Moderation tool: Comment screening options to include custom friends groups
Short, concise description of the idea
Presently the comment screening options for entries are not as fine-grained as the "security" settings, and should be made to match, so that journal owners have the equivalent of email list server's "moderation" setting for untrusted commenters.
Full description of the idea
Screening comments could be a powerful tool for troll management, but as LJ currently works, it's missing the critical part of the implementation.
Right now, the comment screening options on entries, both the default journal-wide setting and the per entry settings, only have very crude options based on absolute friend status, login status and a content filter.
As useful as these settings are, they don't match the flexibility and resolution that has already been implemented for entry "security", which observes custom friends groups.
When you think it through, that's both wacky and depriving journal owners of one of the oldest and most important moderator tools of internet forum history.
It's wacky because "security" controls who can see an entry in the first place, and as such is a read permission. But screening controls the ability of someone to write a comment on an entry, and as such is a write permission.
Thus there's no way on LJ to make a post that allows more people read permissions to an entry than write permissions to it, except on the basis of "friending".
This means the only way to revoke one person's ability to comment unscreened is to unfriend them. That is kinda harsh.
The tool we're thus missing is the ability to keep someone in a forum, but "put them on moderation", that is, make all their comments require moderator approval by default before appearing to the other forum participants.
LJ typically (but not excluseively) works on a white-list model, as opposed to a black-list model, and already has the custom friends lists infrastructure. Thus a particularly LJ-appropriate way to implement a "on moderation" functionality would be to allow the poster to specify on an entry "screen all except custom..." with a custom friends group. Then the journal owner could manage the membership of that group as a white-list of authorized commentors. People who stop being trusted can be dropped; people who demonstrate trustworthiness by making good comments under moderation can be added.
Anne has a friend, Betsy, who has been with her through thick and thin over the last twenty years; Anne was the friend's maid of honor at Betsy's wedding. Betsy put Anne and her cats up for five weeks when Anne's house burnt down. Unlike Anne, Betsy doesn't follow LJ particularly closely, doesn't post often in her own journal, and doesn't often comment in others. Unfortunately, when she does, she tends to be abrupt, judgmental, political, and sometimes verbally abusive. Anne's journal often has discussion in it, and these comments when they show up are often highly provocative of bad behavior. Anne's talked to Betsy about this, and Betsy's response is, "Hey, you know how I am. If you don't like my comments, delete them. That's no problem for me." Anne fumes; sure, she could delete them after they're made, but usually by then the damage is done. She would really like to be able to be the first person, always, to see a comment, so she can decide whether or not to allow it. But she sure doesn't want to have to do that for everybody else on her flist; even if it weren't a grueling chore, the lag would kill discussion dead. And she certainly doesn't want to have to keep Betsy from reading her flocked posts -- she'd trust Betsy with any secret. And above all, she doesn't want to "unfriend" her dear friend.
(2) Cathy has a flist of 200 or so people, and often posts thoughtful commentary which gets a good discussion rolling. It's nice that links to her posts gets forwarded around LJ, but it does mean a steady stream of strangers show up to read her stuff, and some friend her back... and some a real troglodytes. She would like to grant anybody who is a good and useful conversationalist permission to comment freely, but she's discovered that when she defaults to unscreened, she gets some real abusive garbage, so she's set screening to "non-friends" and only friends people after they've proved that they can comment like a grownup. The problem is, she'd also like to be able to friend people back to read their journals and allow them to read her flocked stuff, even if they're just lurkers. But if she wants to use friending as a screening white-list, she can't do that.
IMPACT ON NONUSING USERS:
This involves adding an option and some hidden AJAX to the Update page. You won't even know it's there if you don't go looking for it. It's the ultimate opt-in.
SOCIAL ECOLOGY IMPACT:
This tool allows people to remain "friended" who might not otherwise be able to. It will cause a net drama reduction: while people might be cheesed to be put on moderation, they will be presumably typically less cheesed to be put on moderation than to be unfriended.
- Real by-individual moderation. One of the oldest and most powerful tools for handling comments from untrusted individuals, so they don't provoke flamewars.
- In fact, you could also use such a feature to do unusual things that need really strong formal moderation structure, e.g. "Today in this journal I am presenting a formal debate on abortion. Instead of open discussion (which will happen on another entry), we're joined by a panel of six discussants, [three names] on the pro-life side and [three other names] on the pro-choice side. They will be responding in comments. Everybody else's comments will be screened...."
- More processor intensive to render. Oy.
- Possibly further contention for each user's limited number of custom friends groups, now that there will be a third application for them.
- Will need to be added to both the Edit/Post interface and the post-by-email interface, and third party developers will want to update their interfaces to add it.