Relax — A Statement About Comment Policy

Anthony Watts is worried about the time it takes to moderate comments

Lately I’ve found that I spend a lot of time moderating posts that are simply back and forth arguments between just a few people whom have inflexible points of view. Often the discussion turns a bit testy. I’ve had to give some folks (on both sides of the debate) a time out the last couple of days. While the visitors of this blog (on both sides of the debate) are often more courteous than on some other blogs I’ve seen, it still gets tiresome moderating the same arguments between the same people again and again.

This does not surprise me, as I have emailed back and forth to Anthony during a time he was stressed about a particular comment thread.   I told him then what I say now:  Relax.

It might have been that 10 years ago or even 5 that visitors would be surprised and shocked by the actions of certain trolls on the site.  But I would expect that anyone, by now, who spends time in blog comment sections knows the drill — that blog comments can be a free-for-all and some folks just haven’t learned how to maturely operate in an anonymous environment.

I have never tried to moderate my comments (except for spam, which is why you might have  a comment with embedded links held for moderation — I am looking to filter people selling male enhancement products, not people who disagree with me.)  In fact, I relish buffoons who disagree with me when they make an ass of themselves – after all, as Napoleon said, never interrupt an enemy when he is making a mistake.  And besides, I think it makes a nice contrast with a number of leading climate alarmist sites that do not accept comments or are Stalinist in purging dissent from them.

In fact, I find that the only danger in my wide open policy is the media.  For you see, the only exception to my statement above, the only group on the whole planet that seems not to have gotten the message that comment threads don’t necessarily reflect the opinions of the domain operator, is the mainstream media.  I don’t know if this is incompetence or willful, but they still write stories predicated on some blog comment being reflective of the blog’s host.

By the way, for Christmas last year I bought myself an autographed copy of this XKCD comic to go over my desk:


16 thoughts on “Relax — A Statement About Comment Policy”

  1. XKCD is one of the most consistently funny things on the Internet. That most people don’t “get it” makes it even better.

  2. On trolls…I have been in and around what we now call the Internet or “the Web, or the Intartubes, or…) since before there was any such thing.

    I learned a long time ago (but have had near zero success propagsating) that if every one of the serious commenters, always without exception ignore the trolls, they feed on each other until they starve. Using a reader with come kill-file capability makes that a little easier.

    If I were running a mailing list, blog, or forum today where there was a real risk of getting credit for what commenters say, I’d probably make an automated poster gadget that used an easy-to-kill-file “from” string disavowing all comments. For that reason I, might not ever comment using the same ID as I do on the main bed.

  3. This ‘comment policy’ is inane. If you plan to ignore all comments, just publish your anti-intellectual bullshit as static pages.

  4. you are doubtless correct larry. it’s good advice for all of us.

    a system that validates e-mails addresses or some other identifier might be a good idea. this would prevent trolls from using the same names as other posters and changing their names frequently to confuse matters. it benefits everyone to know to whom they are speaking and that a given name is always the same person. is such a system difficult to implement?

  5. @morganovich

    In my opinion, more trouble than it is worth.

    Most trolls have easily recognize “signatures: and are usually pretty proud of their “nyms”.

    (in USENET groups, and mailing lists there are certain strings in From: and Subject” lines that will dump a huge portion of the trolls with little effort if your reader supports kill-files. Fora like this are a little tougher, but there are still ways to cope, and most forum operators are as annoyed as we are and filter for us.)

  6. larry-

    certainly, the trolls seem to have a distinct writing style (at least here) but the fact that the 2 entries from “hunter” above appear to be from different people and that there is often some sort of ongoing skirmish about “the real one” can get annoying. would be nice to avoid needless complications.

    seems like it could be easily handled using a site login with non-duplicatible user names like many online communities do.

  7. An “account” structure would solve some problems, but it leaves some, and adds some. Not all operators are willing (or knowledgeable) enough to take on the additional workload.

    I’m not opposed to it, and I don’t think it is a bad idea, but like the 5-cent can return, success at objectives is not guaranteed.

    Operators of most modern software have options to block-by-origin (such as IP address), but anonymisers provide the hard core troll a way around that.

    And the traffic from people claiming unfair blocking is a nasty overhead.

  8. I came here as ‘hunter’ and some troll- previously known as ‘Jennifer” or “Scientist”, decided to grab my name because someone made a joke at their expense a few posts back. Why Jennifer picked me, I have no clue. But it has been fun to see how a troll is still a troll, whether they dress up as a chameleon or not.
    If there is a way to suppress this stuff, I am all for it. You have been posting some great pieces lately, and it is a shame when the thread becomes filled with trollish distractions- especially when the troll in question is such a bore.

  9. Trolls are like the bullies at school.
    First you argu with them and you end with your face in the mud or in the principals office. Then you try to ignore them, and they get worse. Finally you avoid them, but you still want to kick them in the goolies or at least wish someone did.

  10. somehow, this aphorism is seeming apropos:

    “don’t wrestle with pigs. you both get all dirty and the pig just likes it.”

  11. Avatars are really hard to change.
    Take for instance Lubos Molts comments by JS presskit. An individual commenter can change names like underwear, but changing the avatar involves registration logging in uploading an image confirming changes with email accounts. It’s a bitch.
    So with the avatar system Jennifer will have the same muppet photo as scientist as she does as psuedo hunter.
    It’s discourages sockpuppet shenanigans.

  12. Your blog is NOT well served by the disgusting level of discourse YOU allow it to sink to by not requiring proper decorum in comments. Your lack of moderation colors the entire blog, not just the “trolls.” Would you frequent an establishment where someone is constantly shouting expletives while the owner sits back and watches? Take more pride in your product.

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