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« Smoking ban and pub closures | Main | Hooray for Swindon! »

House rules - a reminder

A year ago I published the following post. I feel a gentle reminder is in order ...

I don't read many blogs it's true, but I have never seen a blog where the comments are as long as some of the comments posted here. Some are more like mini articles - 500 to 1000 words or more. No offence, but if you want to write at such length, create your own blog!

Alternatively, submit them as an article to an online magazine like Spiked or The Free Society.

It's my fault. I should have nipped it in the bud a long time ago. Anyway, I'd be grateful if you could keep your comments short (200 words max), sharp and to the point of the thread. Less is more. In future unnecessarily long comments, and those that bear little relation to the thread, may be deleted (depending on how I'm feeling at the time).

Er, that's it.

Reader Comments (48)

This OK?

September 2, 2009 at 16:52 | Unregistered CommenterDick Puddlecote


September 2, 2009 at 16:55 | Registered CommenterSimon Clark


September 2, 2009 at 16:59 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse


September 2, 2009 at 17:19 | Unregistered CommenterDave Atherton

You really can't have read that many blogs, Simon, if you think the ones posted here are long. Nor can you have written many yourself. In fact we all know that you hardly ever do. But what would a Margot Johnson comment be without a long rant about the EU? Or a Peter Thurgood comment be without a sermon about the ineffectuality of everybody else? Some of these writers need to slowly work up a head of steam over a paragraph or five, before hurling a carefully-fashioned barb at their chosen target. Would you have restricted Charles Dickens to 200 words to get over the gist of A Tale of Two Cities? Or told Shakespeare to hurry up with To Be Or Not To Be? Or demanded that Tennyson restrict In Memoriam to 20 verses? Should Juliet have called down to Romeo and told him to get on with it? Is our age now so rushed and hurried that we must write txt msgs? Must we prohibit the polished phrase, the elaborately-crafted sentence? There is one very good reason for letting people write at length, without truncation, and it can be summarised as this: the whole po

September 2, 2009 at 17:30 | Unregistered Commenteridlex

Gosh! I suppose Simon is referring to mine of the early hours of this morning re smoking in Malaga since my post has disappeared!
In deepest spanish Malaga, lots of little bars. No problem smoking inside. Notice on doors, red circle with diagonal red line? Has picture of dog inside circle! "NO DOGS"!
Priorities? 54 words.

September 2, 2009 at 17:36 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

Nicely expressed Idlex. I knew of a trainee sub-editor once who was told:'Do eight inches on this'. He obtained a galley copy of the text, took out a ruler and measured eight inches. With his scissors he cut off the rest of the copy. Is this what has happened to you?

September 2, 2009 at 17:38 | Unregistered CommenterNorman

No. But it's what could have happened.

September 2, 2009 at 18:00 | Unregistered Commenteridlex

I for one would have liked to have read Junican's Malaga post. The simple way round the New Rules would be to break down a single 1000 word comment into five 200 word comments, one after the other.

Bit like having to stand outside pubs, isn't it?

Ian B seems to be one of the longest commenters in the blogosphere. He's an effortlessly fluent writer. He has his own blog, but seems more inclined to comment on everybody else's. Good for him. He's a delight to read. He wouldn't be much welcome around these parts though. No sir!

September 2, 2009 at 18:21 | Unregistered Commenteridlex


September 2, 2009 at 18:55 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

Idlex has a point

September 2, 2009 at 19:18 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

I welcome with open arms anyone who is a "delight to read". Without reservation. And no limits. My bandwidth is at your service.

September 2, 2009 at 20:06 | Unregistered CommenterSimon Clark


I'm sure Simon would sympathise with your love of the complex and detailed written word, but surely you must admit that comments on a blog are a different medium to the novel, play, or newspaper article.

I'm as much against the 'let's shorten, dumb down, and remove the complexity from everything' crowd as you seem to be, but blog comments are the time to discipline yourself to try to make a point within a 'reasonable' word count. It's not an excuse to go all indulgent prog rock guitar solo, noodling around for 10 minutes over some well trodden themes before building up to a climax.

Comments here are by no means the worst on the internet, but the man has a point.

September 2, 2009 at 20:32 | Unregistered CommenterBlueblackjack

I don't want to be sarcastic but I don't think such attitude is suitable for blog dealing with liberties. To clarify, I also don't like long comments, but I don't think they need to be banned:) Encouraging short comments is enough.

September 2, 2009 at 22:44 | Unregistered Commenterbrankach

I'm with you on that one Brankach.
If I want to read a long post, I do. If I can't be bothered, I don't.
My decision and also my fault if I've missed an important point.

September 2, 2009 at 23:36 | Unregistered CommenterHelen

surely you must admit that comments on a blog are a different medium to the novel, play, or newspaper article.

I think you may be presuming that a novel or a play is necessarily going to run to hundreds of pages, and a newspaper article to many hundreds of words. I'm sure that if I set my mind to it, I could write a novel in less than 200 words. Or a play. Or a newspaper article.

but blog comments are the time to discipline yourself to try to make a point within a 'reasonable' word count.

Well, they certainly shouldn't be too long. But for me, 'too long' is when I can't see the end of it. To add a whole book - a book this thick - would clearly be overdoing it.

It's not an excuse to go all indulgent prog rock guitar solo, noodling around for 10 minutes over some well trodden themes before building up to a climax.

Again, is a guitar solo an 'indulgence' in a piece of music? Sometimes they capture the essence of a song far better than the sung words. What comes to mind somehow is Fleetwood Mac's Tango in the Night, which has some pretty dirgelike lyrics for a while, and then takes off into a soaring Lindsay Buckingham guitar solo. If I was to chop out the unnecessary from that, I'd keep the guitar solo.

September 3, 2009 at 1:27 | Unregistered Commenteridlex

I welcome with open arms anyone who is a "delight to read". Without reservation. And no limits. My bandwidth is at your service.

Ah! A significant relaxation of the New House Rules.

If you're delight to read, you're waved through to the top table, where you can prattle away to your heart's content.

But who says who is a delight to read? After singing the praised of Ian B, I visited his website to discover he'd just written something rather dull. His genius had fled him. His words seemed leaden. I suppose everyone has an off day now and then. But anyway, it may just have been me who found other writings of his delightful. Just like I enjoy the guitar solo in Tango in the Night, while others might not. Who is to say what is objectively "a delight to read"?

I could go on, but I'm near the 200 word limit, I suspect.

September 3, 2009 at 1:40 | Unregistered Commenteridlex

I suspect that Simon's problem was that he had been out to a-bit-of-a-do and didn't feel so well, and so, when he came to look at all these elongated posts, he thought, "God! I wish that I didn't have to read all this stuff!"

Simon! Either you want intelligent people posting on your site (who understand the complexities of issues) or you want dumbos posting on your site.

Which do you want?

September 3, 2009 at 3:15 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

Dont worry about it Simon we all feel a bit techy heading into the dark days of autumn especially if one is just back from swanning around sunny france after an extended hol.
When you settle back down you'll get used to all us intelligent, bloody minded and Victor Meldrew type bloggers again.
Sure what would you do without us, we keep the auld cant going after all!!
I would like to have read Junican's blog tho, having a personal interest in available continental smoking holes.

September 3, 2009 at 9:51 | Unregistered Commenterann

Do have a read of some of the comments on message boards, Simon, where sentences, spelling, grammar and punctuation refuse to make an appearance, together with coherent expression of considered opinion. Then congratulate yourself on attracting to your blog such an intelligent, articulate readership.

(44 words - gold star to me, Yo!)

September 3, 2009 at 10:04 | Unregistered CommenterJoyce

Idlex, sorry but what is 'the whole po' - see the last three words of your first post on this thread. I really did think Simon had been operating the ruler and scissors principle of editing which I mentioned, and cut you off mid-word. I'm also, by the way, puzzled by the use of the letters IMO in some posts here (I think those are the letters), as some kind of interjection or punctuation symbol. But I have never sent a text message or (with reference to another thread) entered a sushi bar. I've still got a vote though!

September 3, 2009 at 10:21 | Unregistered CommenterNorman

Norman - IMO = in my opinion but I don't know what 'the whole po' means either!

September 3, 2009 at 10:32 | Unregistered CommenterJoyce

Idlex, sorry but what is 'the whole po'

It is simply a sentence that began "the whole point is..." that has been arbitrarily truncated at the 200 word mark of the comment. Simon didn't truncate it. I did. I did it in order to show the sort of thing that might happen if a 200 word limit is rigidly adhered to.

"God! I wish that I didn't have to read all this stuff!"

Well, that's the key question. Does Simon have to read all this stuff? Perhaps he does. I don't know.

If I was doing it, I'd look to see who was posting, and if it was someone that I knew - like Martin V, or Joyce or somebody - I'd not worry about it. I'd only read carefully the comments made by new posters, to see if they were rude, abusive, etc. Then maybe I'd go back and see what the regulars had written.

After all, Simon doesn't engage much in the comments. He doesn't join in. He's not really that interested in what us commenters have to say, probably because his attention is set upon MPs, pundits, and the movers and shakers in the political world. He's interested in what Tom Harris thinks, not us lot - he swooped on it when I pointed out a shift in Harris' views. It's only us lot who're interested in what we have to say.

Am I right?

September 3, 2009 at 12:21 | Unregistered Commenteridlex


But who says who is a delight to read? After singing the praised of Ian B, I visited his website to discover he'd just written something rather dull. His genius had fled him. His words seemed leaden.

Which one, "Rights Under Liberty"?

September 3, 2009 at 13:50 | Unregistered CommenterIan B

Watch it idlex your blog was rather long!

September 3, 2009 at 13:51 | Unregistered Commenterann

Anyway, I find the idea that blog comments shouldn't be reasonably long rather odd. Much of the blogosphere's success is down to its attraction to a commentariat. That is, it's a discursive medium. You post a blog article, and hopefully it starts a conversation. I think most bloggers look forward to comments, as a sign that people are interested. I know I do.

Personally I enjoy reading blog comments, whether I'm participating or not. It's the web's equivalent of usenet. The initial article just starts the discussion. It's the very reason blogs are more enjoyable than non-interactive websites, so far as I can see.

September 3, 2009 at 14:00 | Unregistered CommenterIan B

Ian B, I too enjoy reading blog comments. In fact, without comments I wouldn't bother writing a blog because it would suggest that hardly anyone is reading it.

idlex, just because I rarely participate in the comments doesn't mean I don't read them. I do, but I have a full-time job - which often extends into evenings and weekends - and this is a very small part of it. I haven't got time to blog AND participate in the comments as well.

Anyway, one purpose of this blog is to generate feedback which I can use in my work. In some respects I look upon the readers of this blog as a focus group. My role is that of a moderator: raising certain issues, listening to what you have say, but not getting involved in the debate that follows. As with all focus groups, however, I reserve the right to ignore what you say and follow my gut instinct!

My gut instinct is that some of the longer comments on this blog strangle the life out of some threads and deter new or occasional visitors (who are vital if this forum is to flourish). That's just my opinion - but I'm sticking to it.

September 3, 2009 at 15:04 | Unregistered CommenterSimon Clark

Which one, "Rights Under Liberty"?

No, I don't think so. It was a day or two back. I can't remember what it was. And anyway my response to it could easily have reflected my own frame of mind at the time I read it, nothing more.

[Note to self: go back to Counting Cats and read that little essay on evolution and free markets again.]

In some respects I look upon the readers of this blog as a focus group.

Oh, that's what we are, is it? I see us as just a bunch of angry smokers. Not angry at you, of course.

September 3, 2009 at 16:03 | Unregistered Commenteridlex

"But who says who is a delight to read?"

Erm - that'll be Simon, I should think. It's his blog.

Personally, I do find long posts off-putting, so I'm looking forward to the new, briefer regime!

September 3, 2009 at 21:20 | Unregistered CommenterRose Whiteley

Who is to say what is objectively "a delight to read"?

... is of course a reasonable point idlex. But I'd argue that, along Simon's lines immediately above, that the nature of blog commenting strongly favours the concise and snappy over the extended and elaborate. You just tend to have better conversations that way - it's a trapping of the medium.

Online conversations have a tendency to sprawl (chiefly because responses are not time-limited; if you're so inclined, you can spend all day composing a wall of text to collapse over somebody else's argument). As Simon mentions, it is difficult for newcomers to contribute usefully to a topic if they have to reply to several 800+ word monstrous compound posts which attempt to address several points at once and introduce new, unrelated arguments at the same time. It excludes newcomers and it begins a who-can-make-the-most-points arms race, when 'the whole po' should be who has the best point, not who has time or inclination to write the most.

September 3, 2009 at 22:11 | Unregistered CommenterBlueblackjack

I don't think I'll ever mention po's again.

September 3, 2009 at 23:07 | Unregistered Commenteridlex

"...who has time or inclination to write the most."

I think it works the other way round. As Bernard Shaw said, "If I'd have had more time, I'd have written a shorter letter."

Honest Guv, it's shortage of time and a very fast typing speed that's to blame for my very occasional verbosity. Ahem, ahem.

September 4, 2009 at 0:09 | Unregistered CommenterMargot Johnson

I think that one of the reasons for long, complex posts is that subjects go out of fashion very quickly. If 'a week is a long time in politics' then two days is 'a long time in the blogosphere'. I know that some newspaper blogs terminate very quickly. This is not surprising since some of these blogs attract hundreds of comments. Thankfully, Simon's blogs run for a reasonable length of time.
I think that, if, on his blog, Simon raises a subject, we really should stick to that subject and not branch out into other subjects - within reason.

'Within reason' is a critical idea since, if our comments were solely confined to the specific subject, we would have virtually nothing to say other than, "I agree" (stop) or "I disagree" (stop).

I do not think that such a process would be much use.

September 4, 2009 at 2:09 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

Reference Malaga. Very quickly and without the poetry, grandson and I lodged in university hostel - summer holidays for student residents, very cheap, zero stars. In the city, a festival - not tourist. Oompa bands and flamenco-type dancing and singing. Most amusing.
Hostel in deepest spanish area of city. Nobody spoke English. Got by. Ate tapas, drank beer played chess. Lovely, warm evenings. Lots of little bars. No problem smoking inside or out. Dogs Banned.

City buses, 1 euro 10 cents anywhere in the City.

OK, Simon?

September 4, 2009 at 2:25 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

The discussion about Idlex's "po's" brings to mind a ditty sung by my grandma to the tune of 'Knocked-em in the Old Kent Road', in which a woman called Flo was berated for having broken an item of bedroom crockery, with a resulting need for its substitution by the singer's hat.

On brevity I agree with Margot and Bernard Shaw. It takes longer. I'm also reminded of the fabled instruction given to sub-editors of my generation: 'Cut it to the bone but let the good stuff run'.

September 4, 2009 at 11:21 | Unregistered CommenterNorman

an item of bedroom crockery


September 4, 2009 at 13:54 | Unregistered Commenteridlex

Hey, its Simon's blog - he makes the rules. Like the bar owner should be able to make the rules in his bar... if I don't like the rules,I won't visit..

September 5, 2010 at 9:37 | Unregistered CommenterMark Butcher

Hardly matters really if posts and comments are short or long , they dont
seem to acheive anything. Bloggers blog and readers comment and freedom
remains hanging on a lamp post

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, save me a south facing cell,Cheers.

Smoking Pilgrim

September 5, 2010 at 21:44 | Unregistered CommenterThe Long march

I have the same trouble as Margot – when typing, it all comes out a bit stream-of-consciousness, and cutting it down without losing emphasis or meaning can take ages - counting, re-counting and précis-ing various sentences so much that often it’s taken so long to say something which is then so totally different from what you first meant to say that it isn’t worth posting at all!

People can always scroll through or ignore long comments if they don’t like them, but it seems a shame to possibly miss out on comments which simply don’t appear because the writer just can’t say in 200 words something which – to be accurate – needs, say, 300.

I could say more but …….
(118 words)

September 5, 2010 at 22:51 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

A curious post by Simon. Either people talk or they do not. I do not see how brevity has any merit. Even the Condem alliance <explain/i>.

Perhaps Simon would prefer that no one comments at all? He may have his reasons.

The problem is that lots of us would never have known about David Atherton’s researches into the passive smoking con if we had not seen his comments here – along with many other truths that we would not have been aware of.

I have just been onto the Telegraph site with reference to Christopher Booker’s article re Global Warming – there were some 500 comments, many of which were very long. I doubt very much that CB reads the comments, but that does not matter. What matters is that the commenters re-inforce each other and give each other courage.

I have recently had this idea.

Perhaps there should be many, many mini ‘Forests’. I could be a mini Forest, and so could Misty, for example. The objective of the ‘mini-Forests’ would be to spread awareness to smokers and non-smokers alike that all is not lost. It really is very odd that the hundreds of people who are against the smoking ban and comment on various newspaper sites, such as the Telegraph and the Guardian (when the subject comes up), cannot be organised in a very loose sense. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that Forest could organise group sub-sites so that one does not end up with several thousand people commenting on Taking Liberties!

If 2000 people recruited 10 people each, and those 10 people recruited 10 each, then there would be 200,000 people all asking the same question. The question would be:

Or something like that.

Is 300 words OK?

September 6, 2010 at 2:49 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

Damn..I bodged the attempt to italicise the word explain. Let me try again.....

September 6, 2010 at 2:52 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

Junican -

I like your idea of a kind of an Ideological Pyramid Scheme among smokers and freedom-loving non-smokers.

But you know the problem: the Apathy of the Many.

AKA The Sheeple Mentality.

And I have absolutely no idea as to how we solve that one.

Well - maybe one;

How about printing off a few hundred thousand postcards - pre-addressed to the appropriate individual , bearing a request for amendment,
and signed by the holder ?

Funding shouldn't be TOO much of a problem.

Design, message content, style, and recpient to be decided later.

And we keep it SIMPLE.

(The Public likes 'simple'.)

Would THAT be a start ?

At least it'd get around the tiresome 'I'm too busy/Don't know what to write/Nothing we can do about it' excuse-for-an-excuse we're all getting heartily sick of hearing........................................

September 6, 2010 at 8:14 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

I'd like to see Forest reach out to the grassroots, offline where the majority of smokers is. There again, I appreciate that Forest's strategy is to raise awareness among the politicos and media. Its effectiveness is questionable when we have a comprehensive ban and no willingness to amend it but at least the message is sent that everyone is not happy with the ban.

There are also other bloggers who focus on the smoking issue such as Frank Davis, Dick Puddlecote, Leg Iron and F2C and who provide links to sympathetic blogs. It could be argued that Leg Iron is more influential than Forest having won second place in the Scottish blogs category and he's good at publicising practical ideas to subvert the ban.

September 6, 2010 at 10:44 | Unregistered CommenterJoyce

Yes - grassroots support is vital.

Our enemies obviously think we're just going to slink away like the disconsolate besiegers of an impregnable citadel.

We must disabuse them ..............

And be a little less like Miss Marple, and a little more like the Mongols.

(Only a little, mind)

September 6, 2010 at 12:27 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

Yes - grassroots support is vital.

Our enemies obviously think we're just going to slink away like the disconsolate besiegers of an impregnable citadel.

We must disabuse them ..............

And be a little less like Miss Marple, and a little more like the Mongols.

(Only a little, mind)

September 6, 2010 at 12:29 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

God, I'm starting to repeat myself now..................................

September 6, 2010 at 12:31 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

You certainly don't read many blogs or understand about search engines - long comments are good because they are full of natural writing and keywords which help people find your site.

This is the most ludicrous thing I have ever heard. Instead of being a 'moderator' you should be reading and responding to people's comments and count yourself damned lucky that you receive so many comments.

Taking liberties, indeed.

September 6, 2010 at 12:58 | Unregistered CommenterDave

'who provide links to sympathetic blogs'
Maybe its because they're preoccupied fighting for survival caused mainly by the mess of a govt we have, but the amount of bloggers on the new Forest Eireann site now up and running for the past three weeks, are conspicuous by their absence.
However, I would not be surprised to hear if John Mallon was receiving a lot of blogs from the antis.
Its the Irish way.
Because we love bans here, the more the better!

September 6, 2010 at 13:11 | Unregistered Commenterann

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