As a little break from the computer worries, I thought I'd post a bit about Blogger comment moderation.
As the posters here know, I have comment moderation turned on, and occasionally someone will start to discuss this with me via email or msn or (heaven forbid) in person. So I thought maybe I should post an explanation.
There are a lot of good reasons why I should un-moderate the comments. Readers could have conversations, if I am away from the keyboard for a couple of days the comments would still go online, and people might be more inclined to post comments. I like getting comments. Some more than others, admittedly, but on the whole, I write this in order that people read it and it's nice to think that what I've written has made people want to respond.
When I started this blog, the comments were as open and free as you could wish for. Then I turned on the CAPTCHA because I doubt that many readers actually have an ardent desire to buy V14gr4 online at l0w l0w pr1c3s! Or fake Rolex watches. Although if you do then please don't hesitate to let me know - I am sure my junk mail folder can accomodate you.
The trouble seemed to start when I left a couple of comments on the Wandering Scribe blog by Anya Peters when it hit the BBC news website. Ms Peters has felt compelled to totally turn off the comments to her blog these days, because of the sheer volume of abuse she was getting. The antagonists turned their attention to any and every blogger who was being friendly towards her. These people weren't reading what had been written and writing a response to it. They weren't even people I knew who might have had a reason to dislike me, and it wasn't just me who was a target. They were merely trying to be as abrasive as possible to as many people as possible.
I didn't want to "censor" material, but neither did I want to clutter up my few genuine comments with stuff like twenty lines full of copy/paste/repeated "c*nt c*nt c*nt c*nt c*nt c*nt nt c*nt c*nt c*nt" posted as a comment several times a day.
Blogger's recommendation on how to deal with trolls like this was to turn on moderation, not allow their comments through, and not bother responding. It's much the same principle as dropping junk mail into the recycle bin without opening it.
Of course, there are also people who simply don't like me (fair enough) and have, at various stages of the last year, wished to tell me this via the comments page. I am not sure why it is that, since they don't like me, don't like my writing, think the world would be a happier place if I were removed from it, etc, they were bothering to keep up with my blog on a regular basis... the internet has many many pages and no one has to read these ones.
Some of the blog comments from this sort of people were simply tirades with an expletive for every other word. Some were outright threats. And some were just unimaginative insults - an example of this sort of person can be seen on the comments for my post on 28th November 2006, when I started blogging again after a three-month break. The very first comment reads: "Not dead yet you whining bitch? I was hoping..."
I cannot, will not, and have not deleted readers' comments just because they disagree with my viewpoint, or they've said something a bit nasty to/about me, or I personally dislike them. However I don't see where I've got a duty to publish and broadcast (at the expense of the readability of my own blog comments section) the off-topic gibberings of out-and-out trolls - they can do that on their own websites! Same goes for advertisers. Threats aren't a regular occurence and the posters probably couldn't/wouldn't fulfil them, but they get forwarded to Blogger without being published. That much is easy.
Slightly trickier is comments full of swearwords or "isms" (sexism, disablism, racism, homophobia(uh, ism) and so on) make me a bit uneasy, but if they're making an actual point, rather than just being random and inchoate insults, then they should probably go through. But swearwords on the page also mean that some readers can't view the page through their net-nanny type software, and I want them to be able to view it. (Plus, my mother sometimes reads this.) I could always reject those comments and then repost them with the swearwords ****ed out, but then it opens the can of worms about editing people's posts without their knowledge or consent. I could email the writer and ask them to repost without the swearing and/or "isms", but I would need their email address and for some reason this sort of commenter never seems to want to put their name to what they've written.
Where would you draw the line?