I’ve previously discussed how some of the recent changes to wordpress code on wordpress.com where we are hosted have cause a bunch of trouble for me, including image cache problems, inverted moderation issues with banned word lists, disappearing comments etc. Yesterday, I was alerted to a new problem by WUWT reader “Saul from Montreal” in the thread about NSIDC using provisional sea-ice data from the DMSP F18 satellite.
Because we have almost 15,000 stories here now on WUWT, we don’t leave threads open for commenting past 15 days. Otherwise, we’ll be trying to moderate comments on threads that are years old. Here’s the setting we have (screencap of WUWT dashboard):
For years, this hasn’t been any sort of issue…that is until wordpress made their most recent change which causes so much trouble. It turns out (now, with the new code) that if comments get flagged for moderation, they end up in the trash, and we have to fish them out. When we fish them out, they will then appear on the thread, even after the thread is closed. This happened yesterday. The 15 days were up about 9AM on June 1st, and moderator Dave Stealey “dbstealey” fished them out around 11AM after the thread had been automatically closed. I also fished some out that morning after the thread had been automatically closed. However, if you were monitoring the RSS feed, you’d see new comments appear on that thread which were already closed…and that’s a no-no. Saul was right to point this out to me.
Worse, moderator Dave Stealey “dbstealey” wasn’t aware the thread was closed, and started replying to some of them made by “Saul from Montreal”. Now, you’d think that if the wordpress system had closed comments like we set it to, we’d get a message saying “comments cannot be accepted, the thread is closed” whether you were a regular commenter, moderator, or the blog owner. Surprise, moderators/owners don’t get that message, as this test message below proves when I succusfully made a comment reply from within the wordpress dashboard over 24 hours after the thread closed:
So this is an unacceptable situation. We can’t have comments being made after the thread automatically closes, it’s unfair, and gives an impression to people that don’t know what is going on with the mechanics of the system that we might be up to something scurrilous (well, there are some fringe elements that think that anyway no matter what we say or do or how transparent we are. Kisses Miriam O’Brien) like closing comments manually and then allowing a moderator to run roughshod over commenters that couldn’t reply. That of course didn’t happen, and I hope what I’ve done above shows clearly that was not the case.
So to rectify the issue, I went back and [snipped] any comments that appeared after the thread closed, except the test comment I made for the purpose of this post:
All of this has made me take a long hard look at the comment system, moderation system, and the process. I think I have a way forward that will solve most of these issues, but not all. I’ll run some tests and advise in a future post in a few days. If I’m successful, it may eliminate the need for moderation/moderators altogether.
Meanwhile, since this was a breach of my comment and moderator policy (even if accidental), we have to hold our own people accountable lest we become the post facto edited world of “Skeptical Science”,, I’ve taken “dbstealey” off moderation duties. He deserves a break after perusing millions of comments. He’s still as able as any of you to post comments but he won’t be moderating anymore.
For everyone else, please, in the meantime, TONE IT DOWN. I realize this is an emotionally charged election year, but recently a lot of commenters have just gotten over the top. A review of our WUWT comment policy is in order for everyone. Remember, commenting is a privilege, not a right.
Thanks to everyone as always for reading WUWT.
Added: Saul reminds me that during that thread, ‘dbstealy’ made some what I consider to be “over the top” comments about James Randi. While those weren’t my words, I’ll say that they weren’t merited and offer my apology that they ended up on the thread in the first place. Again my admonishment to everyone, “tone it down” please.