Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Thoughts on Blogging, Moderation

In reference to this conversation from awhile back, it seems that the person who made a hate site targeting a popular feminist has shut it down.

While the site owner and many participants openly mocked the idea that running a blog is work and scoffed at the very notion of moderation as a necessary component to Internet community and communication, it turns out that, newsflash, both running a blog and moderating it in a way that satisfies all readers is…. oftentimes both difficult and thankless.

A significant portion of Internet users expect zero moderation while another significant portion expects moderation that is perfectly crafted to filter out anything that offends their particular sensibilities while allowing the free amplification of their own thoughts/obsessions, with many people falling somewhere in between these two ends.

I'm not sure people fully appreciate what it's like to moderate a forum unless they've done so themselves.

I've seen and been involved with many approaches to comment moderation and have yet to see a system that's perfect or, hell, even great.

In "anything goes" forums, hostile commenters tend to drive many people out, which I see as a loss of many potentially thoughtful commenters. I've seen many people laud certain blogs for being super lax about comments, but I think those people don't fully appreciate what conversations they're missing. Many people won't comment at all if they know or suspect they'll be attacked in response. I, for instance, read many more blogs than I actually comment on, including MRA and anti-LGBT sites.

Yet, creating a forum with commenting rules, requires those rules to be implemented. At best, in any forum (including my own) these rules are usually implemented imperfectly by imperfect humans. People banned or moderated end up feeling, justifiably or not, attacked, scolded, abused, harassed, or otherwise mistreated because the rules are, or supposedly are, implemented in an unfair, unjust, or discriminatory way.

And, of course, if you have a forum with rules, you must also at times implement these rules among even those whose politics and basic core beliefs you might share. Which can be awkward and, even for the person enforcing the rule, shitty.

For me, banning or calling out commenters who are, for instance, overtly misogynistic of the MRA variety is much easier than, say, calling out a commenter who is or appears to be feminist but who nonetheless has said something problematic. Recently, for instance, someone new to commenting at Fannie's Room said something that I mostly agreed with but used the word "lame." So here's my dilemma, just as someone who runs a small-fry blog like mine:

A) I could say nothing about the person's use of the word "lame," even though I'd prefer that the term not be used in that way in my space.

Some readers would interpret my silence as implicitly approving of the term. Indeed, some readers have, in the past, overtly said that I am responsible for every single thing people post in my space - as though every comment I see and do not delete I must, therefore, agree with even if I'm too busy in any given week to pay much attention to comments. (Anyone remember "Neckbeard"-gate of 2012? HA HA HA. Fun times.)

B) I could request that the commenter not use the term "lame" at my blog, thus setting a clear boundary in this space.

In the ideal world, the commenter would respond with something like, "Okay, I understand - I respect your rules in your space" (which, to her credit, this particular person pretty much did!). Yet, moderating a comment, even if gently done, also runs the risk of the person being offended, feeling harassed, feeling embarrassed, getting angry, escalating the conversation, stopping participating at the blog, and/or going to another blog to publicly talk about how over-sensitive/mean I am.

Over the years, I have lost readers and Internet friends for, even gently, trying to moderate comments. I'm not writing this in a "woe is me" mentality, I'm just explaining a thought process that I sometimes engage when it comes to moderation. And, hell, if I'm busy, it's a thought process I refuse to engage. After more than 7 years of blogging, I see patterns in commenting and can pick up pretty quickly when a person is going to become A Problem.  When I see it, I don't tolerate it, it's just, Bam.  You're out, douche. (Are we still saying d-bag?)

Anyway, for larger sites, I'm sure these considerations are greatly magnified.

My point here is that about a month or so ago, I had actually drafted some long-winded (if you can believe it!) thoughts about the particular hate site that I'm vaguely referencing and don't want to give publicity to. I decided against posting it.

Sometimes, running a blog is enough of its own punishment*.  People learn that eventually.

(*But, of course, I love you all. For being perfect. Did you get a hair cut? It's lovely!)

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