There’s not really any good resource on the web for how to moderate blogs; at least, not that I can find and I have looked. But I have come to learn a few things over the past few months which I want to write about for my own benefit and for anyone else who may be interested.
I am not always consistent in my moderation but I feel that I have logical reasons for this, most of the time anyway. Sometimes I’m just having a bad day. But those other times I have reasons for the decisions I make and here’s my outline of those reasons.
The main purpose of moderating a blog – to my mind – is to cultivate harmonious discussions. This essentially means that people have to be nice to each other. So if someone calls someone else participating in the discussion an idiot, it will be moderated. But what if person X calls person Y, who is not involved in the discussion, an idiot? I will apply different rules depending on who person Y is. If person Y is involved in climate change discussions, particularly in the blogosphere, then it will likely be moderated. If person Y is high-profile, it will likely be moderated. If person Y is some random person with no connections whatsoever to climate change discussions, then I am more inclined to let it stand. My reasons are as follows: Calling someone you are having a discussion with an idiot is not going to foster a good debate and my role is to foster the debate. Calling someone you are not having a discussion with an idiot, but who might read what you have said, is also counterproductive. But a person completely unrelated to climate change discussions probably won’t read the comment and so I am more likely to let it stand in these cases.
Sometimes I am stricter than at other times. I have a reason for this too, although I do confess that it may just be that I’m having a bad day. But my reason is that if things have spiralled out of control, then I feel a heavy-handed approach is needed. If things are mostly civil, then I will be more relaxed.
Something else I find useful is to contact the commenter privately to let them know what I have done. No-one likes to have their words edited and I can understand that, especially when they’ve put thought and effort into writing a comment. So an email explaining why their comment has been edited can help to quell the flames.
What about situations where rather than calling someone an idiot, a commenter describes another commenter’s actions as idiotic? This is less clear and I don’t have a strict rule on this one but I would prefer such statements be avoided. What I would rather see is the commenter demonstrate what it is that is idiotic. Describing something as idiotic does not make it so. There needs to be an explanation why.
I have more recently decided not to include reasons for moderation in a moderated blog comment as this seems to encourage a discussion about the reason. What works better is a private email to the person whose comment has been moderated. No-one else in the thread needs to hear this discussion.
Statements that are potentially defamatory are moderated. If a charge of defamation is made, then all publishers of the comment may be liable and this includes the blog author as well as the commenter.
One last thing I feel the need to explain is why I tend not to moderate the word denier. It’s true that depending on how this word is used, it can be an ad hominem. If we say that person Y is a denier so therefore their statement can be disregarded, then it is an ad hominem. But I think context is important here and most often the word denier is used simply to categorise, in the same way that contrarians use the word warmist to categorise me.
There’s much more that I could say but this is getting long so I’ll leave it here. I welcome constructive criticisms if you think I’ve got something wrong, but please do so respectfully.