A word on the trolls issue

As a reader, it’s frustrating to read a good article only to follow it up by inane, insensitive and insulting comments.  A reply may have been ready, but having been sidetracked by the comments already left, it’s often hard to keep track of what was initially in the article.

Commenting is an important part of the web journalism process, but it is still a work in progress.  If it is this frustrating for the intelligent reader, imagine how it is for the journalist.

The guidelines set forth by the blog post “Expel Trolls, Racists and Promote Good User Comments on News Sites” make some excellent suggestions that I agree with.

Most online trolls do it for attention.  They have no interest in the story or the dialogue; they get off on making a scene.  In this case, shouting fire when there is no fire.  A journalist or editors participation in the discussion makes this less exciting.  Having the authority figure on hand to slap their hand and shut them down quickly is akin to getting caught with the hand in the cookie jar.

Being an online presence definitely helps, but there are still those who will ignore it and continue on.  This is where moderation comes in.

Some would argue that in order to have an open dialogue, you cannot police and remove comments. I disagree.  If something is intentionally offensive, and in most cases it’s easy to tell when a troll is doing this, it should be removed.

There is a difference between open dialogue and shouting insults.  The people who go into the comments on a story about a minority and fill it with bigoted diatribe aren’t doing it to make a statement, they’re doing it to make waves; to stir the pot and get a reaction.  Those comments serve no purpose other than to insult the writer and the reader.

I also believe in “verified” accounts.  Anyone who wants to comment but does not want to verify who they are most likely has nothing constructive to add.  Besides, it’s not that hard to create a fake email these days.

Hoisting comments and blog backs are both neat ideas, but I believe that the commenters that they will benefit are the ones that are going to continually participate regardless.  While it does open up more dialogue, it is really only good for certain stories and one has to ask just how much time does a busy journalist have to continually create new blog posts on an old subject?  How many good comments do you choose to “hoist”?

Overall it was a good article with great ideas.  I personally like commenting on news articles.  As a reader it’s often difficult to slog through the bad stuff, as there seems to be more of it than good.  But once news sources get a better handle on the commenting system, I think it will truly benefit the writer and the public.



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