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Friday, April 8, 2011

Comment Moderation

A blog post by one of the students in Jeff Cohen's Independent Media class at Ithaca College, to which I linked this morning, has led The Lonely Conservative to argue that my comment moderation policy contributes to the content of the blog:
Since Professor Jacobson’s niche is really a unique and organized opinion on politics, open comments really diminish the content. In communication, interference is the most common way messages are not received. Comments that do not provide a value-added benefit to Jacobson’s post could dramatically hurt his content. If everyone were sabotaging each other’s comments section, no one would bother reading political blogs, thus no one would bother writing a political blog.
I know we have touched on this before

Opening up the comments using software such as Intense Debate would make for more real time and interactive commenting, and relieve me of the burden of putting through comments, but also might turn the comment section into a food fight (trolls will be blocked, but that often is a losing after-the-fact battle).


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  1. Leave the commenting just like it is. I sometimes "attend" one of those food fight type blows but seldom stay over a couple of minutes.

    Moderation of comments serves your site very well.

  2. You could ask Ms Althouse what she thinks about her, as far as I can tell, almost completely unmoderated policy. Some of the commenters have fired off some pretty ugly remarks about her (and Meade). For any given post there can be easily 200 or more comments. Multiple times per day.

    Personally, I've tired of the mindless bickering there and so I usually limit my reading to the posts alone. That said, some of the commenters are quite good and worth the quick scan.

  3. Keep moderating. Unmoderated comments just lead to mountains of crap that few if your readers would ever want to wade through. When people know their comments must pass muster, they endeavor to write something worthwhile, whatever their views.

  4. As someone who loves the blog but never comments I think it would be a good experiment to switch to Intense Debate for a trial period. This way you can compare the two options intelligently.

  5. "The Lonely Conservative (argues) that my comment moderation policy contributes to the content of the blog."


    Or perhaps he meant to opine that your comment moderation policy improves the content of your blog.

    I prefer open comments at any blog. For me, it's an affirmation of the concept of free speech.

    Yes, it can be messy sometimes, but those denizens who appreciate the author's content will do a pretty good job of policing any troublesome trolls.

    And those trolls who are particularly malicious can always be banned.

    Besides, trolls are somewhat entertaining, and their bad political philosophy is a good reminder of why we must always be prepared to counter with good political philosophy.

  6. Keep your guard up Prof.
    Your blog is one of the more rational political blogs and it would be sad to see it become a breeding place for vitriolic

  7. I read your blog for what you have to say, Professor. I do enjoy some of the comments and make a few myself but I prefer the uncluttered comment section you have. I do comment on the Bigs but that's about it.

  8. I moderate the comments on my site. Nevertheless, I suggest that you do as you wish. Run your blog to make yourself happy, and you can't go wrong.

  9. I read this blog because it is a sane, informative blog. Please keep the current format. This is my favorite blog and I would hate to see it change into the vitriol filled content of other blogs that trolls adore.

  10. How much traffic do you want? Food fights are one of the things that drive it.

  11. Having been banned from Hot Air in the early days for some off color poetry, I thank you for protecting me from myself.

  12. Lesson drawn from internet experience: Unmoderated comments only work for small communities of commenters, as the size of the interested community increases the probability of trolls, etc. polluting the comments approaches unity.

    Moderation may be a hassle, but once you attract enough interest, some system of filtering is necessary.

  13. Granted opening up your comments to intense debate will add something to the discussion, and it will also relive you of perusing through everything said, however you will also have to let though alot of hate. If I wanted hate, especially antisemitism, which you can believe will start up right away, I could always go to HufPo, Daily Beast or Poltico. I wouldn't have to come here.Not that I would sop coming, but one of the nice things is that I don't have to be bothered with such ugliness and just read thoughtful posts and comments.

  14. I just set up a new blog for people who are refugees from Citizen Wells. At least we are tired of the nastiness and the attacks from one person who comments all day long.

    I have a strict comment moderation. People will get through after the first comment is post but then sometimes the WP troll fairy eats their posts (just like at Hillbuzz). I have some rules relating to comments which protects the posters from being attacked.

    So yes please William keep the moderation in place. It is far better to do that than let the trolls have a picnic at your expense.

  15. Nah. You let in opinions that you obviously don't agree with, and it's easier to read them knowing that you personally found enough value in them to dub them "not troll" status.

  16. I really appreciate the thoughtful comments I've read on your blog (not all are this, but most are.) One of the more moving things I've read this year was a woman on this site who asked me to read an article, and when I came back and told her I had read it and we had more in common than not, her response was that she already knew this and most Americans did.

    It would be nice if your blog included more discussion between democrats and republicans, but It's clear that this isn't your niche.I do appreciate that you have posted my comments though you surely haven't always agreed with them. And I do appreciate being able to have meaningful dialog with Americans whose viewpoints are different than my own. I really have learned things from them that I've shared with other democrats, and as I've struggled to articulate some of my own views. Thank you for going to the trouble of moderating the comments, through I can understand it must be a burden.

  17. Other sites that allow "food fights" eventually deteriorate into venting platforms for the less literate amongst us. I consider this to be a higher quality blog and I would submit that in order to keep it that way, you, Professor, must continue to be the custodian of the integrity and quality of this site – thereby doing us all a favor.

    There are enough places for people to throw stones. How about keeping this as a more civilized, and therefore, higher level site?

  18. Well.. the best way to discourage sincere commenting is by opening it up to trolls. And there will be trolls. Some people can handle sparring with trolls, but it will be a free-for-all. And I learned during the presidential elections just how nasty it can get. What I experienced would make the WI public union protests look like a love-fest. I honestly didn't realize people could be so vitriolic.. even vile. Another alternative is to defer the open, interactive commenting on a separate blog or separate website. Nothing even remotely intellectual occurs when trolls enter the debate but you can always allow the thread to freeflow and just block individuals on a case-by-case basis. I speak as though I know, but my experience has been purely as a commenter. Tricky business, blogging, but it's a great service you do. And "blog-rats" like Maggie's will probably get bored and leave eventually. Perhaps leave the intensive interactive sparring to the college kids (oops - showing my age! haha) Thanks for your blogs, Professor!

  19. Keep doing what you are doing.

    I value opposing view points, however the left wing off their meds trolls often get to wield a little too much power by being "first" and putting out some sewer comment; typical left wing tactic to frame the dialog around something it's not.

    I find that annoying, because it transfers the comments from a highly intellectual playing field to the left wing sewer. Though the axiom does fly that if you can use logic and reason to debase a troll to call you a you've won the debate.

  20. 1. I might fling a piece of bread now and then but am not interested in sustained food fights. The relatively low-key atmosphere here suits me fine.

    2. National Review has a 'trusted commenter' system whereby new commenters are moderated but may eventually be allowed to post directly to the site. IMO that system merits consideration but I'm not recommending for or against.

    3. At some point I should come to terms with all the sign-in systems out there, but for the moment I pretty much stick to my Google account. I signed up for Disqus but instead of using it, I've gradually tuned out the blogs that switched to it.

  21. I like things the way they are. There are already sites with intense debate, and I think your readers would visit them instead if that's what they really wanted.

    You allow comments and seem to be doing quite well judging by the tremendous rate of growth of your blog, while other blogs that are also doing well, such as Instapundit and Powerline, do not allow comments.

    I get tired of sites with too many bells and whistles and comment threads miles long filled mostly with garbage ... but then I've always been a minimalist in my aesthetic leanings. Simple, to the point, and intellectually honest is what I like.

    I could understand an urge to tinker if you're blog weren't growing by leaps and bounds ... but to me this sounds like Apple wondering if they should change the way they do business because their earnings are "only" growing 60% a year.

    You already put Apple to shame, Professor. If this were my blog, I'd be very happy growing at a 160% annual clip, and only start to tinker with a winning formula if that growth rate were to drop off big time.

  22. Your moderated comments policy is one reason why I read the comments on your blog and why I feel comfortable linking to it. The language is generally clean, what few raised voices there may be don't continue or lead to feuds. It is a matter of taste. There are places I don't go, often because of the behavior in the comments.

    The loveliest thing about a personal blog is the perfect freedom to make one's own choices about what conduct and behavior - and even opinions and topics - one will or will not accept. The personal blog is not a democracy and need not pretend to be one.

    With that said, I also get on my high horse and refuse to read sites that do not allow me to communicate with the author(s) at all. It's too disappointing to have something to say and no way to share it. So I just don't read Hot Air, even though it's a great site. When they start accepting new commenters again, maybe I'll rethink. :-)

  23. Keep the moderation. Speaking only for myself; I come here to hear YOU speak. I comment to have you hear ME. When there are 200 comments, I know that my comment will be lost in the crowd... and so I don't submit my analysis. (such as it is).

    In the end, if you want the comments to be directed at YOU, then continue moderating them. If you want the community here to argue amongst themselves, open it up. It would certainly raise your 'hit rate' for the site... even if it will only be a dozen or so regulars who visit every two minutes. I don't know how the advertisers measure value, but that ruins a site's comment area for me. I've registered to comment at Hot Air and Michelle Malkin, but I rarely do anymore. I'm much more likely to comment at Big Lizards and Dafydd moderates his comments, too.

  24. Why not to offer both options and let your users pick the one they prefer.

    I haven't seen it tried before but so what? Might the presence of a moderated alternative act as a disincentive to trolling? You, Prof. Jacobson, could be the first to find out!

    /of course, that's easy for me to say....

  25. " ... and relieve me of the burden of putting through comments, ..."

    Professor, I don't know where you find all the time to do all you do. A couple of suggestions if you find moderating comments to be a burden you'd like to ease a bit:

    1) Only open up certain posts to comments or only certain days ... e.g., no comments on your weekend posts, so you have some time off.

    2) Have your wife moderate comments (that's what I'd do) ; )

  26. I don't mind the delay. And slowing me down might help filter more stupidity out of my comments. Or not.

    Intensedebate is nice though too. The format doesn't allow the trolls to push content off the pages too bad. Sometimes they (the left) help shape the debate better too. Meaning that it helps to incentivize or elicit a informative response someone might keep to themselves. I watched this effectively employed at ProteinWisdom for years; to some chagrin of others. So, it isn't always bad to have trolls, IMO.

    I guess it boils down to your time spent with this format, Professor, and what you prefer to get out of the interactions. Will the bad outweigh the good?

  27. locomotivebreath1901 said..."I prefer open comments at any blog. For me, it's an affirmation of the concept of free speech."

    I agree. And yes, it's a risk, the trolls, but an open and rollicking discussion is part of the fun. I have noticed that the leftist blogs all use moderation and censorship.

    Neoneocon has open comments, and the comments threads there are some of the best, as are Athouse's. I say open it up! The sky is the limit for you.

  28. There's nothing that keeps actual discussion about a post's contents from degenerating into aggressive commenters yelling at other aggressive commenters like a somewhat unpredictable time delay.

    Instant comment publication enables the "you're an ass" - "no, YOU'RE an ass!" - "nuh huh, YOU are" model of commenting, where commenters are addressing each other instead of the specific subject matter of the post, which, while maybe more fun for those commenters, leaves most readers feeling outside of the "community".

    A short moderation delay means you cannot predict if your retort to the last obnoxious comment by TrollBoi will appear anywhere near TB's comment, nor can you predict that someone else's comment won't beat yours into the queue and moot what you want to say. This all works to keep comments directed at a narrow topic instead of wandering out into a wide discussion of why everyone's a moron but me.

  29. If your going too moderate comments, some of us think poor spelling and sintax should be corrected by someone while overstated hyperbolic exaggerations get booted into the next galaxy.

  30. I wouldn't change a thing. I appreciate the civility in the comment section of this blog.

  31. @Laurie. You asked me for a reply in this post. I gave you a thoughtful one, would you care to comment?

    I like the comment feature fine as it is, but change it if you want, it's your blog.

  32. @sort of runic rhyme

    That's "sin tax" you moron!

    (Just trying to imagine what open comments might be like.)

  33. To moderate or not to moderate. Either way, it's your blog, do as you please. But I hate to take credit for the post, it was actually written by Sam Foster who contributes to my blog. He also blogs at Left Coast Rebel and Upstate Political Report. But thanks for linking.

  34. PukeHandCool, well then just fine and your mother, too. Can't you reed for meaning between the lions?

  35. I see that Lonely Conservative uses Capcha to help filter his spam, but Capcha at times seems to be as ugly as the spam - according to my friends who have tried the filtering software.

    It certainly amazes me that you post as much to this blog as you do and still have time to moderate comments. Before coming to your site today, I stopped off at Coyote Blog to see what was on Warren Meyer's mind today. It occurs to me that he never responds to his readers (much to their chagrin when he advocates against tighter immigration policies).

    I, for one, will not discourage your active participation in the comment section, mostly because successful bloggers do it - Althouse and Wretchard come to mind immediately - but then again so does Chucky at LGF.

  36. I highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend Intense Debate. It has its quirks at times, but believe me, once I adopted it, I never looked back, not even thought about doing so. It just has a style, a look, and a functionality that are second to none. Disqus is cool too, but between the two, I would have to stay with ID. Avoid JS-Kit like the plaque.

  37. >shrug<

    I don't read the comments, unless its one of my comments. Yes, I'm egotistical, even for a choleric.

  38. @WasDave:
    I replied to your post re: healthcare here, and re: Citizen's United here.

  39. I'm another one that seldom reads the comments.

    If the original post solicits information, or if the post is updated to reference good comments, I might read. I've even been known to comment on rare occasion. However, the comments aren't any part of what I come here for.

  40. Another good thing about Intense Debate, by the way, is that you can format it in different ways. You can even have it to where your readers can post videos on it.

  41. I trust your judgement, sir, and respect the tone of comments on this site.