Guides to Use and Posting of Comments (1/22/14)

To the Federal Tax Crimes Blog Readers:

I welcome comments on this blog.  I learn from them; readers of this blog learn from them.  So, I thought I would post some guidelines and information that will make readers use of the comments feature better.

  • Please Keep the Comments Relevant to the Blog Entry.
Most often, readers will be able to get to the comment only by first reading the blog entry.  If your comment is  not relevant to the blog entry, a number of readers may never read it.  I presume that you are posting the comment to have readers read the comment.  Hence, by posting the comment under the -- or at least a - relevant blog entry, you will have a better chance of getting the content of the comment to the largest audience.

In some cases, where the comment is wholly irrelevant, I may not approve the comment.  (See guide below on comment moderation.)  I give an example:  In 2011, I had posted a blog item on the criminal charge via information against Michael F. Schiavo.  The blog was titled A Botched Foreign Account Quiet Disclosure Draws Criminal Charges (5/19/11).  One reader posted a comment that was not related to this discussion but rather related to the administration of the 2011 OVDI.  I decided to moderate out that comment.  It was a good comment and asked a good question about the administration of the OVDI program. But it was not relevant to the topic of the particular blog entry to which the reader was trying to append the comment.  Readers concerned that their comments might be missed should keep in mind that recent comments are posted in the column at the right, even when the comments are made to older blog entries. 
  • Please Keep the Discussion Civil.
This is a blog intended to inform and engage through discussion.  

The discussion is not furthered by intemperate comments.  For the readers to whom this blog is targeted, intemperate comments will mask any value of the comments. I remind readers of Godwin's Law which deals with a subset of intemperate comments but also addressed the broader phenomenon of intemperate comments being counterproductive to discussion.  The Daily Writing Tips Blog has a good discussion of Godwin's Law, here.  Here are some excerpts of that discussion:
Mike Godwin is an American attorney and author who formulated “Godwin’s Law” in 1990 when he made the following assertion: 
As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches.
Whether or not the law means that the discussion is over once Nazis or Hitler is mentioned, the practical effect is that that is the case and readers then reject the views of the person who raised the subject of Nazis or Hitler.

So please, unless we are talking about killing people on a large scale for racial and ethnic reasons, let's avoid the Nazis and Hitler card.

And, on the broader subject, intemperate comments will rarely be received by readers in a favorable way.  Readers will pass negative judgement on the person making the intemperate comment and will not be persuaded or even particularly interested in what that person has to say.
  • Please Avoid Comments that Are Just Rants.
Rants and super-hyperbolic discussions rarely are read or appreciated by readers.  I realize that some hyperbole is involved in presenting arguments, but please avoid going over the top on hyperbole.  For the reasons noted above, overstating a case can be a turn off that rarely achieves the goal of persuasion.
  • The Comments Are Moderated.
I do moderate the comments.  I typically will not refuse to approve a comment so long as the comment is appropriate to the discussion and not immoderately intemperate.  In other words, I will approve moderately intemperate comments that are otherwise appropriate.  But keep in mind the discussion above that cautions the phenomenon that intemperate comments are counterproductive do discussion and persuasion.  If a reader posts a comment solely to rant without informing or persuading other readers, then the posting will be counterproductive.  If, however, the reader merely wants to use moderately intemperate hyperbole to make a point, depending upon context, it may or may not be rejected by other readers.
  • Use of Disqus as the Comment Engine.
For some time I have used a third party comment engine named Disqus because the Blogspot / Blogger blog provider's comment engine did not seem as robust as I liked for this blog.  Information on Disqus is at the web site Disqus.com (web site is here and the Wikipedia entry is here)
  • Posting Anonymous Comments.
Anonymous comments are formally not allowed by Disqus.  Disgus' alternative is to allow pseudonym commenting -- which requires both an email address and a user name which can be a pseudonym (note that it requires both items of information).  Disqus' empirical data shows that comments with pseudonyms are generally of higher quality that anonymous comments.  See, for example, this article here.  However, please read further, for I offer a workaround.

On the publicly accessed Federal Tax Crimes Blog, only the pseudonym for the user name appears.  So, for example, if you make your pseudonym "Catch Me If You Can," readers reviewing the blog will not be able to see the email address.  All they can see is the pseudonym "Catch Me If You Can."  Only I as the administrator can see the email address on the administration page of Disqus (i.e., it does not appear on the blog).  I encourage all readers needing or desiring anonymity to use this feature.  Those who want to be identified can give their names instead of a pseudonyms, but those who do not want to be identified can choose pseudonyms.  For each person desiring to post pseudonymically, please choose a unique pseudonym that you will use for all future comments because there is now a feature to see all comments by a commenter (at least from today forward).  You can be fanciful -- such as my "Catch Me If You Can" but make it unique and consistently use that pseudonym

Now, for those who do not want even me to see their real email address and want to post truly anonymously in a way that readers and I can't track back to you, just enter a false email address.  Try to enter one that you are pretty sure no else one has.  For example, you might choose one like the following email address:  182953NoFBAR@taxinnocents.com.  I doubt that anyone has that email address.  Entering such a false email address and a pseudonym for the user name will permit a reader to make anonymous comments.  So, to repeat after typing in your comment and hitting the "Post as" button, enter the following (keep in mind this is  only an example; choose your own fake email and pseudonym entries when you do it):

Your Email:  182953NoFBAR@taxinnocents.com
Your Name:  Catch Me If You Can

Your comment will be anonymous without traceability.  For an example, see the comments at the blog here.  For those tempted to use this work around for inappropriate comments, remember that I do moderate and will not approve improper comments.

Finally, I think it works best if you use the same fake email and the same pseudonym each time.  I think that is what is required to aggregate the comments under the pseudonym.

Here are a  few other observations about Disqus' comment features:
  1. Disqus allows nesting of the replies to comments.  
  2. The Disqus features make use of javascript.  I have not a clue what that is or what it might mean in the real world, but I presume it means that browsers should be capable of using javascript.