“Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.”
Sometimes things don’t always work the way you plan them to work. Last week, WISHTV.com along with a few other of our sister station rolled out Facebook commenting widgets on our websites. Our goal was to increase the conversation amongst our users by allowing them to do so with just their Facebook account credentials. That part worked. What we didn’t realize is that not everyone self-censors the way myself and others in our industry tend to do. We worked off the assumption that if their name and photo was attached they’d be more careful about what they say.
Then the shooting happened downtown. I was the on-call web editor and can tell you checking comments were last thing from my mind Saturday night. I was more concerned on writing the story and making sure that the facts were as accurate as possible in an ever changing breaking news situation. What I failed to remember is how this story would be viewed by our users and that it was going to illicit some strong opinions. That was until I got the call from my boss early Sunday morning about the inappropriate comments. I saved every one before removing the commenting modules from the shooting related stories.
We learned that Facebook commenting modules do not provide any language filters and that if someone reported a comment, our team was not getting those notifications. It would have been impossible to continuously monitor the comments and weed out every offensive comment. In the process of removing all the comments, we did remove many fair and well-written comments as well. Like the shooting, it took a few bad apples to ruin it for the rest of those who were participating in the conversation.
First thing this morning, our New Media team discussed our options and thoughts about our site comments and which direction we should move in. After that meeting, we decided we would pull the Facebook commenting feature in favor of the comment modules that we were using on our site. That way users can quickly flag content for our team to review and remove if needed. We are keeping the Facebook “like” button so that users can continue to quickly share stories in their Facebook news feeds.
Our new goal will be to work on integrating Facebook’s Open API into our old commenting system, so users have the choice to log in via Facebook or a separate account if they choose. That will still allow us to have moderation controls and filters in place. The one thing we will not do is allow users to post content anonymously. We have on several instances suspended or removed an account if they were repeat offenders.
Thanks to all those who’ve commented on my previous blog and emailed our helpdesk email over the past few days. (I’ve still got a lot of email to answer today.)
Finally, my sincerest apologies to anyone who was offended by any of the user generated content that was posted on our site this weekend. As with most news organizations, we want our users to be able to provide constructive comments on the stories they read, but also have some sense of decorum at the same time.
We know we’re far from perfect, but we do our best everyday to keep our viewers and readers informed and engaged in what’s going on in Central Indiana.