• Thin skin – ctd.

    I thought the discussion in the comments of my prior post was worthwhile. One thing it revealed is that comment censorship on moderated sites is not a search good (you can’t know if your comment will be censored in advance). It’s, at best, an experience good (if you experience it and understand why) and, for many, a credence good (unobservable or incomprehensible).

    That’s what makes censorship — or potential censorship — troublesome from the consumer (commenter) point of view. It’s also troublesome from the producer’s (comment moderator’s) perspective. It’s a highly loaded charge — not unlike that of “bullying” — that’s costless* to make, yet impossible to disprove.

    This is not ideal. So, here’s my proposal to you: if your comment doesn’t appear after a few days, send it to me by email along with the date and time you posted it, as well as the handle and email address you entered on TIE upon submission, and I’ll indicate why it hasn’t been posted. This requires you to keep a copy of your comment. I insist on this because (a) I don’t want to go digging through the voluminous spam, (b) the spam/trash bins get emptied and your comment could very well be gone, (c) I have other things to do. We’ve had comments mysteriously disappear before, by the way. Technology isn’t perfect. One other stipulation: each individual is only allowed to send me, at most, one such comment check request per day. Even then, allow me some time to look into it. If you pester me, I’m not going to be very responsive. Them’s the rules.

    (Oh, fine, one more rule. If this doesn’t go well for some reason, I’ll stop the service and possibly turn off all comments, quit blogging, and move to Canada. That should go without saying.)

    When you send me such an email, I won’t engage in a back-and-forth on it, but will just reply once to highlight the relevant part of the comment policy you were judged to have violated. You can then clean up your comment and resubmit it, accept our judgement and not, or decide we’re wrong and stomp off, with the freedom to post it elsewhere, of course.

    This offer converts the comment moderation/censorship credence good into a potential experience good for anyone wishing to avail themselves of the service. I’m willing to make this offer because we actually don’t reject very many comments, as I said. Also, even for the few we rejected, I bet the authors know why. (Some are grateful.)

    I also think this is a very strong signal that we’re not in the business of the censorship of ideas. We just don’t like rude and inappropriate comments and behavior that wastes our time and energy.

    * It’s not entirely cost free if you consider the possible response of the individual or institution against which the charge is made. It being potentially trollish and rude, a response that might be considered a cost (like banning you from participating in the forum) is always possible.


    • “(Some are grateful.)”

      Yep. A while ago I posted something I thought was humorous, but after rereading it, it sounded more insensitive than humorous. Oops. My bad, but I would have appreciated it being rejected.

      So if anything, you guys are being too lenient.

      IMHO, this is _your_ blog, and if I write something you don’t want on your blog, I don’t have any problem with it being rejected. Obviously, if you are overly strict, people will go away. But you are nowhere near that point.

      Whatever, as before, your work is appreciated. Thanks!

    • This is incredibly generous of you Austin (or at least more generous than I would be). People get access to high quality material on blogs FOR FREE and some of them respond with abuse, shrieking, ranting etc. and then get mad when their comment is zapped.
      It’s not that hard to write a civil, substantive comment. I don’t think you owe anything to people who are not willing to exceed that low bar of decent human behavior after they have consumed (again for free) material that you have worked hard to create. It’s nonetheless magnanimous of you to try.

      • You’re right! Want to bet how many emails I get per week, on average? I think zero (while a bad bet since it’s the lowest of lower bounds) is not too far from the mark. It’ll certainly be the modal number.

        • I am posting because I don’t see how your solution is of true benefit to either side, not that the intent isn’t appreciated. It is. It just doesn’t create the transparency that you might be interested in and it involves work.

          Jambino I think gave some approaches that might not be easily accomplished, but on one mailing list I noted something similar to what Jambino said. There was a parallel area where the postings would appear if deemed not appropriate for the list that were just as easily accessible. The posting was acknowledged on the list and referred to the other place. Total transparency.

          The list owners could not be accused of any censorship as everyone could read everything. The readers determined what they would or would not read. The reputation of the poster created the desire to look at the other list. The owner of course was restrained by his readers, but that wouldn’t be needed here. This led to the disappearance of certain commentators that had nothing to say.

          • Jambino’s “solution” is bad on two counts: (1) I’m not aware of an easy way to implement it. Even cutting and pasting is too much work for moderators. Everything has to happen in one click, or it won’t happen. (2) We’re not interested in providing any forum for content that doesn’t meet our specifications. If we do, we’ll get more of it, which is just more work for content we don’t find valuable. (This is our blog, after all. We’re not paid to work here.)

            My solution, though imperfect by some measures, is feasible, simple, and should improve comments in violation of the policy. Those who are unwilling or unable to improve theirs will not have a voice here (they can express themselves elsewhere). That’s precisely the way we want it!

            • I agree with you if it involves any significant work on your part. I also agree with you that you want to maintain a list of certain quality, but on a topic of this nature I doubt you find many spammers.

              One last thought. Perhaps you could just place the name and withhold the content. That way it is out in the open that something was rejected even if no one knows what was said. I guess, as an addition, you could have the poster do their own work of posting on the alternative blog. They would of course have to save their work so I doubt it would be used much if at all and it might end your problem.

              As you say it is your blog so I don’t want to comment further on this.

    • “TO SERVE MAN” [sic]

      As someone whose comments often hew wide of the mark of Relevance, I always appreciate when these, my comments, are published anywhere. This appreciation is especially true when the venue is such a thoughtful and thought-provoking blog as this one. The opinions I express seem quite modest in contrast with the fact-based material that surrounds them.

      On the other hand, when my comments do not appear (or on some sites have even been removed—“disappeared”—after the fact, with zero explanation or recourse), I appreciate the generous effort that is offered here by Dr. Frakt.

      The practice of permitting posted comments makes a publication more-engaging. It also adds substantively to effort required for serving a publication’s objectives.

      I like to think that all of us, whatever our separate values may be, come to the Internet Commons in hopes of contributing toward making our world a better place. In this regard—and especially in relation to the social right of healthcare access—THE INCIDENTAL ECONOMIST bends over backward in its authors’ efforts to serve.

      Other than this comment of appreciation (and with only the scantest bit of gratuitous flattery), I have nothing to add but:


      (($; -)}