How do you deal with disruptive commenters without transforming the comments section of your blog into what TMLutas called “bonsai comment trees” — overly controlled exchanges from which unruly digressions that might have led to unexpected insights have been trimmed?
I don’t think the laissez-faire approach works with current software, because forcing readers to view all comments gives too much power to jerks and trolls who monopolize threads for their own purposes if given a chance. (The perverse incentive for bad behavior increases with blog traffic, which is why blogs with more than a few thousand daily readers usually moderate comments, if they allow comments at all.) But centralized comment moderation, which I recently experimented with, is too burdensome even for the moderator of this modestly trafficked blog, and also for the vast majority of commenters, who are not jerks.
What would be better? Here are some features that I’d like to see in WordPress, Movable Type, Blogger, etc.:
- A Slashdot-style comment-rating system that allows readers to rate each comment on a 1-5 scale and to display only comments whose rating is above a specified threshold.
- Or, per this comment on another blog, a YouTube-style or Amazon-style system that allows readers to see deleted comments, either individually or globally, by clicking a button. (Such a system should also provide a clickable button next to each comment to allow readers to flag problem comments for attention by a moderator.)
- A clickable “hide/display all comments from this commenter’s IP address” button next to each comment.
- A clickable “hide/display all comments from commenters using this name/pseudonym” button next to each comment.
- A clickable “display all comments from this commenter’s IP address in a new window” button next to each comment.
- Granular moderation settings for group blogs, so that each contributor can set his own moderation preferences and can moderate comments on his own posts only.
Not all of these features would have to be incorporated into each version of blogging software. I would prefer a combination of Features 2-6. The main things are to make it easy for readers to 1) hide low-quality comments and 2) detect sock puppetry. This could all be done without requiring commenters to register, and would reduce the moderation load on group-blog admins, as well as on solo bloggers who receive many comments.