[tor-project] Disabling Comments on Most Blog Postings (was: Re: Have "anything goes" blog post?)

Nick Mathewson nickm at torproject.org
Tue Jun 23 18:50:22 UTC 2020

On Mon, Jun 22, 2020 at 4:46 PM Matthew Finkel <sysrqb at torproject.org> wrote:
> On Wed, Jun 17, 2020 at 10:45:33AM -0700, Philipp Winter wrote:
> > We have many comments on our blog that are unrelated to the respective
> > blog post but still bring up reasonable topics.  To make it easier for
> > our users to be heard, why not have an "anything goes" blog post once a
> > month?  A user suggested this idea over here:
> > <https://blog.torproject.org/comment/288185#comment-288185>
> >
> > The idea is for users to comment on any topic as long as it's not in
> > violation of our blog comment policy (minus the "on topic" requirement):
> > <https://trac.torproject.org/projects/tor/wiki/doc/community/blog-comment-policy>
> > Hopefully, this will give our users an opportunity to talk about
> > problems they have, ask us questions, and request features.
> At Today's Tor Browser meeting we discussed the need for (additional)
> blog comment moderators. The responsibility of approving and responding
> to pending comments generally falls onto whoever writes/publishes a blog
> post, but some groups have a better process for this than others. We can
> think about creating a more formalized process for this, maybe with
> rotating responsibilities, unfortunately we are faced with two (hard)
> facts:
> 1) The number of paid individuals who can spend time on supporting Tor's
> operations/responsibilities/goals is smaller than it was two months ago.
> We should expect some tasks must be reduced/cut, and maybe moderating
> blog comments should be one of them.
> 2) Drupal's blog comment system is terrible for supporting reports from
> people about bugs or feature requests. We get stack traces and console
> messages without context, vague descriptions of crashes and UI bugs, and
> opinions about Tor's politics.
> I know real bugs are reported through blog comments, and anonymous
> comments make Tor Browser (and other Tor projects) better. This is a
> fact, too. However, the overhead required for finding the signal in the
> noise is significant, and this is especially true now with fewer people
> around.
> One proposed solution is we agree that all blog posts are published with
> closed/hidden comments except the once-per-month "open" blog post. This
> requires an agreement because experience showed that closing comments on
> one post but allowing comments on another results in people submitting
> their questions/comments/bug-reports on whatever blog post allows
> comment, regardless of topic.

I'll be thinking aloud here, so please don't take my thoughts as final
or deep. :)

It seems to me that the moderation burden scales about linearly with
the number of comments -- but so does the usefulness of the blog.  If
putting all the comments in one place produces more discussion, it
will make the blog better -- but I'm not sure that doing so will
actually reduce the moderation burden.

I also think we may be conflating the burden of  moderation work with
the burden of communications work.  Moderating can be as simple as
"delete everything that isn't about the topic of the post."  But in
practice, responding to the on-topic stuff as needed can take a much
greater amount of time.

I think that the communications burden might be even higher for an
"open" post -- the more topics are on-topic, the more people
potentially need to answer them.

One thing I do agree with is that the moderation/communication burden
is not spread evenly. For example, because I moderate comments on my
Tor release posts more strictly than the TB people do, they bear a
higher burden than I do, whereas folks who block comments entirely
have no moderation or communications burden at all.  (See my last
email on this topic for more.)

If we still think that open threads might be a good idea (and I do
think they would be, if we plan them well), I think that we might have
a better sense of what we want to do with comments on _other_ threads
after we have open threads working.  Whatever system we come up with
to moderate open threads and respond to users on them might scale just
as easily to the other posts, or it might not. Similarly, the presence
of open threads might mean fewer off-topic comments show up on other

So my suggestion at this point is that we move ahead with trying to
figure out how we would get a monthly "open post" would work, and
seeing what we can do for our next steps after that.

(Also, for reporting issues, I am looking forward to ahf's "gitlab
lobby" feature, to enable people to report issues on the web without
having to get gitlab accounts.
https://gitlab.torproject.org/ahf/lobby is the WIP if I understand

all best wishes,

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