Bil Browning

I Often Feel the Same

Filed By Bil Browning | June 14, 2011 12:15 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Site News
Tags: comments policy, Letters of Note

salty blue languageGranted, after cracking one tooth and breaking another one in half, I'm a little grumpy. I wasn't able to fly off to Netroots Nation this morning like I'd planned and I might have to miss the trip altogether. But when I saw this post from Letters of Note, I have to admit, I feel the same way often.

In a move which thankfully won't affect the vast majority of you, I have today disabled comments on Letters of Note. Permanently.

All complaints should be directed towards a section of society to whom the concept of even vaguely civil discussion means nothing. This collective waste of flesh, bone, and dangerously limited brain function have caused me to dread opening each and every "New Comment" notification I've received over the past twelve months or so, to the point where I now cannot continue justifying the moderation of these imbecilic, repugnant grunts when it takes up such an inordinate amount of my willpower and, more importantly, time. I'd rather spend my hours happily expanding the archives of Letters of Note than clean up after a keyboard-wielding gaggle of cowardly, dim-witted, knuckle-dragging reprobates who have nothing better to do than gleefully splash their fetid saliva all over my efforts and then roll around in the puddle until I'm able to press "Delete Comment." I refuse to waste another minute.

When we launched the new design, we considered killing the comments section altogether. One of the most common jokes among the Ed Team is that the job wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the people who comment and complain about everything or try to start daily flame wars. It's not the majority of Projectors by any means, but that vocal minority has really turned people off to our comments section. It's the most common negative people mention about the site.

So how do we fix it? Your suggestions and thoughts are welcome because we're going to have to find a solution we can all live with. The Ed Team is much smaller now and, quite frankly, I don't have the time to constantly monitor and delete comments. I don't get paid enough for that. So what's the solution?

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We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.

I wonder if it would be possible to configure posts so that there is an allotted time for comments? Some newspaper websites have implemented that, I've noticed.

For example, after a post goes live, it typically receives the greatest volume of discussion in the first 2-3 days, and sometimes again if it's highlighted anywhere else or spawns a reply post, over the course of a week.

There's a lot that a 7-day expiry on comments period wouldn't fix, but it would address some of those posts where constructive feedback has settled down and discussions inevitably disintegrate into a no-compromise back-and-forth mudslingfest.

That's usually not the problem though, Mercedes. The flame wars usually start when a post is on the front page. Older posts usually just get spam comments left on them.

1) is it not possible to strengthen or clarify the rules here without limiting freedom of speech?

2) Based upon observation, there is one article that is still receiving comments that was made more than a week ago that is still receiving comments, yet the dialogue has devolved, and nothing interesting is being said. All of the most interesting comments/discussion took place within the first few days.

I know it must be a headache for you guys, but I sure would hate to see the comments section go. Already, with the new design, the site feels less like a conversation and more like a magazine. Getting rid of the comments would be taking away the last vestige of that sense of community that I so loved about TBP.

I tend to agree, Steven. But we've got to find a solution to this problem. I fought to keep the comments section in the redesign, but there were several folks begging for it to go away.

I have to admit I'm really torn about this. On the one hand, it's always best when the comments are civil and well-thought out. On the other hand, having been one of those who's probably crossed that line more than once (or twice, or...), I believe that the freewheeling discussions we get into here in the comments are one of the best things about the site. It seems that more and more often I see other blogs really clamping down on this kind of thing and yanking anything that's even moderately at odds with prevailing popular opinion. To me, that's not ensuring civil discussion, that just censorship.

We talk a lot of politics here, and where there's political discussion, there's going to be spirited disagreement. The trick is striking a balance between honest, enthusiastic disagreement and outright flaming and trolling. I think Bilerico does a good job of that, in fact, far better than most.

Personally, I find that when my comments are censored on a blog just for disagreeing with the majority and saying things others might not want to hear, that's usually my cue to move on because I know that the time and effort I spend writing those comments will be most likely better spent elsewhere.

I'm not talking about deleting comments "just for disagreeing with the majority and saying things others might not want to hear," Becky. I'm talking about the vicious hateful comments that are meant to do nothing but tear down others - either commenters, contributors, whoever. There are some really hateful people on a lot of these threads lately.

Not having comments would kill the site. The Internet is about interactivity not passive reading. Moreover, there are some pieces you post which do require either factual correction or are written from a position of assumption and even entitlement... do you really want an environment where people are writing about subjects about which they're largely ignorant? If you really have a problem with trolls then ban them... there aren't that many who cause a bulk of the arguments.

Do you have any suggestions on how to make the rules fair so we can ban the trolls? Many of them walk right up to the edge of the Terms of Service but word things in a way that keeps them within the guidelines while still making the thread a miserable experience for anyone who reads it. Look how long some of these folks have been able to stick around even though they were nothing more than a pain in the ass!

Quite honestly, I've been wishing that the Internet would do this for a while now. It's brought out the dumbest and worst in all of us, and whatever positive discourse arises basically falls on deaf ears. People who spout trolling bile don't care about discourse. They care about making their point and moving on...typically by spelling as few words correctly as possible.

I'd be totally happy to go back to "Letters to the Editor" and email responses, not only here but in any news forum. Every time I read an article at a news site and see that there are comments, I get the same twist in my stomach as described by Letters of Note. I hate that. I ignore it now and just close out when I reach the end, but it's so stupid that the Internet has

resulted in not free speech so much as careless and thoughtless speech.

I suppose the question I have is why is there such a concern about those people who comment in trying to start flame wars?

I'm more of the laissez-faire mind set. As long as the comment isn't racist, homophobic, or otherwise just an asshole for the sake of being an asshole, then I'd just let it be.

In my very limited experience in moderating Internet forums, I know that even IP bans are only so effective. Someone who is really determined will always find a way to come back.

I noticed that Bilerico now lets people sign in under their Facebook account. Perhaps that should be the ONLY way of signing in? People using Facebook generally use their real name, and if people have to sign in under their actual identity, they may be more wary of posting troll comments.

Not allowing anonymous comments ignores a basic truth we should all acknowledge: many people do not have the ability to comment openly with their real names. If we limit comments to only those who are "out" enough to name themselves, we will a) mute the voices of those who are the already feeling invisible, and b) leave ourselves with only the most self-important, privileged blowhards. Yikes!

I appreciate the thought of an exclusive "Facebook" sign-in, but in the interest of access for all, there are actually some people who are not on Facebook, and that creates a barrier to participate in the comments forum here.

deus_solus | June 15, 2011 8:11 AM

Exactly this... I am not (and can not) be out on facebook- if facebook is required for commenting, I will not be able to participate.

That's exactly why we left the "Create a Bilerico account" option in there, Mark. Some folks just can't hook their "real life" to their "online life" - whether thats because they haven't come out, can't be associated with certain sites because of their job, etc.

It is a trivial matter to create a fictitious account on Facebook, and all it requires is an equally simple creation of a free email account with any number of email providers.

That said, there are a number of instances where anonymity is being used as a basis for ad hominem attacks and discussion derailment.

Personally, I have no interest in engaging on the substantive LGBT political issues with people who are unwilling to back up their positions with public visibility. Anyone can spout bullshit rhetoric. If you want to be taken seriously, then speak in rational terms, back up your arguments with evidence, and stand behind your opinions with a verifiable identity.

Otherwise, get out of the way and let those with the courage to stand up for themselves and be counted do the work that needs doing.

Matt Stone, I think the idea of making membership in Facebook (i.e. serving mainstream advertisers and Mark Zuckerberg and destroying the concept of privacy on which society is founded) is a horrible one. The type of people who would have a Facebook account (with or without their real name) should be allowed to comment but certainly should not be the only type of people allowed to comment here. People who have used Facebook or have a Facebook login tend to be extremely materialistic, shallow, conservative, and narcissistic. I don't think we should limit the Bilerico Project commenting or any other type of usage to the lemmings who cooperate with the Facebook advertising site.

I worry about it because it's costing us readers. You have no idea what it's like to constantly be told, "I'd read your site more often, but those comments sections are such a turn off. I just don't want to deal with it." Of course, I always suggest that they read the posts alone and not the comments.

I have no idea how often I've heard Bilerico described as "the place where all the trans folks go to argue about the definition of 'trans' and to tell every LGB person that they're an asshole because trans folk are more oppressed." And that about sums up the comments section lately.

Well, it is hard to ignore the comments. And like others have said, in many cases (not just here) I find out more interesting things in the comments than in the OP.

I have a few suggestions, based on trans ppl being the biggest problem:

First, just don't have trans-related posts. Seems the simplest, though I do know the GLB posts often get derailed into trans issues (of which I am guilty, too). If you get trans-related derails in cis-GLB posts, just delete them. Aren't deraisl a TOS violation anyhow?

If you are going to keep trans posts, put comments on all trans-related posts in moderation. It has to be simpler to manage a few negative comments before they even see the light of day than to deal with the resulting complaints and flame wars. Also, don't be so dainty about TOS violations. Even if comments are within the TOS, you know what is likely to be trouble--just kill those posts. This is your site. You know what your audience wants, and what you want to put out there with this site. You don't owe *anyone* a soapbox.

The other thing is to actively block ppl who generate the most complaints. I know that ppl can come back under other names and such, but you can usually tell from a couple of posts who they are. And hey, if they make respectful posts that dont get complaints, then who cares if they are back under a different name?

Oh, and if *I* am one of the problems, feel free to block me. It will take away my temptation to post, which I often succumb to. :)

Aww Bil don't get discouraged. Up at the top where you have the tabs for politics, the movement, media and so forth you just need to add another tab. Call it psycho ward. Then after 3 days move any post that has denigrated or devolved into that tab. And, now this is important, disable notifications of new replies to any post that is in the psych ward.

I think you will find that most of the posts you send to the psycho ward involve the transgender/transsexual paradigm. Of course with the 2012 election looming you could also find some politics posts that devolve rapidly also.

I'm sure others can improve on the concept. I think its the hormones Bil. Oh that's it.... don't call it the psycho ward but call it hysterics. Ya gotta keep a sense of humor.

I say keep the comments sections.

I've learned that there are many places on the internet where comments are always going to be out of hand. Like YouTube. Places like this where there is a large enough community to keep the conversation interesting are rare, and by not allowing comments, there would be one less place for worthwhile discussions to take place on the internet.

Yes, there will always be those things we call Trolls but is getting rid of comments for all of us really the best way to deal with them?

No, I don't think it is. But do you have any suggestions on what a comment policy here should look like that keeps things civil and doesn't involve a ton of work for me?

I like Matt's suggestion and it is one that I think would be effective. Require people to log in via Facebook or Twitter. These platforms would provide an easier way to approve comments.

I would prefer that Bilerico not remove commenting. Many of us are bloggers because we like to engage in conversation with our readers. At least I'm assuming that I'm not the only one...

People either have to use Facebook or create an account here. That still hasn't stopped them from generally acting like assholes.

Contributors use their real names, why not set the same standard for the comments section?
Greg Cundiff

See above. Some folks have legitimate reasons for not using their real name.

Love 'em or hate 'em, the comments stay in the picture! It's the interactive foundation of this site. It wouldn't hurt if more of us made a point of modeling "good commenter behavior" and posting more often, and politely.

But here's my confession: I'm more likely to follow a comment string that features some batshit idiot -- I like to see how people react.

Bil, it comes with the territory, plain and simple. And as I browse this site it doesn't really appear to be a firestorm of idiocy. Make some poor intern review comments and enjoy Netroots Nation!

You know, that's one of the problems, Mark. A lot of the contributors don't want to engage with the readers anymore. They're tired of just being called names - or stalked as in Emily's case above.

Personally, I see this as a problem. Contributers often make statements that ppl (often me) don't agree with, and they refuse to explain or defend those statements/positions. Unsupported assertions don't really help much, even if this really is an opinion site, not a news site.

I don't much see the point of making posts if you aren't willing to engage ppl, and just throw something over the wall and walk away. Engaging with ppl who disagree with you can actually help you understand your own position better, and isn't that a good thing?

But of course, as I said in another comment in this thread, it is your site, and you have every right to make it what you want it to be. :)

It's tough because I like the comments, but they do get out of hand at times. That's the action of a few people, not the majority, though. Having had one commenter swear repeatedly at me, post personal information about me, an then call my office last week, I'm well aware how vicious people can be. But I'm also aware that those people are in the minority. The challenge is finding a way to moderate those commenters who bring the whole site down without having the rest of the work grind to a halt.

I'd say first, have all commenters use their real names. No hiding behind a screenname. If you're commenting on what someone wrote under their real identity, you have to play fair. After that, don't feel bad about enforcing the "this is our home; unruly guests will be shown the door" policy. It's one thing to disagree. It's another to swear at, threaten, or thread-jack.

What happened to you is frankly an example of why I would be afraid to comment under my real name. We may not all face that extreme a level of harassment, but there are definitely people on here that would be glad to dig up dirt on others to try and "win" a debate.

Oh please do not require a twitter or facebook login. I use neither. I do use my real name but only my first name. I'd be glad to meet Bil or anyone else for lunch or a drink anywhere in Florida. But, let me suggest that if this site gets too involved in policing identifications it will fail simply because of time constraints.

And now to a derail. I clicked the donate button and sent funds. What are the rest of you doing? With 6,800 facebook followers (and I'm not one) I would think at least a few thousand might send 5 or 10 or even more.

Finally - a "derail" I can live with! :) So far this week we've made about $100 through the donation button. That's a record.

I did donate as well. Not a whole lot, but what I could afford. I hope it helps.

I like the comments portion of the site. I think it lets many people voice opinions and frustrations they may not be able to in life. As for real names only, simply no. Some, for many reasons, can not do so. We should respect that.

As for a solution...I know you take on interns. Why not have comment moderation be one of those duties. You have simple and clear guidelines and even though it is distasteful at times it does teach an important side to net journalism that an intern should learn. Besides maybe they can come up with new ideas by doing the work. That may make things flow easier. The best solutions usually are spawned by those having to do the work.

I don't know if this helps but that's my two cents. Thanks for everything Bil.

With such a reduced staff now, T. The intern is busy doing other things. I've tried to assign other editors to the task but they quickly give it up because it's so toxic so often. And you never know when someone is going to vomit attacks in the thread(s) and it's nothing to wake up to 30 complaint forms when someone does something right after I go to bed and then others respond. There's nothing like waking up to that shit. :(

We added the report button and stopped approving comments from unregistered users to try and quell some of it, but it's only added to the number of complaints filed - and a good half of them are fake or the other person arguing with the commenter who just doesn't like what they have to say.

Brad Bailey | June 14, 2011 4:04 PM

Have you thought about using moderators in the comments section like Huffpost does? Is there anybody you trust enough or who is willing to take on the task? That might take a lot of the burden off of you.

See my response right above this.

The rules we have now are pretty good. I think they just need a bit more definition to make it clearer. What we say now:

"While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising."

My question is what constitutes a personal attack or slur, particularly when we're talking about intra-community debates about what constitutes a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transsexual or queer person. If I question the existence of bisexuals, is that a slur? If I call a bisexual person a "fence-sitter," is that a slur? If I say your ideas about sexuality are pure fantasy, is that a personal attack?

Or perhaps we don't need more definitions, which could be confusing, but just a note that the rules will be construed strictly, and that there is a way to get your ideas across without making a personal attack or using a slur?

The other thing I think is that perhaps we can just delete the portion of the comment that constitutes a personal attack or slur, and that way the person's ideas can still come through.

I read every single report of abuse, and often I'm just not sure. I'd rather err on the side of civility, even if it interferes with free speech a bit. The First Amendment does not apply to non-governmental blogs.

I agree... I think there is too much emphasis on 'personal attacks' being against one person when often the nastiest personal attacks on this site are against groups (ie labeling an entire group of people crossdressers or men in dresses). Just because someone speaks in generalities rather than attacking an individual doesn't make those statements any less mean or pointed. And too many trolls are hiding behind this loophole.

I also have a real issue with people posting behind anonymous IDs while attacking others. If someone's going to be an attack dog, at least put your information out there. And I agree with the importance of accountability of both people who post and people who comment. No one's forcing anyone to be here much less make the statements they're making, so be up front about who you are and where you're coming from.

If you guys would just ban Brandi Parker, the terrible person who keeps going on about how the only real trans folks are the het femme ones with "Harry Benjamin Syndrome," and the rest of us are really men, I would feel much more comfortable commenting here. She seems to pop up with her nonsense in every trans related thread, and it's really discouraging.

She's not the only one - not by a long shot. And some of the "defenders" against her attacks can be just as bad.

Brandi isn't the only one, but I honestly think you Bil, as a non-trans person, don't quite understand the nastiness and vitriol of her attacks and how upsetting they are, especially to trans women. While I don't like to compare racism to transphobia (they are very different) I can't help thinking that if someone came one this site and made endless remarks about 'niggers,' and cracks about black people's behavior and appearance that they would be banned post haste. This is what Brandi regularly doesn't to anyone who doesn't meet up to her woman-standards. Brandi has come on here and made ugly remarks about murdered trans women and how they deserve to die... think about that. If someone came on here saying that about Matthew Shepard, what would you do? Would you blame the people who were angry at such a person? I'd like a response to this please because it is very much pertinent to the subject.

Jill has been tasked with developing and implementing a new comment policy for TBP. So if you've got ideas you want her to consider, leave 'em here.

I would respectfully suggest implementing a user-moderated system such as the gold standard Slashcode. There is a very good reason why Slashdot is one of the largest, most well-respected communities on the Internet, and that reason is the user moderation system that allows the best content to rise to the top and the worthless drivel to sink to the bottom. It also allows for "Anonymous Coward" posting. I can't think of a better community discussion than Slash, even if it is not perfect, nothing else comes remotely close.

Sorry to hear about the frustrations you've been dealing with. If it's any consolation, your site is still significantly more civil than many other volunteer contributor news sites like SlashDot and HuffPost. Frankly, I think the troublemakers are in the minority as others have pointed out.

I'd hate to see the comments go because other readers' viewpoints, criticisms, advice, feedback, and accolades are what make Bilerico worthy of attention and is far more informative than just browsing through opinionated columns.


I'd agree with you about the value of the comments section, but how do we keep the snide vicious attacks to a minimum?

Simple. You implement a system where you don't need to worry how mean people are being to each other.

Implementing a system like Slashcode, as I described above, allows for the users to vote things up and down, to moderate the moderators (meta-moderation), and for viewers to choose their level of quality. It also allows people to post anonymously. Because the moderation is performed by users, it requires minimal intervention from site administrators, and trolling tends to sink rapidly into obscurity (low moderation).

GayHermit | June 14, 2011 6:49 PM

Just wanted to chime in with a few thoughts.

I really like the comments area. There have been articles where I have learned more through the comments than in the article itself. (The articles ususally were open questions, similar to this one.) It just wouldn't be the same here without the comments.

As to login stuff, I have no intention of ever having a facebook or twitter account. (At this time anyway. Sometimes drastic changes do happen.) Having those become the login standard would pretty much keep me from commenting here ever again. (Wouldn't be too major for me as I don't comment much. I'm sure there are others who this would affect. Possibly young closeted tribe members, off the top of my head.)

Also, what is this sudden problem with pseudonyms and such? The use of such alternate naming has been going on for a long time now, in both the writing and acting worlds. (And probably others I can't think of immediately.) There are people out there who are not neccesarily as brave/out as a lot of the others here, but that doesn't make thier comments any less relevant. I am aware of the negatives, (Amina/Paula Brooks being two most recent potential issues), but I think (hope) that those cases are few. As an alternate example against this argument, there are a few people who have used/are using "real names" that were/are extremely disruptive and counter productive. If someone is really determined, facebook and twitter pages can be faked as well.

The commenters above have provided a number of possible alternative moderation solutions that I think could be workable, so I won't repeat that here.

Thanks for reading.

I like it when you comment, Hermit. You thoughtfully add to the discussion instead of just smearing everyone with troll grease! :)

Honestly, half the reason I come here is to read the comments. Also, I would stop commenting if I had to sign in with my Facebook account. I'm not interested in having my comments on this site read in a Google search by potential employers in states without inclusive non-discrimination laws. I agree with the ideas above to have an intern moderate or to have moderators within comments. Do offensive commenters not get reported, or is it that there are many reported comments to deal with?

There's a ton of them. Each trans thread that devolves into "Is you is or is you aint a transwoman" spawns dozens (sometimes hundreds) of complaints every time someone disagrees with a comment.

When I read a post on Bilerico, I read the comments as well. They are an important part of why I come to this site pretty much daily, and I have learned a great deal from them. Yes, there are those that are a problem. And I'm afraid I don't have any ideas as to how to deal with that.

But - I don't have a facebook page, and while I do have a twitter account, I often don't go there for days and days, as it's not something I really want to use often. Requiring sign-in using those would be a significant problem for more people than you might think, I suspect.

I am - quietly - out. To be totally out could seriously impact my livelihood, and I'm not yet willing to take that risk. It may happen, as I'm becoming more activist with every passing month, it seems. But there are people who simply cannot be even as out as I am now, and to require real name log-ins will eliminate their ability to join in this conversation. I think that would be a shame.

Thanks for explaining so easily why requiring Facebook alone would be a bad idea. I'd also throw in that it would also give a corporation access to everything posted here by everyone and our comments section wouldn't work if that site went down - which is completely out of our control.

I like the idea of commenters signing in via Facebook or Twitter. Accountability and personal exposure are green kryptonite to trolls.

I don't mind signing in under my Twitter account, which is also a username, I hesitate to sign in under my FB account, which has my complete real name. I am pretty easy to find under my real name, and while I am completely out, and stand by anything I say here, I really like being able to compartmentalize my interactions with the crazies. I don't want to bother with blocking them from my email and FB (on which I have no privacy settings whatsoever, is completely public) and having them perhaps call me on the phone (my number is public).

Facebook isn't really a guarantee that the person commenting is not a sock puppet. I'd bet that Paula Brooks has a Facebook account. And even Jesus M. Christ and Almighty God are on Twitter. All that really does is force people to be out or be silent.

Asking contributors to moderate or help moderate responses to their/our posts is reasonable, although it does open up a possibility of inconsistent application, and they/we would have to regularly revisit the ToS.

But don't dismiss the idea of a time-based comment window too quickly (if it can be scripted).

I agree. Having a comment window, say a week or two, would allow people to provide feedback and criticism while limiting the possibility of conversations getting flamy.

A lot of other sites I go to shut down the comment thread if it has degenerated into a flame war. Also, some sites limit the total number of comments, so that things can only go on for so long.

As a good number of you know, I use my real initials when I comment -- but I did drop my last name, because including my last name makes it too easy to Google me and find all my Bilerico comments. Who knows, I might have to go back into the closet someday in order to earn enough money to avoid homelessness. (I also dream about taking a vacation to Uganda.) Signing in via FB or Twitter would be a problem for me (unless I set up a second, phony FB or Twitter account). I have FB and Twitter accounts with my full real name, but I am less outspoken there than I am here.

It's not that I want to be able to attack anyone with impunity, it's that some night I might actually get LL Cool J to sit on my face (oh, Dr. Jillian, I'm sorry! -- you mentioned fence-sitters, not face-sitters!), and I want to be able to talk about it here without being asked about it during my next job interview. The way employers think they own your soul nowadays, if the new HR Department finds out I serviced LL Cool J, then my new boss will probably expect me to do him, too. Unfortunately for him (or her), I know that most bosses are unpleasant assholes, and I prefer to be choosy about the assholes I lick.

Speaking of assholes ... why does commenting on Bilerico have to be so damned complicated?

Hmmmm. Comments...

Comments are always in reaction to things. This makes them a form of feedback.

Comments and I have a history. "Enuff" said on that for now.

personally, I'd prefer if everyone just used their real names. I realize that what with the high levels of oppression and the potential damage that such can do such is unfair and robs this site of some of its best commenting voices.

I'm also aware that my zero tolerance policy for homophobia and transphobia, and my personal background in the nastiness that is colorism and the multitude of ways that "dogwhistling" can be used, is not entirely useful here.

There are, obviously, times when transphobic or homophobic comments are apparently of value.

That said, I'd suggest that the rules be expanded to generally incorporate the elements from Derailing for Dummies. It would require some effort in order to remove the snark, but as a set of general guidelines, they do indeed have great power in focusing the discussion into more positive and less disruptive areas.

This is because while I haven't commented here particularly heavily in a long while, I have in fact been reading them and studying them, because this is not a new issue for TBP (or, for that matter, any site).

And the problem isn't so much the incredibly insulting language that's used (such is often found even in dry treatise's), but rather the derailing that inevitably spins off into a flamewar that contains such language as is noted in the above comments. This is especially true in subjects where there is high emotion and abiding passion.

Which is not, I'll note, merely the "trans threads". It happens in "race threads" and in strategy threads and in threads that are written by people who have generally non-standard views.

The derailings are where the problem is. The sudden turn of an article on the "walk of shame" into a diatribe on the merits of certain semantic concepts.

A wonderful treatise on the underlying issues within that semantic problem suddenly gets bogged down in a fight between factions.

A negative nelly pops in and turns a posting about some effort to make a change into their personal vendetta against everything.

Such flamewars are awesome for bringing in the views, but they undermine the mission of the blog and cast a negative pallor over it. It pulls in the dogma and creates entrenched sides and suddenly everyone is dug in and locked down, instead of being willing to discuss things.

And it requires derailing to accomplish it.

Oddly enough, many of the very popular blogs out there dealing with issues such as feminism, racism, sexism, immigration, and more already utilize this set of concepts as the foundation for their sites' terms of service. Both formally and informally.

As I have gone deeper into the world of social justice, I've encountered it more and more online, and it has a startling effect of making discussions not more narrow, but far more broad -- though it does have the effect of driving away those who prefer to write from a fixed perspective as it tends to require a bit too much "political correctness".

I can say that I have a second FB account. That has a history and story behind it. I have multiple twitter accounts. Granted, I use them for specific purposes (business and so forth), but they are there. So the FB and twitter signins would limit it to only those people who are in the wealthiest and most techie areas of the net -- and make it more difficult for those using public access terminals (libraries, community centers, crisis intervention centers, etc etc).

Which is less diversity of opinion, not more.

Then again, I'm not really certain I'm fully welcome here, so eh, what do I know.

I think there are enough here supporting keeping comments, how to moderate comments, privacy and such. I would like to suggest a character count. Similar to a wall post on FB of 420 count or less.

The comment area is to comment... not to rewrite the entire OP.

Its interesting you are having this conversation at the same time asPam's House Blend. But, I beg you to not take their new attempt at moderation of comments which just reeks of political correctness in overdrive.

I'm always curious about the comment sections of website. I think people believe that whoever comments speaks for most people, but in the end the people that comment on the article are usually the most passionate on either side of an issue.

Joe.My.God is mostly, probably 90% men. This website used to seem fairly balanced in the amount of comments from different segments of the LGBT umbrella. Now, it seems like the comments are generally 60-70% trans folks. That is a good and bad thing. It means that trans folks feel safe enough to comment here. But it raises the question to me- where did the other people go? Are they still reading? Or have they left? Bil do you believe the comments are adversely affecting your page hits?

I used to enjoy reading the comments especially in the trans articles. Now it seems to have devolved into such an existential ivory tower cluster fuck about who and who is not in the community- that I can't it makes my head want to explode. I can only imagine what its like for someone that has to read through them every day.

I applied my own solution to PHB, I just don't go there anymore. Not really b/c of the comments, but the whole site seems pretty amateurish and heavily biased to me, esp compared with Bilerico.

There's a ton of them. Each trans thread that devolves into "Is you is or is you aint a transwoman" spawns dozens (sometimes hundreds) of complaints every time someone disagrees with a comment.

I suppose that is not a dismissive comment . . . why continue reading the rest of my comment.

Well, blame me for trying. Here goes. (NOTE: Actually, I like Louis Jordan very much. What an unfortunate choice of quotes. Sacrilege. And "transwoman". More condescension, more evidence of cluelessness given away by an ever present misplaced suffix so common among the clueless)


A complete thread where, except for a few minor details everyone agrees with each other(until I came along, I guess). All on board. You are either on the train or off the train.

The problem as I see it is the legislative agenda here and how the activism here makes no distinction regarding people who have legally changed sex . After GID is written into the law how does one stop it from happening? Who has the money to fight it in court? How many understand the implications? Everyone is suppose to nod in assent or be deemed a trouble maker. Then, there is the GLAAD media reference guide, put out by an organization that runs around to all the places where transsexual, transgender and gender queer people might be exposed, lumps them all in the same category and creates a definition that makes no distinction between the categories and actually reinforces gender dimorphism in the minds of the public while pleading for what, the way the word "transgender" is implicitly defined as, nothing more than tolerance of eccentricity.

Non - discrimination towards people who have changed sex will not guarantee that those who have changed sex will have the same rights as those others of the sex they belong to. The discourse here, along with the tacit acceptance of the GLAAD media guide definition of transgender reinforces this socially which will inevitably have legal consequences. Do you expect all people of transsexual history to just go along with it just because some are willing to sell themselves out just to seem agreeable and sensible?

It reminds me of why I became interested in this blog, although, concerned about this blog more aptly describes my interest. I should say this while I still have the chance. It is unfortunate because there are many good writers here who write about other things I am concerned about who I agree with very strongly. It doesn't take me long to remember that it was the Ron Gold incident which brought me here, however. The core attitudes of many of those who are in agreement, here, don't exist far beyond the basic point he was trying to make about people who have SRS, even if they aren't often expressed as crudely as his portrayal.

Bilerico's political power seems to be growing. This is your blog. You get to set the agenda. Those you offend the most are a very small minority who, because of circumstances, will never see eye to eye because their situation exists outside the realm of common causes. It's unfortunate no one who writes here is able to understand the reality of that.

(P S I have a long history of dental problems. I really sympathize with you about the broken tooth but that doesn't change anything else I have a problem with)

"how the activism here makes no distinction regarding people who have legally changed sex"

Which means what? Some people are legally allowed to change sex on their drivers' licenses but not on their birth certificates. Some people aren't allowed to change either. SRS, even if you want it and can afford it, isn't a guarantee you will be allowed to change legal documents, depending on which state or country you live in.

Hi Quinne,

I was born in Tennessee. Happy now? I live under a bridge, too. O K?

Leigh Anne | June 15, 2011 11:38 AM

Without a Comments section, I'm more likely to use a link to go to the source directly, less likely to read thru what your contributors have written.

If you find my comments offensive, or just not informative, this is a GOOD thing.

As for anonymity, after decades in the public sphere, I cherish it.

Bil the problem with the Trans community is the Umbrella plain and simple. LGB all have sexual orientation in common. Trans people on the other hand are all over the place some have sexual orientation also but and they'll hate to admit a heck of us lot don't.There are some of gay and straight oriented that want to be part of the Transgender umbrella and LGBT aligned. Then there are some of us that are gay and straight oriented that want nothing to do with the Transgender umbrella or LGBT politics. Some of us are conservative, some liberal and some independent. Some want to be attached to the LGBT many don't. The key to ending all this is to admit the truth that not all T's are LGBT or Transgender identified and make it publicly known.In no way should those who want to be attached to the LGBT be offended by such a move because it simply is none of their business who one chooses to or not chooses to affiliate with. I'll flat out admit in the last few months I've become edgier in my comments because I've become sick of the personal attacks by those who want to trap all of us under the Transgender bubble. I have consistently stated through the years that I support gay rights hell I support most rights for everyone yet I've been called a homophobe, Transphobe, rascist and a Transsexual Taliban. One of your Projectionist in this thread has made it their personal goal to label me as delusional. Yet continues to attack my comments and me knowing full well they have a snowballs chance in hell of convincing me I have to be a part of the LGBT or hang my hat under their Transgender Umbrella.Here's the kicker though that person will deny that's what they're trying do. That person has never offered a solution to any of the issues but continues to post comments that are offensive and personal attacks but I've never seen one taken down.I have also taken steps in recent months to show people who I am and that I'm a real person, a real Transsexual and not a troll. I've moved away from responding as amym440 in most places and I'm now here signed in through my facebook account.The trans problem is an LGB problem and as long as people in the LGBT continue to try and block us from breaking away its only going to get worse. This isn't only in the gay community it is getting out into the mainstream. The more it gets out there and the longer it takes the LGBT to let us go the uglier its going to get and the more likely the LGBT is going to become liabel for its actions. While I used LGBT I realize there are many LGB'S that are respectful of Tran's people and their choices and associations. Bil if I've personally offended you by my comment on the gay pride contest I wish I could say I'm sorry but I honestly feel like I'm being held hostage by a bunch of bullies and there should be no pride in that. You want to build a better community build one that is built on people choosing to be a part of it anything less than that is called communism and I'm sure Leslie Feinberg and Kate Bornstein are proud of their Stalinist Transgender Tactics.

Ah, so *that's* where you went! I had been wondering. I loved your last screen-name, though, hate to see it go. :(


Dear Bil & fellow readers,

The most difficult aspect of maintaining any kind of Internet website of any stripe that functions as a social setting, read: community- is quite obviously as in the non-virtual world, there are human beings that quite frankly are extremely disagreeable and voice opinions that are tasteless at best and prejudicial or give offence at worst.

I read The Project everyday and on most days twice to review updates and yes, the comments section. I have bore witness to the ills of some of Bil's "better known" trolls with colleagues & friends who note that in all honesty, these persons are bullies.

Having said that, I shall not utilize the phrase; "It Gets Better," as the reality is, it won't. At least not with them, (The Trolls). In a way, the irony is that with their 'brilliant' displays of intellect coupled with the phenomenal grasp of the language, oh and their manners in what should be polite thoughtful discourse, these persons by their very actions define the word santorum. (Please feel free to Google that term.)

Here's the thing, I honestly believe that regardless of the steps that Dr. Weiss, Alex, and Bil take to "clean-up" the comments section, you are still left with the above mentioned trolls spewing santorum who have no other ambitions in their lives than to contribute the same. Sad? Yes. Preventable? No.

I think that limiting comments to registration which will allow verification and hence banning of abusive trolls vis a vis IP addresses is the most adequate way to address the issue. I agree with Bil and Emily for example that a solitary Facebook/Twitter account log-in requirement is ill-advised.

I would also submit that those who give offence even after registration and adequate warning should have their IP details made public. Oh and yes, their are proxy servers, true, however, even those are not fool proof. I would also add that it may be constructive to shut a comment thread down immediately upon receipt of abusive comments with no recourse available. Lock all out and possibly, that may curtail the problem some what. ( I would also post the offender's ISP details as well and send a very nice notice to that ISP also made public with the details of the offence and the troll/entity whose responsible.

Is this a solution to Bil being overworked? Yes and No folks. Part of mitigating this problem is self control on the part of the victims and other readers- namely do NOT give in to your very human urge to tell the troll to go perform an unnatural sexual act with an angry iguana whose suffering from hemorrhoids.

Editorial Policy regarding comments is quite clear but I would add that abuse is liable to bring banning AND public humiliation to the bully/troll vis a vis publication of any verifiable details. trolls my friends like to live in dark places and absolutely hate exposure to the light.

That is my two pence Mr. Browning & fellow readers.


Brody Levesque
Correspondent & Editor
BL Freelance News Service
Washington DC
202 556- 0877

Bil one thing very important that I forgot to add is that I hope you've been able to get the bad teeth dealt with by this time. I think if I had to choose between having bad teeth or trolls I'd have a hard time choosing which is worse. The good thing is you can get the teeth fixed.

I would only add to my previous comments that one reason that Slashdot as a community has been successful may be peculiar to the nature of its focus and history, namely, that it is a site which focuses on technology issues and that it was started at a time in the history of the Internet whereby membership at Slashdot in its early days correlated very strongly with technical expertise, just as simply being on the Internet pre-1995 is strongly correlated with having a fair amount of knowledge about how this stuff works, and with greater intelligence and education, in general.

Because of this, and because Slashdot assigns publicly known userids in sequential order, those people with very low userid numbers tend to have their opinions regarded with somewhat greater respect in relationship to those with higher userid numbers. Slashdot's account numbers probably number in the several million at this point (a quick check revealed userid numbers in excess of 2.2 million) .

My userid number there is less than 40,000. That ought to give you an idea of how long I've been participating there! Slashdot has been in existence since September 1997, and while I don't remember exactly when I joined, I suppose it must have been fairly soon after they launched, given my low 5-digit userid.

This kind of effect may not carry over to a mature site like Bilerico, but over time, it may begin to have some effect.

Gaytorguy | June 15, 2011 3:11 PM

Too bad you cannot get moderators vetted from the fact they have consistently left thoughtful, non-flaming, insightful comments. Or they expressed their views in a rational argument without trying to cause nor incite a word riot.
I fo one would be glad to be someone to moderate comments. But that would require time spent vetting the possible moderators. There are so many people who are members of this blog. It seems only fair that they can also contribute to it in moderating not just commenting on posts.
Just my opinion.

How about eliminating the comments section but including an email link so readers can comment via email? ("Have a comment about this post? Send us an email!) Someone -- I might even volunteer for this position -- could scan the emails quickly, find anything interesting, and then compile excerpts in a regular post, maybe bi-weekly or weekly. It would replace "Comment of the Week" with "The Bilerico Community Speaks," or something like that. Just a thought off the top of my head.

Just because I'm having to go through the pile of TOS reports that have come in today, I thought I'd share this one with you because it so succinctly captures the inane bullshit we put up with. This is from the contest post about sharing your pride. It's being watched by judges and Lisa decided that her vendetta against trans folk is so much more important. It's ridiculous and it makes the site look bad. It serves no purpose whatsoever other than trying to start an argument and is obviously not a real entry.

Pride means to me the whole LGBT coming together to celebrate holding me hostage to their political views and with slapping their unwanted label Transgender upon me. There should be no pride you all have a lot to be ashamed of.

Um, dude, you are the one who lets her derail pretty much every single thread here with her single-minded tirades.

if its any consolation, and without what strikes me now as some humor and irony, please allow me to say:

it gets better.

For it does.

Actually Bill it is a very real comment and reflects how I truly feel.If the Gay community wants me to let up on it then it needs to quit holding everyone who doesn't want to be held under the Transgender umbrella go. Think of some word that you guys can use that only counts for those who wish to be gay community affiliated. Call it Transgender if you want but make damn sure the outside world understands it only covers those attached to the gay community by choice. You can ban me from here if you like but I can assure that I'm putting out similar comments in the mainstream its only a matter of time before it becomes an issue outside the LGBT community.