Monday, May 22, 2006

Daring to venture into one's own comments section - or, I Am Not Insane

(June 1: minor edits.)

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.

Here I report another instance of, how shall we say it, lack of attention to dialogue, from The Union.

(I don't expect different results)

In his May 13 column, editor Pat Butler addresses The Union's commenting guidelines and moderation:
Links to stories... can be posted after we review where the link takes our readers.

Any efforts at playing gatekeeper to the comments section leads to the inevitable uproar from some posters who will claim that we are being censors, which is not the case. Our government still permits other ways to express yourself.

My comment (visible here)
re censorship - Pat, if you failed to publish, or differentially delayed publishing, certain comments that met the written guidelines, would you consider that to be censorship?
thanks
Anna

Response:
[none]*

The very fine Daniel Davies (via Jeff Jarvis via John Robinson) on how to handle comments from your readers:
First ...

Second, never go silent. The advice "keep your chin up" is diametrically wrong. As any boxer will tell you, you keep your chin down and your gloves up. If something is worth broadcasting to the world, it is worth defending if someone takes the time to criticise it. I really do not understand why so many ... don't get involved in the comments threads themselves. This is not to say it's worth replying to every single drive-by troll, but ten times out of ten, you will gain people's respect by being prepared to mix it with the plebs on an equal basis. Simply confining yourself to the one-way communication channel ... is patronising and undemocratic, and it's not surprising that it drives people mad.

... Third ... Fourth ...
The most important point is the second one, though. ...

(Mr. Davies also gave us The One Minute MBA, two years ago; we are still grateful.)

Emily Bell of The Guardian, also via JJ via JR:*
there is a lurking important point about how we conduct discourse, not just on blogs, but everywhere: in politics, in the street, in our homes and in the media. Condescension, bullying, lecturing and abuse are all bad things, and discussion is a good thing. Sometimes, however, we have all spent so much time indulging in the former that we forget how to do the latter.

8 comments:

Russ Steele said...

Anna:

My I suggest a little cut and paste. When commenting on the Union web pages, cut and paste what you wrote in to your blog, making note of the article title and date.

I am considering it. Pat and I have been exchanging e-mails, but I will honor his request not to publish our exchanges. Bottom line, comments unfavorable to the Union's image will not be tolerated in the comments.

Anna said...

> Bottom line, comments unfavorable to the Union's image will not be tolerated in the comments.

Interesting.
I emailed Pat (The Union's editor) this morning asking him to comment on this; will report back.

Bruce said...

I've made several comments the last few weeks. None of the "unfavorable" comments were printed. Really, the paper has become a parody of itself.

Anna said...

Hi Bruce, and welcome back.

Do you have copies of any of your "unfavorable" (and therefore unpublished) comments, and if so, could you post a sample here?

I'm curious to see them, because whether or not a case can be made for deleting an "unfavorable" comment depends largely on its tone - e.g. "you guys are a bunch of bleeping pinheads" vs. "it seems that you run the only newspaper in this country that has characteristics x, y and z"; restricting the "acceptable" commenting tone to the latter helps people of differing views to remain able to discuss them without slipping into warfare.

But deleting even civil "unfavorable" comments makes it rather difficult for people of differing views to discuss them at all.

(Haven't heard back from Pat yet, BTW.)

Russ Steele said...

Bloggers are journalist according to the Court. We are protected under the First Amendment and the California Shield Law.

SkiTheStars said...

"Bottom line, comments unfavorable to the Union's image will not be tolerated in the comments."

Could this be rewritten as

"Bottom line, comments unfavorable to the Union's bottom line will not be tolerated in the comments."

???????????????????????????????????

Given the nature of on-line storage, there is no reason why virtually all letters to the editor, etc, could not be posted. Each writer could pick out key words, and readers could bring up writings by date or content or writer. Of course the paper soon becomes somewhat unimportant in the process....

Anna said...

> "Bottom line, comments unfavorable to the Union's bottom line will not be tolerated in the comments."

I suspect that pretty much wraps it up.

(Welcome StS; though I have to say when I saw your name, and the row of question marks in your comment, and the similarity of wording, the first thing that went through my head was "spam".
(fortunately it was superseded by other things))

StS's blog is here.
(BTW in blog settings you can change your archive frequency to "monthly" without dire consequences; over time you might come to wish you'd done so.)

Anna said...

> > Bottom line, comments unfavorable to the Union's image will not be tolerated in the comments.

> emailed Pat (The Union's editor) this morning asking him to comment on this; will report back.

followup post - in short, I've gotten responses, but not clear answers.