When comments get out of hand…

They get closed down. And I’m not talking about Slugger here (yet at least). A Californian newspaper with a committment to participatory journalism found its comment zone deteriorated to the extent that they decided just to switch them off.

John Moore, assistant managing editor for new media and technology:

“Wonderful conversations ensued. Readers began talking with each other, offering opinions, raising the bar of discourse in the county. They were voices we didn’t normally hear from. The comments made many of us a little nervous. They were a little raw for our taste; language and opinions that we don’t normally see in print. But they were real. For awhile.”

But:

The viciousness of the comments began to escalate. We found more and more of our time was being spent moderating the comments. With comments posted on dozens of stories, it ate up much of our day.

We’ve no plans to do the same here at Slugger. But that does depend on you our readers. The comment zones at their best are informative, witty, great for developing wider context to given topics. But they also contain the dangers that led this paper to close theirs.

It depends on you. We don’t have the manpower (or desire) to pre-moderate your contributions. So we rely on you playing the best game you possibly can. Where we do moderate we make efforts to leave your argument intact.

So help us keep the flow and Slugger’s growing reputation, and play hard but play clean

  • redpaul

    Subtle Mick…..

  • Mick

    Too subtle for some of our new visitors Paul. 🙂

  • Davros

    Mick – trolls don’t care. They enjoy causing trouble but at the same time it’s a win-win for them as they regard it as a success if they inconvenience you into having to change things or even close the site down. Either way they have got their kicks.

  • Mick

    Davros,

    Is that a recommendation we close the comments down here too?

  • Davros

    Merely an observation Mick 🙂

    Appealing to a sense of fair play or decency in posters such as those whose comments you wiped is a waste of time. The ones who play fair are already doing so. The ones who don’t want to play fair will ignore you.

  • Canadian

    Mick,

    Maybe you should have it where people have to sign in or register in order to post. That way you and
    the moderator’s can have an easier time. You know the type that needs a valid email address in order to register.

  • Mick

    We did have that, but it was so awkward for new people we abandoned it. However, we may have to look for another bespoke system that allows us something similar. That way, even if a poster wants to preserve their identity, we are asking them for some committment to the integity of the site.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Mick

    Sorry to be a pain in the arse but, regarding my complaints on another thread: if there is to be a crackdown on trolls here, I don’t think any of the long-term posters would object. If you are going to toughen your approach to those blatantly spoiling for a fight, then fair enough. But I would also urge you not to neuter the rough and tumble of debate here, which I think we all love. I would request some sort of guidance on what is and is not going to be acceptable under the new policy. I would also request that it be made clear where comments have been removed – a kind of bloggers’ naming and shaming, if you will. Simply excising the comments, as though they never existed is, as I said earlier, disquieting. It’s not the hallmark of the Slugger I know and love.

    (Sorry to be such an arse about it. Slugger is your baby but there are a lot of us who care about it.)

  • ssr

    i don’t mean to sound stupid here, but what is a troll? (and I don’t mean the wee monster type, I mean as in Davros’ and BP’s posts)
    If someone could tell me I’d be really grateful.

    thanks a million

  • Davros

    what is a troll?

    Internet Trolls

  • ssr

    thanks davros 🙂

  • Mick

    Billy, I’m sure we can get things back on track soon and leave most people to get on with the minimal interference.

    The debate on Slugger has gone well for probably two out of the last three years. But there’s been a general downturn in the tone over the last six months or so.

    In principle, I don’t mind people getting away with the odd rabbit punch, but we do need some recovery of the oul dacency to give some of our newer folk here a lead.

    Try and bear with us!?

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Mick

    In Slugger we trust.

  • Davros

    It doesn’t help that a lot of the news stories/issues at the moment seem to be in unusually sensitive areas.

  • maca

    I think you’re fighting on two fronts Mick, a system that avoids spam which was a serious pain in the jellybeans, and a system which discourages quick hit posters or trolls. Some sort of registration system must be the way to go. Typekey was also a pain in the knobbly nubblers and although I personally whinged constantly about it I think Slugger was better during the TK-era.
    Registration systems like on phpBB, YaBB, Invision, etc always work very well so I don’t know what it is about Typekey that makes it such a pain, it might be just that you’re relying on their server. ‘Local registration’ might give better results.
    Of course there will always be people who won’t adhere to the rules but it should be easier to control them under a registration system.

    I wonder what would be involved in taking phpBB and giving it the “Slugger skin”??

  • maca

    Just reread that “I think you’re fighting on two fronts Mick… …” same solution for both problems. Brain frizzle again, sorry.

  • Canadian

    Mick,

    I think the people who post here that post intelligent comments and play the ball not the man wouldn’t mind having to register with a valid email address because they have nothing to hide. If only you and the sluggers moderator’s have access to email addresses there is no reason not to register. There could be an option to hide or show your email when someone posts a comment.

  • Davros

    another suggestion – ISP provider e mail addresses only, not Yahoo or Hotmail.

  • Mick

    Maca,

    I wonder what would be involved in taking phpBB and giving it the “Slugger skin”??

    Not much. My main difficulty with bulletin boards is that it doesn’t link the discussion to the stories. Blogging seems to have gotten stuck around this point.

  • maca

    Mick,
    Gechya!

    Dav
    “another suggestion – ISP provider e mail addresses only, not Yahoo or Hotmail.”

    Some people might only have access to such accounts.

  • Alan McDonald

    Davros,

    I loved It doesn’t help that a lot of the news stories/issues at the moment seem to be in unusually sensitive areas.

    As an American observer, I have to ask, What issues are not sensitive in NI?

  • Davros

    Maca – if it’s the price that has to be paid to clean out the wasters ?

  • Canadian

    Davros,

    I don’t think if that ISP only would work. I don’t think Mick would recognize my ISP as it is canadian ISP. Also have three email address’s and my ISP address is the least address I like to use too much spam on it.

  • Davros

    Canadian – the e address wouldn’t be available to anybody except Mick. Other sites have had problems with registration where groups make literally dozens of registrations on Yahoo and Hotmail. The recognition isn’t important – what happens is that the site controller sends an e mail to check is a valid address. It also means that the ISP provider can be contacted in the event of a serious misdemeanour.

  • foreign correspondent

    ‘Some people might only have access to such accounts.’

    Like me, for instance…

    Maybe there should be a series of guidelines posted at the top of the homepage to help posters???

    Davros’ link to trolling was interesting, BTW.
    As for myself, I would plead guilty on all counts to occasional facetiousness, intellectual laziness, changing my mind in mid-post, and sometimes overlooking facts because my opinions were blocking the view, but hopefully I’ll never be accusing of being a troll…

    Slán go fóill, a dhaoine uaisle, caithfidh mé rud beag oibre a dhéanamh, mar athrú…

  • Davros

    Alan – Unusually is the important word, rather than sensitive 😉 I was going to suggest that you look at which blogs have little activity, but then I realised that Mick’s pruning will have skewed the validity of that approach.

  • Alan McDonald

    Davros,

    Emphasis noted. I truly appreciate the open nature of discussion on this site. It is, in fact, the only site I post to with any regularity. I come here to get a first-hand view of what’s happening. As such, I realize that topics about which I am a curious observer can be literally life and death issues on the ground.

    Keep up the excellent work, Mick and all associated with Slugger!

  • Mick

    FC:

    “caithfidh mé rud beag oibre a dhéanamh, mar athrú…”

    Nil tu i do aonair!

  • Feismother

    I’ve come across trolls before (mainly on the BBC boards.)

    Always remember: DNFTT.

    That is : “Do Not Feed the Trolls”.

    It’s not foolproof but it’s the best. They just want a response, any response. They’ll even be enjoying this conversation.

  • Alan McDonald

    Feismother,

    My son competed at the Worlds in Belfast last year, and he had a wonderful time. He has also competed in Glasgow and Ennis, and he says Belfast was the best!

  • Feismother

    Lucky you with a boy, Alan! I had three daughters involved! Thank God it’s all behind me, just the name has stuck!

    [Ennis – ugh!!]

  • Drumahoe Cowboy

    Mick,
    Where in the world would we see comments like
    Lloyd Webber – plastic Puccini
    UUP – provisional wing of the Ulster Tatler

    shut down comments – the soul is lost !

  • Anonymous

    Sorry Mick, just discovered this thread after some of my rants were ‘edited’ on another. I’m happy to ‘moderate’ my tone if it’s causing offence. That said, surely there is a distinction to be drawn between punters who simply engage in facile, puerile, inflammatory name-calling and those who want to engage in rational and coherent debate, but do so with an at times caustic edge ? Anyway, keep up the great work, your site is a joy and sorry again for any inconvenience caused.

  • Canadian

    Davros,

    I would think just having to register would be enough to get rid of 90% of the trolls on slugger. Baning yahoo and hotmail accounts could probably be a last resort if just registration didn’t work. With registration and moderators this site would clean up nice. This is my first time posting on slugger. I don’t post because I’m pretty new to the whole NI situation and the trolls would jump on me in a second.

  • Alan McDonald

    Canadian, eh!

    Not really a troll, but I must take this opportunity to welcome another North American to the discussion. I have heard some folks in NI say that we from across the sea have some blame for the Troubles (Terence O’Neill, specifically, on CBC circa 1969), so I think that gives us a cautious opening to pursue.

    without trolling, of course

  • daithimacmhaolmhuaidh

    What about a sytsem like Scoop? Trolling and bad behavour can be moderated by other commenters, regiastration is taken care of, etc. Seems to work well.

  • Canadian

    Alan McDonald,

    Thanks for the welcome!

    I’m not sure how much involvement us North American’s have with NI other than financial support and turning a blind eye to the situation. I’ve only recently been paying attention to the problems and reading books on it. A good friend of mine lives in belfast but that just give’s me one side of it. The thing that is the most confusing about NI is that the people there are the most gracious and nicest people I’ve met. I was there a few years ago. If they could only be that way to each other as they are too their guest’s it would be one of the best city’s to travel to in the world.

    Just one North American’s observation.

  • Fanny

    The ISP e-mail only thing is a superb idea – except that anyone on BT Broadband (like me) doesn’t have one.

  • D’Oracle

    Wheres the gain in a Californian monologue.?

    Schizophrenia gags apart, not a lot if you ask me, Mick.

  • Joseyboy

    Mick et al

    Does it never occur to you that you’ve been doing this just a little too long, have lost perspective on what good blogging can be if allowed to flourish and that, well, you’re juuuust a little bit too precious about all of this ?

  • Colm

    Have to agree with Joseyboy here – Mick is tending to be a little prim and proper at times, a sort of political Mary Whitehouse. Let the trolls and the rudeboys and gals be exposed by their own embarrasing deposits. The meaningfull debaters can ignore them , and only the genuinely Libelous comments should be excised.

    To paraphrase the old saying – Sticks and stones can break our bones but words can only hurt those who use them foolishly.

  • Mick

    JB and Colm,

    Your statements should probably stand as an open questions – esp. “you’ve been doing this just a little too long, have lost perspective”.

    I’m hoping that the current level of intervention won’t be necessary for long. But believe me it is necessary. I hope I’ll get a public opportunity to expain more fully soon.

    BTW Colm, Mary Whitehouse goes down in my little book of memorable descriptions.

  • Deflated

    This site has now lost the plot – I’ve been ‘red-carded’ for absolutely bugger-all-squared. If the moderator wants to turn this into a forum for prissily chatting with Christians, prudes and do-gooding bores – fair enough. As for me – see you folks – your loss.

  • Mick

    Deflated:

    Who are you? I’ve not seen anything from you before. Were you using another name?

    Adds: With respect to Colm’s suggestion that we only take libellous stuff out, I can only say that the ball not man rule is designed to be simple, mutually comprehensive and stop the messing a long way short of legal action.

    Since the law in this area is still largely untested, I’m not sure how I would go about deciding when the law was or was not breached.

    Besides, it’s not simply about staying onside with the law. It’s about enabling people who want a serious discussion to have one – rather than be continually attacked on spurious premises designed to ‘hack’ them out of the game.

    I remember talking to a old college friend who played minor football for Antrim in the seventies talking about how he dropped out of the game when he moved to London.

    According to him there were too many old stagers who were just ruthless in hacking down anyone who showed talent. With a tiny player pool the ref’s were over indulgent with the incumbent players.

    The GAA in London lost a lot of talent that way. I don’t intend to make the same mistake. If we lose a few hackers on the way then so be it!

  • Leviathan

    Can see where you are coming from Mick, and as a constant ‘reader’ and occassional commenter, I can say that Slugger definately has dropped a few ‘decent, firey debate’ pegs in the last period.

    Maybe the way to go is commital.. a whole registration thing.. I don’t envy the delicate balancing act you have to perform.

  • Colm

    I accept that it’s a difficult act to try and maintain an open debating forum that is sensible informative and civilised when literally anyone on earth with access to the net can come in and act the fool, but I do feel that recently much of the commenting here has been ABOUT the commenting and censorship and not about the topics at hand.

    I don’t envy Mick’s task and I am sure sometimes he must feel like King Canute trying to hold back the waves (makes a change from comparing you to Mary Whitehouse Mick) so can I just do my bit and attempt the impossible. Appeal to everyones better nature. Will everyone please just read what you write before posting it and try and ensure everything you post is something you’d be happy for your mother to read!

  • Deflated

    I had been posting as ‘Me’.

  • Mick

    Sorry me. But maybe if things calm down in the next week or so, you’ll have a bit more latitude when you come back. Though you’d be best advised to drop your previously creative approach to your email address.

  • maca

    I’m with Mick on this. One of the the things I value most about Slugger is that the majourity of the debate is quite civilised. You can learn an awful lot here (which is why I came to the site), and can express your pov without being cut down and you can listen to the pov of people ‘on the other side’ none of which would be possible if you are dealing with trolls etc.

    If people want a place without rules where they can attack others there’s a gazillion other forums and newsgroups on the web.

  • Roger

    I find this messageboard informative and generally interesting.

    However I also think is is one of the rudest boards I have ever partispated on. Snide remarks regarding spelling mistakes are contantly brought up by posters, some people take on a superiority complex and criticise others, Posters using arrogant names such as ‘middle class taig’ there is also an overwheming liberal agenda that seeks to demonise anybody with a different point of view and I also take exception to support by members of this site for paramilitaries.

  • bertie

    Roger

    can you recommend any other boards, much as I love this one, I feel the need to add to sources to satisfy my increasing addition.

  • maca

    Roger
    “However I also think is is one of the rudest boards I have ever partispated on”

    Really? I’m surprised, I think this is one of the best boards (excluding certain types of boards such as technology forums obviously), you should try the newsgroups, they’d blow your mind…

  • Roger

    I do find this board rude I am a member of some other boards but this has to be the worst some people are also very patronising although some members are quite decent.

  • Davros

    appreciate the favour you are doing us with your august presence Roger.

  • maca

    Fair enough, i’m just quite surprised. Sometimes it’s a relief to come back here after being on some other forums 😉

  • Roger

    I am the opposite as I go to other forums to get away from the confrontation I receive here.

    Davros I hope my posts havent offended you.

  • Bernadette

    I’m sure none of you actually know me, but I’m quite a long-time lurker who has just worked up the nerve to start posting.

    I frequent many bulletin boards and blogs, and I must say that this one is one of the most polite I have come across. I can think of one board in particular that I lurk on where fights have turned so nasty that every thread was a brawl – and this is a Lord of the Rings board! I think it’s really saying something that a board that deals with such sensitive subject matter can, in my opinion, be more respectful than a board discussing a 50 year old work of fiction.

    That said, I think registration might be a good idea – although I hesitate to say it has to be from an ISP. That would, in effect, ban anyone who doesn’t have their own computer, university students, and I am sure a great deal more people. But making people register, making them give a bit of their information and a bit of their anonymity might make them less willing to troll.

  • bertie

    Roger

    please respond to my earlier post which I repeat here :-

    Roger

    can you recommend any other boards, much as I love this one, I feel the need to add to sources to satisfy my increasing addition.

    Posted by: bertie at June 5, 2005 05:57 PM

    or else I’ll think I’ve offended you. :o)

  • Davros

    Davros I hope my posts havent offended you.

    Not in the least – you would know if they had 😉

  • Roger

    Well this is the only political board i visit the others are movies and sports boards.

  • bertie

    thanks anyway Roger

  • Roger

    Do you have any suggestions Bertie?

  • TAFKABO

    Can I just say that I think it took a lot of courage for Bernadette to admit that she visists Lord of the Rings discussion boards.

    Well done Bernadette, admitting you have a problem is the first step on the road to recovery.

    ;-p

  • bertie

    Roger

    you may be interested in this http://www.transportblog.com the owner is a unionist/tory/libertarian. The site is now defunct but it has links to lots of others.

    As a unionist you maybe interested in
    http://www.unionist.org.uk
    It is not a blog and is in need of updating. It is an umbrella group for unionists all over the UK (and further). It has a lot of its pamphlets online and you may be interested in joining the organisation, if you haven’t already. Maybe you could run the website for them ;o)

  • Bernadette

    *stands up in front of the group*

    My name is Bernadette…and I was once obsessed with Lord of the Rings. Once. A long time ago. Yeah. 😉

  • martin

    does anyone find my comments extreme or rude ,im just asking ,ill tone it down if anyone wishes,and will not take offence at any criticism given,

  • maca

    Roger
    “Well this is the only political board i visit the others are movies and sports boards”

    That explains it. As far as political (or similar) forums goes this one is pretty polite. You can’t really compare Slugger to something like movies or sports forums (mind you some sports forums can get quite nasty at times). Slugger discusses “serious” topics, movies are not serious, in my opinion. ;))

  • Roger

    Hi Maca

    Fair enough point your knowledge in this area is probably greater than mine. However some of the movie messageboards that I visit such as IMDB can be quite arrgressive at times as somehow the topic always resorts to politics and with Americans involved it can be quite passionate to say the least.

  • maca

    Roger
    “can be quite arrgressive at times as somehow the topic always resorts to politics and with Americans involved it can be quite passionate to say the least.”

    Yeah, I can imagine. I’m not brave enough to go there though, i’ll stick with NI politics 😉

  • bertie

    “Yeah, I can imagine. I’m not brave enough to go there though, i’ll stick with NI politics”

    LOL

  • cladycowboy

    Hey people,

    Poor sensitive Roger is addressing me as ‘Rhinestone’ on other threads as i questioned his argument.
    He’s hardy enough! Its all an act 🙂