Online commenting on dailybulletin.com

We quietly unveiled a change Thursday afternoon in how people can comment about stories on www.dailybulletin.com. You now have to have a Facebook account. This means most people will be using their real name, rather than spewing racist and scurrilous comments under a pseudonym. Read the FAQ about the change here.

Besides cleaning up what one wag dubbed “the devil’s chalkboard,” this will be good for our online traffic, as the previous commenting system was under the control of an outside vendor and none of the visits counted as page views for us. But clearly not everyone is going to be happy, and not just scurrilous racists. Not everyone is part of Facebook or, even if they are, wants to have to use Facebook to comment.

Meg at M-M-M-My Pomona has already made a strong argument against the system for reasons of open access.

You can send an e-mail to online (at) inlandnewspapers.com to praise or pan the change. Or you can comment here. I’ll leave this post up top of my blog through Monday for visibility.

What do you think of the change?

* Gary Scott’s media blog has also rounded up opinion on the change.

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  • Dean

    Ummm… I like that it will stop the “racist and scurrilous comments” but I am not quite on board for other reasons.

    I was trying to comment on your article about all of the changes in RC, but I am not finding a direct link type button to make said comment.

    Thanks!

    [Yeah, there's no way to comment unless you're a Facebooker. If you are, a link to comment pops up. Every commenting system has its drawbacks. The old one certainly did, with nearly every discussion, no matter how innocuous the topic, devolving into anti-Mexican commentary. Ugh. -- DA]

  • P Olsen

    The “racist and scurrilous comments” were obviously useless but the practical effect of this change has been to eliminate discussion altogether. The RC Council appointment is an obviously controversial issue that had more posts on the old system in the first hour than the new system has collected over several days. Bad move DB.

  • Kristin McConnell

    I’ll add this: what if people don’t use Facebook? Facebook has rampant security concerns, causing me to scale back my usage a great deal. I agree with what P Olsen said. It sounds like they want to eliminate discussion. Frankly, I enjoy corresponding with you here, but I’d never try to do this on the main paper. On Creators.com, people can comment on Annie’s Mailbox, and even while using their own names, they can still be very caustic and nasty. Naming oneself will definitely keep the cowards away, but many people are extremely bold. We’ll see what comes out of it.

  • Charles Bentley

    GREETINGS:
    Below is the message I sent in response to the newspaper’s decision. I thought I would share it with your blog readers, that is if I can post here without the Facebook requirement.

    This has nothing to do with you, David. It is directed at the individuals who came to this poor decision.

    ***

    Why must I have a Facebook account to comment on any article in the Daily Bulletin? Just how much does the newspaper make off such an arrangement?

    Youve made a very bad decision. I have no interest in creating a Facebook account at this time and I believe you are destroying an opportunity for free and open comments by trying to force such a requirement upon your readers. Would you oblige readers to use a kindle to read your paper? Would you insist people only use AT&T to call your office? You are, be pure definition, abridging my freedom of speech by dictating such a response system.

    I am all for civil discourse. But civil and unfettered are two different things. This is just another step in the Daily Bulletins downward spiral to becoming a non-entity in terms of serving as the local communitys source of information and conversation. There can be no meaningful dialogue if to take part requires unnecessary allegiance to an entity bent on destroying an individuals right to privacy (that would be Facebook and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg).

    If, as I suspect, you are making money off this opportunity, then you have sold your ethical soul for a few pieces of silver. If you are doing it simply to create a place for civil yet restricted public discussion, in the end you will wind up with very little discussion and even less of the public. And if you are doing this because you see it as an easy fix to a technical issue, you are obviously lacking in both aptitude and principles.

    [Thanks for weighing in, Charles. -- DA]

  • shirley wofford

    The DB needs to come up with alternatives to post without having to join Facebook. Also, on general forums, it is a safety precaution to use a pseudonym handle. I participate on other news sites in addition to the DB, where the monitors, just like you do here, decide whether to accept or reject a post. When they receive a post that they disallow for inappropriatness or other reason, they indicate so in the space where the comment would have gone.

    Another thing I see here is that one cannot participate in the DB’s opinion survey of the new system without first joining Facebook.

    With the Topix system, one could read the comments, and not necessarilly participate. I do not see that option here, unless one is a Facebook member.

    I did write an e-mail to the DB online address, regarding this issue.

    [A slight correction to your remarks, Shirley: If there are comments on a story, they show up at the end, visible to anyone. You won't even have to click to another page like before. As for moderating the comments, I do that here, as you noted, but nobody was doing so on the newspaper site. If someone brought a particularly awful comment to our attention, we could ask Topix to delete it. But we barely have the staff to put out a newspaper, much less watchdog hundreds of comments spread among dozens of pieces each day. I think the hope is that by eliminating anonymity, the FB system will drastically reduce the insults and thus be somewhat self-policing. -- DA]

  • Ronald Scott

    I’m cool with the change…there are a lot of people who hide behind pseudonyms and spew hateful stuff. My Facebook is set to private anyways.

  • http://www.wckrspgt.com Joel Huschle

    I think the Daily Bulletin made a wise decision. The comments were getting really out of control.

  • Stephen

    But when are we going to get rid of this god-awful CAPTCHA that doesn’t recognize what I put in half the time anyway?

    Isn’t there a better Turing test than a captcha?

  • shirley wofford

    I stand corrected, David. I thought that because I could not see anything, I had to belong to Facebook to view. I now see there is one comment regarding the sacrifices of the Colton P.D. On the old system there would be many more from the cult that hates public employees they have never met.

    I have always enjoyed participating on your blog. I have been doing so without being a Facebook member. Is that going to change on your blog?

    [No. -- DA]

  • Sparky

    Stupid, stupid, stupid. Facebook has already jumped the shark.

  • Will Plunkett

    Ah, an attempt to make people personally responsible for their own actions and words; how quaint. I really only joined FB to view others’ photos that they said they couldn’t forward via email. I have been able to avoid the addiction of frequent checking and re-checking of comments.

    Now I’ll see if my post is accepted…

    attempt #2…

    [Success! -- DA]

  • shirley wofford

    It’s really going to be fun, David. I tried to register with Facebook, and they kept telling me my password was wrong, even though I was using the password I have been using on Topix. I requested a new password as they suggested, and a picture of my friend in WA popped up. She had asked me to join Facebook last year, and I told her I did not plan to join Facebook. After I requested a new password, Facebook notified me at my e-mail address and are calling me “Patricia” (my friend). I know that she would not have used my e-mail address to register herself on purpose, but nonetheless, that is what has happened.

    It’s probably just as well, today, because I was going to criticize David Dreier’s stance on helping the unemployed. This new policy will protect the politicians from a lot of citizen ire.

  • P Olsen

    I’ll be gracious and assume this is another “unintended” consequence of the change. The limited discussion that now occurs effectively ends as soon as the DB removes the original story from the website homepage. Days after the change there is still more discussion about old stories on Topix than on the new stories.

  • shirley wofford

    I spent six months, without luck, begging Topix to ban a particular poster who was using my handle to pose as me. Their “Terms of Use” states that they will not allow one to use another’s name, to pose as the other person. This person’s statements, purported to be me, were stupid and inane, to make me look so. He is mad at me, because I have a public pension that he thinks I do not deserve.

    Every time I would change to a new handle, he would immediately use the new one too. I finally decided I would just have to live with him, and I added a couple words to my original handle and registered it. He, of course, started using that one too, but without the registration ID.

    The new DB policy is going to drive people, like this individual, underground. I think they are more dangerous there, than publicly aired.

    I had never been on a blog thread until I retired, and was completely unaware, until then, of the mean spiritedness that exists in our area. I believe most of it is coming from the unemployed and those with extreme ideologies, who think that only they know what is best for the populace. I would think that, if we ever get on a more stable economic footing, the unemployed who find jobs will change, for the better.

    My friend in WA is as puzzled as I am, as to why my e-mail address is being used on her Facebook account. I am sure that the news has upset and puzzled her. She had just lost her son last spring and had decided to assuage her grief by joining Facebook, so she could post his pictures. I had told her that I would prefer to have another way to communicate, without joining Facebook.

    As things stand now, if I were to go ahead and accept the long password link that Facebook sent to “Patricia” at my e-mail address, every post I would make on the DB would be under her name, not mine. How is that for flushing me out.

    I have an adult child who was shot in an armed robbery at his neighborhood tavern (he was a patron) in WA a few years ago. While we were staying in WA, during his initial hospitalization, three young adults who were sharing a rented home in Tacoma were brutally murdered. The person that murdered them was a friend that they had met on “My Space”. My thought then was that social networking sites can be very dangerous. I think that Facebook had not yet come on the scene, but it is the same as “My Space” in my estimation.

    Which brings me, David, to the subject of the movie, “Social Network”. Have you seen it, and what did you think of it? It was moving so fast, while I was watching it, I really didn’t start thinking about it, until after it concluded. I predict it will be in the Oscar race.

    Regarding your DB column today: The incident in Claremont just further highlights the dangers of alcohol use at parties, especially among strangers. It is another side of human nature that people need to be aware of, and move to protect their personal selves. I was listening one day to KFI radio (those two idiots) when a young man from Orange County attending a party with a friend, at the friend’s request, decided he had nothing in common with the other guests, so he laid down on a couch and fell asleep. During the course of the event, he was taken from the couch by another group and beaten so severly that he may lose an eye.

    Regarding your piece on restaurants where you are considered a regular: I used to be in love with the village of Idyllwild and a hiking trail called “Devil’s Slide”. I made it a point to hike that trail and spend a weekend there every month. I wanted to live there, until my husband finally convinced me that it was not a good idea for two old people. We used to dine at a wonderful restaurant named, “Gastrognome”, and we were there so frequently that the owner was surprised to learn we did not own a place there. He and the wait staff always recognized us and, I am sure, looked on us as regulars. Other things happened in life, and I eventually got over my obsession with Idllywild — but I miss the “Gastrognome” and those people.

    I am having the same feelings now about the people we have lost from “Cafe Montclair”. They worked so hard to make it work — it is almost impossible to compete with the chain restaurants.

    [Thanks as always for the comments, Shirley. No, I haven't seen "Social Network" -- my moviegoing in 2010 has really slipped. As for your friend on Facebook, the simplest thing would be for her to change her log-in to her own e-mail address. She should get someone to help her do that, at a senior center or library if nowhere else. Then you'll be free to join Facebook (if you like) under your own steam. -- DA]

  • shirley wofford

    There is one individual already posting drivel on the other side. His “real name” is Wes Chester.

    Another commenter made me laugh with a statement, in so many words, “The DB is nothing but a liberal newspaper.”

    If I could have replied, I would have said, “How can you consider the DB a liberal newspaper? I don’t think a liberal newspaper would be endorsing Meg Whitman for Governor.”

    [True. -- DA]

  • Judi

    I am wondering what would stop me from creating a fake Facebook account and using a picture of a cat (or some other fake picture)? Since it is a free service, anyone can create an account and use it to comment. It seems like one flawed system swapped for another.

    I must admit, I am not a fan of comments on news articles. I am not sure why a newspaper would want to copy or compete with blogs. While some are entertaining, none are held to journalistic standards and many are filled with gossip and narcissistic ramblings. Why give away the social and political influence of the 4th Estate? Blogs are great, but I don’t think we should blur the lines between a blog and real journalism. It gives them credibility and takes away yours.

    I would suggest a DB community forum. A simple link at the end of each article could state, “Discuss this and other news in the DB Community Forum.” Then readers could create their own threads and comment on others, but it wouldn’t be attached to any one article. Something to think about.

    [Your stance against comments on newspaper sites is intriguing. I guess we're doing it because other newspapers are doing it and we're all trying to appear engaged with the community. I don't think we're obligated to let people comment, especially since so many of them turned out to be morons. Oh, and I'm hoping our new flawed system is less flawed than the old flawed system, but time will tell... DA]