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Should sponsors be able to hide comments on their posts?

dmfay profile image Dian Fay ・1 min read

GitHub is sponsoring CodeLand, and have the expected friendly DevRel spokesperson, announcement thread, raffle for early access to new stuff, and the like.

I'm not going to belabor the issues I have with GitHub. Suffice to say that when I asked the friendly DevRel spokesperson @bdougieyo how he felt about his company's collaboration with the US government's Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) it was in good faith -- I'm genuinely interested in hearing how he does or doesn't grapple with his employer's ethics!

Instead of answering, ignoring, or even brushing me off with patter about how donations to nonprofits absolve GitHub of responsibility, he used the post author tools to hide my comment. And that I have a problem with: it crosses the line between GitHub using DEV to whitewash its reputation, and DEV providing tools to help GitHub whitewash its reputation.

If a comment on a sponsor post violates no rule, sponsors shouldn't be able to hide it for mere political expediency. They're here to attract attention and drum up business; if their practices mean that that attention isn't all as positive and uncritical as they'd like, that's for them to handle -- not DEV.

What do you think?

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dmfay profile

Dian Fay

@dmfay

It's pronounced Diane. I do data architecture, operations, and backend development. In my spare time I maintain Massive.js, a data mapper for Node.js and PostgreSQL.

Discussion

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Hey Dian, thanks for getting this conversation started.

When we rolled out the comment hiding functionality, it was in the spirit that authors should have the ability to manage the discussions happening on their own posts. After all, we view this as their content and their area to present information and guide the conversation as they see fit. This is true not only for sponsors, but for all community members, individuals, organizations, etc.

The underlying principle at play is the idea that authors should have ownership of their own posts. That also means that no sponsor or other party should be able to hide comments or otherwise try to remove anyone else's content. For instance, it's perfectly legitimate for you to start this standalone thread to open a conversation about the expectations for sponsor activity and how they respond to certain comments.

We think that this approach is the most clear and principled way to manage the dynamics of who gets to post what, and who gets to hide comments when. Authors are able to publish whatever they want (so long as it follows the community rules) and to facilitate the conversations as they choose to on their own posts. But no one other than the author gets a say about trying to remove anyone else's content.

I hope that makes sense and helps clarify our thinking about how this functionality is used in all contexts.

 

People were ambivalent about the feature then too, and I think this is bearing out the perspectives of commenters like Ryan, Tobias, and Stian. Fundamentally it's difficult to see how the same rubric can be applied fairly to individual authors and to sponsors with business and financial interests.

If I were to start hiding comments on my articles, nothing much would be different outside my interactions with those commenters and readers; my interests are not (necessarily) DEV's interests and vice versa. That isn't true for sponsors: there's a business relationship between DEV and its sponsors, and so DEV itself is entangled in the actions sponsors take on the platform.

When a sponsor hides comments to quell reminders of their less-than-savory business dealings, that also sets expectations for sponsor activity. It establishes a precedent that aligns DEV-the-company more closely in certain respects with its sponsors than with the community. And I think it showcases at least one limit to the one-size-fits-all approach. Rules and laws eventually get complicated for good reason.

 

Dian raises excellent points.

Individuals and sponsors with financial interests are not the same the same thing by any stretch of the imagination. You see that in plain sight in the US with Citizen vs United and you can see the bad it creates. Corporations are not and should not been treated the way flesh and bones people are. Period.