Off-topic comments are the bane of useful content creation

I’ve often mentioned the issue of off-topic comments on LENR Forum. Discussion of issues there is often heavily derailed by off-topic comments. Some of these are from trolls (who choose what to claim or evidence by the anticipated — or easily anticipable — emotional responses, or pursuing their Favorite Topic, everywhere, and with the LF access paradigm and the lack of comment threading, this heavily damages the utility of LF.) One might think that if one is researching the stated topic, one could read a variety of opinions or find evidence on that topic, but these can be buried under piles of irrelevancies, personal arguments, etc.

What can be done about this?

Even fully sincere and competent users may be distracted by off-topic claims, because they might have opinions or even strong opinions about them, and may also think that the claims are possibly damaging, so must be addressed. And some administrators, as well, are themselves undisciplined, commenting knee-jerk about whatever they think without stopping to consider if it is off-topic.

It’s easy to criticize the administrative practice on LF, but it is mostly based, my opinion, on it being or being considered too much trouble to address. One admin response was to delete off-topic posts. That response actually triggered my declaration of a boycott posting to LF, because this was censorship of content based solely on a single administrator’s judgment of “off-topic,” while that same administrator is routinely off-topic.

There was a better response, and LF moderation seems to have settled on it, which was moving comments either to a more appropriate topic or to a generic off-topic thread, such as the Playground, or for offensive posts, Clearance items. This is not the kind of censorship that would have offended me. It is still, sometimes, mild censorship, because some of the moved comments still have on-topic relevance.

Drawing that line can be difficult, and I would not expect any administrator to do it perfectly, by any standard. But if the goal is content creation, making the site more useful, it would be laudable.

So what can I do here, because discussions here often stray off-topic? I installed a plug-in, Tako Moveable Comments. I’ve moved a few comments to locations where they won’t derail the primary discussion. I could just move them without comment, but to be fair to the original authors, I leave behind notes that they are moved. This actually provides such comments more visibility, in a way, not less.

I will be acting to create more users with administrative privileges like mine. At this point, however, I don’t have full measures in place to make content safe from a rogue administrator, as unlikely as that is. So the steps I can safely take now are limited. I will be exploring this; the goal here is to empower the cold fusion community (which includes all interested people, not just “supporters”) to manage it’s own processes.

For now, I have created a new user capability set, Editor, with the power to edit all posts. For now, an Editor does not have the ability to delete any posts or comments other than his or her own, but they may edit them, and there is backup in edit history of all content until that is deleted by admin with the deletion privilege.

(I had already created the Author privilege, which allows creation of posts and pages, but we only have two or three users with that privilege, and it’s not being used.) Little by little, however, we create the future. My standard for awarding privileges is the likelihood that the privileges will not be abused. I do not require that the user be in agreement with me on anything other than how they would use the privilege, which can include the fail promotion of their own point of view.)

I will add examples of moving comments here as comments on this post. Public comment or critique of our policies and administrative decisions is welcome.

Ugh. Tako Movable Comments is not working, with WP 4.8.1, at least. It was only certified up to 4.6.6, but there may have been a bug before that, from looking at the support page.

Author: Abd ulRahman Lomax


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