I'm one of those people some Politics Daily readers seem to hate. I'm a "content cop," one of about 10 comment moderators responsible for maintaining practical civility
on this site. I am part of what we jokingly call the Politics Daily police department -- "the PD PD
PD articles -- including this one -- give readers a chance to post a comment. That's part of our attempt to "cultivate a civilized and thoughtful forum
" among different viewpoints -- what columnist Jeffrey Weiss dubbed a "civilogue
But not all reader comments make it past the guards. Many readers get angry about that, claim that our filtering system is a biased form of censorship and call the moderators Nazis, Marxists and other names that shouldn't be repeated in polite company.
Here in sanitized form is one such attack (that of course was never posted):
"I've attempted two very cogent posts and you ******** have not allowed them through your shallow, narrow, liberal, minds. You must be ******* politically correct liberals so **** you all."
After reading hundreds of distasteful comments about me and my colleagues from people who clearly felt disenfranchised by not seeing their words on this site, I thought I should respond.
First, some background: I work the early morning monitoring shift, which means I'm on the job by 7 Eastern time. When I begin my dawn patrol, the first task is to read the backlog of comments from the previous seven hours. Yes, there is an overnight gap in which no content cops patrol the site, and therefore no comments are posted. Many commenters are unhappy about this fact. Here's one:
"mr. comment moderator what is it with you. it is now 1:18 the last comment you allowed to post was at 11:47 is everyone there asleep?"
Yes, quite frankly, they were.
Sorry for the inconvenience, but there's only a few of us and the clock never stops. Between midnight and 7 a.m. Eastern, no new comments can be approved for posting, and all conversations or spirited debates then happening in "real time" must come to a close. Rest assured, though, that all comments submitted during that period are still read and processed the next morning.
I read approximately 100 comments every 8-12 minutes. That's about seven seconds per comment, which translates to a turnaround between submission and posting of somewhere between "live" and five minutes. That's on an average news day. On heavy news days, we can get 100 comments every 90 seconds
or so. Clearing them and getting as close to "live" as possible is frantic work -- and honest mistakes, such as inadvertently blocking an acceptable post, occasionally happen. To all those "victimized" by said mistakes, I'm sorry.
When you send a comment, moderators see it in a window that includes the IP address and name of the commenter, as well as when it was submitted, but I judge each submission only by four criteria, indicated by buttons in the corner of the window: Approve, Spam, Profane, Irrelevant.
That's it. There is no button for liberal or conservative, no fast track for comments in support of or opposing any partisan stance, and no panel of editors intent upon advocating our articles. We judge each comment on its civility and its relevance, nothing more. Comment moderators aren't merely automated word finders programmed to remove all comments containing offensive language.
What we're looking to screen out are comments that are profane, non-contributory, or otherwise counter-productive to the civilogue we seek. We block posts that essentially slander or personally savage another individual -- be that person a public figure, one of our writers, or even other readers who have posted comments. In fact, profane terms often aren't
used in such comments.
Here's one: "Hey [name deleted
], Your obvious, pathetic, slobbering love-affair with that snake-oil salesman, [name deleted
] makes me wanna puke!!! When you're finished gushing over him, you might wanna get a mop and clean up your puddle of drool underneath your desk."
The unfortunate part is, after all that uncivil bashing, the writer then made a cogent point about the article and the topic. If only he'd used that thoughtful approach throughout his piece instead of stepping into the gutter of needless slander. (Unfortunately, there is no editing tool that would allow moderators to remove offensive material.)
Incivility comes in many forms. An insult, threat, or baseless accusation against an individual -- and that includes calling President Obama a "traitor," Nancy Pelosi or Sarah Palin "ugly," or Sen. John McCain "gay" -- will not be posted. Insults or inflammatory labeling of individuals have no place in thoughtfully expressing disagreement. Explain why you believe someone's point is misguided -- rather than personally attack that person -- and you will likely to see your comment posted.
Civil discourse is seldom enhanced -- and comments are usually not posted -- when people use purposely misspelled expletives in a lazy attempt to be clever or a poor attempt to avert automated word-find programs targeting curses. Occasionally, "strong" language can emphasize a point, but when discussing the serious issues of the day on PD, find an acceptable alternative in your surely extensive vocabulary.
Relevance is also key to getting a comment approved. Posting rants about some personal crusade that's not germane to the story does not advance the discussion. This is not to discount your personal experience, but it must be framed by the context of the article.
So, in summary, here are some tips that should be obvious:
-- Make your points without belittling anyone's faith or religion.
-- Don't mock someone's physical appearance.
-- Similarly, it is not acceptable to criticize someone for something they could not possibly have chosen, including race or gender.
-- Also unacceptable is saying that the writer "deserves" some tragedy or punishment. To suggest that anyone deserves harm inflicted upon them is malicious and not what Politics Daily is about.
-- There is often also a correlation between phrases suddenly WRITTEN IN ALL CAPS and comments that can't be approved. Such "shouting" brings nothing to the table.
-- And spam -- often promoting a business -- death threats, racist, sexist or similar "hate" comments are not permissible.
And I, for one, can't wait to read your comments about this article.