A Commenting Class on Commenting Class

Al Navarro is a co-founder of Mint Advertising, an independent advertising agency in New Jersey. On occasion we ask him to talk about certain topics in advertising. Today's not one of those days. Today he's talking about something even more near and dear to his heart — Jalopnik. He also drives a Caterham Superlight R (albeit for just a few more weeks), so don't front.

I've been hanging around the halls of the Jalopnik for nearly 2 years now. And I've seen a lot of writers and commenters come and go. Lately, it seems like the postviews as well as the commenteriat have grown by leaps and bounds. And for the most part, I welcome the new additions and new energy.

However, I have noticed some less than positive comments over the past few months by some of the newer screen names (and some not so new). I have always looked to the Jalop as a refuge from the usual "Suck it, f-wad...my [INSERT MAKE AND MODEL OF PREFERRED CAR HERE] rulz over all [INSERT OTHER MAKE AND MODEL HERE]" and "So-and-so is a buttaface." antics that are readily available in other corners of the Internet. And so, inspired by Anna Holmes' "Girl's Guide to Commenting on Jezebel", I propose the following words to live by:

Read the comments before commenting yourself.
No really. It's one thing to be eager to chime in on a particular topic, and another thing entirely to ignore the comments logged so far in pursuit of adding your two cents ASAP.

By not reading comments before posting your own, you are showing a lack of respect for your fellow commenters and setting yourself up for the dreaded "totally redundant comment". Yes, we understand that sometimes the Gawker Media hamster slows down sufficiently so that you may miss some comments while penning your own brilliant entry — but by all means at least try to review what's been already said before adding your voice to the conversation. It generally doesn't take that much time to scan comments as long as the count is under 100, so do it.

Read your own comment several times before hitting that "submit" button.
Until Gawker Media institutes an "edit" feature, the only way to make sure your comments turn out just as you intended is to carefully proofread them before posting. Did you mean "you're" when you wrote "your"? "It's" when you meant "Its"? The little "Preview Comment" feature is very helpful for this sort of quality control, btw.

Taking this breather before submitting a comment may also save you from a case of commentarhea...there are plenty of times where I have a comment sitting there in the preview screen that I re-read and then end up deleting — no need to add that particular thought to the flow of things. And I think my commenting reputation (see that star?) has benefited from these deletions.

Do your part to make Jalopnik a club of gentlemen, not a "gentlemen's club".
It's no surprise that the readership and commenter pool of Jalopnik is predominately male. But this fact does not give you carte blanche to act like a total asshat, especially on posts that have to do with women — whether racers or booth babes trade show booth professionals.

Overly reactionary or chauvinist comments to the brave women who do chose to share their opinions here (many of them visitors from other Gawker sites) are also unbecoming. Plus they do wonders for maintaining our poor male-female ratio.

The ability to remain anonymous in commenting allows people to say things that they might not otherwise say. And many times, as when industry types comment, this is a great thing.

But if you are not an industry type (and even if you are), please do not abuse this freedom. A good rule of thumb is not to write anything you'd be ashamed to show your mother, wife, lifepartner, or child. Trust me, people who go against this guideline end up looking very silly.

So where do you stand on cursing?
I'm sure many of the readers log on to Jalopnik from their place of work. And, from what I've been told, many places of work frown on sites that contain profanity (nudity, too). Some even have filters and wheel-running hamsters of their own to police this sort of thing.

And so, in the interest of making the Jalop accessible to all, it's probably a good idea to try and limit your use of curse words when commenting. Want more reasons? See the last paragraph of the previous section.

Again, that's not to say swearing is verboten, but it should only be used if it's adding value to the substance of your comment. By the way, being childlike is not what is meant by "substance."

Racism, Classism, Sexism, and other -isms are always unwelcome. As are homophobia, xenophobia, and many of the other -phobias.
No explanation necessary.

Make every comment an opportunity to win COTD.
There are some folks on here of whom I am in daily awe. I'm a copywriter by trade, and I'm truly stunned by the eloquence of many of my fellow commenters. Those stars are well earned, dadgummit.

Touching or revealing personal stories, clarifications or corrections of posts and/or other comments, and attempts to educate readers about the topic at hand or some semi-related one, are always welcome. Articulate oppositions to opinions, too. And of course, do all you can to introduce the literary, musical, gastronomic (which I use here in a loose sense that includes beer and other fine beverages), and the obscure into the discourse.

Oh, and while I'm at it...remember that you all have the power to recommend fellow commenters for COTD. Like the power of self-restraint, I advise you use this power often.

Beware the one liner.
The temptation to dash off a clever and pithy phrase looms large. But as with stand-up comedians, it takes a very good one liner to get a laugh these days. A comment thread filled with one-liners can start to sound like a bad text message stream. Between teenagers. Poorly educated teenagers. There are exceptions to this rule, of course (like the recent Bond test driver post), but in general, I'd avoid it.

I'm sure I've opened up my very own pandora's box of haterade by penning this, but as the kids say, whatevs. Someone had to say it. BTW, when I discussed the possibility of writing this piece with Ray, he suggested the headline. Not bad for the guy in the virtual corner office.

I'm sure I'll be adding to these guidelines in the future, but feel free to add your own words of advice below.