AnnArbor.com makes some internal changes to moderation policies
Moderating comments is a challenging daily responsibility for the moderating team at AnnArbor.com. Our goal is to provide a forum for lively and interesting conversation - minus the insults, personal attacks, false information and plain venom you can find elsewhere on the Web.
We have certainly learned a lot over the past several months. We try to follow our conversation guidelines as consistently as possible and at least once, we've made changes to our policies. And we try to listen to what our community has to say about the way we moderate comments.
Recently, we've made a few additional changes to the way we moderate comments that I wanted to share. In the coming months, we hope to institute a few other changes, and I'd like to get your feedback on some of those ideas as well.
One internal change we've made recently is moving to pre-moderation for comments with links. As the number of comments - and commenters - on our site has increased, so have the number of links that folks are sharing. That's great. We want to encourage that. However, we've had some issues with people sharing inappropriate links. Pre-moderation allows us to check the links before the comment goes live.
We haven't done pre-moderation anywhere else on the site because we think it will impede the natural flow of quick back-and-forth debate. This pre-moderation of links is an experiment, and we'll closely watch to see how it works.
A few other moderation notes to share:
Something else we're trying to do is reach out and engage some of our most frequent commenters, and those who use their real names on the site. Over the course of the next few months, we plan to host get togethers at AnnArbor.com for our most frequent and best commenters on the site - best meaning those folks who contribute civil, engaging thoughts to the discussion and many who use their real names.
Last, I wanted to share a couple things we're considering as changes to commenting on AnnArbor.com.
We know there are groups of people with opinions on each extreme when it comes to comments: those who hate them and those who think we should allow all comments without moderation. In the middle, there are many readers who think comments add valuable information - but they don't like reading through dozens of ones that add little to the conversation in the hopes of coming across the few that add really useful insight.
Working to find a balance between these different viewpoints, and struggling with how to moderate in general, is a fluid issue for news organizations across the country. The Washington Post recently posted a great article about how it is changing its approach to comments.
We think our readers ought to be able to choose what experience they want to have when they visit AnnArbor.com. One change we are considering is making it possible for readers to hide comments entirely. We are also looking at creating a system for selecting preferred comments. Such comments would be pushed to the top of the comment thread, with the rest of the comment thread appearing in sequential order below.
Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
(This post was updated to include information that candidates for public office also must use their real name when commenting on AnnArbor.com.)