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Mr. Brady, Meet Mr. Troll

Yellow TrollRegardless of whether I wind up going to DC or not, the question of what an appropriate public commenting policy is for a news organization like the washingtonpost.com is an interesting one. It’s quite different than one that we would implement here, for instance, where we’re running a community and regulars can pretty much say whatever they want but we have a low tolerance for trolls trying to disrupt it.

There’s a good post up at the Bubblegeneration about the mistakes made by the post.com in managing the situation, but it also goes to highlight something I think they were completely unaware of — there was value in leveraging the situation that they totally blew:

Let me simplify some of these thoughts to crystallize some further key points:

1) Newspapers need commenters (read: connected consumers) more than commenters need newspapers. The simple economics of attention scarcity dictate this. The same equation holds true across consumer industries (esp media).

2) That is, you have to leverage and co-opt your readers, audience, etc, before your competitors do. Competing for their attention is a zero-sum game.

3) The big problem with the Post’s move is that it’s a barrier to learning: it stops it from learning how to leverage connected consumption – which is exactly the force that’s hypercommoditizing media. Learning to leverage the edge is a kind of judo. But if you’re not in the ring, by definition, you can’t learn how to play.

4) Imagine a Post that did the opposite: highlighted in big letters on it’s front page the raging discussion, actively driving attention to it.

Would the result probably have been a flame war? Sure. Flame wars mean your market, community, network, is working.

Would the Post have learned a lot more about how to leverage the edge? Absolutely.

As I’ve said before, I think that the post.com has made some very smart decisions with regard to its online presence. So in light of Jim Brady’s comments over at Jay Rosen’s yesterday and the 42 comments they chose to delete from the blog, what would do you as their "consumers" believe should constitute a productive commenting policy?

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Firedoglake.com. Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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