rogerd - 3:36 pm on Mar 4, 2013 (gmt 0)
I've always been a believer of moderating comments for civility in forums, on blogs, etc. It's been mostly based on experience - when discussions turn nasty, they engage a few members but turn off many more. Now, the NYTimes reports on research about article comments:
Subjects who read the article and the comments that followed didn't change their opinion about the topic. But, if the comments included gratuitous insults like, "you're stupid," the readers became more polarized in their belief and actually interpreted the original article in a different way.
Kind of sad that rude comments affect the original content, but there's a lesson for communities, too. IMO, this explains why discussions that include ad hominem remarks invariably deteriorate rapidly. If you believe the study, every rude remark polarizes the reader a little more, and when they add their own comment (something not looked at by the researchers), that comment is almost certainly going to be more opinionated and perhaps uncivil than it would have been. And, good members will leave to find more fruitful dialog elsewhere.
Courtesy has always been an expectation here at WebmasterWorld, which no doubt explains in part why it's still around 14 years after it was founded.