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Call for moderation by webmasters

Original post made by, Mohr Park, on Jul 21, 2011

Sadly, I thought of the PW Town Square immediately when I saw this informative and passionate blog post by Anil Dash.

Web Link

The post addresses the moral responsibility of those who run websites to make and enforce policies that keep web discussions civil.

I hope the editor and publisher of the Weekly take notes.

As much as I like the ideal of supporting local journalism, I feel it would be irresponsible of me to support the Weekly financially until policies for moderating the Town Square change.

Comments (6)

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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jul 21, 2011 at 9:55 am

Stacey is a registered user.

"This is a solved problem"

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Posted by Sandy
a resident of Mohr Park
on Jul 21, 2011 at 10:32 am

Sandy is a registered user.

Anil does give a really practical list of solutions -- almost none of which have been implemented here.

"So, I beseech you: Fix your communities. Stop allowing and excusing destructive and pointless conversations to be the fuel for your business. Advertisers, hold sites accountable if your advertising appears next to this hateful stuff. Take accountability for this medium so we can save it from the vilification that it still faces in our culture."

I wish the Weekly would think more carefully about the impact of the status quo in the Town Square on the reputation of the newspaper as a whole. I bet they're losing money from advertisers in part for the same reasons that people tell me they don't read the Weekly any more... "it's just such a hostile, biased place."

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Posted by zenmonkman
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2011 at 10:46 am

zenmonkman is a registered user.

First, the article is spot-on. But to be fair to the PW, it takes a lot of human resources, money and effort to monitor a public discussion site. There is also a backlash impact to monitoring. For example, the Huffington Post is highly monitored and creates an enormous resentment among its users. "who are they to judge if what I say is right or wrong, ad hominem or not. Sure there is a lot that can be done, and I hope that the staff of PW INVESTS into a forum that allows us to speak our minds (for free mind you). I believe that the Town Square is an accurate representation of the political and emotionally charged division going on in our country today. I'm not sure if that is an avoidable situation. I applaud PW for taking on the challenge of handling "us" raucous commendatory bloggers.

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Posted by Gina Channell-Allen
president of the Pleasanton Weekly
on Jul 21, 2011 at 11:26 am

Gina Channell-Allen is a registered user.

This is a great article and I found myself nodding in agreement many times. One of the author's suggestion is to have people dedicated to monitor the site, but that's simply not possible; as zenmonkman accurately said, "it takes a lot of human resources, money and effort to monitor a public discussion site."
Unfortunately, we do not have the human resources to monitor the site 24/7, and have come to rely on the readers to help us by hitting the objectionable content link, which sends an email to me and the editor. But the word "objectionable" means different things to different people. Many times we get webmaster emails for comments that are fine, but someone found them objectionable because they didn't agree with the statement.
I noticed that Piderit marked the "registered users only" box when this thread was started. That is a very effective way to keep discussions civil and our staff has been known to limit forums that get out of hand.

There are ways to help us maintain civil discourse:
1. When you start a thread, restrict it when you think it's going to attract trolls
2. Hit the objectionable comment link when something is truly objectionable, such as:
*Foul language
*Personal attacks (Note: a personal attack is not necessarily an attack on a comment or idea. For example, "that was an uninformed somewhat stupid statement" with an explanation of why the comment is so is different from "you're an idiot."
*An unfounded statement / hearsay ("so-and-so is dealing drugs...)
* Or does not further the conversation at hand.
3. If you see a thread getting way out of hand, email me, Jeb or Dolores directly.,,
We try to keep up with TS, but really, really appreciate help.

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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jul 21, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Stacey is a registered user.


I think I've posted this link before. The collection of posts at this site can be summed up with Anil's quote: "This is a solved problem". Web Link

Crowdsourcing always sees website participants as the human resource. Websites started as static content written by site owners. Then readers were empowered to create content on the website and Web 2.0 exploded. This was followed by empowering participants to join as a member, share a link, report abuse, etc. This is the website evolutionary level where the PW site is at.

Many sites have evolved beyond that level to deal with the same problems your site faces. Web Link and Web Link

You're almost there... Think about how you thank contributors of your "Support Local Journalism" program, how you empowered some online column writers, how you highlight certain threads in the eBulletins. Dare I mention, think about how the Patch is empowering participants. Keep going.

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Posted by Sandy
a resident of Mohr Park
on Jul 21, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Sandy is a registered user.

Many websites enable moderation by a team of volunteers, after a vetting and socialization process. It does not have to be expensive in dollars, if you are willing to empower a number of people to share the responsibility of the task. As Stacey said, think crowdsourcing...

I agree with zenmonkman that there is a "political and emotionally charged division going on in our country today" and I think it is desirable to foster discussion in a way that encourages people to explain their points of view, no matter how desirable. I do understand the difference between attacks on people and attacks on ideas.

However -- because the "report objectionable content" button does not allow a reader to pinpoint a sentence that crosses the line, and because many people stop reading rather than taking the risk of exposing themselves to the hostility that often comes out here.... I believe this forum brings out extremists on all sides of the issues, and silences the "moderate middle."

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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