All Things in Moderation

The increasing amount of participation on this site is wonderful. The site has only been up for two months, and already so many more people are engaged in this dialogue than I expected. However, with the increased traffic there are also new challenges.

I am commited to remaining an open forum, and in making room for all kinds of voices. Anonymity often degrades the quality of our discussion, but it also allows more people to speak their minds than might otherwise do so. Anonymity will stay for now, but we may need to step up moderation of the site to ensure that conversations are safe, sane, and productive.

I know this raises the spectre of censorship, but let me say that I have been editing posts so far, and I think most readers would agree that I have allowed some pretty silly things to remain on the site. (And it's not as if anyone can't get their own blog for free.) My rule of thumb has been to only remove posts that I thought were hurtful or damaging, or appeared to be completely unrelated to this site or the discussion at hand. This is what I would call "light moderation," and it leaves room for a lot of crap to to remain on the site. I am willing to go a step further to maintain readability and to reduce the hostile tone some comments have taken.

I would like to know how our readers (not just those who post comments) feel about various approaches to moderation. Let me be clear that the site's policies will not be decided by this poll! However, I would really like to know what you think, so please vote and discuss. If you favor a form of moderation, feel free to suggest rules to be applied fairly to all posters.

How much moderation would you like to see on


I've got to second Steve's comment (and laud Ruby's great work and good sense on this site). Once Damion posted his er... stuff in the boycott discussion, no one answered my question (which I'd still like answered, if anyone knows), possibly because of the distraction.

This discussion reminds me of usenet, which started out as a wonderfully supportive community way back in the early 80s. Then as people like Damion took over - right wingers seem to have an unbelievable amount of energy to devote to attacking people - only the moderated newsgroups survived. And that's what Ruby is doing - moderating. Got to have it or pollute the whole stream.

Oh, if you don't agree, it must be hateful & ignorant?

No, Damion, it's not disagreement that identifies hatefulness and ignorance. I think I probably agree with some of the positions I perceive you attempting to express through the fog of hate and ignorance you spew onto this site. It's the hate and ignorance that makes you appear hateful and ignorant. Leave those at home (if you're able) and you might find, to your horror, there are actually some people who agree with some of what you're trying to say.

The trickiest area seems to be when people think they're being funny. Someone today suggested I was a "sly old dog" looking to have a Cam Hill bashing party -- to which he or she would bring Boone's' Farm wine. Some might think the commentary humorous? I didn't -- especially since I was the focus of the sarcasm.

Would that person eventually be hoisted on his or her own petard? That's unlikely when the postings are anonymous.

Thus this suggestion. Consider deleting anonymous postings that include personal attacks -- even when veiled as humor or satire.

I appreciate all Ruby does to manage this valuable site.



No, I found it OFF-TOPIC. That's what *your* blog is for.

Ruby--This is a great site. I think you could moderate a little more--getting rid of completely irrelevant stuff like that rambling bit about Christianity and that ancient humor about the two cows (both under the Boycott chapel Hill discussion) without impairing debate in the least. In terms of 'offensive'--slurs against ethnic groups, genders, etc don't need to be tolerated, nor should anything resembling a threat of violence. Otherwise err on the generous side.

(I posted a variation of this on another thread, but it's more appropriate here.)

Damion, I couldn't be more thrilled that you now have your own blog. Mazeltov! Since you are hosting a "free speech zone" I presume you will allow me to post anything I want there. If you don't let me, does that make you a censor?

I hope anonymity encourages people to be honest and speak out. But if I can't identify and contact the author, then there's no other way to deal with problematic comments but to remove them.

This web site is like a public conversation I am hosting in my living room. I invite all kinds of people, and I encourage guests to disagree and debate, but not to attack or hurt each other (or me). If you behaved in my house as you have online, I would have thrown you out long ago.

I want this site to be an open forum where people can exchange a wide range of ideas and opinions. However, I simply will not allow this web site to be used as a platform for hateful or ignorant ideas.

YOU'ALL WANT TO CENSOR ANYTHING YOU DON"T AGREE WITH! Good thing you didn't influence the founding fathers with the Bill of Rights!


This site is like visiting a public restroom---you have to put up with all the 'noises' from the adjacent stalls!

I'm with Alex. Keep handing them rope, they'll hang themselves.

With 21 people weighing in on the poll, I'm relieved to see that no one has opted for the Jerry Springer (free-for-all) option . . . yet.

i'm all for free speech, but i honestly don't think it has to be allowed in all settings, especially when a person's words are intended to harm someone personally. "offensive" is surely a slippery slope- but harmful and hateful speech is easy to recognize. i'm not interested in reading off-topic and unproductive comments when i visit this site. i'm interested in reading what other folks have to say about the issues at hand, not hearing self-righteous personal attacks on other readers & commenters. i trust the moderators to exercise good judgment in this matter.

I agree with you on the issue of the slippery slope, FW. However, I simply will not allow this website to be a platform for hate speech. For example, some of the comments I removed were homophobic slurs in a thread discussing an openly-gay public figure. I can't see why I should allow that.

PS: Sorry to anyone who tried to post on this forum earlier today and couldn't. It's working fine now, as evidenced by this comment.

I unreservedly trust Ruby's judgement in discerning truly offensive or unproductive material, and hence have voted for the 'light editing' option. I would note however, that posts that are unabashedly rude, obnoxious, self-serving, and otherwise tiresome and unilluminating as to the subject at hand are often the most self-revealing. As such, I would suggest that there is some value to providing the petard, for those who are so inclined, upon which to hoist themselves.



To begin with, I feel uncomfortable offering suggestions to the already hardworking Ms. Sinreich. But, since you asked . . .

I would think the heaviest editing should be to throw out posts that clearly stray from the topic.

Editing of "offensive" material is a real slippery slope. Parts of my wardrobe and my Thanksgiving meal are clearly offensive to PETA members. They definitely shouldn't come to dinner at my house. I find Carrboro's US "swastika" flag offensive. So, I won't have one in my own home. I don't think the site users are a thin-skinned crowd that need to be protected.

Fortunately, a lot of potentially offensive material can be found in the off topic digressions. If some digressions get zapped, you might kill two birds with one stone.

Thanks for your interest in user opinions.


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