Comments top wish list for sr.com changes

nick
Mar 23, 2010

Well, when I asked the question, I knew I was going to hear a lot about the comments. Many of you don't like the vicious posts in our comments -- and neither do I.

The question is, what to do about it.

There's a lot of skepticism out there that required registration would actually help. It takes about 30 seconds to get a valid email, free, without any kind of identity verification. If someone is determined to be vicious, they don't have to work very hard to get around registration.

A pre-approval process would place all comments in a queue, pending Register staff approval before being publicly posted. That's proven to keep the nasty comments off a site ... because it keeps pretty much every comment off the site. And I don't think that's because of the instant gratification problem -- who wants to have a conversation with a time delay? It robs the comments of any sense of dialogue. That's what is different, and I think valuable, about the comments, as opposed to a letter to the editor. Comments are not just commentary on the news of the day, they're a conversation between community members. That kind of social capital is sorely lacking in today's society.

But I admit, much of that is destroyed by the current tenor of our comments. I'm as frustrated as you. We spot check the site and remove any comments that are over the line. We remove any that are flagged or that we get called about. We disable commenting on stories when it gets out of hand, block users when they go too far, too often, carefully watch stories we think might bring out the flamers, and we even disallow commenting on stories -- such as the NAACP story -- that we know are going to start out over the line. And none of that has worked. Honestly, I don't even get why we have this problem. Hasn't everyone been through kindergarten and learned that you don't treat people this way?

We monitor the situation but our priority is still to give people the freedom to express themselves. We make our livings by the freedom of speech; it's our default position; we have a hard time being the censors.

Interestingly, my understanding is that the law would see these comments as wholly the responsibility of the commenter. Legally, we are a "common carrier." We're like the phone company, and we provide a service. What people say on our service is their own. That's exactly why we have a responsibility to offer comments and to err on the side of freedom and openness.

Some people will abuse it, and that is their responsibility. Our responsibility, as a news organization is to get the truth -- to illuminate dark corners, to reveal what's happening in your community. And this is, it turns out, part of what's out there. I don't really know what is behind it. But I know that our principles guide us not to hide it or hide from it, but to seek it out.

If the law sees the problem as being the responsibility of the commenter, I guess I see the problem as being the responsibility of the community. This vitriol is out there, whether it's on our comment boards or not. It's all over the internet, not just here in Sandusky. And I doubt the internet created this problem. It's been festering a long time, the internet merely exposed it. The question is what are the rest of us going to do about it?

I can tell you this, not a whole lot of people are using the "report abuse" link underneath every comment. We could take the comments off this site entirely, but all that will serve is to hide the problem, and at that it will be only momentary. If they're not saying it here they'll be saying it somewhere else soon enough. We have a broader problem on our hands, and it's not just here, but all over this country: we have become a society without a social feeling, a community without communion. The Register could censor the comments with all the righteous indignation we can muster, but wouldn't it send a much more powerful message if the rest of us came together as a community to decide what kind of society we want to be?

PS If a comment of yours has been removed, you can contact us via the contact form on this site with your screen name and the approximate time you posted and we will be happy to tell you the reason.

PPS The forums disappeared because they are on servers in Sandusky (the rest of this site isn't) and there was no internet access to our building from Sunday afternoon to today.

Comments

Crackhead

then maybe i will go somewhere else. i'm tired of this stuff really. i guess i like being on here because i feel like these people on here are in some way my neighbors. scary as some of them may be...

cm.sandusky

Nicholas, Nicholas..what's going on??
Why? Why are they deleting stuff that's not written in bad language, yet STILL you allow the other stuff????
Just where is the line? Do you have a line? Do you pick and choose?
Please, just a little explanation would be appreciated.

Anonymous

Why does the SR employ gestapo like tactics? Serious question here, not trying to be amusing.

Anonymous

Good question, why are people's comments being deleted but yet your crappy blog continues to exist?

A Sovereign American

You could change it so that we can comment on AP stories also.

Crackhead

this website is super slow. plus the security images are half on and half off sometimes. or it tells you the images don't match. are too many people on here for your server? fix it, please.

Anonymous

The comments definitely need to be changed. As a webmaster myself who runs forums (www.cpforums.com), we have similar problems. The best thing I would suggest is requiring registration and have all posts require approval. If you are worried about discussions being inhibited, send people to a forum for discussion. Or if SR isn't interested in a forum, find a private person (contact me) to operate one, and encourage more discussion posts with one another at that site and leave the comments solely for comments on the article.

Anonymous

Sounds like you are looking for work? I'm sure you would fit right in over in communist China. They'll let you censor all you want over there.

Anonymous

One place where decent disucssions take place is, or was on the Forums. Typically, the SR ignores the Forums and pretends they don't exist instead of fostering growth in their realm. Havent you even noticed how people post there to bait you and you don't even realize what is going on? Pretty lame....

Anonymous

:)

Anonymous

The comments are fun to read, even the bad stuff! People have to know horrible things are going to be posted on ANY kind of article!! The reason being is that its a way to express what you feel without shame!! Its human nature I'm guessing because EVERYONE has negative thoughts everyday!! If you don't like it, simply turn off your computer and don't look!!! stop taking life so seriously and laugh, thats really all we can do!!!

Anonymous

does anyone else find it amusing(disturbing)that the SR - a "NEWSPAPER" - supposed champions of the first amendment - find it necessary to delete peoples comments that dont come close to slander, obscenity, racism etc............

Anonymous

You know, you could just ignore the trolls who leave the nasty comments instead of feeding them with a reason to post more vitriol. Instead of reacting first, think. The trolls are easy to spot, ignore them and carry on with the relevant and civil debate/discussion. I'm a member at several other websites of different subject material, and for the most part the trolls are ignored and left to starve at every single one of them (there's a lot at Ars Technica, especially when it comes to Mac vs. PC). So instead of wanting the Register to babysit, maybe try to ignore the trolls and think before you post?

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