One approach to moderating comments, by xkcd

Berkeleyside is banning a half dozen commenters in order, we hope, to return to vigorous, civil discussions rather than name calling and attacks.

One of Berkeleyside’s missions, and one of its most interesting components, is the dialogue that takes place in its comments about stories and city issues. Passionate, reasonable responses are fascinating to read, and heighten the sense of Berkeley as an involved and caring community.

In recent months, however, the Berkeleyside editors — and many of our readers — have noticed that comments have disintegrated into a place where everyone complains. There is distrust of everything, from the motives of reporters, city officials, business owners, and ordinary citizens. That’s hard enough to read. What is really unfortunate and not acceptable are the personal attacks and putdowns that are popping up with increasing frequency.

Here are just some of the comments made on our story on the recently passed 2012-2013 city budget (and there are plenty of others that we don’t want to repeat):

Crawl back to your Elmwood Ct million dollar home and contemplate your arrogance.

We are highly disinterested in what you have to say or share(name removed.) You are lucky I am being polite.

keep your characterizations to yourself — you are pathetic

You are nothing but a troll and you deserve nothing.


We have debated whether or not to require real names and verified email addresses for comments. While we would prefer people to be frank about their identities, requiring a real, verified name would, on the experience of many other sites, drastically reduce people’s willingness to comment. So we are going to continue to allow anonymity, but are going to request — no, demand — that people be polite. If you disagree with someone, argue about that person’s position, not their character, education, social status, race, degrees, home address.

If you find that you are one of the people we’ve blocked from comments, feel free to get in touch with us through email. We’re happy to consider reinstatement after a cooling off period. We’re also determined to remain more vigilant with moderating the comments in future.

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Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...