|2011-04-14 02:55:42||Thoughts on moderation policy|
I think one of the great attributes of SkS is it's moderation. One of the aspects of this site that makes it readable is that people are not allowed to go off on lunatic tangents and long strings of vitriolic personal attacks, like several other sites that shall remain un...[achooWUWTJoNova]...named.
That said, I often find it difficult to explore conversations in that the OT rule gets applied so rigidly. I know deniers get very frustrated when they start discussing and then get snipped and sent off to another thread. I often feel that I go off topic easily but don't get snipped quite as readily.
Can I offer up two ideas on how to better deal with this issue?
1) Allow topics to meander just a wee bit more. I think meandering is part of the natural conversational process. But moderators should note when something is going off topic and a note such as maybe [Going OT. Please bring this back to the topic at hand, Greenland ice melt.] Radiative forcing is off topic and could be better discussed on a thread related to radiative forcing, but radiative forcing can also be relevant to Greenland ice melt. So, as long as people can make the connection to the topic, allow a certain amount of meanderings.
2) Maybe create a weekly "General Discussion" thread where the conversation is allowed to flow freely, but with the same rules on ad hom, etc.
What I have liked about the comments set up on some other sites is that one can post a response to a comment and have it appear as a subset, starting a new discussion revolving around that idea. I think this type of set up would allow for off topic discussions on the comments thread to an article, and yet it could be slightly altered (like hiding all responses to comments made directly to the main section and giving the option to open that sub-discussion) so that space wouldn't be wasted as with some commenters (coughPopTech). The OT issue also comes up very frequently when someone wants to respond to another comment made by another user. This could lead to bias, in that the first comment gets their word in and all else go to another thread.
I also know that I myself do not bother switching threads to go to follow a conversation.
OT: Don't you hate this cold that's going around?
Rob excellent point and good solution:
But moderators should note when something is going off topic and a note such as maybe [Going OT. Please bring this back to the topic at hand, Greenland ice melt.] Radiative forcing is off topic and could be better discussed on a thread related to radiative forcing, but radiative forcing can also be relevant to Greenland ice melt. So, as long as people can make the connection to the topic, allow a certain amount of meanderings.
Makes sense too, but seems like a lot of major technical changes, fixes...
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Rob's approach seems simpler and more immediately (plus economical) achieveable.
Good points, all. The normal course of action by the moderators is to allow everything compliant with the Comments Policy AND on-topic (even if one sentence of the comment was on-topic & the rest off, I would let it pass, as long as it wasn't too long and didn't detract too much from the substance of the thread). The last thing I, or any other moderator, wants to do is to dictate the dialogue on a thread.
That being said, there are often times when the person making the comment gives the moderators no choice but to step in. Note repeat offenders/recidivists get a tighter leash, while regulars who've earned leniency get longer leashes.
Case in point, the current Zebras? In Greenland? ongoing fiasco. Reader Adam has made 27 posts in the past 26 hours, every one off-topic. No in-line moderation warnings about being off-topic were made until his 9th comment. In the 11th consecutive off-topic comment, (to make it a teaching moment) I stepped in by striking-out the off-topic passages (that way others could still see the off-topic portions). In the 13th consecutive off-topic comment, I began to snip off-topic digressions without deleting the overall comment. Losing patience after that, began mixing snips, strikeouts and outright deletions.
At one point, I even went so far as to provide a comment with directions on how to use SkS effectively (which he dismissed saying he "already knew all that").
So, any suggestions on how to deal with a commentator spamming a thread?
Daniel... I think Adam is a good example of how this gets out of control. He's a loon who tries to sound reasonable by quoting papers and scientists that don't actually support his position. In that, I think he's a really good one to engage. Way better than the likes of a Poptech who is mostly just up for a fight.
The trick I think is to somehow keep the threads well kept (free of trash) as all the mods do a great job of, and manage to engage the creators of the trash long enough to point out to the broader reading audience why they are so clearly wrong.
Part of my concern is when the leash tightens it may play poorly with the general reading audience. I'd kind of prefer giving them a noose to hang themselves over choking them with the leash.
There's a kind of more subtle judgement we need to make. Trolls are real and we need to spot them to not let them hijack a thread. When someone jumps in with lots of comments and this happens just when another commenter of the same kind suddenly disappears, he's probably a troll.