This will only be the second time in the almost five years I've been blogging that I have pre-moderated comments on this blog. The last time ran from 26th to 30th September 2005 (I'll let you google for yourself what might possibly have been going on then). It is not a decision that I am taking lightly but in light of Jeff's situation over the weekend I feel that in the next day it will be wisest choice for me at least in the short term.
I fully believe in free speech and will probably continue to allow most comments through the filter. However, I do realise that over the next couple of months I will not be online as much as I would like to be to keep an eye on what is being posted and may not be an situation to allow comments as quickly as some of my readers may hope.
As I said the recent events that overtook Jeff while he was enjoying the Spanish Sun (lucky sod) are just the latest reason why I am considering this action. Jeff is one of the most gracious and understanding of the Nat bloggers out there. He is most certainly not someone for whom the derogatory Cyber-Nat moniker should ever be applied. He engages with the opposition and is willing to let any PPC have a guest post on his blog (sadly no non-SNP PPC has 'yet' taken up his offer). He like me has always, until recently, allowed a free flowing comments policy. Indeed it was no surprise to read the comments of support for him from across the political divide in the bogosphere. It was though to see a journalist apparently refuse to accept his apology in the full sense in which it was offered.
Unlike the Main Stream Media bloggers tend to be a solitary experience. As someone who used to help moderate part of the BBC website I know that the press has teams of people looking out for comments that may offend, some ISPs are flagged up as potentially hazardous, some just turn up and get flagged by other readers. When you write an article for a paper or for the BBC you really do put it to bed. It goes online and you do not have to keep up to date with the comments that are going on under it in its online state.
When you are a blogger however, you want to interact with those that take an interest. That isn't always instantaneous in our online world. You have to do things, like work, sleep or even just turn off your computer and do something else instead.
So while a media outlet can take instantaneous action against a derogatory comment a blogger may not be able to do so. However, if it is pointed out to them that something has happened and they take the quickest action that they can an apologise for doing so that should be accepted. It is after all only good netiquette. There are times that maybe a blogger should be proactive and realise that they are not going to be available to check several times a day what is going on and set up pre-moderation, but that can sometimes ruin the blog for their loyal readers. Also to be honest I had to call work from Bournemouth last September and get somebody to turn on my out of office on my work email. We forget things sometimes.
But before the media jump down the blogger's throats let them not forget that they have occasion scoured the blogs and from my personal experience:
- Quoted half a sentence out of context (a post about Charles Kennedy during the Dunfermline and West Fife by election)
- Stolen an idea for a diary section (Angela Constance letter on behalf of Jim Devine sending up Nicola Sturgeon's letter)
- Taken only the end of an interview (my Tavish Scott piece from conference again out of the context it was meant)
Yesterday I happened to log on the the BBC just as the news of Ashok Kumar's death hit the breaking news, in the end I had a tribute up and online before the BBC or the Guardian. It's not a competition I doubt the several hundred hits I got in the first couple of hours of that news breaking are anything like the traffic they and other mainstream sites got. Although I did have over 10 hits from the Houses of Parliament before there was any other source except the local paper carrying the news.
That was pure fate, as sometimes unfortunately is what somebody decides to post in your comments section. Sometimes it is off topic, sometimes it is defamatory and sometimes it all happens when you are enjoying some off line time. That is the risk that sometimes us bloggers who wish to defend free speech take. It is one I'm not likely to be taken at least until May 7th.
I apologise in advance for the inconvenience.