Comments left on newspaper sites tend to be, in my estimation, about 1.5 standard deviations less readable than blog comments, for reasons we probably don’t have to go into here. No one, up to now, seems to know quite what to do about this without paying someone to moderate everything, or buying something to half-moderate everything.
Freedom Communications, owner of the Orange County Register, is trying a different tack at its northwest-Florida outpost. The news story here isn’t so important, but the comment policy is decidedly different:
From the editor: Many of you have expressed concerns about some of the harsh anonymous comments from readers. To remedy that, we are introducing new features. You can create your own blog, publish your news and share your photos with the community. Once you fill out a simple form and leave a verifiable e-mail address, you can set up your profile page. It will display all of your contributions and allow you to track issues and easily connect with others.
We want our site to be a place where people discuss and debate ideas that foster stronger communities. We built this for you. Please take care of it. Tolerate broad thinking, but take action against obscene or hateful material. Make it a credible and safe place worth preserving and sharing.
Upside: you can see if J. Random Dunderhead has basically the same reactions to everything with just a couple of clicks.
Downside: sooner or later, every offer of free blog space turns into a base for spammers.