What to Do with Comments?

Posted by Dave Fratello on Sunday, March 30th, 2008 at 9:37pm.

It seems the time has really come to consider a change in comments policy at MBC.

This was a week in which we had some days with substantive, well-considered comments, and some days with comments that went off the rails. So maybe it really is time to change, if this is disrupting the average reader's experience – as we often hear.

We recognize that the final decision on the subject belongs to your humble correspondent here. But we'd rather get some input first. Please vote in the poll – and keep in mind that you can vote for all the options you like. Voting closes Weds. at 8pm. Please support your rationale for voting within the comments on this story.

Know this: We've so far deleted about 5 comments in one year of MB Confidential. (Excluding SEO advertising BS.) Not one deleted comment was critical of the blog or the author. Allowing your direct criticism of the content is vital.

In our view, there ought to be sufficient room for a spirited debate, emotional at times, even with harsh words. Perhaps you disagree and want something more watered-down and with more rules.

Most particularly, we want to find the balance between encouraging free discussion and maintaining a somewhat civil forum. Our chief concern is that requiring sign-in, in any form, is going to restrict people from posting what might otherwise be useful, valuable information and perspective. That's why we've held off all this time.

It's true, MBC could set up guidelines and we could be more aggressive in moderating the comments. However, we don't relish the extra work. And we're sure people will feel stifled and perhaps treated unfairly along the way.

That's why our preference is to go with some form of sign-in requirement, but not much more. There are 2 options, requiring Google identities or Open ID identities – a broader option that includes Google. (Click Open ID for a little more info.) We're thinking this doesn't burden posters much, given that anyone can set up a gmail account or an identity under other Open ID providers that is private to everyone on the outside.

The hypocrisy angle: There's a rather obvious point to be made here while we're on the subject. If MBC comments require sign-in, shouldn't the author's identity be made public?

However, that's a nonsequitur. We can't imagine a comments policy that requires "true" identities to post. If we don't do much more comment moderation, really we're just talking about requiring posters to use handles. Will that be sufficient to improve the tone?

Consider your vote and comment here – anonymously if you like.
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