Charles Stross, apparently seeing a recent uptick in general obnoxiousness in his comments thread, has sensibly posted a moderation policy for his blog. Good for him: I approve of it as a general concept and in its specifics. It’s a bit more detailed than my current moderation policy here, but in both cases it boils down to: “Don’t be a dick, or I’ll cut out your (virtual) tongue.”
This is my policy because I don’t have either the time or the patience do gently encourage a keyboard-mashing spazmoid to act like a reasonable human; Charlie, aside from (I assume) this reason, has the extra added misfortune of living and having his blog server in a country without an explicit constitutional right to free speech, not to mention a country where the libel and slander laws are not nearly as hard to activate as they are here in the US. It behooves Charlie to ride herd simply to protect his own backside.
This moderation policy works here; I suspect it’ll work reasonably well with Charlie as well. In both our cases, our commenter base (which has some overlap) is generally comprised of grownups who value actual conversation, and the few folks who can’t or won’t play nice with others are generally easy to rope out. And once people see you’re willing to hook out the obnoxious, the commenting community generally becomes better — not because they’re wary of being yanked themselves (or not just because), but because now they know they’re in a place where signal is valued over noise.
This is why I think a) it’s important to have a moderation policy somewhere on a blog, and b) it’s important to actually enforce it. Also, having high-profile folks like Charlie openly present and implement a moderation policy is encouraging to the folks down the long tail, as it were, who may still be under the impression that they need to tolerate dickheads in their comments because not tolerating them is censorship or them being oversensitive or whatever. It’s certainly possible to overmoderate (you can always tell who is insecure this way), but in the grand scheme of things, the Internet’s comment threads hardly suffer from suffocating blankets of overmoderation, now does it. Anyway, it’s easier to recover from moderating too much than not moderating enough.
I doubt Charlie will overmoderate in any event; I suspect he’ll thread that needle just fine. His blog, already excellent, will be that much better for it.