The Insider guide to commenting and the metered model

The Insider is one of The Post’s most vibrant, passionate and at times wacky online communities. We’re happy that it’s sprouted up here and remained over the years. Even though the names and faces change, the fact you show up 24-7-365 to jibba-jabba is a constant. It’s impressive, the online friendships created are real, and we’re aware that the community could carry on independent of The Post.

Clarifications are long overdue on both our policies on commenting and how the metered model (a.k.a. the paywall) works. Although intertwined in some ways, they’re two separate issues. Let’s deal with them both in one administrative post though, so we can get back to talking football.

Ah yes, talking football. That’s the intended essence of the blog and comments that follow, but sometimes the natural course of conversation takes us to the effectiveness of low-flow toilets, the best Italian restaurants in Boston’s North End, tornados in Oklahoma or Skinsfan713′s teenage son sneaking into an R-rated movie. It’s not our intent to limit that conversation, to box you in to only talking about safety help over the top or running backs’ blitz pickup. But it’s also not an anything-goes comments section.

Some places online, you’re free to say anything and everything, and that works for them. The Post, however, plays to a large audience. Hundreds and often thousands of people click on each blog post, even when the comments are merely in the dozens or low three digits. It might help to think of whatever you write in The Insider’s comments section as something broadcast to an auditorium full of strangers, not said to a few trusted friends in a locker room or on the golf course. Use the same filter you would in the auditorium.

Because we’ve got a wide audience, we’ve got a responsibility to make the comments a welcoming place for a diverse group of football fans with a range of opinions and thought processes. The goal isn’t to censor, but we employ moderators to keep the conversation from devolving into discussions that drive readers away.

The Post’s full, official and current discussion policy is here. It’s probably best you read the whole policy, so you know where the moderator’s do-not-cross lines are. But boiled down to bullet points, the five major violations are: Personal Attacks, Advertising/Spam, Hate Speech, Profanity/Obscenity and Impersonation.

Use common sense, steer clear of those and you generally won’t have a problem.

Criticizing or critiquing The Post, or public figures, is among the things that are allowed.

Earlier this spring, comments were frequently being pulled down by moderators. Replies to those comments are attached and come down along with the original. So a post in violation of the guidelines can ruin the fun for everyone.

If you have a comment pinged that you don’t believe violates any of the guidelines, e-mail comments@washpost.com and see if they can explain to you what happened. In some cases, posts are restored.

In May, we put our engagement team (which supervises comment moderation, separate from how editors here in sports supervise the content above) in touch with a half dozen regular users of The Insider. June has been much smoother sailing, and the gap between the guidelines the moderators enforce and those of you posting comments has closed.

Enforcing the discussion guidelines is mostly unrelated to The Post’s switch to a metered model, which is being phased in from June 12 to 26. Meters will reset at the beginning of July, so this month is a feeling out period for us as much as it is you. You’ve had a lot of questions, many I’ve answered at scattered times in the comments, and some I haven’t.

Bethonie Butler of the engagement team has put together the decisive Q&A on the paywall as it relates to frequent commenters. She answers all the questions I’ve seen except one — refreshed pages do not count as a click, a developer tells me. There are also links in Bethonie’s post to how other robust Post communities (The Fix, Achenblog, Plum Line and Wonkblog) are approaching the new era, and the publisher’s explanation of how the paywall will work. In a twist, those will each cost you one of your free metered clicks.

Surely you can see why the powers that be are ready to move away from giving away our product for free. Nobody here volunteers. We’d prefer that you subscribe (here’s the FAQ on digital subscriptions and on home delivery) and not have to worry about the meter, but there are also very deliberate loopholes left open for those who want to continue to enjoy The Post. We understand that to begin with, the metered model is part honor system, part experiment. I’m sure The Post will refine its process in time.

Enforcing the discussion guidelines and moving to the metered model might be enough to drive some regulars away. For those of you who can be persuaded to stay, we think some of our best work is ahead. When John Keim joins us on July 1, his role will be primarily to provide original Redskins analysis, much of it very specific and featured right here in regular departments on The Insider. Mike Jones and Mark Maske will focus on breaking and delivering Redskins news and features. I’ll be present to help guide the discussion, among other things, so there’s an immediate place to come and sound off during news conferences, before and after games, and during periods of high interest, like the draft. Add in the in-game live blogs, the irreverence of the D.C. Sports Bog and The Early Lead, our outstanding long-form writers and columnists, plus still photography and video you won’t see anywhere else. We deliver a pretty thorough package.

You’ve asked us to raise our game. We’re responding. Now, by enforcing our discussion policy and switching to the metered model, we’re asking you to raise yours.

Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag.

Follow: @MikeJonesWaPo | @MarkMaske | @john_keim (starting July 1) | @D3Keith | @Insider | @PostSports

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