Sunday, July 12, 2009

Looking to expand the conversation

We are planning to alter the way we allow people to comment on our main website, but would like to know what you think before we introduce any changes.

We would like to make the comment functionality on thisisleicestershire available 24-hours-a-day and for us to have a lighter touch in our moderation. We think the best way to do this would be to introduce mandatory registration for those who wish to comment and then ask for community volunteers to help with the moderation.

We also plan to introduce clear guidelines for what's acceptable - these will not be onerous, but are likely to include a ban on anything libellous or illegal, along with most swearing and personal abuse. They will not prevent people from criticising the Leicester Mercury or each other.

Currently, you do not need to register with our site to comment - anybody can come along and add their views in just a few moments, cloaked in anonymity and without us having any idea who they are. As such, a significant minority of people abuse the system and this, in turn, leads us to a situation where we feel the need to check every single comment added and, since we cannot have staff working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, we restrict comments to normal office hours as we can guarantee that somebody will be available to moderate.

We believe that asking people to register and validate their email address is more likely to create some form of bond with the site and will lead to more self-moderation and, therefore, a more reasoned debate. Combining this with some volunteer community moderators would, we hope, allow us to open up our comments on a 24/7 basis.

Over time, we plan to improve our comment functionality and to add forums and, hopefully, to allow people to use existing web profiles such as those created through Facebook, Twitter or their blog to comment.

What we'd like to know is whether or not you think these proposed changes are a good idea. Please leave your comments here (24 hours a day!) or on thisisleicestershire when we add this post to that site on Monday.