If we could take back anger

If you’ve ever left a comment and then come back to the page, unless you’ve somehow changed your IP address, you’ll see an option to edit your comment. This post-published comment editing feature is one I’ve been testing for several months, without once running into a problem. Yesterday and today I added HTMLEditor for it, though I may end up removing this (I’m not sure we need much more than the ability to edit mistakes, and check spelling in comments).

Along with live preview, spell checking, Talk Back, and throttles that will prevent mass comment spam postings, I’m including this post-publishing editing feature as the core of a comment package I’m working on that will work for WordPress (1.22 and 1.5), Wordform…and maybe any weblogging tool where some developer wants to write the necessary interface code. Which of these options is turned on is configurable–especially post-comment editing.

When I added post-published editing long ago, I was worried that people would come into my comments and write nasty things, and then once people responded, edit what they said to make those that responded look like idiots. However, this never once happened. Most people use the feature to correct grammar, spelling, add new material, or clarify a sentence or phrase.

Now, the lack of hostile ‘hit-run-and-edit’ could be due to the fact that my writing lately hasn’t been of a nature to inspire the necessary anger for this behavior. It’s true that I have, for the most part, mellowed in the last few months (all that hiking and photography); not to mention having stopped writing about politics and RSS–both topics guaranteed to raise someone’s ire.

(This could change this week, as I take aim at both digital identity and podcasting — twin irritants of mine that are currently getting a lot of *BigBlo talk. And it’s been too wet to hike.)

I wonder, though, if the comment editing feature, rather than encourage rude behavior, actually discourages it, because you’re less likely to respond to a comment left by another person if you know that person can edit what they’ve said. And if you don’t respond, they can’t respond back, and others don’t get pulled in, and so on, and so forth.

More, this ability may give us a second chance: to re-think ill-thought words and to edit an angry comment before someone else responds to it. If you had this abililty, would you use it take back your anger? Unsay what you’ve said? Edit out the sharp, pointy bits?

The only way we’ll know for sure is to try out this post-published comment editing in a weblog that gets more heated discussions than I get. Unfortunately, most of the weblogs I know that regularly get animated or even angry threads, are Movable Type (I wonder why?), so I guess I’ll have to get this working for MT in addition to WordPress and Wordform.

In the meantime, I’d appreciate feedback as to whether to keep HTMLEditor in or remove it. Note that it only works for Mozilla compatible browsers and IE (and seems to be problematical in Mac OS X — HTMLArea is currently beta for Firefox).

And if someone has a Movable Type non-production site up that they wouldn’t mind me testing code against (and possibly breaking), with SSH and direct MySQL access at the command line, please send me an email. Update looks like I may have a test site…but the price I’m being asked *shudder * oh you poor, poor dears…

*Big Blogger

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