Monday, August 24, 2009

Standards for this blog

The commentary on a post below prompts me to write this post. I have been writing this blog for three years and have had very few occasions to reject comments submitted by readers. Indeed, there have been many thoughtful, heartfelt, heated, and humorous contributions. Even those who disagree with what I or others have said have done so in a fashion that is not disagreeable.

During this time, the readership of the blog has grown substantially, and I think that has a lot to do with the level of civility on these pages. But as readership has grown, it has attracted some people who might be used to the kinds of comments found on many other blogs and in the comment section of newspaper websites. So, I thought it would be good to reiterate the standards that I apply for this blog.

First, as noted at the outset, I cannot comment on individual and legally confidential patient care issues in this forum -- although I can refer patients of our hospital to the appropriate people if they have problems or complaints. I also cannot comment on individual and legally confidential personnel matters of our employees -- although I can refer people to the appropriate folks in the hospital to help them. Accordingly, if you submit a comment that falls in to these categories, I will not post it, but I will refer it along.

Second, I will not post comments that make ad hominem arguments and use foul language, that "flame" rather than make points in a civil fashion, or that have prejudicial implications about race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.

Third, I will not post comments that are clearly designed to advertise a for-profit product, service, or company in the health care field. I retain discretion to post comments that advertise something that would be of general interest.

Fourth, I usually will not post comments that are excessively long. This is tricky because sometimes the person has something interesting to say, but my sense is that most blog readers do not want to drag through very long posts and comments. Encountering a really long comment, many will give up and not reach other comments that follow. So please do the opposite of Pascal: If you have something to say, take the time to write a short letter.

Sometimes I will post a comment telling the commenter that his or her comment has been received but not posted. Other times, I will simply delete it.

Anonymous comments are fine, and I understand why they might be prudent in some cases, but I personally think you can often be more persuasive if people know who you are and where you come from. Also, it feels good to "stand on a soapbox" and be "seen." People have given their lives to allow us to have freedom of speech. Try it!

So, please dive in, keep reading, and send us all your thoughts on the issues of the day. Thank you for your loyal readership and for spreading the word about this blog.


Janet Karasz said...

I have been following your blog for over a year and it never fails to enlighten, to give me a new perspective, or something meaty to chew on.

I've been reading Pres. Obama's audacious book on hope. He dedicates an entire chapter on the tendency of modern politics - modern media - to polarize opinion. He describes so well a social ill that I have not, until now, been able to express. For example, one statement from his book, "The spin, the amplification of conflit, the indiscriminate search for scandal and miscues - the cumulative impact of all this is to erode any agreed-upon standards for judging the truth."

Some of those standards you lay out in your ground rules, such as avoiding ad hominem attacks. You have established an atmosphere where there can be thoughtful dialogue and a meeting of minds.

I believe the only way to resolve the major issues facing North America today is by reasoned discussion; even if the resolution means that we all give up a prortion of our precious ideologue.

mdspencer said...

Good. As a faithful reader I like the exchange of ideas that sometimes gets very heated, it's good for us. But heated doesn't mean flaming. When people flame I can't even hear their ideas.

Jen S said...

Hello, Paul. I just wanted to step up and say hello. I've been reading your blog for a while and am really appreciating your thoughtful commentary on the national health care debate.

You will know me by my maiden name - Jennifer Sullivan - you were my advisor back in the late 90's at MIT. Since then I have gone on to do a PhD at Brandeis in social policy and am now working at the Institute for Community Inclusion at UMass Boston. Right now I am primarily doing research & program evaluation for the Massachusetts Medicaid Infrastructure and Comprehensive Employment Opportunities grant - focused on systems change to improve employment supports and outcomes for people with disabilities.

I do a lot of program evaluation work in my job right now and am becoming more and more interested in how data and evaluation can be used for program improvement - not all that different from the approaches you seem to be taking to quality improvement at BIDMC.

Anonymous said...

Great to hear from you!

Jen S said...

Oh, and most important - I am a mom to a wonderful 2 year old daughter, Anna, and wife to a terrific guy, Steve, whom I married about 5 years ago. We live in Newton (in Auburndale).

REKording said...


nana said...

I've followed your blog from very beginning and think your decisions re comments/disagreements are the model of decency and openness.

Rachel said...

I totally agree with you. When I see a giant blog comment, or giant blog entry for that matter, I usually give up and stop reading. Blogs are supposed to be short and informative. Thanks for some great reading!