Facebook group founded to end trolls on Dayton Daily News site

The Dayton Daily News website is one of the places prospective new residents or businesses might go to “feel the pulse” of the city. After a quick tour around their miserable excuse of a website, many may decide we’re a bunch of morons and look elsewhere.

That’s right- all the work of so many to build this city up, gets washed away by the “institution” that pretends to be a good corporate citizen looking out for “our best interests.” That’s why they screen and endorse political candidates for us, and provide the investigative powers of the fourth estate for us- right? Wrong.

The site allows people to post at will- without verification or any taking of responsibility- anything about anybody. Pretend to be me, or a good friend of mine- and say horrible things- and be seen by the entire world. It’s gotten so bad, that a bunch of citizens have started a facebook group to end anonymous postings on the DDN site. I have my share of trolls here- but, at least I try to keep them to stay under the same name- and prevent them from calling anyone but me an idiot- unless it’s done with intelligence, style and substance.

The Dayton Daily also makes their site almost useless for intelligent discussion- with the standard posts requiring less than 500 characters (apparently they lost the message that disk space is cheap) and without easy hyperlinking to support and substantiate claims. They also don’t build in simple subscribe tools like what this site has- to continue to deliver you e-mail messages to a post you’ve commented on. Why? I don’t know- it helps build site traffic- which is what they want.

They do have two different comment forums- one on stories- which is all but useless as described above- and the second which is their “blog” posts- which doesn’t have a limit on characters- but instantly breaks when you post a link (which is a good way to stop the discussion when you don’t like where the trolls are taking it). However- neither requires any kind of login and commenter rating system- like disqus or other standard forum practices. If you need to see how a model of comment rating works- look over to Bill Pote’s forums on DaytonMostMetro.com/forum

There also is quite a bit of frustration with the papers seemingly arbitrary ways in deciding if a news article is open to comments or not. You can’t have a open, transparent style forum- if some stories can be commented on- and others not.

On the bright side of things- the DDN did just overhaul their mobile interface to a much better- although still limited functionality (comments still can’t be viewed) and they did add a report comment function a while back that seems to be moderated by the author (Mark Fisher responds quickly to crap on his food blog postings- others don’t).

This Facebook group is a step in the right direction- the next step would be to organize a boycott by advertisers until the DDN takes action. Their allowance of crap on their site is hurting all of us. It’s time they felt some pain back.

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15 Responses

  1. Seth December 7, 2009 / 10:57 pm
    Step in the right direction. The natives are restless!

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  2. Will Brooks December 8, 2009 / 12:03 am
    DDN comments section is horrible. I joined that group last week I think. Wonder if it’s do any good?

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  3. Matt December 8, 2009 / 8:30 am
    Definitely a step in the right direction. I really don’t know why the DDN hasn’t figured out what several other newspapers (and forums) have. I check a couple other papers online and you have to create accounts and login before you can comment. In some instances you even have to log in just to read the entire story.

    A few months back I received a solicitation to apply to be part of a focus group to review the DDN’s online content and format. Unfortunately I wasn’t selected after filling out a biographical survey. I believe the purpose of the focus group was to review potential changes. It would be nice to see a whole new look for the DDN online and it couldn’t come too soon! The amateurs have out performed the professionals in this town when it comes to reporting and media.

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  4. truddick December 8, 2009 / 8:52 am
    DDN has also the unfortunately popular “Speak Up” feature.  Yes, that’s print–and edited er, screened–but the comments are too often worthless.  They’re occasionally factually stupid–as in the recent complaint that the I-75 reconstruction through downtown is ill-planned b/c there are only two lanes now and ODOT ought to have planned three (a simple visit to ODOT’s website would have confirmed that the finished project will, in fact, have three continuous lanes in both directions).  And they’re almost always rhetorically stupid, relying on partisan ad hominem attacks instead of evidence-based reasoning.
    Back in my days as a journalism major (a couple of semesters) we were taught that legitimate news outlets did not publish anonymous comments unless there was a compelling reason to hide the identity of the source (such as, potential for retaliation).  Upholding that once-established standard might help DDN improve its image as a news source.

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  5. Hall December 8, 2009 / 10:01 am
    Looking at other Cox newspapers, it appears that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution doesn’t allow comments, nor does the Palm Beach Post. The Austin (TX) Statesman requires people to actually login.
    Palm Beach Daily News looks to be the same “setup” as the DDN.

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  6. Steve Varner December 8, 2009 / 12:01 pm
    People won’t comment on a website unless it’s quick and easy. The Dayton Business Journal gets virtually zero comments on every article because you have to create an account and login. I think most people are intelligent enough to realize that the idiots in the comments section has nothing to do with the quality of the article, its subject matter, or the city in which it was written.

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  7. Allison December 8, 2009 / 12:13 pm
    I agree with all of the comments about the trolls, but wanted to add that I can read the DDN comments on my phone (waste of time that it is).

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  8. Hall December 8, 2009 / 1:08 pm
    David, you have something to do with the Facebook group yourself, do you not ?

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  9. Gary Staiger December 8, 2009 / 2:29 pm
    One of  your better ideas, David. It will  be interesting to see how they respond,  as the suggestions above actually make sense  [LOL].

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  10. Jeff December 8, 2009 / 9:15 pm
    I think the DDN comments section are the collective id of the Dayton region.  Strip away the
    “Midwest nice” polite veneer one encounters in casual face-to-face interaction (surly & indifferent waistaff excepted) and you get the comments section…what the locals are really thinking.  If they sound like a bunch of bitter snarky ignoramouses, well, that’s Dayton.

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  11. Bruce Kettelle December 9, 2009 / 11:32 am
    I think anonymous comments can encourage a vocal minority to post repetitively making them appear to be a majority.  Much like the late 90’s GOP tactic of “Framing the Debate.”

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  12. Jeff December 9, 2009 / 6:42 pm
    ^
    I thought the commentariat did a good job of giving us a head-up on the anti-McLin sentiment in the area.  Or that drumbeat of negativity could have been an example of “framing the debate”.

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  13. Pseudonymous December 10, 2009 / 9:37 am
    For obvious reasons, I’m going to be a voice of disapproval here.

    I do agree that the DDN’s comment layout could be done better, but otherwise, I think the proposal is flawed for a number of reasons.

    1.  “Troll” implies a certain type of internet-user who’s just stirring things up for the sake of stirring things up. I don’t think it applies to 99% of DDN commenters. They may appear to be less educated, or express opinions you disagree with, but more often than not they’re not doing it just to provoke people.

    2. I think that any potential employers thinking of setting up shop in Dayton would be more turned off by the actual news stories published by the DDN, or readily available statistics about the area (i.e. crime, poverty, unemployment, education rates, vacant/abandoned housing, etc.) than anonymous comments regarding the same. This area has serious problems, and they can’t be blamed on the internet.

    3. Internet anonymity can be a force for good just as much as for bad. Yes, it allows trolls, but it also allows dissident bloggers in China and Iran. How many disgruntled city workers were among the anonymous DDN “trolls”? Anonymity allows people to challenge the existing social/political orthodoxy without backlash, either from the top or the bottom. Not too long ago, on this site, a man’s job was threatened and a city boycotted for expressing an opinion, and another poster was accused of taking pleasure in beheadings simply for coming to the OP’s defense. Some of us would still like to be safe and employed while holding opinions that do not mesh with those of hysterical activists.

    4. Unless it becomes a pay site, free email addresses, fake names, and proxies, if necessary, mean the party goes on. Registration only makes it more inconvenient and irritating.

    5. I’m suspicious of any public figure or would-be politician who calls for registration to express an opinion. It’s a little too close to GW Bush’s “Free Speech Zones”.

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  14. David Esrati December 10, 2009 / 10:12 am

    @Pseudonymous

    They could still have a handle- but only one, it would have to be tied to a real e-mail address (not shown)- and they would be rated, so as to have to be a little brighter to stay on the board.

    But- having people have multiple persona’s and no regulation is bs. I keep people from claiming to be other people off this board- and they could too.

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