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A Field Gulls culture reminder post, or: Why we do what we do

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Writers, editors and mods share their vision for a comments section worth reading

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks
even if you get a warning you’re still in, you know
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

If you’ve commented enough at the Field Of Gulls, you’ve been interrupted mid-thought or mid-login with a startling message. It looks a little something like this —


***YOU HAVE RECEIVED A MESSAGE FROM FIELD GULLS***

“blah blah blah don’t worry you’re not in trouble or in the principal’s office”

Click OK to continue


Now, if you’ve been a bit of a troublemaker, either accidentally or purposefully, the abrupt interruption could look a little something like this —


***YOU HAVE RECEIVED A WARNING FROM FIELD GULLS***

“blah blah blah please don’t do blah blah blah again because that violates site rules. Thanks.”

Click OK to continue


Absent the receipt of any such message, perhaps you’ve seen a comment of yours disappear. Maybe even a moderator (Matt_J, smb282, Alaric10000) has called you out for a destructive comment, in front of everyone. You probably deserved it. On the plus side, they were probably polite about it.

Aggressive, but compassionate, moderation is part of what separates our Seattle Seahawks-centric corner of the internet from, well, the rest of the internet. The unwashed portion.

Oh, and the rules. Let’s cover those swiftly but thoroughly, and then give the FG head man and his team of moderators a chance to express themselves.

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SBNation-wide rules and guidelines

You can skip ahead to the FG-specific rules if you promise to click this here link.

if you won’t listen to us, at least listen to leslie

The full text of SBN’s 11 non-negotiable guidelines is somewhat long. I trimmed each one down to a handful of key words.

1. Intolerant/prejudiced behavior forbidden.

2. No personal attacks.

3. No sexism or gendered insults.

4. No trolling, no multiple usernames to evade moderation.

5. No offensive images.

6. Don’t joke about violent crime, specifically DV.

7. Don’t joke about society’s most vulnerable populations.

8. Dial it back on the cursing. (Some might be fine, depending on the site.)

9. No spamming whatsoever.

10. No illegal streams. We know they exist; don’t share them.

11. You can be banned instantly if your first post breaks any one of 1. through 10. because that’s what trolls do, is show up with intent to disrupt.

It all boils down to “don’t be an asshole,” but even the simplest of instructions can sometimes need clarification and expansion. Which is why we have...

Field Gulls-specific rules and guidelines

well actually

Oh, they real. In fact, the old FG rules used to mirror SBN’s new-ish ones. But then the mothership stole all our good ones. We kept a few because we’re different like that. Seven official rules remain in force, alongside the SBN list:

1. No politics, no religion.

Number One is a toughie when active Seahawks players bring politics and religion into the discussion. When in doubt, just abstain from a conversation. There will be more front-page posts. There will be more comment sections. There will be more today and tomorrow. We couldn’t stop if we wanted.

2. No hoaxes, false headlines, or misreported news.

It is simply rude.

3. No trolling other blogs.

Don’t bother the rivals. We have banned many people for trolling NN — even for trolling Lookout Landing. Please don’t make the rest of us look bad by association. (That’s in part why the rule exists.) If you go over to Revenge of the Birds, be polite. Don’t waltz in and give them shit in a jocular way, because guess what, they don’t know you or your style, and they will interpret your razzing as trolling. It’s highly unlikely that you belong to the rarest breed of sports blog commenter — the one whose measured tone and good humor both shine through the screen, clearly communicating to rival fans that you are Just Kidding Around Today Guys.

Analogy. It might be funny to storm into your buddy’s house with your dirty shoes on, traipse through the living room, park yourself on the couch, and take a beer from his fridge without asking. It’s not usually as funny when you try that with people you’re meeting for the first time.

4. Post a link with news

If you’re sharing news, please let us know where you got it. Helps us avoid breaking rule 2.

5. You must attempt proper spelling and grammar within the best of your ability.

As in, don’t make sloppy comments that have five spelling errors per sentence. Punctuate and capitalize enough so that you prove you know how to do it. It is not the reader’s job to scale a grammatical obstacle course just to perceive your meaning.

6. Use the subject line.

Not negotiable. Talk about it below if you want to learn more about why.

7. Use the reply button.

Keeps things organized. If you reply in the wrong place, edit the comment to “reply fail,” or flag it, and re-post the original comment in the right place. A mod will be along eventually to clean up your mess.

Wait, there’s etiquette too? What the hell?

Because those seven rules above were not enough, FG’s Founding Fathers tacked on something they called “site etiquette,” which consists of eight more amendments. Like a Bill of Frights. My personal theory is that they did so in order to make commenters think before they typed.

If you’re counting, and some of you are, we’re up to 25 guidelines and rules each comment is subject to. It’s as if First Editor Shrug, then John Morgan and the rest of the silly crew didn’t even comprehend how American society works nowadays.

By the way, here’s a link to the site rules and etiquette. Feel free to bookmark it.

1. No judging the fandom of others.

2. Respect the moderators.

3. Keep front-page posts on topic.

4. Use the rec button.

5. Fantasy discussion in fantasy posts only.

6. No rosterbation.

7. Avoid exhausted topics.

8. No (heavy sigh) no (yeah you saw this one coming a mile away) no (omg just type it already) ...chatspeak.

All eight of the site etiquette guidelines are good topics to expound on within the comments section below. As always, FG decision-makers are keen to hear the opinion of the readership. Without the readership buying in, the site suffers. Without vivacious, contentious, respectful discussion, the site suffers. The site would rather not suffer.

Real people behind the screen names

behind-the-scenes footage of a recent mod meeting

You’re more than the pixels your fingers send to the FG screens via keystroke. So are your editor-in-chief and your three volunteer moderators. As a guy who spent three full years in the mod role, let me tell you that MJ, Simba and Al invest many hours in keeping FG from devolving into the toxic sludge other sports sites call “a comment section.” You literally can not thank those three guys enough for their selflessness. They’re not in it for the glory, because of the complete lack of glory. They’re servant leaders -- no religion! -- and the internet would be a far, far, ohmyword SO FRICKIN’ FAR better place with more of them.

Managing Editor and Lead Writer Kenneth Arthur says:

I started out as a commenter on SB Nation about a decade ago. To put it kindly, my comments weren't always the best. Some people reading this now probably remember that and can attest to it. I never did anything that would get me permanently banned but I do remember I was told to take a day off once or twice from commenting at Lookout Landing.

I think my biggest problem was just having a thin skin sometimes. Eventually I learned that if I was only commenting to disagree with someone that it was a good idea to write out my comment, then read it before posting, and then ask myself, "Does this really need to be said?" It's great to debate, and good for all ideas to be challenged, but always ask yourself why your comment is necessary. Does it move the conversation forward? If you're making a bold statement, is it opinion or fact? If it's opinion, are you stating it as an opinion? "I think Tom Cable is bad." If you're stating it as a fact, do you have any evidence to support it? "Tom Cable is bad because of (Exhibit A) (Exhibit B) (Exhibit C)" If you don't have evidence to cite, then it's most certainly an opinion and shouldn't be stated as a fact. It also allows other people to either agree with you (Which you want, right?) or to make counter-points. "Tom Cable sucks" doesn't move the conversation forward.

What I loved about LL and Field Gulls when I came to the SB Nation comments section was how smart everyone was. I felt like being a fan of these Mariners and Seahawks sites made me a smarter, more well-informed fan than people who weren't privy to their existence. Even now, I look to hire writers who will make me a smarter Seahawks fan. People who will continue to uphold a legacy of being a football site with an agenda to inform on matters that are important and that other sites aren't regularly covering: Advanced stats, Xs and Os, video breakdowns, etc. And a huge part of that is our comments section, which is full of bright people who also continue to make me feel smarter and more well-informed of the Seattle Seahawks, their history, and the NFL as a whole. Another part of that is our rules -- things like no chatspeak, using the subject line -- that I believe continues that legacy of being a site that holds everyone to a higher standard of commenting and communicating. If you get a warning for something, take a note from my 10-years-younger self and don't take it too harshly; the mods aren't out to get you, it's usually just a small course correction for what these communities have become accustomed to over many years.

I run the website and I don't comment nearly as often as I used to, but I'm still just a member of the community and when I do comment, I hope not only to have a thicker skin, but that I'm moving the conversation forward and add something to it. I am just trying to keep up with you smart, funny, enthusiastic guys and gals. The people who truly make Field Gulls what it is.

smb282, our most senior moderator, says:

Welcome to the Field Gulls clubhouse, a members-only oasis in the vast stretches of an otherwise largely uninhabitable internet wasteland! It's an oasis by design, and that's the collective result of years of great stewardship by the editors, writers, and moderators of the site, all doing their best to grow and maintain what I think was, is, and hopefully shall remain, one of the best online commentariats around any team in any sport. Few things are more rewarding for me as a mod than having a new member stumble onto FG, offer a few well-written comments, and then become addicted (like the rest of us) through the enlightenment and camaraderie created out of the types and quality of discussions we have around here. That's what keeps me going as an unpaid volunteer from year to year: that apparent sign we get every so often that yes, this is still the kind of place where a fellow Seahawks fan with interesting thoughts about the team and the game will want to not only join in, but also come back time and again to engage in all kinds of discussions about our mutual pigskin obsession.

You can get Hawks news and perspectives practically anywhere, but to me this is still the best spot to partake in that kind of content as part of a vibrant, like-minded community of passionate fans. To wit: there's a reason you're here reading this right now instead of screaming into the void on Facebook or Twitter, isn't there?

Membership is free but it can be revoked IF you are steadfast enough in a refusal to play by the rules. So while there are a handful of rules to follow, if you want a lifehack for it, I'd say it's 'stick to the Golden Rule and you probably won't need to avail yourself of the rulebook too often.' If you DO have such a need (for a rules-refresher), you may become aware of that fact by virtue of a moderator-endowed warning. If we give you one, try not to take it as a rebuke, but rather as an opportunity to revisit the rules for playing nice in the sandbox, and reassure yourself that almost everybody needs that on occasion, so no there's no shame in it at all. If you weren't wanted as part of the FG community, we probably wouldn't bother to warn you before just banning you outright, so keep that in mind. It's really nothing personal if you do get a warning, I assure you, but try to show us that you got the message in your successive comments, rather than overtly tell us. I promise we'll appreciate it.

If you have a specific beef or question about something, consider e-mailing mods or writers rather than trying to air it out in the comments section of an article. You may not get exactly the response you want via e-mail, but I can guarantee you won't get it in the comments. Ditto that for meta-commentary — feel free to disagree with the writers, but do so thoughtfully and without personal attacks -- trust me, no one wants to hear your armchair-psychologist-take on the work of very low-compensated content creators. Keep that shit to yourself, I beg of you.

Go Hawks. We are coming for that LII trophy, belie'dat! --smb282 (Shane)

Also a heads-up, I'm on Twitter @SMBLOB (as another way to reach me), but be forewarned, you will likely be subjected to my bad non-sports takes if you get at me that way.

Moderator Matt_J says:

Football has always been a big part of my life. I started playing during recess in 2nd(?) grade, going way beyond what is necessary for recess football: printed rulebook, dedicated refs, the ability to challenge plays (basically the ref going somewhere quiet and thinking about what he saw since we had no replay). I finally talked my parents into letting me join organized football in 4th grade and played through high school and into college. Once injuries and thorough dislike of my choice in college set in, I hung up my pads and was without football for the first time in over a decade. I found Field Gulls shortly after, lurked for awhile, then became active in 2010. It was such a relief to find this oasis of intelligent fans and extraordinary writers all sharing my passion for the sport.

I didn't begin my reign of terror as a mod until soon before the draft in 2015. I think Danny and Fraley were in on the drafting of Frank Clark and were determined to have a baptism by fire for this new recruit. I quickly realized this role sometimes turns less fun and more job when the shit hits the fan. Hiding subthreads with excellent but off-limits comments isn't fun. Sending someone a warning when you agree 100% with their comment isn't fun. Banning someone whose user name you recognize and whose comments have regularly added to the discussion isn't fun. Contrary to (hopefully not) popular belief, we don't like these aspects of the job.

The most attractive quality of this site, for me, has always been the intelligent discussion. This starts at the top with John Morgan, Danny, and now Kenny all doing an excellent job fostering conversation and bringing in tremendous writers who do the same. That said, I firmly believe the community standards here are what keep the conversation going in the right direction once it moves into the comments. Some are no brainers, others may seem unnecessary, and a few probably reek of pretentiousness to outsiders, but they are all here to promote the types of discussions that make this the best football site around.

Moderator Alaric10000 says:

If I had to pick one thing to emphasize when you're making a comment, it would be context. A joke that might go over in C&C (never CenturyLinks. NEVER) could easily get hidden or even warned in a thread about player suspension for DUI or DV. Conversely, a well-written comment about a borderline political topic could stay alive in an article specifically about that but is probably going to vanish from C&C.

Are you making a comment about something that's been brought up in very similar ways earlier in the comment section? Consider making a reply on a specific thing instead of making a new thread. Are you disagreeing with something? Consider only disagreeing to one thread instead of replying separately to every thread that kind of mentions your issue. Are there no comments about an issue that day, but it's been discussed in articles or C&C for the last three days? Unless you have something super new and profound, maybe just let it lie. Is that one article out of the 10 this week just not what you expected or wanted? Maybe just stop reading it after a couple paragraphs.

Assume the best in people unless they give you a clear reason not to (I am pretty bad at this as an old, cynical man. Sorry in advance when I mess up.) The writers here aren't writing intentional clickbait. That mod who sent you a quick message didn't just threaten to ban you for not toeing the company line. That member who wrote a comment about your favorite player didn't insult your parentage. When the size of your response matches the size of the problem, and you always assume the problem is small, Field Gulls is pleasant and smooth. Which is good, because watching the Seahawks can be rough on the ol' ticker. Save all that stress for Sunday (Monday/Thursday)!

It’s this post’s bedtime

A parting thought from the author, who’s spent time as a commenter, a writer, a mod and a member of the editorial team. The best advice I ever got from a veteran blogger was to make liberal use of the “Cancel” button. Oh, you’ve seen it. It lives right next door to the “Post” button, below the body of your unborn comment.

Does your post add something to the conversation — besides noise? If not, try the cancel option. Did someone else already say the same thing above? Distribute a few recs and click on cancel. People like recs.

Is the comment borderline, or is a part of it likely to be mis-interpreted? The cancel button beckons.

Is your statement of opinion more likely to inflame tensions, or illuminate discussion? If the former, consider the cancel route. At least some of the time. I’ve canceled hundreds of my own bad comments, but not nearly enough, since hundreds more of the bad ones have snuck through already and will sneak through again. It’s a process. The people who steer discussion here are patient if you’re learning how to be a more productive member of our little playpen. But that’s something Kenneth already said above, which is my cue to follow my own advice and shut the hell up.

/whispers

/go Hawks?