Some readers get upset about comment moderation, so it appears to be time for some remarks and reminders.
1. We have clearly stated policies (see Policies in our header bar!) and we suggest you read them. Quite a few of the complaints come from people who clearly haven’t.
2. One of the things we make clear is we get to comments in moderation when we can. We have committed ONLY to reviewing them once every 24 hours but typically we check quite a bit more frequently than that.
The mod queue is lower priority than dealing with my inbox and posting. We have said repeatedly we could come to closer to real time reviews if we got funding for it. Not a single person has written a check or made a donation for that purpose, which says readers don’t care about it that much despite the grumbling in the comments section.
3. Far too often, we get comments or e-mails accusing us of putting a particular comment in moderation. Folks, please drop your sense of persecution. All you’ve done is show you haven’t even bothered to think about how moderation works. The only way Lambert and I could intervene personally to prevent a comment from appearing is if every single comment were moderated. We clearly don’t do that; most comments appear in less than 2 minutes (we have had to implement caching, so comments do not always appear immediately).
4. Do not post a comment again if it does not go through! All you do is increase your spammer points with Akismet, which means you might find all your comments not appearing (and we are not terribly inclined to go into the spam folder to find comments, we get over 3000 spam comments a day).
And if they do wind up in the mod queue, having them show up multiple times creates more work for Lambert and me, which makes it more difficult to run the site. And it’s very discourteous given that we’ve told readers God only knows how many times NOT to do this. So we get annoyed and stressed, and that shows up in all sorts of ways, like a snippier tone when we interact with readers in comments.
Having said that, we have two known issues:
1. Some legitimate comments fail to appear anywhere. We have no clue as to why that happens and we have done a lot of investigation into this issue. The good news is it happens less often than it used to. We are sorry and we know this is very frustrating, but it is frustrating to us too. The Internet is a hostile environment. Or to quote Bloomberg, “Technology is the opposite of sex. Even when it’s great, it’s terrible.”
2. Skynet seems to be living in our backstage. We see comments we are glad to have in moderation, in that they violated house rules, yet their presence in the mod queue is a mystery to us, since they haven’t crossed any trip wires (including IP addresses). We are similarly getting comments that are OK occasionally getting thrown into the mod queue.
I spent a chunk of time time this evening deleting some of our moderation rules. This may or may not help address problem 2 (some innocuous comments winding up in moderation). I don’t expect it to be a perfect fix, but it may reduce the frequency of false positives and hence reader frustration.
The risk is even if this does help alleviate problem 2, it may also increase the level of destructive comments and trollery. I hope not, but it may well be that the Internet has devolved to the point where there is no longer a good balance between trying to implement rules that keep discourse civil and having a comments section that is relatively open.
For instance, I’d like to see more conservatives who argue in good faith like Jim Haygood and Conscience of a Conservative (to be honest, Haygood can drive me nuts occasionally, but he is good natured about being slapped around). But when newbies of differing political views wander in, too often their aim seems to be to be some combination of attacking NC readers, demonizing the site, or hijacking the thread. Or else we get the slightly less terrible version, being hectored for our ignorance, when the critics offer either no or dubious backup for their arguments (as in their position is essentially religious rather than fact based and reasoned). Both these types usually wind up being banned and they assume it’s for their views, as opposed to their communication tactics.
So we are aware of these issues. I hope we can come up with a better compromise, but the Internet may have changed to a degree that the amount of active trollery makes that impossible. Keep your fingers crossed that my concerns are overblown.