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updated: 3/15/2012 3:06 PM

Talk with the Editor: Are we making progress on comments?

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CNN published a report earlier this week that essentially said 10 years of attempts to civilize online commenting have been a failure.

CNN described Gawker Media founder Nick Denton as telling attendees at a South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, Texas, that the idea of thoughtful online discussions is laughable.

"It's a promise that has so not happened that people don't even have that ambition anymore," Denton said. "The idea of capturing the intelligence of the readership, that's a joke."

A year ago, I would have agreed with the mood of the report. Online commenting had seemed to be such an unwashed jungle that it was hard to imagine that it could ever live up to the original dream of it as a constructive public forum.

Out of exasperation as much as anything else, we clamped down on it late last summer. We got tougher on setting the boundaries, and I think the lesson has been we should have been tough from the beginning.

Today, I'm pleased with the progress we have made at We're not all the way there yet, but I think we've made great strides and our audience has made great strides with us.

But it's one thing for me to grade us a B. How do you perceive commenting today? Are we making progress or am I kidding myself?

And beyond that, what can we do to make more?

There was a long discussion with last week's column. Last time I checked, 118 comments. The topic was news media reporting of the Rush Limbaugh controversy. It seemed to start out lively and well, weaving a bit off topic but not wildly so. But as the comments continued, it gradually became more earthy.

One of our commenters suggested that perhaps we should shut off comments after two days. The assumption, I think, would be that by then, the discussion has run its course and any extension beyond that is merely duplicative or bound to go off on tangents. What do you think of that?

Another question: We've been pretty strict about banning insults of other commenters. But less so with insulting descriptions to politicians and public figures; the line there seems less clear. What should the rules be?

And finally, what do you think of the comments with the tone of "Liberals are dumb" or "Conservatives are stupid." To me, they seem to be mere general insults that made no concrete point and debase the conversation. Should they be stricken? The more I think of it, the more I tend to think "yes." But what do you think?

• (We encourage you to talk with the editor by clicking on the Comments widget and providing your response to today's column. We want a provocative discussion but one that also abides by general rules of civility ... Please also consider friending John on Facebook by searching John Lampinen Daily Herald and following him on Twitter @DHJohnLampinen)

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