Thursday, April 1, 2010

Musings: On Comments

Koko and I, out walking beneath grey clouds, ran into Farmer Jerry on his way to work. He pulled over to chat, and I could hardly hear what he was saying because a bird was singing so loudly over my shoulder.

“I’m back from the land of platitudes,” he said, and when I raised my eyebrows in question, he explained. “The Lege.”

Ah, yes.

Seems he was there for a confirmation hearing on his appointment to the state Board of Agriculture, which was approved. Way to go, Jerry. It’ll be nice to have his thoughtful, akamai presence in a state arena.

We got to talking about my blog, and he said he was really disgusted by a lot of the negative comments that are left, all behind cover of anonymity.

“What a bunch of chicken shits,” he said, and I could only agree.

“It’s probably somebody who’s all nice to your face, but then…” and he made the motion of a knife being plunged into my back.

Now, I know that Farmer Jerry often does not agree with what I write, and I’m sure that’s true of others. And if they want to argue a philosophical point, or express another point of view, that’s fine. Discussions are good, though so often rare in comments, and I have been known to change my mind when presented with a thoughtful argument.

But when people, as Dawson so aptly observed, confuse inflicting abuse with stating an opinion, that’s where things go down hill.

Andy Parks sent me a link the other day to an op-ed piece in The Advertiser titled “Anonymity ruins online discussion.” The author, Leonard Pitts Jr., wrote:

As any student of Sociology 101 can tell you, when people don't have to account for what they say or do, they will often say and do things that would shock their better selves.

I’m not convinced that some of these posters actually have better selves, so when there is nothing but the delete button to keep them in check — and then how they howl — they just crap all over the place.

John Temple, the editor of Peer News, Hawaii’s pending new experiment in journalism, noted in a talk at the Newsmorphosis confernece and on his blog that one of the publication’s goals is to create “a new civic square,” where folks can civilly discuss the issues. He wrote:

We all know how comments on news sites can descend into racism, hate, the ugly side of humanity...how they can reflect badly on news organizations and often only reflect a narrow slice of their communities...in truth, the comments sections of most news sites often act as a keep out sign to decent people...why would anybody want to participate given the tone and nature of the speech found there?

The problem...or at least a big part of the problem...anonymity...

In a civic square...you have to show your face ...you can’t avoid responsibility for your words.. We plan to recreate that experience ..


It’s not always easy in a small place like Hawaii and a smaller place like Kauai for people to feel comfortable expressing their views in a public forum. I know some of the people who comment on this site anonymously, and why they don’t use their names. I value their opinions, which is why I haven’t eliminated Anonymous posts.

Some have suggested requiring folks to come up with a Google ID, but that doesn’t eliminate flamers; in fact, the name choice simply gives some of them the opportunity to be more creative in delivering abuse.

It’s clear to me that two or perhaps three people are the cause of 99 percent of the comments that we could all do without.

So how best to deal with that?

I’m looking today for comments from readers about how they feel about the comment section, and their suggestions on how to improve and manage it.

Should I close it down completely?

Is there someone out there who would like to moderate comments? If so, send me an email.

20 comments:

jackbauer said...

Think youʻre doing just fine. Actually great.

Important thing to remember about this blog, is why you have it...thatʻs all that counts.

How you execute it - is your choice because itʻs your property.

Too bad you have to waste time scolding immature, need-a-life needlers. Just hit the button but then it must be hard to read all their crap by yourself. You could put it aside after you delete and save it for a monthly trash pile.

Anonymous said...

You have a valuable Blog IMO.
People are people...why we have wars...its Natural! Because we live in frustrating times, you (me) may become the target of that frustration. Its better to let it "rip" than keep it locked up inside one's dark parts. Don't take it personal (that's the discipline)some people are looking to "vent".

One problem is the Google account which does not always work well....passwords / usernames / run around....etc. I always have a problem having to go back the re enter a password that shows up as "incorrect"...frustrating by itself.

Its easier to just punch "Anonymous" when you are charged up about something.

Dr Freddy

Ed Coll said...

Joan,

Try MyCensorLite. Capture all the crap into a bucket file stored by blog title and every now and then MyCensorLite just re-posts as a blog called "My Crap Bucket". That way readers read intelligent discussions sans crap, but can be entertained by reading the My Crap Bucket post as well. MyCensorLite does not really censor it just categorizes posts by what you think of the content and all at the touch of a button(s).

Anonymous said...

I enjoy all the posts...opinions are like a...holes...everyone has one.Lighten-up ...let the opinions stand....Roger

Anonymous said...

garden island online commments section works pretty well. they just use monikers, or whatever the right word is, to ID the commenter (and the habitually ridiculous are then blasted)


dwps

Anonymous said...

dwps - "garden island online commments section works pretty well. they just use monikers, or whatever the right word is, to ID the commenter (and the habitually ridiculous are then blasted)"

Or just create another "moniker" to engage in further sock-puppetry!

FYI - TGI online identity is pseudonymous not anonymous. The "moniker" is a username but TGI knows who those people are (or at least the IP address of the computer being used to post the message). This IP (among other info) is logged as soon as the user creates a username and password. If necessary TGI can therefore ban (censor) users, and/or take other adverse actions against them (notify proper authorities, etc.) I am not saying that TGI does this, just that they can, and if they are not logging such information why require people to create a username and password?

Joan does not know the anons IP address to ban them. Google the owner of Blogger certainly does knows (or can find out) but Google does not make such info available (without a court order) and not at all to individuals with Blogger accounts like Joan.

I consider this useful anon info but don't need any thanks so jsut call me Ca$H

Anonymous said...

"As any student of Sociology 101 can tell you, when people don't have to account for what they say or do, they will often say and do things that would shock their better selves."

What a cynical view of humanity! I assume that's why sociology is a soft science. Some people believe-it-or-not have integrated personalities and act consistently across multiple domains. Psychiatry calls this "healthy". If you find yourself acting differently because of anonymity you may be suffering a mental disorder. Seek professional help as your self-help blogging has become part of the problem.

Doc-in-a-Box

watchdog said...

I'm another one who uses the blanket of anonymity, partly because it's a small island. I enjoy the blog and most of the comments. Better to suffer the fools and learn about what makes some people tick (and sometime I wonder if some o them aren't ticking bombs), than to loose the sometimes valuable input.

If I were you, I'd probably delete a few more (the personal attacks on Kathy Rose a while back, for example), but I realize you also have btter things to do.

And thanks once again for the great blog filled with sunrises, journalism, and slices of life.

Casey said...

Hang in there! This blog is a good place for discussion on important island issues.
Requiring an email address or such can only help. Many negative commenters do so on a whim. A log in process may slow them down enough to think about what they are doing.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Jerry,
Thank you for serving. Fine selection by the Governor and a fitting recognition of your expertise and commitment.
Thank you Joan for posting the info. Keep on going.
anonymous

Anonymous said...

You will learn more from the island if you leave anon. there may be more individuals than you know providing insight that you would not otherwise receive.

Anonymous said...

yes i follow what you are saying

and as to "but TGI knows who those people are (or at least the IP address of the computer being used to post the message)," i trust tgi to only censor profanity and the like (as opposed to subjectivly disagreeable content)


dwps

Anonymous said...

dwps said: " I trust tgi to only censor profanity and the like (as opposed to subjectivly disagreeable content)"

What is the basis for such trust? Is it a blind trust?

Dawson said...

"garden island online commments section works pretty well. they just use monikers, or whatever the right word is, to ID the commenter (and the habitually ridiculous are then blasted)"

"i trust tgi to only censor profanity and the like (as opposed to subjectivly disagreeable content)"

It's a fallacy to equate a commercial publication like TGI and a personal blog like KauaiEclectic. One is the for-profit product of a company, the other is the exposition of the thoughts and feelings of an individual.

The argument that TGI's standards of commentary-censorship should apply to KauaiEclectic is as specious as the argument that editing of comments by a blogger violates the public's freedom of speech.

Anonymous said...

thnx for asking. i like to read the comments but i also slow down to view the wrex by the side of the road.

i would read your blog irregardless of the comment feature. like ian lind's or others that require sign in i think that filter may elevate the level/style of commentary but the TGIN comments are no indicator that this would be the case. you do have some numbskull followers for sure.
haters go home!

Anonymous said...

"What is the basis for such trust? Is it a blind trust?"

-- observation


"TGI's standards of commentary-censorship [obviously work just fine]"


dwps

Anonymous said...

Freedom of expression also includes the right to not disseminate a message that you disagree with. So delete away and let the whiners get their own blog.

Anonymous said...

dwps "[obviously work just fine]"

Really! Not obvious to me at all as anyone with something to say would surely be retaliated against hence not say it. Funny how journalist often cite anon sources but will not allow anon sources to use their communication conduit to express themselves.

Anonymous said...

dwps said ""What is the basis for such trust? Is it a blind trust?"

-- observation"

Question: How do you "observe" something that has been censored?

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm.... dwps observes the unobservable and reaches "obvious" conclusions. I'm impressed with the circularity of this argument. I see no censorship so censorship works just fine.