I want your views on how much control I should exert over the comments that people make here. I’ve been led to thinking about this by a couple of things. Mostly by the occasion of the first troll comment on this blog, and to a lesser extent by Shaan Hurley turning off comments on posts older than three months on his Between The Lines blog. (I am not complaining about this; it’s Shaan’s justifiable reaction to mass spam attacks and it has nothing to do with censorship. There are some Autodesk blogs that don’t allow comments at all, which may in itself be justifiable).
I’m a proponent of freedom of speech and don’t want to restrict your ability to say what you think. I’m perfectly happy to see you express your contrary opinions and would never dream of removing or editing a comment simply because it contains viewpoints with which I disagree. There are plenty of comments on this blog from people who disagree with my stated views, and at least one containing an insult aimed at me personally using a variant of a word that many people would consider very offensive. I haven’t touched those comments. I haven’t even touched the troll comment.
Spam, on the other hand, is mercillesly dealt with. The vast majority of it is automatically excluded by Akismet, a handful I have to remove manually, but in all cases the comment is deleted and the sender’s IP is banned from accessing the site. I can do that with other commenters too, but I have not yet done so.
My question to you is where do you think I should draw the line? If a discussion leads to a vendor commenting to let people know that his company provides a service relevant to the discussion, is that spam or should I let it go? Should I remove deliberate trolling attempts? What about comments or words based on race or religion? If somebody drops an f-bomb or a c-bomb without attacking anybody, is that a problem for you? How about attacks on companies or individuals? If commenters start personally attacking each other, should I let it go? If somebody has a go at a company in a way that looks unhinged to some, is that OK? What if somebody else says it is loony bin material? What if that then leads to a flame war?
I’d like to draw up some moderation guidelines so everyone knows where they stand. I know I will have to make judgement calls wherever the line is drawn, but I’d appreciate it if you would give me an idea about your own preferences. I’ll consider adding a poll later if the discussion throws up a few options.