You know, there are times when you know you’re right and you just want to be proven right, and when it’s eventually proven that you’re right you’re not really sure what to do with it. Well, I had that happen this week, and what I decided to do was write about it here.


by Michael Tracey

On my newest blog, I wrote a post titled I Hate Syracuse.com. Basically it was a minor rant against news sites that allow comments without attribution, which pretty much means people don’t have to stay on topic or add to the conversation, but can be downright piggish and mean. I hate that and I decided to write about it on that blog because this was my local newspaper and online site, although I did mention other news sites in the article as well.

This past Monday I had an opportunity to talk with a representative of the site about the comments section. He wasn’t necessarily happy that I’d written what I did and thought it was unfair. Time after time I said I hated the comments and why didn’t they just require people to use their real name. In my opinion, if people weren’t hiding behind fake names they’d behave better.

I knew all the time what the reason was, and after nearly 30 minutes he finally stated it; because they worried that not as many people would leave comments and the site would look empty. It was almost too easy, yet, as I said, I knew that was the real answer, and the reason why all the other news sites do it.

I was kind but insistent. I said that we run our blogs with the intention of making sure that discourse stayed civil, and that at a moment’s notice we would eliminate any response that didn’t fit our sense of decorum. I’ve always said that I don’t mind if people don’t agree with me, but if there’s bad language or threatening language that comment is gone, and fast. After all, I pay for this space, so in essence it’s my online home, and no one messes up my home. He didn’t quite see it the same way, although he did say that they did work hard to keep things at a reasonable level.

Whether that’s what I see or not isn’t necessarily the point. The point is that we all get to choose whether we’re going to hold ourselves and those we interact with in our space accountable for their actions or not. Many folks who write about how to drive comments on blogs say to write about a controversial subject. While that might work, often you might find yourself suddenly dealing with someone who not only disagrees with you, but goes overboard and forces you to decide whether to go with the flow and be happy for the activity or censor in some fashion because you want to keep the discussion going in a different manner.

With censorship you risk people deciding that maybe your blog or space isn’t as open as they’d like and they could possibly leave and never come back. That’s kind of possible, but I say “so what”. If you’re going to change your ethics because you’re worried about reactions, then are your ethics really worth having? Or are they ethics at all?

And really, is it censorship if you ask people to behave, and if they don’t you kill their message? I tend to think not. After all, for all the people who use a lot of bad language, I’ve found that when put into certain situations they all know how not to say certain stuff. I have friends who will curse up a storm, yet they know they can’t use that same language at work, so I ask them not to use it in front of me. If you can actually control a behavior here and there then you’ve shown you know better.

You know my point of view; how do you see this particular subject? Would you be happy with 200 comments a day if most of them were hateful or would you rather have fewer comments but know that your family could read them without worry, if they ever read your blog?

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