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Influence Or Remove?

Richard Millington
Richard Millington

Founder of FeverBee

There are sometimes good reasons to turn
off comments. We don’t allow them here for example. This isn’t the place where
we want to build a community.

You should never turn off comments because
you don’t like what people say.

You should either;

a) Influence what people say (more
possible than most realize)

b) Remove the
comments that don’t suit your community 
(the common approach)

c) Remove the
people saying things you don’t like (the most effective approach).



There are several methods to influence
behaviour. The most common is to showcase the behaviour you want. People
broadly do what they see others doing. If they see fights, personal attacks,
and more they’re going to engage in them. If they see thoughtful, constructive,
debates they’re more likely to participate in them.

Second, in the onboarding indoctrinate
members you the philosophy and culture of the community. Embed a sense in pride
of being accepted into the group. Even for a news sites, to register for the
site ensure people go through a proper indoctrination process.

Third, easiest, is to prime behaviour
immediately prior to posting comments. If you added a box a member must tick
before the comment box appears which states “I understand comments can
unnecessarily hurt people and will ensure my comment is constructive, useful,
and doesn’t cause unnecessary offense
” the level of offensive comments is
likely to be far lower.

Similar experiments have been shown to
significantly change a range of behaviour including offensive comments,
cheating, and stealing.


the comments

This is the standard approach. You identify
the negative material and remove it. This is expensive, requires, large
moderation teams, and doesn’t scale well. The best in the business, e.g. Justin
Isaf, can do this incredibly well.

However, removing comments typically
provokes anger which causes further offensive comments.


the bad people

You can ban accounts and IP addresses to
remove people whom post uncivil comments. You can use a proper
escalation process

A few will work around this, but it will
remove the majority of negative comments for the future. Far better to ensure
members have to register (and remove the registered members violating the
community principles), than to endlessly remove bad comments.

Shutting down comments because you don’t
like what people say is the lazy, defeatist, approach. Far better to change
what people say or remove the people that are causing problems. Don’t let a
tiny minority of people ruin communities for everyone else.  

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