A Note to Times Union (and other) Bloggers

There’s some nasty garbage that passes for dialogue in the comment section on the TU blogs. It’s hard to blame the staff at the paper for approving that stuff. After all, business is business, and it’s more interesting to read awful comments than nice ones.

But this is about the blogs written by you volunteers. To you I say, delete, delete, delete.

It’s not unusual for anonymous commenters to launch personal attacks against bloggers, calling them names and denigrating their work — what’s unusual is that the comments get approved. Why would you allow something rude and abusive to be published?

Purists and blogging “experts” insist that aggressive comment moderation, like that practiced at All Over Albany, stifles conversation. I say it uplifts the conversation. Here are their two simple rules:

The first: be kind. The second: treat everyone else with the same respect you’d like to see in return.

Is that such a radical policy?

Look, I’m not suggesting you delete comments that disagree with you, just those that do so disagreeably. Nobody has the right to insult you.

Just hit delete. What are they going to do, fire you?

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28 responses to “A Note to Times Union (and other) Bloggers

  1. Let’s be fair though – as TU bloggers, we’re encouraged NOT to allow comments that are or contain personal attacks or insults.

    And commenters are warned with a message right above the comment box:
    “Note: All comments are read and approved before they display. Comments with profanity or personal attacks will be rejected.”

    I know you know this and it wasn’t the point of the post. The reason I mention it is thus: if someone’s being nasty and mean to you on your own blog/the community blog you post on, you’re actually acting within the realms of TU’s policy to not allow the comment and/or trash it.

    Allowing a comment that lobs personal insults or attacks on the blogger, and responding in kind, is all on the blogger.

    Obviously I know (since I posted about it pretty early on) that your case was a bit different, since it was other bloggers that were allowing comments about you and your son. But in other cases, like the most recent wind-up, I find it hard to find too much sympathy when you’re actively allowing and engaging in a discourse that’s actually on you to approve or delete.

    • I rarely had problems with comments, but, for example, it makes me sick to read the stuff directed at someone like Bethlehem blogger Jeanie DiNapoli. On one hand, I give her credit for having a thick skin — but on the other hand I don’t think it helps to print the mean stuff. It sends the message that it will be tolerated.

      As for the “personal attacks” warning, it’s nice that SOMEBODY is following that standard…

      • The only thing I CAN say is that sometimes I’ve allowed comments against me to come through to make a point – in one specific case, it was a comment referring to me as gay for advocating gay rights (although in a much cruder manner). I wanted to make the point that unabashed and unashamed homophobia is alive and well. In cases like that I allowed it, and said “hey, normally I wouldn’t allow this, but I want you guys to REALLY look at this and realize that despite insistence to the contrary, these people really do exist.”

        Otherwise, you’re really just giving yourself unnecessary grief and anxiety. Nobody deserves that type of treatment, and others don’t need to be exposed to that level of childishness. In those cases it really does only encourage the trolls. Or feeds them, if you will.

  2. Amen, brother.

  3. I believe it’s the new business model they’re trying out.

  4. I would say that about 98% of the posts that are aimed at my blog are approved by me, even if they’re attacking me personally. In fact, if someone posts to my blog – and then posts a correction, I’ll honor their wishes and take down the original post to replace it with the more current and more accurate one.

    That’s not to say that I automatically approve every post. Some people have just bombarded me with profanity about everything from my relationship with my family, to winning at team trivia. But that doesn’t mean that every time someone posts something on my blog that is anathema to my stated position, that their post is ignored or deleted. I have to keep an open dialogue on my blog, or it will get a reputation that the only posts that I approve are sycophantical posts. It doesn’t work that way for me.

  5. Albany Eye Has It

    Just do what Gustafson does and censor all comments that disagree with you.

    • It’s hard to know whether every comment posted on a blog gets published or not.

      I have seen people writing who disagree and, to her credit, Kristi usually addresses their point. Then — and this is interesting — her regular readers will sometimes rise up and deliver a beat down to a commenter they think is out of line. It’s like a self-policing community.

  6. Albany Eye Has It

    “It’s like a self-policing community.”

    Or a Gestapo state?

    Nah, it’s more like high school.

    • The “high school” analogy keeps coming up over and over again, and for good reason. There is definitely a cliquishness among the core of regular players — and they all seem to have a distinct personality that puts them with a particular group.

  7. For those who didn’t see it at the time, it’s even easy to map the cliques . . . http://jericwrites.wordpress.com/2010/06/30/geeky-geek-geeking-blog-network-analysis/ . . .

  8. WRT cliques, I think the fact of their dominance illustrates the 80% failure (by now) of commenting as a useful traffic driver, especially for locale-based sites.

    Allowing comments gets you two things: links (largely outbound); and the appearance of freshness. In terms of modern search-engine ranking, as I understand it, comment-driven freshness matters less on a network that’s lousy with blogs and such, and outbound links were never worth much. They’re worth even less when they link back to the commentor’s feed, which contains links to … the clique.

    I think allowing comments is low-value, and fails the 80/20 test badly in all but the best-managed cases — and maybe those, too. Making it super-easy for folks to link to you passes, because it does the same work 50x better with zero maintenance cost.

    Twitter works this way.

    LQ

  9. WRT to high school, I’d say that it never ends and never can. The electoral fortunes of the Republican Party depend on it.

    LQ

  10. Personally, I think if you comment anonymously, you shouldn’t be approved to say anything but ‘Hello’ and ‘Goodbye’ – if you have a real opinion, about anything, attach your real name to your words. Be a man (even you, ladies…be men! haha) and stand behind what you spew.

    • I think a lot of the people who comment anonymously, particularly on blogs like Crime Confidential, wouldn’t be so quick to to mouth off with their names attached.

    • I agree, but I also hold the belief that some of that stuff SHOULD get through, just so we know it’s out there.

      Obama was elected and everyone went “hooray, racism is over! POST-RACIAL AMERICA!” The reality, however, is quite different. It’s alive and well, and it’s in the minds of a lot of people who potentially have the ability to make important decisions that affect our day to day lives. They don’t say it out loud in a public restaurant, but they’re thinking it and spitting it at their friends at the bar or in their basement.

      Not to say things aren’t better. But boy, could they be better than they are now, but that gets obscured because too many of us like to think that because we haven’t heard it in a while that it’s not there.

      Crime Confidential, and other blogs, show that it’s alive and well. It’s bad because the ideas and opinions expressed are deplorable, but isn’t it good to know what we’re still up against?

      • I hear you, Kevin, but I’m not sure blog comments are a reliable barometer of the American psyche.

        I told myself I wouldn’t get into this anymore, lest it be thought (again) that I merely have an axe to grind. My axe has been ground. I’m done grinding.

        That said, I think they’d have a better community if they were stricter with the comments. Just my opinion. I believe they don’t allow hateful comments in the name of free speech, but to make the comment section more interesting reading.

        • I know and you know and everyone else knows you no longer have an axe to grind. We’re all still on your Christmas card list, after all, and isn’t that the true barometer here?

          I pick up what you’re putting down, which is why even when I do allow that sort of malarkey I’m selective about it. I feel I’ve done a pretty good job of letting people know where the line is and that I don’t care tuppence for numbers.

  11. I agree.

    Reading Crime Confidential is like taking a trip back to 1961 Mississippi…it’s hard to believe that we live and work among these people. Actually, it’s not hard to believe, it’s just scary.

    • Emotions run high there.

      Many people featured in those stories end up being convicted, but I have a problem condemning people who haven’t had their day in court.

      That blog is sorely in need of some comment moderation; what the TU is doing now is irresponsible.

  12. Completely off topic – no one brought a Festivus Pole to the Blogger Palace. But we did learn that Chuck Miller was recently married to the Invisible Woman – if we can believe the skilled observation of the TU’s best journalist.
    Anyway, let’s pick a number – if we assume that 150 comments on a certain topic is a good barometer of the opinion that nearly 800,000 that live in the Capital Distric share, then I have a Jimi Hendrix Gibson Strat to sell you.

  13. You missed a nice selection of cheese and cured meats.

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