Not sure how many of you know how difficult it is to run Hoboken411. I’m certainly not complaining, I absolutely love what I do, but it’s a lot of work. Much harder that any 9-5 job I’ve ever held. You wear all the hats: Technical, administrative, creative, promotional, and more!
Doing it all by myself (with a little help from friends) often results in the inability to react quickly or monitor each and every comment that comes through. As any admin or message board “moderator” (like 411 reader “Furey”) might know, sometimes certain readers cause issues that are either inappropriate, or just a plain nuisance.
I’ve banned only a select handful of commenters (out of the thousands upon thousands of registered users) in the past 15 months. One in the beginning, who pretended to be three people (a guy who liked a waitress, the waitress, and the jealous boyfriend)… to someone that was just a high-maintenance pain in the ass (emailing me constantly because they couldn’t type), to a few people who were logging in as multiple screen names. Even friends I knew who completely acted like idiots (sorry guys!) But recently, especially with POLITICS, it’s getting a little hairy.
I honestly hate banning anyone. I want everyone to come on here and have a good time, learn something new, or exchange ideas with one another. That’s what this site is all about, right? I’m not being egotistical when I believe that 411 has made some kind of impact in Hoboken. You can agree or disagree with that. We can save that discussion for another article one day.
But I was reading Wired (my favorite magazine) the other day and saw this interesting question to “Mr. Know it All”…
Is it OK to ban someone from posting comments on my blog?
A personal blog is pretty much an autocracy, so you’re technically free to ban whoever rubs you the wrong way. But going all Joe Stalin on your commenters — even the ones who annoy you with their nit-picking or wacko views — doesn’t jibe with the Internet’s spirit of openness. The best blogs are supposed to be a conversation. And anyway, if you’re going to publish what you write, accept the fact that the responses are going to be neither 100 percent positive nor 100 percent civil. Journalists have known this since the invention of the letter to the editor. It doesn’t mean, however, that you’re obliged to let a potty-mouthed commenter ruin your blog. If a recalcitrant troll is scaring off your readers or dragging the discourse into the gutter, a permanent ban may be the only solution. “I view the commenters on my blog like they’re guests at a party,” says Eugene Volokh, a professor at UCLA School of Law and founder of the Volokh Conspiracy group blog. And if a racist, abusive, or otherwise abhorrent guest is putting a damper on your shindig, you’re well within your rights to kick the hooligan to the curb.
As for what constitutes bannable behavior, that’s completely your call. Some people prefer running dinner-party-style blogs, where even a little swearing can kill the intellectual vibe. Others aim for the equivalent of a kegger, meaning that only the most egregious speech is barred. Figure out what sort of atmosphere you’re gunning for and craft some commenting guidelines accordingly. Repeat violators should get the heave-ho.
The key word here is repeat. “From time to time, everyone gets angry and clicks Publish before thinking about it enough,” says Dale Carpenter, a University of Minnesota Law School professor and a Volokh Conspiracy contributor. “A person who is uncivil and nonsubstantive one day may have something very important to say the next.” Give the commenter a warning before pronouncing him dead to you. If he crosses the line again, you can disappear him with Mr. Know-It-All’s blessing.