January 18, 2012

Is it possible to do good "back-end moderation" of comments on a high-traffic blog?

At Volokh Conspiracy, Orin Kerr goes on at some length on the subject but ends up saying, in a word: no.

My blog gets about the same amount of traffic as his. (A little more, actually, lately.) And with Meade's help, my blog now goes with "back-end moderation," as discussed here. It was hard to get around the realization that this is the best approach and that it can actually be done. It does involve paying a lot of attention, applying judgment, and remembering who's said what and what you've done about it in the past. This is a behind-the-scenes role, and maybe it's too Meade-specific for other bloggers to use. But it's working for me.

56 comments:

Charlie Martin said...

Orin handles it by banning anyone who wins an argument with him

Browndog said...

Agreed.

It requires a lot of attention.

Though I just had my first comment deleted, I refuse to make yours and Meade's jobs harder.

Again, I apologize--in good faith

shiloh said...

"Orin handles it by banning anyone who wins an argument with him"

Indeed, problem solved. But that would eliminate all the liberals at this site, including Althouse! lol

"We never promised you a rose garden ...

John Lynch said...

I've noticed that the number of comments per thread has dropped dramatically.

pbAndjFellowRepublican said...

"But it's working for me."

Would you like to share how it was helpful when you edited yourself earlier today. When you wiped out all comments in a thread. A thorough coverup, indeed.

Presumably you decided that it wouldn't be a good idea to have you endorsing the disparagement of a WI gov candidate because of her speech impairment.

Chip Ahoy said...

Fuck off pb&j, nobody cares about your obsession.

edutcher said...

Ann handles it pretty well, I think.

The trolls may not like it, but some of the more notorious thread hijackers have been brought under control, so it's probably all to the good.

shiloh said...

"Orin handles it by banning anyone who wins an argument with him"

Indeed, problem solved. But that would eliminate all the liberals at this site, including Althouse!


She doesn't have to ban people. Shiloh can attest.

She certainly kicked his ass about a month ago and he still slinks back.

Scott M said...

When you wiped out all comments in a thread. A thorough coverup, indeed.

What was the headline of that thread, PB? ATOM delivers all of them to my inbox and they don't get deleted when blogger deletes them.

shiloh said...

"When you wiped out all comments in a thread."

Damn, I missed another Althouse mini-drama. :-P

First they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the journalists, and I didn't speak out ...

er Socialists er liberals er conservatives.

Too over the top! :D

John Lynch said...

Why do people think that what happens in an internet comment thread is of cosmic significance?

It doesn't matter and no one cares except the relative few who bother reading your comment. The internet gives the illusion of a wide audience.

No one wants to read your shit. That's the truth, with very few exceptions.

Either the site edits comments, or the readers will. By not reading them at all.

Henry said...

Could Meade do it for the Volokh Conspiracy? What are his rates?

Orin handles it by banning anyone who wins an argument with him

I've never seen anyone win an argument in a comments thread ever.

shiloh said...

For the record Althouse has never kicked me off, although I come and go as I please. And when my posts are deleted by Meade I find the inconsistency somewhat amusing, such is the nature of most political blogs.

btw, you can ban an IP address, but it's fairly easy to come up w/another IP address and nic if one is totally "consumed" w/a certain blog lol.

Also, I think Althouse secretly likes me ~ ok perhaps I exaggerate a tad ...

John Lynch said...

And why all the emphasis on a technological solution? Why the aversion to using human judgement?

Law profs, of all people, should understand that rules are enforced by human decisions. I'm referring to Kerr, since Althouse figured it out.

The electronics are secondary- the internet is a human medium.

Scott M said...

I've never seen anyone win an argument in a comments thread ever.

Garage Mahal beat himself thoroughly in the famous Gore's House/Bush's House debacle. It was amazing to watch. He admits, good-naturedly (as long as you don't bring it up too often) that he was dead wrong.

Scott M said...

And why all the emphasis on a technological solution? Why the aversion to using human judgement?

Because humans suck. I know a few of those guys and they're awful.

chickenlittle said...

This is a behind-the-scenes role, and maybe it's too Meade-specific for other bloggers to use. But it's working for me.

Comment meadiation?

I hope comment Meadiator lets this one stand. :)

shiloh said...

Also, actually or delusionally thinking one has won an internet political thread debate and $2/$3 will get you a cup of coffee ...

edutcher said...

shiloh said...

For the record Althouse has never kicked me off

Never said she did, but I haven't seen a better ass-whipping since the one vbspurs (damn, I miss her) handed to him.

Henry said...

One odd thing about Kerr's post is how much he worries about how comment moderation will create accusations of bias.

Does it matter?

It matters a little, in that commenters who comment in order to make accusations of bias are incredibly tedious.

But if you ignore them, does it matter? Maybe the only secret to 'good "back-end moderation" of comments' is a thick skin.

shiloh said...

vbspurs ?!?

If actually/delusionally true ;) which I doubt, please refer to my recent $3/$3 post.

shiloh said...

$2/$3 ~ btw since I don't drink coffee, what is the price? Never mind.

Browndog said...

Personally, I liked it better when Althouse called people out in public--

Or, at least asked for clarification first.

Once unleashed, the Banhammer never sleeps

I trust Meade knows how personal one can take it when you have a comment deleted for the first time-suddenly, without warning.

Scott M said...

Maybe the only secret to 'good "back-end moderation" of comments' is a thick skin.

Surely there is validity to this, however there is also the rabid jaguar that keeps trying to piss all over the restaurant you like to visit day to day. Something's got to be done about that Jaguar. In this particular case, whatever the means, however it shook it, it worked. That Jaguar turned sock puppet then pretty much sulked back to it's lair.

Henry said...

@Scott M -- I've certainly seen misstatement of facts, garbled statistics, errors in simple math and reading comprehension, ad hominems, strawmen, scapegoats, simple logic failures, and plain stupidity.

But no one ever changes his or her mind.

If Garage did, more power to him. That's why he's a mensch.

Henry said...

Scott M wrote Surely there is validity to this, however there is also the rabid jaguar that keeps trying to piss all over the restaurant you like to visit day to day.

What I meant is that it takes a thick skin to bounce the jaguar and not care about the hyenas baying about bias.

David said...

Back end moderation?

For a moment I thought this was going to be about Pipa Middleton.

shiloh said...

ok, I misread edutcher as Althouse certainly has never kicked my ass. Hell, she's only relied to me 4/5 times, the last one to which edutcher refers ?!? she called me some childish names and said I wasn't funny.

And yes, I was mortally wounded! ;)

Toshtu said...

"Why do people think that what happens in an internet comment thread is of cosmic significance?"

Ask Charles Johnson at LGF, he's obsessed with them.

You'd probably get banned, though.

John Lynch said...

Toshtu-

Actually, I was thinking of Charles Johnson.

What a lonely man.

toby said...

Comments are down, it doesn't take a math professor to figure that out. A lot of the more irreverent, non sycophants are gone. Be careful what you wish for Ms. and Mrs. Althouse. It's been boring the past few weeks. And, although you like to think you are the whole show, you ain't deary. I'm guessing you never played a team sport.

toby said...

David, I'm thinking of Brando in Last Tango in Paris, "Get the butter" was his order when he was about to do some "back end moderation."

Meade said...

Doing the best I can. I'll probably start deleting toby pretty soon. He's getting pretty boring. But I'm lazy so it might take me awhile.

Ann Althouse said...

"I've noticed that the number of comments per thread has dropped dramatically."

I haven't. But if you are right, it's only the number, not the total substance of what's there. We get rid of a certain kind of back-and-forth stuff between 2 or 3 commenters that made the number go up, but drove most readers away.

Ryan said...

Wordpress does a better job at this (via plugins) than blogger. There are lots of comment moderation plugins that show a previous comment count per user etc - or that automatically post comments from commenters that have had a previous comment approved.

tl;dr: blogger sucks

toby said...

"I'll probably start deleting toby soon."

I'm visualizing Chauncey the gardener played superbly by Peter Sellers in Being There. He's walking down the street and some thugs start hassling him. Chauncey, thinking he can control everything w/ his tv remote tries to change the channel.

I suppose someone w/ little power would relish what little they have and invariably abuse it.

Beta Rube said...

So writing "Get the butter" in a comment is the surest way to get deleted by Meade.

Good to know.

Lyle said...

High traffic blog moderation doesn't work for solo blogs (see Ta-Nehisi Coates) or comment sections (bhtv) where the moderators pay attention sporadically and have their own biases.

Ta-Nehisi's comment section is now largely an internal progressive comment section adorned with many sycophants for good measure. He too often deletes comments that straight forwardly undermine his post or that conflict with the mob mentality of his sycophants. Pretty much if you disagree with him, he'll delete what you write. Especially when he's wrong and posted something not supported with evidence.

He actually accused me of lying once... when there was no such basis for him to assert as much. He had no idea what he was doing because he was not paying close enough attention to the discussion.

With Meade you have help and he reads it all (more or less) and had knowledge of what people have said before. So there is good faith on y'all's part, I think.

However, I liked the previous regime better... just letting people post whatever unless it was spam. Under the current regime you can make mistakes and wrongly punish peoples' comments.

Scott M said...

He's getting pretty boring. But I'm lazy so it might take me awhile.

Whatever you do, don't collapse in a fit of manic apathy.

Meade said...

"However, I liked the previous regime better... just letting people post whatever unless it was spam. Under the current regime you can make mistakes and wrongly punish peoples' comments. "

I agree. But you know - they are just blog comments after all. Most people save copies if they believe their comments are truly worthwhile, right?

OneLifeLiveIt said...

You could add Disqus as an add on to your blog comments as it gives you more control. Though many of your regular readers seem to have blogger id's so you may lose your regular readership.

virgil xenophon said...

Well, everything is a double-edged sword. I miss some of the more "creative" LOL invective here by some no longer allowed but at the end 30 posts by two people in a pi$$ing contest gets old fast. Best to hie by Aristotle's "Golden-Rule": Everything in "moderation." lol..

traditionalguy said...

Moderate moderaton is needed to protect an endangered species called civil discussion. I am happy to see it works well here at the Althouse Game Preserve.

Good job, Warden Meade.

Lyle said...

"But you know - they are just blog comments after all. Most people save copies if they believe their comments are truly worthwhile, right?"

Yes, we are just talking about blog comments after all. I'm not sure most people copy what they post, but certainly if they want to engage the blogger or site seriously they probably would... as you guys did with the Mr. Farley fiasco.

As of now I prefer to remain a meek commenter who survives at the whim of others. :)

I think you guys do a good job though and this blog has one of the most laissez faire attitudes towards comments, which I think is great.

Chip S. said...

Wish you'd called it a "high-end blog".

Browndog said...

I agree. But you know - they are just blog comments after all. Most people save copies if they believe their comments are truly worthwhile, right?

Wrong. And you know it.

JAL said...

There is only One Meade, Profesor.

No one else has him.

And don't you forget it. (We don't.)

But of course, someone else probably has mentioned this.

Paco Wové said...

"It's been boring the past few weeks."

And I'm going to keep coming back here to tell you how bored I am. This free ice cream is really crappy, Ms. Althouse!

I do think there truly was a golden age of Althouse commentary, though -- it was back when the blogging cockroach and Sir Archy made regular appearances. The more recent flocks of ankle-biters (vide referenced comment) are more noise than signal, and are not missed, with maybe one exception.

JAL said...

Professor, that is.

shiloh said...

"golden age of Althouse"

At my 1st political blog, a current affairs forum at a reality tv site, which I frequented regularly ~ the golden age was 2003/2006.

What caught my eye initially was some of the participants really, really didn't like each other and so "fitting in" would be an easy process for me. :D

After the 2006 mid-term, many of the conservatives stopped posting ~ shocking! Whereas liberals, as a rule, never leave. Plus it's just more fun being a liberal.

Nixon/Safire/ailes said America, love it or leave! and again, shockingly all the liberals stayed. :)

The yin and yang of liberals/conservatives.

carry on

rcommal said...

Irony herein.

tiger said...

I'm surprised to see the deletion happen, not because - in my limited visits here - it was deserved but that it took so long to happen.

I remember reading numerous posts - all by people left-of-center - that seemed to me to be deliberately taunting and insulting people and who needs that?

Well thought-out arguements by the loyal opposition are one thing; bombing throwing with the aim of leaving scorched earth - by either side - is quite another.

a psychiatrist who learned from veterans said...

@Lyle. For some reason, for instance in OKs post, people are going to recommend TNC's methods. I was banned after my first comment after he said something and slammed all R's for not agreeing with it. I was short about disagreeing with 1:1 characterization and that was, for a while, the end of me. I was released later but what happens with that kind of moderation I think is that party line ad hominem attacks are encouraged. I forget who Ann banned recently but as 'Volokh' says it's a big internet. I'd like to see a list of Banned (commenters) sites on the blog roll. Could check on their flaming disagreements then.

rcommal said...

Hey, I've been both deleted and not deleted. I'm certain neither matter any more than I do in the vast "blogospheric" scheme[s] of things.

Sweat not. Focus otherwise.

wv: flows

LOL: I kid you not, that's what it is--and how perfect is that?

And a large pfuie to those who find noting a "wv" annoying: No doubt I find you annoying in some way or another as well. So what?

Move along, move on... .

Lem said...

I posted How Newt lost me in an open tread and it was sacked.

Henry said...

Most people save copies if they believe their comments are truly worthwhile, right?

I usually draft mine on my hand with a sharpie. The best ones I copy to the city sidewalk in chalk.

rcommal said...

Nowadays, even the using of "jew boy," not to mention various other stuff, as a gratuitous call-out/challenge gets a pass. It's all casual, now.

Timing is everything, is how I reckon it.