positive. I’d like to apologize for my various grouchy comments herein. In future I’ll take the trouble to post on a more elevated level. This is a good time to apply to cyberspace conversation the idea that “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

  50. Sharm*

    It’s interesting to me so many people don’t read all the comments before they post. I get that the threads are so big now, so it’s hard. As a newer poster (though longer time reader), I feel the obligation to read everything before I say my piece. Now, I usually don’t have much original to say, so it doesn’t matter, but I try to take in all that exists and add something different.

    It sounds like people don’t want a more TWOP-style policy, but I do think it would be nice if people took the time to read all the comments, at least at the time they’re posting, before putting in their two cents.

    Well, that’s my two cents, anyway.

    1. Jen RO*

      As an older poster, reading the entire thread is why I come here! I loooooove the comments.

  51. Charles*

    Thank you for doing something about those sub-threads that go off topic, I have to press page down more than 5 times in some responses before that sub-thread finishes, so I can read things on topic.

  52. Aussiegirl*

    Late to the party again (of course, different time zone), but wanted to show my user name. Sometimes I feel like I am the only reader from Australia! I’m sure there are others here – maybe……?

  53. Agile Phalanges*

    Testing a Gravatar. Also added my blog. I haven’t posted in forever, because I’ve been way behind the present time in reading, but now that I’m caught up, I’m hoping to post again once in a while.

Comments are closed.