Blog Comments a Tragedy of the Commons

Comments sections on larger blogs seem inevitably to turn into cesspools. Is it worth trying to stop it happening?

Frustration that trolls are overwhelming the comments section is a periodic topic of discussion among the writers here at OTB.   This despite having a much more constructive set of commenters than most every other blog with comparable traffic discussing controversial public policy matters.

We are, surprisingly, not alone.   Peter Boettke would like to ban anonymous and pseudonymous commenters at  Coordination Problem, while his co-bloggers want to ban all comments or allow a free-for-all.

I am all in favor of critical dialogue, but among people who face the appropriate incentives. That science should hurt, was an important argument made by Jonathan Rauch in Kindly Inquisitors.  Freedom of inquiry is always disciplined by accountability, and for accountability to work you have to be able to identify the parties.

If there is no identity, and thus no accountability, then the “resource” will be depleted in a sub-optimal manner.  To get a more optimal use of the “resource” we need to assign accountability, and institute a policy of sanctions for violation of those rules of resource use and social interaction.

Eli Dourado notes that, first off, this is only an issue for blogs that get substantial amounts of traffic.  For 99.9% of the blogs, getting any comments at all is a cause for rejoicing.   Furthermore,

The commenting dynamic is very different on small blogs than it is on popular blogs. On small blogs, people typically comment when they have something to contribute or ask that is relevant to the post. These are frequently of high quality (relatively speaking; recall Sturgeon’s Law: 90 percent of everything is crap). On more popular blogs, this positive commenting dynamic is confounded by the presence of eyeballs. Every post is read by many thousands of people. For the self-involved who could never attract such a large audience on their own, this is an irresistible forum for expounding pet hypotheses, axe-grinding, and generally shouting at or expressing meaningless agreement with the celebrity post-authors.

Leaving aside whether there’s such a thing as a blogosphere “celebrity” when most people still don’t know what a blog is and have never heard of Glenn Reynolds or Markos Moulitsas — much less James Joyner — this comports with my experience over the years.  If you’re wanting to spout off on your pet theories and spar with other commenters, you need to either start a successful blog or piggyback on one.   It makes no sense, after all, to troll a site nobody reads.

Dourado’s countermeasures also ring true:

The first step, therefore, to higher quality comments is “be more niche.” Discourage your marginal readers with technical language, obscure references, and lengthy posts. Your marginal readers are not of high value anyway, and driving them away is an excellent way to improve the average comment of your inframarginal readers.

Many of the scholarly blogs I read, including very popular ones like Volokh Conspiracy, Crooked Timber, or even Unfogged do this quite well.  They’re simply not trollable by ordinary trolls.  Most people attempting to emulate this, however, would simply produce unreadable blogs.

If you cannot bring yourself to do this, or you have delusions about being the next mainstream blog, then you must adopt some sort of rules to govern commenting. Because the incentives for commenting on blogs vary with the popularity and other characteristics of the blog, different blogs should use different rules to govern commenting (straightforward application of Ostrom 1990). Most smaller blogs probably do not need any sort of rules at all. My own blog, unpopular as it is, gets consistently high-quality comments with virtually no rules or policing. The comments section at the blogs of major media outlets (such as the New York Times), however, are a sewer. Again, there are too many eyeballs.

Proposals discussed include registration requirements, rating systems, tying commenting to Twitter or Facebook accounts, and banning the worst offenders.  All have substantial downsides and are more likely to drive away casual but thoughtful commenters than trolls, who after all have more incentive to jump through the hoops.

Robin Hanson, who pointed me to Dourado’s piece, nods approvingly and points to a posting he wrote earlier this year on “Why Comments Snark,” which aimed at explaining why comments on blog posts tended to be harsher than posts at other blogs commenting on the same piece of writing.

Comments disagree more than responding posts because post, but not comment, authors must attract readers.  Post authors expect that reader experiences of a post will influence whether those readers come back for future posts.  In contrast, comment authors less expect reader experience to influence future comment readership; folks read blog posts more because of the post author than who they expect to author comments there.

This induces snarkier comments for two reasons:

  1. Intelligent post authors can usually anticipate the main post “corrections.”  Posts written for readability simply cannot mention every related disclaimer, caveat, alternate interpretation, or follow-on question.  This leaves a huge opening for comments to seem smart by pointing out such things, even when they are boring.
  2. When you post a friendly response to someone else’s post, you can hope for reciprocal posts later, where they respond to one of your posts.  This is less likely when your post is critical, or if you just comment on their post; they may not even know you have a blog.

A similar theory explains why large email lists and usenet groups were often so harsh; each contributor had relatively little influence over the subscriber experience.

His preferred alternative is a rating system that allows commenters to ignore commenters they find annoying, thus changing the incentives.

My own inclination over the years has been to allow something approaching a free-for-all in the comments, while posting and occasionally enforcing a comments policy encouraging civility.  I’ve banned less than half a dozen commenters over the years, and they were more spammers than trolls.   I’ll sometimes weigh in and delete comments that too egregiously violate policies against personal attacks on posters or advocacy of truly odious positions but, for the most part, figure people will ignore obvious idiots.

It does seem that the problem has gotten worse in recent months.  It’s been especially pronounced in posts dealing with illegal immigration and the rights of American Muslims.   Whether that’s a function of more diversity in site co-authors, the vagaries of the current political climate, or some other factors, I can’t say.

It’s particularly annoying to the post authors, since we read each and every comment on our pieces.  But I’m not sure how much it matters to readers.    Is this an issue worth deploying additional resources to fix?  Or just something to live with in the Wild West that is the Internets?

UPDATE: One of the things noted in Dourado’s post is threaded comments, such as seen on the various Atlantic  blogs, which allow commenters to respond directly to other commenters.   The upside is that it allows little side debates between two commenters to carry on while others can comment on the substance of the post.  The downside is that it essentially gives aggressive commenters a post-within-a-post.    Is this something we should implement here?  Or is the current single thread preferable?  I’m agnostic on the matter.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Blogosphere
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Trumwill says:

    A good comment section is the difference between me reading a blog and not reading a blog. So as far as I am concerned, it is entirely worth the effort.
     
    My blog is relatively small and friendly with a handful of regular but dedicated commenters and that’s pretty much how I like it. I’ve contemplated what happens if the readership expands and all that entails. I have strict policies as to what is and is not allowed, though I rarely have to enforce them. Trolls get their first comment deleted and don’t come back. People itching for a fight find my blog pretty boring.
     
    However, it only takes one troll with a pet issue to derail an entire comment thread. They write something incendiary to which someone else *has* to respond and it goes downhill from there. This can be a problem on smaller blogs as well as larger ones.
     
    I think that one solution is to force people to log on in order to skip moderation and then moderate the rest. Once people have gone to the trouble of creating an account, I think they’re more likely to behave. If they merely intend to troll, they’ll just move on somewhere else. Your blog only has to be less troll-friendly than the next blog.




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  2. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    You might want to try using a “Twitter-esque” approach, i.e. limit the character count for each comment and limit the number of comments for each post. I have noticed here that some commenters add comments repeatedly as if they were in a chat room.




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  3. MarkedMan says:

    The only really active comment section I’ve seen that has avoided the descent into the “You’re a Nazi!” “No – You’re a Nazi” cesspool is Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic.  There are a number of reasons, but I think the two most important are registration and his incredible involvement in the section, quite often calling people out who are getting carried away, and banning where he feels necessary.
    Oh, and Joel Achenbach’s at the Washington Post, which has taken on an entertaining life of its own, wherein posters frequently view Joel as some kind of hall monitor rather than blog overlord.
    Hmm.  Something both these people have done is pulled especially talented and frequent commenters onto the main page as a guest blogger.  Maybe that makes people behave better and strive for a higher quality comment.




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  4. sam says:

    @JJ
     

    Many of the scholarly blogs I read, including very popular ones like Volokh Conspiracy
     

    Snicker. Well, soft snicker, ’cause even over at EV’s place, Orin Kerr managed to set of a comment thread that was, at his last count, 1032 comments long and still growing. The main post is called, Ultimate Legal Blog Comment and all Orin did was quote some crazy birther comment–calling it the ultimate legal blog comment,  and the rest is still unfolding history. (The guy who posted the original comment (on another blog) that Orin wrote about jumped into the thread with even more batshit craziness and off the thread went, and is still wenting.)




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  5. J.W. Hamner says:

    I actually think you guys do an admirable job of keeping the discourse civil when you are actively trying to engage both sides in political debate… preaching to the choir would be a lot easier to moderate I’d think. While specifically I’m not sure there is much of a problem here…  in general, I’m a fan of allowing pseudonymous commenting with registration requirements to combat trolling. It certainly is a barrier to entry… for example I’ve been a dedicated reader to Serious Eats for ages, but only decided to register to post a comment on a specific topic very recently… but then that sort of opens it up so I’ve commented several times over the last few weeks. I don’t really think you lose much by eliminating drive-by-comments, though obviously you have to a dedicated enough readership to support this.
    Linking things to Facebook or Twitter seems to be promising, in that it is vastly easier than registration but would still eliminate a fair amount of trolling and… at least with Twitter… allow  pseudonymous comments. I don’t know how much I like the idea of those services specifically being leveraged in this manner…  as I don’t know if I’d like to have my personal politics all over Facebook for example… but an identity that is maintained all over the internet is the panacea of civility on the intertoobs in my mind.




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  6. G.A.Phillips says:

    recall Sturgeon’s Law: 90 percent of everything is crap:) G.A.s’ law: 99% of everything is donkey poop:)

    However, it only takes one troll with a pet issue to derail an entire comment thread. Yup, like “Bush did it”…….

    But then some of the best arguments, um, discussions come when we are in the upside down train that has come to rest in a mucky ditch….

    But what do I Know….

    and what happened to Triumph, we are down to like only three or four real conservative regulars here without him?




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  7. sam says:

    @GA (God love his simple, well-meaning heart):
    “and what happened to Triumph, we are down to like only three or four real conservative regulars here without him?”
     
    I’d like to note that that was written without a trace of irony or sarcasm.




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  8. PD Shaw says:

    Outrageous, a post on commentors, but no links to commentors, as if bloggers understand the hopes and dreams of commentors.  Oh, James is asking for input . . .

    I don’t think you get a lot of drive-by trolls worth mentioning, so I’m not sure what benefits registration would offer by itself.

    I think the loss of the ability to embed hyperlinks has deteriorated some of the quality that was here before the site upgrade.

    I think the fairly regular appearance of the blog authors has helped keep the comment thread somewhat focused.

    There has to be at least some relationship between the number of posts and quality deterioration.  Godwin’s law suggests it.  If I were blogging, I would pick some arbitrary number to stop accepting comments.  If the discussion was fruitful, use it as a springboard for another post.

    re the mosque:  Given that in some quarters the stated purpose of raising this issue was education about Islam, averaging somewhere in the neighborhood of 5.2 posts a day on the subject (my estimate) was probably never a good idea.




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  9. john personna says:

    My feeling is that everyone pontificates(*).  We could draw a link map.  Someone, somewhere, was the original person with an opinion to share.  Some might have commented (sub-pontificated) there, and some might have linked and commented (sub-pontification again) from their home blogs.   It all fans out.  At some point the room (comment section) gets too large, and it becomes a mob(**).
     
    My reading of blog-holders is that some of them, like James, get the nature of the mix.  Others seem to … well, take their pontifications a little seriously.  How dare the little people question a fine pontification!
     
    * – it is perhaps a medical fact that spleens need venting.
     
    ** – that’s the common pattern, though some small venues have bad dynamics




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  10. Ben Wolf says:

    The reasaon I visit OTB is BECAUSE the writers and commenters are mostly of a level-headed nature, though the fringe loonies seem to have become more common lately. 

    It’s nice to have a civil discourse with those whom you disagree.  Yeah I said it.




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  11. James Joyner says:

    what happened to Triumph

    He hasn’t posted since early June.  Not sure if he was driven off by the new site design or what.




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  12. john personna says:

    You know, I’m not finding the latest edit box iphone ready.  I don’t suppose Triumph was a phone poster …




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  13. steve says:

    Wish I had an answer for the problem. I am hoping this is cyclical and will level out again. I would agree that things are not as bad as they are at highly partisan, large volume blogs. Maybe an occasional reminder to not feed the trolls would also help.
     
    Steve




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  14. Janis Gore says:

    Nah.  I don’t think it’s a big enough problem here to bother yourselves.




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  15. Possible idea for the authors: if there’s a comment that you particularly like, make it an update to the original post.  Rewarding good comments with more visibility seems a good way to offer positive feedback.  On the other hand, I remember a point several weeks ago where one particular commenter had their remarks made the basis for an entire post.  Now the response to said comment was largely negative, but the authors might want to consider exactly what sort of side message they sent with that post.




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  16. I’m sure things are better without me here anyway, but I got tired of being called a racist and responding to the same boilerplate retorts from the same anonymous posters over and over.

    I would like a way to respond directly to the authors without getting into the comment threads if that is feasible. 




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  17. Dave Schuler says:

    The peasants are revolting!




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  18. Brett says:

    The best “big blog” comment sections I’ve seen are usually the ones where the blog author is actively involved and moderating the discussion in the comments (same goes for discussion forums). That allows them to weed out the obvious trolls, and hopefully IP ban the spammers (and by “spammers”, I include those idiots who do nothing but repeat post certain screeds, like a number of people over at Matt Yglesias’s blog).




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  19. Janis Gore says:

    What do you mean, Mr. Austen?  All the regular authors here have public e-mail addresses except for Dave Schuler.  Perhaps he does, too, and I haven’t found it.

    Or do you seek a (dare I say “elite”) public forum apart from the rabble?




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  20. J.W. Hamner says:

    Is this something we should implement here?  Or is the current single thread preferable?

    I personally find threaded comments to be counterproductive. I’m a big fan of TNC’s comment section, but I think the threading encourages people to pile on the first few comments so that their words get seen…  as late solo comments are often not on the “front page” and likely don’t get read. There are definitely positives… but threads and ratings produce incentives I’m not super keen on personally.




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  21. Janis Gore says:

    Try threading again, Dr. Joyner.  Leave off ratings.  I agree with manning on the meanness that can introduce.  We had that discussion last time you tried changing comments.

    If you tie accounts to Facebook or Twitter, I won’t be commenting here anymore. 

    For what it’s worth, I think you’re looking for a new format to spark your own interest, and I’m all for that.  My mother used to rearrange the furniture.  




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  22. Michael Reynolds says:

    I like the idea above of promoting blog comments as updates to the main post.  It allows commenters a chance to add something relevant.
     
    For example, you could add the fact that on my room service door tag I very clearly said, 6:30 a.m.  And yet here it is almost 7 and do I have my weak English coffee, my cold toast and the goddamned margarine they try to pass off as butter?  No.  No, I don’t.
     
    You know who used to not give people coffee?  Communists.  And Nazis.  That’s the kind of people who would promise you coffee and then fail to deliver in any reasonable time frame.




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  23. James Joyner says:

    For what it’s worth, I think you’re looking for a new format to spark your own interest, and I’m all for that.  My mother used to rearrange the furniture.

    I get all the comments emailed to me and read them in Gmail, so format doesn’t make any difference to me.  I’m just concerned about the overall tone of some of the threads.




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  24. rodney dill says:

    I’ve several time thought about how a moderation system like the one used for Slashdot.org could be fitted to a political arena. With two clear sides it could quickly lead to ‘moderator wars’ if any moderator could moderate a comment up or down.

    Any system would require no small amount of programming and administration, but for a political Blog of a sufficient size it may be worth it.
    My current thinking is along the lines of:

    – Registered and non-registered users would be allowed
    – Registered users would declare that they are conservative, liberal, moderate…
    (possibly others, e.g. undeclared?)
    – Any registered user ‘could’ be turned on as a moderator.
    – Any comment posted (by either user type) would have to declare (by check box) that it represents a conservative, liberal, moderate, non-political or undeclared view.
    – Moderators could only moderate the views they represent. A conservative moderator could only moderate conservative views, etc…, Any moderator could moderate an undeclared view or non-political comment.
    – Comments moderated out/off would not be visible to non-registered users.
    – Comments moderated out/off would be visible/clickable line items that may be viewed but are not readily visible.
    – Comments moderated off would at least at a system admin level contain who moderated them off.
    – The system admin/owner/select-few would have to make sure a conservative registered user isn’t mascarading as a liberal or vice versa.

    This would allow each group to police themselves, with a chance to still prohibit anyone who tries to subvert the intent of the system. It would encourage registered users, but not disallow the occasional responsible anonymous poster.




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  25. rodney dill says:

    (correction to one line)
    – Comments moderated out/off would be visible/clickable line items to registered users that may be viewed but are not readily visible.




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  26. jwest says:

    The internet has created the third absolute.
     
    Previously, only death and taxes were a given.  Now, the one thing that can be counted on with unfailing certainty is that regardless what a blog author writes about, there is someone out here in cyberspace who knows more.
     
    Registration, ratings, moderating, banning (under anything but extreme circumstances) or any other means of reducing the input will insure that the knowledge and opinions that far exceed yours will never see the light of day.
     
    Political websites are a product of their contributors.  Because this is a young form of media, some sites without comments have become established and survive through momentum.  These will slowly die as muzzled readers find venues that touch on topics of interest to them that value the contributions of their audience.
     
    Resist the temptation to establish purity of thought through enforced silence.




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  27. G.A.Phillips says:

    All I know is if you had a delete button like on face book, I dang sure would have used it on myself countless times:)




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  28. G.A.Phillips says:

    How about a like, dislike and or a donkey poop button? It would save me a lot of trouble looking up words and trying to spell crap….




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  29. Michael says:

    There are a few factors that, I think, have more of an influence over the quality of comments that the mechanism by which they are posted
    1) The authorship of OTB is varied enough that it produces a hostile environment to group think, and makes commentators of any stripe feel less overwhelmed.
    2) With a very few exceptions, I actually care what other commentator think about what I write, even those that I know ahead of time will disagree with me on almost every issue.
    3) We don’t have passive commentators.  You very rarely see comments that say little more than “I agree!” on OTB, but they are quite common on other blogs.  This makes the signal/noise ratio relatively high.
     
    Now, on the specific proposals, here are my takes:
     
    Threading stops the conversation after the first few threads.  If the first top level comment has 20 replies, the second one 15, and the third 10 and the fourth 5, then in order for your next top level comment to be seen, it will be 50 comments down.  This mostly just provides an incentive to force your comment into one of the earlier threads where it doesn’t naturally belong.
     
    Registration would avoid the impersonations we’ve recently experienced, but it’ll barely slow any dedicated troll.  I am especially opposed to tying OTB accounts to those I use for my social networking.  No offense to anybody here, but you’re not my social network.  You already require an email address to post, so it’s not 100% open to drive-by trolls.
     
    Rating systems are just asking for abuse, especially given the passions of politics.  Slashdot’s system, as was mentioned already, randomly gives out moderation “points” to people based on the number of their comments that others have moderated positively.  While this works for Slashdot, on a political blog it would just turn into an echo chamber, where a liberal comment will be moderated up by liberals and down by conservatives.  Anybody familiar with Slashdot knows that “Overrated” is most often used to mean “Moderator disagrees”.
     
    I do like the idea of highlighting comments the authors feel deserve some special recognition or additional inspection, it provides the positive reinforcement to produce well written, insightful and informative comments.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be added to the post as an update, or given it’s own post, but merely changing the background color of the post to signify the author’s admiration.  Your old site design used to allow showing the comment thread in-line on the main page, maybe adding the option to show these “marked” comments in the same way would be good too.




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  30. Michael says:

    I also miss the comment preview screen, I always used it as an opportunity to re-read my posts under the question “Is this really what I want to post?”, and I ended up abandoning or completely re-writing a large number of them.




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  31. rodney dill says:

    Threading stops the conversation after the first few threads.  If the first top level comment has 20 replies, the second one 15, and the third 10 and the fourth 5, then in order for your next top level comment to be seen, it will be 50 comments down.  This mostly just provides an incentive to force your comment into one of the earlier threads where it doesn’t naturally belong.

    I agree, I wouldn’t want the threading for a blog this size. It does seem to work for Slashdot size, and is probably necessary there.

    Rating systems are just asking for abuse, especially given the passions of politics.  Slashdot’s system, as was mentioned already, randomly gives out moderation “points” to people based on the number of their comments that others have moderated positively.  While this works for Slashdot, on a political blog it would just turn into an echo chamber, where a liberal comment will be moderated up by liberals and down by conservatives.

    The system I outlined was targeted to prevent this, by having conservatives moderate conservatives and liberals moderate liberals. Moderators could be turned off or on depending on how well they did the policy. How well it would work remains to be seen, (and will probably never be attempted here). It would also require only having a manageable number of moderators.
     
     
     




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  32. Michael says:

    Rodney, your system is still open to abuse by changing your political affiliation either when registering to moderate, or when posting your comment.  And as a software developer by trade, I’d hate to be the one responsible for implementing it.  Ick.




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  33. Janis Gore says:

    Maclean’s.ca uses a collapsed threading system from IntenseDebate:

    http://intensedebate.com/

    There you have the advantage of seeing the whole run of broad responses with the option of viewing replies.   




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  34. rodney dill says:

    Rodney, your system is still open to abuse by changing your political affiliation either when registering to moderate, or when posting your comment.  And as a software developer by trade, I’d hate to be the one responsible for implementing it.  Ick.

    Yea, its not perfect, but its been sort of a mental exercise for me to come up with a way. As you stated if conservatives and liberals can cross moderate each other than you just get a moderation war of up and down votes.
    Other points:
    – just registering wouldn’t make you a moderator that would still need to be turned on by James or someone he trusted to vet moderators.
    – I don’t see the political affiliations as clashing. When declaring as a registered user you are pretty much saying what affiliation you have, but more importantly what type of comments you want to moderate. If I registered as a liberal moderator then only trashed liberals I’d get shut off as a moderator pretty quickly.
    – I would see the moderators as more policing abusive language and attacks than as trying to perpetuate their own views. (ideal view, whether realistic or not)
    – Setting the affiliation on a comment says who I want to have moderate my comment. If I set liberal and I have a very conservative view, I’m only getting what I ask for when I get moderated down.
    – I don’t think a system as elaborate as slashdot is needed it just provides some nice ideas.
    Thanks for your input it helps me elaborate on my ideas more than my initial post. I’ve thought about this off and on for a few years, but only typed in the initial post this morning
     
     
     




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  35. <blockquote>The system I outlined was targeted to prevent this, by having conservatives moderate conservatives and liberals moderate liberals.</blockquote>
    What about people who don’t really fit into the traditional right/left spectrum?




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  36. sam says:

    OT, but, really not. I was thinking about your headline:
     

    Blog Comments a Tragedy of the Commons
     

    and I couldn’t connect the concept of the tragedy of the commons (eg, overfishing a fishing area to the detriment of all) to the subject of the post. It seems to me that you’re really talking about a kind of Gresham’s Law of Commenting. (Or is there some connection between Gresham’s Law and the tragedy of the commons that I’m not aware of?) On Gresham’s Law, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gresham's_law.




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  37. sam says:

    Damn, try this:
     
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gresham's_law
     
    When, oh Lord, wilt thou lead thy people out of the wilderness of funky html and into the promised land of clean citation? Thy people await thy providence, oh Lord, and beseech thee to hurry the fvck up, sir.




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  38. sam says:

    Double Damn.




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  39. Janis Gore says:
  40. Janis Gore says:

    Rats.  Did it to me, too.




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  41. Janis Gore says:

    That apostrophe is is on the wrong end of the word “gresham” in this type.  That might be a Wiki problem.




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  42. Janis Gore says:

    Upside down might be a better description.




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  43. sam says:

    @Janis

    That apostrophe is is on the wrong end of the word “gresham” in this type. That might be a Wiki problem.
     

    Heh. A friend of mine was a production manager for a publishing company. She told me that she got a set galleys back from a proof reader, and the person had circled a period  and written ‘wrong font’ in the margin….




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  44. Janis Gore says:

    On my keyboard the single quotemark or apostrophe is straight up and down.  What’s the diff?




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  45. rodney dill says:

    Good point Stormy Dragon, It would probably be more correct to say it targets having conservatives moderate conservative comments and having liberals moderate liberal comments.

    If you register as a user and designate your preference (liberal, conservative, etc) that would affect what comments you would moderate if you were a moderator.

    Each comment you make you would be able to designate if you wanted liberal or conservative moderators to do the moderation. You also could designate ‘undeclared’ if you wanted either group to do the moderation. So if you were largely a conservative with some liberal beliefs you could still work within the framework.

    There could be more that just two groups, potentially you could have moderates, libertarians… etc. but too many could be somewhat problematic.

    ;




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  46. James Joyner says:

    It seems to me that you’re really talking about a kind of Gresham’s Law of Commenting. (Or is there some connection between Gresham’s Law and the tragedy of the commons that I’m not aware of?)

    They’re related concepts but Gresham’s Law is rather specifically related to the behavior of currencies.  But the principles are similar:  Everyone wants both the freedom to spout off as they please and for others to behave themselves, lest the “commons” of the comment section no longer draw readership to read the things they themselves wish to spout.




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  47. john personna says:

    To get titchy about it, the Tragedy of the Commons is about depletion, and overuse of a scarce resource.  Comments are more a pollution problem.
     
    When you don’t comment not because the climate is bad, or because 303 comments is enough already, it is about effluent.




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  48. Janis Gore says:

    Just testing that url for Gresham’s Law again:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gresham's_law

    It works in Blogger and Outlook. 




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  49. Janis Gore says:

    It works in Echo comments. Hmm.




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  50. James says:

    Agnostic: Wore me out.
    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&defl=en&q=define:agnostic&sa=X&ei=exaSTM7zGsOblgeV4MCoCg&ved=0CBUQkAE
    http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CBgQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.thefreedictionary.com%2Fagnostic&ei=exaSTM7zGsOblgeV4MCoCg&usg=AFQjCNEaX_XWhwjS_O7uYsOJEOc8zh9RZA
    Brian Keith, Movie just before they hung the cattle Russell-er , I see you are a man of Letters. While reading the sales contract.
    james flat lands of Texas 🙂
     




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