On Comments

by Charles Miller on May 23, 2004

# A warm thankyou to everyone who told me to install MTBlacklist. I hadn't installed it before, because I had this vague recollection that it required source hacks, or a newer version of MT that I haven't installed, and that is no longer available.

It turned out neither are true. The de-spamming and bulk comment deletion features are pretty neat.

# Speaking of bulk comment deletion, here's the script I was using before I bit the bullet and installed MTBlacklist. Kudos to SixApart, the MT code is very well documented and readable, even for someone whose Perl hacking days are several years in the past:

unshift @INC, "./lib";
unshift @INC, "./extlib";

use MT;
use MT::Comment;

my $mt = MT->new();

my $iter = MT::Comment->load_iter();
my @blah;
while (my $foo = $iter->()) {
    push @blah, $foo if ($foo->url =~ /secureroot.org/);

for my $baz (@blah) {

I don't know why, but there's some psychological block with Perl that makes me use meaningless variable names. I don't do that in any other language. Or at least I don't do it that much. Anyway, MTBlacklist does the whole bulk deletion thing a lot better.

# Speaking of SixApart, it's great saying that you can stay with 2.6 for free, but you can't download 2.6 any more, and the license prohibits anyone sending it to each other. If 2.6 remained available, maintenance of the 2.6 branch would probably devolve to the community, who would continue to distribute patches and plugins. As a result, 2.6 would compete directly with the official 3.0.

# Back to comments. One reader recently responded to my Real Names, Please policy thus:

...and when you delete technical comments just because a person chooses NOT to give out their real name. Even if I did give you my real name, you still wouldn't have a clue who I was. I think it's more ethical to give a name everyone knows isn't real than to pretend I'm someone else.

I'm not sure why I'm posting this because you'll delete it anyway.

I responded thus:

While I discourage anonymous posting, it's actually quite unusual for me to delete a comment if the only thing going against it is anonymity. I can't remember ever having deleted an anonymous comment that was both on-topic and intelligently written.

If you take the time to read the RealNamesPlease page, you'll see that I merely encourage people "as a courtesy" to provide their real names, and "reserve the right to treat anonymous comments with contempt".

That said, I may have deleted such a comment of yours in the past and just not remember, in which case I don't apologise: this is my personal website, and thus subject entirely to my mercurial whim.

Other weblogs have written comment policies. Back when I wrote “Real Names, Please”, I thought that perhaps I should have one too. The problem with policies, though, is that the moment you write one down, you are limiting your ability to exercise your own judgement.

In any community with a moderation policy, the first (and constantly repeating thereafter) complaint is hypocrisy: that comment was just as ‘against the rules’ as mine, why wasn't that deleted? To which the one and only response is: “because I felt one was worthy of remaining, and the other was not.”

In a society, rules are important, as leaving matters up to the whim and preference of the powers that be leads to injustice. On a personal website, the whim and preference of the powers that be is paramount. I will delete comments that I feel deserve deletion. The only way to predict such things is to better know me.

The reason ‘Real Names, Please’ is stated explicitly is because it's more an attempt to influence behaviour than a moderation policy. The reason is stated quite clearly in the linked page. Real names encourage people to take a personal responsibility for their words. While I may not know who you are, someone does, and the psychological effect of tying the words to your real identity remains.

Pseudonyms are an Internet norm that I wish to discourage in my own back garden. The threat to ‘treat with contempt’ rather than to delete is thus deliberately chosen.

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