Tobold's Blog
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Wielding the power to delete comments

I really appreciate the high quality level of the comments this blog is attracting. But quality is often a gaussian distribution, and the more the number of readers is growing, the more often I get the occasional comment which is not so high quality. Just over the last few days we had the "pig fucker", the "THINK MORE NEWB", and somebody whose comment had absolutely nothing to do with the subject of the post or the blog. And I'm left wondering what to do.

I have the power to delete comments, and I'm already wielding that power to delete all comment spam advertising. But one of the reasons why I created this blog was that I felt that on some game message boards the deleting or censoring of comments was done in an unfair fashion. There are game message boards where criticizing the game in question gets your post deleted, and there are guild message boards where criticizing the officers gets your post deleted. I don't want to delete anybodies post here just because I don't agree with his opinion, or because he is critical of me.

On the other hand I don't want this blog's comment section to sink to the depth of the typical game forum in quality. I don't like people shouting at each other in ALL CAPS or using insults instead of arguments to defend their position. To quote Engels: "one person’s freedom ends there, where the freedom of another person begins". You have the right to defend your opinion, but you don't have the right to shout down somebody else's opinion. So I'm leaning towards deleting comments that don't contribute to the discussion, but are just insulting the other participants in that discussion.

What do you think? How would you like the comment section of this blog to be moderated?
As long as it possible to create anonymous postings (which is a certain degree in freedom) I think deleting unapprobiate stuff is the just other edge of the same sword.

I'm not always have your opionon but I do not like the posts you mentioned above and will appreciate if you delete such stuff now and in the future.

Every day I have to deal with comments that I have almost no control over. I can make an attempt to make the comment less visible, but that's it. Once something is posted to Slashdot, extraordinary circumstances are required for a comment to be removed. Very, very terrible things ... 'pig fucker' is kind in comparison ... have been said about me on the site, and I just have to deal with it being out there for the rest of time.

My two cents for your own site: the bottom line is that this is TOBOLD'S MMORPG blog. If you think something goes over the line, and should be removed, that's your perogative. Those of us who are regular readers, we probably trust you enough that you'll keep our on-topic unsweary stuff around. Random passers-by will never notice if you can their stuff for being jerks, because they were just drive-bying anyway.

At the end of the day, you're paying for hosting. I think you should have a free hand to direct the conversation the way you want.
Micheal makes good points about this being your site. However, I typically hold a more laissez faire attitude to such things. I agree with the slashdot perspective of extraordinary circumstance to remove a post. Ultimately though, it is a matter of judgement, yours! And again, paraphrasing Micheal, you have built trust in us regular readers and we will trust you to do your best for not only for yourself, but also for the blog and for us the readers. Would I trust you to heal my tank in a tough fight, or die doing your best? Of course. Would I trust you to delete the occasionally extraordinarily obscene comment? Of course.
I would strongly endorse Tobold to delete all post that contain swear words. I do not see the need to resort to the usage of such words to get one's points across. If possible, ban the person or that IP from posting comments as they have displayed a level of maturity which is unacceptable. (is it possible?)
I agree, you should delete all comments you feel unappropriate or irrelevant. No question about it.
Some comments can be fairly funny when out of context but your right about comments not becoming 'flames' etc...i have always hated CAPS in comments definately delete those!
Hi Tobold

First off I want to express my thanks and appreciation to you for allowing people like me to add comments to your Blog. It is a real bonus for me to find a blog I like that will actually allow comments. I also share your view that the general standard of comments to your blog has been way above the normal Leet fanboy level. I particulalry appreciate your policy of not deleting comments just because they conflict with your views. I have a suggestion that may help you. Why not draw up a written policy and post it in an accessible place (your profile perhaps?). It is your blog tobold you get to choose the policy but you can start with a few obvious things like no personal abuse, stay on topic and so on. You can add to the policy over time if new problems arise. The beauty of having a written policy is that it gives you the freedom to delete posts without having to worry whether or not you are being biased. It also gives genuine posters a set of guidelines that they can follow. Non genuine posters probably won't bother to read the policy anyway.

On the subject of profanity it is your call. If it is used merely to abuse someone or something then I say delete but sometimes the odd four letter word can be used to great effect to emphasise a particular point. Then again I live in a country that brought you the film "The Commitments" where profanity is tolerated even in polite circles. I know that many people find profanity to be more disturbing so it might be safer to ban it altogether.
A man's blog is is kingdom! If you can't exercise the absolute, total, unaccountable power of a god-emperor-priest-king *here*, where can you?

Being abel to ad-hoc moderate to my own fickle standards is part of why I have a blog in the first place, rather than post to a shared community site instead.

Saying all that, I only tend to expunge comments that obviously aren't trying hard enough - profanity, attacks, the massively off-topic, or obvious advert-link-spam. I'm quite a hippy really.

Don't feel you need to start setting out a ToS or Code of Conduct for your blog though, Tobold, common sense and courtesy ought to be enough.
Very true Van Hemlock a man's blog is his kingdom but it seems to me that Tobold is extremely concientious about not being heavy handed in deleting comments. In those circumstances I think a written policy would only help him.
Good idea, although formulating a watertight policy is hard. For example on swear words, I wouldn't mind terribly if somebody drops the occasional four-letter-word in an otherwise well written argument. But I would object to one-liner comments saying "you are all idiots", even if "idiot" isn't such a bad word per se.
Why not restrict all comments so that you need to verify them yourself before they go up. Or would that be too much work?
Why not restrict all comments so that you need to verify them yourself before they go up. Or would that be too much work?

My problem with deleting comments is a moral one, I don't want to censor people too much. Whether I censor by deleting the bad ones or by just letting the good ones through is effectively the same, and doesn't solve that problem.
Hey Tobold,

I moderate all comments going on to my blog. So far, I've only had to ignore spam and one asshat...that's it. Given that, I'm thinking of not moderating anymore.

Its up to you which approach that you take, however; if you have a standard of the quality of discussion, than its your prerogative to enforce it.


Just a comment on this that you said:
"My problem with deleting comments is a moral one" (context above)

Unfortunately, the root problem is that those posting profane comments likely have no morals guiding their comments -- such persons will require policing, however unpleasant that role may prove. A general population (such as that on the internet) has proven itself unable to self-police its communication. If there is not a standard, then anything goes (typically with undesirable results).

I would have no problems with a person deleting comments from their blog because, first of all, speaking in this context (your blog) is not a personal right; it is a granted privilege which carries a responsibility on the part of the commenter (because the expression will be read by a wide population).

Don't risk losing readers because unmonitored comments become so profane that following comments to your posts becomes repulsive.
The two sides of the balance are:
1. The image of a free, open forum for discussion.

2. The quality of your personal website in the eyes of others.

Personally, I'd just delete all comments that scream "internet troll", and overlook the swear words.

So, my examples would be:
"Learn2play newb" would be deleted.
"I think LOTRO is going to be a shitty game" would remain, but would probably just not be taken seriously by your more mature audience.
Is it to bold? As in you are the too bold but didn't want to ruin the astheicly pleasing one o. Is meaning to your something different all together?

I'm zipped up!
With great power comes great responsibility

Grats on reaching a point where you have to make these types of desitions. Not many bloggers have the dedicated following that you do, and it is well deserved.

I would lean towards using the deletion powers very, very sparringly.

Either way, I am sure you will manage the comments with the same tact that you manage your whole site.

It's certainly something to think about, but I'm not sure we're anywhere close to what I would think of as critical mass. So far I've seen a handful of what I would consider ignorant posts, but those are easy enough to ignore. I've been quite pleased to most others ignore them as well.

I don't imagine we need anything as draconian as the Elitist Jerks policies on their forum, although their policies do make reading their forums significantly easier (when they're up).
Tobold, I strongly support an increased level of censorship/editing on your own blog. To me, the analogy is a newspaper or magazine publishing readers' letters. The periodical doesn't owe print space to anyone, and so they choose the best of the letters to publish. You could save the rest of your readership some pain by keeping a high bar of quality on comments.
Okay, I formulated a policy and posted it on my profile. It says "If you have nothing to say, please say it elsewhere. No trolling, spamming, and hurling insults in the comment section of my blog!"

I hope everybody can live with that. :)
You're the captain so far as deciding what stays up and goes down, of course, and we're reading this blog primarily to view your words and opinions.

That said, I enjoyed both the cursing guy and the caps guy for their comments and for your responses to them. Without irreverent posters you lose some of the 'spice' of a blog - you miss out on what the whole community has to say, even the annoying members.

It's a delicate balance but so far I think it has worked out well.
Using a judicious delete to keep a high standard for discussion here (on your own blog) is not just your right, but it's also fully appreciated by those of us who enjoy reading the posts!

Toss the trolls out!
For months I've used tobold's mmorpg blog as a way to discuss my "issues" of growing up a white child in a black mans world. How will I deal? Think of the children tobold? Where will we post?!
No need to censor unless you want to be the guardian of underage readers. Adults dont get offended by moronic posts in all actuality many of them find stupid comments amusing. My suggestion would be to post a disclaimer/warning that these blogs are fairly slack in moderation and that anyone under 18 may be offended by rude/profane language and viewer discretion is advised. ~this way you dont have to play a invisible nazi and spend too much effort to fine comb these threads.
I would also agree that you should just use your best judgement and remove offensive posts that contribute nothing the conversation. I wouldn't call that censorship per se, just reasonable filtering of useless drivel.

However, filtering all posts with swear words may be a bit extreme. They can work if used in context properly. :)

Again, it's really at your discretion but it's cool that you're opening it up for public discussion, and you should be applauded for that, considering it's your site and you could legitimately do whatever you want to anyway.
Rock on wioth your bad self. Intellegent discusion is why i read your blog. I have seen some damn good thoughts here and arguements too. Keep the crap at a low level and let with the intellergeente stoof that keeps people comming back to listen to others and their ideas. If they can't hang with decent conversation then roll them the hell out.
Hear, hear! If somebody cannot be civil and stay at least somewhat on topic, you can invite them to start their own blog and they can ramble there to their heart's content!

(Or return to their own blogs, should they already be exercising that prerogative.)
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