Tobold's experiment with anarchy

| Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Yesterday I published a post suggesting that comment moderation was bad for blogs and that this was harming Tobold's. He noticed it and responded in a somewhat surprising manner: by removing all moderation and allowing anonymous commenting. He ended up with a lot of trolls and spam in thethread.

It was somewhat as I expected: comment moderation harms discussion, but it is necessary when people are so eager to troll. The ultimate problem is what I had in my title: popularity. Smaller blogs just aren't worth trolling; there isn't an audience for them. And they are easier to moderate after the fact, without cries of "censorship!" because unless the blogger is afraid of dissent, only two types of posts get deleted: trolls and idiots who are so stupid they look just like trolls. These tend to be the ones screaming about censorship because their post calling the blogger a fag got deleted.

I came across this comment which matched my own feelings.
I'm not sure you need to switch from one extreme to another. My own preference was for the time where you required people to log in to comment, but didn't pre-moderate them (feel free to post-moderate).

The trouble with pre-moderation is that it breaks the flow of conversation. The other anti-spam measures seem fine to me, as they don't do that.

For me, the important thing is not to draw the conclusion: "I've shown that zero moderation doesn't work, therefore I must have maximum control". A middle ground is fine.


This also made me think that perhaps there can still be discussion in the middle of the trolls and spam. As I look over the comments so far, there are still worthwhile ones. Also some spam, some trolling, some demands that Tobold turn back on moderation.

Too loop back around, why wouldn't Tobold just have a captcha to catch spammers and delete trolls? I'm not going to believe it's because of cries of censorship, since moderation before posting is arguably more conducive to censorship because there's no record of the post ever. Also as I've interpreted his past statements, he doesn't care if we complain, it's his blog. I think the real reason is time, and it related directly to popularity. It would simply take too much time to delete every troll. If I had trolls, I could delete them without spending much time. If I had dozens of comments on every single thread with sometimes multiple threads in a day, well that's not going to be worth the effort anymore. It goes back around to the popularity: too many comments, too many trolls.

As the day has gone on, I've actually been surprised at how few trolls there have been. Certainly a lot, but I didn't feel like they took over. I suggested a new rule though: Responding in any way to trolls is encouraging them and would result in the post being deleted. With how things turned out, nuking a few posts might do the trick.

In conclusion: too bad for him. Serves him right for writing a diverse array of interesting posts over the years. Maybe next time you'll be dull and hard to read, noob!


SlikRX said...

Don't worry, I'm hard at work on the "dull and hard to read" bit, so the blogoshpere has that covered.

As both of you have pointed out, I'm not sure there is a good/better/best solution. Any of them will be a compromise of some sort.

However, there is some significant merit to the face that TObold had a long, diverse blog with a large commenter base, even with all the controls in place.

Sven said...

FIrst of all, thanks for the quote!

If I recall correctly, Tobold has experimented with captchas and required login. Whilst that helps with the spammers, it doesn't address some of the personally abusive comments he's received over the years.

I'd guess that tall poppy syndrome can get a bit wearing after a while, which is why he moved to the more restrictive moderation before the recent experiment.

Klepsacovic said...

@SlikRX: Thank you for your courageous work in making the blogosphere a better (worse) place.

@Sven: If we could all have people who cared enough to personally attack us.

Tobold said...

Actually captchas don't help at all. They only hinder spam bots. Spam bots are programmed to hit the most popular pages, which on a blog are nearly always the older pages. So, while you probably didn't notice it, my blog doesn't have total anarchy, but still has full comment moderation on for blog posts older than 14 days. That catches all the spammer.

Trolls know that their audience is in the newest threads, which is where they strike. And they wouldn't be stopped a bit by a captcha.

Klepsacovic said...

@Tobold: The captcha would save you having to moderate on old posts, or save moderation time by reducing the posts to check to one or two very very late commenters. But yes, no help at all for trolls. If only there was a Turing test, but for being a decent person.

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