How to further improve our comments threads: your suggestions please

Fingers on keyboardHere at LDV Towers we try hard to ensure that the comments threads on the site do not descend into the angry, abusive examples that are all-too prevalent around the web. As such, we have a clearly stated policy and the LDV team takes a fairly active approach to the moderation of comments. This takes up a sizeable amount of the team’s time (not least because those who post comments that breach our policy are inevitably more likely to transfer their rants to emails to us!).

Speaking albeit not entirely objectively, I think we do a decent job of keeping the worst of comments off the site, so (we hope) people can come here without fear of being personally abused.

However, speaking personally I think there is more we can do, in one area in particular.

One of the biggest impediments to the development of good debates, with a multitude of commenters, within comments threads is, I think, the tendency of a small number of individuals (probably about half a dozen) to post lots of very, very long comments, often covering the same ground no matter the original subject of the post.

A good recent example can be found here.

What it essentially means is that after a few hours of the post being published, the diversity of comments has reduced to a few individuals talking at great length to one another. That is not my idea of an interesting discussion, and I strongly suspect that other readers agree.

I have a few ideas about what we might do, but I’d like to hear what you think. The solution may be technological, or it may not be.

So, get commenting – particularly if you are a regular reader who doesn’t often comment. What puts you off? What can we do about it?

In order to allow a discussion about this issue in the comments here, all comments on this post will be moderated and I will not approve any that don’t contribute to identifying and solving the problem. I will also be robust about repeat commenting. 

* Nick Thornsby is a day editor at Lib Dem Voice.

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  • “In order to allow a discussion about this issue in the comments here, all comments on this post will be moderated and I will not approve any that don’t contribute to identifying and solving the problem. ”

    The problem with that statement is that it presumes that there is a problem. I don’t think there is a problem. Here’s my radical solution that I apply to lengthy comments that are repetitive – I don’t read them. Do other readers not possess that same capacity? I doubt anyone is put off commenting by the fact that one or two other people are writing lengthy comments, so you will not improve debate by restricting how much someone can write.

  • Eddie Sammon 17th Oct '14 - 1:09pm

    Recently I’ve been thinking the quality of below-the-line comments need to improve, but I also want to defend the commenters by saying sometimes offensive articles attract offensive comments. I haven’t seen many of these recently, but I think it is something to bear in mind.

    During one of the Jeremy Browne threads I seen a comment that I pretty much know wouldn’t have been made if their real name was being used. I thought maybe people should have to use their real name unless they have a good reason not to. Although, I think this is an area of controversy.

    I thought the status idea someone came up with once was good, i.e. people could put “Lib Dem voter” or “Labour-Lib Dem swing voter”.

  • Seems pretty obvious: Make comments threaded (and collapseable), so that people that start just replying to each other can do so under a single thread and the rest can just jump to the next thread when they lost interest in that particular exchange (which at times goes completely off topic). Many website use that for comments so should not be that hard to implement.

  • Contrary to Steve above, I think there is a problem – and it’s good that you are looking at addressing this. The problem is that a large proportion of threads end up being not about the original post but about a very small number of regularly repeated topics. Discussing those topics is fair enough – except when they end up regularly drowning out conversation on other topics by threads being so frequently dragged back onto the handful of old favourites.

    Having different comment threads on different subjects is a good idea to aim for, especially in respecting the idea that not all readers want to talk about the same thing every time.

  • The “problem” I see is that; you remove the comment without personal right to retraction and/or rectify/justify misunderstanding.

  • paul barker 17th Oct '14 - 1:41pm

    Would it be possible to enable readers to choose settings, for example to exclude longer or multiple comments ? That a genuine question, my knowledge of the technicalities is near zero.
    The team could make sweeps of the threads, simply removing comments that wander off-topic & moving them to permanent threads under broad categories – Nick Clegg would be an obvious example.

    The biggest problem I see with LDV comments is that they are a sea of testosterone, its uninterrupted masculinity all the way. I have no idea what we can do about that.

  • I think the problem is that a lot the arguments stem from excessive posts from UKIP, Labour and Conservative voters who keep dragging debates into provocative directions. If you have posters who repeatedly go no about how great Farage or whoever is and how awful the Lib Dems are then there will be a lot of back and fourth. The longest posts tend to be about economics with a lot of people posting outlines of incredibly complex economic theories that sometimes deviate wildly from the initial article.
    Personally, I don’t mind that my comments are sometimes mediated, but would argue that they are usually very short and in support of the Lib Dems.

  • Daniel Henry 17th Oct '14 - 1:43pm

    I’d personally like to be able to “thumbs up” comments I agree with.
    I think it’s easier and more effective than writing an “Agreed with…” post.

    With the long comments and tangents, they can be a bit annoying but I’d rather put with annoyance than have a policy of moderators deleting posts they feel disrupts debate.

    One solution might be to have a “thread” system, where replies to particular comments are kept in a thread that can be expanded on minimised depending on whether the reader is interested in what’s being said.

  • Personally I think LDV does a good job of having interesting and informative comment sections. The biggest problem I see is that since there’s no mechanism for tracking further responses debates typically die as a story leaves the top few hits on the front page.

    The simplest change I can think of that might address your concern is to thread the comments section so that back-and-forth debates between a handful of users are shuffled off to the side rather than dominating the main thread.

  • Daniel Henry 17th Oct '14 - 1:45pm

    Now I think of it, both of my suggestions are already being used at Conservative Home.

    I think this will be the only time I ever ask Liberals to copy a policy from Tories! 🙂

  • Daniel Henry 17th Oct '14 - 1:46pm

    I also agree with Melanie’s right to a retraction/clarification.

    Perhaps not to allow the existing comment, but to allow a further comment underneath in a different colour and an extra timestamp maybe?

  • Stephen Campbell 17th Oct '14 - 1:51pm

    I also regularly post on Conservative Home and Labour List. I find the debate on those sites to be less restrictive, more engaging and robust with a wider spectrum of opinions allowed by people who post there. On those sites I get the feeling the posters come from all walks of life and all economic bands (yes, even on ConHome!) which is not a feeling I get here. I quite like reading and posting long posts. Some of us aren’t as good with words as others and often need more words to get our point across.

    I understand this is “your house” and therefore your rules, but I do find it slightly sadly ironic that a site dedicated to discussing the Liberal Democrats has the most illiberal commenting policy of the three. I’ve watched the comments policy here become more and more restrictive here over the past few years. I often get the feeling the moderators don’t like a lot of things that some people say (home truths?) and are always looking for ways to further marginalise dissenting voices and unpopular opinions. This site is in danger of becoming an echo chamber, IMO.

  • Paul In Wokingham 17th Oct '14 - 2:09pm

    I have seldom seen any BTL thread on any financial forum or newspaper website (the places where I typically am interested in what readers think) that hasn’t diverted into sidebar discussions, digressions and (apparent) irrelevance.

    That parenthetical “apparent” is important, because all to often it is in the digressions that the useful dialectic takes place.

    I would certainly be in favour of improving the software that does the BTL stuff to allow editing, searching, public voting up/down (a feature I love in the Daily Mail website where I often agree strongly with the “worst rated” comment!) and threading replies into collapsible views.

    Presumably the reason why the commenting technology here is so comparatively primitive is because this is a volunteer site and so it would need someone with web development knowledge to volunteer considerable time and expertise to make that upgrade.

  • Tony Dawson 17th Oct '14 - 2:20pm

    Is threading a solution?

  • Stephen Campbell 17th Oct '14 - 2:21pm

    As I think more about this, I find myself further in agreement with @Steve above. Setting lengths for comments and further restricting what people can and cannot say is simply illiberal IMHO. The liberal thing for those who don’t like long comments would simply be for them to ignore them and scroll down. I scroll past articles on the site that don’t interest me or which I feel I’d have nothing to add, but I wouldn’t think of ever restricting these articles.

    I fully admit I no longer (currently) vote Lib Dem because of the economic direction this party has taken since Clegg became leader, and that there are people here who would prefer people such as myself just go away. But there are many LibDem MPs and members who I still greatly admire. I just think liberals should welcome opinion and robust, heart-felt and passionate debate from all corners. But like I said: your house, your rules 🙂

  • Helen Tedcastle 17th Oct '14 - 2:21pm

    I’m not sure how you get around the fact that there will be some very regular contributors to threads. If some people want to get deeply into a thread and post regularly, that’s their choice.

    If others don’t want to read the longer comments, scroll down to the next one.

    This is a political site – feelings can run high and to be fair, some of the most fascinating threads on LDV have been on contentious issues or as a response to provocative articles.

    On a site which champions liberal views and freedom of speech, care must be taken by mods not to censor debate or over-moderate views they do not like. Personal abuse is one thing – censorship and restrictive practices are quite another.

    In my relatively recent experience of being involved in hotly debated threads, I think the current LDV team have got the balance about right.

  • Agree with Daniels suggestions 100% 🙂 just having the ability to reply to a comment and have the replies appear below the comment would massively improve readability.

    Any chance of the ability to edit a comment after its been posted – even if only for a minute or two? I often post a comment, re-read it and realise I’ve made a typo or something that could confuse the point I’m making.

  • I’m another regular ConHome reader (best way of reminding me why I’m not a Tory) and many of the same issues have been encountered there. Might be worth a chat with Paul Goodman to share advice on moderation, as they’ve had real issues with UKIP takeovers of every thread as well.

    I like the idea of being able to have a “status” e.g. UKIP voter, Lib Dem councillor, Lib Dem voter, swing voter etc, although you could always put that on your name anyway if you wanted.

    I value posting semi-anonymously as I can say something controversial without any opponents using it against me – Lord Freud is an example of what happens when a space to do that is denied.

    Threading would be useful if possible, but ultimately I only have time to read what interests me, so I can live with things as they stand. And things I find deadly dull will I’m sure be someone else’s cup of tea.

  • I do not agree with enabling comment-blocking. It would, however, be interesting to see what would happen if we were limited to one comment each…

  • Character limits of say 500 would be a start.

    Would be nice to somehow block all the deficit denier trolls from the Guardian.

  • @Stephen Campbell “I just think liberals should welcome opinion and robust, heart-felt and passionate debate from all corners. But like I said: your house, your rules :)”

    But LibDemVoice does welcome opinion and robust, heart-felt and passionate debate from all corners. You only have to read a few comments threads to see that. What we don’t welcome is abusive, off-topic or deceitful comments as per our policy:

    We also say: “We welcome a diversity of voices in our comments threads, so please be careful about drowning out a thread by posting a high volume of comments yourself.”

    Nick has made clear that he is expressing a personal view above, to explore what readers think. But I am also concerned that the discussions often quickly turn into a “last man standing” contest (and it is always men) based on who, from amongst about a half-a-dozen male readers, has enough time and energy to continually post long-winded, repetitive, convoluted comments to wear down other people.

  • jedibeeftrix 17th Oct '14 - 4:52pm

    @ Eddie – ” . I thought maybe people should have to use their real name unless they have a good reason not to.”

    Who decides what is a good reason?
    What policy governs good reasons?
    How is the implementation resourced?

  • Eddie Sammon 17th Oct '14 - 5:28pm

    Hi Jedi, I would debate the topic with you, but without a threading facility it would take over the article. I think this is probably the best way to go. I’m not wedded to the idea of people using their names more, it was just a suggestion.

  • Kudos to Nick for putting this to the commentariat. Clearly getting the balance right is difficult, perhaps especially for a political site, but I rather think eternal vigilance goes with the territory.

    I agree with Stephen Campbell (first comment). There is a curiously stilted quality to LDV discussion threads; at times it almost feels like some obscure cult dedicated to defending the Lib Dem establishment no matter what and that certainly puts me off commenting at times. I am happy to defend the Party establishment when that is called for but it also needs to be held to account at times. Conference isn’t always the best vehicle for that (for timing alone if for no other reason) so that leaves … well, LDV.

    I’m not worried that discussion sometimes spins off topic; that’s often the most interesting bit.

    As far as technical changes go I would certainly would like to be able to reply to specific comments if that’s possible.

  • A quick scan through the debate which Nick uses as an example of repetition and irrelevance shows that there were about 45 different commentators who posted a total of 105 comments. I would have thought that it is perfectly legitimate that if you post something and someone disagrees with you, or engages with you in a way that makes you reassess your post, then it is perfectly legitimate, and indeed adds to the value of the discussion, if you post another comment. I do not know how much moderation goes on behind the scenes at LDV, but these periodic bouts of anguished navel gazing seem to me, on the face of it, to be completely unnecessary. It baffles me that anyone can compare the quality of debate on LDV unfavourably with ConservativeHome. As the Labour Party has nothing interesting to say at the moment I don’t bother with their blog (and yes, I also occasionally read ConHome to remind myself how unpleasant so many Tories are).

  • Stevan Rose 17th Oct '14 - 6:55pm

    Implement technology that prohibits any post that contains “so what you are (really) saying is…”, deliberate misinterpretation as a method of provoking an irritated response.

    But one issue is that you expect a comment thread for many topical events and they just don’t exist, so people use other vehicles to make their points. Perhaps you need standing threads specifically for the bedroom tax, or Clegg’s leadership, or for UKIP, or just general views that don’t fit elsewhere.

    Finally, I hadn’t realised, after a 30 year absence from (Liberal) party membership via flirting with the SDP and Blairite Labour, that there is some kind of internal war being waged between those who would position the party to the left of Labour and those that would position it to the right of Labour and left of the Tories. That war is being fought on this site and is not being moderated. For those who get accidentally caught up in that war, not knowing what is going on, it is very off-putting. Different opinions are not respected or debated with passion and in good spirit. Instead steel toecapped boots are aimed in personal attacks on other posters. This is a failure of moderators in applying existing rules. Apply the rules.

  • Stephen Donnelly 17th Oct '14 - 8:20pm

    I agree that there is a problem, some debates are killed off by a few very long comments, and some people repeat the same point on every topic.

    I suggest a word limit. If someone want to make a longer point they should submit it as an article.

    There should be an upper limit on the number of posts any one can make on each article. Could be three for members, one for others.

    I think the level of moderation is more or less right now, it should not be increased, and we should resist the temptation to try control debate too heavily.

  • I agree with Daniel Henry for the need for:
    1. Thumbs up I agree
    2. Threading
    Additionally, I think to encourage polite civil debate – in line with the LDV comments policy, it would be nice to be able offer:
    1. Good points/argument but I’m not necessarily in agreement.

    I see the platform used by Conservative Home – can be readily integrated into LDV. However, like Disqus it is third-party hosted service (although it does seem to be free). A quick google will throw up several articles and discussions surrounding the relative merits of Disqus and IntenseDebate (and others).

    With respect to commenters names, I think the only check that should be made is that a name can only be associated to one email address (with the option to change the association by entering the old email address), likewise an email address can only have one name. One of the problems with the discussion/debate platforms is the need for people to create accounts before commenting, or having a generic ‘guest’ user option. I think LDV currently strikes a good balance: any one can comment but only those with an account can embellish their comment label.

    As for LDV moderation, I understand people have day jobs and so comments will get moderated at some stage, just not necessarily immediately. From my experience I’ve found the level of moderation (of my posts) helpful and so have no real axe to grind.

  • Spoke too soon about moderation! If an article is having ALL comments moderated, it would be nice for this to be flagged before posting! 🙂

  • Simon McGrath 17th Oct '14 - 10:18pm

    @Stevan – actually there isnt a war being waged at all. A few people are determined to run a false narrative that the party has been taken over by “Orange Bookers” -whereas in fact conf votes show that in virtually all the big issues the members side with the leadership.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 17th Oct '14 - 10:21pm

    Roland, it really couldn’t be any clearer that all comments were going to be moderated. This is the text in bold at the bottom of the article.

    n order to allow a discussion about this issue in the comments here, all comments on this post will be moderated and I will not approve any that don’t contribute to identifying and solving the problem. I will also be robust about repeat commenting.

  • I really don’t see where the problem is. The board seems well run and overall moderated very fairly in what is a very difficult time for the LibDems. If the length of some posts are too long you could put a 250 word maximum on all posts. My main worry of any changes would be that they may be used to suppress criticism and turn the LDV into a cheerleading platform for the leadership.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 17th Oct '14 - 11:01pm

    George: can I draw your attention to the words in bold at the bottom of the article, please? And no software can get rid of all sexist and racist comments. We don’t have the time to look at each individual one so we rely on people to tell us if there’s anything that shouldn’t be there.

  • I suspect the quality of debate would improve if LDV team members weren’t allowed to moderate their own articles.

  • I’m fairly sure I once had my post held for moderation because my post included “NHS”.

    I then posted again, just saying “NHS” and it got held for moderation.

    I then posted again without including that and my post went straight through.

    So maybe make the moderating guidelines more obvious?

  • Caron: Apologies for my blindness!

    In my defence, I think I read the article, did something else then came back (several times) and looked at the comments, before adding my own comment. On my screen, when contributing, all I see is the page from and including the “Post a Comment” heading down to the bottom of the page. So I suggest that I had totally forgotten and overlooked the final sentences in bold at the end of the article.

    Hence another wish would be for your helpful and honest comment about moderation to be placed either directly above or below the set of commenting boxes; however I do accept that once in full flight even if the warning is in flashing red I will sometimes fail to see it 🙂

  • Michael B-G 18th Oct '14 - 6:06am

    To solve the problem identified by Mark Pack you could try the solution suggested by Jack and move the comments into a new thread on that topic.

    I love the fact that there is no limit to the length of a post and so there is no need for double posting. I hate the idea that there would be thread system for replies. I wish to be able to read the posts in the order they are posted and I have no problem that there might be two discussions going on around other posts. This is my favour site for the way it deals with comments and I would hate to see more comments being moderated out.

  • Re: real names. I’m related to someone else in the Lib Dems. I feel much freer to post what I think when I don’t need to consider the shared name .

  • Maria Pretzler 18th Oct '14 - 9:07am

    Thinking about this, I think what gets me most about LDV comments threads is that there seem to be too many people who have internalised Ryan Coetzee’s main mantra a bit too much. Some regular commenters seem to believe that their thoughts deserve to be posted ‘on message, at volume, over time’. I just don’t think that it makes for good comments threads, or that it does those commenters any favour at all.

    My radical policy would be to have a ‘three posts per day and commenter across the site’ policy. I think it might stop people from just saying the same thing over and over. And if they still don’t want to say anything else, well, I think three times a day might just be sufficient? It’s still over a thousand times a year! Just thinking about a thousand comments from certain people around here, saying the same thing ‘on message, at volume, over time’ is exasperating.

  • It’s always good when high profile Lib Dems write a post as a way of communicating what they are doing more widely and especially good when they follow up by participating in comments. But a pet bugbear is when they DON’T join in the debate leaving the thought that the original post was only about self-promotion. Follow up participation should be expected and this should be made plain to them at the outset.

    To all those who complain about some people posting frequently and/or on the same topic: the answer is to beat them in argument, not shut down the debate. If you can’t do that then they have a point. Can we get back to being a liberal party please.

  • Nick Thornsby says about his perceived “problem” — A good recent example can be found here.
    That perception is very well answered by tonyhill’s comment.
    If you scan the “most read” box in the right hand column — Nick’s “problem” seems not to exist.
    The discussions he does not like are generally the most popular, most read and most contributed to. How is that a “problem”?

    Surely LDV’s main problem is with those subjects where nobody comments, or fewer than six comments come in.
    In the days when Nick’s example of a “problem” discussion was gong on there were plenty of subjects with no comment or very few comments.
    I would humbly suggest that indifference is a greater problem than too much involvement.
    If people want short sharp comments they can go on Twitter. I prefer a reasoned argument expressed in more than one or two sentences.

    I am not able to form a judgement about the relative numbers of male/female contributors. It is not obvious to me if Jedibeeitrix, GF and G, tpfkar, Pegasus are all men. Even “Jack” who at first sight I might take to be a man could be Linda Jack. Similarly “Glenn” could be Glenn Close. These things are not always as obvious as they seem.

    I would also like to express my gratitude to the volunteers who make LDV possible.
    I am sorry if I bore and irritate Nick and I know I will be one of the malcontents that he would prefer to banish.
    But I fear he would feel the same even if I were to restrict myself to 140 characters and one comment per thread.
    But I recognise that as a volunteer he is doing me a favour.
    So THANK YOU to Nick and Caron and Stephen and Joe and Paul and Mary and everyone else who make LDV possible.


  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 18th Oct '14 - 10:57am

    Agree or Recommended button (saves further repeats)
    Edit option (saves the unnecessary sorry etc and allows the individual to reflect and improve the post)
    Move the “6 or so people” to a thread of their own [they are being read by LDV staff anyway?] and tell the rest of us [with an arrow] so we can also go there if we wish
    And we need to cut out the trolls from other parties – better devices to do so please

  • Another thing which could help is having registration and logged-in users so that identities have better persistence.

  • Definitely against having to use real names. I made the mistake in the past of posting whilst logged in with my member account and so my real name appeared. I then realised that those posts ended up appearing in Google searches of my name, quite prominently, and since you can’t edit posts, they still do years later.
    Now as my name is very rare (probably less than a dozen in the world and unique in the UK), that to me is a problem (don’t necessarily want future employers to know my political affiliation for example).
    Beside, unless you restrict comments to party members (which is a big no-no for liberals I would think), then there’s no way to guarantee that a name is real anyway.

    Having to create an account on the other hand would be good, as long as it also allows you to edit posts.

    Btw, I’m female 😉

  • Stephen Donnelly 18th Oct '14 - 12:58pm

    Other things to consider are elections for moderators (even football fan sites have these). An ability to separate or merge threads would be useful, and an ‘ignore’ feature.The money to develop the site could be raised by encouraging and acknowledging sponsors.

    To continue to thrive, after the coalition, some creative thinking on behalf of the ‘owners’ is required.

    I have argued against ‘no platform’ policies all my life, and do not want to see any of the critical voices ‘hounded out’.

  • Peter Watson 18th Oct '14 - 1:14pm

    One bugbear of mine that would improve Lib Dem Voice would be if authors refrained from creating new articles in parallel (e.g. three about Jeremy Browne at the moment). Why not simply reply in an existing thread instead of wanting a photo at the top of the page?
    I’m in two minds about comments being threaded. On the one hand I like the logical presentation of discussions it would provide, but on the other hand I like the way the current system allows me to see all of the new posts since my last visit. I also suspect that threading comments means we would simply see parallel discussions and repeated posts all on the same page.

  • Peter Watson 18th Oct '14 - 1:21pm

    @William Hobhouse “Only Lib Dem members can comment?”
    I don’t think that this is a good idea: open discussions in Lib Dem Voice are potentially a great way to persuade people like me to return to the party, and there are far more Lib Dem voters than members.
    However, I wonder if it might be good to have some members-only discussions on the public part of Lib Dem Voice (rather than hiding them behind a log-in) in order to open a window on the debate within the party without the distraction of contributions from outside.

  • I can’t stand voting on forums for posts (I know businesses that employ people to upvote posts – you create a winnable technology game). Also, there can be a situation where everyone disagrees with a factually correct post, after a few have disagreed others won’t read it and instead will wind up reading the consensus view of comments. That’s a terrible way to get new ideas knocking around a system.

    I mainly agree with John Tilley, I don’t think it’s a huge problem and the biggest issue is dead articles with little or no posting. I think forcing real-names would reduce debate a lot and I also think the trolls from other parties have been one of the most unifying factors on this forum since its inception! The rise of kipper posts shows Lib Dems of disparate views that we’re actually closer politically than we’d sometimes think, and it’s quite nice to have a common foe as a unifying factor. I find it hilarious how many “democrats” want a system with as much control and limit as possible, these threads really shine a light on members authoritarian side.

    Cheers to everyone who works hard to keep the show on the road!

  • stuart moran 18th Oct '14 - 1:44pm

    Interesting discussion

    I do not see any reason to change much, unless of course you want to see an anodyne and conformist site (conforming to one particular view of liberalism)

    I do not agree on policy with much of the article’s writer, or to be honest many of the moderators here who I find to be over-sensitive to criticism.

    I also perceive some of the most aggressive posters on here do not seem to have their posts ‘delayed’ by moderation if they are part of the conformist tribe

    I like to see varied debate, good discussion and also some heat and passion – the risk is that this is done away with

    I would also ask why Will Mann’s post survived moderation when he used the phrase ‘deficit denier’ completely unnecessarily and out of the spirit of this supposedly focused thread

    I do not expect to see this post published – which just confirms the point I am making

  • GF is spot on when he/she says “Can we get back to being a liberal party please”. Isn’t this our place to discuss issues? We are all, presumably, interested in/involved with politics, and politics are about conflict and the resolution of conflict. It’s always a nice boost to my ego if someone else agrees with something I’ve written, but I also want to engage (intelligently) with people I disagree with, which is why I feel it has been really valuable to us to have had a number of regular posters from UKIP recently. We should be listening to other points of view, and responding sensibly to them. Who knows, when UKIP eventually fragments some of their saner activists might find a home with us.

  • David Allen 18th Oct '14 - 5:19pm

    Paul Barker said:

    “The team could make sweeps of the threads, simply removing comments that wander off-topic & moving them to permanent threads under broad categories – Nick Clegg would be an obvious example.”

    That’s a bit like saying “Yes, we’ll have a blog in which priests and vicars can discuss the issues of the day. Except that every time they go and bring God into it, we’ll sweep their remarks into a special repository that nobody needs to read.”

    Atheists might like that. Priests and vicars would no doubt counter with the view that bringing God into it is absolutely a vital thing to do!

    Liberals should listen to both sides. No doubt there are many who would like to hear less criticism of Clegg. Then again there are others who think that ditching Clegg is of fundamental importance, and that other issues pale into insignificance by comparison. Hopefully Paul Barker won’t be allowed to censor that view off limits!

  • For the record I’m a ‘he’. I very much agree with Pegasus on the use of real names except that in my case there is (or perhaps was) a Lib Dem activist with the identical and relatively unusual name.

    I suggest LDV should host an open thread item every month dedicated specifically to feedback on any issues concerning the site, comments and so on. Am I the only one who detects a strong aura of top-down-ness about it?

  • Peter Watson 18th Oct '14 - 10:45pm

    It is a little disturbing that many of the suggested “improvements” involve restricting discussions. I also think that some are made with particular contributors in mind, though the fact that “I know who you mean” might simply mean I spend too much time here. 😉 Overall, I appreciate the open nature of debates on this site and think discussions are generally polite, well moderated, and free from trolls.
    Many good ideas might also have unfortunate side-effects. Restricting the number of posts could lead to long posts covering too many points; restricting the length of posts could lead to multiple “chapters” that are harder to scroll past; threading discussions could lead to parallel debates and repeated messages, etc. I also think that “off-topic” is hard to define a lot of the time. In this thread it would obviously be inappropriate to discuss the leadership or debate social vs. economic liberalism, but elsewhere it might be “off-topic” but still relevant.
    Broadly speaking I think that LDV works well and that it is a credit to the people who manage the site. That is not to say I agree with them, but I do appreciate them!

  • Igor Sagdejev 18th Oct '14 - 11:21pm

    Freedom of speech, please, + threading, so it’s easier to scroll down what one does not care about.

  • paul barker 19th Oct '14 - 9:23pm

    The single thing that would make the biggest difference is removing comments that comment on other comments, that would prevent the thread degenerating into a conversation between a small number of men, usually about something unconnected with the original post.

  • Why try to develop and use your own proprietary software instead of using open source stuff which allows the features that people are suggesting in this thread. I always got the impression that you are doing everything yourselves in order for it to look good to potential employers etc. in the future. If that is right, are those original reasons still valid 10 years on?

  • Peter Watson 19th Oct '14 - 11:43pm

    @paul barker “The single thing that would make the biggest difference is removing comments that comment on other comments, that would prevent the thread degenerating into a conversation between a small number of men, usually about something unconnected with the original post.”
    Surely the point of a site like Lib Dem Voice is to promote and encourage a conversation and debate about the topic of the article, especially on those occasions when the original author does not respond to any comments. The 5 Most Read articles listed on the left of the page suggest that it is those articles with the most discussion that attract the most interest (and I presume advertising revenue) on this site. It would be a very dull place if people could only post a direct response to an article without expanding the debate further: we could do away with the comments entirely and simply have a “like” / “dislike” counter. Or we could simply ignore LDV and read party press releases instead.
    I know that it sometimes gets frustrating, but it would be even more frustrating if we could not counter a point with which we disagreed or ask for clarification or evidence. The debate here is often very informative (including your own comments on polling), and most threads die naturally after a few days anyway. Also, the recurring topics in posts that are probably most vexing for some, e.g. criticism of the leadership, are hard to avoid in a debate since they underpin everything the party does.
    Perhaps though, LDV could run a trial, e.g. post the same article twice (or more interestingly, two conflicting views about the same issue) and moderate them differently, e.g. banning “conversations” in one of the threads.
    I also have to wonder, if conversations do end up being between a small number of men then perhaps that might reflect wider problems with the Liberal Democrats.

  • I give up. I thought that I and many others on this thread had won the case for promoting the values of free, open debate and preventing censorship. We argued that debate is edifying. Then along came the SS to prove me wrong.

  • Odd – I clicked on the link out of curiosity and while I was not surprised to find myself reading comments on Jeremy Browne, I thought the vast majority of the comments were not long at all. I hope we don’t go down the route of restricting comment to soundbites.

    I agree that when people make the same comments repeatedly at some length whatever the subject, this should be restricted, but sometimes essentially the same point is relevant to a range of topics: for example, someone who had firm views on the primacy of environmental sustainability over economic growth (or vice versa) or of taking extreme positions over cleaving to the centre (or vice versa) might with relevance make a familiar point in several threads.

    What I find a bit wearing is where the argument wanders right off the original subject, so that, say, what started as a debate on fixed-term parliaments becomes an argument about whether Liberal Left members should join the Labour Party or over whether Nick Clegg is a Liberal. I also admit to skipping comments sometimes when there’s something I want to say on the subject but the trail of comments goes on for so long I don’t want to spend that long reading them all. However, I’d rather see people thinking a bit more whether to engage in back-and-forth arguments than length of comments being restricted to the tiny or editing cutting out unwelcome ideas.

  • Meant to post back here earlier in the week. Whilst not directly related to comments it is about increasing the accessibility and longevity of recent articles and their associated comments/discussions.

    Whilst people can bookmark articles they are interested in, what would be useful is a mechanism to permit the scanning of related articles, so whilst I could of bookmarked this article if I only used the bookmark, I could quite easily miss a follow up article (this is more of a problem with topical subjects that may get several articles giving differing viewpoints).

    What I’m suggesting is an extension of the existing tag usage. It would be useful if in the right hand column there was a section devoted to surfacing the tags. The simplest approach would be to provide a list of topics/tags used in the last month say, alternatively a more structured listing of topics divided into sections, such as policy area’s eg. Health, Defense, Education, Transport, Energy etc. The purpose of this list is to permit a user to quickly access the functionality. About the only problem I can see is the leg work needed to go back through articles and given them a policy area tag.

  • Stevan Rose 23rd Oct '14 - 9:49pm

    How about making sure topics are not duplicated resulting in double posting or the splitting of discussion. Also an ability to track posts through logon profiles. I can’t remember where I’ve posted and when.

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