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:
- 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.
- 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.