It’s just data

No hitting

Shelley Powers: What was the biggest disappointment was when Sam Ruby edited my comments.  I can't think of anything worse than to edit other's comments. I can see deleting abusive  comments in weblogs, or editing them on the request of the person who wrote them, or banning someone who's abusive -- but not editing comments without permission.

Status update: I've adjusted the html tags I use to annotate weblog comments.  Instead of merely a <del> tag, I now use a hypertext link: one with a title of flamebait, and a link to a page where further information and discussion can take place.  I've also placed more information and a link to this page on my comments preview page.

I've also chosen to mark fewer words on one of Shelley's comments as flamebait.

I encourage everybody to scan the entire thread.

P.S.  The title of this blog entry is from Jon Udell's OSCOM keynote.

I'm about to unsub from the comments rss, because I'm sick of this stuff. Its funny, this is a small group of people. I thought that communities had to hit a critical mass before most people acted like they are on usenet or slashdot.

Posted by John Beimler at

John: at the moment, that actual flames remain a small percentage of the comments overall on my weblog.  Hopefully as a result of my annotations, more people will consider posting such comment on their own websites.  I've invested a lot of time and energy in such techniques as pingback, trackback, and automatic excerpts... each of which allow these voices to be heard.

Now, at the moment, there is considerable discussion about what constitutes a flame and what rights the author of a comment retains.  These topics interest me at the moment, and therefore are on topic.  As a result of the feedback I have received to date, I have already made a number of changes. 

Hopefully soon we can reach some middle ground that we can all be happy with.

Posted by Sam Ruby at

Survey of one: I see no problem with editing of comments as long as you don't change the author's  intent. Otherwise, edit away. Sometimes I I had a an editor. :) If someone happens to just be a nuisance, however, then (were it my blog) I would just delete the comment in its entirity. Personally, I think you've gone out of your way to be courteous to people.

Posted by Christian Romney at

In the interests of using the admittedly limited HTML vocabulary as fully as possible, I would recommend 2 things:

1. Bring back [del].  This is precisely what del means: these words used to be here, but now they've been deleted.  I would use [del class="flamebait"][a href="/blog/flamebait" title="flamebait"]stuff that's been deleted[/a][/del]

2. Add an id attribute to your [body] element, like this: [body id="intertwingly-net" onload=...]  This allows savvy readers to write site-specific user stylesheets to override your default presentational choices.  For example, if I didn't want to see flames at all, and you had marked up as #1 above, I could do this:

#intertwingly-net del.flamebait { display: none !important }

Or if I wanted to see all flamebait without the strikeout, I could do this:

#intertwingly-net del.flamebait,
#intertwingly-net del.flamebait a {
  text-decoration: none !important

Posted by Mark at

Mark, I've made the second change.  Letting people decide how (or even if) to present this annotation is a wonderful idea.

As to the first: what I am actually trying to do is to annotate the comment, not to edit it.  I want to add a title and a hypertext link to the policy of the site.  Depending on the style that people choose, the text is not actually deleted.

Posted by Sam Ruby at

By the way, I sorta blogged about this last week. Its Sam's sever, software and everything else, its his to do with.

If you want to post uncensored, use your own site and resources.

Posted by John Beimler at

Nice idea Sam, but I miss the strikethrough visual aid. Now all the flamebait just looks like a link. Not a particularly useful visual distinction....

Excerpt from Archipelago at

Daniel, I see the strikethrough in both IE6 and Mozilla.  What browser are you using?

This may be a good reason to adopt Mark's first suggestion.

Posted by Sam Ruby at

Hmmm... here's an interesting idea.  Allow readers to select blocks of text within a comment and select an "Add Comment" button.  They type in a comment for that specific line of text.  The block is highlighted (e.g. dotted underline) to indicate that it's been annotated.  Mouseover the block and get a tooltip that lists the previous three or four comments.

Posted by James Snell at Comment Policy

In light of recent events on other Weblogs, I feel it is important to state an explicit policy as to how Comments to items on my weblog will be dealt...... [more]

Trackback from snellspace


I agree with Sam's practice of pointing out by modifying the font, statements that are not acceptable on his blog. I think this helps curb the language on his blog.

Posted by Randy Charles Morin at

Are We There Yet?

Of course, there's irony here in that Sam's clever approach to handling comment flames has all but upstaged the... [more]

Trackback from


Bowdlerization of the Commentary

I'm a big believer in property rights. Sam Ruby has a weblog, hosted on a server for which he pays the bills. At the end of the day, all other considerations are secondary... that's Sam's turf, and he has the right to do with it as he pleases. If... [more]

Trackback from Big Damn Heroes (Tech)


Some Small Stuff

I will be out of the office for the coming two days to do motorcycle
  maintenance on the R1200C at the dealer in Rochester.

<p>Some Technology Stuff going around:</P>
  <li><a... [more]

Trackback from All Things Distributed at

(SOURCE:"sam ruby")-Great idea Sam! Glad to see somebody doing something constructive about flaming aka "hitting". Somebody suggested allowing anybody to mark up other people's comments as flamebait. This is definitely a bad idea because then the...

Excerpt from Roland Tanglao: WebCMS at

Your transgressions are in red...

Ever do something that afterwards you didn't feel so great about? Well now, Sam is marking it up and pointing it out to the whole world (or at least to everyone who reads his site). Can't think of something nice to say? You better not say anything... [more]

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Sam Ruby: No hitting

Sam Ruby: No this site | 7 links...

Excerpt from blogdex - the weblog diffusion index at

According to Ito's paper, found via Sam ;-)

When participants were allowed to change their identities and only negative reputation was tracked, the quality started high but diminished over time. When the participants were allowed to change their identities and only positive reputation was tracked, the quality started low but increased over time and approached the quality of transactions in the closed network.

Sam, is there a way to, instead of tracking negative reputation, mark the most relevant parts.

I think something like graying flamebait instead of highlighting it in blue would help a lot. Subtle, but good.

Posted by Santiago Gala at

Funny enough, if you had answered (like you did in the past) what you think are flames by commenting about the statements in separate comments, the discussion would have been completely different, though the semantics would have been exactly the same. And I like the tight styling of commenting in place more than the old mail-like thread and quote style.

I like the way it works now (specially if the styling distract the reader from flames instead of highlighting them, as per my previous comment), and I think the issues raised come more from we not been familiar with the convention than from any other thing.

The upsetting looks like the old "seeing things in printed paper makes us trust them more", but now with markup and links. It also looks like "Someone put the spoon in my soup". There's no spoon. It's just data, after all.

Posted by Santiago Gala at

Santiago makes an excellent point.  I wonder what Shelley's reaction would have been had Sam highlighted in yellow the most relevant and constructive parts of her comments rather than striking out the most irrelevant and destructive parts.  Would she have pitched such a fit? Perhaps not, but would it have achieved the result Sam was looking for (to draw attention to flamers in order to get them to stop faming on his site)?  Again, Perhaps not.

Posted by James Snell at

A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy.

The recent discussion of RSS profiles and namespace has brought mind a keynote Clay Shirky gave at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology conference that I took notes on. to bring perspective to the recent heated debate on the rights of weblog comments... [more]

Trackback from tima thinking outloud.


Re: A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy

I read the entry and I found interesting (here and in Shelley's entries) the sentence <em>Sam modified comments</em>.

The comments were not modified. Actually, Sam marked up comments. I.E., commented on parts of them, with a new (surprising?, annoying? funny?) style.

Content remains untouched. This was the point I was trying to make in my previous comment. Sam merely created syntactic sugar for a threaded "this is getting flaming" comment. It would be great if it was also available for mere mortals, but it looks difficult to implement right.

P.S.) Sam, There is a double expanded &amp; (my fault) in the link of my previous comment. Would you gently edit it and remove it? (I think attribute values in original text are data, not metadata ;-) )

Posted by Santiago Gala at

There was a similar, long blogversation about ThirdVoice back in '98 that covers much of the same ground (censorship, ownership, markup, annotation, reputation).  A large part of it turned out to be a matter of degree.

Anything that was placed over or inline with the content was considered far worse than things placed alongside, in another frame, or in a toolbar.  It didn't seem to matter whether it was the host server, an intermediary, a proxy, or a browser plug-in.

Maybe change bars, or "flame bars" :-), can be used.

Posted by Ken MacLeod at

I have been reading carefully burningbird blog comments on the issue, and they resonated to me. My prognosis is that an issue about

Mob contents and cell boundaries

is going on. I felt the same kind of feelings Shelley and other people show in the comments the first time I saw CVS mail modifying my java classes, or patching my patches. Now I accept I'm just another ant. In Spanish, otra hormiga.

I think programmers used to CVS and truly community development (not like Give me your patches and I'll apply them, but like I'll enhance comments and make logics clearer as I walk through peers code sense) will tend to accept Sam technique. After all, he just highlighted the bug in the comment, while people with a more scholar mind will think It is my comment, take it or leave it!.

Note to myself: Future comment on Stefano entry when he implements comments: For Literature to be Software, a lot of things will have to change in the authorial minds. ;-)

Posted by Santiago Gala at

Neue Art der Kommentar-Moderation

Sam Rubys neue Art, Kommentare zu kontrollieren und den Nutzwert zu steigern, erzeugt etwas Ärger, ist aber trotzdem mal einen Blick wert (hier sind ein paar Beispiele). Sam streicht Textpassagen, die seiner Meinung nach Ärger provozieren könnten,...

Excerpt from Alp Uçkan's Website at

I like the idea of banishing off-topic flamers to their own sandbox rather than expelling them. I personally wear the occasional "dude this site is gay!" comment with pride. It's easy enough to  engage your idiot filter and skip to the next. Of course, if the idiots start coming fast and furious, the noise level gets intolerable ... But edit? "Dude, this site has an alternative sexual preference"? Why? Best to let it stand and ignore it. Who does it hurt, after all? What, do I have advertisers who might be offended? Hey, it works with little kids.

Posted by iggy at

"Best to let it stand and ignore it. [...] Hey, it works with little kids."

Often it's exactly the opposite.  Don't tell the kids it's wrong, and they think it's ok and it gets worse.

Posted by Ken MacLeod at

I have two kids and I can attest to Ken's comment.

My mother's parents were too strict, and she rebelled.  But then again, it was the 60s.

I also know of parents who are too lax.  And their kids are unruly.

The trick is to find the right balance.  And to be consistent.

Posted by Sam Ruby at


And now for something completely different...
As I've said in the past, blog comment systems generally suck. They're fine for "me too" responses and the occasional one-liner, but they quickly show their limitations when put to the task of... [more]

Trackback from Big Damn Heroes (Tech)


Sam Ruby's moderation policy strikes out

Sam Ruby undoubtedly means well, but in trying to encourage civility on his weblog, he has implemented a bizarre moderation policy. If Ruby doesn't think you're playing well with others, he'll mark up part of your comment with strikethrough text or...

Excerpt from Workbench at

A Vacation of Sorts

Work continues apace on the first Weblogger Co-op server. We're starting with a goodly mix of people in the test phase and I'll post the weblogs who have moved with me to the new server when we're up and running. I can tell you that we will be... [more]

Trackback from Burningbird


Ben Hyde: Elephant folk dances

Posted by Sam Ruby at

Tolerance of diverse opinions does not mean a complete abrogation of standards.

All sustainable social systems depend to a great degree on a consensual civility that is increasingly, and alarmingly, lacking in public discourse.

Without civil society, there is no free speech, because bullies will always shout everyone else down (see: Usenet).

Any effort, like Sam's, to find a creative way to set reasonable standards of civility without censoring or deleting comments is to be highly commended.

You (hypothetical flamaholic) get to have your cake and eat it too. Continue with the style of insulting pyrotechics without which you seem to have difficulty communicating, yet allow those of us who still want to hear what you have to say, between the burn, focus on what you actually contribute to the conversation.

I make a point of reading a post before reading the name of the author. It is my way of trying to evaluate ideas on their merits, not their tone.

However, when I encounter an author who seems incapable of communicating without flames, I am forced to break that habit. I would think you would prefer Sam's method to being a priori filtered out by author, as so many of us are force to do. Sam's technique brilliantly supports this kind of openminded, tolerant intellectualism, without throwing out the civil baby with the flaming bathwater (somebody rescue me from THAT tangled metaphor!).

Finally, I would note that Sam's method does NOT censor the author. It targets words, not personalities, and can be applied to anyone' post.

If you start making your points without ad homs and gratuitous snarks, you will rejoin the conversation without a problem--whereas, if you force me to filter out your posts by name in advance, you never get a second chance at redemption.

If a blog host abuses the method, their blog will wither, so there is a built-in review of objectivity in its use. Hosts should allow an appeal process, so I would recommend an appeal submission box be included in the policy notification pave to which flames are linked.

I only wish such a mechanism existed in real life. Too often my daughters filter out an entire brilliant rant of mine, merely because I stupidly hit the "I'm your father and I know what's best" button mid-way. :-)

GREAT idea, Sam, and I hope the functionality gets built into blog management tools (TypePad--Trott's, listenin'?) so that an administrator can flag a flame with a click of the mouse. For that matter, they deserve consideration on all moderated forums, like web-boards and listserves, because they offer an alternative to all-or-nothing post deletion.

Posted by galiel at

Just use a Wiki

Sam Ruby starts highlighting ad-hominen passages in comments. So it's true - comments don't scale. [WikiStoneSociety]... [more]

Trackback from Bill de hÓra


(SOURCE:"sam ruby")-Great idea Sam! Glad to see somebody doing something constructive about flaming aka "hitting". Somebody suggested allowing anybody to mark up other people's comments as flamebait. This is definitely a bad idea because then the...

Excerpt from Roland Tanglao: KLogs at

Sam's site, Sam's machine, Sam's bandwidth, Sam's cash, SAM'S RULES!  More power to you.  If they want to comment in a way that you don't approve, they can do it on their dime.  To the whiners: Freedom of speech is a right, so is the right not to pay for your speech.  Get your own site.

Posted by Angus at

Modarated comments in MT

Jeff asked if there&#8217;s a way to moderated comments post to MT blog. I did a search and found a hack at Edith Frost. I don&#8217;t intend to moderate the comments here, so far the number of comments isn&#8217;t make...... [more]

Trackback from yowkee essential


(SOURCE:"sam ruby")-Great idea Sam! Glad to see somebody doing something constructive about flaming aka "hitting". Somebody suggested allowing anybody to mark up other people's comments as flamebait. This is definitely a bad idea because then the...

Excerpt from Roland Tanglao: HowToDevelopSoftware at

Nuevos bitacoreros

Pero viejos, Mark Pilgrim ha decidido bitacorear en castellano. Lo anuncia en Un nuevo principio. Es mi héroe. Lo hará en Inmersión en Mark. Copio: La mente del niño Zen Buddhism tiene el concepto de la mente del...

Excerpt from Reflexiones e irreflexiones at

Comment policy

I caught up on the controversy about annotating comments left on on one's blog by reading the arguments for and against, which are canvassed thoroughly in these posts and their accompanying comments: No hitting (Sam Ruby) Editing others comments... [more]

Trackback from Jonathon Delacour


Sam Ruby's moderation policy strikes out

Sam Ruby undoubtedly means well, but in trying to encourage civility on his weblog, he has implemented a bizarre moderation policy .... [more]

Trackback from Workbench


(SOURCE:"sam ruby")- Great idea Sam! Glad to see somebody doing something constructive about flaming aka "hitting".... [more]

Trackback from Roland Tanglao's Weblog


Ummæli um ummæli

Már gagnrýnir Fré fyrir klaufaskap í ritskoðun á umræðu. Athyglisverð umræða hefur spunnist í svarhala færslunnar þó eitthvað af henni hefði kannski mátt fara fram í tölvupósti......

Excerpt from Vox Sobrius at

Comment Posting Policy

Some posts allow readers to post comments. Anonymous comments will no longer be allowed. I reserve the exclusive right to moderate all comments posted on my site, including but not limited to: Marking up comments that contain flames or ad......

Excerpt from Site Log at

Sam Ruby: No hitting


Excerpt from at

CommentAPI POST Return

My implementation return back an RSS item. This appeals to my sense of symmetry. Things with default values get filled in. For example, <link> tags may get added. There is plenty of room for expansion for things like <slash:comments>. Using...

Excerpt from CommentAPI POST Return at

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