With the rise of forums, blogs, social networks and other mediums
allowing for user generated content, the amount of nastiness out on the web has risen exponentially. Your users and customers can provide great
content, but toxic stuff as well. You'll need to make a decision early on in the piece on how to deal with it as once the floodgates are left opened for too long, they are really hard to close
Then there's the drive by flamings carried out by trolls; who post inflammatory items purely to bait other users into an argument.
Often this is carried out under a very thin veil of "passion" and quasi-intellectual debate, complete with big words that will have you scrabbling for your dictionary. You'd be surprised just how often people who seem to be level-headed will descend into such schoolyard-type brawls.
Imagine a first-time visitor viewing that exchange - what type of impression will it have on that person; not only of the community generally, but the way you approach business?
Freedom of speech and responsibility
There seems to be a great misunderstanding of what freedom of speech really represents and it's one of the first things that offenders will start squawking about if you tried to nudge them into line.
Freedom without responsibility and accountability is just anarchy of the worst kind. True freedom is about accountability. It's up to those who run the communities to enforce these values as
they appear to be severely lacking in people's general education these days.
Democracy vs. benevolent dictatorship
The concept of democracy and non-censorship in a community is noble, but somewhat ill-placed in a world where anonymity provides a suit of armor for the spineless and those who don't understand the accountability attached to freedom.
I suggest running your blogs, forums, reviews section as a benevolent dictatorship. That's benevolent, not malevolent :). In so many forums and communities I come across, there are guidelines stating that aggressive and demeaning comments are not permitted, yet
these guidelines are not enforced.
See this also as an opportunity to educate the offender without belittling him or her. Create some standard text you can send out to these people that explains to them what a constructive and supportive community is.
Invite them to repost their comments in a more civilized manner - that way you're not shutting them out or telling the person that their opinions are unwanted, just the tone needs to be modified. If you feel the person is worth spending the time on, offer them suggestions as to how their comment can be restructured.
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