Spectrum's Updated Commenting Policy Goes Into Effect Monday

On Monday, August 10, Spectrum’s new commenting policy will go into effect. Like many online media outlets have done, we hope that by making specific changes to the way we invite comments below the articles on our website, we can balance free expression and civil discourse.

One of the changes that occurred some time ago was in the way we talk about our online presence. Spectrum has gone from a blog (short for “weblog,” which refers to an informal, regularly updated online journal) to a full-service news and analysis website. Spectrum isn’t a blog any longer, and so you’ll now hear us talk about the Spectrum Website instead.

Along with the move toward a more robust online presence has come the need for a more intentional policy that specifies what we ask and expect of readers who choose to comment. Spectrum’s Board members have deliberated for a very long time about how to best to invite reader response, and the following is what they have decided, in consultation with the Spectrum Web Team:

If you respond to this article, please:
Make sure your comments are germane to the topic; be concise in your reply; demonstrate respect for people and ideas whether you agree or disagree with them; and limit yourself to one comment per article, unless the author of the article directly engages you in further conversation. Comments that meet these criteria are welcome on the Spectrum Website. Comments that fail to meet these criteria will be removed.

Perhaps the most significant change is the request that commenters limit themselves to one comment per article. This gives readers the opportunity to share specific, thoughtful feedback to articles, and will hopefully minimize comment threads that stray off-topic or become exchanges of personal disagreement between commenters.

Authors are encouraged to respond to specific comments at their discretion, and if an author chooses to engage a commenter directly, a follow-up from the commenter is welcome.

The commenting platform that Spectrum uses, Discourse, has built in a unique feature that we will leverage to its full potential. Discourse calls it the Lounge, and it is a place for regular website commenters to talk with one another out of earshot, so to speak, of the general public. Spectrum’s Lounge (the name Discourse gave it) will be the place to which commenters who participate regularly on the website, and have gained a trust level 3 (again, Discourse’s designation) through their regular, positive participation, will have automatic access and the ability to dialogue at length with no limit to the number of their comments. The Lounge is only visible to registered users who have qualified for its use.

The commenters who have already qualified for the "Lounge" area will receive private messages with instructions on the use of the Lounge. Those who wish to engage one another in back-and-forth on any topic are asked to use the Lounge for that purpose.

We will observe a 30-day trial period for the updated commenting policy, after which Spectrum's Board, along with its Web Team, will assess the effectiveness of the changes.

We want Spectrum to be known as a place not only for smart analysis and independent, honest reporting, but also a place where civil discourse can thrive, and where all voices can have equal opportunity in discussions that our articles engender. Our updated commenting policy reflects that goal. We invite our readers and commenters to join with us in making that goal a reality. Thank you for your participation in Spectrum’s online community!


Jared Wright is Managing Editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7017

What is trust level 3?

(Look at your user profile - under permissions. You, for example, are currently at level 3. Most people who have been around for awhile get there based on some participatory criteria set by Discourse (which unfortunately I don’t know the details of) or the trust level can be explicitly set by anyone on the web team (including moderators) with sufficient admin privilege. - webEd)


I don’t have anything saying ‘permissions’ under profile. But thanks for the info.

(Maybe I can see that stuff because I have admin permission. I dunno. It’s hard to know what the regular user does or does not see as my account has these extra levels of admin privilege. - webEd)

I understand that. I have the same problem with my business.

I found out from the initial message on enrolment, the various levels. Mine says ‘regular’ (in 'Profile) which is level 3. There is one more level (4) which is designated as ‘leader’. ‘member is level 2.’


This sounds like a sensible policy that will help to balance the blog postings in favor of responses to the actual articles (applause to Spectrum administrators).


You folks might want to reconsider this criteria. You will miss the most important part of the conversation, the thought process involved in developing and formulating ideas. In the end, Spectrum could end up similar to advertisement slogans, one liners.

Besides, I failed the cutoff of “Lounge” membership. I’ll limit myself to my sofa instead. Thank you for sparing me. :laughing:


I think this is a good idea. There has to be some way to limit access to genuine comment,those whose motives ore not subversive. Jim Bussau

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Frankly, the change in policy leaves me feeling the same way I do in a number of churches. Unwelcome and unwanted.


“How do I know what I think until I see what I say?” wrote E.M. Forster. This is a great observation and the first step for writers who have something to say (all of us, I’m assuming). So: Figure out what you’re saying in a word processing program. Fix it. Then post. This will remove the snark element that has been growing quickly and, possibly, upgrade our writing, too.

“Thanks . . . . I needed that!”


I am wondering if there is not a easier way to kill a community than to make certain that they do not converse. There is no ‘conversation’ when one cannot clarify what may inadvertently be ambiguous. I can appreciate that the @webEd may want to curtail a bunch of meandering conversations, especially after this recent spate of puritanism, but taking conversations off to a contextless Lounge is not likely for even the most steadfast, especially when the most ambiguous are likely to qualify.

Trust God.


Hi Bill,
First, I’m sorry that the changes give you that feeling. The Spectrum staff and Board members have heard from a lot of readers over the span of several years now, actually, and the changes are in response to a lengthy process of listening to feedback, and an equally long process of deliberation.

Respectful dialogue and specific feedback to articles will continue to be welcome and wanted.

I think it would be very reasonable to entertain requests to be fast-tracked to “Trust Level 3” status (that is, a website moderator/administrator could manually grant that status).

For those who have not yet qualified, but would like to request fast-tracking in order to begin using the “Lounge” area right away, please send me a direct message through Discourse, or email me at wrightj@spectrummagazine.org. I will pass the request along to the team of moderators for consideration.


Completely agree with you, Elmer…that was the part that appealed to me the most. Most likely I won’t be participating much anymore which is a pity since I have enjoyed it the last few years or so. Oh, well…there’s an end to everything in life.


Remember, that might be true for all but not for a prophetess, which you are. Once a prophet, always a prophet.


It’s not just the “Puritanical” who are off-the-point posters or get pulled into person-, rather than topic-focused discussions. We have this lounge place where we can engage in whatever—we have plenty of opportunities to express our opinions that way. The kind of argument that devolves into personal commentary doesn’t help anyone. Besides, many of these opinions are based on faith, and, therefore, really can’t be argued—they can be shared and discussed. But the Protestant intellectual downfall is that, as a group, we tend to use reason to shore up faith. Faith without works is dead; faith without reason is faith: personal, immediate, a-rational by definition. But we keep arguing. I will be happy to read the opinions and insights proferred by other thinking people; one becomes weary of proof-texts and name-calling because no one learns anything, and some of us (including this writer) are prone to snap back with energy we could use better for more creative or helpful projects.

This is all good.


Good point, but…

It sure is interesting to discover how this faith is formulated, constructed, deconstructed and constructed again. This is the fun part, understanding the process of growth. Is an individual obstinate because of being fixated developmentally or has he achieved the level of perfection like the LGTers preach about?


Interesting social interaction experiment addressing a common problem with internet communication tools, and very necessary to further evolve this platform.

Due to the inherent punitive nature of Adventist institutional culture (natural characteristic of all social groups with strong elements of self-identification), this could be good to manage interactions in a more controlled manner plus allow thought leaders to have private threads for further conversation.

Though from my observations over the years, rarely have any of these “threads” resulted in modifications of the associated publicized opinions(more of an emotional release of angst). Private opinions an exception, by, well, at least one lurker for sure. But very likely there are others that are willing to be open to positional adjustments as further commentary “light?” is provided.

Still, one comment per thread does kill personal interactivity among posters on articles. Silver lining, however, this also means that much more intellectual capital should be invested in that one allotted comment, likely encouraging proactive consideration for alternative positions in the process. Plus, this should stop the human nature of trying to “win” what now becomes an “argument” vs. simple intellectual exploration of an issue. Glass half full.


It would be my hope that through the beginning of this process, that a better way can be found to have an open discourse, without exposing community members to risks of social and/or employment discrimination. That is a really, really tough nut to crack crossing all areas of society currently, and gaining exponential speed. High expectations.


Lastly… “effictiveness”…


When we moved over from Disqus commenting software to Discourse, the Board contemplated requiring that all commenters use their real names as opposed to pseudonyms, because many people hiding behind assumed names seem to feel much freer to leave vitriolic comments. But in part to address the very issue you raise, pseudonyms prevailed in the end. Tough nut indeed.

Also, thanks for catching my typo. I added that sentence after the article was already posted, and the web form lacks a built in spellchecker to catch the errors I make in haste.


LOL…my reputation is still intact :wink:


As I am new here, I only have a “member” level. I could not find a “Trust Level” rating for me. I did not see any mechanism described in the policy change whereby new folks acquire the “Trust Level 3” status.

I did see your special request option.

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On the other hand, there won’t be so many comments (that you can never get through), with each being a more concise representation of the author’s opinion since that is his only shot. It will make it more practical and interesting to browse through…