Elsewhere in Blogland (Blogdom, Blogovia, Blogostan, etc., take your pick) or at least that part of the Country of Blog I visit, the debate of freedom of speech and how far can you go in saying mean or threatening things to someone in a comments war has resurfaced. I’ve already given my opinion on the matter, and although several have told me that the right to free speech is meant to limit government censorship, not to keep people from lying about each other, I think my earlier post still makes my point in the debate.
Some other citizens of the Country of Blog have found it necessary to post a comment policy for their blogs. Understandably. I have seen the flame wars of Usenet make their way into comments of people’s blogs. Same nastiness, same off-topic and personal attacks. And in some cases, same altering of the original comment.
But one reason is because the blog owner lets it happen. And why? Well, maybe because they want everyone to like them, or they have sworn in the nude while sitting on a stack of pineapples never, ever to delete a comment.
Bah to that. I still frequent Usenet. I’m used to flame wars and I’ve seen people driven off a newsgroup and into therapy, and I’ve seen people rally around and protect those who couldn’t protect themselves from a vicious attacker. And in some cases, moderated groups were formed. And that means finding moderators. A “job” that has a high turnover.
To moderate a Usenet group you have to like rules, know how to use them, and be willing to enforce them. You cannot get upset when the writer of a banned post chooses to say the vilest things about you in another newsgroup or in e-mail to you. You cannot be the sort that worries about being liked. Your job is to protect fair and friendly discussion. You certainly can’t whine on the moderated group about off-group attacks from the poster who didn’t like getting his post rejected because he put another poster’s name in the Subject.
Moderating Usenet groups is not for the faint-hearted or for those with misguided ideas of what’s fair (“But so-and-so wasn’t mean to me!”). Not if you want to keep everyone focused on reasonable, preferably on-topic discourse.
So here is my comment policy: I used to moderate a Usenet group.