The only things I delete in the comments at View From The Wing are:
- Extreme offensiveness – racism, misogyny, graphic sexuality.
- Non-public information about individuals – the full name and address, for instance of another commenter who uses a pseudonym.
I’ve been pretty lax in doing that. I’ve never once gotten an email from a member that I can recall thanking me for having such a light touch in the comments. I’ve gotten many emails like this one questioning the value of the comments section that flows from such a light moderating touch,
So I’m not a fan of the comments section of your blog. That’s mostly because it adds so little value to any conversation you start, and you have an abnormally high number of jackasses commenting on your site. For some reason you like engaging some of these folks, but I really question whether the majority of your readership shares that interest.
However I’ve long been reluctant to ban commenters or censor ‘the jackasses’.
My general approach is that ‘it’s the internet’ and that what someone writes reflects more on their own character than on anyone else. I’ve been a denizen of the internet for more than 20 years, and I probably have too pollyannaish a view of what kind of free speech community it was supposed to become that derives from a mindset formed in the early 1990s.
More importantly though I question my ability to be particularly Solomonic in my approach to moderating comments. It’s too easy to let distaste for a commenter’s truly offensive posts become a slippery slope into dislike for someone who thinks I’m deeply and morally wrong on some issue. Wouldn’t the comments be much nicer without their invective? Wouldn’t it be nicer without the commenter who says I’ve got no idea what I’m talking about?
If I start down this road, anyone becomes a target for banning or comment deletion if they disagree with me or call me out. So I tend not to delete comments or ban commenters… even when they cross into the two areas that I’ve said aren’t acceptable in the comments here.
Which is a long way of saying that for only the third or fourth time in almost 15 years at View From the Wing I’ve gone ahead and banned a commenter. I also deleted a different commenter’s “contribution” yesterday which came close to advocating violence.
I’m pretty sure I’ve done the right thing in these cases, and I wonder what readers think about my approach and whether I should rethink it with a goal of developing a comments section that is more useful and constructive, of commenters sharing not just their opinions but their experiences, as a way of helping other readers dive further into an issue or offer that I write about? Should I be taking more of an active hand in the comments than I do?