Weblog Comments Ideas

Anil's discovery about We Blog related comments spam is just another reason why better identity management is needed for open weblog comment systems. Beyond an identity bank like I mentioned a few days ago, I think there are some other steps weblog authors could take to weed out unwanted comments. First, create a quick "terms of posting" that lets people know what is acceptable and what isn't...and publish it where people will see it before they post. Also, enforce consequences for violating the terms. I'm not sure what that should be. Maybe making the IP Address of the offending poster public (this is like putting up bad checks at your local food joint) would help. Blocking that address (or range of addresses) from future posting could be the way to go, though it's trickier with large ISPs. I think the real key is heavy moderation. As soon as someone violates the terms, delete the comment; no note that you've changed something, no email to the offender, just delete. The idea is that trolls and spammers will get bored when no one listens. (But we all know how well that works for email.) These aren't long-term solutions, but they could help while the ratio of unwanted contributors to good contributors is still low.

Comments

Amen, brother! I'm all for heavy moderation, even if it sometimes gets me in trouble:

http://designforcommunity.com/display.cgi/200110101800

But don't forget how effective a small barrier to entry can be, too. Reqired email addresses (not for display) can help. Required memberships can stop most spam, and discourage most bozos. It all depends on how high you want that barrier. And, eventually, weblog authors need to ask themselves: Do I want to give my readers the ability to comment on everything I say? Or maybe just some things? Limiting discussion can make it more valuable. (I know you know this, PB. Just extrapolating.)
Woops. Sorry about that bad html there. Ban me! ;-)
I'm not sure that an identity bank wouldn't lead to the same type thing that people do with email -- have one identity that's the "real" them (e.g., their personal email address), and another that they use for online participation in things that are less important/more public/whatever (e.g., their HotMail email address). So while it'd be somewhat possible to track a single identity across websites, and have some degree of certainty that the "George Brody" who posted on my site is the same one that posted on yours, you still don't have a clue who George Brody IS.

And I agree with the barrier-to-entry argument; in my personal experience, requiring a membership to a site to post comments leads to many, many less comments than otherwise. Maybe that's what you want -- in Derek's words, you decide how high you want the barrier -- but it's truly a barrier.
I agree that an identity bank wouldn't stop anonymous posting. But it would allow those people who voluntarily want to link their online identity with their offline identity to do so. It wouldn't tell you who the real Slim Shady is, but it would let you know that the same real-world person was behind each post...and *if* that real-world person links their online and offline world, it guarantees that someone else won't steal their online identity. I think this sort of independent verification would allow the open comment systems to remain so the barrier of registration doesn't have to be put up. Sure, most people wouldn't use an ID-bank. But for those few who do, it would give some security about their identity.
i think derek's point is apt. when you are hosting the comments, you have to decide to what extent you wish to share your soapbox and printing press with anyone who comes in the door.

membership, though, is a huge barrier to entry. effective, i'm sure, for minimizing spam from all but the most determined, but also effective in minimizing participation unless you have designed very well for community indeed.
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