It's time for another post about guidelines for participating on this blog. Since the last time I covered this ground, many new users have registered at Bleeding Heartland, and competitive elections can bring out bad behavior on political blogs. Here are a few rules to keep in mind.
I welcome diaries by other contributors and will promote some of them to the front page. Diaries can be about any local, statewide or national subject you think would interest the Bleeding Heartland community. A news report or post at another blog can be the basis for a diary, but do not post lengthy excerpts or the entire text of copyrighted materials. Legal "fair use" involves posting a link to the original article and an excerpt of a few paragraphs. Going beyond that will get your diary deleted.
If you write a long diary, put the first few paragraphs in the "main text" section to let readers know what you're writing about. The rest of your diary should go in the "extended text" section. E-mail me at desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com if you have trouble creating an account or posting diaries here.
The upcoming elections should provide plenty of material. You can offer your own take on one of the statewide races; last summer American007 posted early odds on Republican race for governor. You can take a longer view, like BJazz did in predicting that marriage equality is here to stay in Iowa. You can educate us, as ragbrai08 did in this post on "Redistricting the Iowa Way." I would love to see detailed write-ups on state legislative campaigns, so if there's a competitive Iowa House or Senate race going on in your corner of the state, please consider writing about how the campaign looks from the ground and local media reports.
You can put a personal spin on your diary. For instance, PrairieBreezeCheese mentioned how unemployment affected his own family in this post about the need for different priorities at the Federal Reserve. I love first-person accounts of candidate forums and town-hall meetings. You don't have to be as detailed as John Deeth (though that is useful). You can write up highlights from the event, like IowaVoter did for one of Chuck Grassley's meetings in 2008 and iowademocrat did for a Tom Harkin meeting on health care reform last summer.
I can't keep track of everything going on at the statehouse, so go ahead and write about specific bills being considered if you think those are newsworthy. Sean Flaherty brought a bill on post-election audits to our attention recently.
While this is a Democratic blog, feel free to criticize Democratic candidates or elected officials where warranted. (I wasn't a cheerleader in high school, and I'm not interested in being one now.) If you have a beef with a fellow Democrat, though, you need to do more than call names. For instance, if you are upset about a bill that Iowa House or Senate Democrats are or are not supporting, tell us the bill number, what the bill does, and why that's a good or bad idea. If you feel someone is running a bad campaign, explain what you don't like about the campaign strategy and/or how it could be better.
Bleeding Heartland commenters and diarists can write under any screen name they choose. No one is required to reveal real names or any personal information. "Outing" other Bleeding Heartland users will get you banned here. I do ask Bleeding Heartland users not to make false statements about themselves. You're free to never mention your age, gender or location, but if you say you are a 40-year-old, Jewish mother living in Windsor Heights, you should be a 40-year-old Jewish mother living in Windsor Heights.
I also ask that you stick to one username whenever you comment at Bleeding Heartland. In other words, creating "sock puppets" to lend support for your own position is not acceptable.
Democratic candidates are welcome to post here, and I generally promote their diaries to the front page. In order to avoid problems that have cropped up at other political blogs, I ask paid campaign staffers to disclose that fact if they write about the campaign they're working on. However, someone employed by a campaign can post anonymously about topics not related to that candidate's race.
Bleeding Heartland has fortunately attracted very few trolls. Registered users can rate comments, and comments are hidden if they receive too many "zero" ratings. I posted some guidelines for rating comments here and re-posted those after the jump.
Final reminder: a free Bleeding Heartland application is available for iPhone or Android users. The application lets you read posts, view recent topics covered, and search for stories containing certain names or keywords. The application can also send you alerts (free text messages) within a few minutes whenever a new post goes up here, and lets you access the story faster than if you used your phone's web browser. After the jump I've posted a couple of screen shots of the new application, which looks the same on iPhone and Android. Here is the link for the Bleeding Heartland iPhone application at the iTunes store. Android users, including those who have Android 1.5, can find it by searching for "Bleeding Heartland" on your phone.
Feedback and suggestions about the blog are welcome in this thread.
You don't have to rate comments (my personal style is to be sparing in handing out ratings), but if you do, you can give five possible ratings.
"4" is for excellent. That means the comment has valuable insight, original information or analysis, and makes a strong contribution to dialogue at Bleeding Heartland.
"3" is for good. You might use this if you largely agree with someone's comment, but not with every point he or she makes.
"2" is for marginal. You might use this if you strongly disagree with the content of someone's comment. Also, a 2 rating could be a "shot across the bow" to warn someone that the line of argument in the comment didn't do much to advance dialogue here, or comes close to crossing a line.
"1" is for unproductive. If you not only strongly disagree with a comment, but feel that it detracts from the atmosphere here (for instance, because it is disrespectful or contains ad hominem attacks), you might give it a 1.
"0" is for troll. If more than one user gives a comment a zero, it will be hidden so that some Bleeding Heartland readers cannot see it.
Never use a zero rating to express disagreement with the argument someone is making. That is ratings abuse, and if you do it repeatedly, Bleeding Heartland administrators will either take away your ability to rate comments or potentially ban you from posting here.
A zero rating should be reserved for extreme circumstances, when the comment deserves to be hidden. For instance, if someone is impersonating someone else by choosing a different real person's name as a screen name (for instance, if I signed up as "Leonard Boswell" and posted ridiculous comments pretending to come from him).
Comments that use racist or bigoted language or expose personal information about a Bleeding Heartland user also would merit a zero.