The Economist on BB's comment policy

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160 Responses to “The Economist on BB's comment policy”

  1. lknope says:

    I love policies that are strict as fuck but allow swearing.

  2. pKp says:

    Yep, one of the numerous reasons why BB is one of the best places there is to comment on the whole Internet.

    Oh, and a shout-out to the mods, Antinous and all the others, who make this place what it is. Thank you, guys.

    • Metlin says:

      BB’s comment policy may be alright, but I think Slashdot’s is better.
      Moderation and the community therein lets you speak your mind, but your
      peers decide whether or not they want to read it. For all of BB’s crowd’s profession of free speech, it says something when comments get deleted — do as I say, not as I do and all that.

  3. Ethan says:

    The one thing about BB’s comment & moderation policy I don’t think ideal is that the moderators take part in the discussions and don’t just moderate them. Even if weighing in on a debate doesn’t have any impact on the community management actions taken by the moderators (and I’m sure it doesn’t), it does raise the spectre of being not 100% unbiased and perhaps reacting to content that one disagrees with (and not just violations of the comment policy). I think it’s easier to take moderators seriously (and not to feel unjustly singled-out) if they seem to be above the fray.

    • Timothy Krause says:

      True, the “Superblogger with strong concerns” is definitely an interesting phenomenon, one that’s hard to negotiate successfully, and one that would be great to 1) see acknowledged by the site, and 2) explained more critically, or at all.

    • Guest says:

      Nobody is 100% non-biased. Why again should the mods here put on such a pretense?

      • Ethan says:

        I don’t think moderators keeping their role to moderating means having a pretense of being 100% unbiased. The reasons I prefer moderators to not dive into the conversation is:

        1. Once a moderator has expressed an opinion, it is a natural human reaction to be invested in it. That makes it harder to be as neutral as possible.

        2. Even if that isn’t an issue for BB’s moderators, the possibility of it being an issue remains and makes it harder to be on the receiving end of a moderation action (one is left wondering if you’re being moderated simply because you’ve strongly disagreed with a moderator’s opinion, or whether you’ve actually crossed the line).

        3. It makes it harder for moderators to exert there control. If a moderator says, “Hey now, that’s not right” is she just disagreeing with what you said or is she giving you a warning?

        4. I think it’s a bit ungraceful to join in a heated discussion when all involved knows you have the power to moderate. 

        All the above is being said from someone who has never had a moderator (Boing Boing or otherwise) take action against one of my comments. Rather, my perspective is having been responsible for online community management in the past.

        • Guest says:

          If you find it ‘hard’ to be the recipient of a moderation action I’d suggest you talk to a therapist about your overinvestment of your ego in the internet.

          • Ethan says:

            Again, my opinions are coming from place of being interested in the topic from a professional standpoint, not from having a moderator take action against me.

            I think it’s a natural reaction to be taken back a bit when a comment you made is officially censored or you’re given a warning that you’re out of line. In fact, not having a slightly emotional reaction to such a situation seems a reason to talk a therapist.

          • Snig says:

            The repercussions of being censored in the conversations here are typically that you can’t talk on that topic on boingboing until you can do it civilly. It is not a very official proclamation, does not go on your resume, is not part of your academic record and you don’t have to disclose it during job interviews.  If you are seriously perturbed about being officially censored/banned/disemvowelled on a website, maybe you shouldn’t be on websites.  Or just be civil.

          • Ethan says:

            I grant you, it shouldn’t ruin someone’s day, or anything like that. My original point was that if the goal of trying to moderate someone is to calm them down or bring them in line, you’re more likely to get the desired effect if the person doesn’t feel like the moderator had a stake in the conversation that has become heated.

          • Snig says:

            So you want people who are uninterested in a topic to devote their free time to keeping conversations about it civil?  I’m sure they’re just lining up around the block to volunteer for that gig.

          • Ethan says:

            Huh? No, folks who are paid to be moderators devote their work time to keeping conversations about it civil. I’m assuming BB’s moderators are professionals and not volunteers–am I wrong about that?

            Addendum: And actually Snig’s assumption that the moderators are volunteers supports the idea that participating in the discussion undermines the moderators’ authority/professionalism/neutrality. (Ignore that argument if the moderators are, indeed, a volunteer force :)

          • pyster says:

            i feel differently. I think we should tolerate things that we dislike more than we do. Strong tools to allow us to ignore what others say should be used as opposed to demanding someone ‘be civil’. Often this call for civility is actually a red herring for censorship. People ignore the meat of what someone said and the actual argument, and look at how it was said. I think this tactic is disingenuous and stops honest discussions; and honest discussions are not always nice and civil. This is why law makers have things like the division bell.

            You are disrgarding what Ethan said as far as the emotional reaction to being censored. Many emotions swell up when some one censors the ideas you wish to present. While we should all butch up and accept that its not the end of the world, there is still an human emotional thing going on that i feel is not civil to ignore. Being civil include treating those who are not with fairness. If ones intention is honest dialog then one needs to over look things that hurt ones feelings to do so.

            And that is part of the emotional response to being banned or censored, the response one gets when unfairly handed something.

            Consider the holiday family dinner… do you ban grandpa for screaming that your ideas are ass hatted? Is that how civilized people act?

            Censorship is in a way an act of brutality and there is almost never anything civil about it.

          • Timothy Krause says:

            This.

          • csforstall says:

            be civil

            How does that translate in online behavior? In person we can read these signs well enough if someone has gotten too worked up or off the cuff. But how do you measure “civility,” online? Civility is something very much “in the moment” as opposed to a typed text which  somthing very much ment for history. 

            When is one being “overbearing” online? Is there any data to measure something like that? since in person we might look towards tone and body language, but when you are working with just text how is any of that measureable? Can we measure great novelist’s emotional state now long after their passing? Can we efffectively measure anything other then a bald statement of hostile intent (ad homnium)? This is a multi-faceted and mostly untouched issue.

            I know to you the answer’s seem simple, but everyone’s morals are different. How do we arrive at a comfortable middle standard? Tropes and Rhetoric have long been neglected in the education system in the West. Who even knows what a trope is? Let alone the context for its use. And yet we have this vast sea of text from the mass of us. 

            So, at the moment this mess is left to those who administer whatever webpage you happen to comment on. And unless or until universal standards are implemented we will continue to see the bumping and occasional brusing of ego in comment-laden sections of the web.

          • Snig says:

            It’s a private website.  It’s not a goverment or community playground.  It’s not a newspaper. If it gets too annoying Cory is well within his rights to take his ball and go home.  You’re asking that he and moderators conduct statistical analysis on what they find annoying, submit it to a jury of commentors?  You are welcome to enact that policy on your website.  Here, they use pink borders of authority, disemvoweling and banning. They tolerate dissent, if you think opposing viewpoints are not well tolerated, I’d disagree.  You are welcome to disagree with me.  Worthwhile discourse is well fomented on this website, I believe a big part of that is due to the moderators.  If you disbelieve, there are many examples of unmoderated parts of the web such as youtube comments. 

          • csforstall says:

            You’re asking that he and moderators conduct statistical analysis on what they find annoying

            Whats wrong with trying to quantify the behaviors that are considered trollish? In fact that drive for data is generally what I appreciate here at BB. The more data the better, any attempt to avoid gathering data seems almost at odds with the zeitgeist here. But keep in mind that is my opinion, and you have yours. So please take what I say with a grain of salt like you would any other commenter.  

            This issue comes about becuase the defintion of “troll” is left comepletely to the fancy of the regulators. Sure there is a general concensus about griefers and plain ad homnium, but what about that vast grey area that the moderators operate in. It looks like more data on that subject might actually be helpful to everyone.  

            I have no idea where you got the idea that I want to “submit to a jury” as that is completely and utterly not what I intended. I am simply interested in how data might be developed around a subject where none has yet been gathered in large amounts.

          • Snig says:

            So start.  Volunteer your time, get some data, figure it out.  Get back to us in four weeks time with your conclusions.  I promise to like it, promote it on my facebook page and my comments on it will all end with “Huzzah!”. 

          • Snig says:

            I think also, if the guidelines were dilineated, trolls would read them and attempt to stay annoying while remaining within the guidelines.  Why wouldn’t they? 

          • csforstall says:

            if the guidelines were dilineated, trolls would read them and attempt to stay annoying while remaining within the guidelines.

            That’s extremely cynical. To say the least.
                 

          • Timothy Krause says:

            Tired talking points are tired. Those facts you cite are not in dispute. Policies and practices deriving from said facts are in dispute.

            Like, what if every male commenter on BB got banned? It would still be the Boingers’ site, but that would be incredibly objectionable, right? So if that incredibly absurd example is valid as an intellectual exercise, we can then move the discussion to less absurd examples and discuss their validity: folks who criticize the Dalai Lama, for example, or folks who “whine” (however defined), folks who are aggressive, etc.–how are these examples to be moderated? Does a majority of the commenters assent with these practices? Does a vocal minority dissent, and why? What feedback is appropriate to making better, more informed decisions about all of this? To what degree are the editors and mods open to disagreement and confrontation? When so, what happens? When not, can most of us live with what we’d perceive as their mistakes? Etc. I suggest you try to engage the discussion on these terms, rather than continue to suggest that people who don’t like things go elsewhere.

      • Haakon IV says:

        A while back there was a heated thread in which Xeni would engage with commenters, they would respond in kind, and she would retroactively edit her earlier comments, which tended to make the opposing commenter look out of line and off-topic. It’s hard to have a fair debate when some of the debaters have absolute power over the system.

        I don’t know of any examples where non-editor moderators have done that, but their participation in ordinary threads and disparaging commenters for their opinions (rather than their civility on the forum) has crossed the line that I would draw for moderators. But it’s not my site, I don’t draw that line.

        In general, I do like the work the moderators do to make the comments readable, though.

        EDIT: Oh, we can edit our own posts now? Flame away! You can make it disappear later.

      • highlyverbal says:

        “Nobody is 100% non-biased.”
        What is the UPSIDE to not farming out moderation to those who are not advocates in the discussion?  The inevitable existence of bias is no motivation to throw up our hands in despair.  A reasonable effort to pick the low-hanging fruit of avoiding bias has no downside.

      • fergus1948 says:

        ‘Nobody is 100% non-biased. Why again should the mods here put on such a pretense? ‘

        Because they are supposed to moderate things like aggressive, offensive and insulting language and comments, flaming and trolling etc, not to give people a quick barb because they’re not toeing the BB party line.

        Antinous told me once that I only disagreed with something or other because “it wouldn’t fit my narrative.” Why is it the job of a moderator to work out what my ‘narrative’ is and then get snarky about it?

        There’s a lot of stuff (quite rightly) on BB about freeedom of speech and action etc but if you stray too far from the accepted ‘truths’ you will be pilloried for it.

    • highlyverbal says:

      I would like to amplify Ethan’s remarks.  Mods are often taking partisan positions but then heavily moderating the comments of their opponents (need links?  I gots ‘em).  This drastically undercuts the legitimacy of the entire moderation system.  Participation drives out (the appearance of) neutrality.  Commenters would be a lot more impressed by your badass hardline stance on Nymwars if you were similarly proactive on this part of things, where it would require a tiny bit of work on your part instead of just being conveniently suited to your interests.

      A much more sensible policy is for involved advocates to FARM OUT the moderation responsibilities to another mod with no stake in the debate.  It’s not like there is only one mod on staff!

      Seriously, what is the UPSIDE to not farming it out?

  4. querent says:

    Antinous FTW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11

  5. querent says:

    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11

  6. querent says:

    I make a point of trying to live above ground.  If I can dwell in a civil society, I will.

    querent == William Felder.  ^_^

  7. Having lived through the free-for-all that was Slashdot and watched the deterioration of commenting on the Gawker sites, I am pleased with how BoingBoing chooses to handle commenting. No commenting system is perfect, by any stretch, but there is a conscientious effort here to make commenting not only accessible, but keep it within the realms of actual discussion, without cutting down personalities.

    • querent says:

      It can be a bit heavy-handed for my tastes at times, it’s true, but if the slashdot comments are the alternative, I’ll take bb.  60% of /. was as cruel as the worst of /trade in wow.  I learn from the trolls, but it’s a pill i wish i there was no need to swallow.

      • Raven says:

        60% of /. was as cruel as the worst of /trade in wow. I learn from the trolls, but it’s a pill i wish i there was no need to swallow

        You fail. Barrens chat > /trade (at least on my server).

    • phisrow says:

      Arguably, Slashdot can get away with a lot more because it has full threading support and the ability to read at anywhere from -1 to +5.

      Full comments display, at -1, will give you a stiff dose of GNAA copypasta, goatse.cx links, unhinged racists, and one never quite knows what else. If that bothers you, you crank it up to ~+2 and the problem goes away…

      Whether by reasons of size, or by reasons of philosophy, Slashdot treats trolls and other undesireables as an information-categorization-and-display problem, rather than a social problem. This does mean that their userbase includes a festering pit of defective personalities spewing vitriol into the void; but they also have a pretty decent set of parameters you can tweak so that those aren’t a problem. 

      • Ronald Pottol says:

        Yup, I’ve always admired /. for just that reason, it runs without day to day moderation (I expect there is behind the scenes analysis for people gaming the system, etc), you just turn your view to +2 or higher (which means that everything you see has been marked as good) and things look good, and have high quality comments.

        For entertainment value, the comment threads on reason.com are hard to beat.

  8. scatterfingers says:

    The comments are usually of great quality, however the lack of threading bothers me. So although I like to read the comments on Boing Boing, I find it difficult to do so easily.

  9. Guest says:

    I have watched the mods here break trolls and turn them into regulars. It’s great sport, and the saddle they fitted me with is quite comfortable.

  10. Cowicide says:

    ntns s th bst mdrtr vr!!

  11. Daren_Gray says:

    I have always been of the opinion that BB’s moderating policy was a bit of ass. I’ve found that often it encourages a clot of sycophants and knob polishers who strain to determine the bias of the moderator on duty and then alter their remarks accordingly. Having a moderator police comments to keep things “civil” sounds swell, but often you end up with a something akin to a circle jerk of conformity.

    • Ethan says:

      I pretty much agree, but would point out that this is more a problem of moderating implementation (i.e., moderators weighing in on the discussion) than the moderating policy itself (i.e., what are the boundaries of acceptable comments). 

    • Jonathan Badger says:

      The only complaint I have with the moderation is that sometimes comments get deleted not because they are uncivil, or spam, or unrelated to the topic, but because the moderator simply disagrees with it (woe to anyone who suggests that the Dalai Lama is anything other than a saint, for example). That I don’t think is cool, even though I understand that being their site, the moderators can do what they want.

    • Cowicide says:

      I have always been of the opinion that BB’s moderating policy was a bit of ass. I’ve found that often it encourages a clot of sycophants and knob polishers who strain to determine the bias of the moderator on duty and then alter their remarks accordingly. Having a moderator police comments to keep things “civil” sounds swell, but often you end up with a something akin to a circle jerk of conformity.

      So, is this you joining in the circle jerk of conformity?  No?  Then why isn’t your post deleted?

      Hmmmm…..

  12. Thank you BB mods. Your work is underappreciated.

    Personally, I work to delete stupid YouTube comments from my videos. At first, I had the policy of leaving up any post, no matter how stupid, in the hopes that it would just show how stupid the commenter really was. Then I realized that (a) those commenters actually didn’t care how stupid they were or looked, and (b) it turned my channel into a graffiti-laden underpass. So I deleted the stupids, and I now have something resembling an intelligent set of comments.

    I only wish all YouTube uploaders did that. I think much of YouTube is upload-and-forget. Do most people not care to engage the rest of the world? I suppose not. This is an incredible pet peeve of mine. People who post on the Internet, whether it be a blog or a video, and then don’t bother to engage after that.

  13. Joshua Ochs says:

    “ably moderated by Antinous”

    That is, when he’s not posting snarky comments to posts he doesn’t agree with or banning without notice for unwritten rules. There’s a fine line between moderating a discussion and becoming part of the problem – one that gets missed at times.

    That little piece of snark aside (and I expect to catch flak for it – but hey, it’s deserved this time), BB *does* have some of the best comment-based discussion of any site I’ve seen. I usually describe comments as the sewer of the internet, but on BB they just may be the highlight. And for all of my ongoing issues with mods (*sigh*), it has improved my own SNR and helped self-monitor.

    Or is that self-censor? Hmmmm…

    • t3kna2007 says:

      > That is, when he’s not posting snarky comments to
      > posts he doesn’t agree with or banning
      > without notice for unwritten rules.

      Oh man I love his comments.  If a topic is not my cup o’ tea, sometimes I’ll read it anyway just to scroll through and see what Antinous came up with.

      +1 for the mods.  How’d you like to have to wade through the noise every day?  I bet at this point they can almost predict how thread comments will run, because they’ve seen it all.

  14. hagbard says:

    team antinous rocks

  15. Modding’s fine here. It their dang site anyway.

    The comments system, on the other hand, gives me the willies. No matter how many separate profiles I create for posting on different sites, Disqus ends vacuums up my comments and tags them by IP address and cookie information.

    When you think of it, Disqus would be a perfect front for an Echelon-type operation.

    And P.S. Serial discussion boards are sooooo 1996.

  16. Xof says:

    “I really liked BoingBoing’s moderation until I was moderated. Then, I discovered that absolute freedom of speech rulez!”

  17. opmaroon says:

    FUCK DISQUS!

    Oh – I appear to have an account with them. How did that happen?

  18. Hugh Johnson says:

    I don’t always comment on message boards, but when I do, it’s at Boing Boing.
    Stay frosty my friends.

  19. Here is a video of Antinous preparing for this thread. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sMWLV5Ad0vs&feature=youtu.be&t=27

    • Gulliver says:

      Don’t be ridiculous. Antinous wouldn’t be caught dead in that haircut! Other than that, spot on.

      I personally don’t mind if the mods, editor, three-ring circus weigh in on discussions. On the contrary, I enjoy knowing what they think since it is, after all, their site. As long as they debate in good faith, they can effectively police bad behavior without censoring dissent. It would only become a problem if they participated in flaming, but I’ve yet to observe that in a year of participation and several of lurking here. If there is groupthink on this site (and there is because we are human and we seek out people with some common ground), it is not because of censorship, IMHO. The mods are strict about comportment, rarely ideology. And if they do delete the occasional post they believe will inflame the regular readership, we’re all guests. If I ever decide I have a problem with it, I can go start my own blog.

      The worst pitfall I think any rationalist can fall into is to indentify personally with an argument, because then the objective can easily shift from clarity, mutual exchange of information and understanding of each other to winning the argument. In the end, that mainly hurts the person whose become emotionally invested because whereas they will only leave with the piece the arrived with, others may leave with more of the puzzle.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      Here is a video of Antinous preparing for this thread.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=itmNiTwHOsM#t=0m18s

  20. Repetition is the policy sin that catches ‘disagreers’ unawares at BB, I think. It’s hard not to do it when you have a contrary opinion and many people are against you, but it creates exponential noise and gets deleted. The trick to fighting our groupthink is to treat it collectively as a single interlocutor and not get snarled up in repeating, escalating exchanges.

  21. anarres says:

    I find it fascinating that new social norms are developing on the Internet. While some people see YouTube-style troll-fests as being inevitable on the Internet, some online spaces such as BoingBoing are finding ways to have useful/interesting discussions. 

  22. tedder42 says:

    the https version of The Economist isn’t loading. Here’s the http version:
    http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2011/08/online-anonymity

  23. pyster says:

    I am an obnoxious and abrasiveness asshole who is often accused of shitting on things just for fun and sport. Making all kinds of outlandish statements. As far as I am aware boing boing has never censored me. I feel this is because its run by what I consider mature intelligent adults who arent overly sensitive to mindless politically correct pandering. Now I am sure BB censors all kinds of shit, and has laid down a heavy hand on people, I’ve just not seen it, and I have been a reader forever.

    The slashdot moderation system is nothing but tyranny of the masses. Say something unpopular or that some fucktard doesnt understand? Get modded down. /. stalkers are some of the most amusing types too. They mod down everything you say based on some perceived slight. But… you’re correct, its a display/content problem. They still allow the content, they just allow others to avoid seeing it if they dont wish too. Unfortunately the tools are often used by vindictive stalkers.

    I always assumed the comments here were made by the average slice of boing boing users, just like comments on foxnews are made by average foxnews users. There is a reason why all the comments on foxnews sound like they came from an uneducated shithead, because that is the user base. Boing boing covers a diverse array of ‘high brow’ shit. Partical physics, civil rights issues, art, video games, history, computers, police brutality, law, and does so with a philosophy I cant clearly define but like. It attracts people of  similar interests and mindsets.

    This idea that ‘moderators define a forum’ is very single dimensional. The content and the way it projects a set of values defines who will be using your forums to begin with. All the moderation in the world isnt going to make foxnews comments any more tolerable to read. And no lack of moderation could turn these forums into anything reaching the level of stupidity seen there. Why? because those sort of idiots just dont seem interested in the content here.

    Another site with forums I feel similar about would be Ar’s Technica.

    The users make or break a forum, all the mods can do nudge things.

    I ran a bbs for 10 years, 85-95. was censorship free. users could post whatever they wanted. only twice in all that time was anything removed, both instances at the request of a girl who was hiding something from her mother who was a user on the bbs. still regret censoring that.

  24. anansi133 says:

    It’s the original content that matters- comments are (sometimes) a nice extra, but not the reason to tune in. Modding at BB seems optimized to keep the focus on the original posts, and I’m usually grateful for it.

  25. PaulDavisTheFirst says:

    from my perspective, the only reason the BB comment “system” appears reasonable is the generally low number of comments in most threads, and the low content nature of at least a third of them. no reply-nesting kills attempts at actual conversation dead, which may be desired by the site mods/editors but makes the whole comment part of BB posts into more of a set of individual responses rather than any kind of discussion. its great to see that most posts manage to attract at least one comment from someone who clearly knows a LOT about the content of the post, but its also true that BB comments are about as full of people who know very little about what they are responding to as many (most?) other comment sections. well, ok, excluding the comment sections hosted by most newspaper and TV websites. by comparison with such sites, BB is an oasis of reason, knowledge and rational debate.

  26. DewiMorgan says:

    In general, and having worked in a number of online communities, I think the line drawn in BB is delightfully liberal, rather than “strict as fuck”.

    I had my first post-deletion the other day, and I thought it was a reasonable mod decision: I’d written it in anger, in response to a post along the lines of “it’s too expensive to mutilate babies in the US. Discuss (but don’t discuss whether or not we should mutilate babies)”. Clearly this was an unreasonable request, and the admins understood this: so they permitted discussion of the topic, but were careful to prevent *uncivil* discussion of the topic, so that the discussion stayed (reasonably) good-natured.

    I agree with pyster that it’s the users that make the content: admins are the conductors of the orchestra, and prevent the occasional out – of – time beat.

    I also agree with Ethan that mod comments, particularly when they start bringing out the insults, can be really unpleasant – I’ve had that happen here, and it’s like a punch to the gut.

    I post under my real name, but probably wouldn’t post at all, if real names were compulsory.

  27. george57l says:

    If mods were to post as normal citizens “It’s just me, Antinous, chipping in to the discussion” in a different way from that “Hey I get to comment in Pink boxes unlike the rest of you because I’m a moderator” and keep the pink shit for when they are actually moderating, it might go some way to allaying fears of those who say mods ought not engage in discussions. Just a thort.

    • DewiMorgan says:

      Not really, no: when a mod rips into you, you have no defense. You can’t appeal to a higher authority, you can’t respond back for fear of being banned: you have no recourse.

      The colour of their boxes doesn’t fix that imbalance of power. It just highlights it, as a warning, which I feel is a good thing: there’s a reason police cars and speed cameras are brightly coloured.

      It means they are *not* treated as normal people. If they want that, they can post under alts, just like you or I or any other user can if we don’t want to post under our real names.

  28. Raven says:

    I can assure you, from my perspective that moderation can be pretty hard work. My preference as moderator, is to not be a part of the discussion, but not everyone is the same so YMMV.

    Moderation, generally speaking does tend to improve the quality no matter what the subject, fair or foul. A lack of moderation I have noticed, tends towards lowering quality to the point of rendering all the comments useless.

    I could give an outrageous example to prove the point, but being aware of the delicate sensibilities of so many here I will refrain, and invite you to find examples for yourself.

  29. Wilson Komatsu says:

    I found two interesting comments on BoingBoing moderation personal experiences on the comments of The Economist’s column itself (is it meta meta comment?). I do not know if they are trolls or if there is some glimpse of truth in their comments.  (I am referring to the comments from Ah Beng and ZMP).

    • There’s no reason to think they’re not real commenters who got canned for one reason or another. It’s often the case that someone will claim they were banned for disagreeing with us, and I’ll look up their comments and it’s actually full of hostility, foul language or creepinesss directed at an editor or the subject of a post.

      As far as silly ‘censorship’ claims go, I will set up a tumblr or twitter account for anyone who wants to comment about a BB item, and they are having difficulty figuring out how to exercise their free speech rights online after we have refused to publish them here.

      • pyster says:

        I was banned from consumerist once for calling joss paper ‘play money’ and having a very sterile discussion on the subject. ‘religious trolling’ i was told. It was honestly baffling.

        That said… I’ve been banned for being a overt prick too. There are just times where you should not be nice to people.

  30. Jeff Dailey says:

    “If your site is full of assholes, it’s your fault.” Whereas, if it’s full of idiots, that’s a feature, not a bug.

  31. hagbard says:

    Analogies matter here.

    Think of it as a dinner party or a salon instead of the town square. The moderator as a proxy for the party’s host, not as a police officer.

    Saying the moderator shouldn’t participate in the thread is like saying the host of the party you’re at shouldn’t participate in the discussion, because the host can kick you out at any time. 

    I prefer the living room/host analogy over the town square/cop analogy because it gives me a good idea how to conduct myself: like a guest, participating in a conversation.

    • Ethan says:

      The analogy for me is that the editors are the hosts and the moderators are the bouncers. I love it when editors join in the conversation–after all they’re the reason I’m here. They’re the hosts.

      • hagbard says:

        I love it when the editor participate as well.  I’ve even been bounced by an editor. But the moderators are proxies for the editors.  They are moderating according to the rules the editors laid out.

        • highlyverbal says:

          “They are moderating according to the rules the editors laid out.”
          The rules linked to on this item are silent on the issue of whether mods should farm out the moderation duties when they are an involved advocate.

          Am I missing some other rules or something?  Citation please.

          • Ethan says:

            Well, I think we can assume it’s allowed. I think it’s a mistake to get too rules lawyer-y about moderation policies (guidelines are probably a better word). Such a document is usually meant to give the community a sense of what is considered acceptable–not to be something regarded an all-encompassing, infallible, must-be-precisely enforced book of laws.

          • hagbard says:

            I’m probably missing something here, but my first thought is that if we were in a court, you’d be able to get your client off with an argument like that. But I don’t know what the charges are or who your client is.

    • highlyverbal says:

      “Analogies matter here.”
      Agreed!  And your analogy perfectly shows why the moderation policy is harmful.  It is NOT like a host of a party, because if you are behaving slightly out of line (or simply disagreeing with the host!)… the host must weigh the awkward scene of booting you vs. the harm the host attributes to you.  Nearly every use of the host’s “power” is transparent.  The host has a strong incentive not to kick you out for disagreeing, because the next dinner party would be poorly attended.  So the host has a STRONG incentive to properly measure the harm you are causing.

      See how that is not analogous?

      Also, this is why hosts have bouncers.  (What is the downside to farming out the moderation when one is an advocate in the discussion, again?!)

      • csforstall says:

        Though I agree with the intent of your idea, you don’t want someone who knows nothing about your subject of discussion moderating your debate. 

        • highlyverbal says:

          “…you don’t want someone who knows nothing about your subject of discussion moderating your debate.”
          You lost me there.  Why not?  Isn’t (in)civility identifiable in some non-content way?  Same with spam, astro-turfing, etc. and most things on the commenting policy linked at the top of this item.  (Take a look, bro!)

          (Leaving aside the strawperson of “knows nothing” of course.)

          • csforstall says:

            Isn’t (in)civility identifiable in some non-content way?

            Are you implying that you can identify with a simple text typed note (not handwritten) what exactly the writter intended? Philosphers have been unable to answer that question for ages (see Death of the Author by Roland Barthes among his extensive writtings on the subject). This leaves aside how message actually appears to those reading it. Which matters more? How it’s perceived or how it’s ment?

            Surely you can see where confusion might come about in a highly sterile enviroment? (such as the comment section. where thre really is no context other then the orginal post and the first commenters)   

            I can make a crass comment to my army buddies and we just laugh about it. Since in that context it is just jossing. I can make the same comment at a dinner party and essentailly be a “troll”

            Context matters. And it doesn’t help with the paltry excuses for context the internet gives us. (that is where we get the “why are you here” remarks, which I addessed earlier)

            So no, civility is a contextual matter not a scientific one and to treat it as “scientific” or “obvious” is to be ignorant of the actual processes both human and technological that operate on the web.

          • highlyverbal says:

            Goblin,

            I don’t personally agree, but you may be right about how hard it is to parse “civility.”  But the consequence of you being right confuses me… if moderating civility is quite challenging, isn’t there MORE upside to involved advocates to farming out moderation duties?  Isn’t that our best chance to deal with all the dangerous, challenging pitfalls of identifying civility?

            The harder it is, the better it is to have a robust process.  So please, by all means, be as convincing as possible that it is difficult and delicate.  You’ll convince people faster than I can.

            Cheers!

          • csforstall says:

            isn’t there MORE upside to involved advocates to farming out moderation duties?

            I’m not in a position to talk very far on the whole matter. This is an idea that I mulled over just a few weeks ago and I am still very much in the process of establishing a methodology for gathering data or perhaps “data” on the subject, and for all I know I might be trying to quantify the unquantifiable, but I do have an idea of where I am going.

            I have my own little borrowed sand box in another corner of the web where I plan to put up my ideas as they develop, but until then, don’t get your hopes up. Or be like others and demand that I work to their expectations. Unfortunately, I do all my study part time. So until then

            Cheers!

      • hagbard says:

        Nope, I don’t see.

        You throw a dinner party with a conversation theme and get the ball rolling with the topic of your choice. Unlike many people who throw parties, you tell people in advance some kinds of behavior you find unacceptable. When you’re out of the room, you ask a trusted friend to keep the conversation going/on track.

        Someone shows up and keeps trying to change the subject, get you to join Amway or look at porn, or is offensively insulting to the host. You would be well within your right to kick the boor out.

        Someone else is kinda rude, not very respectful, or says something you disagree with. Of course you have to weigh your options. Will everyone sigh with relief if you kick the boor out, or will they think you’re awfully thin-skinned? And if it happens while you’re out of the room, of course your trusted friend has to weigh their options, keeping in mind how they know you like conversations to go. They’re trusted friends because they know the host well enough to help the host achieve the kind of party the host had in mind.

        The only signs of heavy-handedness here I’ve ever seen is people claiming it exists. I see lots of people disagreeing with and criticizing the hosts and the moderators.  The fact that I see this happening means it wasn’t suppressed.

        • highlyverbal says:

          hagbard says: “Nope, I don’t see.”
          Gonna pretend that stealth bans are the SAME as a dinner party?!  Really?  Ok, happy to be of service so you can see…  let’s just walk through the tedious script.  I will supply the dinner party version of the conversation; you supply the B! B! version.  (If these are analogous, this will be easy for you, eh?  Yours will be the same.)You:  “Gee, Uncle Edward is taking a long time getting back from the bathroom.”Mom: ….Other dinner party guests, generally: “Yes, sure is taking him a long time.  Where is he?”Mom:…You: “Mom, have you seen Uncle Edward?”Mom: “He went home.”You: “Aw, I wanted to settle something before he left, maybe I’ll text him.”Mom: “Not right now, sweetie, after the party, ok?”You: “Hey, Uncle Edward just text me and said you kicked him out, Mom!  In the hallway when he came out of the bathroom!”Mom: “That’s silly, honey!  Besides, he was being disruptive!”You: “So you DIDN’T kick him out?”Mom:  …You: “Mom?”Mom: “Of course not!”You: “So he can come back?”Mom: “Of course!”=============Etc.  Now you do the Boing Boing version.  Hint: if you get past your first comment being immediately deleted, you’re doing it wrong.============”The only signs of heavy-handedness here I’ve ever seen is people claiming it exists.”Ok, maybe everyone who doesn’t like it is just imagining it, silly victims… let’s bracket that out.  Who cares if you are suggesting we are all liars!  We can still arrive at what would be hypothetically the best policy.  I feel like rational people will agree that farming out moderation duties when one is an involved advocate is the best policy, especially in light of the goals clearly and explicitly spelled out in the linked comment policy in this item!(The downside is _____________ .  Still haven’t heard anything for that big blank.)

          Finally, once again, the absence of you seeing stealth bans or stealth deletion of comments is not evidence… of course you don’t see things that are banned.  Think harder.

          • This idea that we ‘stealth ban’ people and then lie about it is daft. Here’s the Boing Boing version:

            Uncle Edward has a bit too much port and gets kicked out.
            Uncle Edward stands on the lawn outside the french windows for half an hour shouting about how we locked him out for disagreeing with the groupthink, for punching through the veil of hypocrisy, etc. The other partigoers do not hear him.
            Then the sprinkler system turns on and he gets wet.

            The end.

          • hagbard says:

            It turns out “Uncle Edward” isn’t really related to anyone at the party; that’s just something he calls himself. 

            Uncle Edward dons a fake mustache and sneaks back in, claiming to be “Uncle Ned”, and then he stands on the buffet, one foot in the canapes and the other kicking over the punch bowl,  to make a speech about how his rights of free speech have been trampled on; and how all the people who didn’t get kicked out are engaging in some sort of enforced groupthink.

    • MDwebguy says:

      “I prefer the living room/host analogy over the town square/cop analogy
      because it gives me a good idea how to conduct myself: like a guest,
      participating in a conversation.”

      Nicely said, dude.  I agree completely, and in comment boards have always thought of myself as a guest in someone else’s home.

  32. Full of assholes ? Hmmm. I’ve been commenting on BB for a couple years without disemvowelisation, but the first message since you switched to Disqus (whatever that is) apparently got me banned. Now how long does this ban last or how do you get yourself allowed again ?!?

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      I don’t know what’s up with that, but you don’t appear to be banned, nor is there any reason that you would be. E-mail me with details, please.

  33. bkad says:

    I used to read slashdot. Boing Boing is very well moderated by comparison, as far as I can tell. (Since I don’t see the ‘raw feed’, I can only vouch for the lack of bad stuff making it through the filter, and make no claims either way about bias.) Discussions can sometimes seem one sided, but I suspect that’s the readership as much as the moderation and editorial staff. An authoritarian system like these message boards can actually be BETTER for open discussion than a self moderated system, as long as the moderators are philosophically committed.

     I do agree, philosophically speaking, that moderators should not comment and moderate in the same discussion. But in practice, it probably doesn’t matter.

    And of course, who doesn’t want message threading?

  34. David Newman says:

    Moderators should take part in the discussion – as facilitators. By making comments they can steer the discussion into more interesting areas, calm things down when it gets too hot, and spice things up when the discussion flags.

  35. KanedaJones says:

    Sm f y ppl r jrks.

    If I had to pick between whether Antinous moderated or commented, I’d pick comment. His comments are better in aggregate than most of the rest of ours. As for his moderation, he has every reason in the world to be bitter and judgmental and capricious and yet somehow mostly avoids it.

    I can no longer post on BB, as I am GimpWii and this is my hubby’s account. I didn’t always sign my comments, as I value content more than identity myself, but I always appreciate the insight and intelligence here.

    Now, on to the comments on individuals: I miss Takuan, who was about as interesting as Antinous, and I’ve enjoyed your evolution, mdhatter03, through all 3 identities. 

    ArsTechnica is a pale second to BB, and still one of the better comment-thread-places online, so this place is kind of an oasis for commentary as far as I see it.

    -GimpWii

  36. Timothy Krause says:

    As long as they debate in good faith,

  37. Snig says:

    I heard this once from a friend, was something his karate teacher used to say in class:
    “If you’d rather be somewhere else, go there now.”
    Really, we’re guests here.  I like to play here, if at some point I don’t, I’ll leave.  If you begrudge moderators their banhammers or pink boxes, you are free to comment on it when you’ve volunteered as many hours as they have.  No, I don’t agree with everything they say, and yes, I’ve been redacted and disemvowelled when I’ve said things in anger.  If you don’t like this site, remember you’re on the internet.  You can go anywhere else. 

    • Timothy Krause says:

      All of that rather goes without saying: no one’s disputing who owns what, what the Internet is, etc. What some of us are disputing are policies and the effects of these policies. To be told that we can simply go somewhere else with these questions is somewhat infantilizing. “Boing Boing, love it or leave it” would not be a good motto!

      • Snig says:

        No, but comments of “why is boing boing doing this” or “why are you blogging about…” strike me as somewhat bizarre.  It’s a generally agreeable place, but there’s no pretense of it being a nonbiased debate forum.  The moderators and Cory have likes and dislikes, read a bit and you’ll figure them out. It’s not journalism, though journalism occasionally happens.  The fodder for conversation is often what flufffy bits of fancy the moderators and cory find interesting.  I don’t think they owe anyone a position paper, beyond the extant one describing commenting policies.

        You previously questioned that they are not debating in good faith.  If you feel this way, I’m honestly curious why you’re here.

        • Timothy Krause says:

          Hmm, I don’t recall having questioned anyone’s faith, good, bad, or indifferent. My point is only that one’s faith is rather hard to determine at times, being subjective: even at the best of times, good faith has to be taken largely for granted, especially when in heated conversation with someone who wields disproportionate power in the conversation. I definitely think an active, interventionist moderation style can only heighten, however productively, these concerns.

          I think I’m here for the same reasons as anyone else: communication, fun, killing time, and all the other reasons.

          If I did have serious doubts about good faith, competence, etc., why would I forfeit my rights (however limited) to be here? Wouldn’t it be more sensible, more constructive, more adult even, to try to identify what might be wrong, and to try to get this (hypothetical) wrong addressed? Again, you seem to be leading with the “you could be elsewhere” argument, which is not an argument about moderating, its pros and cons, etc.

        • csforstall says:

          why you’re here

          That has got to be one of the most misunderstood and most abused questions on the internet. As if everyone on every webpage is really just a sterotypical or archetypal member of that webpage’s community. As if such an archtype or sterotype even existed. 

          Even still, what use is there in making the webpage publicly accessable?  The content was posted up in a publicly accessable place right? How can you not expect an occasional critical or subtly differing opinion from your own or from the majority?

          Why are you here? Asking it, is like posting a sign on a small side street corner and then posting a guard to shew off all those who might publicly arrive and critic some bits of the content that they find there. 

          If everyone is a member of the club and knows the secret handshake then whats the point of publicity and open invitation for comment? In that case the club should be made exclusive (non-public) and be done with it. To doubt someone’s motive for reading publicly available content seems almost cynical. You should be thankful that they chose to visit that small side street corner in the first place, not actively chastising them for engaging with a question.   

          Frankly the idea of webpage-centric sameness, and the attitude behind it, is ludicrous. He/she is here because it is Wednesday. Yes there are trolls, but that doesn’t mean every dissent from the status quo is trollish or in need of a social status-quo check, “why are you here?” It shouldn’t matter, just be happy they are here.

        • pyster says:

          ‘why are you here’ never appears to me to be a civilized question. it always appears to me as an attack on someone and a diversion from the actual conversation,

  38. C W says:

    I think the active moderation is great, and even if I see non-happy mutant contrarians (tattoos/body mods are gross! what has “science” ever done for us?) popping up lately, I don’t see any mods abusing their power, nor do I see outright unconstructive trolls post here like they do on plenty of other discussion sites like Gawker, Salon, HuffPo, etc.

    It’s a clean ship, I like it. Thanks for caring about your comments section!

    • Gulliver says:

      Agreed, BB is one of the few major blogs where I can read the comments without loosing my appetite, which is handy since I usually peruse over meals. On other sites, I’ve learned to not go below the posts.

    • highlyverbal says:

      “I don’t see any mods abusing their power…”
      You do understand this isn’t evidence, right?  If mods WERE abusing power and deleting posts based on content, what would there be for you to “see”?

  39. pyster says:

    anyone have comments about the gawker network forums?

  40. Brainspore says:

    Mad props to the mod squad.

  41. Here’s a question. When you comment here, do you think you are self-publishing on a platform provided by us, or being published by us?

    • csforstall says:

      I would guess our comments are layered on your platform. There’s no middle man (publisher). But That’s another question that has to have a legalise answer. 

    • Ethan says:

      I guess I think of it as self-publishing since the default is comments automatically appear & don’t have to be approved.

      I’m certainly not of the mind that online community moderation/censorship is violation of the first amendment or anything like that (Boing Boing isn’t congress, so its perfectly within its rights to abridge our freedom of speech :)

    • travtastic says:

      I’m not sure I see the difference. If I were to set up ‘travtastic.tumblr.com’, that’s just about what anyone would say is self-publishing.

      In reality of course, I’m being published by tumblr; but that being said, there would be PR hell to pay if tumblr started deleting blogs of any particular philosophical persuasion.

      (Not to imply that you do that here. I have no clue if it happens or not, and some angry commenter with unsubstantiated statements doesn’t count either way.)

      • csforstall says:

        I’m not sure I see the difference. If I were to set up ‘travtastic.tumblr.com’, that’s just about what anyone would say is self-publishing.In reality of course, I’m being published by tumblr

        This also is an issue if you use a blog platform such a blogger. Is that self-publishing or not? Th way I see there is no such thing as totally “free” speech online as everything is essentially a product for history and not “speech” for the moment.

        So in the end, its the same old story of the “haves” and the “have-nots.” As the commoditised nature of online products invites regulation of those products. Its like the internet is a hybrid of public and private spaces.   

    • jarmstrong says:

      It really could be either. I publish my comments whether verbal or written and the platform is always one of my choosing.

      However, my comments are submitted for approval and held until approved, which ostensibly means that I am asking bb to publish them in the comment thread. (But, do I bypass the review because I am registered?)

      Also, we relinquish editorial rights on our comments to bb via accepting the fact that our posts may be deleted or disemvowelled.

      Interesting question.  What is your opinion and what is the purpose of the question?

      • Because it’s a weird gray area. The way blog commenting generally works technically (and policy-wise/arbitrarily) works most of the time and is convenient, but represents an uneasy merging of platform and publisher that leads to confused social norms. For example, on the one hand, we as the ‘licensee’ of your comment might need to completely delete it from existence if we don’t want to publish it. But on the other hand it also leads to frustrating entitlement issues, such as the belief that refusal to publish is censorship.

        Disqus is structured this way even though it’s designed to be ‘universal.’ It has the same shortcomings. 

        What I’d like to create is a twitter-style centralized platform, a universal ‘comment repository’ where postings exists independently of the thing being commented on, period. It would be a ‘child’ object of the thing being commented on, abstractly speaking, which could be anything with a URL, including another comment in the same system. It could always be accessed at its own URL in the repository. But whether or not the target/parent object displays it at its own venue or not is entirely the choice of the commented-on object’s publisher.

        This could be used for more than just commenting. For example, someone could use it as a blogging system, commenting on their own domain name and installing software that exploited the repository to create a sequential series of posts.

        Basically, a kind of twitter-like platform+API, where everything has to be a comment/child/reply to something else, but the content can be as long as you like. And some easy-to-use example code that allows it to be used as a drop-in comment system for a blog, or even a blog itself.

        • Antinous / Moderator says:

          In marginally related musings, it would be nice if things like nested vs. inline comments were controlled from the user end.

        • csforstall says:

          But on the other hand it also leads to frustrating entitlement issues, such as the belief that refusal to publish is censorship.

          Given the politics of BB I think this push-back shouldn’t be a suprise. As many BB Bloggers take this entitlement line with other companies or other entities when they seem to act on similar “turf” related polices. Cory’s Apple bashing is the most ready example, but there are plenty of others: AOL/Yahoo Email Tax, Freedom of speech trumps copyright ,Free vs Bad speech etc. (not all are completely related, I just want to get across that for all the talk of “free” speech we may really be all talking about text products and their related editoral (and thus private) polices and I think that reframing the debate is required if we want to talk honestly about it..  

          As an independent reader I’m left confused by the conflict between the home polices at BB and the dumbeat poltical opposition to other companies exercising their own “turf” rights. BB may indeed be nicer and more open but its still a walled garden like all the rest. And if BB policy doesn’t qualify as censorship then neither should Yahoo’s or Apples, even if we don’t like those polices.

          • One size fits all moderation/censorship rules, sense, makes not. BB is platform small. Apple is platform big… extra-dimensionally big. Arguments can be made that Apple’s policies are idea not good while BB can pick and choose the comments they allow. Jobs I love, old Mac I love, Walled Garden not so much. BB power little to things control. Apple power silence great to. Word salad!

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            Goblin,

            When you use blockquote, your following text should be placed immediately after the closing tag.  No carriage returns, no spaces.

          • One difference is the deal being offered by whoever’s doing the publishing and their ability to influence the market for expression outside their private kingdom.

            We’re a few people with a blog; our comment rules are made clear up front that it’s our sandbox. Indeed, for much of BB’s history, it accepted no comments at all. AOL, Apple, Facebook, on the other hand, are large companies that present themselves from the outset as platforms for the general public’s personal and commercial expression, offering email and messaging systems, personal pages and publishing tools, all marketed as high-quality substitutes for DIY expression.

            Take for example, what you said was Cory’s apple bashing. Actually a post by me! In it, I said,”what are we to think if these products … are successful enough to become a common medium for art, news, commerce and speech itself?”

            Boing Boing, a personal group-blog of a half-dozen people, will never be a common medium for public commerce and speech. It will never be in a position to fuck with speech outside its own walls, through sheer market power. That’s the difference. One of them, anyway.

            Also, there are different opinions within Boing. I generally don’t care what Apple does on its turf, and think that people who sign up to live in its walled garden and then complain about it can kiss Steve Jobs’ ass. Cory is certainly a more principled advocate of your rights than I am.

          • csforstall says:

            Thanks for the reply. I agree with you for the most part. You get what you pay for. I for one have avoided much of modern techno-gadgetry for many of the reasons that the BB commenters bring up. Though the whole avoidence thing is probably not what many of the other BBers might have in mind. 

            Maybe you posted the article I linked too, but I know Cory has had similar sentiments (it might have been a news column and not a post here). Either way, I suppose the only addendum I have is that at lot of complaining you speak of as such, via Early adopters, goes on this site on a regular basis. I’ve always just been in the “leave it” category while at the same time feeling obligated to keep up with the tech curve as best I can, for the very reasons you cite in your response. You’re stupid to not pay attention to the new modes of expression. And at the same time as an engaged observer I am continually appaled by the over all lack of discussion on the fundemental aspects of human relations thorough these evolving modes. 

            Sure there are discussions here, but its obvious that not everyone is satisfied with the internet’s style of commentary. I think its a wide open area for research, most especially as it is the most common form of new expression that you cite. Yet who in the tech movements have true interest in the lousy penut gallery? That’s why I think this post has had a large response, people are actually deeply interested in this discussion, and how, if at all they can contribute, and there is a lot that has been holding back for a while. And I think this discussion should continue if at all possible.

            Now why do I care. BB is the only place these discussions are happening with any regularity and civility. I care about what comes up here even if some people think I might be overly critical. However, I’m critical in the sense I want to add construction to the overall conversation. Good ideas need to be tested. As I feel most people who have time and access to the web are drowning out those of us with limited access and limited finacial means. All in all I think this thread has been very constructive, thanks for shareing your sandbox.

        • jarmstrong says:

          A weird gray area, indeed.

          If we regard the “platform” as being the forum in which comments are made, then I do not see how a commenter could expect to be subjected to different rules on bb than they would in brick-and-mortar.  In other words, I do not expect that my comments, if offensive, would bear any different result if made on your comment thread than they would if made in your home or office.  To that end, I am, essentially, a guest in either space and have the option of making comments elsewhere.  However, what does not exist on teh interwebs is a public space where one is not either a visitor or proprietor, contrary to the existence of publicly owned land where I may say what I will and not be subject to a private entity’s restrictions on my comments (i.e., a public park).  In any forum, however, I am subject to governmental restrictions on speech, including, e.g., defamatory statements and incitements to immediate violence.  One could always create their own dark website, where they would post comments all day long and not share them, which is the equivalent of talking to myself in the cupboard.  Nobody hears it.

          If we regard “publishing” as the actual act of commenting, either verbally or written, then it is the speaker/writer/signer that is the publisher.  If bb decides to let a comment through (again, I am not clear on pre-posting review processes), then it could be argued that it is a re-publisher of that material, although I would consider it more of a “host” of that comment. Although U.S. law generally protects a website from liability as regards restricted speech like defamatory statements in its comments thread, it is best to simply not be considered a re-publisher or host of such material.

          I do not consider bb to be a “publisher” of my comments in the literary/journalistic business sense, that is, an entity with which I collaborate to publish my words.

          Rob, your proposed platform sounds great, but it still needs a proprietor.  The proprietor has potential liability and “comment” moderation is still needed.  So, it is a new platform, but isn’t it subject to the same restrictions inherent in all comment threads?

          • Right, so it would separate the act of comment-publishing by the author from the act of comment-publishing by the site, instead of them being a gray mushed-together thing.

            The proprietor would be in a twitter-like position of complete indifference except for obeying legal requirements and maybe some lightweight identity/trademark arbitration. I’m imagining it as a nonprofit thing supported by “Pro” API access, but practically speaking it would probably be wiser to do it as a startup and bake in advertising from the beginning.

        • Timothy Krause says:

          Why would a claim of censorship be a “frustrating entitlement issue”? Censorship derives from the Latin censere, which simply means “to estimate, rate, assess, be of opinion.” Meaning, simply, that a censor chooses what’s acceptable or not for a given body, be it political, social, literary, whatever. The censorship claims above are merely descriptive, pointing out that, in the strictest sense, BB does indeed “censor” comments when it edits or moderates them. The rather ugly and disreputable connotations of the word aside (which are rather recent, I would say: for most of its history the word has been descriptive, not evaluative-judgmental), it seems accurate here: that the ugly and disreputable connotations rather take away from the strict, literal meaning is important, and I do sense the collective resistance to commenters’ use of the word.

          Nor does a claim of censorship imply entitlement, a right that the censored speech or text be heard or read, etc. Indeed, many acts of censorship are voluntary and consensual, as in publishing, when authors agree with editors that certain language or scenes can be deleted; or as in the Renaissance, where one observes the Crown, printers, and authors collaborating in various ways to edit or censor the text for various reasons. Similarly, that we can’t yell “fire” in a public theater is an act of governmental-societal censorship that most of us are complicit with: noting that this is forbidden speech doesn’t imply an entitlement to said speech. These are consensual acts of censorship, and note the relationship between the two words: censorship is an estimation, rating, opinion, etc., that’s arrived at together, a consensus, if you will. 

          So I guess I’d want to ask, gently, why these simple, descriptive claims of censorship are so “frustrating,” and what this frustration can tell us collectively about moderating here, your-all’s collective feelings about the same, and the quite productive overlaps and gaps in what commenters feel about it, vis-a-vis BB’s editors and moderators, and vis-a-vis other commenters. I don’t think, aside from the whinier, more difficult and disruptive, indeed, “entitled” commenters, we’re casting you in the role of the Catholic priest in Cinema Paradiso, angrily ringing his bell whenever he sees parts of films he doesn’t like, and relegating those fun, sexy, whatever bits to the dustbin. That’s bad censorship, worthy of moral opprobrium and scorn; and if we were claiming that you all are like that silly priest in the movie, that would be entitled, and worthy of frustration, but I don’t see that happening here.

          • Guest says:

            I like the descriptive parts of your writing there. I get your point. However, you also seem to think that these ideas, which cause you to make a paragraph from two run-on sentences, are simple. Brevity is the soul of more than wit, my friend.

            Try boiling it down to a couple quick sentences. You’re free to say more, but we’re also free to tune you out when you ask too much of our comprehension. And the mods are free to cut you out if you distract too much from good conversation. Not that you do, but you could, and expecting any different seems like complaining about the free ice cream.

          • Timothy Krause says:

            Try boiling it down to a couple quick sentences.

            No. But thanks!

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            …we’re casting you in the role of the Catholic priest in Cinema Paradiso, angrily ringing his bell whenever he sees parts of films he doesn’t like, and relegating those fun, sexy, whatever bits to the dustbin.

            I prefer to think of myself as Carter Burke turning off the video feed from the infirmary.

          • Timothy Krause says:

            Who wouldn’t want to edit-censor-moderate that, yuck!

          • Why would a claim of censorship be a “frustrating entitlement issue”?

            It’s frustrating for the person who thinks they’re being censored, perhaps because they feel entitled to have their comments published.

            It’s not frustrating for us, obviously, because we just click buttons and get our way. 

            When people use the word censored, they’re usually not talking in the broad sense you describe (and in which sense we do “censor” our comments), but in the sense of censorship as an infringement of their right to free speech.

          • Timothy Krause says:

            Right, I get it. I’d thought that you were saying that the claims were frustrating to you (all).

  42. I like /. and I hold unpopular positions vs. many of the “regular crowd.” I won’t go into the mod and meta-mod system, but I would like to mention friends. I seek out and mark people as friends that share my ideologies. So all my friends get a score bump when I view comments. Also, their friends get a tiny bump, too. People I find outright objectionable are subtracted. This makes for a very enjoyable experience. And, no, it doesn’t make me live in a bell jar: 1) Many of my “friends” actively debate other’s comments I would not normally read, and 2) The overall system throws up highly rated comments I can’t ignore.

  43. Mister44 says:

    I used to run what I believe was the 2nd largest paintball forum on the web. We were pretty easy going about moderation – but didn’t put up with the shenanigans that were common at the most popular forum. We actually had engineers in the sport frequent the forum and had arguably  the best “tech” community around. We basically said, “If you want to act like a fucking moron, go to site Y.” It was rare to have someone be a chronic problem (Except for one guy that just about everyone couldn’t stand. The boss kept him around just to stir the pot and keep the site active. YMMV)

    So when Mr. Dash says, “If your website is full of assholes, it’s your fault.” I would agree.

    One thing we did was for ‘hot topics’, or political posts (politics in the sport), we had moderators have alias accounts. This allowed more frankness on their end, while keeping the site more “neutral”.

    • Chris Bell says:

      “I used to run what I believe was the 2nd largest paintball forum on the web.”

      I defer to your ability to speak authoritatively about the topic of comment moderation, but if I were you I’d probably omit that fact from my résumé (no offence intended).

  44. Timothy Krause says:

    Sort of irrelevant, but what’s the status of those moderated-deleted comments? Are they still out there in cybernetherspace? Is deleting comments a radical interpretation of copyleft philosophy? (“The information doesn’t want to be free, it doesn’t want anything!”) Is the disappearance of a moderated comment an IP issue? Will Anonymous have to hack BB in order to “liberate” our suppressed “content”?

    In all seriousness, I’m not sure I saw a statement or policy to this effect, that all submissions are the property of BB, to be done with as you will, etc. Did I miss something?

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      In Disqus, deleted comments exist for 30 days and then go…somewhere or nowhere. As to ownership of comments:

      When readers contribute content to our sites, you retain ownership of the copyright, and you also grant permission to us to display and distribute it. In addition, you are responsible for the content of that material. Happy Mutants has no responsibility for the content of any messages or information posted by readers. However, Happy Mutants retains the right, which we may or may not exercise, in our sole discretion, to review, edit or delete from the service any third-party material which we deem to be illegal, offensive or otherwise inappropriate.

      http://www.boingboing.net/policies.html

      • csforstall says:

        So the staff at BB are very much in line with the idea that a webpage is a sort of facade and comments are simply little bits tacked to that facade. The commenter still “owns” the message on their flyer, but BB as the shop owner retains the right to remove whatever fits its defintion of inapproriate.

        Though I agree with said policy, I think its odd that the tech community and Bloggers here at BB don’t carry this understanding into its politics when it talks about “free speech” issues like BART or Blackberry (as per the riots) or anywhere else. Its hypocritical to support any sort of text as speech in one context (Blackberry Bart et al.) and treat it as product in the other as per the moderation policy.  

        If you are willing to leave “troll” undefined (this is more towards Snig) its more then just BB, BART, Blackberry and all the rest also have that authority for their systems as well. At some point this needs to be sorted out, and in different contexts it obviously mean different things. But addressing the loose defition of online expression certianly seems like the logical place to start. product or speech? It can’t be both.

      • Timothy Krause says:

        Thanks, Antinous, I’d somehow missed that page.

        But then what’s the copyright status of a deleted comment whose only instantiation was here on BB? How can I have a copyright on something that I didn’t bother to save and that doesn’t properly exist anymore?!?! You just blew my mind!

        • Antinous / Moderator says:

          The policy precedes Disqus. In MT we saved all comments from registered users, whether or not they appeared publicly.

  45. z7q2 says:

    I always feel like I’m hanging out with a bunch of scientists here. I never think about the moderators, I think about all the rest of you calling me out for saying something stupid. This alone makes me re-read my posts several times before I hit the post button.

    I like BoingBoing, and want to contribute to make it more interesting, not mess it up for the lulz. I got other places to go do that sort of thing.

  46. Mark_Frauenfelder says:

    Comments about comments are the best comments of all!

  47. Ethan says:

    Since we’re on the topics of comments… the old comment system had the feature where clicking on a comment’s author’s name would lead to a user page of recent posts by the person, a bio, etc. That no longer seems to be the case… Is that going to change in the future?

  48. gwailo_joe says:

    Hmm.  Is comment ‘censorship’ i.e. picking and choosing worth the price if the discussion is elevated (or at least does not become a total gutter wallow)…?

    My opinion is…mostly yes.  BB is the best comment site for my money (ok, that’s 0$ but still)…I’ll check out NY Times or my local rag: sometimes there is wisdom and/or hilarity.  Reddit has plenty of smarties, but that site hurts my eyes.  And when I really want to despair over the state of the world and the US in particular; all I gotta do is read a few pages of Yahoo comments.  Brrr…inforced eugenics starts to seem like a reasonable approach…

    Here is better.  Of course: nobody has disemboweled er voweled me (yet); so I have never been personally affronted by the system of comment moderation.  Seems to me that there used to be more disemvowlings where now instead some comments just go bye-bye.

    As to the ‘party line’ aspect, I’m ambivalent.  But, till yet, I have not been the one single voice crying out against a raging storm…I remember a case a few months back when the topic was ‘video game makers giving bad reviews as revenge’ and mostly everyone said ‘that’s terrible!’ but one person said their peace and stood by it. Got lots of flack for it: ‘go ahead and BAN me then!’; but I thought that was brave.

    I think civility does play a part, even if it means different things to different people.  So ‘you are all pathetic, simpering tools of the oligarchy -and heres why!-’ might be OK if your examples have merit.

    But ‘I am right and you are wrong you illegitimate jackal-fucker you!  Your Mother etc etc’
    gets sent to comment gehenna? Seems alright to me. Until wonderful me gets censored for buffoonery; then I’ll be all ‘How DARE you?!?’

  49. tylerdisqus says:

    This is the first of two test comments by Disqus employee Tyler. Sorry to interruption your conversation everybody, nothing to see here.

    ipsum lorem

  50. tylerdisqus says:

    This is the second of two test comments by Disqus employee Tyler. And that concludes our program for this evening.

    ipsum lorem

  51. billstewart says:

    The main problem I’ve had with Disqus is that it doesn’t seem to be friendly about keeping multiple identities separate.  I use tagged email addresses, and the address I use for BoingBoing isn’t the same one I use for Slashdot, and the addresses I use on random newspaper comment sites don’t go to my main email account at all – if they decide to start spamming me, as they often do, they go in the bit bucket account.  I haven’t had very many stalkers over the years, but there’s really no reason that the some random newspaper gets to see the same email address that my Facebook account uses, where I’ve got friend connections with my relatives and personal friends, and it’s kind of annoying to have the LA Times website showing my what articles my Facebook friends have recommended – I’d rather not have that happen with Random City Newspaper and my BoingBoing account, or have some online political blog’s commenters stalking me.

    Maybe Disqus is more friendly about it than it looks, but none of the user help I’ve found on its site tells me about how to maintain different identities, while lots of it tells me about how easy it is to combine pre-existing ones, and if I’m on a new Disqus site, I can’t tell what identity it wants to use for me.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      …if I’m on a new Disqus site, I can’t tell what identity it wants to use for me.

      Isn’t your name (and avatar) displayed by the comment box when you go to any Disqus site?

  52. Guest says:

    “If your website is full of assholes, it’s your fault,”

    Assholes; the world is full of
    But some don’t comment as one
    Be an asshole all you want
    But if your comments hide what you are
    All vowels will be there for others to read

  53. Guest says:

    I’ve been commenting on bOINGbOING for several years and, with the exception of speaking well of Violet Blue one time, have never had a comment “edited/deleted”. That being said I think the site has polished the comments a little too much, and we are left with something a little “too clean”. I do realize the world is full of fine lines and bOINGbOING tries to walk one as carefully as possible. But I have always felt fine lines are a straitjacket and gag, and we are left with something less than it could be.

    Humans comment, and humans control that comment. I participate in other forums where the commenters regulate the comments and this allows for the practice of community standards. I also live in a Homeowners Association controlled community; it isn’t the residents who moderate the community, it is a small self-interest group. I like the former more than the latter.

    I’m not sure I like the way it has gone, and I wonder where we would be if things were different here. But I want you to known everything I’ve said is within the constraints of the size of the community here at bOINGbOING.

  54. Alex Sirkman says:

    To HighlyVerbal and those complaining of stealth bans:

    You are plainly able to access and comment upon BB, and to complain of stealth bans. Instead of choking the life out of the (actually quite apt) dinner guest simile, why not make a principled, mature stand in defense of those who have been stealth banned?

    If you have been stealth banned, tell us your story. What did you say, what was it in response to, and what happened? If your comments are all stealth deleted by the BB mods (who are, I must suppose, liberal enough to engage in discussion with those who disagree with them up to some unclear point at which summary censorial deletion occurs), you can email Cory, or Rob, and seek redress. If they’ve also crossed some schizoid point that lies between a thriving community of differing opinions that respects free speech, and a fascistic iron curtain clad forum where dissenters are deleted, gather the stories of the many stealth deleted that must exist (I can’t see their deleted comments, so there must be a bunch of them, right?) and send it to the economist, or some other entity.

    How unfortunate and cruel the mods here must be, to allow you noble commenters who have been “stealth deleted” or “stealth banned” to engage in discussion about the existence of stealth bans and deletions applied for scurrilous cause, and to (presumably) censor those who try to share an actual story of their being unfairly censored.

    • Mister44 says:

      *pokes head out*
      *sees shadow*
      *timidly climbs out*

      First off I want to say I don’t think I have been unfairly treated.  I don’t think I have been ‘censored’. BB is a private sandbox. They let you play along, but if they want to kick you out or knock down your sandcastle, it is totally their right. Even if it was for arbitrary or personal reasons, it’s their right.  If you feel censored it is probably your delivery more than the opinion you are expressing.

      I have had more than one comment disappear into the ether. Some times I thought it was lost, like a ghost in the machine. Other times I figured it had just been deleted. Sometimes I could guess why, other times I had no real idea. I figured I crossed a line somewhere, though it is hard to gauge the line sometimes.

      I think Rob mentioned how hard it was to try to talk to several people at once about a subject and not start getting verbose and repetitive. I totally have done that and I try to be conscience of it.

      My only complaint about moderation is the lack of guidance for correction. Even a curt “removed for off topic”, “banned for personal insults”, etc would be great. Most people are reasonable and are willing to alter their behavior if they enjoy their time here. It also removes the doubt of why something was removed or banned, so they can see it as for going too far off topic or one of the other rules, rather than a moderator not liking you or your opinion. Maybe because of volume that isn’t really possible, I dunno.

  55. derin devlet says:

    Theres an incredible amount of people here defending boingboing. I dont know about stealth bans, but i surely pissed someone off at one point and my posts dont get posted. I too feel a “circle jerk” atmosphere here lately, and that hurts the sites quality, in my opinion. The comments on this site are a big part of the appeal, and how can you not be sympathetic when someone is silenced and not allowed to play anymore, because they pissed off Antinous, with literally just a different opinion on whatever post, than him?

    And the “ice cream” thing is just a way to make something ugly sound cute. Obviously there are enough people here saying their comments were zapped for nonkosher reasons and I can tell, because whenever someone makes the point to well, you guys resort to- “go somewhere else!”

    • hagbard says:

      “how can you not be sympathetic when someone is silenced and not allowed
      to play anymore, because they pissed off Antinous, with literally just a
      different opinion on whatever post, than him?”

      what if that’s not the explanation for what happens here?

  56. How is BB comments strict as fuck? They aren’t requiring an ID and neither does Twitter, so just sign up with Twitter using anonymous email address, then comment on BB using Twitter through Disqus. I can even go into my Twitter settings and un-authorize Disqus regularly. I’m not a network technician but I do realize that BB logs IPs and I’m sure even my local private IPs on my home network for all my machines I log into BB using Disqus with. Pseudonymity to me is for protecting myself by obfuscating information about myself from other USERS, and not to hide my tracks from SITES themselves. I do have a habit of clearing cookies and temp items and even flash cookies everytime I use a browser though. The author is correct that TOR can even protect you from SITES tracking you though I wouldn’t ever set up my PC to be a Tor relay point, just maybe as a client though.  I’d hate to be the TOR relay point that all the child molester’s shit goes through (last node before site). You’d have the FBI at your door so quick. Google’s problem with g+ is that they insist on real names and their biggest problem of all is Eric Schmidt. That creepy son of bitch got to me when he called g+ an identity service with social networking aspects. I wrote one last post and ditched g+, killing the google account completely. Sure I could have just kept using my pseudonymous common name but whose to say g+ is not going to become discriminatory, giving those that fork over their IDs an Identified badge and leaving the rest of us to be discriminated against and ridiculed. The real names people on g+ are downright hostile. As a grownup I shouldn’t have to explain my need for pseudonymity or to go through any list of those that require pseudonymity to try to prop up my point. Google is all in for Recorded Future, NSA lapdog, NFC banking, and outright control. I don’t buy for one minute that they want civility on g+ by requiring real names. They need to hire some fucking moderators!

    One final point, if sites were so good at figuring out who individual users are then why does the god of internet tracking, Google, need your real ID? Doesn’t add up, unless obfuscation techniques users use are working to a degree.

  57. “How is BB comments strict as fuck? They aren’t requiring an ID and neither does Twitter, so just sign up with Twitter using anonymous ema”

    Not strict in that sense, but rather in the sense that there are strict rules on the commentary itself.

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