The evolving standard: Is this comment worth approving?

Lying fallow among the unapproved comments down in the engine room of the blog is an offering from someone who styles himself (or herself) "bud’s friend."

Come on — I have long been torn about whether to allow anonymous comments in this forum, and up to now have let them in, but subjected them to greater scrutiny than those from folks with the courage and integrity to put their names behind their opinions. But I’m afraid that "bud’s friend" is a bit too much to ask. What sort of credential is that — you don’t know me, but I’m a friend of this other guy you don’t know. That wouldn’t get you in to a speakeasy. It’s not going to get you in here.

Now might be a good time for an update on the evolving standards for comments on this blog. We’ve been through several stages:

  • For the first year or so, I let in anything, and rejected nothing.
  • After it became clear that the nasty atmosphere of ad hominem bullying and partisan name-calling was running off the very kind of thoughtful readership I sought, I set a "double standard:" If you weren’t willing to stand behind a comment with your own, verifiable name, your comments were subject to summary deletion.
  • A few of our anonymous troublemakers made such insistent nuisances of themselves that I banned them from the blog.
  • Some of the exiles began a ridiculous game of repeatedly coming back (with a frequency that was shocking, in terms of the amount of time they were spending on the site) with slightly changed names, to get around the automatic blocking.
  • So after a false start or two ("authentication" was a bust), I drew a new line: For your comment to appear on the blog, I have to approve it. I really, really hated this step — and still do (if only for the extra work) — but what are you going to do in a world filled with the Web equivalent of vandals?

That development has given me a much more intimate acquaintance with individual comments. As long as they appeared without any effort on my part, the standards could remain pretty low. Basically, I don’t have time to spare to do this blog at ALL, much less to chase down every comment that lowers the bar. But when I have to spend time on it anyway — when no comment appears without a positive action on my part — a new question enters my mind: "Why should I approve this?" What does it add? In what way does this comment make the dialogue on this blog better?

Once I start thinking along those lines, pretty much all anonymous comments are endangered — by which I mean they are in danger of sitting right where you left them, because I am not inclined to throw MY back out leaning over to pick them up and publish them.

And while I continue to grant much, much greater latitude to those of you using verifiable real names, you are not completely immune. As I announced just over a year ago, those who stand behind their comments "will be free to post pretty much whatever they want." That "pretty much" means there are standards, even for you.

I say all this because I’ve been getting sidebar complaints from some folks who use bogus handles complaining that they don’t always get approved. And once or twice, I’ve heard from NAMED people who didn’t approved. (Those, at least — on the rare occasions that they occur — will get a reply.)

Everyone should remember: The question is no longer, why would I REJECT this comment? Now, it’s why would I approve it. That really moves the line.

Oh, and not to seem inhospitable or anything, but anyone who doesn’t like these conditions can go start his own blog, and say whatever he likes. There are a number of sites where you can do so for free.

One thought on “The evolving standard: Is this comment worth approving?

  1. Karen McLeod

    I am delighted with a reasonably civilized blog. At the same time, I have to admit I’ve seen some pretty interesting arguments, some of which have come from people who are clearly using pseudonyms, some of which are fairly silly. I frequently don’t agree with what they’re saying, but at least I get the opportunity to dicuss the matter with them without having it devolve into a name calling yelling match a la Fox TV, or whatizname on the radio. I would hope that comments that are reasonably logical, and devoid of the worst cant ‘n rant, would be posted to widen and further the dicussion. But as you said, its your blog. Thanks for your work.

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