We now have User Blocking on Disqus

Since we left the World Table comment system and went back to Disqus, the discussions have gotten bigger and more vigorous, with wider participation.  Of course, with that has come the problem of trolls, bad language, and obnoxious behavior.  I’ve tried to do a better job of moderating, so I don’t think the problems are overshadowing the good things that are happening with Disqus.  Although keep in mind that  between the time you flag a comment and when I get around to reading it may be awhile.  Also that my judgments may be different from yours.

But now Disqus has a new feature, one that it says is its “most-requested” addition:  User Blocking.  That means that you, the reader, can block any commenter that you want.  If you find someone whom you don’t like to read, who spoils the experience of this blog for you, or, as I guess happens more and more, who is pursuing you from blog to blog insulting your comments, you can block that person.  That means you won’t have to read what he or she writes, though others still can.  This works across all Disqus platforms.  If you wish I would ban someone, but I don’t, just block him or her yourself.

Get more information and see how to block someone after the jump.

So is the demand for this feature another example of the clamor for “safe spaces” on college campuses, where students don’t have to worry about being exposed to ideas that upset them?  It could be that, but I hope it isn’t.  I see it more as a libertarian solution to trolls and harassers, letting the individual readers be in charge of what they want to read, rather than depending on a moderator-censor.  What do you think? [Read more…]

We’re getting a new comment system!

In the rainbow of diversity we have here at the Cranach blog, opinions vary on all sorts of topics.  But virtually everyone agrees on one thing:  Not liking the Disqus commenting system that we’ve been stuck with.  Patheos, who hosts this blog, is considering adopting a new commenting system, which is called the World Table. And we have been chosen to try it out!

One of the problems with Disqus from my point of view is that it is very clumsy to moderate.  Reportedly, 28% of online commenters are trolls, interested only in disrupting conversations and insulting the people trying to have them.  We don’t have that high of a percentage here, but we get our share.  And it isn’t just trolls who are dragging down the quality of onine discourse.  Other commenters may be serious participants, but instead of offering arguments and insights, they try to score points against the people they disagree with by battering them with ad hominem attacks and what they consider clever put downs.   I’ve met loyal readers who never comment because they are intimidated by the nastiness they are afraid they will encounter.  We used to be famous here at the Cranach blog for our high level of discourse and, more than that, the strong sense of community that we built up.  Now, not so much.

I have tried to deal with these problems, to little avail.  Disqus lets people people flag and counterflag each other, but I just don’t have time to keep up with all of the comments in a timely manner, and when I finally do my moderating, to the point of banning somebody, it is often way too late, after the damage has been done.  What World Table offers is a “self-moderating” system.  Actually, it’s more of a “community-moderating” system.  You sign into it, via Facebook, Google+, or, if you must, Disqus, which allows you not only to comment but to rate the other comments, as to how respectful, helpful, honest, and likable the comment is.  If the score reaches particular levels of lowness, the comment will be collapsed (invisible unless you click it) or be deleted or the commenter will be banned.  If you yourself have a record of highly-rated comments, your influence in the other people’s scores will be greater.  If you have a record of low-rated comments, your influence will be less.  And there are safeguards built in to keep people from ganging up on someone to just give opponents lower scores.  Also, appropriately for a Christian blog, there is a “forgiveness factor.”

There are other features:  Even though registering makes the interaction less anonymous (the source of much online obnoxiousness), your privacy will be protected.  The comments will be presented chronologically, as the discussion unfolds (as opposed to Disqus, which handles each comment as an isolated saying to be voted up or down, oblivious to the context and the flow of the discussion).  And more features are being developed, such as the ability to edit one’s comments.  Perhaps the most important feature at this point, since both Patheos and World Table are using this blog to try out the system, is the “We’d like your feedback” link at the top of the comments box.  Use that to communicate what you like, don’t like, suggestions, or what you’d like to see added.

After the jump is a video about the World Table system and a link for more information.  Also, if all goes well, the new system might be in place TODAY.  On this very post.  You can use the new system to discuss the new system.

UPDATE:  On the webpage, posts are listing “0” comments, because that’s keyed to Disqus.  There actually are comments, using this new system.  And even if you don’t post comments yourself, please sign onto World Table so that you can rate the comments you read.  So far, you are making very helpful suggestions.  I’ll pass those along, but also convey them via the “feedback” link, so they will be sure to go to the people to need to hear them.

[Read more…]

A technological fix for my New Year’s blog resolution?

So, how are you doing with your New Year’s resolution to monitor the comments on your blog and establish a higher tone of discourse?   That was the gist of what one of this blog’s readers put to me, making the point that the personal insults, hi-jacking of threads, and offensive comments have come back in force.   I told him that I was keeping my New Year’s resolution about the same way that most people have been keeping theirs by this time of the year (not even getting out of January)–namely, not keeping it at all.  I can offer excuses–another death in the family requiring unexpected travel, the press of other projects coming due, expected travel for professional commitments, classes starting, etc.–but I have not given up.   In addition, there have been other problems with Disqus, the discussion software this blog is stuck with, with comments disappearing and re-appearing, flagged comments sometimes going into moderation and sometimes not, and probably others.  So thanks to you readers who alerted me to these problems, and I apologize for the annoyances.  Anyway, I talked with the Patheos tech people, and let me explain what we have come up with. [Read more…]

This new commenting system

As you have seen, the new “Disqus” commenting system being implemented on all Patheos blogs that I said was coming has gone into effect.  I’m still figuring it out myself.  One thing I learned:  “Disqus” is pronounced “discuss.”  (Get it? I know, I know. . . )  Here are a few features that might have benefits for our discussions on this particular blog: [Read more…]