MR Round Table: Should Blogs Moderate Comments?

The Cut’s Editorial Director, Stella Bugbee, Joined the Discussion

01.09.15
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Leandra Medine: We’re conducting this round table because we got an e-mail from a reader recently that said something to the effect of:

“Hey MR team. I was just on one of my favorite personal style blogs, and I was looking at the comments. I had previously commented something in regards to the post which was not targeting the blogger but rather, opening up a larger discussion about something I disagreed with. I went back later and saw that my comment, along with a few other readers’ comments, were deleted.”

And then she asked our thoughts on bloggers censoring comments.

Stella Bugbee, Editorial Director at The Cut, both online and print: Do you censor?

LM: I would say that our commenters are allowed to say whatever they want and we take it. (Unless they’re being outrightly vulgar or racist.)

Amelia Diamond: And we censor really offensive words when they’re used towards someone else. Obviously people can curse, but if it seems like an attack, anything sexual, or if it’s anything that we think might make another person uncomfortable enough not to return to the site, we censor it.

LM: We had this one male commenter for a bit who kept calling everyone’s mothers whores. It was very dramatic.

SB: How did you deal with him?

LM: We blacklisted him.

SB: So he’s banned from the site? Did you reach out to him beforehand or anything?

AD: No. We actually had one reader e-mail us saying, “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but this person is making me feel uncomfortable.”

Kate Barnett: I think the crux of the question from the reader was also, does this take away from blogging? Or what blogging is supposed to be? I thought it was interesting that she felt that it was her right to be able to comment and talk. Certainly at Man Repeller it is, and it’s very much a community, but if I was starting my own blog tomorrow I don’t know if I would have comments. And certainly a lot of sites mandate that they have to approve each and every comment.

LM: Some have disabled commenting.

SB: Like who?

LM: Well Sea of Shoes did years ago when she started.

SB: Has it affected her relationship with her readers?

LM: I don’t know. I really don’t, maybe though. Because there certainly is a sense of community tethered to the smaller sites.

SB: Do you talk to your commenters?

LM: Yes.

AD: All day long.

SB: We talk about recurring commenters who are destructive forces — and not necessarily balanced ones. I think comments have different purposes for different blogs. For The Cut, commenters early on were very important. If you look at the number of people who are reading the story versus the number of commenters on a story — and often times with really negative comments, it can skew the way you think the story has been perceived — if 800,000 people have read a story and 17 people have commented, that is literally a statistically irrelevant number of people. Yet, it could dissuade a writer from being more honest with sensitive material that is going to be published. So I have different feelings about it.

I think when it comes to a brand like yours, where it’s very much about talking to a reader in a personal way and that’s a huge part of what you do, engaging with the reader is mandatory. For a site like The Cut, there are a handful of commenters and you see them over and over again.

That’s not to say that every comment needs to be positive, at all. A lot of the time the conversations do get interesting on NYMag.com and The Cut, but with the numbers, it’s just not born out.

AD: So then why wouldn’t NYMag.com disable comments? Do you see a benefit in keeping them there?

SB: Definitely. They’re funny. You know sometimes you read the stories just for the commenters. The Vulture conversations about Mad Men are just as good as the recaps.

Any time you’re getting a ton of reader engagement at a higher level, it’s great. We have a funny relationship with our commenters. There are some of them who are really hardcore and they come back all the time. We talk to them and we know that certain commenters are going to comment on certain stories directly to us in the same way over and over.

But I don’t think that online (in general) commenters should have a right to say whatever they want. You should conduct yourself with all of the basic decency that you would in person.

LM: Technically speaking, anyone has a right to say whatever they want anywhere, just by virtue of living in a place that champions freedom of speech.

SB: I think that those who are terrible, abusive and racist commenters should not have the right to say whatever they want on our blog. We have a code of conduct. I think that people deserve to be protected and we’re not doing nearly enough to protect them online. When a commenter gets really abusive online, they should be banned. There’s no reason for that. Especially on a women’s website where that happens so quickly.

For example, we may publish a story that might trigger the Menimism rights movement, and our writers will get flooded with hate mail. It’s like, sure you have the right to say those things but we don’t have to publish them. And if you were saying threatening, abusive things to me in person I would call the police. Why would I allow you to say it in my comments?

You can say that you don’t like a jacket I picked, sure, but you can’t say that you’re going to rape me in my sleep. No. Absolutely not. There’s no world in which that’s okay.

KB: I think we’re fairly lenient. We don’t get an influx of truly malicious comments and we probably give more credence to malicious comments than we should. In so far as: is it productive? Is it attacking someone? Basically if it’s not productive we feel comfortable removing it or blacklisting that person.

SB: I’m not talking about intelligent criticism. And yes, they have the right to say whatever they want. We do not have to keep their comment on the site, though. I think that’s the difference.

AD: I always think about Howard Stern. He rose to fame because people hated him, and those people called in all of the time to tell him how much they hated everything he stood for and said. The network was thinking that they had to fire this guy, because everybody hated him. But the numbers just kept rising because everybody who didn’t like him tuned in every day. 

Whenever there is a group of people that rise up against something, there is another group that rises up to defend it. It creates this two-team army that feeds off of one another. That happens with comments.

LM: Right, they’re also essentially fighting for the same cause. Which at the bottom line — specifically for a business — is a rating.

SB: But getting back to having asked people to write sensitive things that they don’t want to write about because they feel bullied in the comments, it’s just not okay. There have been times where, in order to get someone to write a story of that nature, I had to say we’d turn off the comments. That doesn’t happen very often. The majority of the most sensitive material comes from people who are sort of beyond the comments. They don’t really care, because they’re not going to read them. Our ballsiest writers don’t read the comments. They know not to. They know better. This is less true about fashion content.

AD: Do you feel like it’s dishonest to delete a comment? Do you feel you’re the one — at The Cut specifically — who gets to make that call?

SB: Oh no. We have an autobot that’s programmed to scan all of the comments across the site for profanity and racist words. There is a whole set of derogatory terms that when detected, get instantly deleted.

We also have a user guideline that anyone can see, which I think is a very clear way of talking to people. It’s a way of saying, “If you’re really engaged, here are our community rules.” For example, hate speech is not tolerated. Language needs to be kept in check, stay on topic; don’t impersonate other people, etc. So it’s all there for anybody to see.

If a commenter is really egregious and they violate often, they get a warning saying, “You will be banned from the site.” So it’s not like we just ban them from the site. If you read the comments across the site, a lot of them will be like, “Oh I can say this, but I can’t say that, NY Mag?” Like, “I can say the word ‘motherfucker’ but I can’t say the word ‘pussy’?” They get very specific in their critiquing of the guidelines. But I think having a very clear set of expectations for commenters and readers is the best way to go. It’s sort of like they can’t fault you for kicking them off because these are the rules. These are our terms.

LM: I guess it’s also very different because New York Magazine, as an entity, doesn’t operate like a blog that has a face behind it. Do you feel any particular way about us deleting comments?

SB: I think it is absolutely your right to delete anything you want. You as women, and as writers and publishers, should not put up with anything you don’t want to put up with. Period. You should set and police those terms. But within that, you should let people have a conversation.

AD: I struggle with that because there are certain comments that are actually constructive criticism. But then there are…I did a post called “Moms on a Cruise” and someone commented and said that I was ageist and misogynistic. I wanted to be like, “Oh no. This was a joke, and I make fun of myself in it, too.”

SB: Well, then I think it’s appropriate to go out and say, “Wow. You’ve really given me a lot to think about. Maybe my jokes didn’t land.”

AD: Well, if this were Amelia.com, I would be like, “Fuck that!” and delete the comment. But, because it’s not, I feel like it’s dishonest to…

LM: Comments like that I don’t mind leaving on there. I actually don’t like taking comments down because I think they harness good conversation, even if the conversation isn’t necessarily constructive for us. So much of our model is based on what happens underneath the stories.

AD:  Something that I keep hearing is that editors self-moderate. We see it on our site too, where readers will jump to the defense of each other or the writer.

LM: It’s funny because now that I’m thinking about personal style blogs — like the one that reader was referring to — Vanessa Friedman called them, “mini media empires.” I don’t think they’re that. I think that they are just a digital manifestation of these people, so maybe it’s okay for them to delete comments because they don’t bode well for their brands. Kind of like a woman looking at herself in the mirror and saying, “Oh gosh I need to lose three pounds” and then losing the three pounds.

KB: Right. Why do they have an obligation to let the commenter take the conversation in a different direction?

LM: They don’t. I think it gets a little fuzzy when dollars are involved, when you’re treating your blog as a business.

SB: Why? Why does that change?

LM: There’s a level of dishonesty associated with not keeping everything open and out there. It’s like a blogger buying 40,000 Instagram followers and then going to a brand and saying, “I have 40,000 Instagram followers, do you have a thousand dollars for a sponsored post?” Those aren’t real followers, there’s no real engagement, is demanding money warranted?

KB: I think it is interesting specifically in the context of integrated editorial. There have been times when we’ve styled something for an integrated editorial — and we’re said very straight forward if it’s a collaboration — and commenters will say, “I wouldn’t have styled it like that.” Or, “I don’t like that.” It wouldn’t even cross my mind to delete those, the same way that we try to ensure that you guys [Leandra and Amelia] have the creative freedom to write however you feel about that actual garment. I feel like removing those comments is dirty in a way. Like it’s changing the content of the site for a brand.

AD: Every time you say something, Stella, I’m like, Yeah! WE get to decide. And then you say something, Leandra, I’m like, Oh yeah, no, we can’t do that. It’s interesting to consider because MR straddles this gray line of, What are we becoming? Are comments something that change with site change? Versus when you’re a young blogger and your site kind of functions like a diary.

KB: Do you guys at The Cut have someone who’s focused on community growth? Someone fostering whoever your super-users might be? On Facebook, or Twitter, and in the comments?

SB: Our social media editor talks to people all day.

LM: I’m not very vocal on Instagram at all but often times the comments are really nasty. When I post a picture of myself, the flood gates open.

KB: And we’ve had that conversation, where yeah, I think it would be great if we were more vocal on Instagram. But I also know when someone says something really nasty, that this is one person out of the however many that have seen or liked this. And just because they’re vocal doesn’t mean that they’re reflective of everyone else.

AD: But that one sits hard, always. You can have a story of 20 commenters but that one person, man. Ouch.

SB: I have become completely immune to this. I have the thickest skin on earth and actually, it’s because I’ve watched these very brave writers that I’ve worked with lob fireballs weekly that generate so much hate towards them. And they don’t care, it’s empowering.

LM: It’s the difference between a big site and a small site, right? We feel that our community is so important, and independent of us, so many bloggers feel actualized by their commenters. It’s millennial bullying, and vice versa – inflated flattery.

KB: I don’t know — regardless of how big we grow – I don’t think our relationship with our community is going to change. I would say we would get more involved with them.

SB: I think this is a good conversation to be had. We’re going through a phase where what we say online and how we say it to commenters under the cloak of anonymity or under our own name is going to come up more and more as a form of harassment. I think it’s worth legislating. So yeah, it might seem like a dumb question of, “Do I delete this comment?” But it’s going to be a big conversation in harassment over the next ten years.

You see something like Gamergate ruin a woman’s life because she dared speak out against people. They constantly troll her on all forms of social media. That is not okay. We need to set up protective mechanisms for that sort of thing. It starts as, Okay you can say whatever you want on my blog, but it’s way bigger than that. It’s worth asking because it’s a whole confusing space. Where does my right end to insult you? In what form?

It’s definitely bigger than us and our blogs and our commenters. It’s about the way we police commenters online and the way we react to our commenters. For me it’s a safety and honesty question. I want my writers to feel safe and honest. But for you guys it’s part of your brand, and so how do you deal with it?

LM: Well for us it’s a question of why one would feel comfortable moderating a constructive but critical conversation. That’s where my head’s at.

AD: Do you think that leaving a negative comment can have a negative influence on a reader’s opinion of the story, and that that is a reason to delete it?

SB: No. You can’t anticipate that because someone lobbed a horrible comment at you, every comment below it is going to be bad so you better erase that comment. You have to stand behind what you do and hope that enough people will read it and roll their eyes at that comment. There have been times at The Cut when the comments have been overwhelmingly negative on a story and it has caused me to think we failed at communicating the thing I was trying to communicate. That has happened. And then you kind of go, hmm okay. Take it with a grain of salt but also take it to heart and say, whatever I was trying to do here, I failed at trying to do it. My jokes did not land, clearly, because 20 people didn’t get them. If 20 people didn’t get them then it’s like 100,000 people didn’t get them.

There’s some clear winners everyday and then there are stories that very few people engage with at all. I don’t look at commenters as a way to validate a story anymore. I look at a story that has really taken off and consider the reasons for that; how did that story connect to readers in a way that I thought another really good story didn’t. That’s kind of the conversation I’m having now.

Stella Bugbee is the Editorial Director for New York Magazine’s The Cut — online and in print. Follow her on Instagram here, and on The Cut on Twitter here. Read more MR Round Tables here.

Get more Brain Massage ?
  • I’ve had a couple of my comments on one particular blog deleted. I think my jokes just didn’t land. Shocker. One comment, though, I was asking a very simple and honest question. It got deleted twice. I emailed the head of the site, and she responded so nicely, and I still wonder why my comment was deleted!! That is what I find frustrating, when comments are deleted just because it doesn’t fit the bill for the rest of the praise the blogger would normally get. This is really the only blog I comment on, and from what I see, the MR ladies more censor/delete comments when they attack fellow readers, kind of acting like our parents and shying us away from bullies, which I appreciate. I think that is why people feel so comfortable commenting on this site, and why there is such a great community and discussions.

    • Right — I do find that frustrating, too. I think it’s especially frustrating when you are exposed to the maybe not-so-glamorous components that go into the polished veneer that so many see, if that makes any sense. This is of course, not at all the case with MR, but I know exactly what types of blogs you are talking about. Just as readers are entitled to an opinion (to an extent), makers are entitled to a business model — in both scenarios some are agreeable and some are not.

    • Amelia Diamond

      It’s really important to us that you guys feel so comfortable here!

      • sometimes I forget things I write in here are on the internet and anyone can see them. THAT’S HOW COZY THIS PLACE FEELS. I remember one time I met one of my friend’s friends for the first time, and she was like OH! I read your comments on MR all the time. I was like, you do? You can see them?!

        • andrea raymer

          I know, I always have to think when I comment because I am an overshare-er and then I remember that If you google me you can probably see everything I’ve written on here. I always get thrown off when I re-read a post weeks later and see a comment that I have written.

      • Lua Jane

        Yes, you have managed to create a super comfortable place here, and also super interesting one. I think your entire follower base visits every day. Not every blog can say that about themselves. I could go on and on about how great you guys are, but that would make the post too long. I think it’s obvious how much we all love what you do!

      • Aubrey Green

        I love it here. I would just like to apologize if I have offended anyone, or should I offend someone in the future. Love you guys!

    • Kelsey Moody

      Completely agree, this is really the only blog I comment on too. Not only do we have the mama-bear-MR-team on our side, but the commentors (commentators? those who comment?) stick up for each other as well. Definitely a safe space and there is never a dull moment down here too 🙂

    • VanillaDisgustard

      Just remember, this is the shallow end of a shallow pond.

      • Guest

        There’s very little authenticity here. It’s all about artifice.

  • Allie Fasanella

    I think you guys more than have the right to delete comments that are outwardly offensive and just terrible, but I also think there should be some room for discussion. One of the things I love most about MR is how I feel like we’re all having a conversation – like we’re all just one big round table. But then again if someone at the round table yelled something derogatory and gross at someone you’d be like “get the fuck out, jared.” (no offense to people named jared).

    Keep it cool soul sistas! Happy friday 🙂

    • Amelia Diamond

      YEA JARED. (ditto no offense to people named jared)

      • andrea raymer

        My Brother’s name is Jared and I am perfectly happy blaming everything on him.

        • Allie Fasanella

          hahahhahahaahahah

        • Aubrey Green

          My Brother’s name is also Jared ;).

    • Amelia Diamond

      Also, it’s really amazing you feel like you’re part of the round table. You guys all are — wouldn’t be the same place without you!

      • Allie Fasanella

        Unlimited salad and breadsticks would really be a nice addition to the round table. Make it happen, people.

  • I think all generally nasty comments — ones that don’t harbor constructive thought, etc, should be deleted. A lot of spammy stuff pops up on here that uses vulgar language and is just completely useless, and all of that should go, as it does!

    On the other hand, though, I think it is important to keep in mind that commenters and readers are one in the same. While relatively few people comment (when considering page views, etc), these are ultimately the people who are driving the blog to a place where the content can be supplemented with monetized ads, etc.

    I guess that’s why I took a bit of issue with Ms. Bugbee’s remarks on the comments as almost being this mosh pit of angry people. The comments section can most certainly feel like that on any blog at any time, but there’s value in recognizing the intelligence of many commenters. There are potential editorial ideas to be had when respecting and listening to voices in the comments is made a priority. I do agree with Amelia, though, that those one or two negative comments can totally overshadow all of the good and constructive thought being shared. Ultimately, though, having a blind faith in the intelligence of the readers — and also ultimately not talking down to them — can be both an investment in terms of longevity, prominence, and even financial prosperity.

    The comment thing has also had spin-offs. There are forums where people comment on commenters. There’s this site called Get Off My Internets, actually, where people hate on commenters. Someone brought to my attention this whole thread about me where people were saying that I was a dumb, ass-kissing fangirl who was trying to flatter others in order to land a fashion job. All of my intention of trying to enrich a conversation was taken as this race for status. People expounded on this for a while, and while I’ve created so many meaningful relationships with not only the founders of the sites I love but also the readers, it was hard not to start feeling like maybe I was this disingenuous pig with half a brain and an agenda to sleaze my way into a career somewhere down the road.

    Long story short, negativity is overbearing. It can distort intention and ruin fruitful relationships — and good content! — when not constructive. I just hope that despite all of the crap that’s posted, writers and readers and editors alike remain faithful in the mutual value of the comments section. There’s so much learning and enriching experience to be had on both ends.

    • Amelia Diamond

      To your point re Stella, I don’t want to speak on her behalf so take this just from me: I read the Cut/all the other NY Mag blogs every single day (and I used to work at NY Mag/contribute to The Cut). The commenters there can be very, very harsh. There’s a big difference between being angry and stating your opinion versus ranting — the lines get blurred.

      Also when you said this: “On the other hand, though, I think it is important to keep in mind that commenters and readers are one in the same. While relatively few people comment (when considering page views, etc), these are ultimately the people who are driving the blog to a place where the content can be supplemented with monetized ads, etc.” – that was part of my point about Howard Stern!

      • Leandra Medine

        And mine about “the bottom line” !

        • Yup, just reinforcing that notion in my own words. I agree with you re: bottom line.

      • Oh no, I totally realize that NY Mag is a separate entity altogether, of course, but my point was just that negativity on any platform can certainly overshadow the more useful aspects of the community!

    • Amelia Diamond

      AND re: GOMI – don’t listen to them. I know you don’t but if on a bad-mood day you do , find comfort in the soothing words of Taylor Swift as lip-dubbed by the even smoother moves of this fraternity:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2YHHIOocxs

      • emma LOVES frat boys.

        • Someone plz blacklist this CJKeys2 thing!!!!! </3

    • Esther Levy

      An appropriate read courtesy of miss Emma http://www.believermag.com/issues/201201/?read=article_daum

  • i recognize this!!

    xxx
    http://www.dominiquecandido.com

  • parkzark

    Thankfully the mean comments on MR are few and far between, but the below Mean Girls quote is how I always want to address anyone who is snarky. It’s like why you gotta kill the vibes, ya know?

    “I just wish we could all get along like we used to in middle school. I wish that I could bake a cake made out of rainbows and smiles, and we’d all eat it and be happy.”

  • I think if something really nasty is being said it is perfectly fine to moderate. Otherwise though I think blogs should want to generate conversations about steaming hot topics even if they might be a bit edgy.

    http://tostylewithlove.com/

    Daphne

  • i feel my comment can’t even cover my feelings for this, I still don’t understand why people feel the need to post such hate on blogs/instagram. Like don’t let that blog ruin your life – just stop f’n going to the site?? if you don’t like someone in real life, you don’t invite them over for drinks (or maybe you do – which then seek help). For blogs that operate as a business (no matter how small or large), they obviously have the right – and should – remove hateful, racist, gross profanities, etc. however comments that disagree with the statement or dislike what’s shown should be left up for integrity. If a retail business started to remove bad product reviews, wouldn’t it feel like you were being duped? i do understand some comments on sites get really nasty, if it’s getting personal – that’s my bottom line and each blogger should decide what they allow. calling someone fat or a slew of other crap isn’t content-related, so delete away. otherwise i agree with Daphne, let those hot topics get people all fired up!
    People are ridiculous. yes, you have the RIGHT to speak but that doesn’t mean you should. and it certainly doesn’t mean everyone has to hear it Jared.

    • Kelsey Moody

      Is Jared the male equivalent of Felicia? (serious question…)

      • hahaa it should be

      • VanillaDisgustard

        The male of Felicia is Cunningham.

  • Lulu

    So, I have to confess, I read this blog multiple times a day. I do this not only to read the articles but also to keep reading the new comments. There are some intelligent and witty gals in the MR comment section. I always feel like I’m in a safe place when I join in on a discussion. Sorta like I’m just chatin with my girlfriends.

  • ThisPersonSleeps

    There’s a big difference between deleting comments that show disapproval of your opinion or writing and deleting comments that are racist, sexist, trolly-on-purpose, etc. You guys seem to do a good job of making that distinction.

    • Amelia Diamond

      We try!!

  • Teresa

    In general I tend to totally skip the comment section in any article or blog I am reading because I feel like a lot of them are missing the point of the content and are just angry elves sitting in a dark room waiting to spew their hate to the world of popular online forums. MR happens to be the exception because I find the conversation and feedback really enjoyable–hilarious much of the time. Much of the time I relate to the content and the comments and this forum has always felt like a safe a creative space to express myself.

    Comments are essential to MR, it’s family here in so many ways, and it is a unique and different platform than other fashion blogs in terms of content. The comments section is the playground for us to continue the conversation, and I feel like the site as a whole has grown just beyond Leandra’s voice–beautifully witty and loved–to a group of women who a a distinct point of view and voice that make MR what it is. LONG LIVE THE COMMENTS SECTION! It is essential to this blog for sure! Love you all and this was a FANTASTIC Round Table!

  • I think malicious or inappropriate comments should definitely be deleted. I don’t moderate the comments so they all get published right away, but if I see one that I think is indecent in any way it does get deleted. Otherwise, every comment whether it is short or long stays up. I think comments are important on blogs and do build a sense of community. Some people may read hundreds of blogs and not have time to leave a super long comment on every one.

    http://www.FashionSnag.com

  • Courtney Cartier

    I think it’s important for bloggers to have comments on their site. It’s the easiest way to get feedback from their readers (and basically they make them money right?). While I think we are all in agreement that comments that are blatantly vulgar or not constructive should be removed, a comment disagreeing with the author or voicing an opinion about something isn’t a strong case for removal. The most common comments I see on fashion blogs that get a lot of attention are the ones where the readers feel the bloggers aren’t appealing to the “average” girl. Like, a $5000 outfit every day just isn’t practical. And posting all your new purchases on instagram are getting a little too humblebrag. If they can’t handle the criticism, or the one or two comments that aren’t “you look gorgeous”, get over yourself, frankly. It’s how you deal with it I think, that really shows how you are. 🙂

    -Courtney

  • Pia Perfetto

    I like the fact that Man Repeller encourages a dialogue with readers by responding to many commenters. In fact, the conversations I’ve read in the comment section are definitely one of the best parts of these blog posts! Sometimes the free speech argument can be taken too far, leaving people to say whatever vulgar/unnecessary comment just because it’s “their right” to do so. Blog owners/administrators have the right to delete or encourage a commentary based on the type of environment they are trying to facilitate in their own web community. However, a blog is a creative environment, so if individuals are creating content that requires feedback in order to improve web traffic and be successful then does that mean they should be exceedingly open with whatever is said by a reader? Man Repeller evokes a sense of desirable leniency within the comment section, while promoting sensible conduct that allows this blog to be a forum for much more than fashion. Here, readers and web administrators can discuss literature, music, current events, and so much more.

  • andrea raymer

    I read the comments on almost every article I read because I want to see discussions on the subject. Sometimes I forget that all sites are not like MR where I can go to the comments section and see positive feedback to the writers, interesting commentary and smart, relevant discussions. It truly feels like a community here, so I can get a bit thrown off when I go to the comments on some other site and see nothing but pissed off neckbeards arguing without at all grasping the topic (though sometimes I go specifically for the neckbeards when I am in the mood to be angry).

    I see a lot of people bring up the argument that comments should not be deleted, particularly on blogs and major youtube channels, because the writer or content creator relies directly on the audience for their livelihood. that they profit directly off of the audience so the audience should be all owed to say whatever they want. I don’t really agree with that statement at all. Just because they are important to profitability does not give the readers the right to be unnecessarily nasty. If you wouldn’t say it directly to the person’s face then you shouldn’t say it. The internet is a huge part of society so I think it is time it be treated as part of real life and not a weird alternate reality where you can get away with saying things that would not be acceptable in one on one conversation.

    • Amelia Diamond

      I am just playing devil’s advocate here/would rather talk to you guys right now than do my work yay!!: but what about magazines? their readers = the writer’s livelihood as well, and yet magazines select the letters to the editors that get printed. what do you guys think about that? how are blogs different?

      • Teresa

        In regards to magazines selecting the letters they print from their readers is much like the comments section in an online forum, however they have been moderated and chosen the few they feel make the most impact on the work they are commenting on. Online content allows for the melee that can get out of control. I’m not sure if you receive feedback via email from your readers, but if you felt strongly about the criticism they conveying maybe it would be worth sharing to the community.

        Andrea, I totally agree with your sentiments about how we should treat our online dialogue as if we are speaking to a person face-to-face. Just because we cannot see the reaction of our comment does not give us permission to verbally be abusive. If you can’t say something nice in person, say it to your journal.

        • andrea raymer

          I think also you would have to feel very strongly about something and have a more formulated opinion in order to submit a letter to a magazine, it takes more effort and isn’t really a setting where they would get that much ridiculous hate as opposed to web which is much more instant and you don’t have to think through everything as much before commenting.

          • Amelia Diamond

            that’s a good point

      • Kelsey Moody

        There’s also the matter of physical space in printed vs digital mediums. Magazines, newspapers, etc need to chose wisely on what comments they publish in their limited space, whereas online, comments can go on forever

      • I always saw them as two entirely different entities. Magazines have time to weed through comments/letters, and you guys have…minutes? Maybe an hour? They also have the luxury of limited space to publish comments (though now many of them have websites of their own, I guess).

        The nasty comments I see on blogs remind me of people who say horribly mean things to people in the service industry (like when the barista gives them a coffee that’s 140 degrees, not 150). They pick on people because they feel entitled to, and know that the people they are berating can’t directly defend themselves (by hopping over the counter and punching them in the face). It’s that kind of bratty behavior that I see online from time to time, and I think those people need to be reprimanded…just like they probably should be in the outside world. I don’t give a shit that your coffee is 10 degrees cooler – and neither should you. 😉

  • This is a great conversation to have every so often as a blogger, even if just to reinforce one’s own beliefs about comments. I’m glad you did this!

    I don’t get enough comments on my blogs to worry about censoring them for now. The only comments I delete are the ones that are clearly bots or spam comments (the ones with jibberish and a million links). Other than that, I’ve let everything else slide for now because, for the most part, they’ve been really nice.

    That’s not to say I won’t delete comments of ban commenters in the future. I take a similar stance to how I handle students in my classroom. If they are contributing constructively to the conversation, I’m okay with commenters being a bit dickish. However, if the comments have nothing to do with the conversation, or I would define as assault if said to me in person, they have to go. I have kicked students out of my classroom for calling other students (and myself) horribly racist, homophobic, sexist, and just downright mean names…and I don’t tolerate that. I’m not going to coddle one person who makes the other 24 feel unsafe – it’s not worth it to me. We have freedom of speech, but we don’t have the right to incite fear in others – and I stand by that in all aspects of my life.

    I also commended Sea of Shoes from not having comments in her blog when she was younger. That was a decision, I’m assuming, was at least somewhat based on how young she was at the time – and one that didn’t seem to hurt her viewership in any way. I think when it comes to younger bloggers, they shouldn’t be pressured to deal with commenters if they don’t feel they’re ready for that yet.

    As most things go, I say do what you feel comfortable with, and don’t worry about whether people agree with you or not. There will always be someone out there who takes offense to having comments deleted, or your allowing comments to stay online – you can’t make us all happy…so as long as YOU are happy, that’s all that matters. 🙂

  • mollie blackwood

    It is beyond my comprehension why some individuals feel compelled to leave hateful comments of any kind. I don’t know if there is ever a valid reason but I’m guessing it is really a reflection of their on insecurities. Besides that, I think why people feel comfortable commenting on this blog is because you guys actually interact with us. I’ve commented on blogs with MUCH smaller readership than MR and haven’t found the same kind of interaction between other commenters and/or blogger. I’m not a huge commenter but when I do comment it is out of appreciation (like my comment is a little applause, haha). Y’all do an awesome job.

    • Amelia Diamond

      here’s my comment applause!

  • I think the MR team does a great job of fostering a very welcoming and friendly community; it’s very rare to find a terrible comment on this site. However, we’ve all seen how vicious people can get on other parts of the internet. I only have about 700 instagram followers so I rarely get many comments, but if on occasion I get a rude one I don’t hesitate to delete it. I don’t like to have that kind of negativity on my page. Likewise, any rude comments on my blog are taken down as well. It’s really important to be able to distinguish between insults and criticism, and I am completely open to criticism.
    One of the best things about blogs IS the comment section; you can’t scroll down after reading a magazine article on paper to see what people think about it, or contribute your thoughts unless you mail/email the editor and get lucky enough to be published. These forums have provided the opportunity for growth on both sides, the writers and the readers. The ladies at MR have done a great job of creating such a place; I always see writers responding to us when we notice something off in a piece and they feature readers’ articles weekly.

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    • Amelia Diamond

      you knowww… good point. i keep making amelia.com jokes but i do delete weird shit on my own instagram. i guess that goes back to what leandra and stella were saying earlier in the convo, that a personal blog is pretty different from a website that functions as an overall company…

      • right? the way i see it my personal instagram page is like a literal wall in my room. if someone scribbles something stupid on my wall i wouldn’t think twice about wiping it off, so unwelcome comments online aren’t any different.

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  • Man Repeller is the Pegacorn in the animal kingdom of blogging. I don’t know the results of your survey but I gather that the people who come to this site are coming here to read, laugh, learn, get inspired, and hear a good fart joke every now and then. The occasional haters aren’t gonna bring this down.

    I remember reading those particular “mama whore” comments you’re all referring to. The first thing I thought was “oh, MR won’t stand for this shit,” and sure enough, you jumped in and locked it down before it got more out of hand. Thankfully, this community isn’t rife with a-holes like that, and it’s lucky.

    Jane Aldridge explained in one post why she disabled comments. If I remember correctly, she was tired of commenters picking her apart, whether it was her hair color, the outfits she chose to wear, the hate she received for having the things that she has, and her personal life. I don’t blame her for disabling comments, but it changed the feeling of the blog to something more cold and exclusive. That coupled with the Conde Nast acquisition makes Sea of Shoes feel like a relationship with numbers and metrics rather than the people reading the site. I don’t read it much anymore for that reason, but the girl has great style.

    Let’s put it this way: I can’t tell a kid who’s being bullied how to ignore it and how to handle it. I can offer advice but ultimately it’s their lives being affected and how they chose to handle negativity. All I can hope for is harmony and constructive, thoughtful commentary.

    CAN’T WE ALL JUST HOLD HANDS?!

  • cindy kazanjian

    I wish someone would comment on my blog. . then I would know someone is checking it out. 🙂

  • Stephanie

    Sorry late to the comments today- busy day at work getting ready for vacation! My first thought is something I put in a comment earlier, that I love reading the comments here- it is like eavesdropping on the most hilarious conversation between friends. Kudos to the MR team for fostering that kind of environment!

    The other thing that greatly impressed me was probably about a year ago there was a piece that was published by a guest writer and in the comments someone posted a kind of mean comment attacking the piece and some ticky-tack grammar errors. You immediately jumped in and stood by the piece and took responsibility for the grammar infractions as the editor. That kind of response immediately shut down any further nastiness and kept the comments focused on the topic of the article instead of personal attacks. Just a really classy way to handle the situation.

    • Amelia Diamond

      Those can be the hardest comments to read (worse than like, “You stink!”) because you can say, “Actually I smell awesome,” or “I know, forgot-my-deodorant kind of day,” but the “You made an error” comments are like, “Shit. I did.” STILL — I’d feel weird deleting them. (Although again, if this were amelia.com probably delete and then blow glitter everywhere to distract everyone and be like WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT, so it’s probably great I do not run amelia.com, which is a company about Amelia Island rentals.)

  • Part of the reason I love coming back to MR is because of the discussions at the bottom of the article. To me, it also just allows for a community feeling that I think so many people enjoy in different places. For some publications it could work, and for others it may not. The discussion area is place for intelligent thought and sharing of ideas, whether or not it is in agreement with the article.

    Of course there are people who appreciate the hidden identity of being behind the computer screen to spew their negative thoughts on the Internet, but I guess that’s unavoidable. These are the people who should be screened or deleted. I always assume the moderator of the comments would want positive vibes on the site, and so deleting unnecessary harmful or arbitrary comments would create a better atmosphere for the site in general.

    And so, I’d just like to thank everyone at MR for creating such awesome, cool vibes here on the Internet. It’s articles like these that always makes me excited to come back and talk about it with everyone else (online and off).

  • sarah

    I once commented to Hanneli that I thought she was overly narcissistic in her postings, and she deleted my comment, i.e. such a narcissist that she couldn’t deal with anything that didn’t say ‘omg you’re effing brilliant’.So i got really bored with that whole situ, and haven’t bothered to look at her since. i like that sometime if you say something in disagreement here, it’s generally, genuinely discussed with interest and intelligence.

  • I usually comment on manrepeller and intothegloss, because I feel like there’s a great community of commenters with opinions I either agree with or find interesting to discuss. Discussions online also helped me with my English. Luckily, most of the readers are decent enough not to get into fights… at least on sites targeting female readers. Also, when Leandra or Amelia replying to reader comments it’s usually sooo sweet/funny/interesting and you feel like the MR team cares about their readers. Whenever it happens with my comments, I am happy the whole day.

    • Amelia Diamond

      HI AURÉLIA 🙂

      • Amelia Diamond

        Also that’s really cool that it’s helped you with your English. My friend learned English by watching Seinfeld which I’ve always thought was the coolest thing.

  • Nicholas I

    If you don’t moderate comments,then you’ll get a kike infestation

  • Do what you guys feel must comfortable with x.

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  • For my blog, http://www.dolcepetite.com, I only moderate the first comment a new reader leaves. This has been a great system for me.

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  • Chelsea Murphy

    I sooo wish I had seen/replied to (diplomatically, of course) the negative post on Moms on a Cruise. I’m sure it’s because I’m a 26 year old female whose Friday night desires have devolved into all-the-wine-on-all-the-couches but that article hit the bullseye for me.

    • Amelia Diamond

      donchu worry about that! i’ll write more weird stuff for you!

      • Chelsea Murphy

        Omg hahh you very literally just did. MR is my favorite plaaaace

  • Pamela Duque

    I was just thinking today, that this is one of the few blogs in which comments are encouraged. I really don’t like commenting because I feel that they will never be read, but receiving a response the first time I did comment on MR was great! This the only website in which after reading an article I scroll down to see what people think, you have really interesting readers and love to read all different but respectful points of view.

    • Amelia Diamond

      Your comments are read Pamela!

  • Valerie Hayes

    Disabling or moderating blog comments has nothing to do with censorship. A blog is created by an individual or business with specific goals and is not the property of the general public. There are many good reasons for disabling comments on a blog (spam, link rot, time consuming, etc.) that has nothing to do with censorship. Does a Tiffany’s brick and mortar store allow disgruntled customer complaints or ebay and etsy sellers to plaster business cards and ads all over their window display? Some bloggers welcome comments because it suits their goals. But for those who don’t, or who moderate and delete certain comments – they can hardly be accused of censorship.

    • Amelia Diamond

      “Does a Tiffany’s brick and mortar store allow disgruntled customer complaints or ebay and etsy sellers to plaster business cards and ads all over their window display? ” true !

  • Comments are the main reason I look at these websites. It’s a way to kill time at work, and it’s generally about topics that I don’t really have anyone else to discuss with. I’m generally the type of commentator that will go off on a off-topic tangent (i.e.: Vanderpump Rules when the topic is 60s hair) so I stop frequenting websites that control their comment board beyond vile/offensive trolling

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  • Alarive

    I wish I had seen this post on the day itself, so I could participate in the discussion with everyone.
    I had a tough situation with a blog I used to visit daily a while back, a blog that covers celeb gossip with a readership of smart, thoughtful women from all kinds of walks of life. A lot are mothers, a lot are educated, and the age group varies, so the discussions always have good comments peeking through the obvious ones that show up ubiquitously.
    What happened was that they wrote a piece about the breastfeeding photo of Olivia Wilde in Cosmo. The article took the angle of the outrageousness of the picture being banned is so many places, and why was it so scandalous when it is the most natural thing in the world, of course serving the conversation straight to what the readers obviously wanted …. all the while never actually showing the photo on their site. Based on their previous blogs, I am 100% that this choice was made to serve the advertisers, which in turn made me question the integrity and possible hypocrisy of the site. When I commented to ask why was the picture not shown (while others from what same shoot were), my comment was quickly deleted.
    I haven’t visited that site since, because even if it is fun silly celeb gossip, it felt really insulting to have my perfectly valid question deleted like that. Even if it the site discusses trivial topics, it shouldn’t block my question or a photograph of breastfeeding to serve the advertisers. It felt insulting in a way.
    I realize I’m late to the discussion -bummer-, but I’m so glad to see a site that actually asks itself the question of assigning importance to readers vs other forces and lets us in on it. I find it so disrespectful to delete the valid and challenging questions of the readers, when a blog survives on its readers and their perspectives.

    • Amelia Diamond

      We still read the comments even after a story’s been live for a few days, so thanks for commenting and participating!

  • Lauren Ann Long

    Y’alls blog is the only one I comment on because of the sense of community between you guys and all of the other commenters. I’m never worried or scared to post my opinion or even just something funny because I know if I get any responses they will only be positive and supportive. Love all the great energy and creative thinkers here, keep it up everybody!

  • Greer

    These round tables are always super long, am I the only one who thinks that? Sorry that this comment is not in direct response to the content of the post!

    • Amelia Diamond

      These round tables are conversations between 3+ people, so we’d really be cutting out the meat if we chopped it down more. Does the interview format help break it up? Still, length concern is noted on other stories!!

  • rhw

    I’m very new to the MR community and was wondering if homophobic/transphobia is just as rightfully policed as racism?

    • Kate Barnett

      welcome! we’re pretty lucky in that most of the comments we’re filtering out are spam, as opposed to hateful/hurtful comments. i think there’s great value in earnest and open conversations about any sort of bias, and it’s in that context that issues of racism/homophobia/transphobia are more likely to come up in MR’s comments section. but as a rule anything derogatory or hateful and unproductive gets flagged, regardless of who it’s directed at.

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  • Arwin Arora

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