Our comments are back, baby!*

Our hosted comments are back. Did you miss them?

I know some of you did. You told me the hosted comments below each story were the best part of this site, and that you looked forward to reading them every day.

I hear you.

But I also heard from even more readers who said it was about time we shut down the chatter below each post, and were relieved when we paused our user-generated comments on Feb. 1. You said you’d grown tired of the snark and toxins that had infested the site.

And you were right, too.

So why are we bringing the comments back today? Wrong question. It’s not why, but how.

Our writers and moderators agree that intelligent and polite comments have a place on this site, and although we don’t think we’re required to have them, we want to.

But not like they were before. Never again.

So here’s what we’ve done:

New, site-wide comment policy
In early February, we went back to this site’s directors — my inner circle — to review our comment policies. One of the things we discovered was that it lacked consistency, which is to say, you could say something on our forums that you couldn’t in the comments. We decided to rewrite our comment policy to include every aspect of our site, including our forums and moderated social media.

100 percent moderation
Our new hosted comments will be 100 percent moderated — no exceptions. Every comment will be read by a moderator. If it doesn’t make a meaningful contribution to the story, it will not be approved. I’ve given the moderation team a far broader license to moderate, too. They will no longer be responding to requests such as, “Why wasn’t my comment approved?” Also, there may be a delay between the time you post a comment and that comment’s approval. Better get used to it.

Related story:   Now what?

Some stories won’t have comments
Sensitive stories, such as articles that mention politics, people with disabilities, comfort animals and breastfeeding, might have the comments turned off entirely. Again, I’ve asked the moderation team to not answer the question, “Why?” If you have to ask, you’re probably visiting the wrong site.

No more trolls — ever
In early February, a small group of regular commenters threatened to leave this site unless the comments were returned immediately. I don’t respond well to threats, and neither do my team of advocates. We wished these commenters well, and have assumed that they actually did what they said they would do. By the way, I loved the ones who predicted a traffic apocalypse if the comments weren’t switched back on right away. Our traffic is actually up since February. Anyway, we have zero tolerance for entitled trolls who believe they have an unlimited right to free speech on this site. They don’t. They have a right to leave, and I invite them to do so now.

Have you seen our Facebook page? I’m there.
I don’t answer or participate in our hosted comments, for a variety of reasons. That’s not going to change. But I’ve been chatting with you on our Facebook page since our comments paused, and I’ll continue to do that. There’s something about Facebook that’s more conducive to a conversation. If you want to talk to me, that’s where I’ll be.

So there you go — our comments are back effective immediately. As always, there are limits, but with these new policies in place, I believe that you’ll see compelling, insightful and helpful information when you scroll down.

Related story:   This is not a travel blog, it's a ...

And if you don’t, please let me know immediately. Because the next comments “pause” might be permanent.

(*some restrictions apply)

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

  • LDVinVA

    I am glad the comments are back. I missed them!

  • Patrica

    THANK YOU!! I agree, many times the comments were so helpful in making better decisions or avoiding problems. Hurray!

  • MarkKelling

    The comments on the articles have always been the highlight of my visits here. Glad they are back, but I was really more productive at work when they were off. :-)

  • sirwired

    I’m glad they are back. I’ve been itching to post a comment over several stories over the past few weeks, namely on how I’ve noticed a dramatic change for the better in the balance of the articles. When consumers have done something wrong, it’s now usually pointed out in the story and offered as a teaching opportunity, and blame not inflicted on the company anyway. There appears to be more recognition that consumer rights are a balance with the right of companies to (attempt) to earn a profit, enforce contracts, etc. It’s less frequent for the company to be automatically disbelieved when there are conflicting accounts. And when a company is at fault, advocacy efforts are being directed to the appropriate party, instead of the one with the deepest pockets. (e.g. Travel Agents vs. airlines)

    I don’t know if this was a conscious decision, but it’s the impression I’ve been getting.

  • jah6

    Hooray! I’m glad the comments are back, but as somebody else said, I will spend too much time reading them.

  • Mike

    Very happy to see this. I also agree with the 100% moderation. Not that my opinion really matters, but I like it. :)

  • Tigger57

    I missed them! I found myself not reading your columns as diligently as I did before! Thank you!

  • bgh

    I’m glad they are back too. Sometimes, after reading an article, it was refreshing to hear some of the different viewpoints. It was also nice to be able to ask questions about things that perhaps didn’t make sense to you.

  • Alan Gore

    I too am really glad the cooents are back. I tried the Facebook presence, but for the first time in the history of social media, every story fell into the well of silence.

  • JewelEyed

    Having no comments has been downright painful. It’s been hard for me to read the articles because I was so immensely sad not to see the insightful comments a lot of posters make. Obviously, not everyone was a fan and some people just said horrible things that had nothing to do with the subject, but I don’t know I would have become as involved as I am today if there hadn’t been any comments to begin with.

  • AJPeabody

    Excellent! Only one theoretical quibble: As both a lousy typist and a compulsive editor, I often have to edit out errors in my comments immediately after posting. If a comment won’t appear until after moderation, I will lose that ability. Could there be a way to show a comment to the comment’s writer to allow editing and, perhaps, second thoughts, before it is shipped out to a moderator?

  • Mel LeCompte Jr.

    I know this won’t get past the moderators, but I don’t care. Pausing the comments was a slap on the wrist. Telling your readers ‘Better get used to it’ (new rules) is a slap in the face.

    I am a published author (my site pic is from the first book contract), an AP- and Louisiana Press Association-award winning journalist. I am also 47 years old. I do not expect to be talked down to like a petulant child.

    As I’ve said before, I find the amount of ‘snark’ here to be minimal, if not non-existent. Seriously, do you guys even Internet? More trolls than a 1980’s toys store. Your readership is generally informative and relatively classy. They do not deserve this passive-aggressive obstacle course you put them through every few weeks.

    I do avoid snark, and I cannot recall any of my posts ever being pulled of flagged. I act as an adult on here and expect to be respected as one. The insults towards your readership have gone way past the point of no return here.

    Here is where I get off. I’m sure I’ll be replaced in the churn by a new reader or more, but I’ll gladly dive into that pool of former readers, and do a triple-backflip while doing so.

    The first thing I did this morning (as always) was to fire up the ‘net and head straight to elliott.org. I sure in hell didn’t need the talking down to.

  • crash025

    What you should do is outsource your comment section to reddit and have software post the top discussions to this page, linking back to the discussion on the sub. Reddit is more condusive to more indepth and serious discussions rather than disqus.

  • S363

    I too welcome the return of the comments. I really did miss them, as I found them, for the most part, interesting and informative. To those who do not like them I would simply say: Nobody’s forcing you to read them!

  • ctporter

    I had discontinued the newsletter and stopped reading the site each day because without the comments this site was less informative to me, and much less interesting. I learned from the combination of stories and comments. I was glad to see this post in FB, as that is how I learned comments were back. Thank you!

  • Altosk

    Excellent. I missed the conversations on this site and I really don’t like forums (hello, 1999 wants its technology back)

  • Don Shirah

    I’m glad the comments are back. For the most part, I learn more from reading comments from others regarding their experience or solutions to the issue discussed in the story itself. I admit I did like some of the “lite snark” from some of the community members, kind of like a friendly ribbing.

    Here’s to another ten years of comments and education.

  • Carrie
  • James

    I understand the business side of this decision — I used to help run a sports web site, and (as you might imagine with sports rivalries) the trolls and flame wars were numerous. We had a similar moderation scheme (perhaps even more draconian.) But when we joined ad networks, we got a lot of pressure to end moderation and the like and “let the comments flow” to drive traffic to the ads.

    I do not know how much revenue elliott.org passed on by eliminating comments in February (nor is it my business to know) but I applaud Chris for making the sacrifice for the benefit of quality.

  • LonnieC

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    I missed the comments. There is so much knowledge out there, that I found I learned nearly as much from the comments as from the column itself. Many commenters brought insights, or experiences, that no one else could have.

    As for those that attacked others, or had little positive to add, I really believe that most of us can recognize them and simply ignore their venom. There is so much more positive gained from the comments than there is lost by having a few negative comments slip through.

    And for what it’s worth, I also believe that on occasion I have seen comments than may not have been intended to hurt, but were simply poorly written. It’s important that writers review what they’ve said before hitting “Send”. Writing is a skill – it has to be practiced.

    Thanks again – very much.

  • PsyGuy

    I actually have mixed feelings. I found the comments very engaging, and I felt part of the story and issue. I was part of it and not just an observer. That said, I did spend much less time passively reading the articles and then moving on.

  • Jeff W.

    Glad they are back. I too found the comments the best part and were often a valuable addition that offered some additional advice and alternatives to story.

    Without the comments, I wasn’t really visiting the site very much. Looked at the headlines and then mostly moved on.

  • Mel65

    I’m glad they’re back, as well. I often learned a lot about travel from the “experts” and my skin is pretty thick so I never got offended by snarkiness.

  • Tracy Larson

    I’m glad they’re back! I learned a lot from some of the comments in the past.

  • Bill___A

    I found the same thing, there is a marked improvement in the stories, I hope that stays. I have a strong sense of right and wrong, which means I don’t feel comfortable when there was an unjust headline or story. This is a lot bigger issue to me than whether there are comments or not. I do learn a lot from the comments – sometimes a commenter will have some other perspective to add which is informative.

  • PsyGuy

    Really? There are some very unserious reddits.

  • JohntheKiwi

    A local newspaper has comments moderated by the readers, but in an interesting way. A reader writes a comment, then has to review 3 other comments before theirs is submitted for review. After writing a comment, you are presented with someone elses comment, and must rate it based on appropriateness, politeness etc. 3 times. Then, YOUR comment is submitted for the same approvals. Only comments approved by multiple readers are posted. Minimal/no work by staff moderators.

  • JohntheKiwi

    Yes, I also found that strange.

  • joycexyz

    What the trolls who complain about the lack of free speech fail to realize is: 1. Free speech is not free–there are limitations and consequences (I won’t elaborate) and 2. No one is guaranteed a forum,

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