Changes to comments and posting policies on Lib Dem Voice

We are from today making changes to the comments policy on Lib Dem Voice. We also will more proactively encourage female voices on LDV, both in making comments and in authoring posts.

This change comes after a meeting of editors (online as we are scattered around the country) to discuss where we are on LDV and where we want to go.

We are concerned that LDV posts and comments are dominated by men. In recent weeks, three quarters of posts have been authored by men and nine in ten comments were by men.

We intend to change that gender balance and make LDV more representative of the Lib Dems and liberal values.

We will be proactively managing the comments debate to prevent it being dominated by a small number of individuals. They are nearly always men and seem to want to slug it out to the end between themselves – to win a debate that LDV readers have long lost interest in. Too often that debate is tangential to the subject of the article. Too often it is a debate that should take place elsewhere.

There is a whole world wide web out there for these discussions. LDV is a forum for reporting and discussing what the Lib Dems are doing and what they could be doing, not technicalities, references and other obscurities.

That may mean that some comments won’t be published. Dominant commenters may also find their contribution delayed allowing space for other voices to be heard.

If you think this is restrictive, you just need to think of a debate at a conference, at a business meeting, in a council chamber or in parliament. Those debates work best when contributions are short, concise and to the point. They work best when the primary intention is to contribute to an open discussion rather than trying to prove that your argument is better than someone else’s. They work best when people are in listening mode.

We have reduced the word limit on comments by half to 250 words. A long sequence of 500 word comments quickly gets boring. If you need 500 words to make your point, you should be submitting an article. We will not be accepting comments split over several entries in quick succession. Just take break. Allow space for others to join the debate. Be concise and come back after others have heard your views.

In another move, we have increased the guidance on the length of posts from 500 words to 750 words, easing the difficulty some writers face in compressing their arguments. We will on occasion allow longer articles that are well written and make coherent arguments that require more words. But longer articles will not be the norm.

We wish to encourage more female contributors to LDV. We will be actively encouraging women to contribute posts. We hope that by reducing the volume of comments by a small number of men, we can create a more welcoming environment for everyone.

Lib Dem Voice was established to create an independent forum for comment, information and debate on liberal values and the progress of the Liberal Democrats. We, the editors, will continue to promote those aims.

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81 Comments

  • Mick Taylor 14th Jan '22 - 7:46am

    About time too

  • Those sound good ideas to try. Good luck with them; I hope they work out.

  • Andrew Page 14th Jan '22 - 8:36am

    Sounds like a good idea in principle.

    I think it’s positive that moderators are looking at ways of improving the LDV experience.

    However, how do we know which commenters are men and women? Just by whether names sound male or female? What is to prevent people using fake names to get around this? How do you know if, as I do, someone identifies as non-binary? Gender balance isn’t sex balance and it’s often frustrating to see discussion on it reduced to the male-female binary.

    On the whole, however, this seems reasonable and it will be interesting to see how it works out.

  • James BLESSING 14th Jan '22 - 8:39am

    Whilst I applaud the approach, there is something that LDV should be aware of:

    By editorialising the comments section, LDV are taking on the role of a publisher and could be seen as being liable for any comments made from a legal standpoint.

    Lightly moderated comments that rely on notice and takedown approach provide an additional level of protection and it’s probably worth getting legal advice about the exact implications.

  • Andy Boddington 14th Jan '22 - 9:10am

    Thanks Andrew. We know most major commenters. There is extensive correspondence behind the scenes and we are all active Lib Dems. There were a number of people I could not identify who are not included in the analysis. We used nine out out of ten to allow a degree of imprecision. The number of non-binary people remains relatively small and will not affect the overall ball park figure. I should add that non-binary and gender issues are very important here on LDV and we have given space in posts and comments for views to be expressed, for the issues to be aired and for understanding to develop. That hasn’t always been easy but we will create more space for different perspectives if we reduce the domination of a small group of people commenting too frequently.

  • John Marriott 14th Jan '22 - 9:11am

    It’s your website, after all. I had a feeling that something was happening at HQ. If you do publish this reply, all I would say is; “Be careful what you wish for”. However, I wish you luck in what you are trying to achieve. If it doesn’t elicit a more balanced gender response, however, I wonder whether you might be prepared to think again.

  • Helen Dudden 14th Jan '22 - 9:25am

    I often struggle as a disabled women. We have so many issues with disability, from housing to working.

  • Andy Boddington 14th Jan '22 - 9:33am

    Thanks John. I think you illustrate the issues we are trying to tackle. I am not sure what you mean by “HQ”. For clarity, and I am sure you know this, LDV is independent of the Lib Dem Party but exists to support liberal democrat aims. We wish for open debate that has broader participation and is not dominated by a handful of people. We will of course review the outcomes of our changes and if we don’t achieve a gender balance, we will try harder.

  • Andy Boddington 14th Jan '22 - 9:35am

    We are already publishers. LDV has never been like Facebook, etc. claiming to be simply a content provider.

  • Tristan Ward 14th Jan '22 - 9:51am

    Do please encourage underrepresented contributors of every sort.

    I think the word limit is a mistake. Yes, long posts can be boring. The key is to make them interesting. If they are not interesting, like bad Focus leaflets, they won’t be read. Interesting contributions will be read, however long they are.

    The off-topic point is a fair one, but perhaps may be better dealt with by appropriate moderation.

    An open discussion that does not include attempts to show an argument is right or wrong – please – what is that? Can you give us an example please of such a thread? Was it successful?

    As Mill argued , allowing free expression allows the airing of competing views as a way to fully understand issues. How can excluding arguments like this really contribute to a “forum for comment, information and debate on liberal values”?

  • John Marriott 14th Jan '22 - 10:07am

    @Andy Boddington
    By ‘HQ’ I mean wherever the editors ‘meet’. I know, of course, that LDV is an independent body and does not necessarily speak for the party.

    In the spirit of reciprocity I am going to attempt to limit my urge to see my name in print (at my age, you don’t get that much to look forward to!). So, I shall try to avoid reaching for my iPad and keying in ‘LDV’ over the weekend. I only hope that some of my fellow members of the awkward squad can bring themselves to do the same.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 14th Jan '22 - 10:14am

    @ Tristan,

    Funnily enough, we’re extending our word limit for articles precisely because we want to encourage those more thoughtful or complex pieces to emerge. However, a word limit does tend to sharpen thinking and avoid those wordy but shallow articles that add little to debate. And, as a volunteer Editorial Team, we’d really rather not have to spend hours editing such pieces.

    Writing well is a skill, and we want to encourage it in order to benefit our readers.

    I have a problem with the phrase “free expression”, as that tends to become “free for all”, hardly designed to maximise participation or prevent effective exclusion. Some of our readers seem to think that ad hominem attacks are acceptable, for example. We don’t agree.

    And, finally, I don’t understand your fourth paragraph, which appears not to relate to what has been said earlier. Could you clarify that?

  • William wallace 14th Jan '22 - 10:19am

    And can we encourage commenters more strongly to post with their full names? Anonymous or disguised postings offend against Liberal commitment to openness and transparency.

  • Fraser Graham 14th Jan '22 - 10:24am

    Can’t help noticing that the comments section at present is very much proving the editorial team’s point in terms of gender balance (and yes, I’m aware that I am adding to it).

  • Worth noting that of those in the comments here already, only one person has a name that is traditionally associated with women, perhaps showcasing the analysis in the main post.

    This looks like a good move – well done editorial team, and good luck!

  • I am not sure what these changes to the LDV site really mean or what you are implying, but I suppose I will have to think twice before sending in my own opinions in future for whatever they are worth! For me they had the added benefit of releasing my frustrations with the outside world while being confined due to Covid and learning from and enjoying comments from some newfound online friends.

  • Perhaps the problem is more to do with the breakdown of members by gender. I wonder what this is? It always concerns me when I see pictures of activists at by elections. There is always more males than females. I suspect this is more to do with there being more men in the party but I might be wrong. I suspect that the root cause is the problems in society at large. I am sure the unequal domestic division of labour still exists in many households, even liberal ones, and that in itself is a barrier to progress. Limiting male participation is not the answer. What next? Stopping males from going to by-election until there is a gender balance?

  • Happy with the comment limit; having just posted elsewhere on LDV, I see it is much better than the BBC limit yet still requires the commenter to be focused.
    I think the article guidance could be raised to 1000, but as article length really is in the hands of the editorial team, I would hope they will be flexible, permitting longer well written and presented articles.

    As for gender balance, this is a real problem. I see that BT Openreach have increased the number of women engineers by overhauling their job advertisement and recruitment process. Not sure whether other open-access sites have better demographics.

  • 15 comments from men, one from a non binary person, and one from a woman that all the men have failed to engage with.

    Yep, I’d say this is overdue.

    Helen: I’d be interested to read some articles about that intersection and what the party is planning to do to help

  • Jennie (she/her) 14th Jan '22 - 11:11am

    Also (and with apologies for posting twice in reasonably quick succession) it might be an idea to encourage people to put their pronouns in their display name to facilitate this new policy for the mods?

  • William (he/him) 14th Jan '22 - 11:12am

    One thought – can we add an (optional) field to the comments where people give their pronouns. It will help moderators do their job here, it will aid us in discussing with each other, and it is inclusive of non-binary people. (I’ve added it to my name to provide an example.)

  • Tristan Ward 14th Jan '22 - 11:20am

    @Mark Valladares

    The last paragraph follows from the third. The original article says LDV doesn’t like people trying to prove their argument is better than someone else’s. I refer to John Stewart Mill’s argument that says that free expression of competing views assists in understanding issues. Then I ask how restricting competing arguments (when someone tries to prove their argument is better than someone else’s) assists in furthering the aims of LDV. The aims of LDV of course include being “an independent forum for comment, information and debate on liberal values”.

    I have to say I am not encouraged that you “have a problem” with free expression. I think the Chinese authorities “have a problem” with free expression too. I agree of course that debate must be conducted in a civilised way for the reasons you give, but “having a problem” with free expression may to easily move to censorship.

    Writing well is indeed a skill. Often it goes with privilege, in particular an expensive education. I think you may well have to be careful here if you want to exclude contributions on ground of poor writing, unless of course the editors to spend time editing pieces.

  • @Jennie – “and one from a woman that all the men have failed to engage with.”
    Well… I’ll bite 🙂
    Following the revised policy it would seem Helen’s comment was “tangential to the subject of the article”, although I totally accept her disabilities may mean she faces challenges contributing to LDV in its current form.

  • For those who, like me, are using the forum login to get the confirmation that you are a member, you can add pronouns by editing your surname here:
    https://forum.libdemvoice.org/ucp.php?i=profile&mode=profile_info

  • Laurence Cox 14th Jan '22 - 11:34am

    A cis-man writes,

    More articles and comments by women, whether cis-women, trans-women, or those who identify as non-binary but were registered as women at birth: good.
    More moderating: perhaps. I am already on the ‘naughty step’ as all my postings go into moderation and some don’t come out. If you are going to moderate more then tell the commenters what you are doing and why at the time; no communication will only lead to disillusionment.
    Halving maximum comment length: bad. All you are going to do is Twitterise discussion. Four legs good, two legs bad; need I say more? (99 words)

  • Matt (Bristol) 14th Jan '22 - 11:41am

    At the risk of being another man dominating the debate, and recognising that when I was a more regular commenter on this site I failed many of the tests above, I recall an email to Caron some years back urging more proactive commissioning of female voices as I was concerned LDV was not a site I could easily recommend to female friends and fellow Lib Dems. I’m not a party member any more (partially because I do differ in my approach to reform of the GRA and debates about definition of sex and gender in society), but I welcome this approach. That wasn’t the only reason I stopped coming here so much — the other reason was I realised I can be a windbag who pushes others out of debate and himself commits the sin he abhors in others.

    It’s also good to see Jennie Rigg posting more frequently again as I like the way she expresses herself. It’s a shame she and Ruth Bright (and Helen Dudden) have been at times often the only distinctive and thoughtful regular voices from women, but that’s not their fault.

    I’d also urge the editors to seek to edit to avoid pile-ons, whether by men or women or whoever, whatever their role in the party. Repeated hostile comments from multiple commenters all asking near identical questions do suppress engagement from newbs, whether these multiple commenters are in-party or out-of-party people, and whether the perspective they promote is mainstream or not in the Lib Dems.

  • It’s great the team are thinking about these things. Sometimes the discussion is interesting and a great way to read different ideas, but too often it’s the same handful of names repeating the same, predictable, comments.

    I have noticed that LDV comments are often male dominated, but it’s clear the editors make an attempt to have balance in choice of articles, which helps, and I think the editorial team deserve credit for that.

    @David. One option is to make the environment more welcoming for women. Unfortunately that’s not always the case.

  • You cannot discriminate in what you publish /whom you commission on grounds of sex, which is unlawful. You can restrict comments to 1 or 2 per article per commentator, and stop a few people monopolising debate, which seems a very good idea. I would suggest examining the range of contributions and formats, and holding focus groups with women to ask why they are not currently engaged and moved to comment on the content (beyond contending with a few argumentative obsessives below the line) .

  • James Fowler 14th Jan '22 - 12:07pm

    Good. I would be fascinated by your readership vs. commentator stats (obviously you can’t share them, but I hope that they’re at the heart of your decisions here). Not so sure about the principle of controlling engagement by gender (or any other) arbitrary quota, but I know there’s a practical problem here – to which I’m contributing right now 😉

  • One person on here is now chastising all the male commentators on here for not not engaging with the single female commentator…. And then neglects to do so herself. All very odd. Still waiting for any responses to my point about limiting male involvement in by-elections until we get the gender difference of participants more equal.

  • There should be more female contributors to Lib Dem Voice. More censorship isn’t going to achieve that though.

  • Excellent, thanks for all the the hard thinking that went into this.

  • Peter Watson 14th Jan '22 - 1:26pm

    Possibly more of a technical issue, but posts (or at least the first few lines of them) should probably not appear in the “Recent Comments” block on the right before they have been allowed into the thread. I can see at least one there at the moment which I am sure won’t be appearing here!

  • @Helen Dudden. I don’t think you have written for LDV yet, but we would welcome a post from you.

  • I would welcome a policy of a maximum of say 3 comments per person per thread as some people just try to have the last word or repeat the same point/question over and over.

    However I don’t personally see why gender balance is so important. As a liberal I believe that we are all individuals and that positive discrimination is fundamentally wrong.

  • I’m setting up a community Facebook group, so did some reading and one point was on the dangers of a handful of prolific voices dominating the conversation and discouraging new, minority or less confident people from taking part.

    I have some queasiness about limiting the number of posts per topic as there are bound to be times when some people are more interested and knowledgeable in a subject than others, and a good discussion where people respond to what other people have said. Other times people pose queries, or demand explanations. If you’ve run out of comments then you could be in the situation of seeming to endorse a a point of view that’s (as far as you’re concerned) a load of nonsense, or even dangerous.

    From a personal point of view, if someone say something I think is plainly wrong, I rarely respond with the full explanation as to why they are wrong and I’m right, as it can appear obnoxious, and a bit awks when you realise you’ve got the wrong end of the stick. I’d usually start with asking for clarification, or a gentle suggestion that something else may be the case, hoping to stimulate further thought. But that won’t work if it’s my last remaining comment.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 14th Jan '22 - 3:05pm

    I regularly engage with Helen on here over the years and welcome the suggestion from Mary, that she be encouraged to write articles if she wants to. As somone with disability issues that have impacted my life and that of my wife, particularly, after a car accident, it is disability, that is too often forgotten.

    Thus, my view is the new policy here is good in welcoming or actively encouraging more women, but not if taken too far.

    For some, like me, middle aged, involved in things, of course there is indeed a world wide web,out there. But do please have a thought for other much older male contributers whose experience and personality is shared and enjoyed here, and for whom, this forum might have come to mean a lot, and help a lot with feeling isolated. No moderation or editing can know what a site brings to an individual, as important as what that individual brings to this site.

    LDV is edited by women more than men. Caron, Mary, write here regularly and strongly. My view is women have these and regular examples, and leading by example, as we see with men such as the PM, who do not do this, is what encourages .

    Please do pursue positive effort that does not create negative results. I do not like the thought of older men, seniors I respect, and, we need to hear from, thinking twice about putting their views on a site they care much for.

    Better to limit comments to one or two for each article.

  • Andy Boddington 14th Jan '22 - 3:08pm

    @Tristan Ward. We spend much of our time as editors reading comments. We don’t do censorship if an article meets our aims for LDV. The article refers to slugging it out. Go back and read the last few hundred comments as we editors have done and you will see that there is a problem with a few people determined to slug it out to get the last word. If a local newspaper carries a lengthy letter most people won’t get to the end. We encourage people contributing to LDV to make their point with brevity. We have clear flexibility on our word limits but we want people to be heard. We want their words to be read. There is no censorship of free expression here. But expressions should be pertinent to our aims. We are a blog with a particular purpose. The suggestions that we are like China or that you need an expensive education to contribute are nonsense.

  • Andy Boddington 14th Jan '22 - 3:13pm

    “LDV is edited by women more than men.” Nope. We have a broad group of editors but our most active are three men and two women at present. We have a lot of respect for our older male contributors but there are lots of other voices out there and we need to give them space.

  • Andy Boddington 14th Jan '22 - 3:21pm

    We are not limiting the number of comments, just saying we want to end slugging it out to the end. This is a significant issue on LDV and squeezes out other people who want to comment because they feel their voice will not be heard amid the flood of battles that are often one to one. We want more people to comment and to comment in shorter postings

  • Charley Hasted Charley (they/them) 14th Jan '22 - 3:42pm

    Great to see LDV trying an experiment to encourage a more diverse range of commentary and writers- I look forward to seeing what effect it has 🙂

  • Peter Watson 14th Jan '22 - 3:53pm

    @Andy Boddington “We are not limiting the number of comments, just saying we want to end slugging it out to the end.”
    It might be something that’s not supported by the site’s software but, perhaps, if people could reply directly to a post (so the thread has more of a tree or branched structure) rather than post “@someone” in a flat thread (like I’m doing here!) then those occasional ping pong matches could easily be collapsed and ignored by readers.

  • Barry Lofty 14th Jan '22 - 4:01pm

    We have a lot of respect for our older make contributors but there are lots of voices out there and we need to give them space! I think that statement gives me the answer I was concerned about, thanks for your support Lorenzo.

  • You are right about the gender balance. Did you try asking why so few females engage with the discussions?

  • I’m pleased these changes are being made. LDV has certainly become dominated by a handful of individuals who hijack every post and just make it tedious for everyone else. Let’s hope these changes being a bit of fresh air to the site.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 14th Jan '22 - 4:34pm

    Thanks Barry, Andy does explain intention.

    My feeling is that active seeking out and pr does far more than disinviting and quotas. LDV is certainly not doing that which I fear and dislike, but caution is needed here. I favour little moderation other than swearing, racism,. bigotry. My view is bufoons reveal themselves and do the moderators job for them!

    On this site we have wise and knowledgable, yes opinionated folk.

    Elderly, with replacement organs, counts, in minority staus unheard, as much as gender or youth!

    I learn from my elders, though not necessarily my betters, certainly as good and worth listening to! I expect they learn from me and far younger, if wise!

  • Jenny Barnes 14th Jan '22 - 4:55pm

    As a woman commenter I will participate in threads where I feel I’ve some knowledge or strong opinion to add to the debate. But if it’s a topic of little interest to me, then I’m unlikely to engage. I don’t often feel inhibited by the majority male voices on LDV – if I have something to say I will.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 14th Jan '22 - 5:00pm

    I think everyone would agree that there is a serious gender imbalance in comments and posts on Lib Dem voice. Its good that the editorial team are trying to address this, although I’m not sure whether some of the ways suggested are necessarily the right ways.
    Its good that the editorial team are going to actively encourage women to write articles. Just as a generalisation, women probably are more likely than men to lack confidence in expressing their opinions, and may wait to be asked. There are several women who make interesting comments on threads, but who I don’t think have ever written an article for the site. (Obviously this is just a generalisation, and many men also lack confidence and may need to be asked).
    I don’t think reducing the number of comments by men is the answer! It is rather sad that some men on this thread are apologising for adding to the gender imbalance. The aim should surely be to increase the number of comments by women, so that there is an equal number of comments by both men and women, and it should be possible to do this without preventing men from commenting. We need to create an environment in which *everyone* feels that their contributions are welcome and valued

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 14th Jan '22 - 5:12pm

    I have noticed that recently that the number and comments and articles by women has decreased. Some women who used to comment often seem to appear far less. But some men who used to comment often also seem to have disappeared. I don’t know why this should be. Possibly it is a sign of problems within the party, rather than this site

  • Peter Watson 14th Jan '22 - 5:53pm

    I suppose that the gender of a poster is relatively easy to identify, but I can’t help but wonder if the balance and breadth of perspective on LDV would be better served by improving the diversity of socioeconomic status, ethnicity, age, location, education, etc.
    If this report on party membership (https://esrcpartymembersprojectorg.files.wordpress.com/2018/01/grassroots-pmp_final.pdf) reflects engagement with LDV, then these are pretty important factors, some particularly so for Lib Dems.
    I don’t know how this can be improved, but perhaps the space created by whatever measures the editors take will benefit other groups. I suppose the gamble is ensuring that excessive moderation does not put everybody off contributing if the discussion threads look inactive.

  • John Barrett 14th Jan '22 - 6:22pm

    An interesting, thoughtful article, especially on a subject that has not been covered recently, followed by well informed and sometimes controversial comments can make it worth reading. I think that the gender of the contributor does not.

    Encouraging more contributors makes sense, but implying that their gender or race is of any great importance is very doubtful.

    A survey of party membership a few years ago showed that 63% were male and 96% were White British. If 100% of the articles were good and interesting and all came from females who were not White British, would it matter?

    I can see no reason to try to balance the number of contributions to reflect the age, gender or race of the party membership, or any other group, but I would be happy to read an article on LDV as to why it is important to some people..

    Most people will want to read and comment on the articles on LDV regardless of the gender of the contributor.

    Good luck with limiting repeated comments from the same people who make multiple, very long, off topic contributions, whatever their gender.

  • This comment is not a criticism, more a personal observation. It would be interesting to see if others agree.

    I have the impression that ten years ago, this was a more active site with lots of female participants, lots of controversial debates, great discussions and a lively atmosphere.

    The life seems to have seeped away. The majority of articles are self congratulatory about some aspect of Lib Dem activity and dissent is barely tolerated.

    Forgive me if my memory is playing tricks and if my comments are unwelcome. I do appreciate the time and effort provided by the moderators and others who keep the site running. But the direction of travel over recent years has been wrong for some reason. I therefore caution against making changes in the same direction if that is what is being implemented. I say this for the good of LDV. My own participation is becoming very infrequent, not just because I am unwelcome, but because the site is visibly dying and any attempt to liven it up is edited out. I recognise that the consequence of this comment is that it may be my last, in which case I do give my best wishes that there is a swift and lasting recovery.

  • I think 750 words is a better length rule than 500 words, which is too restrictive. The very successful Conservative Home site when I used to write for them had an informal “roughly 800 words” rule.

    Limiting comments to 250 words also makes sense. 500 words for a comment is too long, especially given the limited length of main pieces.

    If women write more comments and more pieces, they will be better represented on the site. It is up to them. The same applies for ethnic or religious minorites. I don’t believe in discrimination, even when in favour of minorities or quasi-minorities such as women who are actually a majority of the population.

  • Moyra Forrest 14th Jan '22 - 9:56pm

    The paucity of comments from women seems instructive. Jenny Barnes and John Barrett hit the nail on the head for me.
    The editors may have identified a trend which concerns them, but unless readability and depth of content can be guaranteed, imposing gender balance could deter rather than encourage debate.
    In wider society many women are shouldering increasing burdens due to Covid-19: home-schooling, LFTs of children, childcare, other caring responsibilities,, managing household budgets as food prices rise – to name a few. Could they just be far too busy and drained?
    And some, like me, may be saddened that our party constitution which rejects ALL (my caps. as no italics available) discrimination seems to have been forgotten yet again.

  • Long-time reader, first-time commenter. Probably a last-time commenter too, given that my opinion is one that is now more likely to be filtered out due to an immutable characteristic that I have no control over, my gender.

    This solution addresses only one symptom of a problem, and does not even seek to address the cause at all. It’s also – I’m sure entirely coincidentally – the easy way out. It doesn’t require the editorial team here to address why engagement among women appears to be lower, it just requires comments by men to be filtered until the desired ratio is achieved. Equality!

    This is entirely illiberal. Is there any evidence that any women were put off of commenting because other comments had male names attached to them? I understand issues of ‘power users’, but by conflating the two you make a mess of the whole thing.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 14th Jan '22 - 10:51pm

    Dear All,

    I have to admit to some surprise in reading the responses. Firstly, I’m not sure where we’ve said that we intend to impose some arbitrary level of gender balance. We do intend to explore ways in which we can encourage a more diverse author base – more active commissioning of pieces, for example.

    There is a well established theory that men are rather more willing to put themselves forward, whereas women are more likely to need encouragement. We’re keen to test that theory, even if it creates more work for us.

    Reducing the length of comments makes for a more snappy, less bludgeoning approach to the debate below the line and might encourage more articles, thus offering more scope to explore ideas.

    But, in the same way that encouraging diversity and inclusion makes for a better society, we hope that our new strategy will make for a better, more lively site.

    And, if it fails, perhaps it’s time to wind up Liberal Democrat Voice for good…

  • Nonconformistradical 14th Jan '22 - 11:17pm

    Mark
    “Firstly, I’m not sure where we’ve said that we intend to impose some arbitrary level of gender balance. We do intend to explore ways in which we can encourage a more diverse author base”

    Could the team identify without too much trouble people who used to comment but have stopped doing so or maybe do so far less frequently than before? If so then presumably you have email addresses for these people (OK they may not all still be working addresses). But would it be worth emailing such people (irrespective of gender) to ask why their contributions have ceased/reduced?

    I must admit there have been times when some topics have been dominated by one or two people – often arguing economics with each other. Really off-putting. Do you really want an audience of academic types which is obsessed with economics?

    Many households may be obsessed with economics without calling it that – i.e. their struggles to both heat their homes and put food on the table. But that’s not what’s been going on on LDV recently.

    Perhaps participants who dominate a discussion might be limited not to a specific number of comments in a discussion but to a rough percentage of comments – so in a lengthy discussion they might get 3-4 comments and in a shorter one only 1-2?

  • Would it be a good idea to try to get more coverage of articles by promoting them on Twitter etc to Lib Dem audiences? More people might then engage. I only got 4 comments on an article I wrote, published on Wednesday (two of them my replies!). It was about how the Government’s double standards on Covid must be damaging the nation’s mental health – quite an important topic!

  • Nonconformistradical 15th Jan '22 - 8:27am

    @Judy Abel
    Promoting LDV articles via Twitter seems like a good idea. I’m not a Twitter user (or a user of any of the pther ‘big business’ social networks and I recall others commenting on LDV thay they don’t use them either) but accept that a great many people do use it – that’s their choice.

    I don’t perceive there is much proactive promotion of LDV so it seems worth trying.

  • Andy Boddington 15th Jan '22 - 8:52am

    All articles are posted on the LDV Twitter account https://twitter.com/libdemvoice/.

  • One final point from me, the “slugging it out” only seems to happen on one or two contentious topics but most discussions are amicable. I am in the same position as Laurence Cox and it is frustrating if someone is allowed to take a tone towards you that you can’t take towards them.

    In general the classical liberalism I identify with seems to be unpopular at the moment here and elsewhere and one is more likely to be “naughty stepped” directly or indirectly for holding these views.

  • Ruth Bright 15th Jan '22 - 9:54am

    Caron, Mark, Mary everyone thank you for all your hard work.

    Have to confess to using Lib Dem Voice as a life raft where I clung to colleagues during the shame of Coalition and the scariness of Covid. When you are clinging to people on a life raft you don’t pay much attention to their pronouns. (Sorry, I don’t claim to be in the JVT league when it comes to metaphors!)

  • Jenny Barnes 14th Jan ’22 – 4:55pm…..As a woman commenter I will participate in threads where I feel I’ve some knowledge or strong opinion to add to the debate. But if it’s a topic of little interest to me, then I’m unlikely to engage. I don’t often feel inhibited by the majority male voices on LDV – if I have something to say I will…………

    Thank you for the most sensible response.. That should be the ONLY criterion for any poster,,

  • I agree with Moyra Forrest that Covid has taken a lot of time and energy away from potential women contributors.

    At the same time, it’s confined many of the elderly and infirm more to their homes than before. Hence we have a significant number of prolific elderly male contributors.

    The young are as under-represented as women writers of articles and comments.

    Mark and other editors, could you reach out to the Young Liberals to encourage more contributions?

    Thank you for all your efforts and excellent work.

  • Nonconformistradical 15th Jan '22 - 10:38am

    @expats
    “That should be the ONLY criterion for any poster,,”

    Why do you wish (apparently) to dictate the criteria by which any other poster should post?

    By the way Nonconformistradical is She/her but I don’t seem to be able to include the pronoun in the Name field.

  • Tristan Ward 15th Jan '22 - 10:40am

    @ Andy Boddington

    Andy

    I have taken time out to think about my reply to your post replying to mine.

    I support LDV’s efforts to widen participation (see my post of 14th at 9.51) and generate interesting content.

    I do not think you “need an expensive education to contribute”. I said “Writing well is indeed a skill. Often it goes with privilege, in particular an expensive education. I think you may well have to be careful here if you want to exclude contributions on ground of poor writing”. My fear is that your laudable wish to encourage good writing may have the unintended consequence of an over-representation of those who have an expensive education that has developed their writing skills.

    Because of the new word limit, I cannot respond to the point about China here. Another post follows.

  • Tristan Ward 15th Jan '22 - 10:41am

    Regarding freedom of expression, this whole debate is about exactly that. The original article says:

    1 “We will be proactively managing the comments debate”

    2 “That may mean that some comments won’t be published”

    3 “We hope that by reducing the volume of comments by a small number of men…..”

    People can judge for themselves whether that is a limit on freedom of expression and whether it is justified.

    The article implies you don’t want contributors “trying to prove that [their] argument is better than someone else’s – contrary to the arguments of Mill in On Liberty and Milton in Areopagitica. I have made these arguments and I have seen no acknowledgement of them as important liberal principles.

    My point about China is that when we find ourselves using phrases that could be used by our ideological enemies to justify unacceptable things, it is probably wise to think a bit more about the implications of those words and why we are using them. I probably expressed myself badly – sorry about that – but the point remains.

    I think there are some great ideas here about how to improve contributions, both from the LDV team and contributors such as Catherine JC and Peter Watson. I just don’t think limiting the length of responses and preventing criticism are some of them.

  • I am encouraged by a lot of this, and we would love to see more female authors and commenters, but how do you know who is female? What if they are Trans? What if they wish to swap genders?

    You have no way of policing this properly without falling into trouble somewhere.

    I think a wiser move would have been to introduce new rules for comments: One comment per person per article, and absolutely no refering to people by name or @.

    Wouldn’t this have stopped the endless argument threads, and made it a more inviting space for all people?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 15th Jan '22 - 11:26am

    @matt: We would treat anyone as the gender as which they identify, like any civilised site would. It is a matter of basic courtesy to do so. I think one comment per person doesn’t allow for conversation, but we will let not a few people to dominate the conversation as they have been doing.

    We have no issue with people having polite conversation with each other and referring to each other by name. They just need to do it politely.

  • Nonconformistradical 15th Jan '22 - 11:35am

    @Matt Haines
    “One comment per person per article, and absolutely no refering to people by name or @.”
    I feel one comment per person might be overly strict. Especially if the thread isn’t getting many comments.

    As far as I know there isn’t a means for making the comments to an LDV post threaded properly so that one can tell easily if one comment is a comment on another comment. If there was then there might be justification for not using @name etc. but if one is commenting on an existing comment it may not be obvious which comment unless one does this.

  • Brad Barrows 15th Jan '22 - 12:22pm

    I believe Liberal Democrat party membership was 62% male in 2019 – not sure of the current proportion but if most people posting on LDV are Party members, it would not be surprising if 3/5 of the posts were by men. I understand the desire to get more women posting but that is partly a symptom of the underlying problem rather than the problem itself – a truly representative political party should have around 50% women and radical measures need to be taken to address this. For example, minimum membership cost is £12 per year unless on state benefits when it is £6 – why not make is £6 minimum for all women?

  • I read LDV every day, including the comments and I respond where I am genuinely engaged on a subject. I do think there is a little too much ego-boosting chat by a small number of people, but I am mostly happy to wade through this in order to get a real picture of what subjects people think are important.
    Thank you LDV for providing a medium where anyone can have their say. I do not feel intimidated by the number of male contributors and assume that female readers like myself do not usually feel inspired to respond.

  • Peter Watson 15th Jan '22 - 2:08pm

    @”One comment per person per article, and absolutely no refering to people by name or @.”
    I think that sort of approach would destroy the sense of community on this site and lead to stagnation.
    I’ve learned a lot about Lib Demmery from below-the-line discussions on this site over the last ten years or more, and I congratulate the editors on a job well done (despite occasionally disagreeing with them!).
    In particular, when I discovered LDV during the Coalition years, it was great to see Lib Dems who dissented from what was presented by Clegg et al, even though the editorial line appeared understandably very loyal.
    I’ve come to appreciate the personalities that shine through in discussions on this site, and that is only possible because they were not stifled. With apologies to anyone I’ve missed out, in recent years what springs to mind is the compassion of Katharine Pindar, David Raw, Michael BG and matt; the intellect of Peter Martin and Joe Bourke; and even the cheekiness of John Marriott ;-). There are plenty of others (and I remember many more who are no longer involved) who, whether I agree with them or not, have made this a site I can’t stop visiting even though I have not returned to the party itself.

  • Stephanie Wilson 15th Jan '22 - 3:15pm

    One of the reasons for a paucity of women’s voices is that Lib Dem Voice has for some years been censoring the kinds of comments women are allowed to make. Women have had their comments deleted and submissions rejected. Will the new policy allow a more diverse and inclusive range of women’s views to be aired?

  • Katharine Pindar 15th Jan '22 - 4:27pm

    Peter Watson. Thank you for that lovely comment, Peter. I have always appreciated your own comments too. I wasn’t intending to join in here, having read all the contributions just now, and not minding personally that the majority of contributors are men, but you inspire me to write this one. I haven’t been contributing on this site much lately, either in writing articles or in commenting, being very busy at present writing for the party’s new Working Group on a Fairer Society, along with Michael BG. Michael and I are working together as a team, as we have been doing for years now, promoting our ideas on the party having a Beveridge-2 Plan for a new Social Contract. I think we have at least helped to influence the Federal Policy Committee’s decision to set up four very relevant new working groups.

    On gender discrimination, interestingly, I am formally a member of the said Fairer Society Working Group, and Michael is not. I actually think that he should have been appointed rather than me, given his economic knowledge and always patient and extensive research, as well as the technical expertise I lack. There is a good representation of women on our WG, and I would like Michael to be on it formally as well, though I expect FPC knows we will continue working together. So life CAN be harder for well-qualified middle-aged men in our party! Best wishes to you all – and to you also, Peter.

  • Robin Bennett 15th Jan '22 - 5:19pm

    By all means refuse posts where contributors go off at a tangent or seek to have the last word. And restricting comments to 250 words will remove the frequent temptation to reply simply “TLDR” But don’t otherwise restrict retired white men like me, the main readership, including insightful “dominant contributors”. One reason I remain a Lib Dem is because LDV is so well edited and civilised: mostly well reasoned articles and intelligent comment, unlike in sites which support other parties. But BBC Radio 4’s “Womens Hour” and ITV’s “Loose Women” flourish because they discuss issues which are predominantly of feminine interest. Might be worth trialling a Womens LDV and (perhaps in a different medium) a Young LDV, to see whether they become popular, while LDV remains open to all .

  • One innovation I would like to see LDV make is to start an “Open Thread” at least monthly, perhaps more often.

    The new guidance on the length of posts is welcome. On other websites I routinely read posts that are many times longer than the new guidance and my head still hasn’t exploded. 😊

    Equally, I have never found the length of others’ comments to be a problem. If they are badly argued or not interesting to me, I simply ignore them. For myself, when I do comment it is often to suggest a somewhat different perspective on the post or on others’ comments. And, since explaining that different view often pushes against the old comment limit, I may not contribute as much in future.

  • These changes should improve LDV significantly.

    I have long thought that the addition of ‘like’ beside each comment [as is the case with Telegraph comments] would greatly assist ‘discussing what the Lib Dems are doing and what they could be doing’. This would provide an ongoing poll on these matters which I would have thought – would be an invaluable source of information.

    I suspect that the current software does not provide this option – otherwise it would be in use. If this is the case – would an upgrade be hugely expensive?

  • Jason Connor 16th Jan '22 - 7:53pm

    I try to give credit where it’s due to other posters. This is not the most welcoming of site to newcomers, whether party members, supporters or lib dem curious. I moderate a community neighbourhood site where all new members are welcomed so that they feel a sense of belonging, perhaps something similar needs to be done here.
    I would like to see more contributions from council or social housing tenants, I must be one of very few on here and a tabloid press reader at that.

    I would like to thank Catherine Jane Crosland for her comment ‘The aim should surely be to increase the number of comments by women, so that there is an equal number of comments by both men and women, and it should be possible to do this without preventing men from commenting. We need to create an environment in which *everyone* feels that their contributions are welcome and valued.’ Now to me that’s what inclusion is all about and I could not have put it better.

  • Michael Berridge 17th Jan '22 - 8:32pm

    On that Friday the thirteenth of December 2019, reading post-election comment on LDV, I posted three reasonably intelligent comments of my own. Reviewing them in the new year I noted: “My comments drew no response from other contributors. I’ve often wondered if there is a cosy club of ‘the usual suspects’ who enjoy scoring off one another.” Now I know.

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