I wanted to start by saying that, because the bottom line is, I’m really grateful to you for making this site what it is today.
You — and specifically, your excellent comments — have made this blog a helpful resource for consumers with real problems, a lively forum, and a fascinating read.
I feel as if I’ve been entrusted with something valuable and important. Which is why I’m writing this post.
I’ve had a “hands-off” policy on the comments, in part because I believe the Internet is all about free expression, and in part because I don’t have the resources to screen each comment. (More on that in just a moment.)
But during the last few weeks and months, I’ve received numerous emails from concerned readers who say the comments have gone too far.
These readers, some of whom have been commenters for years, are refusing to participate in the discussions because of the negativity and perceived bullying by a small, vocal group of commenters.
I outlined some of these changes as an update to yesterday’s post. But I’m going to repeat them now, in a separate article and in a little more detail.
It’s gone too far
Here’s the thing: This site has an obligation to help consumers, first and foremost. When we veer from that mission, as I believe we have, and the comments devolve into shout-fests and name-calling, then the only ones who benefit are the companies providing terrible customer service.
We can’t let that happen.
We deserve a comments section that is a welcoming, non-toxic environment, where ideas and suggestions can be freely exchanged without fear of ad hominem attacks.
To that end, I’ve made the following changes:
• All comments will require a confirmed email address. I will not allow anyone to anonymously take potshots at my commenters.
• I’ve reverted to the old version of Disqus, which allows for more moderator control. It will also give more people the ability to comment, since the new version of Disqus has some serious compatibility problems. Regressing to the previous version of Disqus eliminates the ability to “upvote” and “downvote” comments people agree or disagree with. I think having your comment voted down can be hurtful and offensive to some commenters.
• All of the comments are now being screened. If your comment doesn’t add to the discussion, or is nothing more than a thinly-veiled personal attack, I will not approve it.
Hit me with your best shot
I’ve also noticed an uptick in comments leveled against me. I don’t mind the criticism, but like many of the other commenters, I object to the way some of them have been framed.
By all means, feel free to point out places where a story can be improved, or where I misjudged a case. But leaving an anonymous zinger that accuses me of being the worst consumer advocate ever is profoundly unhelpful, and I’m inclined to just delete it and invite you to find another consumer advocate to criticize.