Opinion

After 100,000 comments on Mumbrella, I’d like to know: what do YOU want?

Ralph I'm IdahoSo today, we hit a milestone.

I just approved our 100,000th comment.

It was this one from “Ralph”:   

I’m Idaho!”

(I now slightly regret tweeting that we were a couple of comments away from the milestone, as I asked for it, but it does rather nicely sum up the the sense of humour of Mumbrella’s posters.)

We noticed a few weeks ago that we were about to hit 100,000 comments. Internally, we had something of a debate. Should we launch a new moderation policy? Should we let the moment slip past? As it happens, we updated Mumbrella’s community guidelines a few weeks ago.

Dashboard 100000

The truth is, I often feel conflicted by our comment threads. They show Mumbrella at its best, and at its worst.

At its best, when we get intelligent, reasoned debate and explanation from people who know far more about the topic than us. I believe that a big factor in Mumbrella’s success when we launched into a crowded trade press landscape nearly four years ago was the comment thread. It wasn’t a big part of the plan, but letting people easily comment became a big point of difference.

Even when we switched to pre-moderation a few months later because of legal risk, it remained powerful.

It’s at it worst when people get too angry, too abusive or too stupid. My heart sinks when we get mindless attacks on ads that probably come from rivals. Or mindless, and irrational, praise of average ads probably coming from the agency that created them. Fair to say that advertising work is what tends to bring out the worst behaviour in the comment thread.

An issue we often grapple with is what to moderate. While the vast majority of submissions are approved, there are a large number every day that are not.

We tend to take some flak from both sides. People who feel – sometimes rightly – there are comments published that let us down. Sometimes they  slip through, sometimes it’s a judgement call. It’s not a full defence to simply say: You should see the stuff we don’t publish. But blimey, you should see the stuff we don’t publish.

We try to have a set of rules that the three or four of us who moderate can apply consistently. But of course it doesn’t alway work, and you can – and do – help by pointing out in the thread when we get it wrong.

The problem for us is often one of telling the difference between honestly held opinion and a vendetta. I can think of one agency – and its creative boss – who almost always attracts vitriol, which we don’t publish. I still have no idea whether the attacks come from an individual clever at hiding their IP address, or this person really is widely disliked. I don’t quite dare ask him.

Opinion is also divided about whether we should tighten up our rules of commenting. For instance, should you be forced to put your real name to comments? I fear that would lead to the loss of intelligent commentary, as well as the mindless minority it’s aimed at.

Or should we ask people to register with us, but allow pseudonyms publicly? My resistance there is more around practicalities. On sites wehre I occasionally try to comment I find it a complete pain in the backside because I’ve generally forgotten my password, and can’t be bothered to dig it out, so I end up not commenting.

Or should we continue to simply allow free access and continue to moderate? Or apply more of a value judgement? For instance, not allowing comments unless we think they’re clever enough? That seems a tough judgement call, and one it would be hard to be fair around.

So rather than simply tell you what we’re going to do, I thought I’d ask you, Mumbrella’s reader (and commenter): What do you want?

We’re listening.

Tim Burrowes

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