Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Changing Comments

As most of you reading this blog already know, late last week the editors of the Daily Pilot decided to change the way online comments are submitted to that newspaper.  Just as the Orange County Register did some time back, anyone wishing to comment on the Daily Pilot now MUST do so through Facebook.  You must have a Facebook identity to post comments and, apparently, Facebook rules apply.

As was the case with the Register editors, where the comment threads had become so vile that they were almost unreadable, the Daily Pilot editors finally tired of having to plow through the comments submitted trying to identify those that met their standards for language and civility.  It's my understanding that this chore became overwhelming in recent months.  So, they made a change.

An interesting element of their decision was that the editors will no longer review comments before they are posted.  In my view, that's a big roll of the dice.  I hope it doesn't bite them later.  And, all the previous comments submitted under their previous system were lost once they converted to the Facebook model.  That's too bad.

It won't take long to see if this system works.  So far the comment threads seem to be much more tame than previously.  If that was the goal, it seems to be working.  It's far from foolproof, however.  If you and a person who has "unfriended" you on Facebook are both participating on a comment thread you likely will NOT be able to see his comments, so some of the threads may not make much sense to you.

Which brings me to the real reason for this particular post.  I, too, am tired of reading comments submitted here that stray from the subject of the post and that have become simply nasty and hurtful.  I've tried to be tolerant and have allowed some to slip through when I felt the remainder of the content of a comment outweighed the negative segments.  Those days are over. 

I do not have available to me the easy solution chosen by the Register and Pilot editors.  Simply using a Facebook identity for comments isn't available to me here.  If you post here you still must either use your own name - my preference - or a pen name - anything except the moniker "Anonymous" - and send it in.  And, I will still be reviewing every single comment before it's posted.  I tried not doing that for a couple weeks not too long ago - it was a disaster.

I DO WANT comments here because I think they can enhance the discussion of important issues.  I DO WANT well-written views on both sides of an issue to help stimulate the debate.  I DO WANT  you to be patient when you send a comment my way - sometimes it takes me a little while to carve out enough time to review them.

I DO NOT WANT flaming for flaming sake.  Using one person who has been a frequent target as an example, I'm just plain tired of reading what an idiot Jim Fitzpatrick is, and how he's on a Twinkie diet, for example.  If you want to tell me he's a bore who has worn out his welcome among city staffers or you want to offer an opinion of one of his opinions, fire away.  If you send me a comment that is otherwise useful it won't appear if there are similar zingers included.  I CANNOT EDIT your comments - they are either a GO or NO GO.  So, please don't corrupt your valuable insights by including unnecessary personal zingers.

I'm VERY GRATEFUL for those of you who actually do try to present your views with clarity and civility.  I also understand the temptation to slam someone or make an unfounded allegation about a person's character.  The line is going to be dicey for awhile, but I'm the sole arbiter on what will appear, so please err on the side of civility.

To the rest of you who have tried to use this blog as a spleen vent, your days here are over.  I know this means folks on both sides of recent issues, but that's the way it is.  I know some of you will test the borders, so we'll just have to see how that shakes out.  Since I don't have a way to communicate back with you, the only way you'll know if you've crossed the line is when your comment doesn't appear.  Of course, when in doubt you can always send me an email, but that would require you to identify yourself, and I don't think that's going to happen very often.

Thanks for playing here.  I hope you all will continue to participate, but if the new rules are too restrictive for you - thanks, and adios, amigos.

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Anonymous Printed Circuit Board said...

Wow.. this is such a amazing post. thanks for sharing

8/07/2012 04:21:00 AM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

Thank you, Geoff!!!

This is your space and we are appreciative of it. Quality reporting deserves quality comments from real people willing to put their guts and their beliefs on the line.

Now, where on earth did I hide my Twinkies?!? (I kid, I kid...)

8/07/2012 07:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Mary Ann O'Connell said...

I applaud your decision. There are many Costa Mesans (on all sides on the issues) with ideas worth exploring and the exploration is easier with a little civility. This is a good exercise for all of us. Thanks, Geoff.

8/07/2012 09:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Eleanor Egan said...

I'm happy with your approach but unhappy with the Pilot's. I had about given up reading comments because of the inane and hostile comments. Your approach should help. I have no problem with using my own name, as you know, but I'm darned if I'll use Facebook just to leave a comment. So no more comments on the Pilot from me. But I'll be checking here every day.

8/07/2012 10:02:00 AM  
Blogger valan2 said...

Good decision, Geoff! I, too, am tired of reading people's critiques of others' weight, diet, age, and other irrelevant things. "Your mother wears Army boots" doesn't contribute to the exchange of information and (useful) opinions. And, if Mom really is serving her country, there's a nicer way to say it.

Especially as we get closer to the election, a focus on issues, not sandbox criticisms, is important.

Thanks for your service and for contributing to a kinder, gentler blogosphere.

8/07/2012 10:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Silence the People said...

Funny how this happens right before the biggest election in this or any other Citys history.

I wonder if any local politicians got tired of seeing their names posted and talked about and made a phone call over to the Pilot?

8/07/2012 11:01:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Interesting speculation, but I doubt VERY much that the editorial staff of the Pilot would bend to the will of a disgruntled politician.

8/07/2012 11:16:00 AM  
Blogger Bruce Krochman said...

Geoff mom wears army boots!!!

This has been a test of the Geoff West comment filtering system. If this were a real vile comment, you would have been directed to the nearest exit.

LOL - Geoff, it does get old doesn't it? It will be interesting to see how this plays out Many media outlets are struggling with this issue.

As for the DP, the only concern I have is that using a single provider like Facebook pretty much means you are stuck with their policies and platform. If they make changes you don't like, or your users don't like, you are hosed.

8/07/2012 11:35:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Hey! She NEVER wore army boots - but I did!

Yeah, this is going to be interesting. "Anomolies" are already showing up for our friends at the Daily Pilot. Not sure how they will deal with them, but the chore - and it was a HUGE chore - of trying to filter the comments became just too tough to manage. No surprise and scary, since we only saw what the let through, not the rest.

8/07/2012 12:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Byron de Arakal said...

The right thing to do, buddy. Props...

8/07/2012 12:11:00 PM  
Blogger Chinabeach45 said...

It is just a shame because many people I know do not use Facebook, and now they are unwittingly censored because of this. Another population unheard from. But hey, if it weeds out all the vile creatures, so be it!

8/07/2012 01:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Tom Egan said...


I’m glad the Bubbling Cauldron can’t use Facebook to filter out the uncivil side of commenters.

To me, Facebook is a "a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money." [With thanks to Matt Taibbi, writing about Goldman Sachs in Rolling Stone. I’m struck by how similar the business models of Facebook and Goldman Sachs are.]

Basically, I want to minimize my exposure to the data mining of personal items, such as browsing history (no, I don’t go to porn sites), that Facebook profits from.

So, thanks for putting in the time to be the Sorting Hat for comments. Give yourself a raise!

8/07/2012 02:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Honeyman said...

I applaud this decision too.

I wonder if the Mouth is facing a similar dilemma on his neo-Nazi piece of garbage blog? More than likely not, since civility is not typically one of the virues of the posters there....and virtually nobody responds to his sick diatribe anyway.

8/07/2012 03:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Use your own judgment said...

I think the main reason Daily Pilot put the kibosh on comments was because their favorite candidates are taking a tremendous beating right now. The Pilot made this move to reduce the increasingly large volume of disparaging remarks from public consumption however, doing so before an election is just plain wrong. Our current Council is obviously very worried. Using Facebook, the DP can trace the origin of comments.

Personally, I disagree with the censoring. Many of us who post on the Cauldron or Daily Pilot work at City Hall, Mesa Water, and CMSD. Costa Mesa residents should be allowed to see all comments, nice words or not. We cannot risk posting under our real names due to the threat of losing our jobs. What I don’t understand is the double standard here Geoff. When Fitzy wants to verbally assault CMSD Directors, cops, City Clerks, etc., that’s all okay. But, the minute Cauldron readers do it back, these guys cry foul. What the heck? If you can't take the heat, stay out of politics!

8/07/2012 05:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Terry Koken said...

I refuse to use Facebook or any of the other so-called "social media"... It was a good way to shut me out of Daily Pilot communications. Thanks, Geoff, for not going in a similar direction. I've generally got something to say, and it's not always kindly; I try to wrap it in an amusing wrapper, but sometimes am unable.
I don't mind, though, if you want to let negative stuff that's directed at me come through. I get something of a kick out of Fitzy or whoever calling me "homeless" -- He's working himself up to it, but like many is incapable of song, wit, or poetry, and thus is more to be pitied than censured.
May you and your blog live a thousand years, or at least until the soviet four leave the council.

8/07/2012 05:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Tesa Raney said...

The Pilot's response is just as stupid as the OCRegisters decision was. Facebook does absolutely nothing to prevent the creation of fake profiles. Just ask the OCR.

If they really want to change the system they should charge a nominal fee for the ability to post.
It would be very easy to link a CC/debit card/paypal account to the created account in the same manner as Paypal currently does.
It would be a perfect example of putting your $$$ where your mouth is.

8/07/2012 05:24:00 PM  
Anonymous kurtz said...

"homeless"? i thought he was "city manager" at DP

8/08/2012 06:28:00 AM  

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