Archive | Commenting About Comments

Fostering Strong Comment Threads, and the Effort Rule of Comment Moderation

I sometimes blog on the process of moderating blog comments. I realize it’s a bit “inside baseball,” as most readers don’t comment or run blogs that allow them. But I see Internet comment threads as a new and relatively important kind of online discussion, and I’m very interested in the conditions in which comment threads tend to be useful or just noise. In my view, having a really good comment thread is a terrific asset to a blog: It allows the post to be the beginning of a conversation, with the rest of the conversation carried on it the thread. The interesting and new question is, what are the conditions of helpful comment threads? What kind of comment policies and software leads to the best, most interesting comment threads, and which don’t?

In my experience, there are two basic conditions of strong comment threads. Here’s the first condition: Comments need to be relatively open and accessible to those using a pseudonym. If you make it too hard to comment, or you require real names, most will stay away. They won’t want to engage, for a range of personal and professional reasons.

And here’s the second condition: There needs to be some way to moderate threads to delete inappropriate comments or ban commenters who are out of line. For every one Internet commenter who is consistently thoughtful and interesting, there are X Internet commenters who are either inclined to be or can be coaxed into becoming abrasive and obnoxious. Consider the well-known “Greater Internet fuckwad theory” from the site Penny Arcade:

There’s a lot to that, with an important caveat: When the site is a popular blog with hundreds of commenters, some of the commenters will be “normal people” and some won’t. In any collection of that many people who can [...]

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The Joys of “Anonimus”

A week or two ago, I banned commenter “Anonimus,” who had become kind of famous in VC threads for his steady stream of insults to other commenters. It won’t surprise regular readers of comment threads that Anonimus hasn’t been deterred by his banning: After making the usual complaints that he was the victim of censorship, Anonimus kept commenting and insulting other commenters as before. And when I kept deleting his contributions, he eventually just switched to a new name, “Dissentus,” albeit with all the recognizable style (and IP address) used by Anonimus.

Anyway, please don’t respond to Anonimus, Dissentus, or whatever name he’ll use next. I’ll eventually get around to deleting his comments, and I’ll delete any that respond to him, too. Thanks.

UPDATE: Having called him out by “name,” it seems unsporting not to let Anonimus comment on this thread (which he has done about a dozen times already despite the ban, appropriately enough!). So I’ll let him comment in this thread, and readers who are interested in why Anonimus does what he does are invited to ask him directly and offer their thoughts. [...]

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