On Web access, and ‘instant’ posting of comments

[iPhone: how I got this morning’s big story online]

Regarding my plans to get more picky about which comments to publish, a reader says: “Your acting as a gatekeeper doesn’t paint a true picture of what’s on your readers’ minds. You should allow instant posting of comments and reserve the right to remove any post that really is offensive. Besides, right now, your access to the Internet is standing in the way of the free flow of information that has been such a delicious meal over the past several weeks.”

In fact, I tried letting readers post comments themselves more than two months ago, with me weeding out any bad ones after the fact. But within a week, I found several doozies that should never have appeared. I was embarrassed, immediately took them down, and reverted to the system now in place.

As traffic grows, more readers are coming from outside editorial, so aren’t overly familiar with libel law. That’s partly why I’m getting more aggressive about patrolling comments: I don’t want to get sued.

Also, to clarify: I do have Web access on Ibiza, via my iPhone and one of AT&T’s international data plans. It’s pricey, and limited: $60 a month for a data serving equal to about 20% of my average monthly use in the states. Once I get my aircard, I’ll resume my San Francisco routine: Writing and editing posts on my laptop in the morning, then relying on my iPhone the rest of the day for upkeep. The phone pings when I get e-mail, containing the text of a comment just left by a reader. The e-mail includes links so I can publish a comment with just one mouse click; it appears a second or so later on the blog.

Your thoughts, in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, use this link from a non-work computer; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

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7 Responses to “On Web access, and ‘instant’ posting of comments”

  1. adeibiza Says:

    iphoneibiza.com 😉

    there’s loads of places with free wifi – so you dont need at&t

    (sorry if this appears twice)

  2. Anonymous Says:

    I’m not a lawyer, but you cannot be held responsible for comments posted by others.

    You can, however, be held responsible for comments if you are APPROVING them. That’s kind of like PUBLISHING them in a paper. An editor reviews them which opens them up to problems.

    This is the internet. I think you should get out of the print media mindset. Free flowing information is the way of the web and a driving force behind blogs.

    If you could be held liable then Blogger could be held liable. Why don’t they approve all your blog posts?

  3. Jim Hopkins Says:

    @6:59 p.m.: I hear you. But being held liable and getting sued are two different things. Anyone can sue. Defending myself against a lawsuit could ruin me financially — unless you want to guarantee to cover my legal bills. 😉

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Jim,

    I think it’s ironic (and commendable) that you show more responsibility in running this blog than Gannett does in running the online comments sections of their papers.

    Think of us slogging away while your sipping sangria and enjoying the summer.

  5. Jim Hopkins Says:

    @4:23 p.m. and at 8:38 p.m.: Thank you, both!

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Jim,

    You created the site, you maintain it (not an easy thing to do, I know, I maintain a couple myself), you make the rules.

    I’ve found out more about Gannett’s mindset here than in any number of meetings and speeches.

    Only thing I am wondering is if a “date” feature could be added to show when the last comment was posted before one clicks on the “comments” link. It would be easier to navigate if we could see which item had a new comment since our last visit.

    Thanks again.

  7. Jim Hopkins Says:

    @6:03 a.m.: That’s a great idea. I’ll look into that possibility. Unfortunately, I’m limited in how much I can customize this blog, because I use Blogger software. It’s free — but it does have limits.

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