Letter from the Editor: on community standards

Good afternoon everyone! It’s been a while since we last spoke, but what we have to talk about today is important. So please take a moment to review what we have to say below, because all of it will help make Rice Digital a happier, more pleasant community where everyone can hang out.

First, a reminder of why we’re all here. We’re here to celebrate the very best of Asian popular culture, including video games, anime, manga, VTubers and all manner of other things. These are things which bring great joy to the world — and we want Rice Digital to reflect that joy which they bring to everyone.

As such, you won’t find overly negative “hatebait” articles here blaming [x] anime for all of society’s ills, or [y] game for featuring women with larger-than-average breasts, or the Top 10 worst [z]s in manga.

Where criticism is appropriate, we will, of course, provide it — but we’re primarily about celebration rather than censuring here. We’re all fans of our respective fields of expertise, after all — and we hope that enthusiasm comes across in what we write. We want you to feel happy reading what we have to say rather than bummed out that someone is crapping all over your favourite thing.

We’re absolutely happy for you to share our enthusiasm in the comments section or, if you have more to say than a comment reasonably has space for, in a more substantial contribution to the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page. We’ve really enjoyed hearing from you in depth over the course of the last couple of months, so keep those letters coming!

Because we all post a fair bit on this site, sometimes we don’t have the time to check through all the incoming comments — which is partly why the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page was set up in the first place. We know that it’s important for a site’s audience to feel “heard” by the editorial team, after all, and the Rice Digital Friday Letters page provides a regular, formal opportunity for that to happen.

However, when I receive direct, private complaints about things going on in the comments section, I have to pay attention. And I have to take action. So with that in mind, we’ve revamped the comments section here at Rice Digital. It won’t look any different to you, but in simple terms we’ve had to nuke it and start over; this was, unfortunately, unavoidable given the tangle of virtual wires back there, so apologies to any of you who have lost comments that you were particularly proud of — I’m sure you’ll come up with something even better in the future!

Going forward, Rice Digital will be adopting a much more rigorous comment moderation policy in order to ensure everyone feels comfortable, confident and safe contributing and discussing things. And by “everyone”, I mean both the community and the writers who help make the site what it is.

Here’s a summary of the basic changes:

  • Images and videos can no longer be posted in comments.
  • Comment threads for articles will be closed 30 days after the article’s publication.
  • Anonymous guest comments are not allowed; you must be logged in to Disqus to contribute. It’s free to sign up; you can even log in with your social accounts if you don’t want to keep track of another password.
  • Comments containing restricted words or which are determined by Disqus’ automatic moderation to be “toxic” will be automatically deleted.
  • Comments containing links must be approved before they will appear.

The “toxicity” value is, as noted above, determined by Disqus’ automatic moderation systems, which are based on machine learning and natural language processing. “Toxic” comments are regarded by this system as those which are obviously abusive, trolling, not contributing to the conversation or likely to make a reasonable person to leave a discussion thread. In short, don’t be an asshole and your comment won’t get automatically flagged as toxic.

“Restricted words” is a trickier one. We’re going to keep our specific list of restricted words private so determined commenters don’t decide to try and find “creative” ways around them. But suffice to say the general gist of language we will be restricting from hereon includes:

  • Disrespect or outright hate directed towards other individuals or groups of people
  • Language which promotes or stokes the fires of the “culture war” that has been raging for the last decade
  • Personal attacks on other community members or the Rice Digital team

Profanity is fine, within reason. Do not use it to insult people, but feel free to express your excitement for something however you see fit! We’re all adults here. Hopefully. If you’re not, stay the hell away from The History of Lewd. Or ask your parents.

Speaking of which, talking about adult matters such as sexuality is fine, too, given what we cover here — but bear in mind the conversation happening around you, and if someone asks you to stop, please stop.

In short, we want the comments section to match what we’re doing on the site — we want it to be a place where things are celebrated, not censured, and as such we reserve the right to edit, delete, move or mark as spam any and all comments that we deem inappropriate at our sole discretion, as well as blocking access to any individual or group of people from commenting if necessary. The latter option will be a last resort for persistent offenders!

This isn’t about creating an echo chamber or stifling different opinions. It is, however, about keeping discussions respectful and civil. If you’re not a fan of something we cover, that’s fine — if you’re thinking about talking about why you don’t like it in the comments, consider whether your contribution will actually inspire some worthwhile discussion, or if it will just start a fight. If it’s the latter, we don’t want it, frankly.

For those who have always been kind and respectful in the comments, I thank you; everything we’ve described above will not affect you in the slightest and you can comment as you always have. For those who feel like any of the above is unreasonable, I encourage you to have a think about why you think any of what we’ve outlined above is unreasonable. Perhaps ponder if you’d say some of the things you deem acceptable in a comment to someone’s face; if you wouldn’t, then don’t put them in a comment either.

This is a community, and everyone here — including the staff — deserves to feel safe and comfortable rather than dreading what lurks in The Bottom Half of the Internet. Together we can build a happier community — one that loves games, anime, manga, VTubers and all the many other wonderful things the world has to offer, rather than arguing. Wouldn’t that be a nice change from social media hellsites?

Anyway, back to the anime tiddies. Thank you for your attention!

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Pete Davison
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