Does LISNews Need A Rule Book For Commentors?

Topic: 

I'd like to read some more comments about comments. Should we have some kind of comment control @ Your LISNews? Recent posts at Lifehacker and The Consumerist (especially This One) make me wonder is there is something we can do @ LISNews to foster an environment open to dialog.

This could be as simple as filtering out words commonly considered to be obscene (something easy to do in Drupal, they call it a "Badwords filter"), or as drastic as instituting some kind of comments policy and then enforcing it by deleting comments. This would require some kind of "comments posse" that will run around deleting comments that don't fit into some kind of rule book we'd need to write, or something like that.

Personally, I don't know if we need to take any drastic steps, but you might be able to convince me to put a Badwords filter in place. I've read just about every comment left on LISNews for the past 9 years, so nothing bothers me any more. BUT, if a vocal minority of potty mouthed folks are scaring people away from LISNews, then maybe we should put some kind of controls in place. This might help bring new voices into our conversations. If new people decide that LISNews is worth their time, it can only make things better.

I don't know the best way to handle this, until now I've been 100% hands off, but I'd like to hear from you if you think something should be done (or not). Would putting rules and controls in place be a good idea, and why? Would be make LISNews a better place? Would it just be a big ugly can of censorship worms?

Comments

>>I think the proliferation of anonymous and not verified posters has done a disservice to LISNews.

Really? I'm missing something if that's the case, I still don't think that's the case, but I know others have said that as well.

>>There will always be people who cannot or will not behave within the bounds of what is acceptable time
>>and time again - not just episodically, but continually.

So that's another thing that gets at the heart of my conundrum... what do we do with them?

>>But I don't pay the bills around here so I matters little what I think, but thanks for asking us all.

(no one pays the bills around here now that we're at ibiblio)

I maybe have the ability to rule with an iron first, I have never wanted to, nor done so. I've always wanted this to be a site that used some kind of consensus to control things and make rules. I'm not naive enough to believe that will happen in ways I'd like it to, but certainly these discussions lead the most active users to discuss ideas and I understand what some people want.

It's that silent majority I'd like to hear from more (but then they wouldn't be silent would they?)

(Blake, posting not signed in because I'm testing something as I'm going along here)

From what I can see, most sets of comments are just fine--but once in a while, things get offtrack, and we get some serious shouting and berating...some of it anonymous, some pseudonymous, some fully-signed. I haven't seen Bad Language as much of a problem, but maybe I'm not that sensitive.

I don't see the need for any new codes or initiatives. Once in a while, it doesn't hurt to suggest a touch of civility. It won't always work. Such is life.

Admission: I probably write four comments and responses here for each one that actually shows up. Most of the time--particularly when md, zak, the various anonymi, and ff are involved--I write what I have to say, look at it, and delete it... But, of course, I'm about as non-anonymous as you can get. Heck, if I was building my account now, I wouldn't even use just the first name; it would be "waltcrawford" as it is almost everywhere else. Also admission: Some of the comments that don't get posted are a trifle impolite.

I probably have a similar ratio here and elsewhere, keeps me out of trouble, and in the end I usually decide it's not worth it or I just don't really care.

I probably think of 8 comments, start four, and actually post one.

I however would not mind seeing Walt's, or yours if they were responses to mine. Sometimes it is beneficial to be told you are full of it.

I wouldn't even begin to estimate the number of comments I think of for every one I actually post...

Not-responding to Ff: Geez, it never occurred to me to tout my skills as a writer as part of this discussion. But I only have sixteen books (13 traditionally published) and 500+ articles to my credit, so, you know, it's not as though I actually know anything about writing. Somehow, I've managed without an excess of vulgarities. Maybe if I was a better writer, I'd throw in more cusswords. Maybe not. In the library field (which is, after all, where I write and, to the best of my knowledge, where LISNews operates), I've rarely found true vulgarities to do much to further discussions or understanding, even if I'm discussing censorware. But that's just me.

Personally, I prefer not to have them splashed at me. I don't mind the vicious attacks, off-track or off-topic passionate discussions, but please spare me the vulgarity. Thanks.

OK, how about a user selectable bad words filter.

If a LISNews reader wants to relpace the bad words with disemvoweled words or substitute happy words for bad words the user could turn this filter on or off as he or she saw fit.

It would work on the presentation or application layer rather than on the DB. People who want the dirty words can have them; the rest of us would see flower and sugar as replacements.

I don't know if it exists for Drupal, but if after a diligent search it is not found I can dust off my code monkey skills and bang it out (would that get filtered?)

Hmmm... filters that can be applied locally to meet local standards and sensibilities what a good idea.

If you are not part of the solution you are part of the precipitate.

>>If a LISNews reader wants to relpace the bad words with disemvoweled words or substitute
>>happy words for bad words the user could turn this filter on or off as he or she saw fit.

That's a helluvan idea. I bet it would make a helluva module. My guess is there's a market out there for it.
BUT
I'm not sure it would solve the problem here (as I see it) and that's it's the people that wander in, never get an account, and would never bother doing that, they would see "bad words" and just leave.
(Blake, not signed in, testing something at the same time I'm writing this)

And how appropriate are vulgarities to the academic milieu, Walt? What exactly is your target audience? Why do you write? To impart information as objectively as possible, or to be evocative? Or even deliberately provocative?

I have seven unpublished manuscripts of 80,000 words ea. Two of them have one vulgarity apiece. They are there for punch, and their presence is effective. My three fantasy novellas have none at all; that's another 120,000 words all told.

(And for anyone who wants to make something about those mss being unpublished, I have had 24 humourous, short short stories published.)

There is nothing that cannot be found offensive by someone, somewhere.

I don't understand why people conclude I'm an academic (you're not the only one, FF--one person dismissed my writing because I was safe in an academic ivory tower.). I've never been an academic, although I worked in a research library three decades ago.

My writing is in the library field--almost never refereed, scholarly writing. My target audience is, generally, people in the library field and a few outliers.

No, I don't make anything of mss being unpublished. Some of my stuff is self-published (my ejournal has a reasonable readership and a small amount of sponsorship), some of my stuff is "for pay" (columns in print magazines), some of my stuff is places like here.

On the other hand, I claim no skills as a fiction writer. I tried it, and at one point had a nice rejection letter from John W. Campbell to show for it, but I don't have the chops. I write nonfiction--but most nonfiction isn't academic. And for nonfiction, I just haven't found that extreme vulgarity helped me communicate. (If I was writing a short story, and if a word was appropriate to the context, I would absolutely use it. Different situation.)

And, frankly, I've seen precious few cases at LISNews where communication was more effective because of extreme vulgarity. (I don't consider "bullshit" and the like to be vulgarity at all, much less extreme vulgarity.)

As always, YMMV. A cliche, but true enough.

so I haven't read these comments. if I want to curse, I can do it all I want on my own blog (or the one I use here). but I'll try to remember this decision and be a good boy.

I remember how I once cursed on my own blog and someone got it blocked (I don't know how that works), so I reposted, substituting "apple" and "banana" for the offending words.

maybe we can have an apple/banana filter and unfamiliar visitors can scratch their heads wondering why all the librarians are writing about fruit.

This might be useful to consider: http://www.43folders.com/2008/08/19/good-blogs
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Stephen Michael Kellat, Host, LISTen
PGP KeyID: 899C131F

So, I have to admit one of the major reasons I subscribe is the comments. I mean, the articles are great too - but I love those comments!! I am against any sort of filtering or rules; I may even stop reading this in total if that happens (I subscribe to some other things where there is a decent amount of duplication). I hope this doesn't come out as a threat or anything, I am just saying I

I started reading threads here at LIS one week ago when I stumbled upon it. In the past, when a forum that I read on a regular basis became obsessed with deleting posts and excluding 'bad' words, people just created their own versions of 'bad' words that everyone picked up on, and the name calling just looked different to outsiders. As much as it became a series of hilarious 'in' jokes, people still got their feelings hurt (so what?). Constantly deleted posts made for impossible reading because everything started to jump around in the conversation and there was no 'flow'. Not to mention the people who would comment 'hey where did my last comment go?' and then the discussion would be about that- with even MORE name calling and cries of NAZI and DICTATORSHIP! (But of course since those words were deemed 'sensitive', it became an exclusionary name calling session again and new people had a hard time figuring out what to do to join in.)

The more you try to control something, the less able Chaos is at turning things into Fractal Art.

I don't think filtering would be particularly helpful, nor banning anon. If someone is looking to push buttons, they'll find a way, and I think that is the larger issue. Rough and tumble for its own sake. And as others have said, it depends on what you're looking for out of LIS News. I personally prefer something more professional. Freewheeling isn't a priority or even an advantage. Not when it's so frequently malicious. And when there's a certain level of profanity or (totally clean) malice in a post, I move along. It's not impossible that there is some intelligent content in there as well, but the odds are low enough that it's not worth my effort. And that is what a lot of people are responding to. It's not fear, whatever that means.

As a thought, could comments be shifted over to a separate Laconica-based system with an accompanying TinyUrl-style package implemented? The discussion could continue at LISNews but separately from the posts themselves. I already use http://identi.ca and find its federation features quite useful in being able to follow folks on other implementations such as at http://army.twit.tv. The Laconica package is licensed under Affero GPL so that would give even the F/OSS folks something to think about and/or play with.

This is no small feat, though. I just throw it out there as a thought to address some of the concerns raised. Would a respectful separation ease site visitor concerns?
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Stephen Michael Kellat, Host, LISTen
PGP KeyID: 899C131F

Some newspapers and blog sites contain a link to "Report Email" or something similar. Unless someone hits the link, the thought police are not summoned. If someone does, then the entry is examined. Worth considering anyway.

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