Moderation Review


Mike Taylor at SV-POW! has a post up describing his intentions and perspective on moderation for blogs, a feature that is useful to discuss. I suggest it be read, because Mike suggests something worth considering: removing moderation from the blog. He is right to say that this is a controversial aspect of his argument, and many of the other points are seeming no-brainers: removing the annoying “human verification” that is Captcha, remove registration, reply, etc. Now, I moderate this blog, and have done so from the beginning for a little over two years when I was letting this thing trudge along on its own. Late last year, I began using Twitter and Facebook — the latter being a controversial move on its own, as I have concerns about corporations peeking at my email in any fashion, even if it is just to see whom I have in my addy book. This has resulted in a large upswing in viewing on the blog, but no real upswing on the commentary. Was moderation the problem?

Here’s a few points:

1. I moderate to remove spam. While there are spam filters, sometimes it slips through and I have to catch it. Occasionally, someone has a thing to sell and it doesn’t serve me to support them. Certainly, I can go back and just remove it afterwards, but…

2. I do not want to censor. To this end I haven’t turned anyone down on posting to my blog with two exceptions: someone who clearly had something to sell, even though it wasn’t a spambot, and someone who filled a post with his comments promoting discussion of his own website’s theories about bird evolution. I did not actually stop him from posting, merely asked him to stop, and he did, while being very polite about it. I’ve never denied a person with a legitimate comment or beef to have their say, even if the argument became heated.

3. I do not want anonymous posters or invective, and feel that the anonymity such loose criteria for posting brings cannot be of the better of good for us. Despite this, the web and blogosphere is rife with posters with pseudonyms who post there in seeming impugnity of repurcussions from the effects of their comments. I think it dishonest to post in such a fashion and don’t wish to promote the atmosphere of a smoky bar: This is ostensibly a science blog, and we should have the ability to be logical and reasoning here, not act with all cloak and dagger about the comments business.

However, in the purposes of testing the efficacy of such a moderation, I am throwing the comments system open for one month, beginning — like Solomon Grundy — on a Monday, and ending on a Tuesday; this will run from 26 March, 2012 to 23 April, 2012 (or in the US, Mar 26 to Apr 23). This will coincide with an “Open Thread” post where posters may post anonymously; I will not delete any post save for actual spam (which the filters largely do anyway), and no poster will be blocked. None of my threads have locked comments, and none will, nor will this post be an exception. For the sake of experiment, I hope this will go well, and we shall see how useful open moderation (or the lack thereof) will work.

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7 Responses to Moderation Review

  1. Mike Taylor says:

    Interesting experiment. I bet you don’t get any spam. (After all, we are averaging one per two years!)

  2. Mike Taylor says:

    What was the outcome of this?

    • I suspect it made commenting easier, without the hassle of using an interface for logging in or signing up; just type in and send. That said, I do not know if I’ve received a necessarily higher amount, higher quality of comments, or if persons choosing pseudonyms over their real names are more readily commenting than people who will give their names, etc. I’ve also been more aggressive on publicizing things, and word-of-mouth has spread context of the blog more widely. And, there’s the whole “lips/cheeks” thing that compels responses.

      • Mike Taylor says:

        OK. On the upside, at least, I assume there was no spam increase?

        So I guess you left it unmoderated?

        • WP seems to filter most spam directly. The system always seems to flag incoming pingbacks, and so those I moderate (I allow all pingbacks except from my own blog).

          • Mike Taylor says:

            Yes, I’ve been very impressed by how well its spam-filter works.

            I accept all pingbacks, including those from within the blog. I find them useful, later on, for tracing sequences of thought, from older posts to newer ones that commented on them.

          • I’d like eventually to take the time and integrate all past blogs with links directly at the end of each post to all other posts that connect to them, but I realize that there are other ways to do that: tagging. Promoting extensive use of tagging will allow users to link through other posts. Rather than feed links to one or the other, I compile subjects that allow the reader flexible use. I just need to expand the tags with more fine qualifications, such as a recent addition of “The Genus Question” to posts of mine that discussed that as a general or specific topic.

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