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