Comment Moderation Policy Explained

Since posting rejected comments recently, I've received a lot of criticism for withholding readers opinions and experiences. I get why you would be upset. I'm a big proponent of freedom of speech and I wish that I didn't have to carefully screen people's comments before putting them online. But let me explain why I have.
You know that giant globe of the earth at Riverfront Park? That's a good metaphor to help me explain my argument. I've always disliked how they had to put up a fence around that giant ball to keep people from vandalizing it. It seems like a major sacrifice of the aesthetic quality of that piece of art. It's sad that people can't just walk up to it and touch it, take in the detail and learn about world geography. When I look at it nowadays, all I can think about is basketball. But if they took away that fence, the globe would be at risk of graffiti and vandalism, ruining someone's hard work and costing the city precious resources to fix. Even with all the security measures, people still enjoy that globe and it makes a nice addition to our Riverfront Park.
Now think of the Eat Salem blog as the globe and the fence as the moderation process. Moderating comments has kept the language on this blog civil and relevant to the topic at hand. I've allowed for people to express their likes and dislikes of restaurants, limiting personal attacks and unverified bug sightings. The blogging system is not perfect and it would not be fair to a hard working restaurant owner to allow sensational accusations be made anonymously online. It also compromises the dignity and credibility of the blog. I encourage you to continue to comment. Be as polite or vulgar as you wish.
In a perfect world, there is no need for fences.


Samuel John Klein said...

Comment policies are a tough thing to have to institute, man. Especially when you have a blog that has the mission of being open to the many people you're trying to serve.

The thing about free speech I find is frequently misunderstood, though, is that it's something that applies to everyone everywhere. Not so. The doctrine of free speech is a guarantee of protection from the government. The freedom of the press, as they said once, belongs to the press's owner.

We may find the doctrine of free speech admirable and attempt to implement it in our own blogs as much as practical. It does not oblige us to tolerate vandals, spam blog commenters, and jerks.

So as long as you have a fair and consistently-applied and reasonable commenting policy, then you're giving yourself a break as well as being a good citizen.

I think your policy is admirably reasonable, myself. Not that anyone asked, of course.

- an occasional reader from Portland who grew up in Salem.

KandN said...

Well said, SJKP!

BJDorr2 said...

That's a great metaphor with the fenced globe.

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said it well in the comments.

I'd like to add one other item that should always be moderated in comments: hyperlinks. Be sure the links included in the comments actually go to the site as described, not to another site that may be inappropriate in nature, or contain viral or spyware downloads.

LJ said...

The only problem with that analogy is that is assumes that the comments that were removed (or prevented) by the moderation policy are comparable to graffiti or vandalism. And I don't think they were.

The problem with the "fence" is that meaningful contributions are kept out along with the graffiti artists and vandals. Unlike the globe sculpture, this blog (I assume) wants to have a community aspect, and participation from the community at large. That doesn't work with a fence around the thing.

And, from a pragmatic standpoint, I sometimes disagree with the reviews in this blog - and I'd like to know if other people do as well. Now that I know negative comments are sometimes deleted or do not appear, I will be taking these reviews with an even larger grain of salt that before.

Finally, blogger does allow comments to be deleted after they are posted without having comment moderation turned on. So why not throw the doors open, and then delete any truly offensive or illegitimate comments after they have been posted? Unlike the globe, graffiti and vandalism here can be removed with a click. The fence isn't necessary.

Anonymous said...

I think the main issue is using good judgment in deciding if a negative comment is from a disgruntled ex-employee or not.

Sometimes outright rude and hate filled posts toward a particular place (or overly positive) are made up to reflect a person's bias towards or against a restaurant. I believe SM is only trying to weed out those comments before we read them so as not to be deterred and possibly not enjoy a great night out because of them.

My main complaint was toward the bug sightings and a few of the dirty facility comments. But now I understand that a photo of a bug sighting will validate the comment. It is SM's blog and he can moderate it as he see's fit.

My question now is, will you deny comments by people who are obviously trying to promote their own restaurant by claiming it's the best food ever and they won't go anywhere else?

Anonymous said...

I don't see how it's possible to weed out all comments from restaurant owners or ex-employees out for revenge. I am neither of those, but I have had amazing experiences that I want to shout about from the roof tops as well as horrible ones that I tell to everyone I know.

I say do away with the fence and just delete spam later as needed. Let us, the readers, decide which comments we think are biased and make up our own minds.

Anonymous said...

I think completely anonymous comments should not be allowed.

The only person who has to be able to see the name/email address would be the moderator, but as long as anonymous comments are allowed, former employees and competitors can post reviews under false context.

I own a restaurant and it is scary that people can post anonymous reviews.

I really enjoy this blog.