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Want to leave comments? Do it on Minnpost...

I've gradually been withdrawing from making comments on the Minnesota Daily's website. Mostly because folks there don't seem to actually be interested in discussing the content of Daily articles. Recently I was called a racist after complaining about Chinese and Arabic spam. Also Twitter is making the site obsolete, but that is a matter for another post.

Meanwhile, I've pretty much decided to restrict any comments I have to MinnPost, the Strib, or MPR. MPR has an opportunity to be a player in Twin Cities news coverage and they seem to be keeping a tighter rein on comments posted. I am not happy about stopping comments on the Daily site, since I'd hoped that some sort of reasonable discussion could be held there. I have enormous respect for Daily people, because they have had to work - over the last few years - with an administration that has a strong tendency to stonewalling.

Hopefully the Daily will come to its senses over the commenting issue. They used to require registration and I suggest that they return to that practice. People should also be required to post under their own names. Right now MinnPost has the best handle on comments and their moderation. The Daily should adopt the policies of MinnPost in this area.

Recently DJ Leary discontinued his blog on the Strib because of the unmoderated nature of the comments, some of which are pure garbage. I will still use the Strib occasionally because I am not as pessimistic as DJ about the general level of discussion. If you search the comments based on the number of "votes" usually the good comments are at the top and the general judgment about them seems to be reasonable. The whackos we will always have with us. Fortunately, their comments do seem to gravitate to the bottom.

Joel Kramer, an old time Twin Cities newspaper guy, put it very well in a recent article:

MinnPost and the art of civil comment

By Joel Kramer | Published Thu, Aug 13 2009 8:48 am

A couple of weeks ago, a pair of posts by David Brauer here and here about the almost-anything-goes commenting at startribune.com attracted more than 50 comments about comments.

I was pleasantly surprised that so many of the commenters stated their conclusion that MinnPost's policy produced the most civil comment threads of all local media. My favorite was by Bill Gleason, who wrote: "Having left a lot of comments on a lot of sites -- I have to reluctantly conclude that MinnPost's rules are the best...."

MinnPost requires commenters to register with their real names, and all comments are screened by volunteer moderators before being posted.

MinnPost's commenters, for the most part, police themselves. Of 17,466 comments submitted from launch less than two years ago through yesterday, only 968 -- less than 6% -- have been rejected.

But even a good policy can be improved upon, and we see a need for a tweak. We already reject comments for name-calling and inflammatory speech, for self-promoting, and for irrelevance to the topic, but we're seeing an uncivil pattern among some comments that we have been accepting: snideness, or gratuitous insult of the intelligence or character of fellow commenters and others.

From now on, we will reject comments that refer to other people's comments (or the commenters themselves) as vapid, nonsensical and so on.

The vast majority of MinnPost's commenters do a great job of adding value to our stories with facts, personal experiences and substantive arguments. The few who don't will find more of their submissions rejected.

If you think that my position here is mindless, or I'm some kind of nut or petty dictator, you're entitled to your opinion, of course. But don't bother submitting a comment expressing it, because it won't be published here.

In the old days, people of integrity made decisions and stood by them. We need to see more of this behavior today. Thanks, Joel.

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