Thursday, November 1, 2012

How Then Shall We Moderate?

Ana Mardoll speaking: 

The question has and will continue to come up: How shall we moderate this space?

Currently, we're using the native Blogger commenting engine and allowing moderators to determine their own rules in their posts. This has drawbacks and limitations, both from a technical standpoint as well as a authorial standpoint.

For authors, the unique-comment-policy-per-thread rule is a burden and essentially means that they have to police their own threads vigilantly or ask other moderators to do so if they step away from the computer. Authors have to consider when writing and submitting new posts whether they will have all the resources they need to deal with any trolls and/or spam, as well as whether they will have resources on that given posting day. ("Do I have the time and the spoons to moderate my thread if it goes up on Wednesday? Or should I wait until Friday?") And since the only options provided to authors are to (a) tell offenders to leave the thread, and (b) play delete-the-posts over and over again until the offenders tire and go away, we are looking at a high overhead of work for each thread -- or, alternately, the thread gets shut down and closed to comments as soon as the trolls appear. Neither of these options are terribly attractive to prospective authors.

From a technical standpoint, the native Blogger commenting engine has a number of drawbacks. We cannot view nor block IP addresses without third-party plug-in tools, the efficacy of which may fluctuate as Google continues to tweak their "new Blogger" interface. This limitation affects perma-banning, since IP bans are the only way to stop trolls from posting indefinitely as "Anonymous". Comments cannot be edited by anyone -- not by commenters, not by moderators -- so if a trigger warning needs to be added, it can't be done; and if a perfectly good comment goes up but which uses "crazy" instead of "unreasonable", the only options are to delete entirely or leave up as is. This limitation affects the safety of this space. Additionally, there is no "mobile Blogger" application that allows for spam-trapping and/or deleting highly triggering comments while away from the computer, and this limitation means that moderation will require someone to be at a physical terminal at all times.

My suggestion -- me, Ana, not any other Slacktiverse author -- is thus:

  1. Implement a strong Safe Space policy, a la Shakesville, for the entire site where commenting privileges are revoked from trolls without further discussion and upsetting posts are deleted without comment. This means that conversations stay on-topic and trolls don't get that "stir up the wasp nest" happy feeling of accomplishing trouble. This also means a uniformity of comment policy, which means that any moderator can easily mod any thread since there are no "custom rules" to remember. 
  2. Implement the necessary third-party tools to allow IP banning in support of #1. For this purpose, I do recommend Disqus. It's used by Shakesville as the best moderating commenting platform available, and it's large enough of a company to keep up with the constant Google API changes. It fixes all the technical limitations we are running up against: it supports IP banning while still allowing anonymous posting, it grants comment editing powers to both commenters and moderators, and it has a mobile application.

I make this suggestion for three reasons.

One, there are very few full-throttle safe spaces on the web for pluralistic communities. If you just want the pluralism, it's out there -- I hear patheos is lovely -- but if you need a truly safe space where comments that, say, mock infertility as something to be gotten over, are immediately deleted as Not Appropriate, then you have fewer choices.

Two, I do not think this community will continue long without fresh new material to discuss. We have an open forum, but I do not see many people using it. It would appear that people here prefer to discuss guided content that has been provided by authors. The harder we make things for authors -- the more they have to come up with their own commenting rules, moderate their own threads, deal with anonymous trolls that can't be perma-banned, etc. -- the fewer authors I believe we will have. No authors, no content, no community: that is my greatest concern right now.

Three, and I'm going to mimic Nicolae Carpathia to discuss the "elephant in the room": we've done community moderation and "soft" safe space moderation before, and by my personal metrics it didn't work. Everyone is going to have their own opinion about that -- so much so that we've included a bit in the comment policy for this thread about it -- but the bottom line is that there are pages and pages in the Slacktivist archive of trolls coming for months on end with no loss of enthusiasm for their task. Ignoring the bullies doesn't make them go away. Engaging them doesn't make them go away. Deleting them and banning them does.

And while I know it's fun, out in the trenches, to play with the trolls, I'm going to tell you as an Author and a Moderator: it's tiring for many of us. It hurts to pour your heart and soul into a post only to have it immediately devolve into a flame-war about whether or not you're a big drama queen whiny bitch for being triggered by a disability. No matter how many people jump in to defend you, it still means that the meaningful discussion you hoped to foster has turned into slinging mud and names on a particularly smelly playground. So there's that.

Final thoughts before I turn this over to Chris: I don't know how we resolve this, maybe we put it up to a vote. Nothing we choose is going to work for everyone, and I recognize that: Many of you work at places where Disqus isn't available because of old browsers or comment-blocking. But I will say this, and again this is my opinion: the more stressful it is to author in this place, the fewer authors will step up to the plate to provide original content. I consider that to be a major consideration, and even if we don't go with Disqus, I do think we need a workable solution.

chris the cynic speaking:

Thursday is Board Business day and the question of moderation is definitely Board Business, so I very much approve of, and indeed suggested, that it be discussed today.  But it's also remind everyone about the weekend post day since that's usually the only board business we have.  Full descriptions can be found in any of the three previous Board Business threads (One, Two, Three).  Quick and dirty:

If you wrote anything since the last time you submitted to a weekend post, send us an email with link(s) and description(s).  It will appear in The Blogaround.

If you read anything you think might be of interest to the rest of the community, send us an email with link(s) and description(s).  It will appear in In Case You Missed This.

If you know of any worthy causes that members of the community can help with, send us an email with link(s) and description(s).  It will appear in Things You Can do.  Unless it's too time sensitive to wait in which case say so and it'll be posted before the weekend.

Standard deadline 2000 GMT on Saturday.  If you miss it try anyway and we'll see what we can do, but try to make it.  Email Address is: SlacktiverseAuthors at gmail dot com

Ana Mardoll speaking again:

The moderation team has agreed on the following rules for this thread:

1) All anonymous comments must have some type of signature. (like "~ Ana from her work desk" or "Anon329")

1a) All comments from the same user must have the same signature. (This is so we can carry on a coherent conversation without having to say "Anon third from the bottom here, I think..." each time.)

1b) No using someone else's signature.

2) Stay on topic for how to move forward. This is not a referendum on how things were run at Typepad or under Fred or to air personal grievances from those eras. If it is necessary to reference those eras to make a point about how to run things here (for example, "Fred did X with consequence Y, so we should/should not consider doing X") that's fine, but keep it on the topic of how we're going to run things here.

3) Be civil. That means in both content and tone. If in doubt, err on the side of caution.

4) No arguing with comment deletions.

5) Offending comments will be deleted without notice.

6) Not a rule, but a point to consider: The members of this community have diverse constraints, needs, and wants. Saying "If X occurs, I will not be able to use the site because Y" is different from saying "Do not-X or I'm taking my ball and going home!" It's different even if Y is "reasons I can't/am not at liberty to explain." Please respect the former statement and refrain from making the latter statement.

7) Mods reserve the right to, at their discretion, delete any comment which detracts from the discussion, even if it does not break any of the above rules.


  1. Disqus would be a deal-killer for me. They've recently changed their software so that it doesn't work with Chrome/Chromium (either "at all" or "with anything but the very latest version", reports differ, but they're in no hurry to do anything about it either way); and their entire business model is based on de-anonymising people by building profiles of them across multiple sites. It drove me away from Slacktivist and it would drive me away from here. If it makes the site workable for other people, that may be a thing worth doing, in which case fair enough... I do understand the problems with keeping the Blogger commenting engine.

    I absolutely agree with Ana's other suggestions. I'm a strong believer in the owner of the space making the rules, and in my experience benevolent dictatorship that aims to be reasonably consistent works better than trying to be neutral arbiters of a policy that people will try to game.

  2. So here's my position, from a moderation point of view Blogger kind of, sort of, what's the word? Right: sucks.

    You can get rid of a post (in three different ways) or you can leave a post there. There is no middle ground. You can't edit which means no adding trigger warnings, no rot13ing, no use of the Nixonian language of [expletive deleted] no ... well anything really.

    On The Other Hand, disqus has problems of its own. It destroys formatting for no readily apparent reasons including adding and removing line breaks as fits its whims. It occasionally simply up and disappears (and then you go to the disqus site and it says (paraphrasing) Status: Not sure what we did this time but the red dots means that NOTHING is working.)

    Above all that some people simply can't use it. We've had several people bring up being unable to use it in the workplace and at least one person who doesn't want to use it at all. I don't want to single out that person by name because I'm not big on singling out, but we're talking long time regular member of the Slacktiverse (and Slacktivist before that) who had to search out a non-disqus site that linked back to Fred Clark's Left Behind decon because, since Fred switched to disqus the person can't comment over there and the person had something they really wanted to say.

    That's not good.

    If we switch to a commenting system that some people simply cannot use then we're silencing them but we're also doing it in a way that they can't speak up and say, "I'd like to join the conversation but..." because we're removing the ability of all such people to speak. (Though they could send an email.)

    On the other hand, maybe disqus has been improved and that isn't a problem anymore. But as far as I know it still is and I feel like it's one person I know of, how many are there that I don't? and I don't want to silence anyone.

    So I'd prefer a non-disqus based solution but, unfortunately, I don't know what that solution might be.

    [My position is too long for blogger to accept, conclusion to follow]

    1. All of that said, trolls are a problem. I linked to this site from Slacktivist, which might not seem like a big deal because Fred Clark had already done so himself, but all of a sudden the trolls came in.

      Including one who has seriously reached the point of being in favor of damnatio memoriae* in his case. Because he was the one who devoted months of his life to bringing down Typepad Slacktivist by making life hell for those running it, finally gloating when it closed, because (apparently) he simply had nothing better to do.

      Trolls are ready to make racism and victim blaming into a joke. And while my thread has been swept clean of them because, under the current control your own thread standards it was within my purview to do so, they're also notably misogynistic. It was my thread they were trolling their but they made sure to make their attacks on what I was saying flow through attacks at the commenters with female names.

      If I were christine the cynic perhaps they would have felt more comfortable attacking me head on rather than randomly attack me by shooting through others who happened to be female.


      So, in conclusion, we need to do something. We can't have the situation be that whenever this site is linked to** we're suddenly beset by trolls we have only a patchwork of nonstandardized methods for dealing with while being limited by blogger's inflexibility.

      But since I, personally, am not going to approve of a disqus based solution unless I find out the problems with it that can totally silence individuals no longer apply, I have no idea what we should do.

      Those in favor of disqus have a good argument in support: It can work, it has work, we've seen it's flexibility.

      All I have is: We need to do something, I don't know what, but I don't want it to be disqus.


      * It's basically, "Let the name of ----- be stricken from every book and tablet, stricken from all pylons and obelisks, stricken from every monument of Egypt. Let the name of ----- be unheard and unspoken, erased from the memory of men for all time," but in Latin.

      ** And we want this site to be linked to because hopefully we have valuable things to say.

    2. I would so love an edit function.

      Should read:
      "Including one who has seriously reached the point of me being in favor of damnatio memoriae* in his case."

      Little words, just a couple of letters but leave them out and sense is not made.

    3. And "at least one person who doesn't want to use it at all" should read:
      at least one person who can't use it at all.


      Tired today.

  3. I'll admit I'm way out of my depth here technically (I learned how to schedule a post for future publication all of two weeks ago, installing third-party plug-ins is way past my grade of the moment), but are there options other than Blogger and Disqus? Because it seems like either one has serious drawbacks (from my perspective, blogger moreso).

    1. A good question.

      I don't personally know of any other third-party commenting engines. And a major problem is that Google *does* keep changing their API, so any solution we implement with Blogger would need to be a current, evolving product. And I only know of Disqus for that.

      The TBAT were able to work miracles on Typepad because they -- Mmy, I believe -- had massive technical experience that the current moderation team (to my knowledge) simply doesn't have. So it's a problem without a good, easy solution, I think.

    2. I was wondering about this too. We need a system where IP bans are possible, for sure, but it doesn't sound like Disquis is really workable for a lot of people.

  4. I was actually thinking recently that there seem to be a lot of people using my name (Anonymous) whereas in the previous place it was usually just me and even when it wasn't, I never minded who I was sharing a name with. But I do mind some of the people who I'm sharing a name with now, to the extent that I was thinking that maybe instead of choosing "Anonymous" I would start choosing "Name/URL" and typing Anonymous and the linking to wikipedia's main page or or whatever. Anyway, is there a way to turn off anonymous commenting without turning off Name/URL? If so, does anyone think it would help?

    I agree with what Froborr says. Surely Discus isn't the only option out there. There's got to be some other way? I am willing to use Discus, although I don't like it all that much, but I know there are some people who had issues with it and we would miss them if they stopped commenting.

    Anyway, I'm Anonymus spellt the latin way.


    1. The commenting options on Google are:
      * Anyone - includes Anonymous Users
      * Registered User - includes OpenID
      * User with Google Accounts
      * Only members of this blog

      However, turning off anonymous commenting would not solve the problem. To the best of my knowledge and Googling, there is no way to ban someone from a Blogger blog unless we make the board private, invitation only -- which means that new readers won't be able to find the board.

      If people would like to suggest new solutions by name, I know the entire moderation team would appreciate the suggestions. :)

    2. Random idea:

      We could have two boards: one publicly open, with commenting turned off, and one private, with comments. The public one could also have a message along the lines of, 'if you want to join our community, message such and such and we'll give you access to the commenting board'.

      Then we can link to the public board while controlling comments on the private one.

      I don't know if the posts from the private board could be automatically synced to the public board, but it might at least be worth investigating.

    3. Kind of like how we had "under the cut" at the old board? But with invitations? That's a really interesting idea, ZMiles!

      I think syncing could be done... at least, it's possible to automatically email a post when it goes live to an address and it's possible to Post By Email, so maybe we could match those up... It's *really* worth thinking about. I find it very compelling and original, honestly.


      Alternately, we *can* move again. This was set up because we had a time limit on Slacktivist, with the money running down, and we have more leisure time now to research boards.

    4. I really like this idea. Really really like. Also, would comments on the private board be in a private place away from the prying eyes of google? That would be really super nice. Maybe I could even have a name again if that were the case. A unique, slacktiverse-only name, but a name nonetheless. I miss having a name.

      I think maybe wordpress offers more solutions for moderation than blogger does but don't take my word for it because I really don't know.

  5. I think the split board idea is an interesting one - it does need some way of sending a private message, but that ought to be achievable (by email if nothing else).

    One might want to make the secondary board login-only of some sort - OpenID gets round the tracking/anonymity problems at least as far as I'm concerned (there are at least two organisations that'll give you one in return for an email address, rather than a full intrusive signup process), though that may not solve the problem for people with tricky work firewalls... perhaps they could be allowed in on an IP address basis?

    I'm happy to throw in what technical expertise I have.

    1. If enough people like the idea, I'll set up a private test board tonight and see how it works. It's possible that Google may limit how people can post there, or it may just be a private sign-in, after which one can still post as Anon.

      FWIW, we can't even *view* IP addresses right now, and would need a third party tool for that, like a stat counter that ties comments into IPs.

      I seriously like this idea, though. Several heads ARE better than one!

  6. I'm liking the split board idea a lot, if we can make it work! Main issues I'm seeing:

    We need to be able to cut off a person's access to commenting if they turn out to be a troll.

    This doesn't resolve the issue of being unable to edit comments. Even if every commenter is a sterling, shining example of community spirit, we're still going to have people forgetting CWs or the like on occasion.

  7. @Anonymus, I *think* private boards are private for viewing as well as commenting. So, yay.

    @Froborr, I *think* the access keys are kept in an editable field in the settings, which means people can be removed if they turn out to be trolly. And, of course, we can delete the few posts they squeeze in before revocation.

    But you're right about editing.

    We could spamtrap the comment and ping the user that they need to repost without trigger language or with content note. But that will be a lot of admin overhead...?

    And, of course, we're still going to have thread spam of the "here are eight edits to my above comment" variety that is pretty much unavoidable in these situations...?

    1. Personally, and this is purely just me talking about how I feel, I think if the split boards allow us to work around the inability to ban, Blogger comes out slightly ahead of Disqus--the increased number of people unable to access comments is worth not being able to edit. But that's just me.

    2. Because of the unique nature of this community, I agree. I don't think this Private + Public setup would work well for traditional blogs, but it sounds like it could work very well for our community.

      I'm willing to do the work to get this set up if that's what people want. Should we start doing "+1"s?

      Though now I say that, I realize we still don't have a lot of weigh-in yet in general, as most people aren't back home from work and things. Maybe we can leave this as an open question and I can work the code out on Saturday if that's the community will?

    3. +1 from me on that technical solution, and on waiting until at least Saturday to see if this is the community consensus.

      Question: Is this thread solely for discussing the technical issues, or do we want to discuss the moderation policy itself as well?

  8. First and foremost, I support the idea of strong moderation and insistence that if you want to come into this space, you will play nice. That Blogger is unable to give basic tools to authors and moderators to keep the riffraff out is a failure on their part.

    I'll plug the Dreamwidth Studios community option (at, since they are very good about privacy and take principled stands against entities that want to dictate content in exchange for being able to use their services, and have a very nice Diversity Statement. They support at least some form of OpenID, they currently do not require invite codes (although, if that changes, we can put in a request for a code that the community could use to create accounts) they have threaded comment replies, and kickbans, including IP-based kicks (I think), are quite easy to execute. It is, however, a fork of the Livejournal code, even though their team have been hard at work pulling out the cruft and the bad things and refining the good, so it may carry issues. One that comes immediately to mind is that comments, once replied to, cannot be edited (as far as I know. Threads, however, can be deleted from that point on, so one could reply with "CW this, please" and then delete the thread, or make it invisible and prevent new replies.)

    The "separate boards" idea sounds like an excellent implementation as well. If approved comments could be mirrored out to the public space, in addition to the entries themselves, I think that would be a boon and help attract new people who want to participate, rather than troll. Unfortunately, my technical expertise does not know how such things could be done.

    I would hate to see a place such as this be shut down because there was no way that bridge-dwellers could be evicted.

  9. Well, since Ana says we can discuss moderation policy, too, I endorse rules 1-5 and 7 from this thread as the site-wide rules, plus a rule requiring Content Warnings. I'd suggest a rule banning bigoted language and content, but such rules tend to be easy to game, and I think rule 7 has it covered.

    1. Oh, and the only reason I'm not including rule 6 is because I think it only applies to this thread.

  10. I think I'd be OK with either a split private+public board, or a switch over to another blogging platform that would allow IP bans.

    I have mixed feelings about whether approved comments on the private board should be viewable to the public. On the one hand, it would reduce confidentiality for people like Anonymus and for sensitive topics (I know I'd rest a bit easier if I knew family couldn't randomly come across my comments), but on the other hand, it would help draw people into the community. At the moment, I think we might be below the critical mass of people we'd need to sustain things in the long term, and I'd like to improve that. I'm not sure how people would be drawn into the community if they couldn't see the comments.

    On moderation, I think I'd prefer things not be quite as strict as Shakesville. Their Feminism 101 page is REALLY LONG, and the implicit requirement that all commenters agree with absolutely everything on it makes me a bit uncomfortable. I think we can be a safe space without getting quite that strict and advanced-feminism-only. I think we do need a clear policy on how to handle 1) trolling and 2) good-faith mistakes. I think comment deletions should be explained on the person's first offense of a particular nature, but if a person has been warned that doing X is a problem and they continue doing X, it's reasonable to delete their comments that do X with only a cursory explanation on the second offense and no further explanations after that. However, if a person's doing the same problematic thing 3+ times, we probably want to ban them. With good-faith mistakes, I think Ana's suggestion of spamtrapping the post and asking for an edit makes sense.

    I'm wondering if a yellow card/red card system for good-faith errors caused by lack of understanding/blatant assholery makes sense. Red card = post gets deleted, and the poster is banned after two or three red cards. Yellow card = post gets put in the spam trap, and person gets politely educated/asked to edit. Blatantly continuing a problematic behaviour after a yellow card = a red card, with the possibility of exceptions being made if the repeat error was obviously unintentional (e.g. it happened a really long time afterwards and the person just forgot). Simply forgetting a content warning wouldn't get a card, but the post would be spamtrapped and the poster asked to edit.

    I think we absolutely have to be able to ban trolls from commenting, whatever setup we use. What I'm not sure about is how much we as a community want to tolerate good-faith errors: i.e. people saying problematic stuff because they don't know better, not because they want to do harm. Thoughts?

    1. I would agree that having a policy as strict as Shakesville's could make it harder to bring new people onboard. I like kisekileia's ideas.

    2. The biggest problem I have with carding -- and it fell out of use on Ramblings very quickly -- is it means that someone has to actually keep track of all these offenses, and that's a lot of overhead.

      Plus it ultimately means that bad faith people get more passes than they should (what I call "'three more offenses before we can finally ban Johnny' syndrome") and good faith people lie awake at night worried about that one black mark on their record.

      I'd honestly be a lot more comfortable with the "soft" safe space policy described here if we left bans up to moderator discretion and private discussion. We're not looking to banhammer people posting in good faith, and setting up a carding system creates the impression that we are (and, again, pushes an undue paperwork burden on us since now we have to keep a list somewhere and add to it every time someone transgresses. That's a lot of coordination given that there are currently already 5+ of us and more every week).


      But one thing I will NOT compromise on, and that is that people who do not use the Oxford comma shall be perma-banned on sight. (/joking)

    3. Re: Mirroring - It might create administrative headaches and more work, (boo), but if it were feasible and easy, would a checkmark that says "I do/do not want my comments mirrored out to public space" make it workable? (And them we'd have to think of how to signify that someone doesn't want to be mirrored, so we're not accidentally exposing people who don't want to be shown. Yikes. Now it sounds like a lot of work.)

    4. I think the only feasible way to do mirroring of comments is to have it done in an automated way, and I don't think there's likely to be an easy way to mirror some comments but not others, both for tech reasons (it's probably an all or nothing thing) and also for coherency reasons. If there's a comment thread with 3 people who don't want to be mirrored and 3 people who do, and they're all talking to each other, and only the mirrored comments get posted on the other site, it will be a confusing conversation to follow.

      But don't make the decision about mirroring comments or not mirroring them solely based on me. If comments are going to be mirrored into a public space, then I'll self-edit my comments to strip them of stuff i don't want google to see, just like I do on Ana's blog, just like I did at old slacktiverse, just like I do in all public spaces I inhabit. If comments aren't going to be mirrored, I'll still self-edit to the level of information I'm comfortable sharing with people I'm at varying levels of familiarity with. I'll be fine either way. That said, if a /lot/ of people don't want their comments mirrored, then we should go with that. But if most people don't care, then mirroring it should be.

    5. Ana, you have a good point about the carding system I suggested being too rigid. Maybe a more general policy of "trolls will be banned; people who say problematic stuff in good faith will have their problematic posts spamtrapped and be politely educated, within reasonable limits" would work?

    6. and I don't think there's likely to be an easy way to mirror some comments but not others, both for tech reasons (it's probably an all or nothing thing) and also for coherency reasons

      I'd add complexity of quoting to the mix.

      Say you've got a system where commenters A through G are all engaged in conversation and E isn't in public. So instead of the public seeing E's comments they see [Comment Redacted] or whatever, the problem isn't just how that works on the tech side and how easy that conversation is to follow for an onlooker in the public. The problem is that any or all of A, B, C, D, F, and G might have quoted E, as I have just quoted you, which means that even with E's comments not showing up in public, fragments will be preserved in the works of others like ... *resists making a classics metaphor* and those quotations won't stay on the private side.

      In theory a system might be coded up to recognize quotations, check to see if the originate in a "not-public" account and then redact those too, but in practice I assume such a thing would be a lot of work and risk either being overzelous (redacting non-quotations and thus mangling completely public-safe posts) or under protective (missing quotations that contain sensitive information) or even both at the same time.


      I'd certainly like you to have a name again, but I think you're right about feasibility.

  11. I've been wondering if there is some way we could shift some of the moderation burden to the "client-side" as it were: is there a mechanism we could use that would provide for easy killfiles? This would allow people to make their own decisions as to who gets blocked, without the need for group consensus, and we could be less concerned about distingishing between good faith mistakes, and bad faith rules-lawyering because if I want to killfile people who don't technically meet whatever definition of trolling we lay down, that's my own look out.

    1. I don't see anything wrong with people doing that for personal safety, but we can't really moderate to that. The moderators still have to read everything that goes on the board -- many of us have comment notifications directed to our emails -- which means that triggering language can still affect us and we can't just put someone on private killfile and not think about them again.

      And unless there's a plugin to show that "100% of users are ignoring Johnny", or something, we have to do something if Johnny is breaching whatever safe space guidelines we come up with. Now, sure, if we decide that, I dunno, QUATLOOS is off-limits to say but SKWIRL isn't, then people who are distressed by SKWIRL can still be safe here individually if they install whatever Firefox plugin lets them killfile Barbara. But that would be separate from the moderation policy re: QUATLOOS.

      Or am I saying something that everyone already knows? Possibly I am.

  12. I worry that a split board might scare off newcomers and I share kisekileia's concerns about a below critical mass population.

  13. I find Disqus downright tedious at best. I have to be very angry to force myself to jump through all the hoops to post anything.

  14. Based on the widespread support it looks like the split board thing is what we'll be going with, but lying awake in bed this morning I had a radically different idea which may be physically impossible. So of course I'm going to share it.

    Disqus tends to be synced with something else for archival purposes or search engines or something. I don't really know why.

    At Ana's blog it's synced with Blogger, you comment on disqus but the comment is copied to the blogger system. You generally only see this when disqus is being fucky and then only for a glimpse before disqus loads. Assuming disqus loads.

    The initial idea was to do part of that in reverse use the blogger interface to comment and then have it be automatically copied into disqus. Then you could have it be disqus for moderation purposes but blogger for commenting purposes.

    Then I remembered that the problem isn't just that people can't comment on disqus, it's also that they can't read it. Its invisible to them.

    Thus a third pass would have to be added. Comment via not disqus, that gets automatically copied to disqus, which is where the comments reside for moderation purposes. But when the page loads the comments for viewing it doesn't load disqus, it instead calls up disqus itself (server side, not client side so the individual user's ability to use disqus doesn't come up) gets the disqus comments in their latest form, converts them into plain HTML or something else easy to read for everyone, and shows that.

    From the point of view of the user they'd never even see disqus, but from the point of view of moderation the middle step of converting into disqus would allow for actual moderation.


    Remember the "may be physically impossible" part? Yeah, I don't know if any of this is even possible. I know little of computers.

    1. Not having any experience with Discus & Blogger (beyond "I know how to post a comment"), but being generally tech savvy, it sounds like what you're suggesting should be theoretically possible. Whether it's actually possible depends on whether Discus/Blogger have an easy option to make it happen, or whether there's a 3rd party tool that could be installed to do that, or whether someone in the community has the technical expertise to write a tool if one does not exist (and if necessary, maintain it when blogger changes their api which seems to happen more than occasionally). But, in theory, it shouldn't be impossible.

    2. I suspect that any problems will be less "we are too incompetent to do that" and more "the locked-down software doesn't let us do that" - after all, each site owner really wants you to be using its own system exclusively.

  15. I really hate to keep being the Debbie Downer on the technical side, any kind of mirroring, syncing, or duplicating of comments is pretty much right out as far as I know.

    If this were a HTML web page where we coded everything from scratch, then it would be possible (though still probably not feasible) to sync stuff to another HTML web page. But the tools we are using -- Google and Disqus -- do not allow that kind of direct control. I can't dig into the HTML to edit a comment, for example.

    It *might* be just barely possible to mirror comments from one Blogger board to another, *if* Google provided a way to accept comments via email *while* having the board closed to non-email comments. I don't think Google does either of those things, though. And deletions for trigger issues almost certainly wouldn't sync over, and there's no way that I know of to opt out. And even with that solution, all the comments would be coming from a single-source email address, which means (I would guess) that all comments would appear to be posted by the same user-name/profile.

    Or to put it another way: Disqus had a way to sync initial comments to Google in a manner that somehow worked via the API and retained unique usernames, but now it's completely broken since Google changed the API. (And by "initial", I mean that changes, edits, and possibly deletions didn't/couldn't sync.) I don't have the technical expertise to duplicate what Disqus was doing; do we have someone here who can and wants to try? (Open offer.)

    As far as Disqus goes, there's no way in the Disqus interface to continuously sync *from* Google in the same way that there is for syncing *to* Google. (And, again, that is broken now.) But even if there was, I don't think the Disqus moderation panel buys us anything when edits/deletions never could (as far as I remember) sync back to Google. If we're suggesting that commenters use Google to comment, it flows to Disqus, then when the page loads, it pulls from Disqus, and shows in Google format: no, I don't think that's possible. And even when Disqus-->Google sync was working perfectly, there was a sync delay that was reasonably long.

    TL;DR: I'm not trying to piss on the brainstorming, by all means keep at it, but at the same time I wanted to toss in before we got too invested in comment syncing/mirroring.

    1. Yeah, I opened with "may be physically impossible" for a reason.


      That said, I probably should be more clear about one thing, not that it'll change the "may be physically impossible" aspect.

      I wasn't thinking of trying to integrate blogger and disqus in a way that it's blogger for the user and disqus for the moderation, I was thinking of using Blogger's option to include an HTML/JavaScript gadget (what I use for *checks* my Amazon search box I guess) to be used for the comments the user sees, where our own code in that gadget (and by "our own code" I mean that of someone who knows what they're doing, not me) called to the hidden disqus and converted that thread to what it displayed. No importing back into blogger. Perhaps no commenting from blogger either if it were within our capacity to make our own comment box which then automatically sent the inputted comment into disqus.

      All of that said, in addition to disqus not being designed to do that, having just taken a look it it doesn't seem like blogger is set up to let you arrange the layout of an individual post page, only the blog as a whole. What the hell?

      When I go to layout I can screw with the layout on the main page but see nothing for what appears on the pages of the individual posts (they use the main page layout) and regardless I see no way to add a gadget in line with the posts, instead it's header, sidebar, and footer. I was thinking of an inline gadget immediately following the post in the post column. That gadget would be what actually displayed the comments.


      All of which is meaningless if, as it appears, disqus doesn't work that way, but I like people to understand what I'm suggesting even when it is a dead end.

    2. When I go to layout I can screw with the layout on the main page but see nothing for what appears on the pages of the individual posts

      Then again, I am using the simplest template available, maybe that has something to do with it.

  16. Ok, I am poking my head out of my lurker closet long enough to say that if you go with the private board, I will probably end up writing for permission to access it. But if I hadn't been reading the comments of this community for years, if I were just stumbling upon the blog for the first time? I would never even consider it.

    That said, I have posted maybe five comments over the whole life of Slacti-everything, so if I were you I would probably be more interested in what people who actually contribute think about it. But it seemed like, since you are soliciting opinions, it was better that I let you know that I don't like the idea, since it didn't seem like anyone was going to express that thought for me.

    And I really hope this does not read like I'm being really demanding or entitled or overly critical. Especially because what I don't have are any better suggestions. I have a blog at wordpress and I know moderators can edit comments there, but I think I remember Ana saying at some point (maybe during the whole blogger fiasco a few weeks back?) that she didn't like wordpress, so that's no help either. I have never had any issues using Disqus, but that doesn't change the fact that other people have tons of problems with it. So since there probably isn't a solution that makes everybody universally happy, it probably makes the most sense to make the regular contributors happy rather than trying to accommodate a lurker who isn't likely to ever stop being a lurker (it's not you, it's me; I talk myself out of posting almost every time).

    Anyway, uh, I really like this community a lot and I'm sorry I don't have anything more helpful to add.

    1. Thank you for weighing in. We want to hear from lurkers as well as commenters. :)

      You remembered correctly: I don't like the Wordpress dashboard, as I find it tremendously unintuitive and I like the blogger "drag-and-drop" style of adding widgets and custom code. This was germane when we were under the ticking clock to get things set up before the Typepad site went archival. But is significantly less germane now that we have all the time in the world and plenty of people onboard capable of doing the setup.

      Migration, at this point, would not be too difficult; we only have maybe two dozen posts so far here.

      I do not know anything about IP banning at Wordpress and whether it can be done with the free flavors. But if we have a Wordpress adept here, I welcome them to speak up! :)

  17. I'd honestly be a lot more comfortable with the "soft" safe space policy described here if we left bans up to moderator discretion and private discussion.

    As a moderator/writer (soon, I promise!) I feel that way as well. I suspect I would be much lighter on the banhammer than other moderators, especially because I know I come from a place of privilege on several levels and sometimes have a higher level of tolerance for stupid crap than other people. (My fault, not theirs.) I wouldn't want to be held up as an example by someone saying, "Well, storiteller didn't ban me for saying that!" because they wanted to justify being not-banned on another thread. In that regard, I feel that a slightly fuzzier moderation policy will do us well.

    In terms of Wordpress, my blog is hosted on, which is the one that includes hosting. That software does allow you to edit other people's comments. It also shows IP addresses, and even allows you to search comments for a specific IP address, so you could see all of the comments from one at one time. You can also have all comments go to moderation or have moderation approval required only for new people. You can also blacklist comments by IP address, specific words, email, or name. It doesn't block that person, but automatically sticks them in the spamtrap. We can then choose to unspamtrap the comment, leave it there, or permanently delete it., which is the program where you download the software and then host it separately, is even more powerful and customizable, but costs money because you need to pay hosting fees.

    1. I'm OK with a somewhat fuzzier policy. What matters is that it's not too hard for multiple people to interpret in a reasonably consistent manner, and that it doesn't provoke too much argument.

      Thanks for the information on Wordpress. It sounds like even has a lot of really excellent options that Blogger doesn't, probably enough to justify moving there.

    2. That does make moving to Wordpress sound like a pretty attractive option. If we do, however, it generates a little bit of a problem, namely that the Typepad site is now set in stone to redirect here. Unless there's a way to set this page up as an automatic redirect, it'll probably confuse some people.

      Though on the other hand I haven't checked our stats in a while. Are we still getting a lot of traffic from the link on the Typepad site?

    3. Ah, one question I don't recall seeing answered, though I'm running on short sleep and high stress so I may have just missed it: Does Wordpress allow anonymous commenting?

    4. @Froborr:

      Sort of. At least, all the wordpress blogs I've commented on require you type an e-mail address and a name, so I use a (consistent) throwaway e-mail address and type Anonymus. I do not know whether there is an option for the kind of Anonymous that blogspot allows, but I'm happy with the wordpress anonymous commenting situation as I understand it to be.

      Dreamwidth allows completely anon commenting (but the default can be changed for all new entries and also on a per entry basis). It also allows IP logging (which can also be turned off)

  18. One thing to consider with any option that involves moving (i.e. not just the two[?] that have been brought up) is that we do in fact have a steady stream of people coming here from Typepad Sacktiverse and that can't be updated to a new address. So if people come here and find another, "Sorry, we moved, click this link," what's that going do? Will they click through to our new new home, or feel like they're being given the run around and give up?

    It's not just that the number of people who came here from Typepad Slacktiverse is roughly equal to the number of people who came here from the entire rest of the internet combined over the life of the blog, it's also that in the last two hours (as of the writing of this post) the only people to come here via a link did so via Typepad Slacktiverse.

    This is how our readers find us. This is how people who lost touch with the community and want to get back in touch find us. There is a link pointing here from the place they know to go. That link will only ever point here.

    1. Another possibly non-feasible tech solution to this problem:

      At Dreamwidth, we have a "cross-poster" that allows for the dreamwidth account to specify other LJ-type sites (since they share a codebase - I don't think they can do other blog services, because of the custom markup language, but I could be wrong) to post all their dreamwidth content to. So if you have friends who are still at LJ that you want to see your stuff, you set up the cross-poster to post to LJ. (Yep, it's another mirror. But wait, there's more?)

      The nice thing about it is that someone can add a footer text to all cross-posted material that only shows up on the cross-posted site. It could say, for example, "Content originally posted at Slacktiverse-on-Wordpress. To post a comment, please go to [entry URI]". Comments could be turned off at the destination for the cross-post, allowing content to live there for people to see, but forcing everyone who wants to comment to go to the spot where the tools allow for the moderation control we want.

      If such a thing could be done (through plug-in or a script of some sort), it might make moving easier - the TypePad redirect lands here, where there is content to read, posted regularly, and if people want to comment, it's a short hop to the final destination. The active people will eventually just skip the intermediate steps, or people will update bookmarks so they can just enjoy reading the content here on Blogger.

    2. Ooh, here's a possibility:

      1) Turn off commenting here.

      2) Set up a Wordpress blog.

      3) Post every article to both blogs.

      4) Put a hard-coded Comments link at the bottom of the Blogger version that links to the Wordpress comments.

      It's a little bit more effort-intensive for authors than just straight-up moving the site, but I think less effort than the split board, while retaining all its advantages.

    3. And now I realize my brilliant idea is exactly what SilverAdept described, just worded slightly differently. Sorry.

    4. I don't mind. It's a great summary of my meanderings, and assuming there's a WordPress plug-in somewhere that can handle the posting to Blogger and the hard-coded URI back to WordPress, then it would be quite easy to implement.

    5. We're not stuck at this address forever; Google provides the ability to edit the blog HTML directly and we can put in a redirect:

      One of the many reasons why I chose Blogger way back in the day. I'm pretty sure it still works fine and hasn't been changed by the API changes; I can set up a test sometime.

    6. We're not stuck at this address forever;

      Well, that's good.

  19. I really like SilverAdept's/Froborr's idea too.

  20. Tomorrow starts my weekend. I am not trying to pressure for a decision, just making an offer. Here are the things I have the ability to do:

    1. Fiddle with the settings on my Blogger Test Board to find out what I can about a private, invitation-only board.

    a. How one logs in / gets access.
    b. What it looks like to the uninvited.
    c. What types of comments allowed (anon?).
    d. Whether post-by-email will work.

    2. Fiddle with the settings on my Blogger Test Board to setup a redirect to my failed Wordpress attempted board.

    a. How long does the redirect take.
    b. What does the screen look like.


    What I cannot do is anything to do with comment syncing anywhere, nor can I set up a Wordpress site for us. (I've tried using Wordpress four times, all of which ended with me screaming at the monitor. I know my limitations. ;))

    The things I can do above -- #1 and #2 -- are conflicting solutions. We're not likely to choose both. I'm willing to do either, if that's the board mandate, but I probably won't have time to do both this weekend. CHOOSE WISELY.

    And if we're not ready for a decision yet, well, I should have some time on Tuesday or Thursday. :)

    1. I would vote for #1.

      Thank you for doing this.

    2. I agree that #1 is the course that seems to have the best immediate impact. #2 might be doable, but I would say it's best done with the help of someone who can make WordPress go.

    3. I think #2 is the best long-term, but it requires someone with WordPress skillzortrons.

    4. If #1 works, that's the most convenient for me, so I think that's the one worth trying first. And yes, thanks!

    5. I agree with Froborr that #2 is probably the best option long-term, but we need someone who knows WordPress to help with it. Storiteller, would you be able to help us with the tech side of things on Wordpress?

    6. I have set my test blog to private. You can view it here.

      Note that there's no way that I can immediately see to change the "no access" statement; I don't think I can modify it to say "email HERE to ask for access".

      Probable deal-breaker: Google's "authentication" requires an actual Google *account*. When I authorized a Yahoo email to see the board, I was told that I had to either sign up for a Google account to seal the deal OR continue as a "guest" for 30 days. (After which the offer apparently expires and must be sent again.)

      I think that's a pretty ridiculous system; there's no reason why Google couldn't use a login system that doesn't require a Google account, but then it wouldn't be sufficiently evil. *facepalm*

    7. Incidentally, if someone would like to volunteer for a temporary ban at my Wordpress blog, we can see how that goes:

    8. Froborr, I've banned your IP (I think) from the Wordpress blog. What happens when you try to post again? :)

  21. I can set up a blog on Wordpress. Unfortunately, I'm not fantastic with the layout side of Wordpress. With mine, I just picked one template and fussed the slightest with it. I'm concerned that for people with visual difficulties, I might not be able to meet those needs.

    One thing that I do notice in testing Ana's Wordpress site is that I like the ability to log in via Wordpress but change the name I'm using. I use my real life first name on my blog, but prefer to use a handle here, even though it's not hard to connect the two. Some Wordpress blogs allow that (mine does), while others don't (Ana's). I'm not sure what the security setting is that's different though.

  22. Test results in. Froborr's "ban" at the Wordpress board allows him to still see the board, login, fill out the comment box, and hit enter, but the comment doesn't post. As far as I can tell, it's lost to the ether, as it doesn't show up in comment moderation, either.

    There is also an option that allows mild comment moderation: new users must be approved the first time, and after that they can post without having to be moderator approved.

    Note, though, that option may possibly be dependent on registered users. I'm not sure what anon options we have available on Wordpress.

  23. So it looks to me like our good options are boiling down to:
    a) Something yet to be suggested.
    b) Magic.

    At this point in time are we still looking for good options, or trying to work out which available option is least bad?

    1. I'd say Wordpress still looks pretty good, assuming we can successfully set up a redirect here.

    2. I agree with kisekileia. I have Tuesday at home, and I'll look at redirection. I'll also capture some basic Wordpress templates and we can talk about accessibility. If that's what everyone else wants, but I think sacrificing some basic template control is better at this point than dealing with the insular, empathy-challenged jerk I just spam-trapped.

  24. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. No, as near as I can tell, she didn't.

      There are people who can remove your comments that don't have female genitalia, but I notice that you never go after such people.

      Second, you're seriously trying to trick us into giving information that could be used to identify the location of a person who, if their location is identified, could be killed. And not just said person, but also person's children.

      This is not fun you're having on the internet, real people's lives hang in the balance and you're putting them at risk. If someone, in a moment of weakness, answers any of your 20 questions attempts at more information real people could die.

      You want to know how and why a certain course of action can't be taken in a specific situation, good for you. You're willing to cause the deaths of people to get it? Fuck you.

      In the short time that this blog has been active there has only been one life or death situation to come up and it would be long since gone if not for your constant unrelenting push for that situation to end in death.

      You want to know why your questions aren't getting answered? Because if they were people could very well die. Not abstractions that exist only on the internet, real people in the real fucking world.

      Is that what you want? Because, if it isn't, stop asking. And if it is, fuck off.

    2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    3. The post in question stated very clearly that a social worker and a lawyer were already involved, and that the abuse had been conveyed clearly to both. Therefore there is nothing more to say about this, unless:

      a. You're trying to trick someone into posting identifying information by pressing the issue further and demanding details to justify why the world doesn't magically work the way you think it does, or...

      b.'re using this as a ridiculous straw-issue to justify your trolling as Righteous Anger, which is obviously better tasting and less filling than admitting that you're a vindictive asshat who enjoys it when anonymous commenters threaten women with grievous bodily harm under the guise of "concern".

      As far as I'm concerned, this conversation is over; closing that thread was not an invitation to carry the argument over to this one. Further comments along this line will be deleted.

  25. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  26. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  27. This thread is now closed. There will be a follow-up thread (probably tomorrow/Tuesday/November 5th) regarding my findings with Wordpress.