Love this article? Hate it? Thanks to the internet, you can let us know how you feel by leaving a comment at the end of this story.
Online comments are great, in theory. They give readers a chance to level the informational playing field, to point out errors, to engage in civil discourse about the news. Comments give everyone a voice. Problem is, sometimes those voices deliver spam, off-topic rants, racist insults and death threats.
How do you encourage the good comments and banish the bad? That’s something we struggle with daily. At Seven Days, we do our best to make our comments section inviting. A few years ago, we created a set of commenting guidelines, rules that govern the type of feedback we’ll allow. We ask that you “treat the comments section as you would a town meeting, dinner party or classroom discussion.” We love comments that are respectful, reasonable, constructive, honest, and brief — as in, under 300 words. We’ll remove those that aren’t.
Actually, no. One or more members of our team of six comment moderators reads every comment someone posts on the site, day in and day out. Sometimes it’s easy — we’ve gotten very good at spotting spellcaster spam, for instance — but other times the comments fall in a gray area. When one of our moderators sees a comment that looks like it might violate our guidelines, he or she sends it around to our to our team for debate.
Is it OK for a commenter to call a public official names? Is it acceptable for a commenter to drop the F-bomb? Our writers do it, after all. And more broadly, where’s the line between keeping the tone civil and stifling conversation? We grapple with these questions all the time, and sometimes we disagree.
Want to try your hand at being a Seven Days comment moderator? Go ahead, give it a shot. This seven-question quiz presents real-life scenarios and describes our rationale for keeping or pulling the comments in question. Keep in mind that our responses to these comments were subjective, just like yours will be.