As of a few minutes ago, the cumulative hit count here on the site stood at 652,264 with just over 35,000 hits in the last month alone. Since the site first saw the light of day back in February 2007, there have been 6,791 comments posted here. I’m not providing these stats to make myself feel well but rather to underline the fact that what we’ve created here (and it really has been a collective effort – me sounding off on my own would just be some loon shouting into a void) is special and is undoubtedly unique in the GAA world.
The vast majority of comments posted here have been fine and the way that a community has grown up around here over the last few years is the most gratifying part of this whole project for me. This site has always been and will always be one of and for supporters of the Mayo football team and I’ve been truly humbled to see so many knowledgeable football people (many of whom, I readily confess, know a good deal more about the subject than I do) come on here and share their opinions on the ups and downs of following football within the county. Some of you have already crossed the floor and taken to the pulpit yourselves, a trend which I’d love to see develop more as time progresses. Following a team is a collective experience and this is as true in an online environment as it is in McHale Park.
The reason I’m saying all this is because of last night’s issue which concerned a comment posted about a player, which, because I no longer moderate each and every comment before it goes live (I could, and used to do this, but I switched that functionality off ages ago, in order to stimulate a more freewheeling and open debate), was up on the site for a short while before I spotted it and removed the offending part. I’m obviously not going to repeat what the comment was but I will say that it was an outrageous and utterly unsubstantiated slur concerning one of the lads who currently wears the Mayo jersey.
There have also been a few comments in recent weeks (including one yesterday) that have been aimed in a critical tone at other contributors. While lower down on the scale of unacceptable behaviour, this isn’t a trend I’m happy to see become established either. Somebody last night cautioned that this site was heading in the direction of the Hogan Stand forum, which I have to say would horrify me.
Keeping the flow of comments going is, I think, important and I’ve no wish to go back to the days when I scrolled through every comment before letting it go live on the site. I’m all for free speech and I’ve no problem with robust debate and robust language, providing it’s in the right context. But with free speech comes the responsibility not to abuse the facility and the comment in question from last night constituted a gross abuse.
Okay, enough of the preaching. What I think would be useful for me to do is to set down some house rules for providing comments on the site which apply from, like, now. These include:
- Comments should not be of a kind that are likely to provoke, attack or offend others;
- Comments should obviously not be of a kind that break the law or encourage law-breaking of any sort;
- Generalised comments about particular players should be avoided, e.g. “he was never any good”, “when did he last play well?” etc. When discussing a particular player, especially when critiquing a player’s performance, stick to specifics, e.g. “Player X is rubbish/no good/a big tub of lard” is out of order, “Player Y was bad the last day because he didn’t [add specifics]” is okay providing you’re expressing an opinion based on what you saw (or thought you saw) during a particular game, which others can, if they wish, challenge you on;
- When expressing a contrary view, don’t presume you know or invent any motivation for what the other person has said or make any inferences about their knowledge of the game, IQ etc. For example, phrases such as “only an eejit would say that”, “you must be saying that because …”, “you clearly know nothing about football” etc. etc are not acceptable.
- Bad language is perfectly fine, including the bad ‘f’ word, Mrs Doyle, but context is everything, e.g. “for fuck’s sake” is grand, “fuck you and fuck your mother” most certainly isn’t.
- Comments based on hearsay or rumour, in particular about supposed incidents involving individual players, are completely out of bounds and will not be tolerated under any circumstances.
- I reserve the right to add to or amend this list at any time at my absolute discretion.
That’s it. This isn’t a post I’ve particularly enjoyed doing but I feel strongly that what we have here is special and works for 99% of contributors 99% of the time so it needs to be preserved. With a bit of common sense all round, there’s no reason to believe why this cannot happen.