I got this off a “Comment Board” at Commonweal magazine r.e. an article entitled “
Why are Catholics so uncharitable online?” It was posted by a Mr. Luke Hill. I think he offers good advice to bloggers. As for me, I moderate all comments to my blog. It helps to keep things civil.
From Mr. Hill:
Here are a couple of thoughts for bloggers [on controlling comments on your blog]:
1 – Have a clear and concise policy on comments. Revise as needed.
2 – Monitor comments vigorously. There are multiple tools you can use here:
*Send a private email to a commenter when you think the commenter is tiptoeing up to, or stepping over the line.
*Add your own comment in response to the offending commenter, making clear where the commenter went wrong.
*Monitor comments vigorously. Delete comments that violate your commenting policy.
*Shut down comments temporarily on an overheated thread. Let your readers/commenters know that you’ve shut down comments and why. When you reopen comments, ask your commenters to proceed carefully.
*Shut down comments permanently on an overheated thread—or turn off comments on a post you have good reason to think will lead to a flame war.
3 – Ban repeat offenders from commenting. Bans can be temporary or permanent at your discretion. After all, it’s your blog. (Just as a good bartender knows when to bounce someone who’s had one too many.)
And some thoughts for commenters:
1 – DFTT (Don’t Feed The Trolls). If you suspect another commenter’s primary purpose is to stir up trouble and cause ugly disagreements, ignore those comments. Let them be. Respond to someone else, or to something in the original post.
2 – Ask for evidence. Opponents who are seriously interested in the topic, and in engaging in public discourse, will generally provide it. Those who aren’t, won’t—and often will leave the discussion (the internet equivalent of walking out of the bar rather than admitting that one has lost the argument).
3 – Don’t assume. Online communication has almost all the immediacy of face-to-face or telephonic communication—but with none of the visual or aural cues that account for 80-90% of human communication. Humor, irony, and numerous rhetorical devices often aren’t as clear online as they are in person. If you’re writing, explain yourself more fully than you would in person. If you’re reading/responding, ask your interlocutor for clarification, or take the most charitable interpretation possible of his/her meanings.
4 – Make your response specific. The person you’re reacting to (whether liberal or conservative, ultramontanist or cafeteria Catholic) is not responsible for everyone in his/her ideological camp. (Neither are you.)
5 – Add context. Some of the best, most enlightening, most provocative and most heartening online discussions are those in which multiple commenters are adding context and detail to the conversation: a testimony of your own experience, a historical analogy, a theological interpretation, links to other perspectives on the topic. The effect becomes akin to seeing the light refracted through different facets of a particularly lovely jewel.