There have been lots of questions about the comments policy so I thought I would give you the opportunity to ask any questions about the comments or how Slugger works generally (or does not work).
Slugger has very little structure and I freely admit we make it up as we go along. We know we are not perfect so we do welcome your suggestions and ideas for improvement. We have a lot of very smart readers and I am keen to get readers more involved.
A few years ago we started to put together frequently asked questions. I have dug it out to answer the most common questions.
Is Slugger nationalist/unionist/conservative/socialist etc?
Slugger is a platform. It does not have any opinions. All of our writers have their own opinions, biases and disagreements, often with one another. And that’s how we like it.
How much control do you exert on what your blogger can write about?
For new or probationary contributors, approval is needed before posts are published. Generally, this is to check for grammar, spelling, accuracy and/or potential libel issues. Once a contributor becomes an approved blogger they, like regular posters have the freedom to blog about the subjects they choose and publish at will. In this case, the core team rarely even see a post until it goes live.
Are there any subjects you will not write about?
Beyond legal boundaries and common decency, Slugger’s historical bailiwick is Northern Ireland, culture and politics. But we are not a newspaper. We rarely commission posts or tell our writers to write (or not to write) about any given topic. If you feel there’s a gap we always welcome new writers of guest ‘soapbox’ articles.
Who owns Slugger?
Slugger is owned by Slugger O’Toole Ltd. At this moment its sole owner and director is its founder Mick Fealty. In all other respects, Slugger itself operates as an informal collective in which authority is passed down to the lowest possible level. The main purpose of being a Ltd company is to protect against any potential libel action, but touch wood we have never had any major problems in that area.
So why have I been banned then?
Our priority is to ensure good conversational flow between people sharing profound disagreements over important matters. To keep the ball (the issue at play) moving encourage counterargument and refutation. However we treat ad hominem remarks (even trivial ones) as interruptions of play. Early offences may incur removal. In most cases, a ban only happens after a recurring pattern of breaches. A separate FAQ goes into a lot more detail about how we moderate comments.
Surely I’m allowed to point out who a person or what their record is for context?
We certainly encourage commenters to share their research and bring wider context for their own counter positions to that of the original post (OP), fellow commenters or those of public figures. You cannot be banned for disproving someone else’s argument. What you are not permitted to do is to focus on the person making the counter-argument to yours.
But you let other people away with things that are far more offensive?
Matters of decency aside, the ad hominem rule means that our volunteers never get involved in judging whether any single opinion is more offensive than another. If Slugger is working well, we should all be faced with opinions we find difficult or which we may even find personally offensive. Those judgements are always in some measure ‘political’. Our only concern is how well you manage to stay within the no ad hominem rule.
But you are so damned inconsistent, I’ve seen others get away with a lot worse.
Remember this is a high volume conversational site, we can easily get over 10,000 comments a month. Some of our bloggers moderate, but most don’t. The burden falls upon a small number of volunteers who do the job because they like the standards we generally manage to keep and want to help maintain Slugger’s reputation as an open and welcoming space. We miss things, because we all have lives elsewhere in the real world. Given the scarcity of our resources, the onus must be on commenters to play the very best game they can. We rely on attracting good players committed to sharing their views and listening to the criticism of those who don’t. There is a flagging system within the comments section that can bring rule violations to our attention.
How does Slugger get funding?
Slugger does not currently get any funding or grants. None of the core team draws any money from their online work for Slugger O’Toole. Costs are recovered from donations. Some income is derived from running live events. We do take some static ads but we refuse to take those annoying intrusive ads that plague the rest of the internet. At most our income is a few grand a year, so slugger really does run on a shoestring budget. If you like what we do please consider becoming a Friend of Slugger.
But seriously, who funds Slugger?
No really, we don’t get paid. The core team does it for the craic. It generally costs us income to be involved. But we enjoy it because we are passionate about getting some light in through the cracks to keep an open handed debate going on Northern Irish culture and politics. Everyone deserves to have an out-of-control hobby …
How is Slugger structured/managed?
There is a core team of volunteers. They are not employees and do not receive any salary. They are volunteers who help keep Slugger alive and resilient. The structure is deliberately loose and anarchic. We are very reluctant to put in place any structures or constraints that might reduce what makes Slugger work.
How do I become a writer?
We love promoting new writers and giving space to new voices from whichever part of Northern Ireland, Ireland, the UK or beyond that you hail from. We particularly enjoy contributions from the diaspora (which is where Mick is located most of the time, so he really can’t tell the rest of us what to do or think). All you have to do is contact any of the core team using Key Contacts listed in the right hand column of every page on the website. You can write as often as you like about any issue you like.
Do writers get paid for posts?
No. As we may have mentioned before we get no funding, so no one gets paid.
Are you really just not interested in hosting Unionist or female writers on Slugger?
Across all media, there is a signal lack of Unionist voices. As a result the burden falls on a small number of commentators across every print and broadcast outlet. No conversation about the future of Northern Ireland is complete without a strong and informed Unionist perspective. We are keen to give new Unionist writers an opportunity to get their voices properly heard.
We have a slate of great writers like Gladys Ganiel, Claire Mitchell, Sarah Creighton and others who grab the public space and make it their own. And each year across our live events and Slugger TV show, we maintain a good gender balance. We continue to look for and encourage more women to come on board. As we have said before, all new voices (female or male, of any political ideology or none) are welcome, so please get in touch.
Any other questions please put them in the comments but do also suggest improvements for the site. It might take a few hours to get a response as I shall be out doing my parkrun and family stuff.
I help keep the good ship Slugger afloat by managing the business and techy stuff.