Back in February, serious concerns from the community forced me to take a harder look at our comment section.
If you recall, the concerns were based on my moderating style that let too many mean and inappropriate comments get through. I’d known for years that some folks had stopped reading the comments because of the tenor of BikePortland commenters, but I didn’t take those concerns as seriously as I should have. It took getting called-out on Twitter and some pointed private messages and conversations for me to finally understand why our comment section wasn’t just disliked by some people, but in need of immediate intervention.
Because of changes I’ve made, the comments are a lot better now. At least I think they are. I’d love to know what you think.
Why do I think they’re better now? Two reasons: I moderate every single comment that comes in, and I delete a lot more of them.
Previously, once someone had a comment approved, all subsequent comments would be published instantly. (This doesn’t include folks I’ve put on a moderation list because of past misconduct and/or because I can’t trust them.) We get about 250-350 comments per week. I read all of them to make sure they meet my new standard of appropriateness.
Deleting more comments feels great! In the past I would give the benefit to the commenter and would stretch my own boundaries to find reasons to allow questionable comments through. I had convinced myself that unproductive disagreement, strong (even insensitive) critiques, and low-level meanness were valuable to the community. I had my reasons for this approach, but they were wrong. These days none of that stuff gets through.
One interesting result of this new approach is that many of the most problematic and consistently negative/mean commenters have simply vanished. This makes our site better and my life less stressful.
I’m happy to say the comment section is here to stay. When we asked if they should be shut down, 82% of our reader survey respondents (850 people out of 1034), said “no”.
Having an open, helpful, and welcoming comment section is so important to me. Thank you for all your feedback on this and for being patient as I continue to evolve and make changes as necessary.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and email@example.com
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