A few very important comments about your comments

Thank you.

I wanted to start by saying that, because the bottom line is, I’m really grateful to you for making this site what it is today.

You — and specifically, your excellent comments — have made this blog a helpful resource for consumers with real problems, a lively forum, and a fascinating read.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services. Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

I feel as if I’ve been entrusted with something valuable and important. Which is why I’m writing this post.

I’ve had a “hands-off” policy on the comments, in part because I believe the Internet is all about free expression, and in part because I don’t have the resources to screen each comment. (More on that in just a moment.)

But during the last few weeks and months, I’ve received numerous emails from concerned readers who say the comments have gone too far.

These readers, some of whom have been commenters for years, are refusing to participate in the discussions because of the negativity and perceived bullying by a small, vocal group of commenters.

I outlined some of these changes as an update to yesterday’s post. But I’m going to repeat them now, in a separate article and in a little more detail.

It’s gone too far

Here’s the thing: This site has an obligation to help consumers, first and foremost. When we veer from that mission, as I believe we have, and the comments devolve into shout-fests and name-calling, then the only ones who benefit are the companies providing terrible customer service.

We can’t let that happen.

We deserve a comments section that is a welcoming, non-toxic environment, where ideas and suggestions can be freely exchanged without fear of ad hominem attacks.

To that end, I’ve made the following changes:

• All comments will require a confirmed email address. I will not allow anyone to anonymously take potshots at my commenters.

• I’ve reverted to the old version of Disqus, which allows for more moderator control. It will also give more people the ability to comment, since the new version of Disqus has some serious compatibility problems. Regressing to the previous version of Disqus eliminates the ability to “upvote” and “downvote” comments people agree or disagree with. I think having your comment voted down can be hurtful and offensive to some commenters.

• All of the comments are now being screened. If your comment doesn’t add to the discussion, or is nothing more than a thinly-veiled personal attack, I will not approve it.

Hit me with your best shot

I’ve also noticed an uptick in comments leveled against me. I don’t mind the criticism, but like many of the other commenters, I object to the way some of them have been framed.

By all means, feel free to point out places where a story can be improved, or where I misjudged a case. But leaving an anonymous zinger that accuses me of being the worst consumer advocate ever is profoundly unhelpful, and I’m inclined to just delete it and invite you to find another consumer advocate to criticize.

In particular, I’ve reached my limit with the complaints about the following topics:

Not knowing as much as a “professional” [insert name]. I’ve openly admitted to not being a lawyer, travel agent or customer service manager. I’m not any of these, nor do I aspire to be one. I’m a consumer advocate. That fact has already been pointed out on this forum, ad nauseum. We should move on.

Not voting in the poll or disagreeing with the poll. My polls are designed to provoke an animated discussion, nothing more. Sometimes they have little or nothing to do with the story. If they’re thought to be unfair every now and then, that’s fine. I’m not trying to get a job with Gallup here. Deal with it.

Hating my headlines. Again, I’ve openly admitted that I love provocative, tabloid-style headlines. If you want the newspaper of record, you are clearly reading the wrong site, and it’s time to move on. I’ve been crafting my sensationalist headers here since 1996, and I’m not about to stop. If you have a problem with it, rest assured, your complaint has been registered.

The initial feedback from readers regarding this new policy is positive, and I’m happy that so many of you agree with me.

But I need your help. I can’t manage all of the comments alone, and I need a few good volunteers who are regular partipants, and who can act as moderators when I’m on assignment.

If you’re interested, please email me directly.

Update: Thanks to everyone who emailed me with offers to help with moderation. I’m putting a few things into place now and getting the moderators up to speed with Disqus. You may see a comment slip through here or there while we get this new system in place. Please be patient with us.

67 thoughts on “A few very important comments about your comments

  1. Good on you. Thanks for keeping up a great blog. It’s a nonstop war with trolls and individuals just out to make themselves better. It’s your blog so it’s your rules. Keep on keepin on.

  2. Haters hate. I’m glad you’re doing something to eliminate the trolls. I don’t always agree with your work, but if I wanted constant agreement then I’d discuss travel with my dog. Keep on writing, Chris!

  3. Glad to see the old disqus back! I usually enjoy reading the comments, oftentimes they are as informative, or more, than the article itself. But agreed – it can be tiring at times to read over and over the same comments about how ‘lately, the consumers just seem greedy’ (personally, I more often think they’re just clueless of the system); and how ‘you should focus your efforts on other things’, and the like.
    Not voting I don’t mind, when it’s followed with a good explanation of why – sometimes the comments, even by those who didn’t vote, help me decide on how I feel about an issue you present. 🙂

  4. Chris, one thing I noticed is that the ability to “dislike” posts in the newer version of DISQUS contributed to negativity.  This version follows my grandmother’s principle of “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” and only lets you to “like” posts. 

  5. You made the right call!  Some have a hard time agreeing to disagree and make it personal.  Chris, keep up the excellent job!

  6. I don’t see how it takes away from anonimity when you have posters with names like “8====D” or even “bruceincharlotte.”  (No offense intended to those folks… just saying that it’s easy to have a very anonymous account and still post.)

  7. Is the cure worse than the disease?
    I’m skeptical how a few good volunteers will judge whether a comment is worth posting or not.
    Isn’t it much simpler to ignore a comment you think is nasty?
    You do have a choice. But at least it is your choice to make and not one that others do for you.
    I believe everything is moderated in (Communist) China.
    Be careful what you wish for.

    1. Hmmm…interesting comment from the person who seems to attack Chris the most in here.  I guess it kinda sucks having your attacks be muzzled, huh?

      As for the Communist China comment…perhaps it would be helpful to point out that this is a privately-owned blog, not a public service provided by the government.  Christopher has every right to include only the content he wants on his page…and that includes filtering out comments that add no value.  His blog has a very specific purpose:  helping travelers.  Sniping, insulting, nasty comments certainly do nothing to further that goal, do they?  So why SHOULDN’T he filter them out?  It’s his page!

      You may wish to re-read the part where he invites you to find another consumer advocate to criticize, if you don’t like what he’s doing here.

      I stand behind Chris’s decision here 100%, and vow to do my own personal best to keep my own comments more on-point.

      1. Honestly, I’m surprised your post made it past the gatekeepers. Seems like it’s awfully close to being a personal attack on TonyA_  I’ve never seen him outright “attack” anyone, Chris included. He sometimes constructively criticizes, no doubt about that, but that’s not what these changes are all about as is made clear in Chris’ explanation.

        1. Joe, in a previous thread, Tony_A did attack me.  And the funny thing is, it was over who contributes what to this site!

        2. I felt attacked by Tony on this site too. I thought this was a “nice” site until I participated and commented and was barraged. I am thrilled that Chris is taking control. And I hope he controls Tony…if Tony should become become aggressive …in the future….again. 

        3. I see nothing whatsoever in my comment that is even remotely attacking on TonyA. In fact, I would like you to tell me exactly HOW I attacked him?! Where’s the attack? What specific words? Did I call him a name? Did I insult him in any way? Did I say anything about his person at all? Can you point to a single thing I said that was personally attacking him?

          Stating that HE has attacked others is not attacking HIM. It’s stating a fact. And it IS a fact. I could point out several of his comments in just the last few articles that were unnecessarily harsh towards Christopher. And I personally would not characterize those comments as constructive.

          So I ask again…where’s the attack?

          1. Check out the first paragraph of what you wrote and tell me if you’d like that directed at you. It’s impolite, accusatory, and baiting for a fight. 
            You accuse him of frequently attacking Chris.  Our opinions obviously differ on whether that’s the case.  But Chris gets to make the call on that. You say you can show me right now these “attacking” posts. If that’s the case, then it’s obvious Chris doesn’t think they crossed the line.  End of story. Accusing people of breaking the rules when it’s obvious Chris disagrees with you is not positive or constructive behavior. Let Chris fight his own battles and police his own site.

          2. Well, Joe, it’s not the “end of story” because I still have something to say on it. 😉

            Just because I wouldn’t “like” some words directed at me doesn’t mean they are “attacking”. Perhaps I don’t like being faced with the truth. Perhaps I disagree. There are all kinds of reasons I might not like what someone says…but that doesn’t make those words an “attack”…especially if there are no words in the statement that are attacking anyone (as was the case here).

            I do not feel my words were impolite. They were, in fact, stated quite politely: I referred to his comments as “interesting”, coming from someone who has posted so many direct attacks on Christopher. It’s unfortunate if he didn’t “like” that I said that, but that doesn’t make it an attack. And it doesn’t make what I said untrue, either.

            I called him no names, I did not attack his person. It was most definitely NOT an ad-hominem attack, which is the type of comment Christopher specifically stated he is attempting to curtail. In fact it was the exact opposite – addressing the behavior, not the person.

            You may find it beneficial to read up on the definition of the term “ad-hominem attack”:

            “An ad hominem (Latin for “to the man”), short for argumentum ad hominem, is an attempt to negate the truth of a claim by pointing out a negative characteristic or unrelated belief of the person supporting it.”

            Now go back and read my comment, and show me where I pointed out a single negative characteristic of TonyA. Did I call him a jerk? Did I say he was an a-hole? Did I say anything about him as a person at all? No. I simply pointed out that he has posted quite a few attacks on Christopher – and he has. And, as you can see by other comments in here, I’m not the only one who thinks this. Again, go back and read his recent posts (before moderation began). This is an indisputable fact.

            Yes, Chris gets to make the call. However, note that he WASN’T moderating this site when TonyA was posting the attacks on Christopher to which I referred. So I’m sorry, your logic there has failed. I do not see any evidence whatsoever that Chris disagrees with me. In fact, if anything, I see the fact that he began moderating this blog as evidence that he DOES agree!

            I am not fighting anyone’s battles. Nor am I policing his site – I don’t have time to volunteer to moderate (although I do hope he is able to find people who can). I most certainly was not attempting to engage anyone in an argument. I was simply pointing out an interesting irony. The only person who’s arguing here is you, as you continue to attempt to characterize my post as something that is, plain and simple, is NOT. I am simply defending myself from someone who says I did something that I didn’t do…which I believe I am entitled to do. If someone publicly stated you did something unsavory, wouldn’t you stand up and say “um…no I didn’t!”? Of course you would.

            But feel free to continue – I enjoy a good, rousing discussion! Especially when I have logic on my side. 🙂

      1. Nah. Your brand of snark is honest, you don’t pull any punches, and not usually a personal attack. It wouldn’t be any fun without Raven.

  8. I’m with you, Chris. I’m a travel agent and though there are times I don’t agree with you, I have NO desire to go off on a tangent and attack you personally. I have NO desire to argue with trolls either (and boy do you have MANY of them frequenting your blog). By the way, if I can’t give an answer to a poll I simply do not answer it. It is of no consequence to me if I do or not, and I’m not going to lose my home if I don’t. I love what it is you do and I’ve learned a lot from you. So, THANK YOU.  Keep up the good work!  I may not post often, but when I do you’ll usually find me saying, “I love me some Christopher Elliott.”   Blessings to you!

    1. My sentiments exactly Cherity.    Also a travel agent (30+ years) but I have learned a lot from Chris and this site.   Many times I merely read the comments and don’t post.   Sometimes because what I have to say has already been written and sometimes because the comments are so vicious I don’t want to participate.
      I appreciate the job you do and the changes will only make it more enjoyable.

  9. Thanks for taking note of all those things, Chris.  I actually stopped commenting a while back because of some of the points you made above. 
    A few of the regular posters here had become very rude towards other posters as well as toward the people that you are writing about. It made your blog take on a whole different – and not nice – feel to it.  I still read your blog every day but I didn’t want to be part of the feeding frenzy in the comments section where everyone attacks the person who is the subject of the story – or each other.   And I’m not talking about the trolls or anonymous guests who jump in to stay something irritating – I’m talking about the people who comment all the time and seem to feel that they have an ownership in your blog because they are always here and therefore that they are entitled to spew venom.  It doesn’t correspond to the kind-hearted consumer advocate approach that YOU take with your blogs.

    1. Agreed, KaraJones.  My first comment here was on a TSA patdown-related post a while back, and while I’m obviously biased, I felt I’d made a thoughtful, respectful, and non-confrontational comment. Some of the long-time regulars really jumped down my throat and were incredibly unpleasant to everyone who didn’t share their views. I tried once again to explain my position but was met by a lot of mocking.

      I went back to lurking, ventured out to make a mild comment, and was again treated like dirt by the same regulars.  I don’t care how knowledgeable or insightful they may be, their message is eclipsed by their delivery. We don’t need to be BFFs here, but we do owe each other a modicum of respect.  

  10. Thank you, Chris.  For the record, I’m one of those who have complained directly to Mr. Elliott about the spoofing of others’ online handles and the occasional over-the-top piece of vitriol masquerading as a discussion point. 

    I found the “Dislike” button to be used too often and in a punishing manner (but had kept quiet about it, thinking I was being overly sensitive).  For example, Carver comes across as one of the nicest people on here and people were voting him down just for expressing an opinion.  Any opinion. Evidently someone had taken a dislike to him and decided to vote thumbs down on every thing he said on any subject.  Although I’m sure he’s a big boy and doesn’t go home at night crying over such votes, I found the practice despicable and cowardly.

    I’d love to volunteer to moderate, BUT I tend to be more on the “manners police” side.  Calling someone an “idiot” would get you kicked out of my metaphorical pool.  Although I confess, I love reading Raven’s comments, since even we Manners Police have unmannerly thoughts.  🙂   However, there’s a fine line between snarkiness and nastiness and I’ve seen far too many recent examples of the latter.  Bravo for putting a stop to it, Chris.

    I went back and read the update to yesterday’s confirmation discussion and thought it said that a little more leeway might be allowed as time goes on.  The vast majority of people on here are intelligent, caring people and I’m sure that we’ll earn that leeway shortly.

    Off the soapbox now, back to work . . .

    1. The difference between snark and mean is that snark isn’t intended to be malicious, just blunt. That’s what I am for; I’m certainly not here to chew people out, although there are a few times I’ve had to whip out the “Cupcake” title for some really special people. ~__~

      Don’t ban me, bro! 😀

      1. After I posted, I thought I should have said that the slide from snarkiness to nastiness wasn’t something I was seeing from you, Raven.  I do appreciate the #snerk hashtags, since it’s really hard to discern intent when reading something, rather than hearing it.

        And I *do* love the “Cupcake” titles.  They’re generally a lot nicer than anything I’d say or think in private.  There’s a reason I chose the picture that I did that accompanies my posts: I’m holding a 6′ long timber rattlesnake in it.  Speak softly and carry a big, venomous snake, that’s my motto.


    2.  To me, the line between snarkiness and nastiness is the same line between what you would say to someone if you faced them in real life or what you would say to them behind the anonymity of the internet. If I am willing to call someone a dumbass to their face, I am also willing to take the chance they are going to punch me in the face. If I call them that on the internet, the worst thing that will happen is they call me a name back. (and it isn’t going to hurt me personally)

      I also tend to try to look for the best in people rather than the worst. (Glass is half full syndrome, damn my Libra tendencies). But I am not afraid to be blunt either.

      Personally I like the rules change. And I love getting rid of the upvote/downvote thing. Because some people are petty and will down vote other people simply because they don’t like them. And will sit there and down vote them to death. I mean really? What are we, in second grade?

  11. Lately I have not been keeping up with your polls, as it seems (for whatever reason) the intelligent, thought-provoking discussion is overshadowed by negative attacks and name-calling that detract from the story. It also seems that, while there are many travel-professionals who frequent your polls, it is difficult for some to sympathize with a less-than-professional traveler. I love your columns and the feedback they create, and am sorry to see personal attacks, whether they are on you or people who come to you for help. Thank you for all you do, and don’t ever stop!

  12. I’d like to add my thanks for the changes Chris!  I was noticing the nastier than usual comments lately and am glad you’ve spoken up about them.  Also I was one of those with compability issues and unable to post with the newer Disqus, so I’m definitely glad to see the older version back!

  13. I’m one of the long-time frequent commenters who have bailed as of late due to the negative nature of the comments.  While I admit that some of my own comments have involved snark on occasion, they were usually in response to someone who attacked ME.  And besides, I see nothing wrong with a little snark, as long as they aren’t personally insulting…which was happening way too often in here.

    I also got sick and tired of all the comments attacking YOU.  Good on you for calling them out!  You provide an amazing service to the traveling community, and all of the attacks on you were just mean and unnecessary.

    Glad to see that you are making an effort to clean things up and keep people in line.  Maybe I’ll come back now.

  14. I guess I’m in the minority, but I hate to see the new version of Disqus go away. I enjoyed having the ability to vote Like or Unlike on the comments of my fellow posters. Were anyone’s feelings really so terribly hurt by a few “Unlikes”? You wouldn’t limit us to voting only one way on the poll. Why do it as regards reader comments? I used to really enjoy reading through the comments and voting thumbs-up (usually) or thumbs-down (occasionally). Please don’t take that away from us.  

    1. I agree that people having their feelings hurt by down votes isn’t really a reason to do away with that feature. This is the internet, people need a thicker skin if they can’t handle silent disagreement like down votes.

  15. I am glad to see the old disqus back.  That last version didn’t work with search in Chrome or other browsers.  Made it real hard to find certain comments when the discussion gets real long.

    1.  Agreed-I have an older version of IE at work (that they won’t allow us to upgrade. And we can’t install Fire Fox-my browser of choice) so I could never comment at work. And trying to even follow the threads of comments was difficult.

  16. I’m a newer commenter, but I’ve read this site for a very long time and I have to agree that up until Chris decided to take these actions, it was becoming a very uncomfortable place with people making posts that seemed to be going out of their way to troll and flame.  Disagreeing with each other is one thing, but name-calling, bullying, and excessive sarcasm really sink the level of commentary to where it’s not only hurtful but useless.  We can agree to disagree politely and civilly-when we do, it makes for good debate.  Hostility does not.

  17. I am thrilled. I stopped posting because I felt shouted down by your regular commentors. Glad to see you tackle the problem. Good move. 

  18. Thank you! I’ve been lurking more, commenting less. I’m personally glad to see this change happening. If you need more moderators, I’m happy to help.

    You provide an invaluable service. I’ve noticed a LOT more criticism of you personally and while there might be one or two valid points raised, I think far too many of the points were nothing more than personal attacks. You’ve always handled constructive criticism well, but the level of vitriol I’ve seen lately has been over the top.

    And as for your writing style? You write as well as well as (and often, better than) many other “professional” journalists I’ve seen – and this comes from someone who works with these people on a daily basis. Don’t change the sensational headlines – it’s one of the things I love about this site. It’s a blog. You’re allowed a little leeway. If readers don’t like the headlines, let ’em go read the WSJ, WaPo, the Grey Lady, or some other rarefied grand publication.

    Thanks for what you do and for sharing it with us. Damn the critics and full speed ahead, I say.

  19. Why don’t you just put in a disclaimer that an “unworthy” comment has been removed.  It’s always about the majority having to change for just a few.  
    Blatant, obvious offensive attack type posts should be discouraged but should we now have to worry about putting in any type of negative criticism that goes against the politically correct hysteria ?   I’ll keep posting until I have to take out my politically correct straight jacket.

  20. Good discussion, like good debate, needs guidelines. Once someone reverts to namecalling, or personal attack, they’ve lost their argument and their points are pretty useless. I’m glad to see these guidelines are going to be maintained. Thank you, Chris for all you do.

  21. Read always, comment rarely.  Love the site.  Love knowing an advocate is there for us.  All of us – not just regular travelers.  Not all of us know ALL the “tricks of the trade” and it is great Chris (and all the people who comment) is there to point them out & help us if we get it wrong.

  22. I think you do a great job and use a lot of common sense. I guess I don’t read all the comments either since I was not aware of inappropriate ones.
    I have had people disagree with my comments, but I did not go into combat over tit.  I think comments are a persons opinion and we should all benefit from that even if some do not agree with our own.
    I learn a great deal from this site and hope to continue. I think it is an award winning site.

  23. Arrghh! I just started with the “new” disqus, and know very little about it, so now you are switching back to an older version! I didn’t even know it existed, either way. Can you feel my head spinning?
    Otherwise, I love your columns! Keep on trucking’ as they used to say in the ’70’s.

  24. This is the first place I go in the monring when I open my email.  As you know Chris I have a quote from you tagged to my email signature.  As long as you stay away from politics, we’re getting that down our throats day in, day out right now, I’ll keep coming back.   And yes, lets keep it civil people.

  25. Chris, this column is yours. If you are biased in any way, good or bad, that is your prerogative. You have established your “righteous” opinions, and credibility, and I, for one, respect that.
    Your idea to ask for help (from those who have commented here the most) 
    to ‘filter’ comments is dubious.
    That’s like being on jury duty where a unanimous decision must be made, and there is one juror who is a hold out and feels ‘that power.’ That’s the danger here. “Too many cooks spoil the broth.”
    For those of us who are constant readers and appreciate this blog, will very well be able to “separate the wheat from the chaff.”
    If we read a comment that is off course, that gives us the chance to think more deeply of what is right or wrong about that listed problem.
    You are peeved about your lack of time to monitor the comments. Your
    private life is primary and where your obligations and responsibilites belong first. 
    Don’t sweat the perceived problems.  We who read and write here are smarter and more perceptive than those who just want to provoke.

    Keep up the GOOD work!!!!

  26. Chris, this column is yours. If you are biased in any way, good or bad, that is your prerogative. You have established your “righteous” opinions, and credibility, and I, for one, respect that.
    Your idea to ask for help (from those who have commented here the most) 
    to ‘filter’ commnets is dubious.
    That’s like being on jury duty where a unanimous decision must be made, and there is one juror who is a hold out and feels ‘that power.’ That’s the danger here. “Too many cooks spoil the broth.”
    For those of us who are constant readers and appreciate this blog, will very well be able to “separate the wheat from the chaff.”
    If we read a comment that is off course, that gives us the chance to think more deeply of what is right or wrong about that listed problem.
    You are peeved about your lack of time to monitor the comments. Your
    private life is primary and where your obligations and responsibilites belong first. 
    Don’t sweat the perceived problems.  We who read and write here are smarter and more perceptive than those who just want to provoke.

    Keep up the GOOD work!!!!

  27. Oh for the good ‘ol days when this blog used a standard unverified name/email address. Somehow it didn’t become the Wild West.

  28. I have been a “poster” since your first began your column.  I was afraid I would not be able to post when it asked who I am.  But, all was well.
    Keep up the GREAT WORK, Chris!!!!!  We need you.

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