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Venture County Star Site Shuts Off Comments

Mike Manuel
Expert Author
Published: 2005-05-23

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The Venture County Star recently announced that it has shut off comments on its website because the tone of those comments had grown too vicious and incendiary.

[snip] Today we stopped live, unmoderated comments on the stories on our website," wrote John Moore, assistant managing editor for new media and technology at the Star. "It's a response to the abuse of the comments and, quite honestly, no one here involved in the decision is happy about having to do it. But it had to be done."

[snip] Wonderful conversations ensued," Moore recounted. "Readers began talking with each other, offering opinions, raising the bar of discourse in the county. They were voices we didn't normally hear from. The comments made many of us a little nervous. They were a little raw for our taste; language and opinions that we don't normally see in print. But they were real. For awhile."

[snip] "The viciousness of the comments began to escalate," according to Moore. "We found more and more of our time was being spent moderating the comments. With comments posted on dozens of stories, it ate up much of our day." That's when the Star's staff decided to eliminate the comments.

For all the promise and potential of participatory media, comment control is guaranteed to be one of its biggest pains. This same issue is bouncing around corporate conference rooms everywhere as companies plot out their blogging initiatives. The good news is that I think the problem's relatively manageable. Here's what I typically advise:

Enable comments: Assume your community of readers will act responsibly until they prove otherwise. Should problems arise, you're well within you right to turn comments off.

Create a comment policy: Protect yourself and your community with a simple comment policy. For example, if a comment is off topic or inappropriate, you reserve the right to have it removed. More stringent policies might require agreement with corporate usage guidelines and service terms. Also, on a related note, consider whether or not a privacy policy should be shared.

Close old comment threads: Regularly disable comment threads on posts older than 30 days There's really no need to keep comments active on last month's posts. By keeping them open you're inviting comment spam and creating more maintenance work then necessary.

In addition to these three suggestions, look into what controls your blog software or website hosting providers offer to help you minimize the time spent managing comments.

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About the Author:
Mike Manuel is the founder of the award winning Media Guerrilla blog. Media Guerrilla is an insider’s take on the practice of technology public relations with a focus on the issues, tactics and trends that are specific to the tech industry.

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