Registering for comments – tell us what you think

// 5 August 2010

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Comment moderation is one of the hardest, sometimes the hardest, part of blogging for The F-Word. In order to reduce some of the energy involved, we want to introduce commenter registration.

This means that you would need to register (for free of course) using a valid email address in order to post a comment, as is the practice across most/many blogs. It would still be possible to post anonymously (for example, if you have a personal experience you want to share) but this will involve going the extra step of setting up a new account.

Under this system, commenters who have built up a reputation with the bloggers collective of responsible commenting within our comment policy could be able to post ‘live’, however the majority of comments would still be moderated before publication. We would obviously still unpublish comments which break our policy. (We’ll make it clear how this will work in practice if we decide to go ahead.)

Many of the benefits are ‘backend’, and would greatly ease up the energy we need to devote to comment moderation. But the blog will benefit as well, because us bloggers will hopefully be able to direct more of that energy to writing posts, commissioning guest posts and improving the site.

This is the time to tell us what you think about the idea and practice of commenter registration – this will guide whether or not we adopt this system, and how exactly we operate it.

  • How do you feel about comment registration?
  • Would you like the option to become a commenter able to post ‘live’ comments?
  • If we introduce such a system, should we have the option to log in using Twitter, Facebook, UniqueID, etc?

Comments From You

Hannah // Posted 5 August 2010 at 7:44 pm

I wouldn’t mind registering for comments. I do think the slight extra effort required to comment might reduce the number of often interesting comments we get from passing visitors to the site, but then, I don’t know how much hassle it is to moderate comments to weed out all the trolls because I’m not a mod. I also like the idea of being able to comment ‘live’ – it’s annoying to respond to one comment, then find out a few hours later when my comment has been posted that someone who posted before me had already covered that issue, and I look like I’m just repeating their post. Well, not that annoying, but you get what I mean, which is that having that not happen would be an improvement.

I’m not sure if I’d like login through facebook, does that mean people on facebook would know I’d posted, or that I’d have my real name attached to my comments? I wouldn’t be keen on either of these things.

eleanargh // Posted 5 August 2010 at 8:51 pm

I wouldn’t mind registering. If any new/passing people want to comment enough on a piece, they’ll register.

Not sure about having ‘trusted’ commentors being able to comment live and others not though – it could confuse threads quite a lot, if a non-live commentor wants to respond to a live commentor but it takes the former while to get approved… even if it eventually comes up in the original order they were submitted, it could get easily confusing if conversations have moved on.

I wonder whether you have thought of getting more volunteer moderators or approvers who are allowed to approve comments (perhaps after a bit of training/practice/following your guidelines) – like Hortense at Jezebel, and I think Feministing has one now too although I know when they introduced that it slowed down commenting a fair bit.

Goodness, who knew I had so many thoughts on commenting.

Cazz Blase // Posted 5 August 2010 at 9:55 pm

No objections at all to this scheme, especially as I sometimes think that the ‘be nice’ part of the code is being ignored by a number of commenters. I don’t know if this scheme would reduce those occurances or not, but I think it would help possibly reduce trolls, though it is – as the above commenter pointed out – a shame re passing traffic.

SnowdropExplodes // Posted 5 August 2010 at 10:21 pm

I like the idea, and I think allowing OpenID etc to comment would help solve the issue about losing the passing traffic involvement. However, it does also mean that the effect in reducing trolling is reduced (although I’m assuming IDs that prove troublesome could be blocked?)

I think I agree with eleanargh’s point about having a two-tier system with certain commenters approved automatically while others wait for moderation, and how that could get awkward.

gadgetgal // Posted 5 August 2010 at 10:34 pm

i don’t comment much these days (hopefully will start doing more soon) but I wouldn’t mind registering. I think if we could have some kind of login it would be good because we wouldn’t need to type out names/email addresses every time we commented (I admit it, I’m lazy). But I think I’d prefer a login on this site directly because I left my FB account logged in about a week ago while I was looking around on the internet and it got hacked when I stumbled across a site with that login capability (basically I was already logged in like I would be on FB on that site and could leave comments), so I’d be worried about it happening again. Nothing too bad happened but someone posted an ad as my status and added more ads to my events, so I had the hassle of changing passwords and deleting all of it, not so much fun! So maybe if you do add the option it might be good to let people know to be careful if they use it – there’s no harm if they’re on this site, but surfing at the same time could be trouble!

saranga // Posted 6 August 2010 at 7:54 am

i’d be happy to register for comments.

I don’t see how a live commenting system would work in practice , partly for reasons others have already given, but also because i think it might produce a weird feeling about the site – like live commenters are proper feminists and the others waiting for approval have yet to prove their credentials, or something.

I don’t for a minute think that you intend it to be like this, but I think that may be the impression given, especially to new visitors to the site.

The F Word is seen as the voice of UK feminism and I think a lot of the credibility may be lost to have a tiered commenting system.

I absolutely do NOT want a facebook login for this site. I go to great efforts to keep my facebook info and my net blogging/commenting seperate so do not want them mixed.

How about disqus instead? it can be used on shakesville and tumblr.

Btw I really like the way we can add a website to our name details, so if we can keep that option that would be good.

polly // Posted 6 August 2010 at 8:16 am

I’m not keen on sites that need comment registration. I agree with the points made above regarding a ‘two tier system’ of comment moderation, and would be opposed to it for that reason. There may be some threads which are directly responsible to someone’s experience, and their comments could be very relevant, but they’re not usually a commenter here. So their comments would be stuck in mod, while ‘trusted’ commenters could comment freely.

Lindsey // Posted 6 August 2010 at 9:00 am

Registering is a good idea, though I wouldn’t feel comfortable linking to my other accounts. That said, the current option to link to people’s blogs is great and I often have a click through after particular comments catch my eye.

sianushka // Posted 6 August 2010 at 9:02 am

not a problem for me! and it will mean i stop changing my ‘identity’ depending on my mood…

was talking about the nightmare that is deciding whether to mod comments on twitter yesterday. i am so tired of opening my blog and seeing another long and boring post from ‘anonymous’ detailing why i am wrong, and why i should stop and who the hell do i think i am and surely anonymous knows more about this issue than me…i don’t understand why people take the time and energy to go on to a blog and be rude and aggressive and patronising when they could just, oh i don’t know, not!

JenniferRuth // Posted 6 August 2010 at 9:45 am

I think registering for comments is a good idea but I would really like to have the option to log in with twitter or facebook. Having an option like that would also mean it would likely be easier for drive-by commenters and passer-bys to leave comments and avoid a “tier” system between regular commenters and new ones.

Jess McCabe // Posted 6 August 2010 at 10:16 am

Just to clarify, if we did go for an option for a twitter/facebook/other log in, it would be *in addition to* a general registration option, not the primary log in method – I think it might help to encourage passers by to comment.

Ana Félix Pires // Posted 6 August 2010 at 10:17 am

Oh please don’t make us register! I don’t comment often, but imposing registry would guarantee I’d *never* comment. I just refuse to register and create an account for yet another blog. Seriously, there’s no way I can keep track of all the accounts and their passwords on all the individual sites and blogs that I follow.

OpenID is a good idea, since it asks you to connect through an account on some other well established community based website. Logging in through Facebook or Twitter or anything of the sort would be okay as well, since again, these are well established sites that a lot of people have accounts in.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll continue to read though my RSS reader regardless. But I’d like the option to comment occasionally.

Hope you’ll consider my thoughts!

angercanbepower // Posted 6 August 2010 at 10:58 am

Thefword already tends too much towards having the same 10-15 people dominating the comments on each thread. Don’t make it worse, please.

Kristin // Posted 6 August 2010 at 11:00 am

I would really hate to have to register. I wouldn’t do it. Don’t want to! I don’t comment on any sites that require registration. I just don’t like it. I also don’t want anything to do with Facebook.

I think the tiered system would stifle debate, and that it would end up being the same people who commented time after time because others who didn’t want to register had stopped bothering. I think it would even make me stop reading the F-word or certainly look at the site a lot less often.

But that’s just my personal opinion and of course others will not have any problem with the proposed changes.

Jess McCabe // Posted 6 August 2010 at 11:10 am

Thanks to everyone for sharing their views. Kristin, we definitely don’t want to stifle debate.

It is a tough one, because the work of managing comments and keeping on top of things on the back end is quite intense. Most of that is invisible to site users, I think, because of course you only see the comments that adhere to the comments policy and get posted.

Sarah // Posted 6 August 2010 at 11:11 am

I wouldn’t mind registering, though pleased to hear it wouldn’t necessarily be linked to Facebook etc, also not too keen on the ‘tiered’ commenting/moderation system. Would it be possible to move to reactive moderation for all comments? Of course I don’t know what sort of numbers of offensive/spam type comments you get, if it’s a lot this approach may not be practical…

Jess McCabe // Posted 6 August 2010 at 11:19 am

Sarah, I don’t see retroactive or reactive moderation as a possibility unfortunately. As I was saying, the volume of offensive comments which never make it through moderation is invisible to the commenting/reading community.

Personally, I already have concerns about the sometimes abrasive nature of comment conversation, and some threads do get out of hand, even with our comment policy which is quite strict by feminist blog community standards.

I’m only speaking for myself here, not the collective of course, but personally the process of comment moderation is already hard enough without trying to cope with retrospective comment moderation.

Also, the reality is that all of us bloggers have busy lives and commitments outside of The F-Word. We can’t be there all the time to sit on threads, and don’t want trollish, derailing or offensive comments up there for ages before we get a chance to deal with them.

Ana Félix Pires // Posted 6 August 2010 at 11:19 am

I really can’t imagine what moderating a site like this is. But wouldn’t OpenID or Facebook/Twitter/whatever work the same as having people register? The idea that you would be identifiable and should be responsible with your words would still be there, but without the hassle to the “well behaved users” of having to register to yet another site.

Trolls could abuse that, of course. Make a random WordPress account (for example) and use that to log in here and troll. But trolls could do the same by simply registering here to begin with.

Or maybe I’m being naive and over simplifying. But please don’t make us have to register. xP

Jess McCabe // Posted 6 August 2010 at 11:24 am


How would you feel if there was a variety of options, for example:

– log in with twitter

-log in with openid

– log in with facebook

– register with The F-Word to create a specific log in

Of course trolls could still create accounts, multiple accounts, etc. But we would also have the power to block IP addresses, as well as individual accounts, which we don’t have under the current system.

A determined troll of course can get around this, but personally I think that the extra effort will stop quite a few, and especially the ‘fly bys’.

ana Félix Pires // Posted 6 August 2010 at 1:27 pm

The last option would be too much of an hassle for me I’m afraid. Like I said, there’s no way I can keep track of all the accounts and their passwords on all the individual sites and blogs that I follow. I remain a reader, but never comment.

I think the Facebook or Twitter option might be the best idea, because it’s something the majority of people already has. And on top of that, it’s something most people take seriously. I doubt anyone would like to be called out on their sexism on their personal facebook account, where they are connected to their friends and family. Not that you would, but the idea alone might bring some accountability to comments, you know?

If that doesn’t prove useful, you can always change later, right?

FeminaErect // Posted 6 August 2010 at 2:41 pm

I would never be able to comment on the website if it was required to go through my facebook/twitter. I have revealed massive personal things on this website because it is a safe feminist space where I can do so, some of which my friends and family do not know about, and I would want no way of they being able to do so.

I think the idea of multiple ways to log on would be best. A ‘tiered’ (sp) comments system however provides further arguement for ‘feminists are splitting themselves in two’ school.

Jess McCabe // Posted 6 August 2010 at 2:46 pm

Thanks FeminaErect, I agree, it would not make sense to require facebook/twitter log in, that would only ever be offered as an additional option to make life easier for those who do want to use it.

Also, we would always need to preserve some option for anonymous commenting via setting up a new account, because people do sometimes want to share personal things anonymously.

Rebecca // Posted 6 August 2010 at 3:01 pm

My feelings about the comment regulation in general match eleanargh’s. However I wanted to make a comment regarding OpenID logins, etc.

I personally would not log on with my twitter/facebook/openid accounts. For much the same reason as many other people. I would however happily log in with my google account. I am not sure how viable this is, but figured it was worth a mention.

Legible Susan // Posted 6 August 2010 at 4:39 pm

I wouldn’t mind logging in if I could do it with OpenID from my Dreamwidth account, but I already have more passwords than I can remember and avoid doing anything that’s going to require another one!

B // Posted 6 August 2010 at 6:15 pm

It must be frustrating dealing with hostile and abusive posters from time to time. I’m fairly new to this blog, but I can tell you that I don’t like to register. To keep my privacy, especially if talking about sensitive subjects, I don’t want to sign in with my Facebook or other account, or use my real name. Besides, trolls can always set up accounts and register in order to misbehave on a blog. Truthfully, I’m also a big fan of free speech and don’t enjoy heavily moderated spaces. If registering is required then I too would just read the interesting posts and discussions, but would not participate.

Amy Clare // Posted 6 August 2010 at 8:04 pm

I agree Jess, comment moderation is really tough sometimes and I don’t blame TFW for wanting to ease the burden on moderators. I think registering could be a good idea (as long as there was an option to *not* use your Facebook, Twitter etc accounts). Alternatively, some sites have a system whereby a comment from a new reader is automatically held back for moderation, but once this comment has been read and the reader ‘approved’, all subsequent comments from this reader go out live – so in essence regular readers get to comment live without the need for registration, but new readers don’t. This could be open to abuse of course but so could any system in theory.

I’m not sure how comment registration would stop discussions in comments being abrasive or make people adhere to the ‘be nice’ rule, as plenty of comments already break that rule (imo) and they are some of the ones which have passed moderation, or are from regular readers. I think that heated comments/threads have more to do with emotive topics, people saying things online they wouldn’t say face to face, etc. I know I’ve probably said the wrong thing once or twice because I’ve been wound up or emotional.

When I was guest blogging the worst thing for me wasn’t so much having to read and approve comments, although that did take up a lot of time and energy, but having to reply to them when I felt they had missed my point or were attacking my piece unfairly, and then subsequently getting involved in a long energy-sapping debate.

Considering the heated debates that sometimes happen, I wonder whether it might be worth having a limit on the number of times a person can comment on one thread*, or a word/character limit for the comments themselves (which bloggers would also be restricted to when replying). Or, perhaps a time limit on commenting – for example, ‘comments will be closed after one week’ or something like that. I know measures like these would probably be seen as stifling debate by some, but long drawn-out exchanges where commenters keep on missing each other’s points and getting annoyed etc for days, sometimes weeks on end isn’t just a pain to moderate but also not very interesting for readers. Debates in ‘real life’ after all have time limits, and restrictions on how long a person can speak. (By the way I know I’m as guilty as anyone of writing comments that are too long, probably including this one!)

*I Blame The Patriarchy has a good piece of advice in its comment rules – ‘If you’ve commented on a thread more than three times, consider shutting the old pie-hole.’ I’m going to take that advice, in future…

Feminist Avatar // Posted 7 August 2010 at 1:44 am

I wouldn’t mind registering as long as I can continue to use my avatar (and not reveal my offline identity)- but would love it if the site would ‘remember’ me so I didn’t have to constantly put in my name, email and website (ie using a username and password or that thing where the site and your computor work together so you don’t have to fill in the boxes)- that would be worth the inconvenience registering.

Louise // Posted 7 August 2010 at 11:42 am

I’ve been regularly reading and commenting on the F-Word for a couple of years, but I won’t comment again if I’m forced to login.

My experience of blogs that require compulsory login – even if it’s through OpenID – is that they tend to turn into closed communities. If that’s what the F-Word wants, then fine… But I think it would be a shame to lose the current open model.

Allowing approved users to comment live, while others have to wait for moderation, would mess up the coherence of conversation on a thread. It’s just another way of creating a closed community, unfortunately.

Several blogs allow a crew of regular “trusted” users (i.e., regular contributors who don’t mind registering) to help out with comment moderation. It helps take the burden off the main admins when a pool of other people are available to pull trolls off the pending lost of comments before they go live. Could this sort of system work with the F-Word backend?

Denise // Posted 7 August 2010 at 1:11 pm

I wouldn’t register. I also think trolls are just as much if not more likely to register – if you look at cif or The Times or other sites that require registering, it seems to me that most comments are from trolls who deliberately miss the point and/or just want to hijack debate and dominate. They will go to any lengths to annoy. In fact sometimes I get the nasty feeling that registering puts off pretty much everyone except trolls. I’m probably wrong, I hope so. And one step away from trolls (although it’s a fine line) are what Twisty of I blame the patriarchy describes as pompous ‘the world is my classroom’ dudes. Personally they annoy me even more.

I can imagine it must be very tough for TFW moderators, of course you all have jobs, lives, etc and don’t have endless time to sit modding. I think you do a great job with what time you do have available.

chrissy // Posted 7 August 2010 at 4:49 pm

I agree with Saranga I do not comment allot of the times and when i do my comments are never shown, I do not know why because I always follow the rules, I think this would guarantee that my comments aren’t shown. I am a big believer in free speech so I am not sure about having so much regulating i think it takes away something from the discussion. I also feel that having live commenter’s are accepted as feminists and the rest of us yet to prove ourselves.

Lorna Gregory // Posted 7 August 2010 at 8:07 pm

Registering specifically for this website would be fine by me. Or using a google login or something else a little bit annonymous(tho’ I usually post with my full name here, sometimes things are a bit too personal). I probably wouldn’t want to use my facebook account.

earwicgae // Posted 8 August 2010 at 5:17 am

Anything that keeps the trolls away from the public comments board. The absence of troll comments makes TFW a gem in the utter slew of sexism on the web. Anyone who is irritated at a delay in comments being published should really take a look at ‘below the line’ on CIF!

Lynsey // Posted 9 August 2010 at 5:01 pm

I’d prefer not to have it, as I think sometimes inflammatory comments are useful to argue against. It’s pretty boring if everyone just thinks the same thing and adheres to the party line. I like it when people with massively different opinions to me comment. I worry it would become too sanitised.

Jess McCabe // Posted 9 August 2010 at 5:08 pm

@Lynsey Just to clarify, we are not proposing to change the comment policy.

The comment policy would remain in place (subject to normal evolution, of course).

This is purely about what steps you have to go through to comment.

angercanbepower // Posted 9 August 2010 at 6:22 pm

Jess, I’m not in favour of a registration system for the same reason as other people – it’s a disincentive to comment. However, if you did have one, would you have the software in place so that if you clicked a person’s username you could see their post history, like on some forums? That would be a massive plus – I like to know who I’m talking to.

Laurel Dearing // Posted 9 August 2010 at 7:03 pm

i would have thought with the tiered thing… itd make more sense for them to be instant until they write something they need to be emailed about and then be on probation for a little while. i think its part of trying to shake off the effects of privilege to accept that you might need to learn a bit more about how to put things. i know ive had emails asking me to clarify what i mean and things like that and i dont take it personally, its just a way of improving yourself. i know it might cause problems if it isnt checked regularly enough as stuff would be said and shown first, but obviously people that didnt go to the extent of signing in through any way would have to go through the same way as they do now anyway.

Anji // Posted 10 August 2010 at 2:45 pm

I love this idea for two reasons. Firstly, it would eliminate the hassle of having to enter my details every time I want to comment – something which puts me off commenting fairly frequently because though it only takes a minute, I can’t be bothered to do it every time. Secondly, I like the idea of having trusted commenters able to live-comment because the conversation would, I think, flow more freely and quickly than it currently does. I say go for it. :D

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