Noteworthy comments: reader self-policing

November 15 2013 | offbeatbride
Police work can be FUN! (Screenshot from George Michael's campy Outside video)
There was some interesting commenting on the Empire this week, mostly because we saw several instances of readers stepping into almost a moderator-type role to offer feedback to each other.

The most noteworthy instance came up on Offbeat Bride, with the lesbian triad wedding we featured. First, a commenter spoke up to voice her disappointment:

Really OBB, you couldn't change the form to say "Offbeat Partners" for this poly post? I am sort of disappointed.

Before we could even get around to posting a response, a reader named Torey stepped up to say:

Based on the OBE's history of supporting all relationships, I don't think a missing plural noun should invoke disappointment straightaway. Ask for it to change, by all means — but give them some credit.

This comment was hugely appreciated. Because yes, the post absolutely contained an error. It read Offbeat partner: and then listed the bride's two partners' names. It was absolutely a typo that deserved to be corrected… but it was a little astounding to feel like, after years of publishing very propolyamory content, all it takes is one missing character to end up with a disappointed a reader. We fixed the error immediately with an apology… but we also deeply appreciated readers reminding each other to keep the big picture in mind, and that one missing plural noun doesn't mean we don't support polyamorous couples.

beatings(That said, of course I took Superman, the post's editor, out back and beat her senseless for her mistake.)

This concept of readers responding to each other is part of a larger conversation I've been having recently with the founder of altdotlife, which we featured on Offbeat Home & Life last month. She was telling me that her moderators almost never have to step in, because members so frequently self-police themselves… something we don't see all that much on the Offbeat Empire.

Mostly, this is reflective of our transient readership. Altdotlife has been around for almost a decade, and has readers who stick around for years and years. Of course, due to the transient nature of wedding planning, we have a constant steady stream of new readers, so any long-term community culture has to be driven by the blog's on-staff editors and the Tribe's community manager and her team of volunteer moderators.

I also think, however, that this lack of member self-policing may be reflective of the fact that we're normally SO hands-on with our moderation that members never HAVE to self-police. When a reader complaint or contentious comment comes in, generally one of my staff sees and it responds to it within an hour. (Being transparent about hearing and responding to reader complaints is a big part of the Offbeat Empire's ethos.) Because we're typically so fast to respond, readers don't have to step up and respond themselves.

When it comes to community transience, of course Offbeat Home & Life readers potentially will stick around longer. I'll be curious to see, as the site ages, if self-policing happens more frequently over there. It'd be sorta awesome if it did.

  1. We do sometimes see this on the Tribe but it comes and it goes. Sometimes we see more, sometimes less. But yes. Self-policing is totally interesting and awesome!

  2. I think you're right about the editors being so hands-on that commenters don't need to self-police. Especially when it comes to hot-topic posts, I know that the editors are watching carefully and at nearly all hours, so anything really inappropriate won't last long. I know you're also really quick to respond to concerns/comments directed at you, so readers don't need to jump in to defend you or try to interpret your actions. But in general I like that your staff is so involved in the conversations here!

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  3. I've seen a couple instances of comments where my first reaction was actually to jump in and self police. I generally restrain myself on OBE particularly because this ship is run very smoothly. I'm normally one of the first to defend a site too, but I've seen the mods in action, and I know they're likely more on top and much more eloquent than I am.

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    • I've done this too. I've seen a couple comments that I knew were going to get deleted ASAP so I didn't even bother responding because I figured A) the initial commenter likely didn't even turn on notifications, so they wouldn't "hear" me anyway, and B) my reply would have to be deleted with the original comment, thus creating more work for the moderators.

  4. Ahh! That was me! 😀 Glad it was appreciated!

    Both the transience and mods-in-action ideas are fascinating to me, because I've been around long enough to know that you guys are ASTOUNDINGLY good at moderating. Like Alexandra and Colleen, I hesitate because you've got it under control and don't need or want vigilante justice.

    In that post I really just wanted to show the editors some support; it's always nice to see proof that the negative comments don't reflect your entire readership. Your old Empire posts about ghost-town comment sections and liberal bullying were also pretty high up in my brain. Maybe that's part of why long-term readers might self-police: they are more confident that they know the authors' opinions on these things.

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    • I've been around long enough to know that you guys are ASTOUNDINGLY good at moderating. Like Alexandra and Colleen, I hesitate because you've got it under control and don't need or want vigilante justice.

      First, thank you for this… and second, I guess what I'm saying with this post, is that every once and a while a little vigilante justice *is* wanted. 🙂 It's nice to know that readers have our back, not in a pitchforks-and-torches way, but just in a way that says "Reader-to-reader, let's calm down here…"

      7 agree
  5. I don't have anything to add to the original discussion, other than thanks for reminding me how awesome that George Michael song is. I'm such a campy nerd like that. 🙂

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