The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Trolling Stone Gathers Much Dross

After recent discussions about the interactive nature of political blogging, in particular codes of conduct and trolling, I've decided that this blog probably should have an explicit comments policy. Or rather, that it probably should have had a policy a while back.

To date my approach to comments has been pretty lax. I haven't banned anyone, I haven't edited anyone (in fact I don't know if you can really do either of those things on Blogger?).
I've deleted two comments since Spanblather started (both in the last six months) - one because it linked to the CYFS Watch blog in an unrelated post (iirc) when I'd already written about my reasons for not linking to it, and you can see the thread of the other comment I deleted here. I have called commenters on language and manner when I don't think it's ok (although a lot less than I probably should have), and I have argued with an awful lot of people here and elsewhere. I think overall that's actually a pretty relaxed attitude to comments, but I'm keen to hear your thoughts on what's happened to date.

While this is my blog, and I assert my right to control the content of it, including comments, as I see fit, I would actually like some reader thoughts before I put down some kind of comment policy. I value your comments, 99.999% of the time, and I don't want to change Spanblather in ways that put you off interacting.

So please take this thread as an opportunity to make suggestions about how I could improve the cyber environs of Spanblather.

Be gentle.



Apathy Jack said...

“We've all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true.”
- Robert Wilensky

As pertains commenting - edit away to your hearts content. If people want standards, they shouldn't be on the internet.

Legal Eagle said...

As I said on my own post on the topic: I do not tolerate racist, sexist or homophobic comments, I do not tolerate comments which are disrespectful of other people or myself, but I try to leave a fair bit of leeway for people to express their opinion, and allow for some diversity. I think you've got a pretty good balance already (certainly, I've never felt my freedom of speech to be restricted).

Do what feels right to you.

Mainly Politics said...

I have to confess that when I started my blog I was worried about a bunch of rabid right wingers hurling abuse at me just for the sake of it, but thankfully that hasn't happened. I generally find that if you take the time to write constructive posts, the comments are usually constructive too. If you look closely at the type of posts (and indeed the type of bloggers) who attract the most offensive comments they are generally those that adopt a 'talk back' style of blogging, with little analysis in their posts. The classic 'dog whistle' posts seem to have the desired effect. You don't do them here, which is one of the reasons I take the time to read what you have to say, and most of the comments too!

Paul said...

If you mock them without mercy, they usually go away.

Sofiya said...

Um, that could really backfire, Paul. I once mercilessly mocked a troll on my blog, and he/she/it responded by stalking me. It was scary. And meant that I had to make my blog friends-only, which sucked beyond all recognition, because it took away one of the things I enjoyed most in the world - putting my words out there for people to stumble across on the internet.

Before I made my blog friends-only, I would delete any comment that was rude, dismissive or disrespectful of me or any of the causes I hold dear (lefty greeny feminist ones, that is). I made pretty good use of the delete button, because people who are disrespectful, in my opinion, don't deserve to be listened to. I don't mind those who respectfully disagree with me, but people who call me stupid don't get to have their words on my internet space.

Make Tea Not War said...

I haven't really had much in the way of abuse as a blogger except when I pissed off the Johnny Depp crazed stalkers club but generally a zero tolerance policy of abuse, unless it's extremely witty, seems good to me.

Ghet said...

I've found the whole Code of Conduct debate really interesting, because I wrote the one for the site where I work. ( It's not a blog or a forum, but it does HAVE fora where people can comment freely.

We are VERY strict about what can and can't be said there. That meant I had to do things like define 'harassment', which is much harder than it sounds. But the result has been that we have a very healthy environment there where, unlike sites some of us have worked on previously, no-one is afraid.

So I don't accept that bloggers aren't 'responsible' for the comments on their sites. If people sit back and do nothing when abuse appears, they are responsible for what happens after that.

And I'm a big fan of the 'setting the tone' approach, which is what works over at System, and I think what works here. If most of your readers and commenters are working on a mature, considered, intellectual level, it deters people who just want to piss up the walls.

On my own actual blog, for really offensive stuff, I use a 'block THEN mock' process.

Hewligan said...

On the one hand, I don't delete anything from my own blog but spam. I suppose if something were outright illegal, I'd delete it too. Otherwise, I don't see myself deleting comments. It's not my thing.

Still, as far as I can see, on your own blog you're perfectly entitled to delete any comment you want. It's polite to have a policy about when you'll delete and follow it, but not absolutely necessary.

If they've got something to say, they can always get a blog of their own. It's not very hard.

Craig Ranapia said...

I'm slowly but surely resuscitating High Windows - my own answer to Monty Python's dead parrot - and I'm pretty happy with the comments/moderation policy at

Stephen said...

You really need one of these.

Ms Klake said...

I honestly don't think there's anything you need to change. You seem to be open to allowing differing opinions and will try to shut down more deliberately polemic postings via discussion rather than censorship. I like that, and I respect it.

As for me personally, I would probably only delete spam and any comments that give out personal details.

Span said...

Thanks for all your contributions, it's good to hear that regular readers and contributors have so far thought I'm striking a good balance.

Anyone of another view please do speak up, I can't change what I don't know is a problem!

I'll put together a policy that actually makes explicit what I'm doing at some point in the next week, so if there is any more feedback to come please do make it in the next few days.

Thanks again everyone.