Today was the first time I deleted a comment

Moderating blog comments is a very sensitive task. It is not easy to strike a balance between chaos and censorship.

I am generally a strong opponent of censorship, anywhere. I don’t like if people delete comments just because they don’t like what people say. That’s why I had not blocked or deleted any comment which was not clearly spam, even if they ware rather critical of our work… until today.

Actually I even approved the comment in question at first, following my general principle of “Do not censor”. However, it was a comment I simply could not leave un-replied. When I started writing my reply to it, though, I started to realize that in fact, there are limits to my tolerance.

I openly invite constructive criticism towards my work. If for example someone finds a flaw in one or more of the KDE Human Interface Guidelines and points it out in a comment on my post about them, that’s totally fine with me and I’m ready to discuss that flaw with that person (and others who may join the discussion), and if I’m convinced at some point, I would change the HIG.

What I do not accept, though, is a comment which, to me, seems to be aimed solely at ticking me off. Starting a comment with “I think KDE applications in general looks like crap” is not setting the mood for constructive criticism. Continuing by listing things one does not like about KDE applications (but most of which are simply not part of the HIG yet) is not helping either. And then concluding your main point with “I think the user interface KDE brings up stinks. As such I don’t want people to follow whatever guides suggest to do applications that way.” will get your comment deleted by me.

I took the time to write a personal reply in an email to the author of that comment, telling him why I deleted it and what he can do to get is next comment approved. This included an invitation to first read the HIGs before telling us that they produce stinking crap.

Yes, I should have stated the rules for commenting on this blog earlier, but this is my first blog and admittedly I was naïve enough to think that I could just approve any comment which was obviously written by a human being and then replying if I disagreed. Well, today I changed my mind.

So here is the rule: Criticize me all you want, but do it in a polite and constructive manner. And please actually look at things before criticizing them. This helps a lot in turning a troll post into constructive criticism.

Thank you,

Thomas

Researcher on usability / usable security / user experience Volunteer KDE usability consultant Open Access / Open Science supporter

Posted in General, KDE
12 comments on “Today was the first time I deleted a comment
  1. ralf says:

    Sorry, I completely disagree! Censorshop doesn’t help noone. In your case it is obvious that the commentator is discrediting himself in a most effective way, so there is no need of censoring anyway. On the contrary, by censoring comments you admit to be hurt, which is a normal and absolutely understandable thing for a human being. But in your case you are the defender of a concept and as such you have to stand above such things. Let other commentators do the work of argueing against obvious untrue statements. If they don’t then there might be problems which cannot be solved by censorship.

    • I do share your opinion, for the exact same reasons you mention, when it comes to actual public discourse. I am still strongly against censorship by law.
      Whether you think it’s okay for a blog basically depends on how you regard your blog: Like a writing on a public wall to which people add their comments, or like a publicly visible diary, where you allow people to leave their comments?
      Sadly I don’t find it anymore, but I remember a post I had in my Google+ stream one day, where someone likened his G+ profile to an open party at his home: The doors are open, but if he as the host does not like someone, it’s still okay for him to kick that person out.
      I don’t intend to kick the author of the comment in question out of my blog, though. I just don’t want him to come to my party shouting angrily at me or anyone else. I want him to calm down, cool his anger, and then talk to me like the adult he presumably is. That’s basically what I wrote to him. If he does calm down and writes another, expressing his criticism in a more reasonable manner, I’ll be happy to approve it.
      If he does not react (which is likely given that the email address he left contained “dospam” iirc), then I don’t think much is lost. If someone really wants to contribute to a discussion on my blog, he or she definitely has the chance to do so. The problem with troll posts is that even if I can keep myself form reacting to it, someone else might react, in a similarly angry fashion, starting a flame thread. And I find those awfully annoying in any comment sections, so I don’t want them in my blog.

      I do not censor opinions, I just delete comments written in an overly angry fashion.

  2. Ivan Čukić says:

    I know your feeling. After my first, I decided to put KDE Code of Conduct link above the comments section, and anyone not following those gets a bit greyed out and gets a nice troll avatar🙂

    • Christian says:

      @Ivan: Are you sure that this doesn’t actually encourage them? Trolls do seek attention, so giving them extra attention and some sort of trophy (special avatar) might do the opposite of what was intended.

      The main problem of trolls and their comments are the people who are either not good at troll detection or feed them even though they are fully aware that they are replying to a troll. This actually clogs up the comment section. If everybody would just ignore the trolls …

      Hence, despite it being “censorship”, I’d prefer the delete approach.

      kind regards

      Ch

    • Nice idea! Not sure if I can achieve that with my wordpress.com blog, though.

  3. Anon says:

    Comments that attack or complain horribly and simply aren’t constructive, I delete like it’s my job. It’s my blog, so I could not care less what your opinions on censorship are. Commenting is a privilege, not a right on my blog.

  4. Martin Gräßlin says:

    Once upon a time I thought that free speech allows everything. But years ago I came to the same conclusion as you did. There are people around who abuse the right to speech. And I nowadays delete all insulting and troll posts without further notice. A very simple rule: if I would throw the person out of my flat if he would say that, then the comment can be deleted.

    For moderation I also tend to link to the CoC.

  5. Sune Vuorela says:

    I have nuked several comments from my blog, and have a couple of times encouraged others to nuke some comments as well.

    My blog is *my* soap box. Freedom of speech is not about sharing a soap box, but allowing everyone to have a soap box.

    So, if people provide comments you won’t put bandwith to, then please pretty please don’t do it.

    /Sune

  6. jospoortvliet says:

    Looks like most of us agree with you, and so do I. Sune said it best, I think: “My blog is *my* soap box. Freedom of speech is not about sharing a soap box, but allowing everyone to have a soap box.”

    And yep, the rule from Martin is perfect: “if I would throw the person out of my flat if he would say that, then the comment can be deleted”

  7. […] Today was the first time I deleted a comment […]

  8. I feel relieved that most commenters agree with me. Deleting comments which are not exactly spam feels awkward to me (and I think it should!), so it’s reassuring that others agree there are cases where it is okay and not comparable to public censorship.

    I like both the flat and soapbox analogies, they fit pretty well!

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