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Monday Poll: Any comment?

Submitted by on 1, February 28, 2011 – 12:02 am16 Comments

One of the most difficult challenges I face here at The Island is how to handle comments. My goal is to maintain lively but civilized discussions that are free of personal attacks and focused on the issues raised in any given story, but that’s easier said than done.

When I pull comments that seem to me to be way off-topic or focused on attacking a person instead of the quality of an idea, I am often questioned or outright accused of censorship. When I allow comments that seem like they stand just on the edge of those things but don’t quite go over, I am quite strongly reminded of The Island’s very detailed comment policy.

When a reader suggested I contact an attorney regarding the way I handled comments, I pulled the plug entirely while I did just that and moved to a letters format, which seemed to take away a big part of what makes providing news online a valuable service. Then I tried to automate with a comment system that offered reader-driven comment policing, which essentially ended in disaster.

So that’s the long way of me asking you, dear reader, how you’d like to see us handle comments. Should we be more stringent about what is posted in the comments section, or let people post whatever they want? Should we require people to post using their full names, or is a screen handle okay? What’s okay for people to post, and what’s definitely out? Are there tools that could help me put you all in the driver’s seat regarding which comments run and which don’t? (Or should I just run comments through Facebook and call it a day?)

Let me know by taking the poll below; you can click more than one answer to detail your thoughts on the issues above. And please feel free to expand on your poll answers by leaving a comment below or e-mailing me, at michele@theislandofalameda.com.

How should The Island handle comments?

  • Require full names (58%, 38 Votes)
  • Keep doing what you're doing (38%, 25 Votes)
  • Be more stringent (23%, 15 Votes)
  • Be less stringent (11%, 7 Votes)
  • Don't automate (11%, 7 Votes)
  • Allow screen handles (8%, 5 Votes)
  • Automate (8%, 5 Votes)
  • Just run it through Facebook (6%, 4 Votes)

Total Voters: 65

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  • Lauren Do says:

    Ultimately Michele, it will depend on what you — as the owner — are comfortable with. Your readers (the rest of us) we’ll adapt accordingly.

    Thanks for all you do.

  • MIke says:

    I like what you’re doing. Keep up the good work!

  • There is no perfect solution. I think it would be less wearing on you as moderator, and more dynamic for the sity, if you allowed all comments, moderating only those that you noticed crossed a line (or received complaints about). With the sometimes not-insignificant delay between someone posting a comment and it appearing on the site, you lose the opportunity for people to interact in more or less real time.

    But in the end, Lauren’s right, no matter what you do, it won’t be perfect, some people will complain, so find your comfort level and go with it.

  • Scott says:

    If people don’t like having their comments pulled they can start their own blog and webpage. People that complain about free goods and services continue to confuse me.

  • barbara kahn says:

    It is good to have a local site where there are different opinions, but without the warfare. I can read your site without having my blood pressure go up.

  • Karen Bey says:

    What I like about your blog is that it provides our community with a great opportunity to share and discuss their views, minus all the drama and personal attacks. Please keep up the good work!

  • Jack B. says:

    I think requiring full names (that can be verified if needed) solves all of the other problems.

  • Tom Schweich says:

    It’s your blog; run it in the manner you are comfortable. If some don’t like your way, they can write their own blog. I do think you should require full names. Back in the Middle Dark Ages, just after Al Gore invented the Internet, we had a saying, “You own your own words.” I think that’s still good advice. As a comparison, I really like Lauren’s blog, i.e., the words she writes, but the comments, when she has successfully baited the usual trolls, are really quite discouraging.

  • Sharon Alva says:

    I come here to read the news because I trust your journalistic integrity, so if you pull a comment, I assume it is for good cause. Like the others have said…if someone does not like your policy or decisions they can always read a different website. And yes…full name makes folks a bit more accountable and may help folks restrain themselves. Civility should be practiced in all discourse.

  • Jon Spangler says:

    I agree with most of the comments Sharon Alva, lauren Do, Trish Spencer, Jack B., etc.) – do what you feel comfortable with and run the comments as you see fit.

  • Jack B. says:

    haha just realized I don’t have my complete name up, but it links to my real name… so I guess I’m real enough.

    Years ago I turned off comments on my personal blog site because it was such a hassle to police it.

  • Li_ says:

    Commenters should use the name most people would recognize when introduced.

    Grammar school kids should be able to use this site as a reference for school reports. Pull personal attacks, vulgarity, off topic, etc.

    Keep doing what you are doing.

    Don’t know what automate and run it through facebook actually means.

    I like this site, your reporting is objective and accurate. When you express an opinion, you are careful to let us know where it starts and ends. You respect your subjects and your readers. The commenters don’t always follow suit so policing is necessary. It’s your site, the rules are clear, don’t let anyone guilt trip you. Most of us are cheering when you pull and we don’t have to read through the nasties to get to the relevant comments.

    Thanks for asking.

  • Mark Irons says:

    Michele, Just because it’s on line, I don’t consider this site a blog. To me it’s an internet news site. Blogs are a place for wild west free for all, including anonymity. I agree with suggestion that kids should be able to refer to the site as research and so pulling down vulgarity and attack is fine. Print medium generally don’t even print all letters submitted, not even close.

    Full Name with delay for moderation is probably best, though it must be brutal for you to monitor. But thanks for doing what you are doing.

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