Sunday, July 12, 2015

Any thoughts on this blog's moderation policy?

As you know, I've always tried to keep the comments section of this blog as a completely open forum.  Partly that's because I've been on the receiving end of draconian and/or Kafkaesque moderation policies at websites such as Political Betting, and so I know all too well what it feels like.  (I've never even bothered attempting to post on sites like the Adam Tomkins blog, because everyone knows Tomkins deletes all dissenting views, regardless of how politely expressed they are.)

But there's no getting away from it - a small minority of people abuse their posting rights on open forums.  I've always felt that putting up with that was a price worth paying, but since this blog became more popular last year, I sometimes feel like I'm spending half my life responding to trolls (or vexatious commenters, if you think 'troll' is an overused word).  For example, on the last thread, a semi-regular commenter once again 'rebutted' all sorts of things which he claimed I had said, but which I hadn't said.  A few days ago, during the discussion on feminism, an irate anonymous commenter told me to stop insulting people I disagreed with - even though I had insulted absolutely no-one on that thread.  When I asked her to acknowledge that fact, she simply modified her claim to : "I often find your tone offensive".

It's easy to say "just don't respond to that kind of nonsense", but I find it impossible not to respond when people are deliberately trying to damage my reputation.  It's getting to the point where it's completely doing my head in.  The lowest point came a few months ago, when I went to a theatre show for my birthday, and made the mistake of turning on my mobile phone during the interval - you can probably imagine what delights were waiting in store for me, and it's a bit difficult to switch off and enjoy a night out after that.

I'm getting sorely tempted to "do a Smithson", and just start deleting any comments that have a go at me personally.  I'm not going to do that, because any moderation policy should work in the interests of everyone who uses a site, not just the owner.  However, I'm beginning to wonder if I should tighten the rules up a bit. 

Feel free to make any suggestions.  Bear in mind that on the Blogger platform, it's not possible to ban specific individuals from posting.

72 comments:

  1. If it's spilling over into your RL, just stop comments. It's not like you're a state broadcaster or anything!

    ReplyDelete
  2. James. .I really value your blog...especially when the polls are coming in thick and fast. There are certainly some crackers when it comes to comments but I must admit that I do feel like saying Get a grip guys! at times. Don't take it personally but sometimes it's best just to say Whatever! ...and move on. Your reputation is fine. You can afford to do that. Valentine x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, there are times when it might be possible to say "whatever", but not when someone is misrepresenting me, or wrongly claiming that I've been insulting people. In those scenarios, the only realistic options are to respond or to delete the comment.

      Delete
  3. Look after yourself James. I really value your insights. It sounds like you need to tighten up moderation so that people who make slurs against you personally don't waste your valuable time or cause upset.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I think the issue is whether dissenting views are making ad hominem attacks or not. Play the point, not the man. Also, time-wasters.

    ReplyDelete
  5. If it gets personal, rather than dealing or commenting on the content and issues. Delete. Imo when a debate descends into the personal, its over anyway. Your blog, your rules. Keep things strictly on topic ( whether the commentator is agreeing or disagreeing with your post )..and ruthlessly get rid of anything that starts looking like a slagging match of personal insults that add nothing to the debate or relevant to the content.

    Just my 2ps worth as someone who visits/lurks regularly. I run a forum and find this approach works well, especially with contentious issues. If the posts start concentrating on the poster rather than the topic. It's deleted.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't think off-topic comments are really a problem in themselves - in fact, they're often extremely useful, because I sometimes get early notice of polls that way.

      Delete
    2. No I meant personal type comments that don't apply to the content posted and start concentrating on the poster...not useful heads-ups etc Once it starts getting into 'well your a moron because'..rather than 'well I don't agree with that because'.. It's generally downhill all the way from there in my experience Those need nipped in the bud as soon as they start. :)

      Delete
  6. I think you have been getting trolled lately....

    Why feed them? This is my presonal favourite of indy blog sites but the large number of recent anonymous wind up comment postings is getting distracting. Registration not a problem for genuine posters even those who may not always take the same view.

    Give yourself the option to ban for repeat offenders and save yourself the aggravation from the anons who could well be just one or two people up to mischief....

    Nothing wrong with requiring registration.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I think you could consider stopping the loophole that allows multiple people to post as "Anonymous". Apart from anything else it's hellish confusing. If they won't sign up with a name, hell mend them.

    I know Bob Black had to make his Blogger blog entirely pre-moderated because of one single guy who repeatedly posted and reposted the same defamatory statements, and as soon as Bob deleted it he just posted it again. Of course, Bob has to sleep sometimes. There are far far fewer comments on the blog since he did that, as it's impossible to have a conversation. If only he'd been able to ban the individual, but as you say it's not possible.

    Other than stopping "Anonymous" comments, you could try a combination of lightening up a wee bit, but also deleting the posts that are simply intolerable to you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "you could try a combination of lightening up a wee bit"

      Ah, that'll never happen. I always remember walking past an American tourist in Northern Ireland when I was 19, and I heard her whisper "lighten up, fella..." I've no idea what I did to provoke that reaction - I must just have a miserable face.

      Delete
    2. I only meant, you could ignore the less atrocious comments and delete the worse ones.

      Delete
    3. And when it comes to miserable faces, Stu Campbell has you beaten out of the park.

      Delete
  8. Maybe time to migrate to a blogging platform that does allow you to blacklist trolls? You could then set up rules ( three strikes and your off for n months? ) to suit yourself.

    I have never understood what gratification people get from abusive behaviour online.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's not always abusive comments that are the worst - people who are outright abusive undermine themselves straight away, because people stop listening.

      Any other comments platform would cost money, unfortunately.

      Delete
    2. "Any other comments platform would cost money"

      There's always indiegogo...

      Delete
    3. I suggest calculating the cost for a year and doing a indiegogo campaign. You would get the money, I have no doubt and it would give you the controls that you obviously need. I certainly would contribute. Your blog is a valuable resource, but you can't drive yourself crazy over it.

      Delete
    4. I can offer free hosting if you want to migrate to self-hosted wordpress

      Delete
  9. I agree with Rolfe that if possible you should disable the anonymous posting option. It doesn't stop people trolling but it sets a tone, sort of.

    Also as others have said, deal with misrepresentations once but if they persist just ignore them. I dislike the idea of blocking or deleting people unless they are being obviously insulting even beyond the elastic boundaries of guid auld Scottish banter. Remember there are plenty of others commenting here who will take issue with any persistent twats. Blocking is the preferred modus operandi of the unionist echo chamber. One of the great strengths of the Yes movement is that it engages in debate, even with idiots. We are open, they are not.

    And don't look at your comments when you're out enjoying yourself. You can't be on 24/7. When you take a break, take a break.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All of the comments come through to my email account, so it's difficult to ignore them completely. On the plus side, though, at least I no longer have to wade through hundreds of spam comments since Blogger unilaterally introduced their "find the sushi" verification puzzles.

      Delete
    2. You could filter blog comments into another email account, so that becomes a 'work' zone and you can enjoy your personal messages in peace.

      Delete
    3. Whilst it's easy to see the attraction of disabling the anonymous option, It could also be counterproductive. I have posted anonymously a couple of times, simply because the pc i was using was public/belonged to someone else, and i didn't want to leave my login/id credentials in any form on that pc. So disabling anonymous would stop some contributions from legit people who are out/at work etc, but the gain might outweigh the loss.

      Delete
    4. I think the gain would outweigh the loss. Most blogs require comments to be made under some sort of name.

      Delete
  10. I'd eliminate the anonymous option - as another commenter said it can be confusing if there is more than one.

    To be honest, I simply switch off when I come accross any trollish commenters and I view personalized attacks on your opinions (or that of other non-trollish commenters) as the number one qualification for a trollishness award. Perhaps a marker of a Troll award symbol might solve the problem of having to delete comments. Then we would know that a quick skim and ignore is all that is required.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Perhaps use this as a template?

    http://gallifreybase.com/forum/misc.php?do=cfrules

    Regards

    ReplyDelete
  12. If you can be bothered perhaps you could re-write the troll comments with the truth inserted instead of the garbage so everyone can see what would have been a useful comment

    ReplyDelete
  13. hi James - you can take it as a compliment that your blog is attracting so much unionist attention. in the same way cybernats owned the online mainstream media in the run up to the referendum, britnats are trying to do the same to alternative media. they seem particularly active here and on Bella (wings seems to have been a tougher nut to crack).

    it is good hearing alternative views and I appreciate the dangers of becoming an echo chamber, but one good troll can completely derail a comments thread. Personally I would just delete whatever comment you want. life is too short to argue with people who are determined to misrepresent points and lead you down the garden path.

    Whilst I doubt it, it would be interesting too to know if you or any other Scottish Indy site have any professional trolls, people paid by the government to disrupt threads on the internet. Seems too childish for words, but apparently that is a real job these days.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wings was systematically trolled by a concern troll some years ago, using a number of aliases. It was the same person who posts as Tellen1 in the Scotsman and elsewhere. He nearly succeeded.

      Stu hadn't come across the technique before, and got angry at the people who were trying to point out to him what was going on. He threatened to ban regulars whom he saw as attacking this perfectly reasonable new poster. He even threatened to shut down Wings if people didn't "behave".

      But as always happens the troll went too far and Stu gradually caught on to the technique. He banned it under several aliases. I haven't seen it there for a long time.

      I think the plan for Wings now is to monster Stu so much ("the vile Rev" and so on) and smear the blog as a hate site that nobody will go there. They're desperate for the SNP to denounce Wings and condemn anyone who cites one of the articles or even follows Wings on Twitter. Judging by his readership stats, it's not working.

      Delete
    2. About paid trolls. I'm sure they exist and are being used against us. There is even a heavy rumour that Kezia Dugdale was one, under the direction of George Foulkes, before she was elected to Holyrood.

      Delete
    3. "they seem particularly active here and on Bella (wings seems to have been a tougher nut to crack)"

      Wings is a tougher nut to crack because he doesn't put up with trolls. Firstly he is not afraid to abuse them in strong language (which trolls to blogs like this do not seem to like) and secondly they are warned and if the persist they are out. It is the only way.

      Delete
    4. Stu can do that because Wordpress seems to have the facility to ban people by individual IP address or something like that. Blogger doesn't, and that's James's problem.

      Delete
    5. I don't think there is any doubt that the government uses paid trolls. It is a documented fact:

      https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/02/24/jtrig-manipulation/

      *Who* they have trolled however, remains secret. It might well not be Scottish nationalists, Islamic fundamentalists would be a surer bet.

      In this they and other agencies round the world are following the lead of Israel, which has been co-ordinating online activism to improve global opinion of Israel for at least a decade - though to be fair, Israel has a bit more of an image problem than most other countries:

      https://electronicintifada.net/content/israels-foreign-ministry-provides-free-internet-tool-online-activists/6211

      Delete
    6. I wonder if that's what these consultants who manufactured the "No Borders" so-called grass-roots movement last year did? One of their commissions was "country re-branding" on behalf of Israel.

      Delete
  14. It's your site and you can do what you like. You can make it a nationalist echo chamber or you can allow all types of people to express their opinions. I come here because I know a lot of people visit the site and that even if regular posters are not going to change their minds or engage with the points I make other readers might at least consider them. The personal abuse dished out by the likes of Micky P and the accusations of being a Tory because I do not think the SNP are up to much really don't bother me. It would be a shame if you start to delete posts that you do not like James, as you will get far fewer visits, but it's your call. I hoep you decide that being open is always the best policy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't think that's what he's proposing.

      Delete
    2. "You can make it a nationalist echo chamber or you can allow all types of people to express their opinions."

      Hmmm. You know what I was saying about "vexatious commenters"? That's an example right there, because if you've read the blogpost (presumably you have) you'll know that I wasn't talking about comments I disagree with, but about malicious comments that misrepresent my views, or that wrongly claim I've insulted people. The two examples I gave were from people who are (as far as I know) pro-independence.

      Having said that, some of your own comments have certainly fallen into the category of trolling, and I don't just mean today's excellent example. One of your typical tactics is to repeatedly demand an answer to an off-topic question, and insist that no other comment has any credibility until your precious question is answered. That's trolling, and if I was going to tighten up the rules, that's the sort of disruptive tactic I'd have to look at. You've certainly wasted as much of my time in recent weeks as anyone.

      It's perfectly possible to argue from an anti-independence standpoint without trolling - my advice to you is to give it a go.

      Delete
    3. Yes, I had a feeling that what you consider to be trolling might be people raising issues that you do not like them to raise. From memory, I asked you to explain why you support FFA when it would mean the end of Barnett and a significant reduction on the amount of money spent in Scotland on helping the poorest and most vulnerable. This was in the context of a blog you had written concerned with Westminster's betrayal of Scotland over not acceding to FFA.

      You told me I was called Simon, that I was a Tea party supporter and a Tory, and said that as you had explained it to me before you would not do so again because I already knew the answer. None of which was true.

      Delete
    4. "Yes, I had a feeling that what you consider to be trolling might be people raising issues that you do not like them to raise."

      No. As I've already said to you, one of the things I consider to be trolling is the malicious misrepresentation of my views. You've just done that, for a second time on this thread.

      Even if you had felt strongly that you wanted to ask an off-topic question, it would have been perfectly possible to do that in a non-disruptive way. If people aren't particularly interested in your comment or in your question, you can simply respect that, rather than stamping your feet and demanding over and over again that it MUST be immediately addressed to your satisfaction.

      Delete
  15. As Jeff says, it is your site and you can do what you wish with it. However you should consider separating out abusive comments from the rest. 'Ad hominem' is, largely, what makes other people uncomfortable about commenting.

    There are, I think they are called 'garble' tools, that allow you to leave the post in place but the content is completely encrypted / unintelligible. That might be another option.

    Whatever you decide would be fine by me, but, often the comments add additional information to your posts that are useful.

    Best wishes.

    (just thought - sometimes I seem to use the wrong way of entering this site and it tells me I am anonymous. Perhaps people could be encouraged to do this:

    douglas clark)

    ReplyDelete
  16. Thanks for the invaluable bog, James.

    You do seem to have attracted some tiresome people to the comments section lately. I find myself skimming and probably missing some good comments in amongst the bad. I therefore have no propblem with you putting a lid on it a bit, and deleting whatever you deem necessary.

    I'm not a particularly regular poster, so I post as 'Name/URL', but I'd have no problem with registering to post if you decided that was necessary.

    I also think removing the 'Anonymous' option is a good idea. If nothing else it would remove the confusion caused by having multiple anonymous posters at the same time.

    ReplyDelete
  17. You are too soft on them James and you do seem to get too involved with them (and with other external people with whom you have a beef!), arguing the toss about who said what. I was involved at the beginning of your spat yesterday with "muscle boy and anonymous" but I realised immediately they were a pair of nut cases and after making that point strongly to them I ignored them.

    Get rid of the anonymous label for posting and make everyone post under a single title preferably their real name. Anonymous gives trolls scope not only to post junk comments but to try to confuse the issue by using it to pretend they are different people commenting.

    And do not be afraid to delete their posts and kick them off the site. You'll be doing everyone a favour.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. To be honest, I enjoy it when James (and Stu) wade in personally and have a go at the trolls. Much satisfaction.

      Delete
    2. I enjoy that too, but sometimes it is self defeating because the trolls love the attention.

      Delete
    3. I suppose so. When Stu does it there's always the threat of the ban-hammer when he loses patience, but James can't do that.

      Delete
    4. There is a down-side to insisting that everyone uses their real name. Some people have very 'vanilla' names, the 'Joe Bloggs' of the world. Others have almost unique names. Those with the more unusual or unique names are at a distinct disadvantage as it is very easy for trolls or abusive people to track them down on the internet, or even find where they live or work. Those with vanilla names can hide in the crowd (I'm Spartacus!)

      I see nothing wrong with people using a nom-de-plume/nom-de-guerre so long as they are consistent, and not posting under several assumed names.

      Delete
    5. I don't think anyone's talking about real names. Just about having an identifiable alias, not multiple "Anonymous".

      Delete
    6. Rolfe, I was referring to the sentence by James Coleman "Get rid of the anonymous label for posting and make everyone post under a single title preferably their real name."

      Delete
    7. Ah, I see. I don't think James would go for the real name part. Anyone could just make one up anyway.

      Delete
    8. My main thrust was that everyone should have a single registered posting name so we can tell at a glance when a troll is commenting. But I didn't know that the blogging vehicle this site uses isn't/can't be (?) operated that way.

      Delete
  18. I've found words and phrases such as; No, LOL, If it gives you comfort to believe that and Give a specific example, are useful, saving a bit of time.
    Possibly deleting any anonymous comments.
    You seem to have sorted out the false concerned Yes comments, though they were fairly obvious to all readers.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Is it possible to move comments to an isolation unit? I have in mind a post used only for the purpose of keeping (not deleting) troublesome comments, but removing them from the mainstream. All that would remain on mainstream is the note that "this comment has been moved to the 'Isolation Unit'."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wings used to or still does (?) move troll type comments to an 'isolation unit'. It was very effective. The trolls could troll each other to their hearts content.

      Delete
  20. James,

    This is your space and you have complete control of who uses it.

    Your bottom line should be - if the poster/post is obviously contributing nothing remotely positive or instructive in relation to Independence (the stated purpose of this Blogsite), then delete them.

    I certainly don't mind having logical and informative arguments about Indy - but don't see the point of tolerating completely negative and destructive comments.

    They add absolutely nothing to the overall mix and merely anger and upset your core supporters.

    ReplyDelete
  21. There's an argument to give these trolls and offenders enough rope because they end up looking like idiots. However, I would say that since this blog now has a very large number of followers, that some house-cleaning may be required from time to time. I suggest have a fairly low bar with a set of no-noes that will be deleted immediately, but it's your call, James.

    ReplyDelete
  22. James, It's your site.. your rules... Don't think you have an OBE on here for which, much thanks... Tend to agree with Luigi

    ReplyDelete
  23. My advice James?
    Your blog, your rules.

    ReplyDelete
  24. CAnwehaveourdemocracybackJuly 13, 2015 at 12:50 PM

    James, I really value your Blog, your writing style and your fair and reasonable perspective on issues. There are certainly BritNats (paid or otherwise) who troll everywhere they can. You do need to ensure you have time away, its really important that you do. Can I suggest you set up a separate email addy for your online political life or if easier create a new emeail for friends and family only. It'll be worth it in the long run. Thanks again for all that you do

    ReplyDelete
  25. Hi James I read your blogs,yes all of them,they are informative and the opinions you give may differ slightly from my own,but usually give me food for thought.I have read some silly comments on varying subjects,and have a little laugh knowing these folks are more to be pitied than scolded,the shame is they cant see for themselves how pathetic their replies are.Not really bona fide comments are they?

    ReplyDelete
  26. Oddly, my comment seems to have disappeared. Just wanted to say yes, delete the trolls' posts and preferably move to a platform where you can ban by ip, which will save you work in the long term

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Oddly, my comment seems to have disappeared."

      There's nothing in the spam trap, so unfortunately it must have disappeared into the ether - that's happened to me a few times recently. The whole thing is falling apart!

      Delete
    2. That may have happened to me too. One of my comments in a thread a week or two back disappeared, along with other comments below it. I thought maybe you had deleted it, as I was prolonging a discussion that you were wishing would end, and I wouldn't have blamed you for that. In retrospect however, I think it may simply have disappeared.

      Maybe moving to a different platform might be a good idea on balance.

      Delete
  27. Opal Fruits are great.July 13, 2015 at 2:34 PM

    The worse thing about trolls is that people always feel it's necessary to reply to them. Response is what feeds the trolls. On the matter of moderation...it's true you can't block individual users from blogger but what you could do is put the comments into moderation when its a more critical article and filter out the rubbish before releasing other comments. That way the trolls won't have a platform that is visible.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a significant amount of work for James, and it also cuts down comments very drastically as Bob Black's experience demonstrates. You have to keep coming back just to see if your comment has appeared, never mind if anyone has replied. Unless James makes it a full-time job, conversations can't happen, and cross-posting becomes common with all its attendant confusion.

      Delete
  28. It's your house, your rules.
    What kind of blog do you want to have?

    If it's a Scottish politics discussion blog, then there needs to be some acceptance that 50% of the posters are going to express a different point of view. What used to be called disagreement, in an earlier age, but seems to be trolling nowadays.

    If it's an SNP discussion blog, then don't allow posts or posters who won't follow that viewpoint. It's not my cup of tea, but sites like Redstate work that way and it seems to work ok for the residents.

    For the actual trolls, i.e. people who come here just to provoke and don't care about the subject at all, I would suggest a clear set of moderation rules (personal attacks etc) and delete anything that contravenes.

    Whatever works for you at the end of the day. It's your blog and your time, after all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, that's not the issue at all, Anon. Trolling has got absolutely NOTHING to do with whether people agree with my views or not. If you go all the way back to the gun control threads in 2009/10, almost everyone leaving comments was opposed to my views, and yet the distinction between constructive contributors and trolls was clear enough.

      Delete
    2. Wasn't really the main thrust of my post (and I was referring to some of your commenters rather than you), but as you wish.

      Delete
    3. I don't really understand what you're getting at, but never mind.

      Delete
  29. Another thought. I used to post a lot on Space.com. They had 'active' moderators, who at one time, spelt out in the same comment thread, why a comment had been deleted, or moderated. Naming names and quotes as required. A 'lot' of posts were allowed, given the Right to Free Speech an'all, but a surprising number fell. Telling folk why their posts were unacceptable, along with deleting them, generally improved the tone of the conversation for a while. However you generally get turnover in commentators on any web-site, and the cycle continues.

    Still, and all, the tone remained fairly high, although the moderation policy was a bit ouroboros.

    I suppose as long as the head eats the tail fast enough, you win?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think that's the first time I have ever had to look up the meaning of a word posted on a comments page. Ouroboros. A serpent chasing its tail - for those as ignorant as me :) .

      Delete
  30. So, I suppose I am suggesting that you get neutrals in to monitor comments. That is an imperfect solution, given the general slant one could expect all unionist posts to be deleted if the neutrals were, in fact, not neutral.

    Dunno.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Consider the disqus plugin for Blogger instead of the native comments? You can ban individuals with that I believe.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Consider the disqus plugin for Blogger instead of the native comments? You can ban individuals with that I believe.

    ReplyDelete