You might think that testing equipment, taking photographs, writing articles, answering emails, setting up photo contests, processing gallery entries, scanning RSS feeds, and updating software (among many other things) make up the bulk of the work we do here. If so, you’d be wrong. The real work is dealing with trolls, spammers, and plain old testy blog visitors who want to use and abuse our discussion area. All of the physical and creative work is a real joy and a labor of love. It’s moderating the discussion area that causes the most stress and strain and sometimes even makes us weary.
After going to full comment moderation approximately one year ago, our discussion area really livened up with a broader range of participants and more friendly and constructive discussions. This indicates to us that most of our readers prefer a controlled discussion environment where they can express themselves without being attacked by other users. We’ve also been told by our sponsors that they appreciate the positive tone and constructive nature of our discussions.
While it’s been a good year overall, things have deteriorated a bit this winter, with higher quantities of spam and trolling, and more people testing the limits of our discussion guidelines. Unfortunately, snarky comments beget snarky comments (I’ve been guilty of this myself), and once the bar is lowered, it’s not long before the entire tone moves in the wrong direction. We’ve been a little lax lately, allowing too much negativity to slip through, so we think it’s perhaps time to make a couple of adjustments.
A couple of things that are sorely missing on many forums and blogs are transparency and accountability. It’s easy to be flippant and rude from behind the shield of an anonymous login, but we believe most people will play nice when their name is on the byline. You know who we are, and going forward, we want to know who you are. So, starting today, everyone participating in our discussions will be required to enter their full first and last name, and a real email address, with every comment submitted (your email address will remain confidential and unpublished as always). Any comments submitted without your full name and legitimate email address will remain unpublished.
Along with this procedural change, we’ll be paying closer attention to our own discussion guidelines and applying them more consistently. What this means is that a slightly higher percentage of comments won’t make it through moderation. Believe us when we say we’d much rather not moderate comments at all, but after fielding nearly 24,000 comments over the past couple of years, we know this is required to maintain a constructive discussion area. Hopefully these small adjustments will help make our already mostly-friendly discussions better than ever.