McElroy: Online comments: How to monitor public discourse

We publish fewer than 200 letters to the editor a month. But online, readers post nearly 50,000 comments a month, more than one a minute, 24/7.

Some of the comments are intelligent. Many are inane. A few are downright cruel.

How the News Sentinel should manage this phenomenon was the subject of a roundtable discussion Tuesday evening at the United Way building. The session was sponsored by the Associated Press Managing Editors, a national journalism organization that is holding a series of forums across the country on the credibility issues raised by online newspapering.

For about two hours, a dozen or so knowledgeable Knoxvillians provided forthright feedback and advice to me and publisher Bruce Hartmann; Jack Lail, our director of newsroom innovation; Tom Chester, director of newsroom operations, and online editor Jigsha Desai.

Bittany Fulmer, daughter of the former Vols coach, told how she was shielded from comments as she grew up and now avoids them online. Deena Christian, mother of Channon Christian, shared the agony of reading lies about her slain daughter.

Becky Hancock of Knox Heritage had to stop reading political coverage because comments made her so upset: "My life is short, and I want it to be filled with positive energy."

Loida Velazquez told of those in the Hispanic community who fled oppression for freedom in the United States only to see themselves targeted by speech that is so toxic it "contaminates the soul."

Mike Arms, chief of staff in the mayor's office, said he believed the comments did not reflect the mainstream of the community, and Indya Kincannon, chair of the school board, questioned why comments aren't limited to selected stories that are appropriate for public dialogue.

But other voices defended the wide-open discussions the comments provide.

Bill Shory, news director of WBIR-TV, argued that the postings are a true reflection of what's being said in the community - good, bad and ugly - and it is better to reveal the nastiness than pretend it doesn't exist.

Chuck Jensen, who has posted more than 7,000 comments on knoxnews.com, said tight control would throttle the forums, and a laissez-faire marketplace of ideas, though uncomfortable, unleashes the power of public discourse in the digital age.

Ideas for improvement abounded.

Magazine journalist Bill Rukeyser would like to see anonymity banned. KnoxViews.com blogger Randy Neal urged the paper to be "ruthless" in deleting comments. Businessman Leroy Thompson told the News Sentinel to "man up," decide what it stood for and act accordingly.

Attorney Tom McAdams proposed an analytical approach, identifying what type of commenters cross the line and what makes comment threads go awry.

In the coming weeks, we'll be reviewing the discussion and adjusting how we handle comments. The session was videotaped and soon will on knoxnews.com, so we welcome your input, too.

The age of interactive media offers enormous opportunity for ideas to be shared and debated. Making that discussion as vigorous, open and constructive as possible is a challenge this newspaper is determined to meet.

Jack McElroy is editor of the News Sentinel. He may be reached at 865-342-6300, at editor@knews.com or through his blog, The Upfront Page at http://blogs.knoxnews.com.

Get Copyright Permissions © 2009, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2009 Knoxville News Sentinel. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Comments » 28

pevans55us#285555 writes:

in response to ASmiler:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

That is one point of view.

On the other hand: KNS doesn't beam these comments into your brain. If something offends, stop reading. If it's only mildly disturbing, mark it for staff review.

I like the ability to post comments. I gain insights I might never have considered by reading other folks' posts. The ones I find absurd or cruel, I don't finish reading. Suggest you do the same.

RTB writes:

Comments in KNS Online have value both to the editors and to the readers. Comments can provide additional information or viewpoint. It is feedback.

However, some commenters seemingly assume that every incoherent thought going through their head is worthy of documentation and presentation to others. This is the reason why many other people avoid reading those people's comments. And it is also why the many people do not participate in similar activities, such as Twitter or texting.

Too often, comments are very poorly written, and readers are left wondering what was intended. And too frequently we know fairly well what was meant, we just do not value the thought, and we can readily pass over it.

But every now and again, an enlightening thought or a bit of useful additional information goes through here. This is why I read the KNS and the comments. It may not be the box of chocolates, but even so, you never know what you will get out of it.

nattybumpo writes:

in response to ASmiler:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Can't help but notice that you've made 254 comments on here. Guess you really don't think it's too bad!

nattybumpo writes:

I to enjoy reading some of the comments. Some commenters have such a "one trick pony" intellect that I have learned it is best just to skip them.

One thing that really gets me is the large number of anti-Christians out there. Every time there is a news article that even mentions Christianity or a Church, these same bloggers are out in force bashing Christianity. I don't particularly care what they believe, but wonder why all the hate and vitriol directed at Christians.

dennishepherd#616210 writes:

This site often becomes rude and rollicking, it's true, but I'm still glad KNS has offered readers the forum.

I have to think that, over time, regular readers are deciding for themselves which posters ARE prone to thoroughly documenting their assertions of fact, which ARE (or are not) "intellectually honest," and so forth.

For that reason, I also imagine that most regular readers are reaching their own conclusions about who's opinions might be worth considering--absent any "help" from KNS moderators.

As a general rule, then, I lean toward letting the conversation amble--or even letting it sometimes "spike."

I am, however, aware of just a handful of posters who's "bodies of work" seem almost always to be factually erroneous. How might KNS moderators better demand posters' accountability in this regard?

Also, does any specific policy now exist to guide KNS moderators in whether/when a poster's participation on the forum should be banned?

Does any policy now exist to guide when that poster's participation should be allowed again?

(Thanks to all KNS moderators for your efforts! Your job has to be sometimes frustrating and always tedious!)

KnoxMetro writes:

What you see on here is peoples believes, ideology, religious views, family values an so on. You see peoples educational level though some think they are smarter the others it's just not so.
There are people for whatever reason use/consume legal/illegal products and read and comment on these forums. That also colors there comprehension and responses.
Still, it all boils down to it's a cross section of the people that we live/work with around here and even the people that don't.
Some you could be friends others you would never be caught dead with.
On here it's a chance to read what others think. It may enlighten you or it may galvanizes your opinions. Just like arses everyone has one, good, bad, ugly, smelly or pretty.

These forums are a lot like talking around the water cooler, or like when women/men go the beauty shop/barbershop. You know some, others you may never seen in your life but you still talk about what is current.

Granted this is my summary of "how I see it".

What I would like to see is a vote counter +/- for the posters to use gauge what others thinks is a good post or not and not just an "suggest removal". The counters could let people filter the off topic directions some take and let them read the more relevant posts.
Like some have said already you learn when to just skip some peoples posts.

And keep it where people can post anonymously or with screen names. And unless you collect verifiable name/address tied to a billable credit card like used in adult online sited YOU will never truly know if the name given is correct.
And if a real name is used for a screen name with online data bases such as property taxes, phone lookup's, and maps that are free and services that charge it's too easy to find someone wither it's the correct person or not. And with people out there crazy enough you might have someone pay you visit you don't want because your views or opinions ticked them off.

KnoxMetro

lettermaven writes:

I appreciate the opportunity to share views with other posters. Though a number of comments are crass and insulting, for the most part, I think most of the posters express a degree of self-restraint and respect regarding the opinions of others. As expected, volatile issues such as crime & weapons tend to illicit the most activity. Thanx to KNS for the ability to use this as a forum.

ETnGuy writes:

The comments should be more tightly regulated. Name calling for expressing a view should be beyond the pale. It is no less offensive that a spew of four letter words of profanity,

How do you do that? I have no idea; and I doubt anyone does.

I like the KNS and the comments and I hate the KNS and the comments. It’s like a drug addiction. I appreciate the KNS is a money making operation, hopefully; but shouldn’t the only newspaper “of importance or of record” for much of E TN have a duty or even a responsibility to “set the record straight” or just to educate the general public.

Out of ignorance, miss-information, urban myths some, many, aw heck most comments demonstrate a remarkably high level of just outright lies. Sadly these folks really believe the falsehoods as truth.

No one entity (KNS) can change the world. Leave the comments open as they are and moderate and refute lies, ignorance, lack of facts. No poster has any creditability greater than the KNS. To do otherwise just allows the comment section to be no more than a cheap rumor mill blog.

ShadowTek writes:

I used to read the comments on this site, but it has become so painful to read through the overwhelming mountains of hateful bickering and disrespectful responses that I just skip the comments completely, which is sad because I *would* like the hear what the considerate and respectful people of Knoxville have to say.

So, as an attempt to contribute towards an effective solution, I offer these two general ideas:

The first is ideal if KNS decides to move toward the more restrictive end of the spectrum, which is to only allow the posting of comments by verified KNS subscribers. A unique verification key would be issued to each KNS subscriber, which could then be revoked to deny access to posting comments if the user repeatedly violates the site's terms of use. Then, all that is needed is to establish well defines terms of use and enforce them aggressively.

The second idea, which would be ideal for allowing the greatest amount of freedom of speech, would be to implement a Usenet-like killfile/filtering system that would allow all users to "plonk" all those repeat-offenders that do a thoroughly excellent job of ruining the comments section of every news story with their obsessive, unending belching of shockingly idiotic excrement.

Personally, I would prefer a simple implementation of the latter, where server-side software would allow the KNS to construct things as you see fit. Of course, I would be *perfectly* happy if I could just plug my own newsreader into the site and configure my own setup, if that were in any way possible to implement. :)

Or course, some combination of the two ideas would also be a possibility, but I truly hope you *do* add some sort of killfile feature, since that would make the biggest difference in *my* daily KNS experience.

swibirun#279345 writes:

I am so glad to see this issue being addressed. The comments here have descended to a level where if I could turn them off entirely I would. It used to be a place for informed debate and an exchange of ideas. Now it is a forum of agendas and hatred. ON BOTH SIDES. I am ashamed of what liberals, conservatives, minorities, majorities, gun owners, gun control advocates, UT supportors, UT detractors, etc etc etc write on here.

Freedom of speech is one thing. Anonymity of speech is another.

Why is there such a disparity between letters to the editor and comments? Because with comments, you don't have to own it, you can be an anonymous user name.

I feel that if I am willing to say something here, I should be willing to say something in person.

Some have said that the anonymity is good because it lets people say their true feelings, thoughts, and feelings. In my opinion, if they are ashamed to say those same feelings, thoughts, and opinions in public then they should be ashamed to post them anonymously.

Chris Grove
Knoxville, TN

swibirun#279345 writes:

PS: I do find it interesting that there are some 400 posts on the ammo article this weekend yet almost none of those people have engaged in discussion here.

KingOfKilts writes:

If you want to find the truth you aren't going to find it in the newspaper. Printed news is a dinosaur technology. The truth, though some libs and the MSM may whine about it, is from the people. All comments should be printed. Otherwise you are offering only a censored source of propaganda. For those who can't deal with the opinions of others, quit reading. Period. The 1st Amendment guarantees freedom of thought and expression. As for the whiny hispanics quoted in the article, all I have to say is "cry me a river".

riche3#603816 writes:

While I agree everyone has a right to his/her opinion - no matter how insane it might be - it's gutless for anyone to leave messages on blogs anonymously. If you feel strong enough to have an opinion, then have the courage to stand up for that opinion. More often than not blogs are used by people to either slam someone or something they do not like. As a former newspaper editor I've never failed to be amazed to the voluntary ignorance of so many people. It's easy to slam a reporter and a newspaper that's charged with gathering FACTS for an article. Facts are much tougher to come by than gossip, rumors, and outright lies. The name of the journalist is printed on an article. They do not hide their name. But once something hits the blogosphere it all too often becomes accepted, regardless of the source (usually nameless and faceless)or its basis in truth. Citizens have a right to free speech but they also have a responsibility to know what they're talking about. My suggestion is to allow people to show their level or lack of intelligence but make them enter a valid name and e-mail address. Turn on the lights and the rats will run.

ShadowTek writes:

in response to riche3#603816:

While I agree everyone has a right to his/her opinion - no matter how insane it might be - it's gutless for anyone to leave messages on blogs anonymously. If you feel strong enough to have an opinion, then have the courage to stand up for that opinion. More often than not blogs are used by people to either slam someone or something they do not like. As a former newspaper editor I've never failed to be amazed to the voluntary ignorance of so many people. It's easy to slam a reporter and a newspaper that's charged with gathering FACTS for an article. Facts are much tougher to come by than gossip, rumors, and outright lies. The name of the journalist is printed on an article. They do not hide their name. But once something hits the blogosphere it all too often becomes accepted, regardless of the source (usually nameless and faceless)or its basis in truth. Citizens have a right to free speech but they also have a responsibility to know what they're talking about. My suggestion is to allow people to show their level or lack of intelligence but make them enter a valid name and e-mail address. Turn on the lights and the rats will run.

I hope you're not suggesting that people be forced to publicly display their email address, since most people have enough problems with spam as it is.

Taking *great* care to avoid public displays of your email address is a very effective means of avoid most, if not all, email spam. For instance, I *have* taken great care to avoid publicly displaying my current primary email address, and I have yet to receive a *single* unsolicited email in the nearly six months that I have been using it.

Besides, doesn't a person already need to have a valid email address in order to register an account with KNS?

anewdayinamerica writes:

in response to Sherry:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

'It's frustrating when you are a conservative and seeing all your points of view deleted while the liberals slander a person hatefully, and still, their comments stand.'
That's a funny one. Always going with the Liberal Media angle. How long are you Cons gonna beat that drum? All you poor little Conservatives getting censored.

LittleJimmyDickens writes:

In a little over a year, I've been banned 26 times.

I think that's 26 times too many.

I get banned because I post unpopular views on race, not because I'm discourteous or nasty (I'm not).

I notice that Mr. McElroy has written this article itself entirely from the point of view that "offensive" speech should be banned...just read it a second time and notice that.

It's very scary what's happening in this country, when newspaper editors turn against freedom of expression.

Inoffensive speech needs no protection. When Mr. McElroy proclaims, as he recently has, that in the comment section he always tries to "come down on the side of free speech," he should mean that he supports allowing the expression of "offensive" views on race or on any other subject pertinent to an article.

But that is not at all Mr. McElroy's present policy or his intended policy for the future.

And too many people will be happy when "hate" laws have finally put an end to freedom of speech in this country.

And since I doubt that Mr. McElroy is a stupid man, he knows that everything I've said is true.

LittleJimmyDickens writes:

in response to LittleJimmyDickens:

In a little over a year, I've been banned 26 times.

I think that's 26 times too many.

I get banned because I post unpopular views on race, not because I'm discourteous or nasty (I'm not).

I notice that Mr. McElroy has written this article itself entirely from the point of view that "offensive" speech should be banned...just read it a second time and notice that.

It's very scary what's happening in this country, when newspaper editors turn against freedom of expression.

Inoffensive speech needs no protection. When Mr. McElroy proclaims, as he recently has, that in the comment section he always tries to "come down on the side of free speech," he should mean that he supports allowing the expression of "offensive" views on race or on any other subject pertinent to an article.

But that is not at all Mr. McElroy's present policy or his intended policy for the future.

And too many people will be happy when "hate" laws have finally put an end to freedom of speech in this country.

And since I doubt that Mr. McElroy is a stupid man, he knows that everything I've said is true.

dumpty here..I forgot to switch my username.

ShadowTek writes:

in response to LittleJimmyDickens:

In a little over a year, I've been banned 26 times.

I think that's 26 times too many.

I get banned because I post unpopular views on race, not because I'm discourteous or nasty (I'm not).

I notice that Mr. McElroy has written this article itself entirely from the point of view that "offensive" speech should be banned...just read it a second time and notice that.

It's very scary what's happening in this country, when newspaper editors turn against freedom of expression.

Inoffensive speech needs no protection. When Mr. McElroy proclaims, as he recently has, that in the comment section he always tries to "come down on the side of free speech," he should mean that he supports allowing the expression of "offensive" views on race or on any other subject pertinent to an article.

But that is not at all Mr. McElroy's present policy or his intended policy for the future.

And too many people will be happy when "hate" laws have finally put an end to freedom of speech in this country.

And since I doubt that Mr. McElroy is a stupid man, he knows that everything I've said is true.

I think a lot of people automatically assume that if a moderator or owner of a website decides to restrict certain comments that it constitutes a violation of the First Amendment, which is not the case. Yeah, it may be irritating if *your* the one who's post gets removed, but the fact of the matter is that you are a guest in someone else's house, and if you offend the owner of a house with your attitude then the owner has all the right world to ask you to leave, And, if you don't leave willingly, they then have the right to force you to leave their home.

The First Amendment doesn't give a person the right to force their way onto private property in order to speak their mind, and the KNS *isn't* public property.

jd707 writes:

in response to ShadowTek:

I think a lot of people automatically assume that if a moderator or owner of a website decides to restrict certain comments that it constitutes a violation of the First Amendment, which is not the case. Yeah, it may be irritating if *your* the one who's post gets removed, but the fact of the matter is that you are a guest in someone else's house, and if you offend the owner of a house with your attitude then the owner has all the right world to ask you to leave, And, if you don't leave willingly, they then have the right to force you to leave their home.

The First Amendment doesn't give a person the right to force their way onto private property in order to speak their mind, and the KNS *isn't* public property.

I agree, but I think it is rather ironic and hypocritical that media, which is built on the 1st, would deny that same right to others.

If they do that in the openess of a comment board, imagine what is going on behind the scenes.

As far as the article, if people don't like it, they should not participate or read it.

LittleJimmyDickens writes:

in response to ShadowTek:

I think a lot of people automatically assume that if a moderator or owner of a website decides to restrict certain comments that it constitutes a violation of the First Amendment, which is not the case. Yeah, it may be irritating if *your* the one who's post gets removed, but the fact of the matter is that you are a guest in someone else's house, and if you offend the owner of a house with your attitude then the owner has all the right world to ask you to leave, And, if you don't leave willingly, they then have the right to force you to leave their home.

The First Amendment doesn't give a person the right to force their way onto private property in order to speak their mind, and the KNS *isn't* public property.

"...a lot of people automatically assume...it constitutes a violation of the First Amendment,.."

I don't assume that; I understand the distinction.

"you are a guest in someone else's house, and if you offend...then the owner has all the right in the world to ask you to leave"

Again, no doubt about it, I assume.

And many posters go the next step, and add that you should gracefully leave if requested, in respect of the fact that the site is, after all, KNS' property.

A perfectly valid point of view, it seems to me.

However, there is an alternative to that last point of view that also has merit.

Internet forums are rapidly becoming the de facto public squares of our democracy, notwithstanding the unfortunate fact that these public squares of today are privately owned.

Therefore I think that we all should fight, and fight hard, to have these de facto public squares be places of free expression.

"Hate speech" laws of the sort in Canada, Europe, and Australia are on the way, folks.

Don't let the "little" steps that will lead up to those laws just walk right over you for the sake of being nice.

ShadowTek writes:

in response to LittleJimmyDickens:

"...a lot of people automatically assume...it constitutes a violation of the First Amendment,.."

I don't assume that; I understand the distinction.

"you are a guest in someone else's house, and if you offend...then the owner has all the right in the world to ask you to leave"

Again, no doubt about it, I assume.

And many posters go the next step, and add that you should gracefully leave if requested, in respect of the fact that the site is, after all, KNS' property.

A perfectly valid point of view, it seems to me.

However, there is an alternative to that last point of view that also has merit.

Internet forums are rapidly becoming the de facto public squares of our democracy, notwithstanding the unfortunate fact that these public squares of today are privately owned.

Therefore I think that we all should fight, and fight hard, to have these de facto public squares be places of free expression.

"Hate speech" laws of the sort in Canada, Europe, and Australia are on the way, folks.

Don't let the "little" steps that will lead up to those laws just walk right over you for the sake of being nice.

"Internet forums are rapidly becoming the de facto public squares of our democracy, notwithstanding the unfortunate fact that these public squares of today are privately owned."

There's nothing stopping *you* from providing your own forum for discussion. If you were being prevented from starting your own forum, then I would agree that a wrong is being done.

Having the ability to post an unmodified comment on the same site as where you happen to hear a stimulating piece of information may be convenient, but I can't agree that this mere convenience should in some way force a sense of obligation onto a private entity to do something that it does not want to do.

Besides, it isn't hard at all to start your own online forum. If you have simply never bothered to try it for yourself then you should go ahead and start one. It would probably help to give you a sense of control that would help to offset the impression of imperial wrongness that you might feel when you find yourself having become the target of censure.

In the end, it will all come down to supply and demand. If the KNS doesn't supply what the people want, then they will suffer, and that will shape the future form of this site and all other sites influenced by its existence.

jduke2817 writes:

The problem as I see it, is that "offensive" is a relative term. That is, if it doesn't affect YOU and your sensibilities, you won't find it offensive.

Question is, who's "sensibilities" get to be the guidelines for removal? Unless the post is just downright spiteful or cruel, I think ALL posts should stay up. It represents the publics view. It is very easy to spot the "TROLLS".

My view of the anonimity issues, is that it allows me to post as if I were having a conversation with a close friend. No need to monitor my words, and PC everything that escapes my lips. (not that I ever do anyways) Even IRL I am a very frank person and would tell you what I think no matter the subject, but I do tone it down some, so as not to be intentionally hurtful. I do the same on here. Short of a personal attack, no comment should be removed.

I would not be opposed to a requirement of "signing" our posts.

jduke2817 writes:

in response to swibirun#279345:

I am so glad to see this issue being addressed. The comments here have descended to a level where if I could turn them off entirely I would. It used to be a place for informed debate and an exchange of ideas. Now it is a forum of agendas and hatred. ON BOTH SIDES. I am ashamed of what liberals, conservatives, minorities, majorities, gun owners, gun control advocates, UT supportors, UT detractors, etc etc etc write on here.

Freedom of speech is one thing. Anonymity of speech is another.

Why is there such a disparity between letters to the editor and comments? Because with comments, you don't have to own it, you can be an anonymous user name.

I feel that if I am willing to say something here, I should be willing to say something in person.

Some have said that the anonymity is good because it lets people say their true feelings, thoughts, and feelings. In my opinion, if they are ashamed to say those same feelings, thoughts, and opinions in public then they should be ashamed to post them anonymously.

Chris Grove
Knoxville, TN

I agree Chris. Funny thing is, my comments wouldn't change.

I don't think too many people would change what they say. Possibly the way they say it, but not the content.

lelandwykoff#487736 writes:

The old saying went, "freedom of the press is for anyone who owns a press."

Now everyone as good as owns a press. It is called the comment section. The Newspaper is confused by this innovation and new reality.

The editor wants to edit. The editor desires to be the gatekeeper of the community news and discussion. Comment sections emasculate the editors desire to "control" the news.

Time to move on.

Now, how to deal with comments. The News-Sentinel could begin by following and enforcing its own comment rules. Off topic comments should be removed. Defamatory, obscene, abusive, and threatening comments should be removed.

Designate anonymous posts such that they are given less weight in the comment threads--perhaps by placing them at the end of the line.

Leave everything else alone. You are no longer the gatekeeper, so get over it. Do not remove comments for political reasons, to favor advertisers, government friends, prominent local families, or businesses.

For an example of what not to do, see comment on KnoxViews.com in reference to your coverage of United Way (incidentally the host for your town hall meeting):

http://knoxviews.com/node/11273

Your role is now as the animator, not gatekeeper, and certainly not as moderator. Animator. The vision, view, history, and "news" of the community will be developed by the community of readers.

As an animator you must use the blue editors pencil wisely. Encourage, and create a forum for lively discussion. Put bumpers around the discussion and see what develops.

Welcome to the exciting new world where anyone with a laptop and a wireless card enjoys freedom of the press!

Your old job description was Editor. Your new job description is Animator.

BayardDonahoo writes:

I agree with Bill Rukeyser. Asking a person to be honest enough to identify himself is not asking too much. The commenter who uses a pseudonym is, in a minor but very real way, a coward.

Sarnac writes:

Simple solution: use the open-source (available free) comment system from slashdot.org ... one of the internet's longest-lived and most intense comment-capable public forums.

Registered commenters _are_ your moderators but cannot both comment on and moderate the same article.

Viewers set their view threshold for the reasonableness of comments they wish to read at (I read there at a rating-3 on a -?_to_+5 scale).

Repeat commenters are given pre-emptive ratings based on a formula from the accumulation of their previous ratings when their post is first created, and this is then dymanically changed by the + and - ratings of the other registered users.

"anonymous-cowards" are allowed to post, but are given an automatic -1 starting-rating. It is rare that anon-comments rise to a viewable threshold, but then they do, they're by-definition worth-it.

Comments are also votable as "troll", "funny". "insightful" etc.

ShadowTek writes:

in response to Sarnac:

Simple solution: use the open-source (available free) comment system from slashdot.org ... one of the internet's longest-lived and most intense comment-capable public forums.

Registered commenters _are_ your moderators but cannot both comment on and moderate the same article.

Viewers set their view threshold for the reasonableness of comments they wish to read at (I read there at a rating-3 on a -?_to_+5 scale).

Repeat commenters are given pre-emptive ratings based on a formula from the accumulation of their previous ratings when their post is first created, and this is then dymanically changed by the + and - ratings of the other registered users.

"anonymous-cowards" are allowed to post, but are given an automatic -1 starting-rating. It is rare that anon-comments rise to a viewable threshold, but then they do, they're by-definition worth-it.

Comments are also votable as "troll", "funny". "insightful" etc.

I've never posted on slashdot.org, but that sounds like an intelligent management scheme.

ShadowTek writes:

Although, I should point out that your definition of "coward" is simply referring to an unregistered user, whereas Bayard's usage of "coward" may include registered users, and *I* don't think that whatever KNS implements should penalize registered users simply based on whether or not they choose to use their real name.

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features