Hi Fr. Kendall –
Best wishes for a fruitful Triduum.
I really value your blog and the truth it exposes, and, like another recent e-mailer, I value many, but not all, of the comments. When I see only a few improper comments, I ignore them. When I see too many, I ignore the thread and the other valuable comments that may be in the thread.
I manage a topical list…and I am somewhat familiar with people hijacking threads and not staying on topic, and community emotions running high, and otherwise reasonable people acting out.
Technically, I don’t know what is available to you to help manage things, but here are few suggestions:
1. Forbid anonymous posters
I think one big factor in run-away comments is a lack of perceived accountability on the part of certain commenters. Forbidding anonymity would go a long way toward making people feel more accountable, but I don’t think it would solve the problem completely.
At a minimum, the person should not be anonymous to you. Ideally, I think a poster should not be anonymous to anyone.
2. Take action immediately when someone acts out
This can be difficult when you don’t have someone monitoring the blog at all times. Maybe you need more help. Ideally there is a graduated system of responses: a) moderate the user, b) moderate all comments,
c) ban the user, d) ban all comments (the situation currently in force, at least for Lent). If someone does something bad, they should be moderated immediately. A discussion can follow, but in this case, the community needs some immediate protection.
When you nip things quickly, many otherwise reasonable people who would act out don’t — they simply don’t reach their boiling point.
Some people won’t like this, but I think it will benefit the whole community, and the laissez faire system currently in force does not seem to be working.