New commenting policy

For five years, my policy on blog comments has been to err on the side of leniency. While I have banned those who wrote vulgar and obscene things, I have generally allowed people to allow their poor taste and manners to undermine the legitimacy of the point they were trying to make. But that approach, along with the occasional crackdown, has not resulted in the kind of dialogue I’d hoped for.

So things are changing.

With the move to the new blogging platform, I now have the ability to moderate comments before they are published rather than merely reacting afterward. And that is exactly what I intend to do. Starting today, I will personally approve every comment before it is published to this blog. If you have come here wondering why your comments aren’t appearing as soon as you submit them, that is the reason why.

I will cull through the submitted comments as often as I can — probably every hour or so on average during business hours, much less so on nights and weekends.

How will I decide which comments to approve? First and most important, it will not be based on whether I agree with the comment, or whether the commenter agrees with me. But here are some guidelines:

  • No insults, of any kind, toward any person. When I started blogging, I allowed latitude for people writing about public figures (e.g., the president or the governor) or myself. That has devolved into a generally low standard for addressing other commenters, and so it won’t be allowed anymore. Punctuate an otherwise acceptable comment by calling someone else an “idiot” or a “moron,” or talking about their mama, or whatever, and your comment won’t be published.
  • No wandering off-topic. No more hijacking threads by getting people talking about something else. On the flip side, I intend to post more often so that readers aren’t stuck with a stale thread.
  • I will not fact-check every comment submitted, as this would be an impossibly time-consuming task. But if I see a comment that I know to be false off the top of my head, I’m not going to publish it.

These guidelines are not exhaustive, and I reserve the right to publish or not publish a comment for other reasons.

But if you’re still wondering why I’m doing this — particularly if you’re a frequent commenter who notices you’re not getting published nearly as often now — understand this. This blog belongs first to the AJC, and second to the readers — all of them. And some of you, through your bickering, name-calling, caustic tone, bullying and generally uncivil participation have made this blog a lesser experience for readers who didn’t bother, or wouldn’t have dared, to comment here before. I have experimented with this before, by putting comments in moderation on nights and weekends, and most often the result was a more thoughtful, civil discussion.

And before anyone raises this objection: Yes, I completely expect the number of comments on my posts to plummet, at least at first. And yes, I have support from my superiors to do this. I frequently get 300, 400 or more comments on posts, but many of them aren’t worth reading. I would rather have two thoughtful comments than 200 spiteful ones. And in time, I expect we’ll get many more thoughtful comments here than we’re accustomed to seeing.

If you have questions or comments, feel free to send them to me. I’ll see them (even if others don’t) if you post them here, or you can email me at the link in the upper-right corner.

Thanks for remaining a loyal reader.

Reader Comments 0

42 comments
FIGMO2
FIGMO2

Not only am I having to sign in multiple times during the day (5 today) but I'm now having to contend with "malformed content" without knowing exactly what it means.


My participation going forward will be minimal.


Too bad since I've always been here to support the AJC's lone conservative columnist. 

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

This thread is long dead, but here goes...

I find the new format and regulations overly cumbersome and not necessarily beneficial. The only plus? Direct linking.

I'm not sure I'll be able to withstand. 

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Kyle, thanks for the reply and consideration of our thoughts!   I am with Figmo and Mark, I think you are requiring a great deal of your own time, and wonder if you can maintain the commitment.  (Not that I don't think you intend to and will make every effort to, but there is always human nature to consider, and you are human after all. (although some of the proggies might not think so.))


Good Luck with the changes!

MarkVV
MarkVV

I do not believe for one minute that bans as penalty for transgressions again the policy would not be effective because of the ease of “reincarnation.”

I believe, on the other hand, that pre-publication censorship is un-American and disgraceful. Kyle has support from superiors to do this? Then shame on them!

I believe even prohibited comments should be posted – with specific exceptions, such as obscenities or racial and religious slurs – followed by stated imposition of the penalty, as a warning to others.

It is astonishing to read comments agreeing with the new policy because of the prohibition of personal attacks and vile comments – as if that were a new thing. That was part the previous policy as well –except in was never enforced! Even the censorship was part of it - remember those few and far between “comment removed for violation of visitor’s agreement “posts?

Remember those scores of posts from one poster just about every day, filling page after page, calling others “fascists?” And what was Kyle’s response? Not a peep!

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@MarkVV "I do not believe for one minute that bans as penalty for transgressions again the policy would not be effective because of the ease of “reincarnation.”"


You can believe what you want. I've seen it happen dozens of times.


"And what was Kyle’s response? Not a peep!"


Nope. My response was this policy.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@Kyle_Wingfield @MarkVV 



“You can believe what you want. I've seen it happen dozens of times.”


Dozens of times? That is you reason, Kyle? Dozens?


“Nope. My response was this policy.”


You response time is truly breathtaking, Kyle, especially considering that you did have tools to stop it for a very long time, and did nothing then.


RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Kyle, kudos for good intentions, but like Democrat legislation, you are so focused on your good intentions, you lose sight of the collateral damage.


There was a need to eliminate the hundreds of comments that were posted by trolls that lived just to attack Captain-Tiberius.  Pages of back and forth.  I tried to tell Tibby, that he was feeding the trolls and that is why he continued to get more posts, but he saw himself, I think, as preserving his reputation against false charges.  Anyway, boring, very boring, but mainly three or four people involved.  Don't know why you didn't just ban them for a month or two and see if their attitude changed,   Maybe they would have moved on permanently.


Anyway, new format totally destroys spontaneity and breaking news.  I really enjoy cut and paste jobs that keep me abreast of things I didn't know about.  This will seem to end those.  You may can hang around for a page or two, but after that comments will not be published for hours, so who is going to keep checking back to see how your comment was received, and correct the falsehoods of those replying if needed.


I will still post, but probably once per column and be gone.  

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

@RafeHollister Kyle's new rules force me into dependency and that's not a situation in which I'm comfortable.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@RafeHollister " Don't know why you didn't just ban them for a month or two and see if their attitude changed,   Maybe they would have moved on permanently."


(This response is not just to you, but to all who have raised this as an alternative means of cleaning up the comment threads.)


Banning users has become a decreasingly effective tool. Believe me when I say I have tried to solve the problem through bans. It is just too easy for the banned to reincarnate themselves and show right back up. That became a game of whack-a-troll, and it was a game that I spent hours upon hours on. I finally decided that if I instead had the choice of keeping the trolls from popping up in the first place, I would do that -- accomplishing the goal where I had previously failed, and saving time to boot.


During a weekday -- if I am in the office -- I will be approving comments often enough that no one should have to worry about their comments dying on the vine, so to speak. At night and weekends, you're right: There will be a lot less discussion. There's no way to have it both ways. After living through the other way for a long time, I decided to try the other way.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

Did the other AJC columnists get e-mails complaining about the...

...bickering, name-calling, caustic tone, bullying and generally uncivil participation...?

From what I've seen it happens on all of 'em.

So here's my question:

Were the folks who e-mailed, themselves, the offenders? Were they using Kyle to gain a leg up on their competition? Did Kyle, unwittingly, serve as their proxy in an online war of words?

Stranger things have happened on these here AJC blogs.

Why do I ask?

Case in point? One of the worst offenders offers praise for Kyle's decision:

Leaning_Right says: Well done, Kyle.  This has been a long time in the coming.  I've long said the leniency degraded your column and hopefully that won't be the case anymore.

'Ya gotta wonder, or at least, I do.




Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@FIGMO2 "Were the folks who e-mailed, themselves, the offenders? Were they using Kyle to gain a leg up on their competition? Did Kyle, unwittingly, serve as their proxy in an online war of words?"


I received complaints like the ones you describe. I received a LOT more from other readers. Not just people who comment on the blog; in fact, the plurality of the complaints I got were from people who said they don't comment on the blog because of the trashy nature of the conversation.


While I value the people who comment on this blog, one long-time, widespread misconception is that commenters represent the lion's share of readers. I'm sorry, but that just isn't true. And I have to maintain the blog in a way that benefits as many readers as possible while encouraging participation. Letting a handful of people dominate the conversation is not my idea of encouraging participation.


For the reasons stated above in my reply to Rafe, I believe this is the best way to go about this.


As for other blogs, I truly do not know.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

@Kyle_Wingfield @FIGMO2

...the plurality of the complaints I got were from people who said they don't comment on the blog because of the trashy nature of the conversation.

And the other blogs aren't? Just the conservative columnist's blog? I'm left to wonder why that is.

I could send you e-mails from addresses other than the one the AJC has on file.

Your blog, your rules, Kyle. I suspect our leftists of sabotage.

As a conservative, I'm wary of regulations AND left-wingers.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@FIGMO2 Like I said, I don't know what other blog hosts have heard.


But I would point out that there have been well over 300 comments approved today, most of them in real time, so I don't think this has been too much of a burden so far.

longmemories
longmemories

I can't disagree with the policy.  Extremists on both sides refuse to take part in an intelligent discussion of the facts.  Don't know how it works out but I applaud the attempt to bring a civil dialogue to the blog.

MarkVV
MarkVV

Kyle’s new policy is a good example of the proverbial saying “throw out the baby with the bath water.”


The main flaw of the previous policy was not the policy itself, but that it was not enforced. It used to be that calling poster using a different, derogatory name was a reason for punishment – it has not been enforced for a long time. Personal attacks were forbidden – but allowed universally. Reporting abuse was ignored. The rule about wondering off topics was so ambiguous it was useless.


I for one wrote more than once that I was no punching bag, and if insulted, would hit back hard. I would have no problem with a policy automatically punishing an insult with suspension of the posting privilege, perhaps for one day for first offence, a week for the second, etc.But it should also extend to calling the President and other political persons insulting names.


What would have to be made clear also is whether calling a statement in the post stupid or similar epithet is considered an insult to the poster. I believe it is not – each one of us says something stupid occasionally, and using a euphemism, such as “ill advised,” as Dusty suggested, would be childish.


The new policy regarding “wondering off the topic” also is either foolish or in a need for revision. Few topics can sustain a discussion over the weekend, for instance. Together with the rule of Kyle approving each comment it would effectively stop commenting where some interesting topics could be raised and discussed.


We must hope that when Kyle wrote

“I would rather have two thoughtful comments than 200 spiteful ones, “

it was just a meaningless platitude, rather than an expression of conviction. Because, what worth would be a blog with “two thoughtful comments?”

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

I respect your new policy regarding insulting, Kyle.  Thank you for implementing it.


Bullying on blogs has fostered bullying in our nation, as a whole.  Positive steps taken, such as your new policy, will turn the tide of accepted abuse of others to a society that, as a whole, will reject that type of verbal violence to a more humane, reasonable, and civil society.  Well done.

WGA1990
WGA1990

Good plan Kyle, hopefully Jay might employ the same approach.

Moderate_line
Moderate_line

I have not problem with the policy. To many comments are mostly personal attacks or off topics. Very few comments seem to reveal new information or another perspective. It is hard to sort through the clutter.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@Moderate_line 

Killing the blog certainly is an effective way of preventing personal attacks or off topics.

CherokeeCounty
CherokeeCounty

Thanks Kyle.

I've avoided your blog because of the rancor and vile comments. 

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@CherokeeCounty I can see that, Cherokee, but they are much worse over on the other side of the page, especially against the five or ten conservatives brave enough to venture there.  Do you complain about those comments, or just think they deserve whatever they get for being so incredibly dumb.

HarryCrews
HarryCrews

@RafeHollister @CherokeeCounty


Mr. Wingfield: I do not understand, at all, how "bravery" has anything to do with anonymously posting on a political blog at the AJC? Really? Likewise, in the comments below "my work here is done". Really? Work? Or even further down the lamenting of "the great disservice to readers" the changes will bring? Do people who continuously post here, day in day out, time after time again, actually believe the majority of people read the hundreds of comments instead of the editorial?


IMHO people take themselves far too seriously. Does anyone really believe that minds are being changed by the childish bickering back and forth?


Newsflash: You can clean up your blog in an instant and not worry about moderation, time delays, etc. How? It used to be, in order to send a letter to the editor at the AJC you signed your name, left your phone number and gave your address (at least the city you live in). Put that at the end of every post. That and add an email address.


If people have to own and take personal responsibility for their speech they'll think a little more (hopefully) before they hit send or say it around the water cooler or over the fence. If they don't, their flaws are exposed for all to see. Return personal responsibility - a well worn, conservative catchphrase - to your blog and manners, decency and intelligent, passionate discourse will return to this space. The only people who don't truly care abut being viewed as a flawed individuals have much greater problems than not getting to view their asinine comments on a blog.

IReportYouWhine
IReportYouWhine

I just got a chance to read the new rules and comment, I just wanted to say that I love the no more lies policy. If this is true, my work here is done. Let see what we got.

MarkVV
MarkVV

After giving some though to the new policy, I believe Kyle is right mainly in one prediction – that the number of comments will plummet.And in spite of all the criticism of the previous way the blog has developed, I think the result will a great disservice to the readers. Approving personally every comment may sound like a worthy tool, but the effect quite inevitably will be a substantially stifled discussion, especially on weekends, but also in the evenings. It seems inconceivable that Kyle would be able or willing to devote that much of his time to the process to make a discussion lively. There may be some people who are willing to watch the computer constantly or periodically all day to see if there is any response to a post, but I doubt there are that many and also inevitably it will make it stifling for others. Frankly, I think that Kyle’s presumed satisfaction with two thoughtful comments is hardly consistent with a worthwhile blog.

There is also a rather questionable rule of “no wandering off-topic.”Even with more frequent posts by Kyle, it is almost certain that some of is topics will be exhausted before a new one arrives, especially on weekends, and a possibility of an interesting discussion of some other topic will be lost. I also wonder how this point of the policy will be enforced? Will we be deprived of Dusty’s poems, for instance? And if not, where is the boundary?

Is there an alternative that would avoid some of the excesses of the previous way as well as the stifling effect of the new policy? I think a more vigorous after-post penalizing, with a clear set of detailed rules, would achieve the desired purpose without the disadvantages of the new policy.

Squirrel_Whisperer
Squirrel_Whisperer

It's a shame that adults have to be monitored like children, but it is what it is. Good for Kyle for rescuing his blog.

MarkVV
MarkVV

If the new policy means we will not see any more posts calling others fascists, it is worth it.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

Starting today, I will personally approve every comment before it is published to this blog.

Wow. I commend your diligence, Kyle.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@stands_for_decibels The approvals will come more quickly at some times than others, depending on what else I have to get done that day. But I will make time for this at regular intervals every day.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

You stated it better than I could.  I really wish this step was not needed, but since we saw what happened over the past few months on the old format, it'll be refreshing to see the new format.

Hope to read more of your posts and improved commentary. 

JackClemens
JackClemens

Excellent. Hope your method catches on virally across the interwebs.

MHSmith
MHSmith

This should be interesting. :)

The_Centrist
The_Centrist

Sweet.

How about limiting the frequent posters  - maybe on a few per hour, so we don't get their blathering stream of consiciousness?

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@The_Centrist It would not surprise me in the least if Kyle gently, um, guided, shall we say, some of the more frequent posters to limit their output to something reasonable. And that's all I'll say about that.

MarkVV
MarkVV

Kyle,

Why isn't there a date stamp on the comments? The info about how long ago the comment was submitted is much more difficult to use when one wants to refer to a comment made much earlier but without making it specifically a reply.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@MarkVV I asked, and that's just the way the program is set up. Not just for my blog, but all AJC blogs. Sorry.

Captain–Obvious
Captain–Obvious

Well done, Kyle.  This has been a long time in the coming.  I've long said the leniency degraded your column and hopefully that won't be the case anymore. 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Leaning_Right I've been waiting for the platform to change so that I had the tools to do it right. Now that I have them, I intend to use them.

straker
straker

Works for me too.


Now the trolls will have to go somewhere else.

Stephenson_Billings
Stephenson_Billings

Works for me. Now the trolls will have to find something else to do with their time.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

I was the first one whose post was held. Made me feel special.

I'm good to go!

No doubt the banter will continue, but I'm capable of engaging in it without the name calling.