Introducing the Comment Policy and a Call for Moderators (CFM)

At the recent meeting, the Board of Directors voted unanimously to adopt a new comment policy that will help clarify the kinds of comment and discussions we value on the site. One main outcome of the new policy will be a clearer picture of why and how comments get moderated, and hopefully this will help the comments, which are already far above average given the nature of the internet (admittedly low bar!), become even better.

Before I go into it, we want you! needs some interested folk to step up and join our official Moderator team.

Here’s what we’d expect: An hour or two per week reading comments and making sure they are fitting in with our new policy. Answering or sending emails to make sure we have good communication between moderators, commenters, and the board.

Responsibilities: You’d be answerable to both our board and our reading/commenting public. Together as a group, you’d be responsible for making sure our comments section stays true to the goals of the site.

Interested? Please email Dana Demaster. Include a sentence or two about yourself. Thanks in advance!

Here’s a bit of background. Over the years, as we have gathered feedback from people about what they like or don’t like about the site, discussions of the comments have been a consistent theme. One one hand, many people enjoy reading the comments, and I have heard people say that our comment discussions are one of the big assets on, full of people sharing opinions and expertise in ways that add a lot of value to our writers’ posts. On the other hand, I have also heard multiple times how alienating the comment thread can be for many people. The comments can sometimes be too negative or exclusionary, and turn people off from sharing their thoughts and perspectives.

(Granted, this is a problem for just about every online discussion! That is one of the double-edged features of the internet, in general.)

Because we lacked a detailed comment policy, moderating and managing the comments has been a bit haphazard and muddy. Did a comment get deleted? Why or why not? Who decides? How do writers, commenters, and board members make decisions about whether to moderate a comment?

None of these answers were clear, so over the last few meetings, the board worked on a vision and approach to making the comments section a productive welcoming place. At a meeting about three months ago, the board devoted time to discussing what we liked and didn’t like about different comments sections in various parts of the internet. Out of that, we were able to identify a few goals and values we want to see in the comments discussion, things like openness to new ideas, a lack of vitriol, and honest exchanges of different opinions.

At the next board meeting, we worked out some trial language to append to the comments box. It’s been floating down there on the page for a few weeks now, just below the place where you type a comment.

And finally, at the board meeting this last Saturday, we adopted a new policy that we hope will help us reach those goals.

Here it is!

Sounds good? Let us know what you think in the comments.* Meanwhile, thanks for reading, writing, and commenting on!

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Bill Lindeke

About Bill Lindeke

Pronouns: he/him

Bill Lindeke has writing blogging about sidewalks and cities since 2005, ever since he read Jane Jacobs. He is a lecturer in Urban Studies at the University of Minnesota Geography Department, the Cityscape columnist at Minnpost, and has written multiple books on local urban history. He was born in Minneapolis, but has spent most of his time in St Paul. Check out Twitter @BillLindeke or on Facebook.