PolicyMic Editors' Blog: 4 Principles to Keep the Highest Quality Discussion on the Web

As we've said before, here at PolicyMic, our community comes first. Our discussion section is one of the most vibrant and high-quality on the internet. It is also a place where we can come together, despite our differences, to gain greater understanding of ourselves and our role in this community and the other communities to which we belong. The pieces which matter most to the PolicyMic community are the ones which resonate with our readers, our pundits, and our editors, the articles which allow us a jumping-off point to express our own thoughts, values, and beliefs. 

But as this recent article demonstrates, the discussion section can only serve our community postively if we abide by certain principles and demonstrate our willingness to truly interact with others and to engage fairly and accurately with the arguments they pose. Here are a few of our most prized principles:

1. While many people at PolicyMic (myself included) have strong political affiliations or identities, we must be mindful not to blindly attack others in strongly partisan ways. No group is homogenous; there is a wide range of thought within any party or political group. Be careful not to resort to general stereotypes about "liberals" versus "conservatives," "Republicans" versus "Democrats" versus "independents" versus "libertarians," the "left" versus the "right" in ways that lead you to miss the nuances of individual arguments. There is a difference between citing general trends within a party or pointing out common rhetoric amongst party affiliates and dismissing all such arguments out of hand as "typical" of that party. People are complex in their views; respect their complexity in your commentary. 

2. Ad hominem attacks are fallacious. Instead of resorting to personal attacks on the writer, state your final points on their argument and move on. Critiquing people based on their gender, their race, their party affiliation, their income level, their level of education, and/or their career (e.g. "of course you think that, because you are..." ) is not substantive critique, unless the matter being discussed is the writer's identity.

3. The best debates are informative, passionate and constructive, rather than hot-headed, intimidating or close-minded. The best debates, moreover, start from common ground. Nuanced debaters can identify sites of commonality as well as sites of difference. We do not all share the same experiences, values, or beliefs, but we all have something to gain from learning another perspective and being exposed to new facts or opinions. Read and comment widely respectfully and constructively on PolicyMic — the entire community benefits when we engage in these kinds of dialogue.

4. And finally, PolicyMic always seeks to include more people on more topics for the richest conversation possible, so always encourage new voices to join into the conversation. If a perspective is missing, invite someone to share that perspective. If no one is talking about an issue, raise it yourself. If you think we're missing something, point it out to us.

Our diverse, respectful, engaged community is what makes PolicyMic the best place for millennials to write, read, and respond on the web. Let's hold the discussion section to the same standards we set for our articles.

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Sam Meier

Samantha Meier serves as the Identities editor at PolicyMic, where she writes on activism, gender, and new media. Sam was profiled in the New York Times for co-founding Sex Week at Harvard, and is currently working on a book about women and underground comix. Originally from Flagstaff, Arizona, she currently lives in New York.

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