June 1, 2008

Va. Pilot Online 'marketplace of ideas’ can get surly

I noticed that the Va. Pilot has found out about unmoderated commenting. The Editor reports to the readers that the Online 'marketplace of ideas’ can get surly. It seems that as the Pilot rolled out its "online community initiative" it has found that a.) lots of people want to comment and b.) some of them shouldn't be allowed. They started with system that reviewed a member's first 30 comment but soon found they couldn't handle the volume they made some changes (and learned some lessons):
"That threshold was sharply reduced. Under the updated rules, if a new user’s initial comments are considered acceptable, subsequent postings are not monitored. Schecker declined to cite the precise number of posts that are now monitored. A sampling of responses to pilotonline stories reveals the guidelines are widely ignored and provide a glimpse of how exchanges sometimes devolve into rudeness .

Two recurring themes in online feedback are disdain for most political ideas that stray toward liberalism and a profound loathing for the mainstream media. The online bashing of “liberals,” “leftists” and “socialists” is especially vicious when it is tied to the MSM, whose members are uniformly perceived to be all of the above."
This pattern mirrors other commenting patterns. When unmoderated commenting is allowed a few nuts make it a lot harder for everyone. As I write this I find the same struggle being played out over on the Topix.com forum pages. This is not a place I frequent but I do stop by every now and then to see what new insults I can steal and whose flame thrower is gassed up. My good friend Ronnie Roach (also known as He Who will Never Learn His Lesson or HWwNLHL for short) is waging a battle with "Who Cares" and "Boo Hoo" about civility on line. While I believe his cause (and the Pilot's efforts) are just there is simply nothing anyone can do to eliminate trolls and flames other than complete moderation. That becomes very hard for an organization like the Pilot that needs broad appeal and an appearance (at least) of openness. Censorship, even of idiots and imbeciles, still flies in the face of "free speech". I've gotten over it. Others still struggle with it.
I noted a great deal of sadness a tone of resignation in David Sanders last post on the Southern Shores Times. David has been exploring the future of the Southern Shores Volunteer Fire Dept. and its budget struggles with SS Town Council. Excellent writing. His post about the struggles between the volunteer and paid staffs having a pretty consistent and not necessarily happy pattern, was very astute. Take it from someone who was part of the process and problem for many years. David, if you are reading this don't give up. You have a great story to tell and understand that if people are pushing back then you are getting close to the truth. It has happened to a lot of local bloggers. The only way to beat the bad guys is to keep telling the truth, moderate your comments and ignore the idiots. The people who agree with you don't always let you know.
Bottom line, send me a comment, let me know your listening. No flame throwers need apply.



At 12:24 PM, Blogger Ronnie Roach said...

My wife thinks my assigned name is very appropriate. It was much funnier coming from you...


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