Sam Ruby is conducting an interesting experiment with the comments left on his weblog. He’s identifying potentially inflammatory comments by changing the text color, striking the text (
like so), and linking the text to an explanation of why it might be so displayed. Here’s an example of a comment that has gotten the firehose treatment. People are upset about their comments being modified, but as Sam says on his explanation page, “nobody has an inalienable right to place information on my website.” As long as he clearly states what he’s doing, isn’t modifying or adding any text (not even misspellings), and doesn’t allow anyone else to mimic his editorial functions, Sam can do anything he wants with the text on his site.
I’m happy to see Sam trying to moderate the discussions on his site to make them more useful. My only worry with his particular implementation of comment annotation is its negative nature. I’m not sure that slapping people’s hands with a ruler is the best way to keep control and might result in even more unruliness. It would interesting to see how a more positive approach (perhaps as a supplement to the flamebait annotation) would work to reinforce the good ways in which people express themselves in comments. I’ve been wanting to mark good comments on my site with a gold star or something for awhile (I could never get Movable Type to do it and was too lazy to bother whipping up my own solution), but maybe setting off good comments in a different text color or with a background color would be sufficient. Perhaps the people who are complaining about their comments being modified wouldn’t feel so unfairly persecuted if their comments had been marked as positive instead of negative.