Jun 24, 2007

Comment policy

Elsewhere in Blogland (Blogdom, Blogovia, Blogostan, etc., take your pick) or at least that part of the Country of Blog I visit, the debate of freedom of speech and how far can you go in saying mean or threatening things to someone in a comments war has resurfaced. I've already given my opinion on the matter, and although several have told me that the right to free speech is meant to limit government censorship, not to keep people from lying about each other, I think my earlier post still makes my point in the debate.

Some other citizens of the Country of Blog have found it necessary to post a comment policy for their blogs. Understandably. I have seen the flame wars of Usenet make their way into comments of people's blogs. Same nastiness, same off-topic and personal attacks. And in some cases, same altering of the original comment.

But one reason is because the blog owner lets it happen. And why? Well, maybe because they want everyone to like them, or they have sworn in the nude while sitting on a stack of pineapples never, ever to delete a comment.

Bah to that. I still frequent Usenet. I'm used to flame wars and I've seen people driven off a newsgroup and into therapy, and I've seen people rally around and protect those who couldn't protect themselves from a vicious attacker. And in some cases, moderated groups were formed. And that means finding moderators. A "job" that has a high turnover.

To moderate a Usenet group you have to like rules, know how to use them, and be willing to enforce them. You cannot get upset when the writer of a banned post chooses to say the vilest things about you in another newsgroup or in e-mail to you. You cannot be the sort that worries about being liked. Your job is to protect fair and friendly discussion. You certainly can't whine on the moderated group about off-group attacks from the poster who didn't like getting his post rejected because he put another poster's name in the Subject.

Moderating Usenet groups is not for the faint-hearted or for those with misguided ideas of what's fair ("But so-and-so wasn't mean to me!"). Not if you want to keep everyone focused on reasonable, preferably on-topic discourse.

So here is my comment policy: I used to moderate a Usenet group.

17 comments:

Miz UV said...

Due to recent events such as the Kathy Sierra situation, I've changed my mind re the responsibilities of the blog owner. I used to think, hey, you're on your own if you comment here, but now I'd be more inclined to intervene if a discussion went off the rails, which is something that used to happen regularly at Ultrablog, but not lately. If it should occur though, I'd delete a threatening or outrageous comment and possibly shut down that thread. (I still wouldn't alter anyone's words.) And, yes, I did swear, but I wasn't naked. ;)

Mark said...

"But one reason is because the blog owner lets it happen. And why? Well, maybe because they want everyone to like them"

That seems to be the case a lot of the time.

"Not if you want to keep everyone focused on reasonable, preferably on-topic discourse."

Frankly, I don't see why people get their panties in a wad about a discussion going "off-topic". Certainly if that is the blog administrator's desire, it is their job to step in from time to time and steer the discussion. It certainly isn't their guests' job to do so in a situation where a commenter has allegedly strayed from the topic.

I have yet to be involved in a real life discussion that didn't ebb and flow and wend its way through numerous changes of topic.

As far as altering comments, if it deters certain people from commenting further, I'm with Nancy on that score:

"I also reserve the right to edit it. Change it. Alter it. Turn it into something other than what the commenter intended. I won't be doing this to most comments. There is a specfic sub-class of comments to which this applies. Those who repeatedly offend me are targets. I go into detail about what offends me, below. If you're worried about this, then maybe you should think twice about leaving a comment I probably will not like."

My blog, my rules. If someone doesn't like it, they don't have to read it. It's really that simple.
And because, quite simply, IT WORKS.

Keera Ann Fox said...

FTR, I don't adhere to the policy of altering comments (not that I know how, with Blogger). I think it's dishonest. The link to Nancy was meant as an example, not an endorsement. Maybe I'd better remove it.

As for comparing conversations in real life to what goes on in comments, well, I refer readers to the link in the post above. They aren't the same. Face-to-face (even phone-to-phone) is not the same as computer-to-computer.

Keera Ann Fox said...

Link to Nancy removed. (Sorry, Nancy.)

Mark said...

Actually I was well aware that you were not in agreement with Nancy and I and that you were NOT endorsing that policy. It's a policy that is distasteful to most, I think but I have found it useful, so as far as I'm concerned, the end justifies the means. And I have only had to do it less than five times out of Christ knows how many comments.

Not sure what the difference is between c to c and real life when there are real people involved in both, something many seem to forget.

Sravana said...

Wow. This really gets some folk's backs up.

Keera, you can delete comments when you're signed in to blogger - all you'd have to do is look at the comments, and you should see a little trash can icon at the bottom of each comment.

I can see that here, on *my* comments, for instance if I think the better of something I've written, or there are too many typos etc.

But as far as editing comments, you've got me there. I don't think you can do this w/blogger.

Keera Ann Fox said...

Mark, many people allow themselves a different behavior when they don't run the risk of meeting someone face-to-face; it was common on Usenet, it's become common on blogs.

FTR, I do not believe the end justifies the means. Or to put it another way: That has to be the last resort.

Sravana, it does get people's backs up and everyone thinks their way of doing something is the right way. Nothing stirs a discussion like discussing what can be posted (just like Usenet).

I have deleted comments, mine and others. And I've just confirmed via Blogger's help discussion group that editing posted comments isn't possible.

Joe the Troll said...

Deleting comments when someone gets out of line is one thing - I deleted a slew of comments from a Mark Levin fan that didn't like my attitude toward Levin. But changing someone's comment and pretending that they wrote what they didn't write is base dishonesty, pure and simple. I have to wonder that anyone would be gullible enough to believe anything posted on such a blog.

Mark said...

Keera:

"Or to put it another way: That has to be the last resort."

BINGO.

And, Keera, we're discussing blogs, not the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

So I respectfully agree to disagree.

:o)>

Sravana said...

Wow. Editing someone else's comments? That's simply unethical, unless you have a notice that you intend to do that somewhere that folks can find it.

Remind me to never read your blog.

Mark said...

"That's simply unethical, unless you have a notice that you intend to do that somewhere that folks can find it."

It's clearly posted in my sidebar, so I don't think there's an ethics question whatsoever.

Keera Ann Fox said...

Mark, just to be clear, when I said FTR, I do not believe the end justifies the means. Or to put it another way: That has to be the last resort. I was not referring to blog comment editing but to means and ends in general. I.e. war is the last resort.

And war is stupid.

M said...

Editing instead of deleting is mondo lame-o. If it's bad enough to edit, it's bad enough to delete (special case for redacting personal info when the redaction is made clear (as in: "[PERSONAL ID INFO REDACTED]")).

Otherwise: I always thought you'd be a good mod, and can I spot 'em or what?

On the other point: war is stupid and evil and immoral, so you only fight when you have to, and then you fight to win and get it over with.

m, this eternal war for eternal peace BS sucks

M said...

Oh, yeah: what happened to the galaxy post?

m, that was cool

Joe the Troll said...

" If it's bad enough to edit, it's bad enough to delete"

It's not really about the content - that's a smokescreen. It's about not liking the person or people commenting.

Webmiztris said...

mark - i gotta admit, I'm reluctant to comment on your blog recently. I know you'll only edit a comment if the commenter writes something that will piss you off, but how is a commenter to know what is going to piss you off? I'd rather not risk my comment being edited, so I stay out of the comments altogether most of the time. another reason I'm posting this comment here instead of your blog: I know Keera isn't going to edit/delete it!!

Keera Ann Fox said...

Comments are now closed for this post.