It’s “Let’s Make Nice Month”: experimental change to LDV’s comments policy

The Internet is a fantastic place. It can also be an angry place. Lib Dem Voice has a high quality of passionate-but-reasoned debate in our comment threads, with many of our 30,000+ readers contributing their thoughts and enjoying LDV’s role as “Our place to talk”.

However … it’s not unknown for debate on LDV to get heated, for commenters sometimes to get personal with the authors of articles, or with each other. The editorial collective has generally adopted a laissez faire moderating policy: save a handful of exceptional circumstances, comments are left untouched.

Partly this policy has been driven of necessity: all of us who edit the site are volunteers, none of us can promise to oversee the site the whole time. Partly it has been driven by the liberal belief in freedom of expression: authors and commenters are responsible for what they write.

But – for an initial and experimental period of one month – LDV is changing its comments editorial policy. Because though we reckon this site is better than most political blogs in offering a space where all can feel free to debate with mutual respect, it doesn’t always happen. And those few occasions when LDV’s comments become overly personal and abusive (and invariably testosterone-charged) can deter others from ever daring to join in.

So for the next month – leading up to Valentine’s Day, appropriately enough – LDV is going to try and ‘love up’ our comments threads. Debate and disagreement is, of course, still welcome, but we are going to apply the following five criteria in moderating comments:

  • We welcome comments from all our readers, including those who are supporters of other parties, or none at all;
  • We will not allow comments which are at all personally abusive to be directed at the authors of our articles, or other commenters. Comments which the editors judge to be in any way abusive will be removed as soon as possible. In ‘grey area’ cases, we may ask you to re-write your comment before we will publish it;
  • We will remove off-topic comments, especially if a commenter continually raises the same point on different comment threads. We probably already have a post on that topic anyway, and you are welcome to leave a comment there instead;
  • We will continue to moderate comments where the same person is commenting under different names in order to generate a false picture of the level of support for their views; or where someone is pretending to be someone or something that they are not (eg, claiming to be a Lib Dem member when they are in fact an activist from another party);
  • We will usually allow comments to appear straight away. However, we reserve the right to auto-moderate, or apply a permanent comment ban, to those who ignore our policy. We have several spam filters in place, if you believe your comments are getting trapped please let us know.

These, then, are LDV’s new comments rules for the next month. Though we’ll do our best as site editors actively to moderate comments, if you spot something you think goes against the grain of the new policy, please do email us with the web-address of the comment. Please do also let us know what you think of the policy – whether you agree or disagree – as we’ll be keeping it under review for the next month before deciding whether to make it permanent.

And please remember: LDV genuinely wants to promote debate and discussion on any and all issues. We hope all our readers will feel able to join in the comments threads in the full knowledge that this really is Our place to talk.

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48 Comments

  • Malcolm Todd 18th Jan '10 - 9:01am

    Any chance of reinstating the ability to subscribe to comments on a topic? Or an explanation of why that facility has been withdrawn?

  • Does this mean I can’t call people stupid for appending labels to other commenters which have little to do with their actual position any more?

  • Malcolm Todd 18th Jan '10 - 10:08am

    Adam: I suppose you could call them “chronologically awareness-impaired”, instead?

  • Is there a word missing in the title? [email protected] editorial team … 😉

  • Andrew Suffield 18th Jan '10 - 12:20pm

    It’s something of a matter of opinion, but I wouldn’t say that ‘liberalism’ extends to the right to play loud music on a crowded train – which is roughly comparable to what a handful of people have been doing.

    Exactly how well this works out is going to depend on the details of how it’s implemented. As such, it’s not really practical to agree or disagree with the policy per se – and it’s difficult for us to judge how well it’s being implemented when we can’t see what actions are being taken. Perhaps it would be beneficial to post a log, somewhere out of the way, along with the comments that get removed? Accountability tends to promote reasonable behaviour, after all.

  • David Allen 18th Jan '10 - 1:01pm

    Hmm. Let’s just hope that abuse in support of the Blessed Nicholas is duly recognised as abuse!

  • I would just like to mention an alternative model that some blogs use which you may have considered.

    One advantage of this model is the fact that warnings and transparency are present.

    The model is to explicitly allow the moderator to post. He can then issue warnings and people can take heed.

    For example

    Doug:
    XXXXX XXX XXX

    Moderator:
    Please refrain from attacking other posters, Doug

  • Voter – or, to borrow a line from 2001: “Dave, what are you doing?”

  • Heh

    [more text here to get round minimum limit]

  • Andrew Tennant 18th Jan '10 - 5:08pm

    Instinctively I don’t like this; criticism makes us sharper and there’s nothing wrong with dissent.

    Perhaps a better option would be to follow the likes of Slashdot or Digg and have a comment rating system; if a comment is irrelevant or inappropriately negative people can score it down and it will be part filtered out from the main discussion (though still with the option for people to have all comments shown) – a sort of trial by jury if you’d like?

  • Andrew Tennant 18th Jan '10 - 6:36pm

    Respectfully Stephen, I disagree; but let’s look at and debate it?

    At the risk of putting myself in the new ‘improved’ system firing line, could it be this issue starkly highlights the instinctive difference between your natural freedom of speech loving, I’ll take the cost, Liberal and your more suppressive, authoritarian, silk glove with an iron fist occasional Labour voter?

    Do I really have to quote Franklin?

  • David Allen 18th Jan '10 - 6:53pm

    “I don’t think its’s too much to ask anyone wanting to contribute to a debate to do so in a way that isn’t in any way aggressive.”

    Right. Let’s do a cut-and-paste from another thread:

    “John Booth
    Posted 17th January 2010 at 8:09 am | Permalink
    Jo Anglezarke, didn’t you used to support the Lib Dems? So you are, in effect, a turncoat – and now you have returned to fling poo at the party up until recently you would attack others on behalf of? Don’t mind us if we don’t all rush to join the Green Party, which has a paltry 126 councillors out of the 10,000s in England and Wales, 2 MEPs out of the 60 odd in the country, and ZERO MPs. That’s right, you’ve elected ZERO MPs in the 36 years the GP has been around. The Lib Dems aren’t perfect, no party is, but yours is a busted flush – not so much a party as somewhere to go to stick your poo-covered fingers up at the rest of us who are actually achieving something.”

    Er, just a little on the aggressive side, wouldn’t you say? But, isn’t that the sort of brilliant rant we need to read?

  • Andrew Suffield 18th Jan '10 - 7:34pm

    This example, while aggressive, doesn’t seem to me to be a problem. Whether it falls under the heading of ‘personally abusive’ is a matter of opinion – which highlights what I said earlier, about it being the way the policy is applied that is really important.

    On the other side, it wouldn’t take me all that long to find a comment from one of the pseudonymous visitors that was clearly nothing more than a series of fact-free insults. Surely it should be possible to lose those without also taking out the edgy-but-lucid posts that are actually relevant to the discussion.

  • I have a suggestion. Compile a list of all the posts you take out over the period of this trial, and at the end of this trial post them. Allow posters to determine if they’re really something we need to take out, by means of a vote on the whole batch.

  • As long as you are thinking of making changes, Mr Tall, has LDV come to a decision whether people can contribute articles under their pen names?

    You wrote an article “Why not write for Lib Dem Voice?” in April 2009 and Oranjepan asked this question which was never answered in the comments (perhaps it was addressed elsewhere?)

  • Thanks for the response.

    It seems that you are willing to publish articles from me as “Voter” and keep my name confidential.

    How would I go about introducing myself? What is the procedure? Should I telephone someone?

  • Richard Dolby 19th Jan '10 - 7:51pm
  • Just an idea, but when you come to do your awards for best LibDem blog and such like at Conference why not have an award for best poster of comments in the previous year. I know it would have to be pretty subjective because of the volume of comments there are over that period, but presumably the editorial team read everything and could come to a consensus. If the criteria were being constructive, respectful of other posters, interesting and witty it might make a very small contribution to improving the overall standard of debate on LDV.

  • How do you intend to tell if someone is a Lib Dem activist or member given all you’re going on is IP address and unverified e-mail address?

  • I presume there are wordpress plugins that do voted & threaded comments (ie like reddit.com). You’d need to have the ability to register and log on though else could be the victim of spamming the votes…

    Actually thats interesting, how on earth is LDV not covered in spam with no captcha and no logging in?

  • I’ve just re-joined the labour party after a decade away directly because of the duplicitous and ignominious “new politics” of your party. No longer do we have conviction politics, no longer can we even pretend to believe what politicians of the centre and right say, as they retract it all and do u-turns as soon as they sniff power. You are now in cahoots with Tebitt and Cash, with a group of Euro-phobes, and homophobes. I hope your party suffers the electoral consequences of such venal self-interest.

  • If any non British (inc EU) citizen commits any criminal offence, they should immediately be deported together with their dependants, rather than the country incurring costs to keep them in prison and pay benefits to the dependants.

  • Peter Jackson 16th Jul '10 - 6:36pm

    Its about time that the NHS was given a kick up the back-side. It takes for ever to get anything done at our local NHS hospital and it takes for ever to get an appointment to see a specialist or anything else.
    The NHS tells you that you will get an appointment but some times you never get one, I have been waiting for nearly 3 years for an appointment.
    My local hospital has a good rating but I cannot understand how it go it as I have not got a good word for it and I know many other people who will say the same.
    I was sent by my GP to my local hospital with suspect appendix, I waited 6 hours to be seen and whilst I was waiting about five other were just sent home and told to came bach the following day, So its about time something was done about the NHS (No Hospital Service)

  • carmel spicer 17th Jul '10 - 12:12am

    I have worked as consultants’ secretaries in the NHS since 1954 – I’m retired now and thank heaven for it.

    We need less managers (paper-pushers terrified of losing their well-paid jobs who seem to succumb to any computer company’s or other reps that feed them dinners or holidays abroad).

    We must have ward cleaners who have at least 3 days in-hospital training on ward, patient and personal hygiene before they are even set free with mops and dusters.

    We need more doctors who speak our language (we can always find translators if necessary).

    We need one auxilliary, probationer, nurse on the ward who look after the patients’ welfare, comfort and helping with feeding seeing that they are as comfortable as can be expected as follows:
    For example, I have been visiting in a ward where patients’ food is dumped onto their bed tables at the end of their beds and if they are in bed because of physical disabilities they have been unable to reach the food. Eventually their untouched trays have been removed without questions asked. It should have been obvious to a one-eyed one-armed person that if the food was still on the bed table at the end of the bed that there must be a reason. Not one person questions why the patient did not eat their food, there is so little money to provide nurses that there is no longer time any more for niceties like that. I don’t expect it was even put down in the notes that the patient had not eaten their food.

    Most of the hospitals’ money is spent on useless managers who make sure out that they are doing important jobs by repeat e-mailing unnecessary information or, in the 50s-80s pushing useless bits of paper round to each others’ offices.

    The money we waste on the incompetent hospital managers, if we got rid of them, could help tremendously with the hospitals’ budget problems. If you check wages of the real workers in the hospitals you will a huge discrepancy which should not exist. Hospital pay should equal the hard work that the real workers do and not be frittered away on unnecessary bureaucracy.
    Also patients dumped into their armchairs are not checked to see if they are cold or need some water and I have witnessed a couple of very distressing incidents like that.

  • it is insulting to tell those of us who are shocked at what has happened to our votes to “get real”. I made the fundamental mistake of believing Clegg when he talked about the danger of immdeiate deep cuts. That was a mistake that many of us will not make again. And AV means that we will never know who we are voting for, so my vote is lost on that too. There is also the issue of when Clegg changed his mind, if he actually did. He is being found out as a liar and a cheat. What amazes me is the number of lib dems who have also gone back on everything they ever said. I work with the vulnerable in society and we are now preparing to slash services for the homeless, elderly, women escaping domestic abuse, the elderly, people with learning disabilities etc etc etc. It hasnt started yet, wait till the next financial year. This list of victims of the Lib Dem coalition will come back to haunt you. The NHS fiasco alone is a resigning matter. Nobody ever agreed to the wholesale privitisation of the NHS. And believe me that is exactly what is happening.

    Many lib dems are good people. How can you do this??????????????????????????????????

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