Untroll Thursday

My favourite YouTube comedian Megan MacKay wants us to #UntrollTheInternet.

I’ve written before about a point she makes, which is that we can take responsibility for the comments we allow to be published on our content. It’s not just about one douchebag commenter and how we feel. It’s about all the other people who have to see abuse or deliberately-triggering language, on our watch.

And there’s another really important point Megan makes: We can disagree. We can have good active discussions. We can talk about dark, horrible things – and we should. But there’s a really clear line between discussion and hurling abuse, or making personal attacks,

Of course that’s something I’m guilty of, and whoever you are, reading this,

And we can uplift positive stuff, if only to remind ourselves that this amazing global platform we share doesn’t have to be a force for vileness. So taking Megan’s lead I’m going to try posting something fun, useful and chill each Thursday.

Let’s start with the Canadian comedian herself, who is side-splittingly funny.

For a grown-up version of the classic Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, may I present Geoguessr, the game which drops you into a Google Streetview location … somewhere … and invites you to figure out where you are.

Chris Hadfield may no longer be orbiting our planet but his videos about science in space are still up.

And my latest favourite internet thing – though delivery fees to the northern suburbs are a bit of a bugger – is Food Ninja, the Wellington online food delivery service you’ve been dreaming about.

Happy untrolling, people.

Comments sections

Tauriq Moosa linked to a 2014 article of his on comments sections after making this tweet:

His current handle being “end comments sections” which may give away the punchline a little.  He says at The Guardian:

Some find great value in comment sections and one feels almost obliged to say “Not all comment sections”. They are, like the internet itself, tools: we don’t discard wrenches because of a few accidents. Yet, if people start using wrenches to mostly beat each other with, maybe it’s time to radically rethink whether they should be allowed at all.

The precious way comment sections are viewed as a kind of right – by site owners and commenters – needs to change. At best, they should be heavily moderated and shut off without apology, viewed as gifts; at worst (?) removed altogether. No one is shutting off every open blogging platform and internet forum in the world where commenters are free to take their opinions.

It’s about time we combated entitlement by prioritising safety, solidarity and quality (as places like CreepyPMs do) over so-called “free speech”, that benefits only the loudest and usually most vile.

Or you know: shut them off altogether.

He’s mainly addressing comments sections on major news sites, which are admittedly the whole Mos Eisley rather than the mere cantina of Twitter.

true love star wars

But I think the same points apply to comments on blogs, chiefly: you may not make the comments, but they are part of your site. Reading them is part of the experience many visitors will have when they open a page you have created and published for the world to see.

I’ve had this argument a time or two with leftwing blogs, though it’s best represented by the wide-eyed, “who me?” defences offered by David Farrar every time some slut-shaming/genocide-advocating/homophobic/bigoted/hateful crap goes down in the comments at Kiwiblog. Most recently, one leftwing blogger lamented that comments from notorious rightwing agitator Redbaiter always slips “right through” the spam filter.

When we run blogs, we’re responsible for the content we host. We may do this in our free time, and I’m speaking from a position of hardly ever having to moderate comments because Boots Theory may be amazing, but it isn’t a Top 10 on Open Parachute kinda operation. Heck, one reason I’ve not been blogging at The Standard is avoiding the shitfights that occur when multiple moderators have very different views of what’s appropriate to publish.

But these spaces are ours, big or small. Right now, I have four username/email combinations set to automatically go to moderation (a ridiculously small number). All first-time comments need to be manually approved. It’s a single tick-box in WordPress. It’s that easy. Bad stuff may slip through – and the solution is to edit, delete, ban or auto-moderate as need be, not throw our hands up and say “oh well, I guess I’ll just let this horrible pile of dogshit sit on my doorstep then.”

That’s how I like to run a blog. It’s not about deleting everything that I disagree with – you can look for yourself, and stop using that tired old “echo chamber” line while you do. It’s being proactive and conscious of the kind of content I am in charge of – even if someone else wrote it and hit the Submit button.

After all, it’s a big ol’ internet out there. Anyone can go start their own blog and say literally anything they want on it (barring a few of the classic no-no’s like “making death threats against the President of the United States”). And other people will judge them by the company they keep, and the conversations they nurture, too.