Saturday, 16 August 2008

Angry, Purley

I actually woke up in the early hours last night worrying about the havoc just one commenter is wreaking on our site.

He used to be called Angry from Purley, and we managed to ban him for a while - but he seems to have got a new IP address, and is back, under a range of pseudonyms.

Unfortunately, at the moment, we can't ban him. Our last message management system gave us his IP address, but you couldn't ban him using it - our new one has an effective banning system, but generates the same IP address for every unregistered commenter (which led to editor Ian Carter accidentally banning everyone from commenting the other day - oops). It's something we are asking IT to look into urgently.

Fortunately, I don't think he's worked this out yet. Unfortunately, he's steadily building back up to his worst self, and yesterday posted a whole load of highly racist messages under the name of our troll-magnet.

I am really not sure he intends to be such a site-wrecker. He seems desperate to get an apology for banning him in the first place (while not wanting to admit it's him in case he's banned again), which seems to indicate he wants to be part of the community.

There's no way we're going to registered comments only though. There's far too much value from people visiting the site for the first time about an incident they've got info on, then commenting with that insider knowledge - they wouldn't do that if they had to spend 5 minutes filling in a form.

I just hope our IT bods can pull their fingers out and get this fixed fast.


MH Media Online said...

This is a common problem, but one way to combat it is to introduce a peer-voting system. It will work well if your other readers/commenters feel the same as you do: if they do, once they spot an objectionable post they can click a good/bad icon and providing a limit is set beforehand, the comment disappears from public view. See this YouTube video for an example. Good luck!

Adrian Short said...

Editorial control over content should be in the hands of the editors, not the readers. Minority voices deserve to be heard provided that they abide by the house rules for courtesy, etc.

A better system would be one that requires new commenters to confirm their email address after they add their first comment. Send them an email with a clickable link with a unique code.

Once confirmed, their comment is approved and published automatically. Subsequent comments are instantly published, but you retain the ability to ban a commenter by email address, not IP address. This is much more reliable and effective.

As the verification hurdle happens after people write their comment, you won't deter people from writing. If necessary, you can always approve comments from users that haven't confirmed or even temporarily suspend the system if an important, fast-moving event occurs where large numbers of new users are likely to want to join the discussion.

Jo Wadsworth said...

I think mhmedia's idea of giving the community control over what is acceptable or not is a good one - which is why I'm trying (still) to set up a Commenters' Charter with the help of our regular commenters. But yes, ultimately editorial control has to be with us - after all, it's our platform, and what is said reflects on us. Very interested in the email address confirmation system you describe, it's not one I've seen to date. I especially like the way it neatly sidesteps the offputting registration form . . .