Bloggers: Reign With An Iron Fist In The Comments Sections

Over at Outside the Beltway talks about his comments section:

“My least favorite part of the “blog job,” though, is the incivility in comment threads and the occasional cross-blog flamewar. While OTB’s comment threads are quite civil compared to most blogs of comparable traffic, there are a handful of regulars who forget the number one rule of our site policies: “Remember that the people under discussion are human beings.” The follow-on — “Comments that contain personal attacks about the post author or other commenters will be deleted. Repeated violators will be banned. Challenge the ideas of those with whom you disagree, not their patriotism, decency, or integrity.” — is something that I’ve largely refrained from enforcing, since it’s a lot of work and I hate to alienate regular visitors.

That’ll likely change, though, as four or five regular visitors–almost evenly divided ideologically, by the way–who are driving down the tone of the discussion. I think I’m better off making a few folks mad than have the comments section be an unfriendly place.”

This week-end, I was talking with someone who’s working on a yet to be debuted, high profile website that’s supposed to feature civil comments sections. Personally? I’ve been on the web for a very long time and I’m not sure such a thing can really be created.

You want to put in a filter that will get rid of profanity? People will spell words phonetically to get around it. Are you going to get moderators who will really crack down and ban everyone who’s rude? Well, that’s a subjective call and you’ll be overwhelmed with complaints. Do you want to set up an automated rating system that will automatically ban abusive posters based on the rankings of other people? On political websites, all that will mean is that all the liberals will try to ban all the conservatives and all the conservatives will try to ban the liberals.

That leaves you with three choices:

#1) You can put enormous amounts of manpower into policing your comment section. For most people, this is just too time consuming to be considered.

#2) You can take an extremely light touch and hardly ever delete comments or ban anyone. In this case, you’ll quickly find that your comments section turns into a complete sewer.

#3) You can take a benevolent, yet iron fisted dictator route. You can let people curse a little bit and just delete comments that go a little over certain lines. But, if people step way over that line, you delete their comments, ban them, and they’re never heard from again.

In my opinion, #3 is the best way to go because as James said, there are usually just a few instigators threadjacking, picking fights, and generally being obnoxious while everyone else ends up reacting to them. You get rid of those malcontents, you get rid of 90% of your problems. So bloggers, pull that trigger on problem commenters and never look back!

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