Friday, March 26, 2010

Deleting comments

The SF K Files has always been a community where readers can post anonymously -- except for a few times I had to turn on the registration button because spam or readers' comments became unmanageable.

Readers seem to like the anonymity because they can freely express themselves.

But this also opens the door to hurtful comments and so I have always invited readers to send in emails requesting to remove comments that are incorrect or that seem like unfair attacks. Typically, I meet those requests--without any investigation.

I don't have the time to investigate the comments that readers ask me to remove and I have always figured that if they're taking the time to ask me to remove the comment then it must mean something to them.

This has never been a problem in the past. But recently, I have been criticized by some readers for deleting comments, and it might seem as if I'm taking sides on an issue, which isn't the case. I'm simply responding to reader requests.

I would love to get some feedback from readers on how to deal with this. In the past the SF K Files community has explored the idea of requiring registration. Would this help solve the problem?


  1. I think you do a great job. I think it is simpler to delete if you get a request. If this gets too time consuming for you I assume you'll end the blog and it's been so helpful for us! I like being able to post anonymously and I think many do.

  2. I agree about anonymity being an option. I also think there ought to be some ground rules for deleting, that commenters can see. I think some people are genuinely surprised that their comments would be deemed inappropriate, and it's best to know going in. I'm not sure everyone would agree as to which posts ought to be "deletable," but it's your blog and you make the rules.

  3. I think you should just ignore it and let people write what they want to write, and let the readers and posters handle their own disputes.
    It would certainly be easier for you. You also have that notice on the page about "does a comment offend you? Email me?", which is just asking for extra work for you.
    I would bet that many comments here offend many people, it is what draws people here somewhat, the candid conversation.
    So, just "let it rip", and we grown-ups can work it out ourselves.

  4. I understand you are busy, Kate, but I'm kind of surprised that you don't even read the posts that people are complaining about. In past threads, I've had a couple of posts that I thought were innocuous that simply disappeared. I always assumed it was my computer acting up -- I guess that means they were removed by you. Anyway, I would politely suggest that you establish some type of baseline for removing comments and post that criteria.

  5. I think being anonymous is a mistake. people can use 'handles' like "Peanut" if they want, but at least there is a link to their comments.

  6. That's absurd. You could have 20 "handles" if you wanted to, whether or not you are called "anonymous" or "Kourtney".

  7. I'm new to this blog, less than 6 months and I'm glad this blog exist. I rarely comment (maybe just a handful) but I read comments on issues that interest me. You are extremely busy so I think since we're all adults around here, I agree with anon 8:48am, don't delete any comments in exchange for not having to register. You shouldn't have to babysit us.

  8. "I understand you are busy, Kate, but I'm kind of surprised that you don't even read the posts that people are complaining about."

    She didn't say she didn't read the comments. She said she didn't "investigate." There's a difference.

    Something that might seem "innocuous" to one person might be hurtful to another person. I'm often surprised how much that people reveal in their "anonymous" comments. "Mrs. Shitstain" over on another thread has revealed the public school to which her child has been assigned, as well as the private schools to which her child has received acceptances. Assuming all the info is correct (a big if), she's actually given away a lot of information. Anyone who goes to her child's preschool could probably figure out her identity, assuming she's shared all the info about acceptances with other parents (something that is very common).

    There were a few comments last year in the private school acceptances thread that seemed downright positive, but that were very revealing. Went something along the lines of, "We know a couple whose child attends X preschool. The husband does Y for a living and went to Z college, and the wife does A for a living and volunteers for B organization, and they got into only one private! It was C school, their 5th choice, so that's where they're going." The comment was meant to reassure people that even families with a lot going for them can get rejections, but a lot of subsequent posters said they were offended and wanted the comment removed b/c they knew exactly who was being talked about, and they didn't want to know that C was the couple's 5th choice.

    Anyhow, this is a long way of saying I think Kate's policy is fine, and I think registering would be a pain.

  9. This forum has been so useful for me this year - we went 0/7 in Round 1. I want to say a big thank you to Kate for setting this up and for all the effort you continue to put in to managing it.

    There have definitely been some comments which I considered highly inappropriate, but you know, I am a big girl and can handle that. The vast majority of comments are relevant to the subject.

    I think that policing the site to a greater extent would require such a lot of extra work for you, but I do think some kind of criteria around what might be considered offensive could be useful.

  10. This is a wonderful service that you have provided.

    Unfortunately, as in all Internet chat rooms, anonymity facilitates rudeness. I think most people understand that and learn to simply ignore the spammers and discourtesy.

    We all know you have a Real Life outside of this forum and do not want to spend too much time policing here. So I think you should persist, business as usual. Delete the really vile stuff and let civilized people ignore the vile comments.

  11. I think this blog has "jumped the shark," and should be shut down. No one comes here anymore for serious discussion.

  12. 10:09 I never read this blog until about 2 weeks ago and I have found it useful, informative, encouraging and interesting (snarky comments and all). If you don't think it is useful you're under no obligation to read it.

  13. When it comes to integrity anonymity is not a good thing. How much weight can you attach to the opinions of people who are not willing to identify themselves? People may gather information through the anonymous commentary they read here, but without any source to attribute the information to, it is a crap shoot at best. Then if you going around repeating what you "learned" here or incorporating it into your decisionmaking, you may find yourself looking for real answers elswehere.

    IMHO, the primary reason people post anonymously is because they feel that their opinions may somehow reflect poorly on their school assignments - certainly a portion feel that way. That is not much of a show of support for the current SFUSD regime. But it is true that exercising your speech rights and speaking your mind as a person attached to a name is not the easiest road to take - hence the attraction to anonymity.

    Careful what you read from anonymous posters.

  14. I find this blog so valuable and really appreciate all that you do, Kate.

    The snark/vitriol in the comments is sometimes awful, however, and it derails discussions. Anonymity enables this. I think it boils down to whether the pluses of anonymity (e.g., candid information about a particular school) outweighs the minuses (incivility, derailing otherwise useful discussions). I am not sure what the right way to go is.

    But, again, thanks for all that you do.

  15. Some anonymous posters just want to try to preserve their own privacy and the privacy of friends and acquaintances, especially when they are sharing anecdotes. This blog is a great service. Kate, do whatever is easiest for you.

  16. It's your blog.
    Keep doing it your way.

  17. Was this brought on because Dorie was upset that her derogatory comments got removed?

  18. "Some anonymous posters just want to try to preserve their own privacy and the privacy of friends and acquaintances"

    Or avoiding certain people going to their place of work and asking to see their supervisor. Which one frequent commenter on this blog has admitted to doing. I'd rather have inappropriate comments than stalking.

  19. Vote for optional anonymous posting.

    Even though the "horrible school" comment from the "turn-around" schools thread was not the best choice of words, I think you should keep things the way they are. We can deal with the offensiveness and have discussion about that, etc.

    I've seen you delete appropriately (like when Sherman mom's address was posted for a short while).

  20. 1:54

    Are you saying that someone on this blog went to another poster's place of employ to confront them and that this person said they did this on this blog? I don't understand what you are saying or what point you are making to warrant using such harsh language such as stalking. This is the kind of inflammatory language that is exactly the problem that is the topic of discussion.

    Using a pen name to avoid some of the confusion that anonymous posts creates would be a happy medium. At least that way your anonymity is preserved if you want that, and you are an entity of some kind that people can respond to.

    Nevertheless, the opportunity for abuse still exists. I don't read most posts or topics for that matter, but I have seen on at least a couple of occasions someone writing in using my name. I'm not the only one with the name Don so I guess that is to be expected. But it creates confusion at the very least and may pose some serious ethical issues.

  21. I agree with others: you are doing a great job and providing a valuable service. Thank you!

    Anonymity can let people be obnoxious, rude, and mean. BUT most people use it as an avenue to be open and truthful, where they might not feel comfortable otherwise.

    Also if I have to remember one more login/password combo, I probably would not bother to post.

  22. 1:54. I agree with you. I did have a stalker because of my opinions. Why can't people just respect the opinions of other and just leave it at that?
    Don: Sorry to hurt your feelings, but if it's stalking, then it's stalking!

  23. You are not hurting my feelings. I'm just trying to figure out what people are talking about. I'm having a hard time envisioning a scenario in which an anonymous person on the blog goes to someone's job, identifies himself and then harrasses that person. I was just curious how such a thing might happen.

  24. In the past when Kate/Amy has required registration, this blog stopped dead in its tracks!

  25. Didn't come from me, 1:37pm.

    I was surprised that my recent comment was deleted, not upset. It's not my blog.

  26. To @6:24

    But why don't the moderators encourage creating an alias or handle?

    That way you could have betters conversations on the site and still be anonymous.

  27. Surfing, it's been suggested. Some do it. Of course, people can have multiple identities. I think the main thing is that the anonymity of this site is part of its success, its DNA, love it or hate it (or both).

  28. I think that your past method is honestly the only workable method. I love this blog and follow it often, and occasionally I contribute.

    But, sometimes, comments come out of the blue. I have dismissed those as simply "crazy-talk" but I can certainly understand someone wanting them removed, especially when they identify a local parent and comment in a derogatory fashion.

    Thanks for maintaining the site. Good luck. I will respect whatever decision you make.

  29. It's all ridiculous, even people with "handles" are anonymous, and people can copy other people's handles, so why don't people just grow up and not obsess over it?

  30. To @1:25pm

    Totally get it. The anonymity promotes a certain kind of comment and dialogue.

    It lowers the hurdle considerably. You can fling off that thought without having to own it. And yeah, that is the DNA of the site and that is what makes it entertaining.

  31. Please don't change a thing. You are the editor of this blog and I think you deserve the right to delete comments which cross the line into slander.

  32. She's not deleting comments that she has decided are slanderous. She claims to be deleting without investigation (frankly I find this assertion hard to believe) comments that another poster complains to her about. As a result, posts are deleted in a haphazard manner and a pattern has emerged wherein public school threads are policed while private school threads are not. Why - because apparently a public school parent or parents are really touchy. Its harming the blog and basically I think the blog's utility for people interested in private schools is pretty close to zero. Its a shame because it wasn't always that way.

  33. @9:06am

    Perhaps the private school parents should report comments so those posts can be policed to the same level as the public school threads.

  34. The difference is that the public school communities are attacked by name--there are many examples of this--Redding is a "shitstain" school, "no one with means would send a child to Aptos," Cobb's kids are like animals, several other schools are named as "horrible" (despite test scores well above Grattan's).

    Going the other way, negative comments about the private schools tend to be critiques of the idea/ideology of private school, the whole gated community thing. Not attacks on specific communities, and not using language like "shitstain." Some may disagree, but these could well be described as valid philosophical or political disagreements. Just like every parochial school thread ends up with at least one comment about the Catholic Church's official anti-gay stance. It's a valid issue around here, even if outweighed by concerns for many families.

    I understand why private school parents get defensive about this, but you know, it kind of goes with the territory. Unless you want to wall yourself off in a private-only setting (and I assume there are password-only lists that do this), you are going to get this. Part of what makes this blog tick is the freewheeling discussion of such issues. It would be very boring as a mere purveyor of information--there would not be so many reading it (or posting).

    I suggest everyone put their armor on. It's just a blog. And a window into what your neighbors really think--not a terrible thing, that--better than denying these divisions exist. The world isn't full of sparkle ponies where we all have equal access to the wonders of Hamlin and Town--and yeah, that does create some resentment. Suck it up.

    I do agree with removal any vile attacks on individual people or school communities, though--whether public or private or parochial. That's where the blog goes over the edge from entertaining (if over the top) to destructive.

  35. 12:55 -- I found Kate's comments and most of these comments to be a bit disingenuous. I understand that Kate can't investigate the complaints, but I am assuming she at least is reading them, or at least that's what one commenter here implied. But I felt at times that she had not even read the comments. For example, a whole set of comments about problems at a particular charter school were shut down by Kate. Comments got deleted, many of which from my perspective were not troublesome. (I didn't write them, but I did read them before Kate blocked the string and took off the comments.) It seemed pretty apparent to me that this was done at the request of certain members of that charter school community who were concerned about a public airing of their school's issues. For me, this was disturbing. We were seriously interested in this school and had put in applications for it. We struggled with the meaning of what happened and then decided that, regardless of whether the problems at the school were real or not, the fact that a group of people connected to the school had apparently insisted on shutting down a discussion of problems at the school made it a place that we would not be comfortable sending our kid to. This is but one example of where it would be helpful for Kate to give guidance. For example, if she said that anything negative about any school would be removed, then that would help readers here understand that fact when assessing the reliability of comments made about particular schools. Kate, does this make sense?

  36. One odd thing that happened was that there was a post about pedagogy and a comment. I was writing a response, when the whole post and its comment disappeared, apparently never to return. What happened there?

    I do think that there should be strict criteria for removing posts or comments, visible to users. Most of us mean no harm, and would be happy to stay within certain guidelines or move to another blog if we disagreed with the criteria.

  37. 8:41:

    I know some of those comments were removed because they mentioned a particular charter school Board member by name and basically would be deemed slander. This goes well beyond criticizing a school or airing it's problems publicly. Board members are parents who are volunteers. No one should have to endure being bashed in a public forum because of the decisions they make on behalf of their child's school--whether you agree with them or not.

  38. 12:11
    you don't know what you are talking about.
    "Slander" is spoken

    "Libel" is written

    and it is only Libel or slander if it is not true.

  39. "and it is only Libel or slander if it is not true"

    Well, If I were a prospective incoming K parent I'd take what I read on this blog with a grain of salt. Unfortunately, once something nasty is written about a specific person, word gets around. People tend to believe what they read. I'm not advocating censorship, just restraint.

  40. 6:03

    One of my posts was yanked, and it was not libelous. It was in response to the ridiculous drivel he wrote which said nothing about anything, it was a badly written bunch of hyperbole. The worst thing I said was a snarky thing about how that schmo was our "communications director".

    The school is fantastic, the board is absolutely horrible right now. And in a free country, we are allowed to criticize people who make bad decisions, even if they are parent volunteers. If people are not thick skinned enough to stand behind their decisions and take criticism for those decisions, they should not be board members. ESPECIALLY when their decisions are directly opposed to the wishes of 140 parents, and 18 of the 24 staff people.

  41. 6:14

    Maybe you should run for the Board and try to change things. Channel that anger and energy into something positive so you can move forward. Anonymously complaining to a bunch of other anonymous parents who don't even know the situation or school seems a bit counterproductive, dontcha think?

  42. PS: Calling someone a schmo 'aint the way grownups behave.

  43. 7:36

    I guess your definition of "grown-ups" is a bunch of bullies banding together in a vendetta to fire a woman with 4 children who was doing a great job and was loved and admired by a majority of the teachers and parents.

    See, I call people schmos, but I don't try to destroy people's lives.

  44. 8:27:

    I'm sorry you feel that way, but I had absolutely nothing to do with it. As I suggested, maybe you should run for the board and try to make some positive changes. Yelling at me might be cathartic, but it won't help change anything.

  45. Yelling at you?

    You really are confused. If you consider my response "yelling", you must really be emotionally fragile.

  46. Anon -- ignore Lisa, it isn't worth bothering, trust me.

  47. SHAME on All of you! Shame, shame, shame.

  48. LOL. Good imitation. You have him down to a tee!
    (inside jokes, people, please forgive us)

  49. Let's get the quotes right.
    What he actually said was:

    "Shame, shame, shame on you! Really: SHAME."

  50. So, to bring the issue back to the forefront, I think Kate has to draw some lines here. The comments above show that (and I guess I missed it), the problem with the charter school discussion was a specific reference to a specific person on the Board of that school along with the use of a derogatory term for that person. So, if that's the line, then that's fine. Yes, one can comment negatively about a particular school, including comments about material facets of the school (the principal, its Board, the PTA, teachers, the student body, the facility). No, one cannot make negative comments that name a particular individual affiliated with that school (with I imagine the exception of the principal since there's usually only one) and especially can't use potty terms when describing that individual. Kate, is that the standard you want to use? I think doing that will help a lot here. I still believe that comments I had made that were deleted in the past did not cross this line, but I'm willing to give Kate the benefit of the doubt on this. But I do need to know the standard. It can't just be something like -- "someone complained about this comment and, rather than reading it, I just delete any ones that someone has complained about." That would just give license to people to circumscribe legitimate, non-specific comments.

  51. Therein lies the problem. What is the defense against a biased Board that has embarked upon a prolonged, deliberate, vindictive character assassination of a school's director?

    If people are mentioning a director by name, why is that OK but it is not OK to mention the Board Members at the school by name? Those jerks have basically dragged a good person through the mud, but when they start to be the focus of attention themselves, they cry "foul"? WTF?

    What happened, how, and why are all subject to perspective and opinion, but that is what blogs are for.

    My objections to deleting posts are when one side gets to express their side, but the other side doesn't.
    We all pretty much know when the line has been crossed.

  52. I think that standard should apply to anyone- whether they are a Board member, a Principal of a school, an individual parent, etc. Character assassination is not OK.

    There's a fine line between saying Mr. X is a "schmuck" vs. saying that some members of The Board behaved irresponsibly and created a community divide.
    I think name calling of individuals crosses the line. Conversely you might say that an administrator has been controversial rather than say you think Ms.Q is a b*tch.

    That's just my opinion.

  53. 11:29 am -- I do think the episode is a good one for Amy to think about -- it clearly points up the need for some type of standard here. We were a family very interested in this charter school and had put in an application. When we saw the blog string about it, we were closely following it. When it all of a sudden was shut down, it really raised a red flag for us. We decided to pull the application -- partly because the dispute sounded worrisome, but more so that there appeared to be folks at the school who were intent on shutting down public discussions. Obviously we were not entirely right -- there apparently was name-calling going on -- but we didn't know that at the time and pulled our application once we saw the string shut down. So, I feel Kate/Amy needs to understand that school-specific information needs to be handled very carefully and with full disclosure. Maybe that's going to mean more work for her, but I don't know how else you are going to do it.

  54. "there appeared to be folks at the school who were intent on shutting down public discussions"

    That's true, but parents are trying to get rid of those board members, and much of the reason is their lack of transparency about what they do.

    As for applying, probably too late now because we only have 5 openings (after siblings) and over 100 applicants, if you are looking for a K spot.

    It's a fantastic school, just a political mess right now. If you just focus on what happens in the classroom, it's magic.

  55. 2:27

    Ugly Political stuff happens at every school and I think ultimately the charter school will come out's just going to be a bit bumpy for a while. If you are still interested, you might put in an application next year when things calm down a bit and we know where we're moving to. Our teachers are excellent and the community (for better or worse) is very committed and passionate.

  56. @4:32 I am pulling my kids out and if in fact things do get better might consider re applying. We are one of those families who sits on the board, fundraises like crazy, gives to annual fund and volunteers in the classrooms. We are also one of those families so appalled at the behavior of this board that we can no longer be part of this community. I post this all here for two reasons one if you are considering this school for your child exercise extreme care and two I know that the same board members who are instigating so much strife have in effect censored comments on this web site pertaining to the charter school. They have also put a gag order on the outgoing director. Like I said appalling.

  57. WHAT?
    A GAG ORDER???

  58. 8:45
    don't leave us, stay and fight.

  59. 8:45
    It takes a lot to pull your kids out of a familiar environment and away from their friends. I'm sorry you feel this way, but unless we get really crappy teachers (hasn't happened so far) or the school moves to Timbuktoo, we're staying and fighting to make the board more accountable and less able to make drastic changes. The community has been great so far and there's an election coming up...
    We all have the power to make OUR school fantastic.
    Please stay!

  60. Ditto, 12:23

    We don't have to be the victims here.
    8 of the 12 Board Members are up for election, and yes, the three remaining are the worst, but it is possible to remove them from the board through a vote of the stakeholders. Stakeholders are the parents and teachers and school staff.

  61. @12:55
    Yeah. There seems to be a general theme to the different type of threads as you’ve outlined – Public, private, parochial.

    It’s good to know that some posts get deleted. I just didn’t know there was a policy or that anyone was actually looking at things. Sometimes the “free-wheeling” conversation becomes so chaotic, it looks as if no one is moderating the site at all.

    My 2 cents – I think a little more info and facts would go a long way for the site. It's the reason most people show up to the site.

  62. "I'm having a hard time envisioning a scenario in which an anonymous person on the blog goes to someone's job, identifies himself and then harrasses that person. I was just curious how such a thing might happen."

    Don, you lack even the slightest ability to self-reflect.

    Can you think of someone you might know who did this?

  63. I don't know what your problem is, but if you are accusing me of something why don't you tell me what it is because I have no idea what you are talking about? Or are you only interested in defamation?

  64. Thank you, Kate! I appreciate your integrity in deleting libelous anonymous posts from crazy, mean-spirited people from your blog. That person's level of negavity is why I don't read your blog because it makes me want to enroll my child in a private school where parents would have more class than to put down their kid's school.

  65. Who is this Don character and why is he on every thread?