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RiotACT Announcement: Business update and new draft policies

By Michael McGoogan - 1 May 2017 17

RiotACT Announcement

Hey RiotACT Community!

Since acquiring the RiotACT in August last year, Tim White and I have been working long hours to get our heads around this wonderful community site, develop a go-forward strategy, and begin ramping up our involvement and investment.

The RiotACT’s new motto is, “Passionate debate between intelligent people who disagree produces better outcomes”. We have used this extensively in planning the strategy for the new RiotACT.

When we first took over, we heralded that we intended to review the RiotACT’s policies and reach out for community feedback. Now that we’re getting our heads around this wonderful community, we’re ready to fulfil that commitment.

Community consultation begins

We have spent a significant amount of time extracting data and trying to decide what works and what doesn’t on the RiotACT. We understand that the primary difference between the RiotACT and other platforms is its role as a community conversation forum. It is this function that is the key to the site’s success, which makes our policies on contribution and moderation vitally important. Having digested the vast amount of data on the back end, we are ready to open our new policies for public consultation.

Moderation process

Since taking over the site, Tim and I have reviewed an overwhelming majority of moderation in consultation with RiotACT editor (now editor-at-large) Charlotte Harper. This has been intentional, and while not sustainable in the long term, it has been very useful for us to gain an understanding of how comments drive the site. Once community consultation on the new contribution and moderation policy is completed, we will broaden the moderation team and ensure its members are accountable to the new policy.

Moderation is currently a two-step process. Every comment is briefly reviewed initially and, if it clearly meets the guidelines within the policy, is approved. If we are in doubt, the comment gets flagged for editor approval. The editor then does a thorough read of the comment and makes the final call. The moderators also have the choice to “Approve” or “Approve (hide from activity stream)” in the event that a comment doesn’t breach the policy but is borderline, or relates to an older article that should not be drawn to the top of “now trending”. Obviously, moderators also have the ability to flag as Spam or Trash comments they believe do not meet the policy.

As you can imagine, there are a truckload of comments every month. The process is not an exact science and we do make mistakes. We are very happy to be called out if you believe we have made a mistake, and we take it very seriously when you do reach out to us. Please keep a copy of your comment and email the text with your query to editor@the-riotact.com if you believe that has been the case.

Beyond the policy: Valuable commenters and comments

As we have worked through the data, it has become overwhelmingly clear that comments have a HUGE impact on readership, both positively and negatively.

Articles that receive comments that are both constructive and positive, and respond to the content of the article, have a strong correlation with increased readership and engagement. They attract significantly more views, likes, shares and additional comments, creating a positive feedback loop which is very important for the site.

Articles that receive comments that are negative, consist of only a single sentence, encompass a small number of users going back and forth with each other, or go off topic, have a strong correlation with decreased readership and engagement.

Our comment utopia would be to see every article with 10+ comments (both on the site itself and on Facebook) from a variety of users who respond to the content of the article in a meaningful, positive and constructive way. Where commenters feel they cannot get their full position across in 300 words, we would like them to pen and submit a full article on the topic in question.

How you can support the RiotACT community

We hope that you love this community as much as we do. We need your support to continue to grow in terms of readership, content and commercial partners.

To support the RiotACT, please:

Below is a draft of our new policy. We’d love you to take a look and provide feedback. Remember that we are open to modifying the draft policy if clear concerns develop and so please take the opportunity to have your say in the comments below.

Draft editorial direction, contribution, sponsored content and comment moderation policy 2017

We believe that passionate debate between intelligent people who disagree creates better outcomes.

At the RiotACT, we strive to promote debate by providing clear editorial direction, while encouraging the community to participate within the guidelines of our contribution and comment moderation policy.

Editorial direction

General
The directors of the RiotACT have made it clear that, while we have a commercial agenda, we do not have a political agenda. We strive to provide balanced coverage in terms of news and opinion content about the key events and developments that affect the lives of the people of Canberra and surrounding regions.

News
Each news article is to be balanced, factual and adhere to industry standards.

Opinion
In order to promote robust debate, balance in opinion coverage is to be maintained by the editorial team by engaging a range of contributors across the political spectrum. We aim to ensure that on any given topic, even-handed publishing of a diverse range of views is delivered to our readers.

We strongly encourage our opinion writers to lead the debate by taking a position on any given issue and thoroughly arguing their case. We encourage writers (both featured and guest) to engage with each other through comments, and to write opposing pieces where they feel alternate arguments on a specific topic have not been canvassed.

Comments and social media participation
We recognise that the heart of the RiotACT is community participation in the debate. We maintain that a key point of difference for the RiotACT is its delivery of a high standard of comment and social media moderation. Our goal is to promote vibrant, intellectual, entertaining, and on-topic discussion while screening out anything that is illegal, immoral or fattening.

In the near future we intend to enable Facebook and Google sign on, in addition to the current manual log-on process. We believe that syndicated sign-on will streamline the ability to easily post content directly to the site.

To promote more lively conversation, we intend to limit the length of comments on the site to a maximum of 300 words. There will also be a minimum of 300 characters per comment.

Moving forward, the primary criteria for comments on the site or our social streams to be approved is that the comment makes a meaningful contribution to the debate while adhering to our contribution and comment moderation policy.

Contribution and comment moderation policy

The RiotACT will not publish content that:

  • infringes intellectual property rights or copyright
  • is defamatory
  • violates laws regarding harassment, discrimination, privacy or contempt
  • is abusive or offensive, including obscenity, blasphemy and racial vilification
  • is condescending
  • promotes hatred of any kind
  • attacks the writer not the argument
  • is inflammatory or blatantly off-topic
  • is intentionally false or misleading
  • doesn’t make sense or is of nuisance value
  • is inappropriate or vexatious
  • could place the writer at risk.

For example, the RiotACT reserves the right to reject contributions on topics that have already been widely canvassed in the forum. It also reserves the right to reject contributions from participants who seek to dominate the discussion.

We will also not publish material that:

  • compromises the privacy of our readers, contributors or staff
  • contains inappropriate personal information or content
  • seeks to endorse commercial products or activities or to solicit business (with the exception of sponsored content, which is published by arrangement and clearly marked as paid material – see more details below)
  • deliberately provokes other community members.

Repeated breaches of these guidelines will lead to suspension from the site. Posting on behalf of a suspended member may also lead to being blocked.

The RiotACT will continue to encourage its readers to submit articles for possible publication, but these must be published under the real name of the submitter except by arrangement with the editor in cases where the writer feels anonymity is necessary.

In certain cases an article can also, by arrangement, be published under the name of a business or organisation.

Despite our best efforts, from time-to-time something may slip through the cracks. If you believe this has happened, please report the article or comment to us for a secondary review.

Sponsored content policy

In order to support the RiotACT, we have a number of commercial partners who recieve featured articles and banner advertising, as well as provide us with sponsored content. Below are the details of our sponsored content policy.

Contributor patronage
Wherever a contributor has a current or prior relationship with the subject of a RiotACT article or receives any form of patronage from them; this must be disclosed either in the content or at the conclusion of the article.

Contributor feature articles
RiotACT partners can commission news, opinion, or feature articles from our featured contributors as part of their partnership package. If the content is to be published as news, the sponsor cannot determine the content of the article and it must meet journalistic standards for news content.

Sponsor-provided content
RiotACT partners can sometimes supply sponsored content articles as part of their partnership package.

All sponsor-provided content must be posted from their organisation’s RiotACT account, and disclosed as sponsored content at the conclusion of the article.

We welcome a full and fearless debate of the new policies and encourage you to provide feedback in your comments.

Onwards and upwards, RiotACT!

What do you think of the new editorial direction, contribution, sponsored content and comment moderation policy? Please let us know in the comments below.

What’s Your opinion?


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17 Responses to
RiotACT Announcement: Business update and new draft policies
1
Melissa Carrington 5:43 pm
01 May 17
#

I like the idea of limiting comment responses to a max of 300 words. However, I don’t like the idea of having min 300 characters. Often I want to agree with someone or recommend the name of a place/business. Why should I be forced to write 300 characters to do this?

2
planeguy 7:00 pm
01 May 17
#

Michael,

Thanks for supporting the site, I do enjoy reading, and participating in the discussions.

One of the concerns I have is that the moderation process is at times opaque, and at times slows down discussions on otherwise engaging stories. When a comment is “Awaiting moderation” or moderated away, the user gets no idea why – I try to be a positive commentator, so get surprised when something doesn’t get through.

Also, there was a whole post (on which I commentated) that just disappeared a few days ago – no feedback, or trace of its posting left to be seen. Would be nice to know why that happened.

Finally, as to the speed of moderation – quite often there will be a post that has 5 or so posts moderated/allowed through at once late in the day. Then the next morning, there will be another batch approved, and the thread just dies off. My suspicion is that the readers have moved on to the next discussion, whereas is the comments appeared when posted, that the discussion would last longer. I don’t begrudge you having a sleep, but is there a way to have “trusted” readers’ comments be auto-allowed, and then reviewed in the morning for deletion (ie reverse the assumption of valid vs deletable).

I’d also be keen to understand the stats on posts over 300 words or under 300 characters. How common are they? How often are they moderated etc? It does seem like a really small window of allowable content.

3
Garfield 9:37 am
02 May 17
#

At times 300 words is not enough, especially when it comes to public policy discussions on complex subjects. Similarly 300 characters can be too high a minimum for simple posts – like this one.

4
RiotFrog 11:33 am
02 May 17
#

One of the major frustrations with this site is the ridiculous delays in getting comments moderated. I suspect there are many people who don’t bother engaging (i.e. commenting) because they have no idea when, or if, their comments will appear.
Why not have the usual anti-spam bot checks and a more reactive approach to moderation?

5
No_Nose 2:07 pm
02 May 17
#

I’m not too sure on the minimum 300 characters. It is possible to be more concise than that. (To take this up to 300 characters I have had to add this sentence. And add the word ‘banana’. Am I there yet? Damn still only 210. Wow, this is hard. What if I were to finish this sentence? Hooray!)

6
PMB 8:14 am
03 May 17
#

Disable the quote option for the comments. This day and age it’s simple enough to put an @ put before someones name to highlight that your comment is aimed at them. Half the comments on some stories just end up long re-quotes of the previous comment and it cascades terribly.

Overall, I think there’s too much ‘judgment’ on comments at present. I’ve written comments that have been disallowed for being combative against the author because I’ve questioned their position, yet watched plain out insults in other comments that fly in the face of the reasons I was given for not being published. Politicians have to have a very thick skin when they publish, many people question their position and go a lot further in their opinions of them, your writers need to accept that if someone disagrees or questions their position they shouldn’t just hide from it by not publishing the comments.

Minimum characters for comments doesn’t seem fair, some people can say a hell of lot in one sentence that sums up their position entirely without hyperbole. Not sure on the 300 words maximum, that feels like it sort of restricts debate.

When bringing in audiences via social network plugins you’re bringing in an audience that is extremely used to being able to have their say. If the comment system is too restrictive you’ll alienate that audience they minute they arrive. So my advice is be very careful with whatever changes you make.

7
Michael McGoogan 12:57 pm
15 May 17
#

Hi Guys,

Just following up now these policies have been posted for a while.

We hear you on the 300 character minimum comment length. We will drop this requirement from the new policy.

Thank you all for your feedback. We will now move to update the site, implement the new policy, and start expanding the moderation team. I will post again once the new policy is on the site.

RiotACT onwards and upwards.

8
wildturkeycanoe 5:21 pm
15 May 17
#

Melissa Carrington said :

I like the idea of limiting comment responses to a max of 300 words. However, I don’t like the idea of having min 300 characters. Often I want to agree with someone or recommend the name of a place/business. Why should I be forced to write 300 characters to do this?

It is great that you have lifted the 300 character minimum as it would have been very difficult to fulfil if the comment required just a simple reply. The 300 word maximum however is going to be a different kettle of fish.
In my previous posting history quite a few of my comments have well exceeded that maximum limit. Not all topics are straight forward and clear cut, with many having multiple issues that need to be discussed. In order to support my arguments I often need to refer to other sources of information which, to avoid the necessity of linking to other websites, needs to be quoted either in part or in full. Without the space to add this information, debate will get drawn out into a punch, counterpunch situation because it will take multiple posts to provide all the supporting facts. These facts are what will fulfil the “intelligent” part of your “passionate debate between intelligent people.
Many people also use mobile devices to indulge their Riotact fetish, which poses other problems. As I mentioned above, linking to other websites would mean mobile users opening up pages that may or may not be easy to navigate without a desktop system. Then the word limit, without a counter on the Riotact dialogue box, can be easily exceeded. To avoid this, a separate text editor is required to prepare the response and manage word count. Copying and pasting quoted text is already a challenge with a phone or

9
wildturkeycanoe 5:30 pm
15 May 17
#

tablet, but now people will need another app in which they compose their argument before submission. Too hard in my opinion.
I think debate is going to lose a lot of its quality as folks try to squeeze everything into their post and omit relevant information in order to do so. Either that or we are going to see a lot of double or triple posting from now on.
If there is one thing I really hate, it is finishing a paragraph of brainstorming written directly from my mind to the screen, only to see the words “you have exceeded the 300 word limit.” Then I need to spend another half an hour figuring out how to make it all fit. I often just give up and walk away in frustration.

10
Michael McGoogan 11:11 am
16 May 17
#

@wildturkey

I suspect you are stirring, but in good faith; if you genuinely have a comment that is more than 300 words (as I said in the post) you need to seriously consider making a guest post.

Very very few people read comments that are longer than 300 words; the limit is to streamline the debate.

11
Holden Caulfield 3:08 pm
16 May 17
#

A limit of 300 words can be tricky. I gave up on responding to a few posts last week because I was over the word limit. I know the limit wasn’t in force, but I wanted to see how it might work.

I ended up spending more time editing my reply than it took to write the original response. I guess we will get used to it if brought in, but there will be teething issues.

12
Michael McGoogan 3:37 pm
16 May 17
#

After a vigorous debate in the office this afternoon, we have agreed on the implementation and our techs are pulling it together now.

The new policies have been rolled out, see:
https://the-riotact.com/terms-and-conditions

A “Words remaining” counter will be displayed below the comment text box to give you a running count to the maximum length. Additionally, the word count excludes quoted text so you are always able to add up to 300 “new” words to the debate. We believe this will make it really easy to remain on point.

Again; if your comment is getting anywhere near 300 words… to have any meaningful number of people read it, you need to consider turning it into a guest article.

13
bj_ACT 4:44 pm
16 May 17
#

Michael McGoogan said :

After a vigorous debate in the office this afternoon, we have agreed on the implementation and our techs are pulling it together now.

The new policies have been rolled out, see:
https://the-riotact.com/terms-and-conditions

A “Words remaining” counter will be displayed below the comment text box to give you a running count to the maximum length. Additionally, the word count excludes quoted text so you are always able to add up to 300 “new” words to the debate. We believe this will make it really easy to remain on point.

Again; if your comment is getting anywhere near 300 words… to have any meaningful number of people read it, you need to consider turning it into a guest article.

I am afraid I personally think you have made the wrong decision. One of the strengths of RiotAct over other sites such as twitter or newspaper comments, is the ability for more in depth comment and analysis.

14
Garfield 5:21 pm
16 May 17
#

bj_ACT said :

Michael McGoogan said :

After a vigorous debate in the office this afternoon, we have agreed on the implementation and our techs are pulling it together now.

The new policies have been rolled out, see:
https://the-riotact.com/terms-and-conditions

A “Words remaining” counter will be displayed below the comment text box to give you a running count to the maximum length. Additionally, the word count excludes quoted text so you are always able to add up to 300 “new” words to the debate. We believe this will make it really easy to remain on point.

Again; if your comment is getting anywhere near 300 words… to have any meaningful number of people read it, you need to consider turning it into a guest article.

I am afraid I personally think you have made the wrong decision. One of the strengths of RiotAct over other sites such as twitter or newspaper comments, is the ability for more in depth comment and analysis.

Fully agree. The limit to 300 words will favour the political slogan over the in-depth analysis often needed to get to the bottom of policy positions. There is already far too much information out there that has been dumbed down for public consumption while the depth of some of the debates on the RiotACT have been excellent. The idea to write a guest article will often not work well as the arguments you’re trying to refute will be on another thread and readers will find it difficult to follow. This new limitation is an error that is likely to lead to a reduction in robust debate on this site.

15
rommeldog56 7:44 pm
16 May 17
#

bj_ACT said :

I am afraid I personally think you have made the wrong decision. One of the strengths of RiotAct over other sites such as twitter or newspaper comments, is the ability for more in depth comment and analysis.

Agree with this comment 100% re the 300 word limit. The ability to go into depth on issues is what sets RiotAct apart from other forums – its “competition”. As it is now, issues on RiotAct seem to receive cursory comment, if any. The number of articles pouring onto the site daily also mean that those articles that do elicit comment, disappear off the main/front page far too quickly IMHO. But maybe that’s just in keeping with the cursory or shallow reading & thinking that seems to seems to pervade Canberrian’s these days.

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