Commenting policies across the internet have undergone many changes over the years. Several years ago, it was common to find sites that allowed anyone to comment completely anonymously and without any moderation at all. In addition to encouraging spam, this comment policy “strategy” did not encourage productive comments. That strategy eventually gave way to requiring people to prove that they weren’t a spam robot by completing a CAPTCHA, which — although it was really annoying and deterred thoughtful commenters — also had the benefit of discouraging commenters who were too lazy to perform a relatively simple task before commenting. In turn, this strategy ceded to attempts to de-anonymize commenters by requiring them to sign in using social media accounts like Facebook or Google+. The thought was that, by forcing commenters to reveal their offline identity, people would be less willing to leave comments that they would be ashamed to have associated with their real names. But even this strategy wasn’t perfect, as users can create dummy accounts without much effort.
Now, in addition to requiring commenters to verify their identity, most of the internet has moved to moderating comments as well. The reason for this is that bad comments can actually change the way people interpret a post and ruin a discussion. This idea is supported by a study written by Dominique Brossard and Dietram A. Scheufele of the University of Wisconsin-Madison:
…about 2,000 people were asked to read a balanced news report about nanotechnology followed by a group of invented comments. All saw the same report but some read a group of comments that were uncivil, including name-calling. Others saw more civil comments.
“Disturbingly, readers’ interpretations of potential risks associated with the technology described in the news article differed significantly depending only on the tone of the manipulated reader comments posted with the story,” wrote authors Dominique Brossard and Dietram A. Scheufele.
“In other words, just the tone of the comments . . . can significantly alter how audiences think about the technology itself.”
Researchers found that even knowledge of science did not seem to mediate the effects of the comments.
As I said, this study clearly supports a comment moderation strategy. Here at the Wages of Wins we’ve been moderating comments for a while, but after some discussion amongst ourselves, we have decided to be very liberal with our moderation.
I should note that this process is not “censorship”. This blog is not an open forum, nor is it a debate between two (or more) equal parties. Think of this blog as our house. Coming into our house is not a right — we are not required to let you in — it’s a privilege. Leaving a comment is like coming inside; we decide who gets to come in, and if you say anything we don’t appreciate, we are going to ask you to leave. If you post a comment on our blog, either you adhere to our commenting policy, or we will delete your comment. If we delete your comment, you can complain all you want, but the final decision is up to us.
Bora Zivkovic of Scientific American has written an excellent post on the subject, including the following quote:
You have no right to be here, no right to say anything – it is up to me to welcome you here, and up to you to ensure you are welcomed.
It’s also important to remember that — despite our awesome powers as Wages of Wins editors — we do not control the internet. If you want to post something to the internet, you are still free to do so. All you have to do is start your own blog or find one that will let you be a contributor.
So, in order for you to ensure that you are welcome at the Wages of Wins and that your comments will be posted, please follow our comment policy.
The good news
We love commenters! It’s worth noting that, while this blog started out with Dave Berri providing 99.9% of the content, today most of the content is written by former commenters! We love seeing comments and frequently draw on them for inspiration. We want to foster a community of good discussion and hopefully more excellent writers/editors.
Since moving to our new domain just over a year ago, our readership has doubled. We hope that our renewed commitment to comment moderation, along with your support, will help us continue to grow in the future. We know a lot of this has to do with the great interaction with our commenters, many of whom have their own blogs that they use to link us.
The simple point is that we want to foster a good community to discuss statistics and decision making in sports. Candidly, just letting anyone say whatever they want? It’s not building or promoting the community we want. If you’re interested in leaving productive comments, welcome to the Wages of Wins! If not, well, the internet is a big place and we’re sure there are other sites that will be happy to listen to your comments.
– The Wages of Wins team