Anil Dash is a prominent blogger and commentator, and while I don’t always agree with his perspectives, this one is interesting. Dash posits that if the community around your website is problematic or disrespectful, the fault probably lies with the site owner and editors for not making sure they foster an environment where constructive discussion is encouraged and trolling or negativity is discouraged or moderated.
It’s a complicated piece for me, because part of what Dash is saying is so contrary to what bloggers and writers have been told for years – that if you want people to read your work, you should encourage all discussion, whether it’s positive or negative. As in, criticism is one thing, but any comments, even trolls and hateful ones, are better than no comments at all. Personally, I’ve never believed that, I think that too many people already misinterpret what their freedom of speech is and think that it gives them the right to say whatever they want, whenever they choose, on any site or platform they wish. Nothing could be further from the truth (for one, the first amendment only protects speech in public places, and only protects the individual from having their speech oppressed by the state, not by other individuals or groups) but most sites – if they’re worth the space they take on the web – encourage both positive and negative conversation, even if it’s critical, and allow their communities to moderate themselves, outside of spam and outright hateful commentary.
Still, Dash proposes that if your site is being plagued by trolls and others who have nothing positive or constructive to say, it’s likely because you’re not spending enough time moderating the comments, or because you don’t have anyone on your staff responsible for coming up with a community policy and moderating the community according to those rules. It’s a pretty good read, even if you don’t completely agree with it.