To maintain high comments standards, MinnPost will begin banning repeat violators

Among the things we’re proud of providing here at MinnPost — in addition to in-depth news and analysis about the issues that are most important to Minnesotans — is a civil and worthwhile comments section. At their best, we hope comments on our stories provide new information or perspectives, or at least add some welcome levity.

To ensure the comments meet the standards laid out in our commenting policy, we rely on a small team of dedicated volunteer comment moderators to review every comment — no comment gets posted on our site without being reviewed by an actual human being. Our gratitude to the moderator team can’t be overstated — reviewing all these comments is a lot of work.

In a recent review of our comment data, we realized that a very high number of the comments that don’t meet our standards and must be rejected by moderators come from just a small group of users. That’s why we’ve decided that, starting today, in addition to our usual comment moderating we will be periodically reviewing comment rejection rates and banning from commenting those users who have a high percentage of comments that violate our standards.

For the vast majority of commenters who keep their comments civil and on topic, and avoid directing personal attacks at other commenters, this will represent no change. But we hope these changes will improve the overall tone of our comments sections and save our moderators a bit of work.

On an Internet rife with (sometimes deserved) “don’t read the comments” cynicism, we’re thankful that MinnPost readers by and large live up to a higher standard that makes our comments worth reading. Thanks for reading and for adding your thoughtful commentary.

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Comments (69)

  1. Submitted by Seth Leventhal on 05/18/2015 - 09:23 am.

    Tragedy of The Commons

    From Wikipedia: “The tragedy of the commons is a term, originally used by Garrett Hardin, to denote a situation where individuals acting independently and rationally according to each’s self-interest behave contrary to the best interests of the whole group by depleting some common resource.”

    Minnpost provides a platform for the publication and dissemination of information and points of view for free (though it obviously comes at some cost). Thoughtless trolls then degrade or destroy it for the rest of us.

    Of course you should curate comments and ban trolls.

    Congratulations and keep up the great work!

  2. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 05/18/2015 - 09:29 am.

    You talkin’ to me?

    I know my comments have not been posted from time to time so I will refrain from commenting on this. There’s a line in the sand but it is often obscured by the hot winds of rhetoric. Some people would consider it a personal attack if you disagree with their opinion. Not sure if I could spot anything but the most obvious examples of personal attack. I’m afraid you will limit the intensity and honesty of debate for the sake of saving the moderators a little time. This was already a more civilized venue than most online posting areas I’ve seen so further restrictions just seem chilling to me.

    So, if I don’t see this comment I’ll figure out I’ve been banned.

    • Submitted by Tom Nehil on 05/18/2015 - 09:44 am.

      Personal attacks

      Almost every commenter submits a comment that we can’t publish from time to time; we’re only going to ban commenters who consistently submit a large number of comments that do not meet our standards. And to be clear, this is based on comments going forward from today.

      Regarding personal attacks: it is perfectly okay to disagree with another commenter, but comments should focus on the actual substance of their arguments rather than impugning their character for holding a certain opinion. Comments should be about ideas and arguments, not about other commenters.

      • Submitted by Richard O'Neil on 05/21/2015 - 01:01 pm.

        “…comments should focus on the actual substance of their arguments rather than impugning their character for holding a certain opinion.”

        The “comments” here at Minnpost are part of the story and are typically informative and insightful. Please do keep up the good work for which I am grateful.

  3. Submitted by Greg Price on 05/18/2015 - 09:56 am.

    no problem

    I have no problem with banning trolls…I have no problem with any personal attacks…this site is in the main..intelligent and articulate in commenting.

    please do NOT mistake thinly veiled sarcasm as a personal attack…..if I want politically correct I can read that elsewhere.

    Thanks for letting me comment.

    Greg Price

  4. Submitted by Peggy Reinhardt on 05/18/2015 - 10:36 am.

    One comment tweak I’d like to see

    I’d like to see an added “like” button to comments ala the NYTImes. That way more MinnPost readers can indicate whether they agree with a particular comment without writing an additional comment.
    Also consider a character count for comments. (I guess that’s 2 tweaks.)
    Yes, to moderating comments. Thanks.

    • Submitted by Tom Nehil on 05/18/2015 - 11:35 am.

      Thanks for the suggestions. We are always thinking about ways to improve the commenting experience on MinnPost (balancing those with other kinds of features we want to add). This particular change was something we could implement without any major technical work.

      • Submitted by Pat Berg on 05/20/2015 - 08:38 am.

        “Like” button

        I am more than a little concerned over the “Facebook-ization of America”. Huffpo, for example, changed their comments section so that a Facebook account is now required.

        This is a direction I hope MinnPost will resist. Not everyone wants to become part of the Facebook universe, and some of us would simply stop participating if this became a requirement at MinnPost.

        • Submitted by Andy Dunn on 05/20/2015 - 01:41 pm.

          “Like” buttons? Meh.

          Or when Google bought out YouTube, you now need a Google+ account to comment on YouTube.

          I agree: there are just too many hoops to jump through online these days. While I understand the need to moderate comments, it’s nice once in a while to just…comment. Y’know. Speak up and voice our opinions, engage in conversation, without the extra doohickeys and froofraw to upvote or downgrade others’ posts.

        • Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 05/22/2015 - 11:40 am.

          Hear, hear! Please let us continue to comment just the via the internet connection, not Facebook.

        • Submitted by Tom Nehil on 05/22/2015 - 11:50 am.

          No plans

          We have no plans to require Facebook logins for commenting or any other site features.

  5. Submitted by Matt Haas on 05/18/2015 - 10:49 am.

    As I’m sure

    I’ve made the list, all I ask is for there to be consistency. While it’s true I tend towards the snarky side of commentary, much worse has passed the filters attached to “intelligent” comments. If you are against defaming the character of individuals and groups, please continue to do so no matter how subtly it’s done. A final point, if the article upon which commentary is being made (a few community voices peices come to mind) sets as a point of reference the character assassination of a person or groups of people, I certainly hope we will still be allowed to question that point. Particularly when the author chooses to defend it personally.

  6. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 05/18/2015 - 10:51 am.

    Notification

    Since a certain amount of subjectivity is involved here,
    will you be notifying ‘repeat violators’ of their status
    and indicate what changes ought to be made in their posts?

  7. Submitted by Mark Ohm on 05/18/2015 - 11:01 am.

    Hallelujah!

    We leftists of the climate change cabal celebrate!

    But seriously, the comments have gotten out of control here lately, especially when they don’t add any additional insights to the article, a MinnPost tradition up until recently. Lots of inflexible viewpoints, with sound and fury, signifying nothing.

    I second the character count. Some write a short story when a paragraph would do.

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 05/18/2015 - 12:42 pm.

      Short Of Breath

      I would be inclined to leave the long winded replies in. If I don’t particularly care for them because they can’t get to the point or the grammar is so bad as to make them unreadable, I simply skip that comment.

      But a lot of them are very insightful as they expound on points not covered in the article or they clarify an item. I would hate to see those swept up with some arbitrary rule like a character count.

  8. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 05/18/2015 - 11:16 am.

    Some comments …

    1. Your house your rules.

    2. Some of our commenters whine about censorship or make false claims about having been banned from MinnPost. Perhaps such commenters should be banned?

    3. It is rather difficult, sometimes, to figure out why a comment bounces. I sometimes respond with a modified version in order to try to get something posted, if it is important. I may do this more than once, and always seem to be able to get in what is important to me, eventually. But this kind of behavior will increase one’s bounce rate…

    4. Thanks for providing one of the best sites for commenting in the Twin Cities and also so much content that is worth commenting on. I am always amazed at the relative speed at which comments are posted, even on Saturdays and Sundays. Your comment readers do an excellent job.

    • Submitted by Tom Nehil on 05/18/2015 - 11:49 am.

      Rates

      We don’t plan to ban users for specific comments — what we’re looking for is overall patterns of behavior, which is why we’ll be looking at the rates at which commenters submit comments that violate our rules. Comments complaining about our comment moderation will generally be rejected as off topic, unless the article is about comment moderation (like this one).

      And while we will use high rates of rejected comments as a flag for potential bans, we also plan to review all those comments to make sure they do represent violations of our policies versus more benign reasons, such as submitting duplicate comments (something that can happen due to technical problems). Overall, if you’re making a good-faith effort to engage in a civil discussion and follow our rules, there’s nothing to worry about.

    • Submitted by Pat Berg on 05/18/2015 - 11:54 am.

      Ditto to Bill’s point #3.

      I’ve written comments that I thought were fairly benign that never appeared. After waiting a day or so, I then have submitted a slightly re-worded version which did appear.

      My concern, then, is that the original “rejected” comment would count against me when the fact is that in those cases, I can rarely figure out what was different enough about the two submissions to account for one’s rejection.

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/18/2015 - 10:36 pm.

        Ditto Ditto

        I still remember getting an email from MinnPost regarding my labelling my differnt tries at rewording. So I asked for guidance regarding what was causing the comments to be rejected. At which time I was told that they would not discuss the details or asist me in meeting their standards.

        I whole heartedly support keeping comments polite and professional, though I would appreciate if MinnPost clarified the comment guidelines a bit further. Since I am also a moderator I understand the challenge, however without clear complete guidelines and feedback, it is challenging for commenters to learn the boundaries.

        • Submitted by Richard Callahan on 05/19/2015 - 06:53 pm.

          I too have had comments not appear and never understood why. I always assumed they were lost in the system and figured that if they were rejected I’d surely be told why. At least I’d be told they were rejected.

          But now I assume they were rejected for some unknown reason. They were never disrespectful or derogatory, and I can’t imagine why. When comments are rejected, it would be helpful to know the reason.

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/21/2015 - 01:21 pm.

            My personal rules

            Only discuss things that are general public knowledge. (ie no privileged info)
            Only link to public / posted documents. (ie school and other websites)
            Do not post based on singular specific personal conversations or information without permission from the information provider.
            Only post after observing common themes, issues, discussions, etc. (ie it is out there and people are talking about it)
            Moderate any comments that apply derogatory labels. Be it to G2A, another commenter, group of people, etc.
            Moderate any comment that includes offensive language. (ie swearing)

            I am not sure if a real business like MinnPost needs to watch where we link to, comments we make, etc. (ie trademark, copyright, etc)

  9. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 05/18/2015 - 11:46 am.

    Feedback

    The standards used for rejecting comments at Minnpost are, to put it mildly, wildly inconsistent.

    Maybe the volume is too high, but an email explaining why a comment got bounced would be helpful. Actually, an email simply explaining that a comment got bounced would help, because sometimes comments don’t show up right away.

    • Submitted by Tom Nehil on 05/18/2015 - 11:59 am.

      Volume

      That’s right; volume of bounced comments is too high to send an explanation to each commenter.

      The idea of an automated (maybe optional) notification of bounced comments is a good one. It’s not currently supported by our system, but I’ve added it to our list of potential future enhancements.

      • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 05/18/2015 - 12:17 pm.

        Just a category

        Have the reviewer tag a category (personal attack, unsupported claims, etc.) and then have an automated email sent out.

        • Submitted by Hal Davis on 05/18/2015 - 01:41 pm.

          unsupportable

          I can see an avalanche of rejections based on “unsupported claims.” Eye of the beholder, and all that.

        • Submitted by Theo Kozel on 05/20/2015 - 04:32 pm.

          I wish

          The part about “Unsupported Claims” in your post made me chuckle. Unsupported (and quite demonstrably false) claims don’t seem to actually be a cause for rejection.

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 05/18/2015 - 12:38 pm.

      It’s Not Just You

      Dan, they probably just confuse the two of us and you get swept up in my bad behavior.

      Sorry about that.

  10. Submitted by Robert Owen on 05/18/2015 - 12:16 pm.

    I wish the links to any particular user’s comments would be reactivated. Up until a few months ago I could click on a commenter’s name and see that person’s other comments on various MinnPost articles. It was a nice way to see in one place what some of my favorite commenters are writing and was also a way to see what newer writer’s are posting for comments.

    • Submitted by Tom Nehil on 05/18/2015 - 12:22 pm.

      Comment lists

      You should still see the links on commenters’ names when you are logged in to your account on the site. We disabled the links for anonymous users to stop search engines from indexing pages and pages of comments.

      • Submitted by Anton Schieffer on 05/25/2015 - 11:13 am.

        Thanks

        This was one reason I stopped commenting on articles (aside from Britt’s hoops posts). I don’t want every comment to be indexed by search engines, especially if you require users to use real names. I don’t even like that people can log in and click my profile and read every comment I’ve made for the last X years – would love to see a way where I can toggle whether I want that available to other users.

  11. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 05/18/2015 - 12:30 pm.

    …And Thanks For All the Fish!

    Well, it’s been good to know you folks. I’ve had my fair share of posts that weren’t approved, so I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before I, too, am banned. But until that time comes, let me just say it’s been a pleasure chatting with you across the virtual coffee table. Maybe someday we can have a MinnPost meet-up at a bar to toss a few back while we rib each other about past debates, won and lost.

    Hopefully the reviewers will allow me one last post before I sail off into the sunset and not cut me off in mid senten

  12. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 05/18/2015 - 12:39 pm.

    Consistency

    More than anything, I’d like to see consistency in what gets bounced. I’ve had a handful of comments get bounced over the years. With maybe one or two exceptions, I had no idea why. For the one or two exceptions, it was probably for voicing disdain for a particular public figure (*cough*Michelle Bachmann*cough*), but in no more impolite terms than many other commenters, and probably with far greater respect than was deserved.

    In any case, I recognize that MinnPost is allowed to run its comment section as it wishes, and I support that. I also support banning commenters that are consistently inappropriate. But most of all, I would like more consistency in what is considered inappropriate.

    Note, though, that I don’t support a word/character count–I find some of those short stories valuable, especially since the 1 or 2 posters that regularly post long comments organize them so well. It’s not like the articles posted by MinnPost have a word/character count. If it can be said in 150 characters or less, look for it on Twitter!

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 05/18/2015 - 02:57 pm.

      What the…

      Sam Hill??? Some of the recent changes have changed my public user name. Changing it back just failed, too. This is, by the way, Rachel Kahler.

      • Submitted by Tom Nehil on 05/18/2015 - 03:09 pm.

        Shows up as “Rachel Kahler” to me

        It shows up as “Rachel Kahler” to me — if you want to send me an email (tnehil@minnpost.com) describing what you’re seeing I can ask our tech people to look into it.

        • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 05/18/2015 - 03:27 pm.

          It does now

          I made some more changes to my account. It showed up as my email address name, which is fictional. I’m not sure what changed, but I’ve fixed it, apparently.

  13. Submitted by Andrew Bibeau on 05/18/2015 - 01:27 pm.

    The dissent is breathtaking. Lol

    I believe it is a tough row to hoe. People will get angry. But anything posted in a manner of reason i think would be allowed. It is a tough standard to ask of your publication. That said i will be posting a donation asap since i don’t feel we are entitled or should even reasonably expect to be allowed to blow off whatever we want to especially on a free publication. I also understand the importance of keeping the comment threads to the minimum we are a culture that tends to lose interest quite quickly. Your classiness and belief in the greater good regardless of your personal beliefs is extremely honorable. My suggestion to quell some of the dissent on the matter would be for you to create a facebook page with a thread for every article just the headline. So people can be allowed to go at each other as much as they would like.

  14. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 05/18/2015 - 02:20 pm.

    Brevity is the soul of

    …both wit and journalism. Alas, as regular MinnPost readers will attest, it’s a skill I never learned, at least in the journalistic context.

    In general, I’m inclined to agree with Rachel Kahler. I, too, have submitted a handful of comments over the years that never saw the light of day, and left me wondering “Why?” as a result. I understand the practicalities of emailing every rejected comment-writer with reasons, but it does support Rachel’s conclusion that the standards are not consistent, or perhaps more accurately, not consistently applied. Of course, if different comments are moderated by different people, as seems likely (I know nothing of Minnpost’s internal operations), then inconsistency of standards application, or at least the perception of same, shouldn’t be much of a surprise.

    As it happens (Coincidence or conspiracy? You be the judge!), Slate has an article up today about this very topic, as they’re looking for ways to upgrade their own comments section:

    http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/slate_plus/2014/12/are_trolls_ruining_slate_s_comment_section.html?wpsrc=sp_all_native_by-section

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 05/18/2015 - 03:29 pm.

      Who needs brevity?

      When you have eloquence. I like your comments, Ray.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 05/18/2015 - 03:36 pm.

      I know it

      as Oliver Wendell Holmes (or possibly Potter Stewart) said:
      ‘I know it when I see it’.

      • Submitted by jason myron on 05/18/2015 - 04:48 pm.

        Consistency in comment moderation

        is nearly impossible when you have more than one moderator. I’ve certainly had my share of comments that were never printed, some rightly so. I admit to occasionally firing back at the same handful of people when I tire of reading post after post, accusing of us being feckless leftists who hate America and freedom, or insinuating that gays are morally repugnant and the poor somehow deserve their plight.
        But the last thing I would want is to have those people banned, and I guarantee that after perusing a less moderated system, most of us would find their commentary here, fairly benign.

  15. Submitted by Tom Karas on 05/18/2015 - 05:52 pm.

    Cool, I’m in good company

    As another participant who had posts apparently go to the eternal circular file of MinnPost I now see that I am not alone. And I too appreciate the effort that it takes to run this kind of public discourse and applaud this new policy to keep the comment section under control. I actually had a number of comments ‘lost’ that took MinnPost to task for allowing unsubstantiated claims to flow into print, so I welcome this process and promise to be on my best behavior,,,, maybe. But I know I will receive a warning for pushing the envelope which is very good indeed. Thank you.

  16. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 05/18/2015 - 07:57 pm.

    It’s Hard for Us to Know the Nature of the Posts

    of those most likely to be banned,…

    because we never see most of their posts,…

    although they probably keep the moderators VERY busy.

    I would, however, vote for a bit more consistency in moderation.

    It often seems to me that a post that would be approved earlier in the day,…

    will NOT be approved after about 5 p.m.,…

    and that later in the day, anything with too much strength and passion,…

    even if laid out with a reasonable amount of eloquence,…

    i.e. anything that isn’t at least moderately “nice,”

    doesn’t make it onto the comment section.

    • Submitted by jason myron on 05/18/2015 - 11:19 pm.

      I’ve had the exact same experience, Greg.

      Personally, I think that most of the time, denial of approval has more to do with diffusing the situation rather than actual content, and I understand that. Obviously, most of us here are passionate about our beliefs and it’s easy to take the back and forth too far, especially when you try to read into the nuance behind the commentary. I’m certainly guilty of it. It might irritate at me at the time, but in retrospect, it’s probably a good thing for someone to pull the plug and force me to walk away from the keyboard and find something else to do. I guess the one thing in the rules of commentary that I don’t agree with is the snideness aspect. There are many comments that deserve a good old fashioned snarky reply, my own included. I think we should all make more of an attempt to suck it up and try and find some humor behind it.

      • Submitted by Tom Nehil on 05/19/2015 - 08:54 am.

        Snideness

        I totally understand the impulse toward snark in the face of certain comments, but I would encourage commenters to take a breath and let it go. The reason we don’t allow snideness is that it’s quite rare for a commenter who sees a snide reply to one of their comments to see the humor in the situation and move on. More often, they take it as a personal affront and respond with an attack of their own, and the comment thread quickly devolves into a personal back-and-forth between two people — hardly informative or interesting for anybody else reading the comments (or, arguably, for the parties directly involved).

        • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 05/19/2015 - 09:52 am.

          It’s not just the comments, sometimes it’s the columns, too.

          The content of some of these is so insulting, they DESERVE ridicule, and a good skewering with a sharp verbal object. Those pieces by the The Center of the American Experiment are a fine example. Typically, they are filled with projected political opinion masquerading as a white paper, utterly lacking in intellectual integrity. Yet MinnPost regularly publishes this nonsense.

          Then there are the purely PR, promotional advertising pieces that MinnPost publishes. A fine example of this is the recent “The FYI on TSR”. http://www.minnpost.com/twin-cities-business/2015/05/fyi-tsr

          I agree with your response here, in the main. Sometimes a thread is taken over by two dueling, red-faced egos. But you should separate your moderation of commenters’ interaction from a necessarily spirited umbrage when a MinnPost article advances a ludricous theory.

          • Submitted by Tom Nehil on 05/19/2015 - 09:57 am.

            Leeway

            There is definitely more leeway granted to comments criticizing the author of a piece or MinnPost, rather than other commenters. (I won’t comment on the content of the TSR piece, but would just note that we did publish all the comments criticizing our decision to run it.) 

          • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 05/20/2015 - 07:18 am.

            Boffers!

            Can I click the like button for Steve’s post? Some of the articles published are nothing more than political puff pieces that essentially say “hurray for our side” and “our opponents are horrible monsters who like to eat baby birds.” Logic and balanced analysis are largely missing from the piece and the author should–rightfully–be called out on the poor writing.

          • Submitted by Tom Anderson on 05/20/2015 - 09:27 pm.

            As a Richard Dreyfus character once said

            “It must be a terrible burden, knowing everything.”

            • Submitted by Pat Berg on 05/21/2015 - 08:56 am.

              A perfect example . . . .

              of snideness/snark.

              • Submitted by Jim Million on 05/21/2015 - 01:53 pm.

                Hyperbole is not Snideness

                However the moderating progresses, everyone must understand the significance of hyperbole vs other devices. Hyperbole is a long-standing valid rhetorical device, accepted in critical writing and response.

                Google: noun. hyperbole; plural noun: hyperboles

                Hyperbole: exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally.
                synonyms: exaggeration, overstatement, magnification, embroidery, embellishment, excess, overkill, rhetoric;

                More at: https://www.google.com/search?q=hyperbole&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8 (50 simple examples are listed)

                Sarcasm, as well, is an accepted device. The moderating issue would appear to center on the artfulness and obliqueness of the wording. Style always counts. e.g. “He seems to exhibit sartorial deficits,” rather than “He looks like a tramp.”

                Aphorisms also work: a pithy observation that contains a general truth, such as, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
                [see Webster for more]

            • Submitted by jason myron on 05/21/2015 - 03:14 pm.

              You would have to ask my wife, Tom… “rimshot”

              Thanks…I’ll be here all week. Make sure to tip your server.

              • Submitted by Tom Anderson on 05/24/2015 - 10:10 pm.

                That’s funny!

                But I thought that I was responding to the “It’s not just the comments, sometimes it’s the columns, too.” reply.

          • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 05/21/2015 - 02:34 pm.

            Yes!!

            Seriously, if Minnpost is going to clean up the comments it really should apply some editorial standards to what goes into the columns here. The piece written by the “Coalition for a Secure Energy Future” that appeared today is a perfect example. If Minnpost is going to allow something like that as written, it is totally hypocritical to crack down on comments and commenters.

            http://www.minnpost.com/community-voices/2015/05/instead-better-utilities-what-minnesota-needs-are-better-environmental-grou

            Maybe you need a sliding scale. When original story is well-written and fact-based, the comments should be as well. When the original piece is a smoldering turd the editors didn’t bother to check, let the well-deserved ridicule fly.

            • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 05/21/2015 - 09:30 pm.

              A problem

              And here is the problem: if you disagree with the message and the author in principle, anything will seem badly-written with no factual proof to you. And if there are no facts in the article, you can always point it out and present your facts…

              • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 05/22/2015 - 08:08 am.

                Nonsense

                That simply is not true. I often disagree with things because they are not factually supported, but I don’t change my facts to support my opinions. There is a big difference between a well-sourced piece with which I disagree, and the tripe I used as an example.

  17. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 05/18/2015 - 09:11 pm.

    Any comments?

    Who would have thought that a piece about comments would generate so many comments…

    Well, it looks like I am not the only one whose comments were not let through (and I had no clue why -even though every time I re-read the comments policy and couldn’t find any violations in my posts)… makes me feel better. Luckily, the fact that people commenting on MinnPost have to provide their actual names and a city of residence is already almost a guarantee that the level of comments would be high and for sure much higher than in other places on Internet.

    In my mind, not letting a comment through without explanation amounts to censorship because it makes a moderator a judge and an executioner (and I do not have anything against them personally – it just the way this approach looks like). I understand that the volume is high so reasons for rejection cannot be provided but I never realized that there are so many rejected comments. And I concur – rejection is very inconsistent. But it seems that many commenters here would be perfectly OK with letting through the comments that they personally would not like (I do indeed dislike some comments but never thought they should have been banned).

    I think that the moderation policy should be made more lenient rather than stricter. I would actually suggest that posts by people who comment often and within reason should be allowed through without moderation while infrequent commenters should be screened. Now, it will not mean “anything goes.” Each comment should have a link next to it where people can make a comment about a comment (similar to “dislike” button but with allowed text). It should be used only if someone thinks that a particular comment violates a specific MinnPost commenting policy and a case should be made why with specific references. After that, the MinnPost staff can review the complaint and, if deemed reasonable, forward it to the original commenter. A number can be set (2, 3, 1 a month?) after which the privilege of posting without moderation will be revoked.

    I am almost sure that there will be very few complaints in this case but this approach will allow reducing the number of moderators, almost eliminating subjectivity, and helping people learn from their mistakes. Of course, fowl language and a few other red flags can be easily caught by computer so the worst of the worst will not go through anyway.

    It would be also interesting to see what comments have been stopped – maybe MinnPost can publish a few dozens of them for commenters’ view only…

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/18/2015 - 10:47 pm.

      Good Idea

      I would love to have Minnpost edit some comments so they are generic, and write an article that posts them and discusses the rationale for their being canned. I am sure many of them would have us either laughing or crying. 🙂

      By the way, it is not censorship since it is their system and their rules. A perfectly Capitalistic concept. Of course, they do have the news organization burden of trying to be relatively unbiased.

  18. Submitted by Joe Musich on 05/18/2015 - 10:37 pm.

    I will be curiously …

    watching for or wether how the closer comment obervation will affect the reporting !

  19. Submitted by Jim Million on 05/19/2015 - 09:13 am.

    Well Done, MinnPost!

    Blog Integrity: What a concept! It’s about time moderators began acting like Critical Expression professors, adding comments to rejected papers. Credibility still counts.

    To help the civility impaired, Minn Post should list simple standards and reasons for possible rejection immediately following the “Post New Comment” header. This can be done in some friendly preschool fashion, no doubt.

    Well done, MinnPost! Your integrity is ascending.

    • Submitted by Tom Nehil on 05/19/2015 - 09:37 am.

      Standards list

      Unfortunately, adding a short list of standards to the comments form is more complicated than it should be. But I’ve added it to our tech wish list.

  20. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 05/21/2015 - 11:39 pm.

    Just a couple thoughts

    As a commentator on MPR mentioned tonight the art of Journalism is being replaced with the art of opinion ism. The problem observed has been, each article discussion must start at “The earth is Flat” meaning, sadly, any progress in true Socratic discussion is doomed from the start, it can not exist in an environment that continues to start at “zero” kind of like “ground hog day”. We all know there are numerous quotes from numerous smart people that warn about these types of discussions. Is it not possible to move the dialogue off of Ground “Zero” with: “We find these truths self Evident?”
    A couple quote’s come to mind (Not mine) :

    “Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain, and most fools do”
    Benjamin Franklin
    American Statesman and founding father

    “Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought”
    John F. Kennedy, 35th US President

    “I am patient with stupidity, but not with those who are proud of it.”
    — Edith Sitwell, poet and critic

    Hopefully I didn’t make the naughty list!

  21. Submitted by Linda Miller on 05/22/2015 - 09:59 am.

    Not a frequent commenter but…

    I have to say, I come to Minnpost so I don’t have to get angry and sad about who in h*ll my neighbors are – the comments and commenters on other news websites in this state are downright depressing.

    As someone who gets pretty riled up myself over certain topics (SWLRT for instance) I don’t mind having rules about what sorts of comments are unacceptable even if it means I need to change my ways a little.

    It does seem like some people feel as if the rules aren’t equally applied and I am sure that is hard to accomplish so if the moderators can try to figure out a way to do that “better”, maybe that is the biggest takeaway now.

    Overall, in my opinion, anything that helps to ensure that Minnesotans can come to this site and read well-written, well-researched articles and then have thoughtful discussions in the comment sections, seems to be a positive thing.

    Also, there are some commenters here who just seem to be professional commenters who comment for the sole purpose of insulting and angering other people – I think the best way to stop them (rather than for the moderators to try to police their every crazy comment) is for the rest of us to just ignore every single comment they make. Then they will go away and bother someone else….

  22. Submitted by Jim Million on 05/22/2015 - 02:21 pm.

    The Grand Prix of Responsible Writing

    MinnPost does do a pretty good job of moderating the flow of traffic; however, to control reckless writing, as it were, management might consider flagging comments and responses accordingly: green, yellow, red.

    Closers would, without saying, get the checkered flag.

  23. Submitted by C. Dorr on 05/24/2015 - 03:56 pm.

    Change in MinnPost comment policy

    Good ! I wholeheartedly endorse your new policy & the reasons for the changes. This makes more efficient use of your volunteer moderators time & energy. And weeds out the comments that would offend most of us or be so off the mark as to be distracting, incendiary, (or worse).

    Be mindful, though, your intention & promise to notify the repeat offenders of the reasons for their violation & pending suspension, is something that should be done. No “maybe we will” but do it for sure. This will help us who do comment to understand your rules & make proper amends to our comments. After all, public discourse should be a level playing field with transparency on its rules.

    I agree with William Gleason’s point #1. Your house, your rules. Just keep them reasonable. And bouquets to him for his 4th point.

    Please add a “like/dislike” or “agree/disagree” button. Sometimes others can say it better than I can & I’d want to reinforce the comment made without bothering to type in my own comment.

  24. Submitted by Jim Million on 05/25/2015 - 10:53 am.

    Affirmation Counts Don’t

    Please do not add Like/Dislike Buttons. Silent and anonymous evaluations are pointless in meaningful discourse. MinnPost need not be a cyber polling place of populist opinion.

    Those readers who require the affirmation of some cyber jury should question their own self-determination and evaluation metrics, or simply read the postings. Readers who might believe such anonymous feedback buttons promote some sort of quality assurance are quite mistaken.

    The more diligent moderation proposed by MinnPost editors is meant to relieve readers of inappropriately personal exchanges and simple gutter tripe. The aim of editorial integrity is to present views of differing shades of opinion and degrees of philosophical position.

    MinnPost should simply allow us to read the postings knowing we are protected from obscene writers and personality assassins, but not from discomfiting ideas. This must not be a popularity forum.

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