Walter Russell Meade at Via Meadia, a blog I frequently read, is ending comments and here is his explanation why:
We apologize to the readers who participated in or valued the comments section on the blog, and especially to the well mannered and thoughtful contributors who never tried to hog the microphone, launch flame wars, smuggle hate speech into the comment page, rant about personal pet peeves repeatedly and predictably, let partisan or ideological animus run wild or otherwise abuse what at its best was a forum for reflection and thoughtful debate. To such belongs the Kingdom of Heaven, and your insights were appreciated, your praise cherished and your thoughtful censure was a cause for reflection. You know who you are, and this would be a much poorer world without you.
For the rest, we wish you well, and are confident that you will find many opportunities both in cyberspace and in the meat world for the kind of exchanges and conversations you seek. Thankfully this remains a free country where all of us can pursue happiness along whatever paths look promising; enjoy the pursuit and may we all find our heart’s deepest desire at the end of the road.
I believe that comments add a lot to the blog. They turn a monologue into hopefully an entertaining give and take; thoughtful criticism can improve most posts; the blogger gets immediate feedback on what he or she has written, etc. I have found for the past few years however, that in order for comments to be useful, it is necessary for a blogger to be quite familiar with the terms “moderation” and “ban”.
TAC is a group blog and each contributor normally makes moderation and banning decisions in regard to their own threads. When the blog started four years ago I was initially somewhat hesitant to use either moderation or banning but that has changed over the years. Here is some explanation of my current policies regarding both.
Moderation is automatically applied to anyone who has never left a comment at the blog. This of course is a mechanism to prevent drive by trolls from launching a pure insult comment. After the initial comment is approved the commenter is taken off moderation and may post freely.
What gets someone placed on moderation?
Direct insults aimed at another commenter. I normally allow some lee-way if a commenter is directing an insult at me, at least if it is witty, although my patience tends to be limited.
Outrageous comments. (Yes, T.Shaw I am looking at you!) These include threatening to shoot anyone, a comment filled with vulgarities, etc. I have T.Shaw on permanent moderation in this category, although I suspect he rather likes it as it enhances his bad boy of the blog image. Happy to oblige T.Shaw.
Anti-Catholic bigotry. This blog was not set up to give anti-Catholics a forum.
Riding a hobby-horse too frequently. Some commenters will insist upon bringing every discussion around to their hobby-horse issue. Do that too frequently and moderation awaits.
Getting on Don’s nerves. I blog for fun, and commenters who take the fun away will find themselves in moderation.
This is not a comprehensive list, but the above are the major categories.
Banning from the site occurs in the following situations.
Drive by trolls. Normally you do not get to see the comments and I simply ban the authors as a matter of course.
Anti-Catholic bigots. Banning is for those who either do not take the hint from a stay in moderation, or who make a comment so vilely anti-Catholic that it is a waste of time keeping them around.
Anti-Semites and Anti-Blacks. I do not wish to keep them from their Klan rally.
Disturbed individuals. If a comment indicates to my untrained eye that someone is mentally disturbed they will be banned, mostly since taking verbal potshots at a deranged individual is not sporting.
Conspiracy mongers. If you are certain that the Illuminati, the Tri-Lateralists, the Cattle Mutilators or (insert name of group) are behind the scenes pulling the strings, we will not keep you from sharing your insight on other sites.
Being a persistent pest. Longtime readers may recall the Catholic Anarchist who was banned after a year’s attempt at turning every thread into a fight between him and all and sundry. That got old fast and it was a violation of the first commandment of blogging: Thou Shalt Not Bore!
Violating the rules against acting crazy on the internet. Go here to this fine post by Paul Zummo to read the rules.
Not a comprehensive list of the factors I take into consideration when banning someone, but most of them. I hope that no one I ban takes it personally or to heart. Banning from a blog to my mind is equivalent to being gummed by an elderly toothless poodle who is attempting to tell you that your presence is no longer desired on her turf. It doesn’t really hurt, but it is time to move on!
Banning and moderation help me prune the comboxes to make them more entertaining to our readers. To me, the comboxes are just as important as my posts, and I pay close attention to the comments as a result.
We have a great stable of regular commenters at TAC. I usually find your comments insightful, frequently witty and sometimes challenging. You have helped make this blog the success it is, and I thank you from the bottom of my cold lawyer’s heart!