Site Notes

Change to RTH Commenting Policy

By Ryan McGreal
Published January 25, 2011

After several short, vulgar comments were posted to Graham Crawford's article today on RTH that contained no content other than insults, I decided enough is enough.

Raise the Hammer has always maintained a policy of deleting obvious spam - comments that have no purpose other than to sell something. To that category we have now added what I'm calling insult spam - comments that serve no purpose other than to insult someone.

If a comment:

It will be treated as spam and deleted without notice.

I will not have this forum descend into empty vulgarity. All opinions are welcome - even opinions that run contrary to the broad consensus on an issue, and especially if such opinions are stated respectfully and argued based on clear evidence - but a nasty, anonymous personal insult that is otherwise completely devoid of content is not an opinion and will not be protected.

This site is based on civility, and civility is based on a compact. Read the discussion guidelines and comment voting guidelines, accept that the RTH community values civil discourse and enforces it through community moderation, and understand that empty vulgarity for its own sake will be removed.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

24 Comments

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By z jones (registered) | Posted January 25, 2011 at 23:27:45

About damn time.

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By George (registered) | Posted January 25, 2011 at 23:45:24

Thank You!

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By hammy (anonymous) | Posted January 26, 2011 at 00:49:05

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By kevin (registered) | Posted January 26, 2011 at 00:52:55

Hammy learned how to spell 'censorship.'

Rejoice!

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By drb (registered) - website | Posted January 26, 2011 at 00:58:10

Haha! Thanks Kevin. You are all over this tonight.

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By geoff's two cents (registered) | Posted January 26, 2011 at 01:10:07

A good move, Ryan and RTH. It's a shame that you were forced into this corner, but I think it will help retain a higher quality of discussion and debate without having to resort to mandatory registration, which I think should be a last resort (those crafty trolls - One never knows!). It will make quality comments more accessible by eliminating the need to scroll through a hyperspace mile of worthless garbage. In the past I usually stopped reading past comment #50 or so, assuming the thread to have been hijacked by trolls. This has often been a deterrent to posting comment #75, say, as well, as I assumed other RTHers think the same way. Why put in the effort if no one will read it? Well done!

Comment edited by geoff's two cents on 2011-01-26 01:10:59

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted January 26, 2011 at 01:44:27

Thanks Ryan. A positive move, thank you. Sad it had to come, but it always does. It's another milestone in RTH's evolution as a public space.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted January 26, 2011 at 01:49:35

Ryan,

So if we get into a flame war with another poster over a point and back up our position with quotes and linkable facts is that considered, "Contains no other content or redeeming qualities,".

You know, because some other posters and myself get along so well here.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted January 26, 2011 at 02:04:43

At what point does trolling, spamming and flaming become censorship?

Just because something shows up on your computer doesn't mean it's yours. You DO NOT have freedom of speech on other people's websites. You have freedom of speech ON YOUR OWN WEBSITE. And part of that freedom of speech includes deleting comments which are not appropriate.

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted January 26, 2011 at 07:43:22

I think the fact that none of Hammy's posts have ever been deleted is evidence enough of lack of censorship.

We know he doesn't like RTH and he doesn't like WH, but other than that I'm not sure of anything about him.

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By Boomer (registered) | Posted January 26, 2011 at 08:23:56

Thanks, Ryan. The comments you refer to were of the same variety on the Ticats' forum, which I decided long ago to no longer read or comment on. "Trolls" took over those forums and induced their own form of censorship with the same sort of incessant insults to those who supported the WH stadium site. These sorts of comments went unpunished and were probably given a blind eye by the moderators, for obvious reasons. Most of the comments were made by a very small group of bullies, (just as on the Spec now, too) who also comment here. They hijack the forums, bring the level of civility down, and poison the atmosphere so that anyone trying to engage in rational and knowledgeable discussion gives up in frustration. It wouldn't surprise me if that was their goal all along.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted January 26, 2011 at 09:06:59

"Trolls" took over those forums and induced their own form of censorship

EXACTLY! When trolls talk about "censorship" they really mean protecting there right to shout everybody else down.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted January 26, 2011 at 09:15:54

It wouldn't surprise me if that was their goal all along.

I really can't speak for anyone on RTH - but I've been around long enough to know that it does happen. There are whole websites, forums, and even an encyclopaedia for Trolls. Search long enough and you'll find "forum raids" discussed and planned at length.

The political use of this tactic can be basically summed up by the term "Freep" (a verb), because of the rampant raiding of forum members from the ultra-conservative Freerepublic.com. I've been on a forum that was 'freeped'...and from day one the claim from them was "censorship". Things did not go well on that board for the next few years - long after the freepers left there was a real lingering autocracy in forum management and even I was eventually banned for defending conservative regulars. This type of thing takes a real toll after a while.

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By renegauthier (registered) - website | Posted January 26, 2011 at 09:41:41

Just remember folks... one man's troll is another man's advocate.

Be careful Ryan. It's a slippery slope.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted January 26, 2011 at 09:45:30

Thanks Rene, but I think we can tell the difference.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted January 26, 2011 at 09:47:27

It's a slippery slope.

Slippery slopes are everywhere. It's a slippery slope to allow empty vulgarity to stand, because it leads to a debasement of the overall quality of discussion and an exodus of more civil contributors.

Given the dramatic increase in the number of readers, contributors and comments on RTH over the past year, the risk of destroying a civil online community with rampant trolling is much bigger than the risk of shutting down legitimate debate by deleting anonymous empty insults.

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By matthewsweet (registered) | Posted January 26, 2011 at 10:39:05

Keep in mind that the type of messages being deleted under these new rules were of the "Fuck you fatty" variety. A far cry from advocating there.

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By hmag (anonymous) | Posted January 26, 2011 at 11:20:14

Just wondering if past slanderous comments will be deleted - I can send you the direct link...

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By goin'downtown (registered) | Posted January 26, 2011 at 11:52:09

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted January 26, 2011 at 12:04:23

Hmag, I know exactly what you're talking about. I have deleted that comment as per this new policy.

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By Hopeful (registered) | Posted January 26, 2011 at 12:29:58

Glad to see this change being made. However, perhaps deleted comments could go into an accessible "Recycle Bin" for a set period of time just to let those concerned with censorship judge for themselves the value of comments being sidelined.

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By hammy (anonymous) | Posted January 26, 2011 at 16:42:44

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted January 26, 2011 at 18:47:18

I like the "recyle bin" idea. I'd be curious to see some of these posts. Just not when we're trying to have a serious decision.

As for trolls being advocates? I don't know that I'd want 'em advocating my "side" in anything. A few shrill, nasty and illogical comments have a unfortunate way of characterizing "sides" in public debate in the worst ways. Feminists or pro-lifers, vegetarians or carnivores, hip-hoppers or hard rockers - every time some idiot takes a side and starts a fight, a whole horde of people who actually had something to say get stuck defending things they'd never have said in the first place, and a whole pile of people give up on those ideas altogether.

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By goin'downtown (registered) | Posted February 01, 2011 at 14:22:44

I've been thinking a lot about this. The poisonous (over-the-top sarcastic, slanderous, personal, mean-spirited) comments are really so unwelcome. I had a look back at the Feb/10 and Feb/09 comments, just for ratio's sake. As expected, with so many more RTH participants now, there comes so many more unproductive comments. I'm thinking again that maybe a multiple voting system may be needed, since voting seems to be very much a concern. How about buttons (with totals, as now) for "Good Post," "Offensive," "Agree," and "Disagree"? Perhaps the issue of a good post vs agreement/disagreement needs to be separated, as the up/down arrows are currently being used for different reasons. As for the "Offensive" button, we could attach a threshold of 7 (lucky #7) and then have the comment disappear entirely, that is, if the "Offensive" button was used properly. Just pondering...

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