The Future of PoP – Should Registration Be Required?


Recently there have been a number of comments that have crossed the line. From time to time I delete comments. It’s not often but if someone uses the “N” word, or curses out a user I will automatically delete it. It is no secret that I am taking PoP full time in November. My IT guy and I are currently working on developing PoP 2.0 for a November release. There will be lots of new features that I hope you’ll find useful. But the question has been raised about registration and I’d like your input. You see, personally, I hate registering. I just find it terribly annoying. Registering has pretty much killed the forum section. Having said that, the number of readers and commenters has grown (thankfully) to a size where I can’t monitor all comments in a timely manner. I certainly don’t want to discourage commenting. But I also don’t want to make this site a place for bigots. Normally, the community is pretty good and pretty quick about quashing those comments.

So for the PoP 2.0 version would you like to have a one time registration process or would you like me to occasionally delete racist comments combined with the community’s self policing?

98 Comment

  • I’d prefer not having to register. The anonymous posters are annoying, for sure, but I hate having to register for sites. It is a hassle to remember the handles and the passwords, it is a hassle to sign in all the time.

    And let’s face it, everyone is anonymous, regardless of the handle we use.

  • Keeping it anonymous maintains the openness of the site, but I think there should be an option for users to flag for mod’s attention any offensive, hate, or racist comments.

  • I don’t like registering. Would you consider sharing or passing of admin. duties? Perhaps on a rotating basis so that admin power doesn’t go to a single individual’s head or a clubby thing doesn’t develop? We could even vote in the next admin. Oh boy could that ever be a bad idea! Whatever you decide. I will stick around if I can recall my password.

  • Yes. The Anonymity is ruining the comments section. People have become so negative and mean-spirited. I think registering is one (small) way to bring the site back to the beautiful life.

  • There’s also facebook connect and similar services that let you use a single login across many sites. For the lazy like me who just don’t like to log in.

  • While I too, am opposed to registration, which seems to negate the air of openness and inclusion of a blog, you should do what’s best for you and the community with respect to preserving civility here.

  • I am not a big fan of registering and would probably only comment if I was VERY inspired as opposed to now – when I am only even marginally inspired. 🙂

  • I think registration is fine — it doesn’t really matter, anyway, we’re all anonymous. I’ve seen many blogs that require some form of registration and the discussion is quite lively; I don’t think that openness is damaged by it. If it’s important enough to say, it’s important enough to take the 10 seconds to register.

    That said, registration does not mean that you no longer have to police the threads…I think that’s still required. But there are so many threads going at once that you could spend half your life doing that. I support the first commenter’s idea to create a framework where readers could flag offensive comments and bring them to your attention.

  • Maybe registration will cause fewer comments, but more “quality” comments, which would actually be a good thing. Just something to think about.

  • also like the “flag for moderator” option rather than registration.

    Also you might want to have different options for yourself for different posts or comment threads, e.g., require less on the rant and rave posts but require registration or pre-screening of comments for a gentrification-related post.

  • you could encourage self-policing by using a digg-style comment system where users can vote up or down comments. comments that get enough negative votes are hidden from view unless the user chooses to see them. there’s always the danger that people will vote down a comment merely because they disagree with it, but the system is surprisingly good at mostly hiding the comments you’d want to delete anyways.

  • I don’t comment on DCist or Apartment Therapy because of registration. I got enough passwords to keep in my head.

  • DCist got a lot less entertaining after they rolled out registration.

    It also got a lot less racist.

  • I like DF’s suggestion. If registration were required, then I would stop commenting. But it would be good to have some way to deal with the racist stuff that seems (for some reason) to keep popping up in comments.

  • Would it help? I guess the theory is that if someone registers and posts a bunch of negative comments at someone, you could ban his account. There is nothing to stop him from creating a new account and doing it again.

    I think registration is pointless unless you were trying to get rid of spam, which it seems you already have a handle on.

  • I think it’s important for people to say what they really think. The anonymous feature lets us get a true idea of the sentiments out there. It cuts through all the PC smoke and mirrors and lets people say what they want.

    If I may say so, one of the reasons I come to the site is because I personally find the anonymous comments to be quite intriguing and interesting to read.

    No registration! It will kill the edge that the site has!

  • You can also give an optional registration – those comments would be immediately posted, and you can block registered ppl if they become offensive. For those who don’t want to register, maybe a delayed posting of their comments, until skimmed?

    You can alternatively run a check on each comment posted for language not allowed. Certainly this won’t catch the truly nasty comments, but it will at least make them more creative.

  • I agree with Teresa above–great idea! I like the linked facebook/Google log-in as well. Or even a craigslist community comment flagging system. But straight registration? Not a huge fan.

    Anyway–congratulations on going full-time PoP! That’s exciting 🙂

  • I prefer not to have to register.

    What about a “reply” button next to each commenter so that if you want to reply to an anonymous one it somehow identifies which anonymous one you are responding to. Sometimes all the anons and responses to anons get confusing to follow.

  • Perhaps not mandatory registration, but since I was one of the people who had their username ‘borrowed’ and a bunch of racist garbage posted with it I’m in favor of something to prevent that. I like the flagging idea.

  • Registration should be required as well as a Flag for Moderator button.

    There’s no short cut around monitoring the comments.

  • How about IP banning problem anonymous posters? Requiring registration will discourage the occasional insightful person from posting.

  • No registration! It DOES ruin everything–only a few diehards will ever comment, the same people over and over again. Having a “flag for moderator” option is a perfect plan.

  • Just like one of the commenters above, i don’t comment on DCist because of the mandatory registration. I don’t like having to share my email and contact information with a bunch of sites who may then sell them (not that you necessarily would, it’s just a fact of life when you give out your email address), and I prefer to leave fewer tracks when I travel the web. I’d prefer a “flag for moderator” option, even if that would temporarily remove the comment until it had been deemed safe or unsafe.

    Otherwise I’ll just end up lurking. Sad, but true.

  • No registration please. I think letting people say what they want is really important. I’m always shocked to read some of the comments from folks who are living in chocolate city – even though that has certainly changed! Very interesting stuff and good to know, albeit unfortunate, that those kinds of attittudes are alive and well.

  • I like the idea of flagging, or perhaps there could be a thumbs-down button people could click next to each comment, and then users could set their own accounts to “see all comments” “block comments that received 1 thumbs-down,” “block comments that received 3 thumbs-down,” or “block comments that received 5 or more thumbs-down” so people can decide for themselves.

  • I have to say that I agree wholeheartedly with ShermanAveGuy above.

  • No to registering.

  • I read your blog often enough and find it informative enough that I would be willing to register once.

  • no. i like coming on here and checking out the true colors of you all. behind closed doors, behind a computer screen, or when amongst each other you you say things like ” n word” or “mop heads” or whatever…. let it be known.

    “don’t go to cardoza on the 4th!! all the white people get rocks thrown at them!!!”

    i was there and most of the people there were *GASP* WHITE. and everyone was just chillin and enjoying the show.

    you all seem to think it’s about race, well guess what, it’s city life..if you cant handle it go back to wherever the hell you came from. or go to salt like city ..or boston lol.

    anyway… keep it real..and say what you really feel, so we can all see that nothing has changed.

  • No. Registering is annoying x 1000.

    As for anonymous posts ruining the forum – they make it interesting in many cases, and sometimes allow people to express their real thoughts. Plus, its not like anyone is using their real name even if they register.

    As for the use of the N word or whatever – if its a one of thing, just let it slide… folks need to relax a bit. If it’s recurring, I’m sure your IT guy knows how to block even an anonymous poster based on the ID of the computer from which the comments come. Or something like that. 🙂

  • Flagging and/or Thumbs Up/Down option would be better.

    Registration will kill the comments section, which has become a great online forum for the neighborhood.

  • Ahoy !

    Perhaps this subject is worthy of a “” voter survey like the one done a month ago on the subject of public housing where well over 300 cast votes.

    With those numerical results, and these written comments taken into consideration, then our Prince can better decide how best his site and blog continues.

    By the way, if there’s room for it, might it be possible to caption more than just the last five commentators on the left column ?

    Reformed Somali Pirate “Tantum Eruditi Sunt Liberi”

  • I say yes to both registration and flagging. One can still retain their anonymity even if forced to register, and open debate is not squelched. There have been an alarming and disheartening number of racist, sexist, homophobic, hateful “anonymous” comments recently, to the point that makes me less inclined to follow this site, which up until now has been one of my favorites.

  • Registration is getting a bum rap. The vast majority of people commenting this morning have done so with a blog handle; many of which I recognize and look forward to hearing from in the future. It takes a minute at MOST to set up a handle that grants as much or as little anonymity as the user desires.

    If someone wants to sound off on a neighborhood blog they should have to stand up to the feedback, positive & negative, that their comments provoke from the bloggerazzi. As for all the password naysayers, the ‘remember me’ function has been remembering my handle without fail since I started commenting on PoP 2 years ago.

    I think a strategy which incorporates the best recommendations from today is the way to go; registered handles posted first, anonymous after a moderate moderation delay, and ‘like/dislike’ functions to give it a round feel of democratic responsibility. What say you, anonymice?

  • No vote on registering.

    Also, keep in mind POP that if you pick and choose which comments you allow and which you delete, you leave yourself legally open to defamation liability on any posts that arguably defame or lible another. If you refrain from censoring anyone, you are more protected. You may want to consult an attorney if you do plan to take this full time to make sure you don’t get screwed.

  • Optional registration and a flagging mechanism of some kind. Registered, regularly-contributing community members get benefit of the doubt on controversial posts. Trollish-sounding anonymous posts are cut very little slack. If you want to post anonymously, you have to be nice(ish) about it.

  • As commented earlier, registration doesn’t really solve the problem completely, it’s just another roadblock that’s circumvented by a new registration handle/email address.

    See if you can find an effective commenting system where we can vote down/flag abusive posts for removal or IT review. That’s the way people work in real life anyway. If you’re in a public square and someone is being a bully, the best solution is the power of the group to regulate behavior (think standing up to a bully, not mob behavior). Let your audience define the behavior that is appropriate. It’s democratic, inclusive and lowers the headache on your side.

  • No registration, who needs to remember another darned password and the anonymity helps people express their feelings about some very serious issues. Editor moderation and self/commuity policing is great.

  • It should also be possible just to block the use of certain words or phrases, such that is a commenter writes the ‘n’ word or anything else deemed too offensive the script could block the user from posting or replace the word with ‘****’. Of course, this also requires that the script search for purposeful misspellings that still convey the word such as sh*t, assf*ace, etc….

    A thought.

  • I am also anti-registration. Although it might take only a few seconds longer to post, that’s generally enough to keep me from doing so. Plus, 99% of the sites that do this lose most of their commenters.

  • No to registering. Registering sucks and creates an insular community that is unfriendly to outsiders or even casual readers. If possible, just make the link that is already the date/time link and make it a flag button like on Craigslist (if flagged, maybe an alert gets sent to you or something). Shouldn’t be too hard to implement or monitor (though I’m sure flagging can get abused as well).

  • How about no to registering, but you have to give an email address when you post a comment (not shown in your post). That would discourage some of the problems without being as much of a pain. Or even, require that people register a username and the site has to recognize you to post, but just don’t require a password (though perhaps people would post using others’ names?).

    Also, sometimes I post under a different name b/c I get sometimes messages like “you’re posting comments too quickly, slow down” when I haven’t posted anything, and I noticed a while back if you just change your username you can post anyway. If you could fix those problems in PoP 2.0 that would be great.

  • Okay, for the folks who say they come to the blog for the suppose “edge,” how about all the people who are driven away (like me, I’m a very sporadic visitor now, and I was a very regular reader in the blog’s early days) because every single damn thread descends into some kind of racial bullshit? Isn’t that worth something? Forgive me for not needing that kind of “edge” in my life — I don’t need to look around at my white friends and acquaintances and suspect that this is what they really believe about people who look like me.

    And forgive me for not buying the “I have so many passwords in my head” excuse — my browser has an autofill function. I bet yours do, too.

    I know that some people are saying they wouldn’t comment as much, but really, if a comment thread interests you enough, you would find a way to pipe up. People will still find a way to say what they really think. And if a thread doesn’t get a lot of comments, well,okay then, that’s just life. The truth is that not every reader is drawn here because of the comments, as witty and pithy as some think they are. In some conversations, I think lurking is not such a bad thing.

    That said, I do agree that registration does not solve all the problems. Some kind of community policing effort, either through flagging comments or some other method, would be quite useful.

  • I vote for Facebook Connect or a flagging mechanism. I also personally like threaded commenting like on Consumerist so there isn’t a ton of “Anonymous @ 9:21AM” causing me to have to look up what was said at 9:21AM.

    I am not wild about registering but I have done it if I have something of value to add. While I understand the “registration will kill commenting” it also might force people to actually think through what they are going to say. This is a community, and I find that a lot of “Anonymous” comments are there to just stir the kettle as opposed to thoughtful discussion.

  • Put me down for opposed to registration and for “Flag for Moderator” features. But it’s your blog and livelihood, so you should do what you want and what is good for business. I read a goodly % of your comments and don’t think the number of hateful/racist/etc. posts is nearly as high as some believe it has been. Moreover, I don’t post often, but I like being able to throw in my two cents on an interesting discussion without any hassle other than typing in “Petworth.”

    I don’t even get the concept of a blog handle and certainly don’t understand the concept of a local bloggerati. Oy… thought this was just a good way to keep up with the ‘hood and occasionally weigh in.

  • I’m with WDC above. Optional registration, if practicable, makes a lot of sense. I don’t mind registering, but then I like to think I would say to a person’s face what I would write here.

    It saddens me to see civility break down. People were far more polite when you could challenge them to a duel.

    I also a little surprise that there is no profanity filter in place, PoP. You shouldn’t have to edit that stuff yourself. Seems to me there should be a shareware component somewhere to do it for you.

    S, MOTU

  • Registration won’t keep the wackos away (see the Washington Post comments section for evidence).

    However, registration + a one-time $5 sign-up fee WILL dramatically increase the level of discourse. I actually think that would work on a hyperlocal, neighborhood-oriented site like this.

    But, if you’re looking for the low-risk solution that will clear up 90% of your problems, I think that simply having a “flag for moderator” button would do the job.

  • I for one think it’s better to let people say what they want and leave it for the rest of us adults to point out what fools they are. The benefit of this forum is that it allows people to say what they want without any fear. That gets you the good with the bad – just like life. Any form of censorship is unreasonable if the goal is to have an honest discussion. The fact is there are people with unsavory views that live right here in Petworth. There are also many more people with pretty reasonable views and I think you’d find they also possess a decent constitution that will allow them to weather the occasional “n word” and Oden rant with equal aplomb.

    PoP, as you noted when you were on the radio with all the other blogging rockstars (shout out to PoP’s Maryland groupies!), this blog may have started out as a cute doorway here and a nice garden there but it has become something else indeed. Killing open commenting will necessarily wither away that something else.

    Self-censorship to what end? To not offend? To avoid difficult discussions? I think that’s the road to mediocrity, and while this blog might continue to be the go-to source for the best doorway in NW, it might not always be a lively place that often gets mentioned as one of the best (if not the best) neighborhood blogs around.

    The people who get easily offended need to be offended to make it through the day and the rest of us will survive. The best way to remedy ignorance and bile isn’t to quickly paint it over with a thick brush of whitewash – it’s to expose and discuss those opinions so that we can all wilt them with reason and fact.

  • I prefer registering, I use the same handle/password for everything, i imagine most people do the same. I would love threading as long as its not cumbersome like the consumerist or DCist.

  • I would say leave it open (no mandatory registration to comment, just a captcha), but set up a “flag for moderator” function.

  • No registration, but deputize some long-time commenters with deleting abilities?

  • I think requiring registration will prevent some unwanted comments. It will also stifle thought provoking comments that may only come out of being anonymity. I don’t have a problem with it as anything I say is not race or hate filled. But for the people that do, i’m sure this board will self censure them.

  • Flags are easily abused by people who disagree with the poster. Are you people really so damn sensitive you can’t read a bad word without demanding the whole blog be scrubbed free of the horrid stain? Is PoP’s blog really the new go-to place for the Tipper Gore’s of the 21st Century who are worried about dirty and mean words infecting their perfectly clean minds?

    Personally, I don’t see these messages you all are so concerned about as being as problematic to this forum as people being able to “flag” opinions that they simply don’t like. And frankly, that’s what a lot of this is about. Many people like to have their opinions justified and don’t like to be challenged. Just as a infinitesimal number of commentors would be more at home posting on the Stormfront website, there are a large number of PoP contributors who would equally not liked to be challenged on their own sometimes equally limited world view.

    If you are going to go down the “flagging” route why not take it seriously? Why not form a progressive politically correct posse and hunt down the posters of the offending comments and “flag” them with a scarlet “N” (for “naughty”) so that we can all sleep safe at night knowing that the “n word” poster has been properly humbled by the crusaders against bad and uncomfortable words.

  • I registered (or just put in a request for registration) about 4 months ago, got the email confirmation stating it was received but still needed to be okay’d by an admin but my request still has not been processed. If the registation process was improved and people actually could register than I would say yes.

  • What Odentex said.

  • “Flags are easily abused by people who disagree with the poster.”

    Not necessarily. My understanding is that flagging a post just brings it to the blog owner’s attention. It would then be Dan’s responsibility to decide if that comment is truly something that needs to be deleted. Something that is aggressive but well-argued and on topic would be fine, I would imagine.

    I wouldn’t be in favor of a process that would allow posters to directly delete each other’s posts. But I’ve never seen a blog that works that way.

  • Christina: There are plenty of websites that will pre-emptively remove comments that get more negative flags than “attaboys”. Some newspaper sites are set up like this (the Houston Chronicle is this way).

    I guess my real question is why is the current setup a problem? What harm has taken place that needs a remedy?

    People are ignorant on the internet? Gee, who’da thunk it?!

  • I think user registration might curb commenting but most large blogs and online magazines do make commenters register. Maybe a user flag system as someone had suggested previously where registered users could flag as inappropriate a comment they deem offensive thus, helping you with your crusade against bigtory and close-mindedness.

  • I have never commented here before. I would not have commented had I needed to register.

    I think optional registration with an anonymous option is best, along with a flagging mechanism for self-policing. Cheers!!

  • “Christina: There are plenty of websites that will pre-emptively remove comments that get more negative flags than “attaboys”. Some newspaper sites are set up like this (the Houston Chronicle is this way).”

    Oh, okay. I honestly have not seen that before, and like I said, I would not be in favor of a system that would allow posters to directly delete each other’s posts.

    You ask what the harm is that has been needs remedy. Well, I can only speak for myself. I used to like to visit here pretty often. Now, I don’t. I’m just one poster, and I am positive no one was “tuning in” just to see my wonderful comments. But not everyone visits here wanting to read so much of some of the commentary here. Now, maybe it isnt that much ugly commentary *to you* and maybe I should be tougher *to you*, but you can’t tell people what they should not be upset by. That’s all. Like I said, I’m just one person and I’m clearly swimming against the tide, judging by the tenor of the comments.

    At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter — registration, flagging comments, whatever. People who want to talk will talk, people who want to read will read.

  • “you ask what the harm is that has been needs remedy” = gibberish. Sorry ’bout that. You know what I mean, tho.

  • I have no problem with registering – if you want to remain anonymous you can choose any handle you want. PoP would know your email address but not the other posters. So what’s the harm?

    I love this blog and come for the houses and doors and openings and closings but don’t follow topics that usually end up mired in negativity and racism. I don’t think I’m overly sensitive, just not interested.

  • I’ve got no problem with registering.

  • Registration is best. I think people should be somewhat accountable for making offensive, controversial, or misleading comments, even if its through a pseudonym.

    If PoP decides to create a forum where people can freely and anonymously spew racist bile, then PoP should understand that it is responsible for those comments. Someone else may be writing the comments, but PoP publishes them for the world to see.

  • That said, I’m all for free speech and talking about difficult issues. Lots of people are racist so let’s not whitewash the forum and pretend racism doesn’t exist by deleting comments that offend mainstream sensibilities. But free speech online is much different than free speech in the real world. In the real world, speech is free but there are consequences to the speaker’s credibility and popularity. In an anonymous online forum, there are no negative consequences to the speaker. I think registration where most people choose pseudonyms rather than their real names is a good compromise between the interests in fostering free speech and discouraging offensive speech.

  • Christina: You can always stop reading the comments to certain articles if they get under your skin and only read the comments on the “door of the day” or other non-controversial topics. If the comments are a problem, they more controversial topics are easily avoided.

    But how in the world can we have a discussion about crime in DC, for example, without getting into people’s feelings, justified or not, about race. You know and I know how some people feel about these things. This is reality. Just because someone moves to Petworth doesn’t mean their right with Jesus, so to speak. And you know and I know that some opinions are based on ignorance and emotion rather than the facts. But how are we ever going to have a discussion about these things, expose the dumb – praise the good, if people know they have to parrot the party line about everything or get “flagged”?

    If all you want from PoP is happy stuff, our dear Prince provides it in abundance. He’s sort of a pied-piper of annoyingly positive things. He’s going to be instituting the “Mail Slot of the Day” next month and instituting a new feature on correcting graffiti spelling, so watch out!

    I’d really miss you and your thoughts if you didn’t participate but when you suggest that everything here has to be child-proofed or conform to an arbitrary “non-offensive” standard I say that’s a shame.

  • The comment section on PoP sucks and it is not conducive to a discussion/conversation. Implement threading and allow comments to be moderated up and down. If people really take offence to something, they will moderate it down. Registration by itself should not be a priority.

    Considering the racial and economical makeup of some of the neighborhoods covered, the only surprise to me is that there is so little mention of race and class. Petworth has a large poor AA population – not ‘diverse’ at all, just poor AA – and it is not surprising that complaints, valid and not valid, will come up when comperatively rich white/asian/black (but mostly white) people move in. It happens in every gentrifying neighborhood, and everyone usually puts bliders on and pretends that it is not an issue – using secondary events to project their feelings (like the gym theft post.). But it is an issue. It is up to you to decide whether there’s any point in discussing it on PoP.

  • Joseph: You’re making it up as you go. There is no legal difference between speech on the internet and “in person”. The same rules apply. Threatening speech or libel standards are the same. You say you’re for “free speech” and in the same comment discuss “discouraging offensive speech.”

    Irony much?

    How are you going to expose what you feel is an ignorant or racist comment if such comments are banned for fear they might hurt someone’s feelings? Where do you draw the line? Racism seems to be an obvious one, but what about disparaging comments about the South? You yankee bastards don’t think nothing about saying the most hurtful things imaginable about Dixie without nary an apology. I want that hate speech “flagged” for banishment too.

    While PoP is free to do what he wants with his ball, obviously, let’s at least be honest about what many of your are suggesting. This is all about avoiding uncomfortable thoughts and ideas — and it may well be that PoP doesn’t want his blog to be a forum for uncomfortable thoughts and contentious discussions. That’s fine.

    But that’s what it has already become to a certain small extent.

    So, there are no two ways about it, if he starts registration, flagging, and more conspicuous editing this blog may still be very nice but it won’t be quite what it is now. Period.

    And I still fail to see what problem here requires a solution — other than people who are easily offended averting their delicate eyes after reading the main article.

  • I’ve found myself reading the site less lately due to the fact that I know there is going to be some garbage in the comments, usually by anonymous posters. And once that starts, it usually leads the discussion in a direction completely away from the original intent of the post. It takes less than 5 minutes to register, you usually don’t have to enter your password every time you visit (for example, you have to login to yahoo mail every 2 weeks), and I think it would keep the BS to a minimum. Plus once you do that, you can delete that account. If you are too lazy to do that, well than you really don’t need to post that badly in my opinion.

  • I agree with the flag option for offensive posts. Although if registering is only required to post and anyone can read, that’s fine too.

  • Oden, I love reading the vast majority of what you write, and I’m probably tougher than you think. Race is a real issue, but I don’t think everyone here who throws out a race “bomb” here is really trying to grapple with this in any kind of constructive way. And, lest I be mistaken for bashing white folks, some of the most disturbing crap I’ve read have come from people who have identified themselves here as black.

    I really don’t think a registration system will lead to pussy-footing around. I follow another blog on the Atlantic, by a writer named Ta-Nehisi Coates (I recommend him!) He talks about “hot topics” *all the time.* Race, sex, crime, it’s all there. He went to a registration system and I don’t feel as if the comment section has gone all to hell and people are tiptoeing around each other. If anything, people feel like they have a certain reputation to uphold and then they’re more thoughtful with their comments, not just slinging things around like problems with “black culture” and whatnot.

    But maybe I’m just sensitive at the moment because I was reading what I thought was a half-humorous thread on the City Desk blog, and then it was followed by all this crappy sockpuppetry:

    (sorry for the tinyurl, it’s a long address and I was afraid it’d get cut off)

    It just gets tiring, man.

    City Desk didn’t ask me what I think of their registration system, but POP did, and so I’m just giving my opinion. It’s easy to just say roll with it or it’s all fun and “edgy” and “honest” when it’s not you they’re talking about. Even if it’s just “jokes” or this hipster racism that seems to be all the rage now.

    But at the base level, you’re absolutely right, there’s always ways to avoid anything.

  • I’m black so I can say the N-word. Most of you cannot though.

  • I think what needs to be considered is not the views of regular posters, but of newcomers. What would a new Petworth or CH resident, finding this site, think if the popularity of their comments had to be voted on by a handful of entrenched regulars? Are they likely to come back? Assuming PoP is going to be relying on ad revenue, I would think PoP needs to balance the desire by regulars to not deal with racism or other unpleasantness, with a need to increase traffic.

    I am active on several message boards/forums and some of the ideas listed above have been tried. Deputizing? Biggest disaster on an online forum I have ever seen. Major liability for the website creator and years later they still haven’t recovered from the destruction laid by their deputies running amok and deleting everything from anyone but their own personal friends.

    Delayed posting for anonymous or new posters is something that news agencies use with some success on their comment sections. It won’t prevent all inappropriate comments but it does help.

    Flagging for moderation is also useful on some forums I frequent. But I have never seen flagging used successfully in the context that some posters above seem to envision it. Successfully, there are a ‘terms of use’ and the flagged post must fit one of these criteria very clearly in order to be pulled. For example using the n* word would get a post pulled but saying something is just ‘black culture’ would not. Any wider interpretation just makes the website the moderator’s personal clique with posts nothing more than a validation of their own opinion.

    Registration is required on most forums I frequent. None of them are free from inappropriate comments. If a moderator bans a poster because of their frequent violations of terms of use, they just create a new email address and a new handle. It becomes a game to see if the moderators can catch them, which becomes a full-time job for the moderators.

    In short, simply having a website means having to put up with comments from people you’d rather kept their traps shut and nothing is going to shut them up completely.

  • I haven’t read this entire thread, so someone’s likely already mentioned this. I don’t think the problem is so much controversial speech or unpopular opinions. The problem is flamers who come in and shout something inflammatory JUST to stir things up and get a reaction. It’s an old tactic that’s been around since the beginnings of the internet.

    I think having registration would be a good way to curb those, WHILE STILL allowing people to have real discussions. Even controversial ones.

    Also, the commenters here need to start IGNORING flame comments instead of responding to them.

  • I hate the idea of registering. And if people write racist stuff, and it’s insulting, it’s a free country and people are free to show themselves as ignorant fools. Why try to block only racist stuff? And what some people may call racist, others may see as nuanced, btw. I’ve read some comments that were absolutley insulting remarks made to posters, not at all dealing with race, but rude and hurtful. I’ve read comments about women that were sexist and totally objectified women. On other sites, I’ve read stuff about immigrants that have shocked me, with a Hispanic family. And suffered through vile screeds about my Jewish people. So what. This is the goddamn internet, people. Get a thick skin and if you don’t like it, go somewhere else.

  • “What would a new Petworth or CH resident, finding this site, think if the popularity of their comments had to be voted on by a handful of entrenched regulars? Are they likely to come back?”

    If I were a *new* resident, it wouldn’t make any difference to me because I would never know that PoP used to be any other way.

    And for myself, I’m not talking about “flagging” as a popularity vote. I was simply thinking of it as a way to direct Dan’s attention to posts that someone finds troublesome. If a post gets flagged one time, maybe that’s just someone being stupid and touchy. If it gets flagged 30 times, maybe it’s something to take a look at, or a sign that a thread is going awry. That’s the “community enforcement” that everyone has been extolling.

    You’re right, Petworth Lady, that everyone who doesn’t like it can go somewhere else. But if PoP is going to be a business model that relies on traffic, there’s going to have to be *some* kind of balance.

    But I’ve said enough, because I’m starting to get irritated with people telling me what should or should not be bothersome to me, which means that 1. maybe I’m starting to misread tone and 2. it’s time to withdraw.

  • Christina–Perhaps I used terms in a way that was confusing. My experience with ‘flagging’ is a process by which a message is sent to a moderator to review the comment and decide if it should be deleted.

    By ‘voting’ I was referring to the process by which other posters choose ‘thumbs up/thumbs down’ of other posters’ comments. This is an idea that was suggested above by a hand full of posters, and that is what I meant became a popularity contest. “Community enforcement” is something that become a mob whether or not it is on the internet or in a city park. That is psychology 101.

    And I wasn’t suggesting a new poster would know what things ‘used to be like’. I’m saying if you are a first-time visitor, would you bother going through registration and voting by a bunch of people who’ve clearly been around a long time, or will you just go away and not come back. From the perspective of a person reliant on ad revenue generated by the number of visitors to a site, I would think creating a user-friendly site would be the way to go.

  • One more comment, just because it was addressed to me — I see post “voting” in use on the New York Times website, in some of their comment threads. It seems to work well there, as far as I can tell. All it means (that I can tell) is that there’s a way for readers to vote up some provocative and thoughtful comments. For me, it would make me strive to be provocative and thoughtful. Posting “first!” or “+1” isn’t really that useful.

    However, that looks like a complicated system they have running there, and possibly more than PoP would want to get into.

    “And I wasn’t suggesting a new poster would know what things ‘used to be like’. I’m saying if you are a first-time visitor, would you bother going through registration and voting by a bunch of people who’ve clearly been around a long time, or will you just go away and not come back.”

    I don’t visit blogs with the intention of posting. I visit them with the intention of READING. And then I read for a while, and then someone may say something I want to respond to, and maybe I do, and maybe I get into a conversation, etc. etc. So no, I would not go away and never come back if I had to register. I don’t have this belief that my pontificating is so wonderful that it must be allowed, unfettered, to the world. If I did, I’d get my own blog and spew all I want.

    Andrew Sullivan has tons of readers and he has NO comment threads at all.

  • I vote for no registration but having a “flag for moderator” link to cite possibly offensive material. I think that would allow you to quickly root out the comments that you may want to delete. That said, I would be diligent to only delete comments that clearly hold no value to a discussion. Just because you don’t agree with a comment doesn’t make it unimportant to the overall discussion. I think you’re good about toeing this line currently, I just want to see it continue.

  • And I agree with everything Odentex wrote!

  • No Reg: Good work! I’ll pay you later with S&H Green Stamps.

  • When screening comments, let’s just make sure we understand the difference between objective fact and subjective opinion. Objective facts are what they are and should not be screened just because they offend someone.

    Facts can be used to support an opinion, but I would challenge folks to include references to their sources so that others may have a chance to interpret and/or challenge the same facts and/or opinions.

  • No to censorship.

    Bottom line, stereotypes come about for a reason… the good, bad, and the ugly. People who promote stereotypes do so because it is how they perceive the situation, culture, or environment. Could it be ignorant, sure? Could it be true, sure? If you don’t agree with the comment, post one to counter it.

    If you want a site where people talk trash about white people, start the Prince of Potomac… “Those damn neighborhood kids threw their Natty Light cans in my front yard and smashed my mailbox. Tax their parent’s more and make them go to public school.”
    or the Prince of Pocomoke… probably some trailer trash worthy of complaining about too.

    It’s not as if PoP is a crime forum or only chooses to post stories that portray certain segments of the neighborhood in a certain way.

  • Given the increased popularity and visibility of this site, and its range of subject matter, any really robust comment section is going to have a good amount of incivility when the discussion turns to public policy matters (as opposed to rating architecture or restaurants, which tend to be the focus of my own comments). While I wouldn’t personally object to a registration requirement, even a cursory look at the comments posted on demonstrates that registration has limited efficacy in eliminating racism, homophobia, or personal attacks.

  • Are there any software “solutions” that can automatically filter certain words and even delete the post if it’s too nasty? Maybe with a setting that would make the poster think it was and is posted up no one else sees it?

  • 2nd the suggestions of using Facebook Connect or other, similar services. Disqus is a favorite.

    Other than that, let’s have the community self police.

  • I am 100% against filtering a comment because it contains a certain word. Are we so puritan, so sensitive, that we God forbid we even SEE a word? What is this, the 12th Century? Are we going to start burning books?

  • Free Speech

  • this is one of the few places in d.c. where issues revolving around racial feelings are talked about openly and some of the comments are ugly. how else can we gain any perspective on solutions or understanding withouy an honest gage of sorts on feelings of every one in the neighborhoods?

  • @Why Censor – the problem is that allowing coarse / racist language and personal attacks changes the tenor of the overall discussion to a huge extent and drives away a large percentage of PoP’s userbase.

    I’ve been a moderator on a music bulletin board for about 5 years and have seen this over and over. You definitely need a clear and consistently applied moderation policy – even if you don’t allow anonymous posts.

    PoP in my experience as a moderator you would be best served by setting up a way to flag offensive posts to be moderated, and a group of trusted moderators that can share responsibility for cleaning things up quickly and being fair. What we do on the board I moderate is immediately move any questionable thread to a private area where the moderators can discuss it. This is probably excessive for your purposes (and our board is a forum not a comment section).

  • I second Eric’s suggestion (which is what I was going to post anyway). I’ve used several forums that have a group of moderators comprised of long-time, trusted posters. Many hands make light lifting, right? You can even have moderators that specialize in certain subject matters. I guarantee you can find an off-the-shelf forum package that provides this capability. The more eyes on the comments, the faster the problems will be noticed.

    Also, banning posters by IP address might work. You could end up blacklisting public library computers that way, but at least people could still read blog posts from that computer.

  • Obviously “a large percentage” is not being driven away. He’s expanding the website and going full-time which means the number of users is probably increasing, not decreasing, and allowing him to get more advertising dollars.

    If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

  • Ahoy !

    Why Censor?:

    You’re right this is a commercial medium.

    The hard decision for our Prince is can the discussions be raised or elevated without losing audience, or is the content loss by not elevating less a loss. It’s his call.

    Not publicly funded or sponsored by a college or university, in the end it is a commercial medium and has to continue a viable concern.

    We all come from different walks of life. I try to help by contributing as best I can.

    Reformed Somali Pirate “Tantum Eruditi Sunt Liberi”

  • No to registration, let’s self police the comments section of your blog. Keep up the good work blog mates

  • Odentex: Your nasty snark is entertaining but you misread me.

    I never said there was a “legal difference” between speech on the internet and “in person”. Yes, the same “legal” rules apply. But legal “free speech” rules are not relevant to your right to publish a comment anonymously on PoP.

    I argued that there is a difference in practice in how “speech” works online and in the real world. Our free speech rights protect us from being punished by the government for saying offensive things. Those rights do not and should not protect us from the social costs associated with such speech. In the real world, misleading and offensive speech is discouraged because the people who engage in it are held socially accountable. Online, the same speech has no cost to the speaker if they can post and publish anonymously. If people have to associate themselves (or their pseudonyms) with their comments, they are more careful and thoughtful because they know their credibility will be tarnished if they post something bad.

    I do not support “flagging” or “moderating” or “deleting accounts” by PoP or other commenters. I think the best community is one where we say what we want but we also stand behind what we say.

  • You can spot the unmoderated discussions a mile away, and I avoid them totally. the
    “discussions” have degenerated into slackers sending insults to each other. so don’t say offensive comments don’t drive people away. they do, indeed–if that’s all there is.

    i do not like registration, and i forget both user name and password regularly, but for sites where i find the discussions helpful and interesting, i register and write the magic words down.

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