Saturday, July 02, 2011

Is it Time for Comment Moderation? Please Vote on Our Sidebar Poll

One complaint about psychiatry is that psychiatrists won't entertain ideas that counter what 'established' psychiatry believes.  We actually don't think that's true--psychiatry has made a lot of changes.  At Shrink Rap, we pride ourselves on taking all comers and letting people rant about whatever they want (no obscenities, please).  For years, we've put up posts and people have come on to tell us about their experiences, both good and bad.  Lately, we've had a lot of contention in our comments, and some repetitive links to sites that counter what we feel is good medicine.  We haven't removed them-- it's not that we oppose the idea that there are people out there who think our treatments aren't helpful, and we certainly believe that they aren't helpful to everyone-- but at times, the comments are incessant, repetitive, angry, mean, it feels like we're being harassed, and that we're being used as a site to place advertisements to other blogs/information which we feel are incorrect, and I worry that these anti-psych messages may insult our readers who a) practice psychiatry, b) feel helped by psychiatry, or c) feel frustrated with psychiatry but have found Shrink Rap to be a somewhere they can respectfully vent.  While I don't want to shut down dialogue, this is a Psychiatry blog, and those who don't like us are welcome to start their own blogs!  Funny, some of our ardent 'haters' (I use that term kind of affectionately) don't have blogs, don't have sites that allow comments, or moderate their comments, all while accusing us of being closed minded.

Should we begin to moderate our comments?  
Oy, one more thing on the "To Do List." 
One more thing for the 'haters' to kvetch at us about.  We would continue to allow opposing views, but we would moderate out obscenities, pure hostility without a clear message, rudeness to us or other commenters, repetition, and comments that are placed merely to direct readers to other websites with the idea that those hold "The Truth" while our views are simply "wrong."

What do you think?  We'd love to hear your comments and please do vote on the sidebar poll, and only vote once.  We'd love to hear your comments even if you think psychiatry might be helpful to some people!

Someone suggested putting pro-psychiatry comments (and a plug for the Shrink Rap book!) on these other websites.  I've surfed over to some of them--- and you know, it is amazing to me how much more vocal people who don't like medications are, it's almost like it's not socially cool to say "meds helped me."

Your comments are welcome, and if you'd like to put Shrink Rap plugs on other sites, go for it!


Sunny CA said...

Unfortunately I think moderation is needed on this board. Following publicity for your book, a contentious group appeared here that has made it unpleasant for me to read through the comments at times. I don't like the direct personal attacks against you and other readers nor the sarcasm. You now have gone out of your way to give "the other side" a forum and even when you did that, there were rude comments. Moderation would keep this a pleasant place to come that adheres to the original goals of the site.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you need any opinions on that question other than your collective own. That said, here is mine. You already have a blog comment policy that you ask people to respect, so you must already moderate comments that don't adhere (they get deleted). Include the specifics of what type of other comments you do not want to have on your blog and then let people know that those comments WILL not appear, as opposed to MAY disappear. That means vetting comments before they go up. More work but perhaps less overall hassle.
I do come come and vent here sometimes, other times to respond with my own experiences or thoughts. The comments section lately has been wildly busy with people coming here with some other agenda than just to read and respond. The whole tone has changed and regular readers,myself included,
seem to be responding with some level of hostility that has not been here before to this degree. A few people have stirred the pot to the point that it's become a war zone. In case anyone take offence, yes I have lived in a war zone, durng a war, and that was a simple metaphor.

Anonymous said...

Sunny Ca was commenting as I typed. Sunny said it best.

Maggie said...

Just asking if you should moderate comments seems pretty broad-- and it's made more convoluted by the fact that when Blogger eats a comment, or the spam filter randomly filters out an on-topic comment, that comment appears first, and then disappears so it's really, really difficult to figure out that it wasn't done on purpose.
It looks like when you actually remove a comment, there's a "this comment has been deleted by the administrator" stuck in there-- you might want to note that your "We enjoy diverse viewpoints" paragraph, because what you definitely DON'T want is more confusion as to whether or not something was offensive and deliberately deleted.
When you first brought up the idea that trolls are annoying and troublesome, there seemed to be multiple people who were concerned that you considered them "haters" even though they were pretty clearly not the people you were talking about. (But that's always much clearer when you're not thinking about it in terms of yourself!)

The continuous antagonistic comments are getting really old.
But you have the same problem every other website has; figuring out how to stop the trolling without limiting the expression and exchange of ideas. And for that matter, the real world has a similar problem.

If you find an actual solution that can balance those things, you could probably completely revolutionize the internet... and then go on to create world peace.
It's certainly a nice daydream.

If you started moderating, where would the line be? How would you moderate out the trolls without moderating out the people with unpleasant concerns?

I agree with Sunny CA that the rudeness is really unpleasant. However, I'd stopped commenting quite a long time ago because I made a few comments that seemed to disapear. It wasn't until the recent unpleasantness that I realized that there was no way you would have deliberately removed those comments.

Marie said...

I voted "yes." I haven't been reading through the comments at all lately because the haters irritate me.

Another option might just be to delete nasty comments. Even if someone is upset or presenting a different opinion, they can be nice about it, IMO.

aek said...

I'm not voting but will chime in as a frequent reader, rare commenter:

It's your blog, and really, you are the ones whose comfort and enjoyment needs to be primarily considered.

One of the bloggers at Firedoglake referred to their blog as their living room and readers/commenters as guests. The caveat was to treat the room and the people in it as you would while an invited guest in anyone's home.

The NYTimes has a robust commenting policy which seems to keep comments on topic, usually insightful and often entertaining. I wonder if an iteration of that might be of interest.

Lastly, when commenters become known for a narrow and rigid POV, I usually tune them out because there isn't much new or enlightening, and they usually can't or don't respond to differing ideas with flexibility. Their angst is quite palpable, and they can't be consoled, so best to not add fuel to their fire.

Whatever you decide will be fine with this reader.

Dinah said...

Maggie & Others:
I believe we've deleted very few (?4) comments, ever, in 5 years. I've never deleted a Maggie comment.
Deleted by the Administrator-- I have deleted a couple of my own comments because I decided they were too snarky, and we've deleted a bunch of comments that were links to advertising sites (Viagra, knockoff bags, no-snore devices) and were clearly not interpersonal interactions.

I did decide to delete anything that was outright rude: the problem is that so many people are a little snarky, but have something to say, so I've left them.

Shrink2B said...

If you moderate your comments that means I can't leave a shameless plug for my own new blog about my journey through Psychiatry residency: (

In all seriousness - I think you have to moderate. I have only been following your blog for a few weeks now, but when I read through comments - there seem to be entire book chapters in there, and they are not relevant to the post. Leave the pros and cons, but get rid of the pointless comments and the belligerent ones.

Discover and Recover said...


RE: Final comment on Shrink Rap

You asked me to stop commenting on your Psychology Today blog today.

So. I'm outta here.

You won't be able to contain your profession's collapse. Others like me will simply keep coming back...

Psychiatry (the psychopharmacolical variety) is dead.

That's what you're seeing on this site...

The death of your profession. It must be very sad for you.


Anonymous said...

I don't know. I wonder if this will fade a little once topics change? Folks seem to be pretty riled up since the involuntary treatment topics, but perhaps that will fade? I hear the dilemma, Dinah - that some posts are a little snarky but have substance as well. I see it on the other side as well, with a couple of your more pro-shrink-rap posters who retell the same personal stories of their hospital experiences over and over again and have no patience for anyone with a different opinion. Where to make the call, just because the opinions are different?

It is your blog and you should be comfortable. That said, it's my hope that some of this will die down on it's own.

Maggie said...

Well if I were in your living room I might ask if anybody wanted to take bets on how long someone who stormed off in a huff of insults would actually stay away..

But I'm not so sure that's appropriate for a blog comment.

Anonymous said...

Ironic that Dinah would delete some of her own comments because they were too snarky.

It's your blog, moderate, don't moderate, I'll keep reading anyway. I enjoy the give and take, but I agree that the repetetive posting and the hostility have gotten out of hand. I don't think I'm a "hater" (gosh I hope I'm not a hater), but if you ever chose to remove one of my comments, I believe I could accept that.

Please just don't over-moderate to the point that the comments become a boring place to hang out.

Jude said...

I never read your comments. I read comments on other blogs. I'm not sure why I don't read yours. My theory is, though, that if you're even thinking about moderating comments, it must be because there's some sort of problem. So that implies that you should.

SteveBMD said...

I have kept all comments on my blog, except those which make personal attacks or contain profanity. (Interestingly, these usually come from investors in pharmaceutical companies whose drugs I've written about.) Personally, I have a lot to learn, and appreciate the different points of view that are shared.

On occasion, I have sent direct emails to those whose comments get contentious or repetitive, and the responses have always been gracious and positive.

Remember: "We find comfort in those who agree with us, growth in those who don't."

jesse said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jesse said...

My concern about the troll-like comments is that they drive thoughtful responses out. Which is what a troll does. Stir people up without any intention of real dialogue. And then, too, while it is clear that numbers of commenters want to hear different views, a few others want only to repeat their own. So these are the two types of comments that hurt the blog: the trolls who stir people up and the dumpers who bury the conversation in repetitive assertions.

Dinah said...

No plans to shut down dialogue or opposing views. It's all about the delivery. My concern has become that allowing the hater comments may actually be shutting down some of the dialogue.

Shameless plugs will be allowed.

What is the NYTimes commenting policy?

You've said Psychiatry is Dead. Many times here and I've seen it on several other blogs. I've seen no evidence of that. I have more people seeking treatment than I can handle, and I get at least 2 calls and several emails a week from job recruiters. The biggest complaint I hear is that the waits are long to get appointments, and it's weeks at the clinic where I work, when they are taking new patients. I've seen no evidence that psychiatry is dying. Certainly you are entitled to your opinions, but once is plenty, and the repetition is tiring. (oh, I've said that before, I'm getting repetitive...forgive me). It seems you're not winning anyone over on Shrink Rap.

Anonymous said...

I made a couple of comments that didn't appear so I stopped commenting figuring you weren't listening to me anyway. And this comment probably won't appear either. I'll be shocked if it does.

Dinah said...

It seems blogger eats comments and we have no control over that. I don't believe you were deleted by us.

Anonymous said...

Wow! How did that happen! I'm shocked!

Discover and Recover said...


You asked me not to make any more comments on your Psychology Today post, and I said I would not.

Now, you addressed me in this post.

I said, I'm leaving.
I'm gone.
And I won't be back.

You get the last word.
I read your comment (on this post).

So. You had the last word, Dinah.


aek said...

Hi Dinah:

NYT commenting FAQ.

"10. Why do you moderate readers' comments?
Back to top

Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we have created a space where readers can exchange intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers and generally cannot alter a comment once it is posted.
11. What kind of comments are you looking for?
Back to top

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments — either by the same reader or different readers.

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence and SHOUTING.
12. Do you edit comments?
Back to top

No. Comments are either approved or rejected. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted on the homepage or on our affiliate blogs. In those cases, we may fix spelling, grammar or punctuation.

Anonymous said...

Blogger ate my first commmnt and I am pretty sure it was in no way rudeor otherwise in violaton.

First Anon after Sunny.

Anonymous said...

if you have only deleted 4 comments, Blogger is an awful platform. At least 4 of mine have disappeared. Maggie says hers have as well. Just saying.

aek said...

Blogger ate my comment about the NYT commenting policy, so I'm putting the link to their FAQ at my name. Hope this one goes through. Thanks, Dinah, for your interest.

Sarebear said...

I don't know what I can say that hasn't already been said. I agree with some, I disagree with some. I think there's some sensible thoughts here.

You could always reconsider dropping the moderation in a few months, or less, depending on how things went. Just throwing that out there, since I haven't seen it.

Not sure I added much to the discussion but thought I'd poke my head up so you didn't think I'd gone anywhere. 8^D

Anonymous said...

It is your blog, your space, your rules. This isnt about fair or speech or diverse opinions. You dont have to make excuses or reasons or justifications for removing what you dont want on your site.

Moderation helps.

Two websites I enjoy reading have pretty good written moderation disclaimers

Whatever (John Scalzi)

Charles Stross

rob lindeman said...

Ditto several of the above: it's your blog. You're going to put this decision to a vote? I hope you will ignore the result and make the decision yourselves (2 out of 3?)

As for opinions and commentere folks don't like to read. There's another option: don't read them!

Wv - cateri. Variant of caterers

Anonymous said...

aek had some good things to say on the subject. The New York Times manages to moderate and still get diverse comments. They also have a
"report as offensive" button, which catches the nasty comments -- usually disguised as wit -- that still get through.

Also aek's Firedoglake analogy about being a guest in someone's living room is a good one -- and I would add that the host has every right to toss out the boorish from his/her home.

So my vote is for some moderation, but it is for the host to decide.


Mindful said...

As a long time reader and occasional commentator, the time has come to moderate. Some people don't respect th rules of engagement, nor your living room for that matter. They are consequently stymying genuine discourse and exchange about psychiatry and will never leave of their accord despite their protestations.

Bring back the Shrink Rap of old!

Dinah said...

aek: So what is really interesting is that your first NYTimes FAQ link came through to my email and I read it (I liked it). For the most part, we read comments on our email, not on the blog. But this is curious because there are times people have come on saying You Deleted Me and I thought, What are you talking about, I read that comment. So I have no clue, it's only been mentioned recently, but it does seem that comments come through on email that get eaten.

Our threshold for deletion/moderation is quiet high. We are fine with diverse views, it's the issue of delivery. I believe I have ever deleted one Duane comment and 2 LOL comments (I don't really understand those), nothing else that isn't clearly spam.

I have an issue with questions we get. If the question is one of trying to understand, that is fine. But there are some perfectly respectful questions that are put up (at least in wording) that are hostile in tone. They aren't rude, but they aren't put up out of curiosity, but to provoke. How do you X? With the sense of "Are you Still beating your grandmother?" The question is meant to evoke an answer so that they can inform me what I'm doing wrong and what I should be saying to my patients. Since I don't answer these questions (this blog is not about my justifying my personal practice of psychiatry to be critiqued by people who've never met me or my patients)...then we get responses of Why Didn't You Answer, See Psychiatrists are Refusing to Engage.... nothing in the wording is rude, but the intent is to provoke in order to move forward a personal agenda, and so these will now be moderated out (or ignored as we've done in the past).

Anonymous said...

There's nothing wrong with comment moderation whatsoever. Do it without guilt! The internet isn't an idyllic haven of perfect democracy - it's a place for people to gather and exchange ideas, and repetitive, unfocused, or hateful comments work against your blog's purpose.

On a side-note: I'll never understand why people take "meds don't work for me" and extrapolate to "meds are terrible and we shouldn't let *anyone* use them." I would be lost without my Lexapro!

ClinkShrink said...

For what it's worth, the Blogger spam filter has been catching a lot of non-spam lately. If your comment doesn't appear right away, please don't repost or we'll have to weed out the duplicate comments in the spam filter. I just freed 7 comments.

Anonymous said...

As the owners of this blog decide for yourselves as blog authors how you want to control the comment section. This has turned into a drama that belongs on a patient blog if anywhere, it's hard to imagine Dinah being a professional ranting with this many posts about it. It makes me wonder howe she is with clients, does she impose her views upon them? does she go home and rant away there too?

It's a complete turn off, and it's taking the credibilty of the blog down a few notches, it gives the profession an image of whining, complaining and wishy-washy thinking.

Make up your minds, implement a comment policy, post it in the fine print somewhere and end this non sense.

Clearly the vote so far appears to be wanting controlled comments displayed only, so get on with it, and get over it, not everyone in this world agrees on subjects, and this is one where it clearly is reflecting the blog, so people who don't believe in what the 3 Shrinks do, may as well take a hike, the welcome mat is rolled up, you've been sent to your room.

That said, pass the bowl of chips, because yes I'd say this in your living room.

Maggie said...

I didn't mean what I said to be accusatory, it was just an observation about what can happen when it's unclear as to whether something was deliberate or a computer error. The comments I mentioned may have been before you guys figured out that there was a temperamental spam filter-- this was awhile ago, I don't even remember what they were now. The first time I figured it must have been a Blogger error, but it happened a couple of times and I'm a bit dense and can never be completely sure that I haven't said something that bothered somebody.
Combine that with the "disappear unnoticed" wording and the fact that it seems that when blogger's spam filter snatches something, the comment appears to be published at first and then disappears, and I just couldn't be certain that my comments hadn't been removed deliberately, and it seemed disrespectful to keep commenting if more than one of my comments had been removed. I thought about sending an e-mail to ask, but sometimes asking if I've offended ends up being considered even more offensive if I should have known.

It wasn't until I saw all the crap that you guys have put up with lately (and some mention that the spam filter was catching random things,) that the possibility that my comments might have been considered offensive became completly absurd.

When you delete cantankerous non-pure-spam comments, could you use the regular delete function rather than the "delete permanently" feature so that it shows when something has been deleted? That would remove that element of doubt.

Google in general and blogger in particular do seem to be having a lot of issues lately.

Dinah, those "respectful in wording, hostile in tone" questions are still trolling. By definition, trolling is never respectful. If it were, it wouldn't be trolling. It seems pretty clear that it's only the trolling comments that are bothering you.

Roy said...

Oh, I see Dinah changed our comment description to "Pretend you're sitting in our living room." I like that. Though I'm afraid it won't change the behavior of those who want to troll, or spray paint graffiti on our virtual walls.

Sunny CA's initial comment and Maggie's thoughtful post from yesterday, as well as the overwhelming (87% now) vote to impose moderation and the many comments (thank you) saying they've been turned off by the trolls, have helped this shrink rapper decide that we should moderate.

I don't know why we've had such a hard time coming to this decision (well, me, I don't know about Dinah & Clink). We've had two other periods where we've had to moderate, both lasting only a month or so. But those times were at least 3 years ago, and we've had such a great, interesting, and diverse series of commenters since then that if feels like a step backwards to me. I guess that's silly to think that.

But when I read how the living room dumpers have smelled up the whole place for everyone, not just us three, that is when I realize that the democratic experiment is over and it's time for a little autocracy.

I agree with Maggie that it's important to know the difference between Blogger ate it and Shrink Rappers canned it. Leaving the "comment removed by Administrator" seems like a good way to do this, though we'd still want to "remove forever" those who should know better or those whose name points to a spammy link.

Dinah said...

Maggie: No worries.

Last anon: You would say this to a stranger in their living room? By the time you're implying that I rant at my patients and impose my views on them, you're walking the border.

Roy: Took the expression from you.

I set comment modertion--the comments and the vote indicate that our concerns that we'd be accused of censuring out those who don't agree with us is far overwhelmed by those who are uncomfortable with the commenters.

No set rules. Opposing views are fine but phrase it as "I believe X and here is why" or "I had this bad experience" and not "Shrinks are all evil." If you want to tell us something, please know we read the comments. If you're not sure your message to save the world has been heard, say it a second time. The same basic message said repeatedly or or out of context, will be deleted. Don't insult us. Don't insult other commenters. Aside from that, you're subject to our whim.

Sideways Shrink said...

I am happy about this decision. To my personal discredit, I have been someone who has fallen into sarcasm when frustrated by one or two of the bloggers who repeatedly post here. The ones that get to me post as if the dialogue is completely abstract. I apologize for this oncd again. In this discussion of whether to moderate the blog or not it has occurred to me that it has reminded me of my undergraduate philosophy training 20 years ago: it was an invaluable thought experiment. However, it smacked of that training in many ways: an endeavor of the privileged with applicability given the changes in culture and religion. Most importantly, since it is more or less been taken as a pointless discussion whether or not we are brains in vats, when people's health is on the line, I think that at the least the interlocutors involved could do is acknowledge that
something, however, imperfect, must be done for those who are suffering. (Dinah, Clink and Roy I promise never to call another blogger a brain in a vat no matter what they say.)

mem said...

I've read this blog for a long time, as in many years. It seems like I might have first begun reading in 03? In that time, I think I have commented once.

You have remained consistently reponsive and accessible on this blog, which gives it a whole different flavor than many blogs of all kinds of healthcare providers.

I would hate to see that changed by your now investing lots of time in moderating comments. I agree with others that this is YOUR blog.
You need to feel free to delete comments. Period. You've shown that you are very open to diverse ponts of view, so, it is clear to me that deletions would never be becasue of opposing views.

It is the no-content, continually hammering the same angry message and attempting to intimidate and provoke, that is the problem. I really think that this is quite clear to everyone.

I think simply ignoring can often work. But, sometimes it doesn't. I am easily able to read over such stuff. But, it does change the atmosphere in the "living room."

You're psychiatrists, but, this blog is a blog, not a session or sessions of psychiatric treatment!

So, my vote is: Don't waste your time and impact your accessibility here by doing a total moderation thing. But DO delete anyone who is getting into the rude, crude and intolerable zone. And don't put alot of thinking into it - just do it!

Wonderful blog.I am an RN who has worked many years in public health psych/community psych and have always found your blog to be very meaningful and also helpful.

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I see that moderation has been enabled, so I'm late to the party. I used to read here years ago, and have just started again. In the interim, I've experienced a voluntary hospitalization and am now on meds long term. I can't even express how much this has changed my life for the better. I've been far too nervous to comment given that my only regret about treatment is that I didn't pursue it sooner.