Last week, my friend janinsanfran, who blogs at Where is the Way Forward, left this comment:
”If you have the energy and the desire, I think your blog friends would greatly appreciate your writing about how you've managed to make this place an oasis of healthy interaction among your readers.
“So many internet spaces have turned out to be such disappointments, but here reading comments is part of the delight.”
Isn't that true, about how good the comments are on this blog. What I write wouldn't be half as interesting without the followup from TGB readers.
janinsanfran is right about how so many other places on the internet become impossible to read, filled with trash talk, personal attacks, generalized hatred, even pornography sometimes.
My first favorite forum for good online conversation, 25 or 30 years ago, succumbed to such trolls and had to be shut down. I vowed I would never let that happen to TGB and I've been successful. Here are some of my self-imposed rules to make that so.
No personal attacks against me or commenters. There are no second chances on this one and no prior notice. If a personal attack appears, I delete it as soon as I see it and I ban anything from that IP address from being posted in the future.
No advertising masquerading as a comment. This happens more than you would think. The message is structured to sort of look like a comment but it is always poorly done and there is always a link to something that is for sale (or pornography).As with personal attacks, I remove these as soon as I see them and ban the IP addresses forever. No prior notice, no explanation.
No links of any kind in comments. This sounds like a harsh rule but it saves readers and me an enormous amount of time and distraction. First, some are links to commercial products and services. This site accepts no advertising in any form including trying to slide retails sites past me as a comment.
For that and other reasons, it is necessary for me to check all links and there is not time for that in my world even before I was diagnosed with cancer. So I delete all links no matter who they are from, even if I know the person, because, in addition, any links suggest to others that they are allowed to be posted.
And, sorry, but most of you do not know how to do the html to make a proper link so if I allowed them I'd need to spend even more time untangling the html.
These three immutable rules have helped keep Time Goes By an attractive and comfortable place for anyone to hang out without fear of being attacked. Aside from the three rules, anyone is allowed to say whatever they want.
But there is more than just rules.
I always acknowledge sources of facts and information and link to them whenever possible whether they are research sites, media or from TGB readers who have supplied useful information. People can then make their own choice about whether to dig deeper into topics.
It has become part of wallpaper now, hardly noticeable, but many years ago, I made a deliberate decision to share something about my personal experience or observation when it is pertinent to whatever I am writing about.
Humans are uniquely designed to learn through storytelling – we've been doing it for millennia, passing on information and lore from our experiences to the next generations.
When I share something about me, it gives readers permission to do that too and together, every day, we build a rich compendium of stories to add to our knowledge.
Or sometimes, just to laugh with one another. That's important too.
One last thing, in ageing for all these years and now with end-of-life issues, I write about things that other people often don't - the everyday things I've noticed in my life or run across in my reading that don't seem to be part of general literature of growing old or dying.
The first big one that worried me when I posted it was urinary incontinence. I thought readers might run away in droves at such an icky subject. But no. So many people had their own stories and I realized from that experience that there were a lot of things that needed to be discussed in the open. And so it has been ever since.
Most recently, in my current predicament, I find that about 90 percent of the literature about dying that I've read over 15 years is by, for or about caregivers. I may have told you already that I have learned these past 18 months that caregivers of all kinds are different from me and most people I know.
They dedicate their lives to helping people often in the most dire circumstances of their lives and beyond caregivers' expertise, their kindness and love and care is almost beyond reason. They are special people.
But, as much as has been written about them – hundreds of books, thousands of articles and studies – very little is written for, by or about the person doing the dying. Maybe there is a handful.
And so, on that subject, I am trying to do what I've done in the past for the other ignored aspects of ageing. By my documenting one person's end-of-life journey, readers have been leaving many stories from their own and loved ones' end-of-life predicaments, and by that we are all enriched.
So janinsanfran, that's at least some of what I've tried to do to make this a safe and comfortable place for people to have their say and I think it has worked most of the time.