In Rochester, Minnesota, a city councilman wasn’t quite anonymous enough when complimenting himself in online forums and comments. Interesting community management problem – When is it okay to out a public figure as an anonymous commenter?
Do online news sites need to reinvent uploading and editing tools to gather user-created content?
Steve Outing says no, making the case that YouTube, Google Video, and myriad third place finishers do the heavy lifting, hosting the video and spitting out the little block of code that a user can paste into a post in your community site’s forums.
That’s fine for a community page, and inappropriate posts can always be deleted as necessary, but would you open up a news site to this sort of unfiltered visual participation?
We considered that idea at the Spartan Daily last semester, but opted to ask readers to just send us their photos by e-mail instead. Why? Mostly to prevent anything obscene from making it to the online pages of the Daily, but also because it seemed easier for non-Web2.0-savvy readers to figure out.
Citizen Journalism sites are a great place to try this out, although the number of digital vandals in a narrow audience will probably always be smaller than those reading a major metropolitan newspaper’s site. The readers at a hyperlocal or topical site are there on purpose. The few rotten strawberries at a gazillion page view online news site might make work for moderators faster than you can say wikitorial.
What do you think? Would you let readers post video and photos, depending on moderators to weed out obscenity and libel?
Okay, so maybe I don’t read it anymore, and maybe I never read it much to begin with, but when I just logged in to see what the comments look like these days, I was offered a chance to fulfill my duty to “meta-moderate.”
Nose around Slashdot a little bit, and you’ll find that every comment comes with a rating between 1 and 5, 5 being the highest. If you don’t want to read irrelevant, unfunny, redundant, style-free, or obvious commentary on the stories, just crank up the minimum rating level you’ll tolerate and scroll away.
I appear to have set my rating at 4 back when I briefly lurked around Slashdot to write this story about a year ago.
So why doesn’t everyone do it like this? Well for one thing, I’m not sure they know how, but hey, neither do I. It’s far more complicated for me to explain than it is for you to read about it, of course.
What’s the point of all this?
Well, as online newspaper folks, we need to come up with systems that allow readers to actively participate in the conversation through something a little more immediate than a letter to the editor, but we don’t want bulletin boards and article comments degenerating into a flamewar.
Are we really going to hire interns to watch over public forums to ensure that no one is offended, defamed, or libeled? Is that even our responsibility? Okay, let’s assume it is, just for fun. Letting the users moderate themselves via a Slashdot-esque system frees our interns up to do something useful with their time (insert getting-us-coffee joke here if you like). More importantly, it gives the user commentary a degree of edited-ness it wouldn’t otherwise have. It’s not quite what Hemingway was talking about when he called it a “crap filter,” but you get the idea.
When Slashdot gave me the chance to “meta-moderate,” I was asked to read 5 or 6 comments and asked whether a rating of “funny” or “off-topic” or “insightful” was a fair classification.
Even the crap filter has a filter — again, the users take care of all this ugly business, and every single post is available to be read, if you just turn your crap filter down…but who would?
[tags]newspapers, slashdot, comment moderation, bulletin boards, flamewars[/tags]