On Moderation

(Now that I look at the title, that sounds like an incredibly tepid harness-team command. "On, Moderation! Forward, with prudent speed!" I could clear that up by adding "Comment" in the middle, but I kind of like the image...)

Over at Boing Boing, Teresa Nielsen Hayden has posted a long explanation of the comment moderation policy in Q&A format. As you might expect, if you're a reader of Making Light, it's very well done, and as clear a statement of what good community moderation is about as you'll find anywhere. As you might expect, if you're a reader of the Internet generally, the several hundred comments that follow include a large number of depressingly stupid objections to it...

Anyway, I've been toying with the idea of saying something more formal about the comments here for a while now. The comments at Boing Boing are a good example of how this sort of statement can go wrong, but also of why it's good to have something written out to point to. I'll put the bulk of the explanation below the fold, but here's the bullet-point summary for those reading on RSS:

  • I moderate for spam and civility, and that's about it.
  • I have a day job
  • I do not engage with screechy monkeys
  • My decisions are final

Taking these in order:

I moderate for spam and civility, and that's about it. Pretty straightforward, I think.

I delete comments that are obviously spam, and if a comment shows up that looks like it might be spam, but I'm not sure, I'll usually just delete any URL's associated with the comment. We have the ability to ban keywords and IP addresses, and if a persistent problem comes up, I'll use that, but I haven't had to yet.

I will disemvowel comments that are I find in excessively poor taste, or excessively uncivil. Comments likely to be disemvoweled include but are not limited to: comments advocating or approving of genocide, virulently racists statements, unrestrained personal attacks on me or my family and friends, pointlessly nasty statements about another commenter or identifiable individual. If I see that a comment thread argument is headed in a direction that looks likely to lead to disemvowelment of one or more of the particpants, I try to give some warning, but that's a courtesy, not a fixed procedure.

To this point, I think that "Uncle Al" is the only person to earn disemvowelment, but I could be forgetting something. I have not yet had to delete comments, or ban anybody from posting, though I can and will do those things if I have to.

In addition to my fairly light moderation, we do have some automated site-wide spam filters that are pretty aggressive, to the point of being overzealous. This may occasionally lead to legitimate comments being blocked, or held for moderation. I'll release held comments when I get the chance, which brings us to the second point:

I have a day job. I talk about it here from time to time, and it does keep me fairly busy a lot of the time. I will eventually publish legitimate comments that have been held for moderation (unless I decide they're spam), but it may take some time before I get a chance to do it. Please don't send me email saying "I posted a comment half an hour ago and it still hasn't appeared! You're a meanie censor fascist communist!" I'll get there.

(If your comment goes unpublished for more than 24 hours, then you can email me about it, because I also forget things sometimes...)

In the same basic vein, I have neither the free time nor the fast commenting skills to reply to every comment I receive. I wish I could, but I just can't-- I don't type quickly, but more importantly, I don't compose posts or comments quickly. I obsessively edit and re-edit things, so it takes forever to do even a quick reply. I do try to respond to substantive comments, time permitting, but I can't always get to it in a timely manner.

I do not engage with screechy monkeys. Given my limited ability to participate in comment threads, I restrict myself to responding only to comments where I think it will do some good. I have a limited amount of free time, and life is too short to waste my blog-reading time dealing with crazy screechy monkeys.

If somebody posts a comment that seems to mark them as completely crazy, I'm just not going to respond. There are a lot of varieties of "completely crazy," and I'm not going to attempt to list them here, but if you see a comment that seems off-the-wall insane, and wonder why I haven't smacked that person down, that's why.

(If, on the other hand, you have posted what you are sure is a devastating riposte to something I said that you didn't agree with, then I probably just haven't responded to it because I can't think of a counter-argument. There's no way I could think of you as a crazy screechy monkey...)

My decisions are final. It's my blog, and I get to decide what happens. Emailing me to complain about having comments blocked or dismevoweled is not going to get them un-blocked or re-emvoweled-- at best, it will land you in my email spam filters.

Don't like that? It's a big Internet-- find some other corner of it to play in. Or set up your own blog, and implement comment rules that are more to your liking. This here is my house, and I will run it as I see fit.

And that's pretty much all there is to say about that. Questions and comments are welcome below, but I may not get to them-- see the second and third points above...


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" . . .the several hundred comments that follow include a large number of depressingly stupid objections to it..."

Is this where we start the list here..??

Just kidding.

Sounds like a fair approach to me.


P.S. I am timing the publication of this comment. So I get the commencing of any needed 'poo-flinging' timed correctly.

Faith is God dictating your thoughts. Philosophy is logic setting the rules. Science is observed fact being observably factual. In the future, everybody will agree with Uncle Al.

Sometimes tolerences average - that's freedom. Sometimes tolerences add - that's management.

Could you please disemvowel Uncle Al again? It might help me make sense of his post.


By Auntie Al (not verified) on 31 Mar 2008 #permalink