Can referees manage reader comments effectively?

by Carl Natale on October 6, 2010

Flickr photo by Ed Yourdon

"Unnecessary roughness by the offensive commenter."

One of my favorite blogs is (PFT). It’s a very comprehensive roundup of what’s going on in the NFL. It’s an example of what aggregators  should being doing. Yes, it relies on linking to mainstream media sites for sources but it also engages in thoughtful analysis.

Of course there are sports fans who would disagree with me. Those would be fans who feel that the PFT writers don’t give their teams and heroes enough respect. And they let their feelings loose in the comments.

If you’ve ever been to a football game, you can imagine what goes on in the comments. So the PFT has a new comments policy:

And we realize that the reader experience for many of you includes reading the comments. We’re therefore trying to separate the cream from the crap, and we’re going to start blocking and banning commenters who use profanity or whose posts contain comments that we regard as inappropriate, due to racist, homophobic, misogynistic, or other unacceptable content, as determined solely at our discretion.

via A modified approach to comments |

Basically, they’re going to get rid of all the comments that offend their sensibilities. Which is as good as any criteria. And it’s their right.

When I saw this announcement, it attracted 191 comments. And I was surprised to see mostly supportive and clever reactions. I admit that I did not read them all. But I saw enough to contradict my assumption that fans would rail against the policy. Shows how much I know.

Which is the best argument I have for reader comments. You never know what you’re going to get.

But I have a caution for them. This is going to take a lot of work. Someone needs to scan all the comments for offensive language.  This is a couple full time jobs because football fans are angry 24/7. So I applaud their dedication to refereeing this scrum.

But if revenues take a dip, someone is going to want to cut costs. And I bet that comment moderation will be the first victim. The PFT team will start talking about white lists and community controls to efficiently manage the comments. Someone will want to ban them altogether to save money.

There is no perfect way to handle reader comments. It’s an evolving process that requires work. I hope they don’t give up working on it.

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