On Banning and Moderating

It’s been an interesting week. Over on LiveJournal, I’ve been told that my blog is a toxic cesspool because I don’t moderate comments enough. Over on Google+, I’m told that warning someone he was crossing the line and needed to stop is enforcing a space where people “are only allowed to tell me how totally cool” I am, and anyone with a different opinion must remain silent or be banned. (Ironically, he was later banned. Not for disagreeing with me, but for repeatedly ignoring the rules/boundaries I had set.)

Anyone who’s hung around my sites and paid attention ought to recognize that I don’t ban people for disagreeing with me. I appreciate disagreement and debate. I’ve learned a lot from commenters on various sites arguing with me. It’s influenced the stories I’ve published. It’s influenced the way I blog. It’s influenced my opinions and ideas on a number of topics.

I have banned people before. For threats, for ignoring warnings to stop a certain behavior, for disrespecting stated boundaries, for trolling… I’ve also frozen discussion threads before. I usually do this when, in my opinion, the discussion has lost any productive content and become nothing but insults and sniping back and forth.

I don’t like doing it. I try to err on the side of letting people speak their minds. I also try to give warnings before freezing/banning, but that doesn’t always happen.

And sometimes I probably hesitate out of simple fear or exhaustion. Because it doesn’t matter why I ban a user or moderate my space, the reaction is almost always the same. I’m called names, accused of censoring anyone who disagrees with me, attacked in e-mail, and the next day, Google alerts helpfully point me to the banned commenter’s rant about that asshole Jim Hines who pretends to be so fair and reasonable but is really just a stuck-up little dictator.

Who wouldn’t look forward to that?

Every year, my blog reaches a larger audience, and that’s awesome. I’m not close to the popularity of Wheaton or Gaiman, but I’ve gotten big enough that that the blog requires more time and more energy on my part. That piece on Orson Scott Card has been viewed more than 7000 times. (“Baby Got Books” is well past 20,000. Woo hoo!)

The Card piece generated a lot of discussion and a lot of disagreement, some of it rather heated. Every comment of which I’ve read.

A few of those threads came close to the empty exchange of insults I mentioned above, but they never crossed that line for me. Maybe I should have stepped in. Maybe not.

This has been a long week, and I don’t have a lot left. Maybe I let things slide on that post because I didn’t have the energy to deal with the fallout. Maybe I jumped the gun on banning that person on Google+ because I didn’t have the energy to deal with yet another round of back-and-forth about what I wrote vs. what he thought I wrote. I don’t know. I’m not perfect, and I don’t think I’ve ever claimed otherwise.

So here’s the deal. This is my space. This is my online home. I’d appreciate it if y’all didn’t come into my home and crap on the couch. 99.8% of you are beautiful, awesome, passionate, wonderful guests, and I love you. Even when you argue with me. Especially when you argue with me :-)

But a decade ago, that other .2% was out of maybe a hundred or so people. Now it could be 7000 or more. That takes its toll.

I’m listening. I listen to the people who tell me I’m an asshole for the way I write about Topic X. (I also listen to the people who disagree with the way I write about Topic X without calling me an asshole. Thank you.) I listen to the people who tell me I’m a dick for not stepping in and doing more to moderate comments. I listen to the people who thank me for allowing people space for anger and debate. I listen to the people who say they love my blog but can’t read the comments on my rape posts, because I don’t automatically block and ban Men’s Rights Activists. I listen, and I do my best to find a balance that’s right for them, and that’s right for me.

Because ultimately, this is my space, and I’m responsible for what happens here. For the general atmosphere, for the topics that get discussed, and for what is and is not accepted in the comments.

If that’s not enough, nobody’s forcing you to read my posts. Nobody’s forcing you to comment. Everyone’s different, and if this isn’t the blog space for you, then I wish you all the best from the bottom of my heart in finding a space better matched to your needs.