html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: Same as it ever was.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Same as it ever was.

I am starting to think that as blogging develops as an industry, one of the careers that will emerge is that of comment moderator. Moderating requires different skills from analysis; I don't think most of the pundit bloggers know how to do it. Moderating requires a philosophy for the comments section, willingness to intervene and tact, thoughtful interaction with the commenter one most wants to shut down, and a high tolerance for noisy signal. It requires making real-time choices and constant training newcomers. It is demanding and pulls the blogger's attention away from her next juicy post. I don't think most policy bloggers want to do it.

That's why I think it could become a career for some skilled people. As the big blogs make money and attract conversations, I can imagine big bloggers willing to pay someone else to handle those conversations. Moderators could make those good conversations, drive up the return hits. Someone could probably contract to manage two or three sites and make a decent living for reading comments all day and stepping in to extract content and dispel nastiness.

If you are willing to buy any of that argument, then those unmoderated comment sections are now imposing the negative externalities of commenting viciousness on someone. Those someones are very often women and minorities. They're paying, in hurt and aversion, what big bloggers won't pay in money.

Amber is totally right. Respect to Megan McArdle. I don't know how she handles it.


Blogger Megan said...

I am running out the door for the weekend. PLEASE use my comments section to be kind. If you have nothing nice to say about Ms. McArdle, you surely don't have to leave a comment here.

1:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The internets are way ahead of you.

1:29 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

I saw that. I'm sure she will do a great job.

1:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why women and minorities?

My experience has been that the articulate win most arguments. I almost never know the race of the poster and if one chooses, it is easy enough to obscure gender.

For what it's worth, almost every blog or forum that I visit cultivates a cordial atmosphere. I enjoy healthy debate, but when the atmosphere grows poisonous, that is when I find somewhere else to visit.


5:18 PM  
Anonymous HC said...

Why women and minorities?

Because there are some particularly poisonous strains of commenters who focus on insulting people in their capacities as such.

You go elsewhere when the cordial atmosphere does; so do most worthwhile commenters, if they do not retreat into lurking instead. Eventually, what is left is mostly refined venom. It does not take such a great number of trollish commenters to push a comment section past the tipping point away from cordiality, and this happens all the more quickly when there are "I'd hit that/She's so ugly" comments in addition to the "You idiot / fascist / communist" variety.

Misogyny like this is hardly the only way that comment sections go bad, but I would agree with our hostess Megan and Amber that it does seem to be a significant part of what is at work there right now.

8:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What you say is true, hc, but it seems like the solution to this is straightforward. From the blog owner/forum moderator's position, you've got to delete these kinds of posts from the beginning or they will come to dominate the airwaves. From the visitor's perspective, don't stick around if the atmosphere makes you uncomfortable.

I'm a quiet, thoughtful kind of guy. I enjoy reading different viewpoints. I don't care for histrionics or boorish behavior either online or in real life. When I come across these things, I've found it healthier to simply walk away.

Don't let assholes take up space in your head.


4:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On other thing I might add. When I see a friend being attacked, I will defend them a capa y espada. Nobody should be forced to defend themselves from bigoted or ad hominem attacks; others should take up the sword and swing it righteously on their behalf.


5:24 AM  
Anonymous Nathan Zook said...

I suspect that there may be a secondary effect here. "Bastard" may be a rough equivalent to "bitch", but the use of the former by a female cannot (due to physical differences) carry the same weight as the use of the latter by a male. Again, "dick" may roughly equate to "cunt", but their usages cannot equate. I can do the same for race. Linguistically, there is a lot more room for males and whites to be abusive. Note that this is not entirely due to historic shames of our civilization. Men use rough language around each other, and their putdowns reflect this roughness. Women have an entire vocabulary of putdown that is lost on men. ("Sweet" and "cute"--in context--are the ones I've picked up. Also, the look.)


As for defending each other online over ad hominem, that's a significant amount of work on my part vs a delete by the admin. Were we together, yes.

6:23 AM  
Blogger LizardBreath said...

I was thinking of posting on McMegan's comments. While the gender issues are real, I think a big chunk of what's happening to her is that she's gotten screwed by being personable and charming enough to have a whole bunch of liberal blogger friends who think she's a really nice person and link to her whenever she says something they can kind of agree with, or at least productively disagree with, despite the fact that her politics are well right of center.

So she ends up with an endless stream of commenters who come from the links from her liberal friends. And the commenters aren't personal friends of hers, so they react to her politics straight, and it gets nasty.

Most bloggers can rely on the bulk of their commenters being people who agree with them; McMegan's personal friend network messes that up for her.

8:32 AM  
Blogger jens said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3:25 PM  
Blogger jens said...

(sorry, previous comment had repetition of potato bugs, they seem to breed even in COMMENTS!)

Megan McArdle is a beautiful person, and I enjoy her writing a great deal - but I can't understand how you can sympathize with a girl who fears SPIDERS ( ) more than potato bugs (yes, you got mentioned in the comments, but before I could get there!).

Joking aside, I dislike it when you come up with things like "viciousness on someone. Those someones are very often women and minorities." which make it sound like viciousness for male non-minorities is just peachy.

3:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

bend over you dirty bitch

10:37 PM  
Blogger Scott Lemieux said...

Actually, I have a friend whose incredibly online moderating skills have landed her a good paying gig...

9:23 AM  
Blogger Scott Lemieux said...

Ah, the first anon beat me to it! Always read all the comments first...

9:25 AM  
Blogger KingM said...

And that last anonymous is just what I meant about the need to quickly prune obnoxious comments.

12:05 PM  
Blogger Spungen said...

When I come across these things, I've found it healthier to simply walk away.

Yeah, but what do you do when it's your blog? Or, if you're a "guest blogger" like I am?

I agree that people from all groups seem to experience some hostility, but it seems excessively directed at women, gays and racial minorities. There's always at least one frequent commenter on my blog who seems to be looking for a female voice on which to personally beat up, and seems to be hanging around the blog at least partly because he enjoys the idea of a woman reading his venom. It does detract from my enjoyment. I find myself avoiding certain subjects and being less candid in my responses because I know the commenter is constantly looking either for something to insult, or some way to work in a pet issue involving women being inferior or immoral.

11:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Delete the offensive comments as soon as they appear. If the blog gets so popular that it becomes hard to keep track of all the comments, find one of your favorite readers and make them an admin with the right/responsibility to clean up the messes.

The key is to decide what kind of an environment you're comfortable (informational, congenial, spirited but polite, etc.) and make an effort to prune material that starts growing in wrong directions. If not, you'll find nasty vines overwhelming all of your work and pulling it to the ground.


6:43 AM  
Anonymous D said...

the thing about being a mod, is that it is tiring. Our hostess also gets tired, no doubt. The difference is this is her place, so she has an investment in what she posts and how people react to it. A regular mod [like a BB MOD] is kinda like a hall monitor... they are there to keep the kids in line and not hurting each other. They don't necessarily have an individual investment in the Q?orA! and that can take a bit out of you... even if you get paid...

IMHO one of the most important aspects of mod, is just to help people see how a post with words they might actually say comes across in a vacuum. People write some truly nasty things without realizing their impact. They also write things like that on purpose, and that is the downside of being a mod, dealing with that.

As a side note, putting out a Terms Of Service [TOS] doesn't always help. Many people will go right to the edge of any rule, and then split hairs on it. having a TOS doesn't change the need for having a person too.

I'm a little bit pseeimistic on the whole issue really. I think that many will just shut comments off, because it is hard, or do nothing... because some commenters are nasty for sport or are obsessed, and the nicer you are the more they comment. I have been part of a fan BB where a commenter was so angry they got banned [after months of trying to get them to play nice] that he hacked the site. The site owners and mods had a very long conversation on if the whole thing was worth the trouble...

I think the only way this will become a profession of it's own is if site owners see enough of a value add for commentary that is moderated... right now I can't imagine it does in money... Even then it will only work if the mods are fair and not pushing their own agenda...

12:43 PM  

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