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What Rules Govern HNN's Discussion Boards and Blogs?

  • What rules govern the discussion boards?

  • Why Doesn't HNN allow readers to post comments using a pseudonym?


    When a new employee asked Thomas Edison what the rules at his lab were, Edison reportedly cracked, We don't have rules. We're trying to accomplish something. Great line, but in practice rules sometimes are needed. These are the rules HNN has implemented to govern the posting of comments on our threaded discussion boards.

    Please do not post any comments that are defamatory, obscene, pornographic, abusive, bigoted, or unlawful. If you violate the law or are guilty of defamation you may be held legally responsible.

    Please do not post any comments that are anti-Semitic or racist. Please do not malign ethnic or religious groups.

    Please do not post any advertisements for commercial products or services.

    Please do not use our boards to promote surveys, contests, or chain letters.

    Please be civil. No ad hominem attacks.

    Please do not post comments that are irrelevant to the subject under discussion.

    We reserve the right to bounce any person who violates our rules and to delete their comments.

    Flagrant violators of HNN's standards will be banned. Offensive comments will be deleted.

    HNN owns the copyright on all comments posted on its discussion boards. Readers who do not consent to this rule should not post comments.

    NOTE: Posts to HNN's blogs may be deleted if the bloggers find the posts irritating, offensive, or distracting, whether the posts violate HNN's rules of civility or not.

    Disclaimer: We do not attest to the accuracy or truthfulness of any of the views or facts posted on our discussion boards. Nor do we monitor every posted comment.


    Among the great strengths of HNN are our discussion boards, which are free wheeling, often imaginative, and usually stimulating. But it can equally be said that the discussion boards in the past were one of the great weaknesses of HNN. Too often they featured hyperbola instead of thoughtfulness, vile vulgar language, and rank racist or anti-Semitic barbs.

    The question we faced was how to fix the boards so that we kept what worked while ridding ourselves of what was patently offensive. We tried several measures. We introduced rules of civility. We began removing offensive comments. We banned a small number of serial rabble rousers. And still the discussion boards became havens for comments so patently offensive they made grown people cringe.

    In a renewed effort to put an end to trash talk on HNN we finally decided to turn to a technological solution by implementing a registration system. In order to post comments on HNN's discussion boards, readers must register their email address and provide their real name. Pseudonyms may be used but only with prior permission from HNN. Permission may be granted to bloggers who have been using a stable pseudonym for a substantial prior period, or to posters with a credible fear of professional or personal retaliation for their views. The real, verifiable name of the poster must be made known to HNN, which will hold that information in strict confidence. Once a pseudonym has been assigned, the user must continue using only that pseudonym (i.e. may not comment under both a pseudonym and their own name), unless they wish to reveal their name, in which case it must be done by altering the account so that all prior comments are properly attributed. All permissions and approvals are the sole purview of the administrators of HNN. (To contact HNN click here.)

    How does the system work? Once a reader registers the system dispatches an email to their registered email address. They then have to respond in order to be able to post. Once a reader registers in this manner they can post as often as they like without reregistering. Email addresses are hidden, but the readers' names appear on the site.

    It is our hope that by holding people responsible for their posts we will be able to discourage irresponsibility on the boards.

    Placing our hopes in technology is as American as apple pie. We hope that in this case the hope is not misplaced.

    As with most rules there are exceptions. There are two exceptions to the rule requiring readers to register before posting comments:

    • Registration is not required for people posting comments on HNN Polls.

    • Individual bloggers have the right to allow readers to post comments without registering. (We established this exception in order to promote the use of HNN's discussion boards and blogs; some had complained that the process of registering is cumbersome.)

    Readers of course are always expected to follow HNN's rules of civility whether they register or not. And they are required to provide their real name unless permission is given in advance to use a pseudonym.