I posted on Saturday afternoon concerning my struggles about the direction of commenting here at SBC Voices, with a wide range of responses. Thank you for your suggestions, and those I’ve received privately from some of our contributors who shared their wisdom. I have drawn a few conclusions from the discussion. I don’t have a final plan of action, yet; I want to discuss this with our writing team. But here’s what I gleaned from some of your comments and my own thoughts – sort of an opinion mishmash.
1) Quite a few people like the open commenting policy here, though most realize it gets out of hand at times. It has been pointed out that commenting on a blog is not anyone’s right and moderating comments is not a violation of free speech. Anyone can form their own blog and say whatever they want. Commenting on this blog must conform to policies, and to Scriptural values.
My goal is to find a way to hold on to commenting freedom while still exercising a little more control to keep things from getting out of hand.
2) The thing that bothered me the most was comments I received from several people saying that they wanted to submit posts or offer comments, but were reticent, be of the personal attacks and harsh comments. I guess I’ve become a little too conditioned to this kind of thing. I’m used to it and it doesn’t bother me (as it used to).
On the one hand, the whole purpose of a site like this is a populist form of “peer review.” I put an idea out there and you tell me what you think. I can’t expect everyone to applaud me and my ideas. Disagreement sharpens us and helps us to better thinking.
On the other hand, even critique can be done with respect, without accusation and name-calling.
Again, we’ve got to find that balance.
3) One of the biggest problems we have here is thread hijacking and the failure to stick by the topic of the post. We have had a few CR-haters on the site. If a post even mentions the CR, they go off on one of their anti-CR rants. And no matter where a post begins, it seems to end up as a free-for-all about Calvinism (or anti-Calvinism, often) within about 50 comments.
The people who have been banned from this site (3 of them) and most of those who end up in moderation find themselves there because of thread hijacking – taking the post in THEIR direction instead of that of the author. It is rude, arrogant and annoying when a commenter thinks that his or her personal hobby horse is more important than the subject of the post.
I take (most) submissions. If you want to post, send something in, I will consider it. But when you join in to a conversation, try to stick to the point of the post.
4) One of the problems is that I have been doing the moderation (or not doing it, more often) on my own. There are some of the other contributors who have the authority to moderate, but I don’t think I’ve communicated to them the parameters and standards for comment moderation, nor really given them the sense that they are welcome to do so.
SBC Voices is pretty active. I simply do not have the time to moderate comments by myself. I already spend more time on this site than I should. I think that sharing these duties makes a lot of sense. Several of you gave good advice on the subject.
The problem with that, of course, is that each of us is going to do things a little differently. I am going to apply a certain standard for moderating, but someone else is going to provide a slightly different standard. When you have four or five people doing moderation, there will probably be some confusion.
Objectivity is something of a myth in comment moderation.
5) Some have asked me to grade comments or provide some sort of rubric for judging them. That is nearly impossible. There are some comments so belligerent, personal or insulting that deleting them is an easy call. But fixing an exact line is very difficult.
Often a comment has a legitimate point, but also strays across the line with a personal comment. Do you delete the whole comment? I have been reluctant to edit comments made by others (I’ve done it a few times) – most of the time it is all or nothing. Some of you make it really hard!
So, we are still working through all of this. These are the general parameters but I’m going to work with the contributors to narrow our commenting guidelines.
Your opinions are still welcome.