This is another “put it up to point people to later” posts:
In the space of 24 hours I’ve been e-mailed by three people asking if I wouldn’t mind deleting the comments they’ve posted here. They have various reasons for the request, not the least of which is that this site has sufficient Google gravity that their comments here are the first thing that show up when someone searches on their name. So this seems like a good time to create a policy on requests to delete comments.
Henceforth, the policy is: Barring the ones that run afoul of my comment policy, No, I won’t.
Reasons for this:
1. Because it takes time and effort, and I don’t want to bother.
2. Because the comment threads are (sometimes) numbered and people often respond to previous comments by noting the number of the comment, and deleting your comment will mess that up, making future readings of the thread more difficult.
3. Because sometimes people have responded to the comment requested for deletion, and removing that comment makes it look like the respondent is talking to themselves, which is silly and which also degrades the reading experience for others.
4. Because I think it’s a bit silly worrying that a comment here might show up in your Google searches. Yes, it might. So what? The vast majority of comments here are not in the least objectionable and will not likely have an effect one way or another on how anyone (potential date, potential employer) sees you. It might annoy or distress you that a comment here ends up high on your Google search (or other search engine searches), but you’ll have to take that up with Google, not me.
5. Philosophically, I’m of the opinion that people need to own their words, and yes, that includes the words that they toss off in a comment section of a blog. I’m also of the opinion that people need to realize that barring some horrible catastrophe that will mean we all have bigger problems, the Internet is forever, and anything you display on it will be archived in one form or another, until the end of time and/or electricity.
For example, even if I delete your comment, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s gone: The site archive.org takes a snapshot of this site on a regular basis, including the comments. They do such a good job of archiving the site that even I go to it when I need to find something that was on the site that no longer is. I also back up my site on a regular basis in case something goes horribly wrong, so the comment lives there too, ready to spring back to life should I ever have to reload my site. And in a more temporary sense, anything that is deleted here lives on in Google Cache for whatever period of time it takes for Google to spider that page again. And so on.
Knowing this, there are two ways of dealing with the Internet: One, never put anything on it, lest one day you regret your words; two, own your words and realize they may have consequences in the future, including consequences you won’t necessarily anticipate now. I can go on Google and find words of mine going back fifteen years. Between then and today, are there things I’ve written online I hope will never again see the light of day? Oh, my, yes. But I accept that they might, and that this is just the nature of the online beast. Welcome to the Internet. And no, posting under a pseudonym won’t save you from owning your words — it’s not at all difficult to connect those sorts of dots online.
Does this mean you should think about what you write here and elsewhere online before typing it in and clicking “Submit Comment”? Quite obviously, yes. It also means, however, that later, when you’re having second thoughts about whatever it is you posted, you should ask yourself if it’s really worth stressing out about. Generally it’s not, and on the rare occasion where it might be, I find the line “lots of people do stupid, ill-advised things on the Internet and I was one of them once” serves very well as an explanation. People who don’t understand that explanation are people you don’t want to spend time with anyway, like the people who are still under the impression here in 2009 that a tattoo or two means you’re automatically smoking crack and giving handjobs to sailors for ready cash.
So, no. Once you post a comment here, it stays up. Don’t like it? Don’t post. Simple.