I wrote last month about the nature of online comments posted at the bottom of stories on thepilot.com. At the time, I told you we were studying ways to improve the process and remove Facebook as an intermediary.
As of this past week, we’re halfway there. In case you haven’t noticed yet, we have removed Facebook from the commenting process. A number of readers who don’t use Facebook or don’t have social media accounts felt they were locked out of conversations. I can’t say I blame them for having felt that way.
So while we’ve now gotten rid of that obstacle, we have, for now, merely fallen back to our prior process for allowing comments to stories on thepilot.com — with two tweaks.
First, you need to have created an account on thepilot.com. There is no charge for this account, and your information isn’t sold to outside parties. If you don’t have an account, you won’t see comments, and you won’t be able to leave one.
This ensures the occasional “drive by” commenters won’t have the same privileges of someone who took the time to sign up with us. We want you to be an active part of the community conversation, not just a lurker or a far-off bomb thrower.
Second, we’ve made it so that commenters have to use their real names. This was the original intent in switching to Facebook for comment moderation a couple years ago. That proved to be shot full of holes.
We’ve made these changes for a couple of reasons. We believe in — and have long tried to foster — transparency in what we do and the conversations we host in the paper and online. We don’t permit unsigned or ghost-written letters to the editor. If a writer is going to express an opinion, they should own it.
Too often in the past, some stories online would feature dozens of comments with anonymous user names attached. A number of these comments would be outlandish. Others would be crude, rude or demeaning. Sometimes these word jousts would spill into different stories that had no relation to the article above.
Anonymity emboldened people to have the courage of their keyboard. It was borderline cyberstalking.
So yes, you’ll need to use your real name. That said, I’d be a fool to say the system is perfect; some folks spend way too much time figuring out how to work around the barricades. I’m sure that’ll be the case here. I’m just waiting for the first comment from “Buck Naked.”
We know not everyone will appreciate the “real name” policy. We have learned over the years that anonymous commenters often post remarks and behave in ways they never would if their real names were attached. If this helps moderate the commentary and impose some civility, then all the better. Again, this was what we hoped for — and didn’t receive — from Facebook.
Comments will post automatically, often a few minutes after you write them.
Several of our staff members will get emails of each comment left on the site. They have been empowered to remove any comments that fall out of bounds or fail to comply with the few terms we attach at the end of stories.
- Keep it clean. Avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
- Don’t threaten.
- Be truthful. Don’t knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
- Be nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
- Be proactive. Use the “Report” link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
That being said, we know comments will get through that violate one, some and all of these. And while there’s a rather extensive profanity filter that searches for violations, again, there are folks who figure out ways to slip stuff by.
We will do our best to moderate the conversations, but keep in mind we don’t have the staff or capacity to do this 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you see something that appears to violate our terms, feel free to email me and call it to my attention.
So there you have it. Now let us have it.