Washington Post Editor Defends Anonymous Unmoderated Comments

from the good-for-him dept

When it comes to major media properties (and even quite a few blogs these days), it seems that "moderating" comments has become the norm. However, it's surprising (though, refreshing) to see a Washington Post editor speak up in defense of unmoderated and anonymous comments, which the Washington Post allows:
I believe that it is useful to be reminded bluntly that the dark forces are out there and that it is too easy to forget that truth by imposing rules that obscure it. As Oscar Wilde wrote in a different context, "Man is least in himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth."

Too many of us like to think that we have made great progress in human relations and that little remains to be done. Unmoderated comments provide an antidote to such ridiculous conclusions. It's not like the rest of us don't know those words and hear them occasionally, depending on where we choose to tread, but most of us don't want to have to confront them.
What's most impressive is that this comes from a guy who wasn't just opposed to such things originally, but was opposed to the whole concept of "blogging." When he finally relented to blogging, he was adamantly against unmoderated comments... but the more he's seen, the more he's realized the value in them:
I have come to think that online comments are a terrific addition to the conversation and that journalists need to take them seriously. Comments provide a forum for readers to complain about what they see as unfairness or inaccuracy in an article (and too often they have a point), to talk to each other (sometimes in an uncivilized manner) and, yes, to bloviate....

In fact, comment strings are often self-correcting and provide informative exchanges. If somebody says something ridiculous, somebody else will challenge it. And there is wit.... Comments also tell us that readers do not always agree with journalists about what is important.
We have always felt that way about comments. While they can be frustrating and ridiculous at times, they are also incredibly educational and entertaining. And, the most ridiculous stuff of all is quickly dismantled by others. That said, it doesn't mean that there aren't ways to improve the commenting experience without necessarily moderating or banning anonymous commenters. We're working on some things here that we'll be rolling out in the near future to hopefully continue to improve the overall commenting and discussion experience.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2009 @ 2:30pm

    Indeed, anonymous commenting helps people freely post, and also allowing registered comments in addition to this allows for posters who choose to to build a reputation on their name or handle.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Tgeigs, Apr 9th, 2009 @ 2:54pm

    HAHAHHAHAHA

    "If somebody says something ridiculous, somebody else will challenge it"

    I think someone's ears are ringing...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2009 @ 3:03pm

    By the way, I'd like the money you owe me, Mister Amazon.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Ryan, Apr 9th, 2009 @ 3:16pm

    See how much techdirt appreciates the anonymous comments, you cowards?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Sweet Chuckie, Apr 9th, 2009 @ 3:17pm

    Near future improvements...

    We're working on some things here that we'll be rolling out in the near future to hopefully continue to improve the overall commenting and discussion experience.

    I take this to mean you've figured out how to block Weird Harold??
    Just kidding, of course... :-)

    SC

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    TheStuipdOne, Apr 9th, 2009 @ 3:29pm

    Comment Rating System

    Give us the option of thumbs up or thumbs down voting on comments. Then organize the comments based on the rating. So we'll be able to at least put the irrelevant comments at the bottom especially the ever annoying "FIRST I is god" comments. It is annoying that I have to see a few smartass comments before I can see a well thought out comment on an post

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2009 @ 3:49pm

    Feature Request

    We should have a nifty device called a troll button. Usage should be simple-- it should reside down at the bottom of any posted message if you have a have a cookie set, are a recognized user or something simple.

    But if the troll-button gets pushed 5 times, the troll should be banned for 5 days or something.

    Keep it as simple as possible.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2009 @ 4:01pm

      Re: Feature Request

      Banning users or removing posts is almost never a good option. Not "I don't like/agree with him." "Trolls" all to often are just very opinionated people who are also very wrong.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    ChimpBush McHitlerBurton, Apr 9th, 2009 @ 4:41pm

    "Troll Button" Folly

    As much as I despise the banal comments made by some on this site, I take heart in the medicine available to me, which is to rip them a new one when they do. Truthfully, the conspiracy buff in me thinks the Trolls are self-inflicted, and designed to create intrigue and wit-flaming anyway, so the more the merrier, eh?

    Any "Troll Button" would be worthless to those who run sites, and that is precisely why you won't be seeing them any time soon, or ever.

    Further, I find comments like "We're working on some things here that we'll be rolling out in the near future to hopefully continue to improve the overall commenting and discussion experience." to be mildly disturbing (not to mention sickeningly sweet-toothed), because they hint that those who run this site are toying with the idea of trying to control discourse on this site.

    That will reduce value and cause many to look elsewhere, infinite goods being what they are...

    Hoist with your own petard, Mike? I hope not.

    CBMHB

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      nasch, Apr 10th, 2009 @ 12:52pm

      Re: "Troll Button" Folly

      Where do you get "control discourse on this site" from "improve the overall commenting and discussion experience"? Maybe you'll like the changes and maybe not, but it seems like you're totally making stuff up.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2009 @ 5:22pm

    Change will do you good

    Ah now if only Weird Harold could learn from this man, perhaps he could get his head out of his corporate masters' backside and see that the world is changing and its a smart man who can tell which way the wind is blowing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Weird Harold, Apr 9th, 2009 @ 5:27pm

      Re: Change will do you good

      One day you guys will figure out I am NOT behold to any "corporate masters", and I certainly don't spend any time in anyone's backside.

      I can tell which way the wind is blowing, and mostly it's going to put the good ship "FREE!" up on the rocks.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Weird Harold, Apr 9th, 2009 @ 5:53pm

        Re: Re: Change will do you good

        Comments not made by me.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Weird Harold, Apr 9th, 2009 @ 5:56pm

          Re: Re: Re: Change will do you good

          Geez, the idiot impersonators are back.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            identicon
            Weird Harold, Apr 9th, 2009 @ 6:22pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Change will do you good

            I hope you impersonators are having fun. This shows the value of moderated comments. All comments before this one are fraudulent, and I look forward to the day when TechDirt sees the light and starts to control these little boys (and girls?). Perhaps these children's mothers will call them soon for dinner.

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            •  
              identicon
              The infamous Joe, Apr 10th, 2009 @ 6:25am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Change will do you good

              I agree with ya, it only serves to draw away from the conversation at hand.

              That being said, that first comment about which way the wind is blowing does look exactly like something you'd post.

              You may have a secret admirer. :P

              The only way to stop such things would be to have us all make accounts to post with a "name".

              Not that I'm against it, mind you.

               

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              •  
                identicon
                Weird Harold, Apr 10th, 2009 @ 9:37am

                DRM for Commenters

                I agree wholeheartedly. I think that too much is made of the value of anonymity anyway. What's wrong with me being able to identify some asinine poster and even possibly bring charges of libel against him if need be?

                Look, think of it as DRM for comments. I have the right to my identity, and TechDirt has the obligation (and right-minded intention, as I understand) to provide that DRM for me and all other commenters.

                I think it's a beautiful idea who's time has come, and I'm gratified that TechDirt sees it the same as I and all other legitimate commenters do.

                Finally, some common sense.

                 

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                •  
                  identicon
                  nasch, Apr 10th, 2009 @ 12:57pm

                  Re: DRM for Commenters

                  1) I think the option of anonymity is great, especially when combined with real user accounts, a la slashdot. That way someone could post anonymously, but could not impersonate you.

                  2) There is nothing stopping you from filing a libel lawsuit and trying to convince a judge to give you discovery powers to find out who these posters are. I hope I got the legal terms right, but I think you get my point. If we all had to register to post, the situation wouldn't be any different anyway, it's not like you would have our social security numbers and home addresses.

                  3) Techdirt has absolutely no obligation to you or any of the rest of us. If you don't like how their web site is run, you are free to leave.

                  4) What makes you think they see anything the same way that you do?

                   

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                •  
                  identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, Apr 10th, 2009 @ 5:38pm

                  Re: DRM for Commenters

                  I agree wholeheartedly. I think that too much is made of the value of anonymity anyway.

                  That's pretty funny, coming from an anonymous poster.

                  What's wrong with me being able to identify some asinine poster and even possibly bring charges of libel against him if need be?

                  So what's wrong with you revealing your identity?
                  Go ahead...
                  Yeah, that's what I thought.

                   

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2009 @ 5:38pm

    yes, of course, I forgot its WEIRD HAROLD...

    "I can tell which way the wind is blowing, and mostly it's going to put the good ship "FREE!" up on the rocks."

    Yep, those newfangled ideas people have....they will NEVER work! I mean, really, a HORSELESS carriage? Have you ever heard of such nonsense? No one would EVER attempt something so new, so risky, so...so....DIFFERENT from what we have now! Why, horses are natural! They are cheap, abundant (and renewable!) transportation. They serve all our current needs, so why bother trying to replace them with anything? Especially something so new and untried, something that requires an entirely new way of doing things, and entirely different infrastructure to accomplish. Why, its FOLLY! FOLLY I say! It will NEVER catch on, I dont know why people put so much effort into creating NEW WAYS to do things! MY land, its just such a waste of time, it makes me want to throw my hands in the air and just give up!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2009 @ 5:47pm

      Re: yes, of course, I forgot its WEIRD HAROLD...

      Wasn't there some doctor dude back in the day that said something like if you go more than 30 mph the wind would suck the air out of your lungs and you would die ?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    um no, Apr 9th, 2009 @ 6:00pm

    two words prove that anonymous unmoderated comments on high traffic sites are shit: digg youtube.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Hulser, Apr 9th, 2009 @ 6:27pm

    Notifications

    We're working on some things here that we'll be rolling out in the near future to hopefully continue to improve the overall commenting and discussion experience.

    Oh god, please let it me e-mail notifications of updated threads. I'd start creating an account in the first minute that feature was made available. It'd be very nice to be able to get a notification either when a post was made to the entire discussion or to any particular post that an individual makes.

    Without this kind of notification system, threads die out way too soon because people don't have the patience of will to check back to see if someone replied to their post. If I "dismantle" someone's idiotic comment (or try to) I want to at least feel like there's a possibility that I'll get a reply if I'm posting to a story that's no longer in the five most recent. As it is now, if a story gets too far away from the top, I'll skip posting a reply because of the increased odds no one will even see it. Personally, I think adding some kind of notification system would breath new life into the Techdirt comments.

    (Oh, and make the threaded view the default!)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2009 @ 6:43pm

    I hate it when someone impersonates me

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    no name, Apr 9th, 2009 @ 6:55pm

    Just wanted to see if I could comment

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    ulle, Apr 10th, 2009 @ 8:05am

    If you ban commenters because you don't like them or don't agree with them what do you end up with, a small group all saying the same thing and that would at best be boring as hell. Sure there are some people here that have different views but that is what makes the blog more interesting and I have seen many good thoughts arise from some of the debates that have occurred on this blog. I just hope that the Techdirt powers are very careful in creating any sort of control over this blog because that could ruin it.
    Just my 2cents worth

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Gene Cavanaugh, Apr 10th, 2009 @ 6:18pm

    Anonymous Comments

    I always give my identity, but I agree that the right to be anonymous is important. Of course, it allows scurrilous activity, but even that is educational (about bad behavior, anyway).
    I will add that TechDirt is the only journalism I always read.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 11th, 2009 @ 3:07pm

    Hmm..

    ..was anyone else hoping the first comment would read, "FIRST!"... irony, I tell you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    joe, Jun 18th, 2010 @ 11:54pm

    test

    test

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2010 @ 11:56pm

    free live bp feeds all 12

    found them here - http://wewhowatch.com

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    haier-hc125fvs, Oct 7th, 2010 @ 2:06pm

    Haier HC125FVS - 125-Can Beverage Center, Black

    This spacious beverage center from Haier HC125FVS - 125-Can Beverage Center, Black holds up to 125 cans of soda or beer for all your stockpiling needs. It's perfect for the dorm room, den or garage. Just fill the sleek black cabinet with your favorite thirst-quenchers and grab a can whenever you please.
    http://www.squidoo.com/haier-hc125fvs

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    America's unemployed, Oct 18th, 2010 @ 1:00pm

    http://americasunemployed.blogspot.com best unemployment blog around. see why America's unemployed are fighting back

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    America's unemployed, Oct 18th, 2010 @ 1:00pm

    http://americasunemployed.blogspot.com best unemployment blog around. see why America's unemployed are fighting back

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Jennifer, May 7th, 2011 @ 10:15pm

    amazing rare dual waterspouts in honolulu

    just got back from a trip to hawaii and check out what i saw while i was there, very rare dual waterspouts near waikiki, honolulu

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5BGql-Lzl8

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Amin Safi, Jun 8th, 2011 @ 9:12am

    py8@live.fr

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Duncan, Jun 16th, 2011 @ 1:31pm

    Unmoderated Comments

    I think that having a site without moderation of the comments it a great way to go, hopefully you don't get a bunch of crappy postings for things such as adult dating sites or porn, viagra and diet pills, but I am sure Askimet will filter that out anyway.

    I will have to consider doing this on my sites as well.

    Duncan
    bkloste@gmail.com

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    M, Jan 3rd, 2013 @ 4:25am

    an unmoderated comment

    Sorry for the spam, just proving a point to a person. Feel free to delete in a month or so.

    This email was created using 'SMS MMS to Email' Application


    To : Other
    Date : 2:48am, 1/3/2013
    We still in no speakee mode? If not I hear the ((location)) is a fun mtg.

    From : Other
    Date : 2:49am, 1/3/2013
    Wait new phone, who's this?

    To : Other
    Date : 2:49am, 1/3/2013
    ((me))

    To : Other
    Date : 2:50am, 1/3/2013
    Can confirm if needed

    To : Other
    Date : 2:51am, 1/3/2013
    First and last digit of pin are same

    From : Other
    Date : 2:55am, 1/3/2013
    You made the worst decision anyone can make, you took the fucking car, lied about it, I

    missed my friends funeral, and made my life a fucking hell. You need

    From : Other
    Date : 2:55am, 1/3/2013
    help bro, and nobody does that shit and thinks its okay. No, you crossed the line, we are

    no longer friends, I don't trust you for shit and if you talk to me

    To : Other
    Date : 2:55am, 1/3/2013
    Yeah, thought so. You replied too fast.

    From : Other
    Date : 2:55am, 1/3/2013
    creep

    To : Other
    Date : 2:56am, 1/3/2013
    Hi, GTA.

    From : Other
    Date : 2:56am, 1/3/2013
    again or come around me I promise that you not only will regret it but serious consequences

    will follow. How dare you contact me. Loose my number, stay out

    From : Other
    Date : 2:56am, 1/3/2013
    You're a real lying son of a bitch. Leave me alone

    From : Other
    Date : 2:57am, 1/3/2013
    of my life, and turn yourself into the police because they want you and have a warrant out

    looking for you. Leave me alone

    To : Other
    Date : 2:57am, 1/3/2013
    You also type too fast.. protested macros?

    To : Other
    Date : 2:58am, 1/3/2013
    Dude, you're trying to con a linguist.

    To : Other
    Date : 2:59am, 1/3/2013
    Watch out or I'll call you out for stealing her phone.

    From : Other
    Date : 3:02am, 1/3/2013
    creep

    To : Other
    Date : 3:02am, 1/3/2013
    All you have is ((number)) letters purporting who I claim to be. I have matching sentrnce

    structures, improbable time of day, and you accepted a lie as proof this is ((me)).

    To : Other
    Date : 3:05am, 1/3/2013
    Nice try dude. Go ahead and try to assault me. I hear it goes nicely with theft as proof

    you are 'recovering'.

    From : Other
    Date : 3:06am, 1/3/2013
    Psycho

    To : Other
    Date : 3:06am, 1/3/2013
    Have a great night. So far you've made mine.

    From : Other
    Date : 3:07am, 1/3/2013
    People as crazy as you should kill themselves to save their family from embarrassment.

    From : Other
    Date : 3:07am, 1/3/2013
    Panty wearing freak

    To : Other
    Date : 3:09am, 1/3/2013
    Gods, could you hang yourself more thoroughly?

    From : Other
    Date : 3:10am, 1/3/2013
    Hey,I see you often and now you've taken it too far. You will regret you actions. I know

    much more about u and your wife as well as others so if you want to

    From : Other
    Date : 3:10am, 1/3/2013
    regret what you're doing and stocking a young girl who felt sorry for your creepy ass then

    it's time u move on. Keep moving. Nobody wants

    From : Other
    Date : 3:11am, 1/3/2013
    you

    To : Other
    Date : 3:11am, 1/3/2013
    Yeah? Prove it. First digit of my address in Richmond.

    To : Other
    Date : 3:12am, 1/3/2013
    You don't even have that much.

    From : Other
    Date : 3:12am, 1/3/2013
    You're a pathetic looser and your a lying cock dreamer who dresses is panties You're

    confused and lost and will be alone forever. Have a good night and

    From : Other
    Date : 3:13am, 1/3/2013
    regret this fag boy

    To : Other
    Date : 3:14am, 1/3/2013
    Oh I will have a *great*.night. ((Other)) will get a great laugh.

    From : Other
    Date : 3:14am, 1/3/2013
    remember, you should end the hell you're in. Do everyone a favor. Leave us alone, move on

    stocker and die alone. Fuck you and watch your back. You will

    To : Other
    Date : 3:17am, 1/3/2013
    Watch your own. Wanna know the fun of FB? Friend of friend hacking plus cloud storage.

    To : Other
    Date : 3:17am, 1/3/2013
    Gotcha.

    To : Other
    Date : 3:18am, 1/3/2013
    Out of your league, kid. Nite. Sweet nightmares.

    From : Other
    Date : 3:18am, 1/3/2013
    Oh... I see you sissy, I saw you at ((location)) the other day. Schizophrenic homo..., you

    started this and I told you disappear. '((Other))' thinks you're a lying creep

    From : Other
    Date : 3:19am, 1/3/2013
    panty lover. You stole, you lied and in you're sick head you think she likes you and your

    friends. She hates you retard. She hates you so much. Get on with

    From : Other
    Date : 3:20am, 1/3/2013
    ur life and forget this part never happened. She knows you're sick. She knows you are a

    problem. She hates you and never wants your queer ass in her life.

    To : Other
    Date : 3:23am, 1/3/2013
    Please. Laughing too hard. This is so going online. Oh wait, you don't know my WordPress

    addy. Good luck Googling on queer and panties.

    From : Other
    Date : 3:25am, 1/3/2013
    Psycho fag, get a life and move on.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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