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Should we kill the comments section? (Part two)

Before I say anything, let me take full credit for the fantastically poor use of statistics in our recent post about the comments section. 24 minutes per comment? I promise to stay away from math here…

But I stand by the point I was trying to make, and one that most of you understand: moderating comments is a time-consuming, thankless task. Burnout is a common byproduct.

You all provided some great feedback, thank you.

But for all the suggestions, “use volunteers,” “try this software,” “make comments a paid subscription,” it comes down to this: we are a shoestring organization, and operate on very limited resources.

Yes, we could use volunteers! But even finding them requires someone to go out and recruit (anyone interested?). Adding moderators requires training (anyone volunteers?). As I write this, I realize that I’m not sure if that last period after the parenthesis is necessary; we could use a good copyeditor (anyone interested?).

You get the point: we can use volunteer help. (And oh yes, we need donations but that’s for another post. We are pleased to have been accepted again into the NewsMatch program for 2019.)

Where can we use the help? You name it. Want to sell local ads? Come on over. Want to organize a fundraiser (or ‘friendraiser’)? Send us your email, we’ll get back to you. Are you good at grant writing? OMG, we’d love to meet you. There is money to be raised! (Contact us at [email protected])

Over the past few years, NancyOnNorwalk has gained momentum. We’ve expanded our board of directors, raised enough money to pay Nancy a living wage, and had a few bucks left over to join key professional organizations. We’re also just starting to hire a (small) handful of freelancers to help Nancy with editorial work. And Nancy has received one of the highest awards statewide for excellence in journalism.

But don’t kid yourselves into thinking we are highrollers over here. Which is why, when we find ourselves immersed in comments moderation, we want to make sure that the price we are paying to deliver these comments is worth it to you.

 

A commenter by any other name….

As a result of our asking, many of you brought up another controversial topic: should we require the use of real names?

So, we’ve created another short survey for you, and invite your feedback. Should we require real names? Would you comment more – or less – if we did? If commenting were a paid-only option, would you participate?

Take the survey!

Then enjoy this last weekend of summer!

22 comments

Bruce Kimmel September 2, 2019 at 10:55 am

To be honest, it doesn’t really matter, to me, whether the name is real or fictional. What does matter to me personally, as a former member of the Common Council and now as a member of the BOE who frequently writes for the local media, is having a column published and then:

1. Reading comments that have absolutely nothing to do with the content of the column;
2..Reading comments that indicate the column was not read or even skimmed;
3. Being trashed personally for strange stuff that has nothing to do with what I wrote;
4. Learning that NON has a policy of removing anything that questions someone’s motives, but allows for personal attacks.

Also, it is somewhat befuddling to witness the virtual absence of commentary on stories that are factually positive about Norwalk. It’s as if the comments section is for vetting and pet peeves.

One final point: It used to be that really great debates took place on NON all the time; kind of like the debate that occurred when Nancy published the first Comments article. What happened?

EnoPride September 2, 2019 at 11:29 am

I think NON should allow pseudonym commenters. The pseudonyms who have abided by NON’s comments policy have more often contributed thoughtful and differing perspectives which have sparked discourse. Pen names have voices too. Freedom of Speech.

Diane Lauricella September 2, 2019 at 12:34 pm

Again, since Claire stating moderation woes, do yourself a favor and require REAL, FULL NAMES.

Sorry pseudonym people (all of who are not always civil)…it has been shown that real names allow a form of self-moderation over time…

Amanda September 2, 2019 at 12:44 pm

One way around those wishing for pseudonyms… Why not just use your first name? I used to post my first and last name but became wary of my online exposure. Now I just use my first name only.

Ed September 2, 2019 at 4:01 pm

Perhaps, you could add a registration system where you have to register and log in to comment. Someone could use a pseodonym as their “name”. In addition, having to log in with a valid user name and password would prevent spammers from entering comments.

Bruce Kimmel September 2, 2019 at 4:39 pm

I just read The NY Times policies on comments; how they moderate, what they want, what they won’t accept, etc. Then, I went back and arbitrarily selected a story on NON and looked at the comments. The majority, in my opinion, would not have been accepted by the Times because they were not-relevant to the article or because of their tone or because they were factually very suspect and without any supporting evidence. NON: This is a tough nut to crack. And BTW; fictional names are accepted by the Times and, like NON, everyone registers.

I believe this problem goes beyond real or fictional names.

Tom In East Norwalk September 2, 2019 at 7:15 pm

Diane Lauricella – “Sorry pseudonym people (all of who are not always civil)”

So everyone who does not use their full name have been less than civil at some point???? When have I not been civil?

Diane – your statement is either an error, mistake or intentional untruth. I’ll assume it is an unintentional mistake / typo.

We have all read unfortunate comments that were uncivil, unkind and bullying by people who did use their names, as well as people who post with less than their full legal name….

Non Partisan September 2, 2019 at 8:01 pm

I use a pen name to prevent retribution from those small minded people who can’t accept criticism or would other wise be inclined to silence or hurt anyone that doesn’t agree with their views. Unfortunately we don’t live in a society where opposing views are welcomed by everyone.

Diane Lauricella September 2, 2019 at 8:24 pm

@ Tom Not accusing you or anyone on this thread..
I would love to know who you really are so that we could possibly meet for coffee to calmly discuss and keep NON going! :))

Tommy September 2, 2019 at 9:07 pm

Just learn to use the “on and off” button. Many news organizations turn off comments on some articles and leave them on for others.

It is pretty clear when a NON article should have the comments turned off. It is when the comments turn into self aggrandizing affairs or political grandstanding that is skewed extremely to one side or the other. Comments are supposed to be for sharing thoughtful opinions, adding additional factual information or just plain old good natured back and forth. It is clear (at least to me as a reader) when people are using NON for their own benefit rather than being part of a broader community. Just turn off the comments on that article when it happens!!

Ron Morris September 2, 2019 at 10:16 pm

The only name that matters is “taxpayer”. If we have individuals that hold any office that cannot accept this they should be removed from office. END OF STORY

Al Bore September 3, 2019 at 7:22 am

I think if you kill the comments or you require real name first and last many will no longer post which will kill what a lot of people like about NON reading the comments. Limit the length of the comments yes and I think the real name does not matter. Online identity theft as well as other safety concerns for people is a valid reason not to put themselves out there.

Mike Mushak September 3, 2019 at 7:37 am

Real names only!

Take responsibility for your words like the rest of us. It’s unfair to have a comments section with a mixture of real and phony names. I have been attacked repeatedly by folks who I have no idea who they are, many of the same folks arguing for keeping phony names.

That’s exactly why they want to keep this unfair policy in place, so they can continue to troll this site and stifle real debate!

Debora Goldstein September 3, 2019 at 9:17 am

FWIW, when Mark Chapman was alive and moderating comments, his greatest power of enforcement over pseudonym posters was to promise he would out the real identity of those who continually and deliberately flouted the commenting policy. And NON used to follow up on leads posted by anonymous commenters, leading to excellent investigative articles.

Unfortunately, no such danger hovers over the same activity by true name posters who freely, aggressively troll other true name posters on this forum. And facebook (where people ostensibly post under real names) spats are often subject to news scrutiny, while the cover of secrecy blankets more and more of the City’s decisions.

The true name/psuedonym argument is a canard. The issue here, as it is with this city in general is who has the power and who doesn’t. Holding the powerful to account is supposed to be the mission of this reporter’s news venue.

The fact of retaliation remains a real and burning issue. THAT is the story behind the story on commenting.

steve September 3, 2019 at 1:57 pm

I comment at times (including this time) but honestly, is anyone moved in one direction or another by any of the comments? Do they add any information or are they simply venting? The NYTimes is a large international newspaper which can easily hire moderators, computer filters etc…Many of the people commenting on NON are simply arguing with each other through this medium. I know people like to hear themselves and see their writings in print but they aren’t advancing the argument through NON. As I’ve said before; the current policy of allowing people to write their own articles gives those who have a strong opinion backed by facts a public square to be heard.

Nancy Chapman September 3, 2019 at 2:04 pm

Deb, I don’t recall Mark ever threatening to reveal the identity of anonymous posters. He did not agree with the policy of allowing anonymous commenters – https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2014/03/editorial-walking-a-fine-line-between-civility-and-suppression/ – but we have never revealed the names of those who chose to use pseudonyms, unless that person took the cloak off themselves. He did create the policy of not allowing elected officials to hide behind fake names.
I’m open to whatever information you wish to share.

Victor Cavallo September 3, 2019 at 2:54 pm

If you kill the comments I fear you’ll wind up like yourct.com: a decline in traffic, and then irrelevant and then non-existent.

Jeff September 6, 2019 at 4:00 pm

If you can’t properly moderate, wipe out the comments section altogether. It’s generally full of hate and personal attacks.

Also, the reason some people use fake/incomplete names is to avoid possible retribution from City officials that are on this site.

David Bayne September 7, 2019 at 1:04 pm

As someone who enjoys comments sections in news sites, I recommend keeping them.

For those saying use real names only, I disagree. Some people (especially those whose opinions may be in the minority) may want to speak out against something without having their comments used against them in “real life.” People should have an outlet to voice opinions that go against the local majority without fear of retribution.

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