Thoughts about managing comments. My focus is on indymedia UK, but could be applied to any indymedia

Been thinking about comments as they have caused us some trouble recently, and then read this article:

Interesting thoughts about managing user submissions. Bit of a different case to Indymedia, but some interesting thoughts, including:

It’s pretty clear now that the broken windows theory applies to community sites as well. The theory is that minor forms of bad behavior encourage worse ones: that a neighborhood with lots of graffiti and broken windows becomes one where robberies occur. I was living in New York when Giuliani introduced the reforms that made the broken windows theory famous, and the transformation was miraculous. And I was a Reddit user when the opposite happened there, and the transformation was equally dramatic.


I think it’s important that a site that kills submissions provide a way for users to see what got killed if they want to. That keeps editors honest, and just as importantly, makes users confident they’d know if the editors stopped being honest.

So do we want to change our comments culture and if so how do we go about it. To give some structure, I’ve split this into “purposes of comments” and “what we might change”. Please add ideas. Please leave your own thoughts at the end or in comments rather than in the middle.

What is the purpose of comments?

Comments are used for a number of reasons. Often a comment will combine more than one of these functions:

  1. to add info/photos/updates/corrections/etc to articles – we currently promote them to be “additions”.
  2. to say things like “cool”, “thanks”, “solidarity” …
  3. to discuss the issue
  4. argue, fight, personal attacks …

Please add more here

What might we change?

So which of these do we want to encourage, discourage or ban? What can we do to encourage good comments and discourage trolls and disinfo? Some options include:

  1. the status quo
  2. harsher admin – eg any comment which contains personal attacks will be hidden, even if it also contains useful info. Let the poster rewrite the comment without the personal attack. We already have a “personal attacks” reason for hiding in the editorial guidelines, so it would seem justified to do so.
  3. change hidden comments so they cannot be viewed in the thread of comments ie remove the ?c=all option. Instead you would have one hidden comment per web page. Slightly less transparent, but makes it a lot more work to have slanging matches.
  4. change hidden comments so they can be view in the admin interface and will be emailed to people on request (apparently indymedia germany does this).
  5. change hidden comments so they can only be viewed in the admin interface. It makes us a little less transparent, but once you know the “?c=all” option you can carry on having slanging matches, so hiding comments is not a big disincentive to trolls. Having their comment not visible at all would reduce the satisfaction of posting.
  6. make comments (not articles) have to be pre-approved by administrators, and not appear on the site at all until they have been. This would further reduce the incentive for trolls to post stuff. It does have the disadvantage that good comments may not appear on the site for several hours.
  7. disable comments on a per article basis if the discussion has got nasty
  8. disable comments completely

Please add more here


My preferences (before hearing other’s points of view) would be to make comments have to be pre-approved in admin. I’m not too worried about comments being less timely, and I think currently they are a lot of work and too much of it is a detriment to the site.

I would also tighten what is allowed and just not allow much discussion. Indymedia is not about discussion in my book. If someone wants to set up a separate site to discuss stuff on Indymedia then they are welcome to ( or something) but I did not get involved in Indymedia to moderate general discussion forums, and think we would be better off without the discussion.

Of course, if most other people feel differently then that is OK. But I’m not sure how many moderators go through comments on a regular basis – I mostly stick to articles.


if comments have to be pre-approved in admin, it could be a nice thing to make it a little bit more smooth and transparent to at least tell users somehow that there are still comments waiting to be approved. If i post a comment, and nothing happens for hours i will always be afraid that it failed being approved for some reasons, and i have no real chance to take influence on this.


Is this page private on purpose?


Are you sure that quote eulogising Giuliani is really appropriate?

I’m a bit taken aback


From The Guardian:

The Independent… has switched to a blogging platform that requires visitors to register before they post any comment. screens or “pre-moderates” some sections of the site, while other parts are only moderated if a reader complains. TimesOnline employs an outside company to pre-moderate all the comments posted daily, while mostly operates a post-moderation system, with moderators working in-house.

I’m happy for this page to be made public, don’t mind either way.

The Guiliani eulogising isn’t wonderful, but the wider point about people seeing the existing comments and thinking that’s how the comments should be used is the one I was thinking of. Re-reading the quote I see it doesn’t really communicate that, though I think the article as a whole does.

As a less severe option, we could just make hidden comments less easy to read in a thread by having hidden comments viewable one per page, rather than just the c=all option allowing all to be read in context.

And the recent trouble with cops is not my main motivation for thinking about this – persistent trolling and disinfo is my primary motivation.


at, hidden comments are not visible. i think that is a good thing.


Hidden comments are not linked to on the UK site apart from the view all posts page and this is only linked to from the Editorial Guidelines page.

Of course some site users have realised that you can add a ?c=all query string to a article URL to get them all to display rather than going to the view all posts page, but I don’t personally have a problem with this — it was designed to work like this!

Does Indybay have a way for site users to see articles that have been hidden?


no. that feature was removed years ago. indybay also removed a link to latest comments (on any article on the website) because that was seen as contributing to flame-wars.