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Comments are Worth the Trouble

PressThink: Transparency at the Post. When Jim Brady decides to shut down the comments at to prevent even bigger problems we’re going backwards in our ability to have a conversation with the Washington Post. That isn’t good. If the press decides to close itself off because the costs of participating in the new openness are judged to be too high, that is a loss for everyone.

Jay Rosen’s Q&A with Brady, executive editor of the Washington Post’s online news operation, is a fascinating look into how one Big Media organization dealt with the inevitable trouble when it opened up its blog to comments.

I’d like to know if the Post required commenters to provide a valid email address as a bare-bones registration system, which would have been a deterrent to the most flagrant trolling (it’s easier to ban someone in such a circumstance). If the Post allowed anonymous comments, then it was asking for trouble. I’ve asked about this and will let you know what I find out.

But comments are definitely worth having, even when they cause problems. Listening and responding are as important in tomorrow’s journalism as speaking. If we forget that, even bigger trouble lies ahead.

4 Comments on “Comments are Worth the Trouble”

  1. #1 remove
    on Jan 20th, 2006 at 3:38 pm

    the commenting system that used to be in place over at washington post blogs (i actively used it) was on in which you had to fill out your name (required field), valid email (required field), and web site address (optional). no formal registration existed. i certainly agree with you on the commenting issue, which i blogged about here.

  2. #2 remove
    on Jan 21st, 2006 at 10:31 am

    correction. actually commenting seems to work on some of the WaPo blogs, sample of the form here.

  3. #3 Washington Post Still Not Getting It | Center for Citizen Media: Blog
    on Jan 23rd, 2006 at 3:22 am

    […] The newspaper didn’t respond to my e-mailed query, but I did hear from someone who read my previous posting on this bizarre controversy has a reason to know what’s going on there. This person wrote: I do not believe has any kind of registration system in place for comments. It’s basically a simple “enter name, enter comment, submit” system. There’s no e-mail check of any kind. And it’s definitely not linked to their site registration system. […]

  4. #4 shacker
    on Jan 25th, 2006 at 11:45 am

    There is a flip side to this – I work with some blogging clients who see comment registration as an impediment to the free exchange of ideas. And when we have experimented with registration to combat comment spam, we’ve seen the number of legitimate comments drop precipitously. Unfortuately, registration is definitely a barrier. Yes, it weeds out the serious from the casual commenters, but it also significantly reduces overall legitimate commenting activity.