My comment policy at the Loom can be summed up with three words: light but firm.
Science writing often triggers intense reactions in readers–whether the subject is evolution, the biology of the brain, global warming, or genetic engineering. I believe readers should feel free to express those reactions–within reason–on my blog.
I actually find many of these comments useful to my own work. Sometimes people fact-check me and show me where I’ve made a mistake. Other times, they point me to a line of research that’s new to me. I’ve actually ended up writing magazine articles based on those helpful suggestions. (There is no copy-editor looking at this blog, so I appreciate notes about typos, which I will remedy quickly.)
This policy sometimes causes distress to some readers. I’ve gotten messages from people who think I shouldn’t allow any creationists to comment, for example. I completely disagree. If people want to leave posts disputing that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old, I see no harm in letting them do so. I will, however, respond by explaning why they’re wrong. I often find that the outcome of these exchanges is useful, if only as an opportunity to explore what science actually tells us, and what it doesn’t.
Besides, you know who won’t let you leave comments on their posts? Creationists. That should tell you something.
While the comments can get rough and tumble, I also expect people to behave. Even if you recognize that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old, that’s no excuse to use an obscenity on this blog against someone who doesn’t. If you make your point once, you don’t get to make it a hundred times, in the hopes of getting in the last word. If I write about global warming, you don’t get to make fun of Al Gore’s weight. If you accuse commenters or me of being a Nazi, or brain-damaged, or what have you, you are not welcome here. Off-topic comments are not acceptable, nor are sock puppets.
Comments from first-time commenters go straight to the moderation queue, where they must be approved by me. Afterwards, comments will be published immediately. If I judge a comment to be unsuitable, I will delete it. Commenters who repeatedly submit inappropriate comments will be warned once. If they don’t adhere to the rules, they will be banned. (I only ban people rarely–I can only recall two times in nearly a decade of blogging.)
Comments on the blog are owned by whoever posted them. While I moderate comments, I am not responsible for them in any way.
National Geographic has additional rules about comments which you can find here.