Two moar roolz: civility and embedding videos

January 10, 2013 • 5:56 am

It’s useful from time to time to refresh old readers—or inform new ones—about the roolz, especially if they’re being broken.  I want to single out only two today:

1. Be civil.  Do not call people names who are commenting on the site. You gain nothing (and look bad) if you start calling insulting folks, and it certainly doesn’t foster discussion. There are plenty of other websites where you can indulge in invective to your heart’s content. There were a few gratuitous insults on the Pat Condell Palestine thread.

Do not call someone a liar, either.

If I see someone being uncivil in this way (and I don’t always catch them), I will ask for an apology, level a warning, or send a private email.  About 60% of those who are warned respond with truculence, either insulting me or saying that their behavior is fully justified. That’s a good way to get blacklisted—almost as good as telling me to stop posting on cats or cowboy boots. If I ask you to apologize to a commenter whom you insulted, please do so. It’s the right thing to do.

2. Linking to videos.  Don’t embed them directly unless you have something really special to show, for it makes the comments unwieldy.  If you just paste in the http:// address of a YouTube video, for instance, it will put the entire video in your comment. Occasionally I will let this go, but sometimes readers insert multiple videos. I delete those comments. To avoid this, and create a link, use the following html formulation:

image 76Suppose, for example, that you want to draw readers’ attention to this video of Neil Shubin talking about his new book on Colbert last night:

The address is this:

You would first make up a phrase to link to the video, like “Neil Shubin’s video”, and then put it in the formulation above, comme ça:

<a href=””&gt;Neil Shubin’s video</a>.  In other words, preface the link with <a href= (note the space after “a”), put quotations marks around the URL, add your linking words, and end it all with </a> (Ignore the &gt in what I’ve written).

Yes, I know it’s a bit tricky, but with practice it will become familiar.  If you forget, just search the website for “linking to videos”.

So go see how Neil did last night; he wrote me that he had to “fight for every inch.”


h/t: Grania for html advice.

63 thoughts on “Two moar roolz: civility and embedding videos

  1. Good luck with #2. Most people are used to comment boxes that don’t behave in the fashion you describe w.r.t. videos.

    “Yes, I know it’s a bit tricky, but with practice it will become familiar”

    Seriously no. Even for the HTML-savvy amongst us, remembering which blogsite’s comment boxes does what is more difficult than remembering our passwords.

    Realistically I think you’re better just making sure that the comment parser behaves better! Surely WordPress is up to that!

    1. I agree. I see little hope for training commenters to do this since it is so error-prone. If there was a way to edit one’s comment then we’d see better formatting. But alas…

      I stress out over making sure that I close bold and italic tags. (Did I get that right? I won’t know until it is too late!)

      1. I now keep a notepad file on my taskbar with commonly used tags set up (opening and closing thus [i][/i] but of course using less than & more than brackets)so that I can just copy & paste. Then I just type the word in between the tags. I’ve done the same with the video html Jerry suggests, but the last couple of times I used it, it just failed (not embedded, just not worked at all). I have made sure that I re-type the quotation marks, as has been suggested elsewhere, but now I’m scared to try it!

        Actually, I’ll give it a try now. Here goes:
        TESTING for Faith 1 (Proof you do NOT believe).

      2. Success! The mistake I had been making was to remove the http:// before putting the link into the quotes. I was trying too hard to avoid embedding :-).

    2. The way Jerry suggests is okay for me, as that is the way I normally insert a link a comment. However, my recollection is that, with respect to YouTube videos, it did not solve the problem on this site, at least back at the point when I did it. Therefore, I am inclined to speculate that the problem relates to something inherent with WordPress and/or YouTube.

    3. For me at least when I don’t put the effort into formulating the html it’s because I am being lazy. If I stop and think about the effort that the host puts into providing content for the forum while all I do is spout off I think it is acceptable that I put in a little effort as well. Besides, the quality of the comments in general is likely raised by needing to think a bit about what is being included in a comment. If I don’t have time to construct a proper comment perhaps I should be attending to some other pressing need.

      1. You are making the “harder is better” argument that is very old in the world of user interface design. It is an argument that excuses all manner of poor interface design. It is the argument made by older engineers years ago in favor of developing in assembly language instead of, say, C. If it were true the world’s great libraries would contain only the greatest books, all stored on clay tablets.

          1. That’s not my job. I also decline the job of reengineering poorly designed freeway interchanges and Microsoft Word. I am perfectly comfortable expressing my opinions about things I am not responsible for correcting.

            1. WordPress is providing the software free of charge they may not have the funds to do a rewrite. Personally, I try not to complain to much about free lunch.

              I suppose your responsibility then is to pump out as many comments as could be humanly possible. And you could do more too, if only you had a proper interface which you are way to busy to write.

              1. I don’t think it is my responsibility but I do feel free to push back at people who say, in so many words, STFU.

                Roolz are fine. Better are systems that make them unnecessary. It is not the responsibility of software users to create better software. (I say this as a software professional. It is our responsibility as developers to make our systems as easy for users as possible. Blaming errors on users for failing to follow rules is unacceptable. Telling them to shut up about problems or write their own is not a way to success.)

          1. I saw it. I have no problem with the idea of people thinking about their comments before clicking “Post Comment”. I just don’t agree that this is a reasonable justification for poor UI design.

            1. Couldn’t agree more, gb. And I would think WP is big enough and established enough that by now these kinks could have been worked out. Between that and having to remember to subscribe to a thread you’re posting on…!

              Blogs (and this website) are supposed to be conversational and attract a wide range of commenters. Just because software honchos comprise a large part of the audience doesn’t mean everyone should have to learn so much html to do what other programs provide simpler methods for.

              I’ve had backchannel communications with more than one commenter just to teach them bold, italic, blockquote, etc., tags…Sheesh–some flowing conversation, WP!

              I hope JAC realizes this is just venting about WP! I’ve been trying to follow the roolz and have only screwed up with one tag so far, knock on wood…


              1. @Ant It’s not possible to edit or delete any comments you have made on sites unless you’re the admin.

                If FtB is based on WordPress it must be rather than The former allows plugins & has greater functionality but there’s a cost to self hosting

                Detailed comparison HERE

              2. P.S. I think FtB would benefit from turning off comments entirely [just for a start]

  2. I’m not American or British. Although I’m an English speaker, I never really understood the difference between calling someone stupid and calling names.

    Can someone explain this to me? Or are they the same?

    This is a genuine question.

    1. “Calling names” means “to insult”. Calling someone stupid is one particular form of “calling names”.

      1. Then if I write “that’s a stupid argument” am I calling names?

        Or do you think to say “you’re stupid” is different than saying “what you’re saying is stupid”

        1. Well, yes, kind of. But not as directly as saying “you are stupid”. At least that’s my take on it. Others may see it differently. But they are stupid. (JUST KIDDING!)

          1. So many times I heard people saying “You can use strong language to make your point. But don’t call names!”

            I don’t think the distinction is well defined in anyone’s mind.

            Maybe whyevolutionistrue can specify the definitions.

            1. You speak English better than I do a lot of things, and my friends would say that includes how I speak English, also.

              I don’t disagree with you that it’s frequently difficult to tell the difference between name-calling and confrontational language. If this were not the case we would see many fewer complaints about atheist’s stridency or militancy.

              But it’s disheartening that we’d need our host to specify or to define for us the difference. Why can’t it be that we interact with each other on the internet with the same rules we’d use to interact with people off the internet?

          1. In all fairness, however, there are genuinely stupid people out there. Some get elected to Congress. (Louis Gohmert, I’m looking at you!)

            1. Reminds me of the segment from Religulous where Bill Maher is interviewing the creationist senator who apparently without any sense of irony says that you don’t have to pass an IQ test to get elected to the senate.

        2. Then if I write “that’s a stupid argument” am I calling names?

          IMO, no. In that case you’re talking about the argument and not the person. Of course, it would be more polite to say something like “that doesn’t seem like a good argument to me”.

          Or do you think to say “you’re stupid” is different than saying “what you’re saying is stupid”

          Of course it is. Even smart people say stupid things sometimes, it’s a matter of statistics 😉

          Disclaimer: English is not my native langauge, but I live in the states for the last 18 years or so.

          1. Besides some people being offended, an other, and perhaps more important, reason to avoid calling arguments “stupid” is that it is too generic specification, arguments could be “stupid” for different reasons. IMO it’s better to specify what you thing is wrong with an argument, is it logically fallacious or based on false premises etc.

    2. The rule I try to remember (not always successfully, I suspect that one of the people Jerry is referring to is me, mea culpa) is that people deserve respect, ideas and institutions do not.

      So I think it’s OK to call an idea stupid but not the person who is presenting the idea.

      Now some people are so invested in their ideas that they can not distinguish between criticism of their ideas and a personal attack.

      But I would say that is their problem and not yours.

  3. Are there really still people who make demands of blogs (I mean websties!) on what they should post about? OMG I had to scroll down a whole page!!!

    Pretend it is a TV and just change the channel. Yeesh.

    If you are nervous about your HTML, there are plenty of preview places to go. Then just cut and paste.

    1. HTML preview pages are handy for those who remember them when needed and bother to use them.

      Most people are thinking about what they are typing in the little comment entry field. If it wasn’t for my computer’s ability to provide spell-correction as I type, I am pretty sure my comments would be way uglier than they are, even though I could go off and spell check in Word (or manually with one of those old “Dictionary” books).

      The real problem is the user interface not making it easy to do things right.

      1. Not all site comment feeds handle all HTML tags the same way – many only handle bold and italic – so a preview may not really help. In fact on some sites, their own previews don’t even work once the post has been made, especially with respect to white-space.

          1. I was actually responding to John K, but the site moved my comment down. (Which is a common comment-management bug).

            See you can’t even rely on the visible UI here operating properly, so trying to remember all the invisible pieces is wildly impractical.

            [And just in case this is mishandled again, it’s a response to gbjames 9.15am comment!]

      2. I agree with you that the WordPress commenting UI sucks, but it seems to me that Jerry is as much a victim of that bad design as we are. So any complaints about it ought to be directed to WordPress, not to Jerry.

        1. I haven’t blamed Jerry. He and his readers are all users, not responsible for design of the software system. (assuming no WordPress project managers are among the readers of WEIT)

          1. I’ll give a +1 on this.

            (No criticism of Jerry, just of the interface).

            I do understand basic HTML but I’m still nervous using it here in case WP interprets tags differently.

            A sandbox would be great, not only for catching HTML errors, but in making me re-read what I’ve just written – I often find, re-reading after I’ve posted, that I didn’t make clear which point I was replying to.

            WP’s nesting rules don’t help either, I click on ‘Reply’, write “You’re quite right….” then find my message slotted in immediately following someone with whom I strongly disagree. Or vice versa. The (wished-for) sandbox should show that too.

        2. Oh, I hope JAC realizes that’s exactly where my comments are aimed at! Guess venting doesn’t accomplish much; but it always helps. 🙂

          (Also, is it just me, or does WP have some of the ugliest emoticons ever? 😉 )

    2. “I mean websties!”

      That’s is an excellent typo. 🙂

      I think “websty” (clearly the singular form) should become the standard noun for this location on the internet. I just can’t decide whether to pronounce the final consonant as a long “e” or as a long “i”.

  4. About the problem of videos being embedded, I invented my own solution that has worked so far. I just have to remember to do it each and every time.

    First, I copy the full URL address (http and all that) of the video, then I paste it here in the comment box.
    Then I back up and and cut out the ‘http://’ part.
    Then I post the comment.
    The link will generally appear with ‘http://’ automatically re-generated, but the video screen frame itself will NOT show up.

    1. Do embedded videos really eat up bandwidth? Isn’t the whole point of embedding that the original hosting site of the video provides the content and not the site that it is embedded in?

  5. I appreciate the rules on this site. They help make this a decent place to be. I often learn a lot from the comments, in stark contrast to many places.

    I wonder if it might be possible to put a permanent link to the rules on the sidebar, or even give a short summary of them at the top of the comments?

  6. Jerry, it would REALLY REALLY help people comply with the video link thing if you could somehow put the example of how to do it correctly right below your comment box so that people will be staring at the right way. (And also would be helpful to add a few simple formating ones, like for bold and italics; particularly since there is no preview to allow one to confirm that they used the method appropriate to your blog.)

    As an alternative: perhaps a link to a page that lists all the common formating codes that will work here, all in one place.

    It is asking alot for someone to hunt down this thread (or go off to google for an html tutorial) to find the procedure that works for your blog.

    1. I have a little file that I store on my own computer that helps me remember what I need to know. Any lapse from that is probably my own fault.

  7. “Do not call someone a liar, either.”

    It’s your site and your rules; no-one in their right mind would argue with that, but I don’t understand the issue here. If someone has not lied, or if there is some question as to whether they deliberately lied or simply made a mistake, then yes, it’s entirely improper to label them as such, but if someone has lied and you’ve demonstrated that to be the case, then what’s wrong with calling them what they are?

    1. It is sufficient to say that they have told an untruth and should have known better–or perhaps did. There are ways of pointing out such issues without direct name-calling.

      Yes, it is my site, so please obey the rules!

    2. Broadly, that depends in part what sense of “wrong” you mean.

      Empirically, there’s sometimes difficulty in distinguishing a willful misrepresentation from an error due to abject ignorance, reliance on erroneous source information, or inferential ineptitude. There’s also the question of how accurate it is to imply generalization of a trait from one particular case.

      From the standpoint of social design choices, there’s several other possible reasons. There’s potentially some value to social signalling of an unreliable source, but not when the signal is readily counterfeited. Showing a claim is empirically erroneous requires effort that is harder to counterfeit; and, in so far as the religious appear to tend to have difficulty with such efforts, doing so equitably sets a precedent that is disadvantageous for the religious.

      There’s the philosophical difference between attacking the claim and attacking the person; it seems likely Dr. Coyne would prefer a not-a-blog more about ideas than personalities.

      Finally, such direct insult is often considered rude, which bolsters some stereotypical expectations about atheists; and excessive use of rudeness tends to reduce its surprise value. In so far as surprise appears one of the central triggers of cognitive dissonance, which in turn seems critical to changing people’s habits of thinking, direct rudeness seems most effective if saved for very special occasions — even when one is under the demesne of Dr. Coyne’s rules.

      Perhaps using a XKCD-style “[Citation Needed]” remark would be an effective substitute for you, even though it is getting to be cliche. (Come to that, “you’re a liar” seems well beyond cliche.) Of course, you may be unpleasantly surprised by receiving one in response; but that tends to be a learning experience.

  8. BBCodeXtra is an extension [add-on] for FireFox & Seamonkey

    It adds new commands to your mouse right-click context menu to insert BBCode/Html/XHtml codes in an easy and fast way.

    BBCodeXtra suits well with all forum types, for example:

    * phpBB
    * Invision
    * VBullettin

    This add-on really simplifies your life with all forums that use BBCode or Html codes when posting new messages.

    For this site use the htmlXtra menu
    You can permanently hide any menus/commands that are of no use to you on this or other sites [look in the options for this add-on once you’ve installed it]

    1. “with all forums that use BBCode or Html codes when posting new messages.” – but many only allow a subset of HTML codes. Many’s the time I’ve been left with half-parsed HTML in a non-editable comment.

  9. The HTML in the paragraph following “comme ça” is broken. I suggest this as a replacement:

    <a href="">Neil Shubin’s video</a>.

    In other words, just replace URL and LinkText in this template: <a href="URL">LinkText</a>.

    Maybe that is simple enough to be helpful.

  10. Fascinating bit of research, that of those contacted by Jerry about their language, that 70% reply in a ‘truculent’ manner. Arrogance forms a tough shell, and the ears drop off, so they can’t take feedback.

    1. I think it’s very cool that he goes to the trouble of contacting some rool-breakers backchannel. How many hosts are gonna do that?

  11. I wonder if there’s some way to locate your comment rules near the box where comments are entered.

    In a practical sense, I often don’t really even know I’m on your blog. I’m in my RSS reader, reading many articles, of which this is merely one. 🙁

    I do object to your liar rule. Where the evidence shows someone to have lied, they ought to be called out on it, directly.

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