Would Boing Boing ever implement a “commenter entry fee”?

I wonder @orenwolf … is there any enthusiasm for this feature by the powers that be? I do think it is a sensible idea and we’d be happy to work with y’all to make it happen. It would also add (relatively speaking, at least) real teeth to suspensions.


Thanks I fixed that. If “drive by asshattery” is a serious ongoing problem, I can assure you the requirement of a $5 fee to leave comments would make that disappear completely.

The only downside is you might get stronger complaints when suspending or permanently suspending users, but on the flip side there would also be more caution around behavior that might end up costing you $5 in the long run. People are really weird about money.

I suspect there would need to be a “comp this friend of Boing Boing an account” button for mods, and certainly grandfathering of existing community members. Bunch of important details to iron out.


Ugh, no.

Putting a financial gateway to being able to participate in the forums seems to go against everything BB is all about. We have such a great community here, and I highly doubt this would have happened if new users were excluded from participating until they kick down some cash.

I registered spontaneously after over a decade of lurking on the blog and began to really love this community. I mean it’s not like, say, $5 is any sort of big financial burden to some of us, but if I was presented with that requirement before I could participate, I’d be peacing the fuck out of here before I even registered.

A part of having a lively and spontaneous community is having minimal barriers to participation. It also excludes an entire class of user that only wants to occasionally participate but still has something interesting to contribute. Why would they want to bother? It’s a catch-22. Nobody wants to pay unless they are passionate about the community, and nobody wants to pay to join the community to build that passion.

I saw this same kind of thing happen with BBSes in the 90s. Those places that required payment to use were a really hard sell. As a teenager with no monetary means if I had a community that I really liked I’d often have to barter to stay (usually by offering my services as a community leader) - but that was after being an established member. If I couldn’t even get my foot in the door, I would just go somewhere else.

Is there an actual impetus behind this proposal? The community at large is on top of bad-faith actors, and and I’m sure if the mod staff couldn’t handle the workload many would step up and volunteer to help. There’s many of us here that are passionate about this place. Sock puppets and ban evasions don’t seem super prevalent here. (Yeah, there’s a few well-known stunt accounts but they are largely tolerated and harmless.)

I just don’t get where this is coming from but I can say after multiple decades of being involved in active communities on the Internet and dial-up that this would be an awful and counterproductive thing to do.


I’ve experience with a few communities which take money. Either a one-off payment to gain access, as per Metafilter, or an optional subscription to support the site’s operation and gain a few extra bonuses (like the removal of advertisements, or free stuff).

The latter doesn’t address the problem of drive-by accounts appearing to mess up the place but the former (along with fairly intense moderation) seems to have had a certain degree of success.


It was only a suggestion by myself last year as something to explore and discuss, mainly as a way to reduce the uptick in drive-by and Russian farm trolls we’ll likely see here during the coming election year, as well as discouraging fanboi trolls and spammers. As far as I know, management and the mods have never proposed the idea themselves.

Your points are good ones, the kind of criticism such an idea needs to be subjected to.

Metafilter’s $5 fee was what I had in mind, but IIRC they’ve moved from a one-time fee to an annual payment (this may have been temporary). In any case, they’re pretty troll-free, too, although spammers occasionally pay the fee (getting slapped away quickly by their mods).

To be clear, I’d be more inclined to a one-time entry fee over an annual subscription if either were seriously considered by management. The main purpose in my mind is not revenue generation (although any funds realised should be applied to further supporting the mods) but disincentivising various casual trolls and spammers.

Grandfathering would be most effectively and fairly be based on achieving a certain TL and/or tenure here.

By the way, any comping of fees or subscriptions should be absolutely anonymous going in both directions to avoid a patronage/obligation situation amongst the users.

I appreciate your bringing this up again for discussion and feedback from the community and management.


If that happened, it was entirely before my tenure there. Mechanisms for repeating payments to support the site exist, but they’re still optional. The up-front fee is mandatory.


Thanks. My memory of that is a little hazy. I seem to recall they had a funding crisis, so maybe the move to subscriptions was a temporary one. I’m more of a lurker there, but the quality of community discussion and active moderation at Mefi are a match for BB. If I hadn’t already made this this my main joint I’d be over there.

If management considers a fee I’d suggest that orenwolf reach out to their mods to get feedback on how it’s worked for them in terms of reducing trolls.


I only saw this implemented on Kuro5hin.org, where it failed miserably - although it was perhaps only used at a point where the infection was already chronic.


Make it a 5 dollar escrow. You close your account, get your 5 bucks back. You get banned permanently, you lose it.

Same theory on how the shopping carts at Aldi work by.


If you want people to leave, sure. That’s great.

Professional trolls will gladly pay the fee and shit all over the place, I think.


Nah, money stops political opinions taking over every time.
Unnecessary /s ?


Would professional trolls even really bother here? The stakes seem so low when compared to a huge and easily exploitable community of rubes, like Facebook or Twitter. Last I checked, BB isn’t even in the top 5000 on Alexa.

Yes, we see trolls on a regular basis but we’re a small community, we’re collectively pretty savvy, and trolls are quickly eaten. (We have had more sophisticated attempts to infiltrate the community from white supremacists as an example, but that was also individuals who are unlikely to be deterred by an entry fee versus coordinated troll farms.)

Maybe the moderation is so effective that this is more of a widespread problem than I realize?


I have no idea, but if the goal is to keep out trolls, I don’t think charging a fee will work. All that will do is drive good faith posters away.

I think our moderators are excellent. There is no real need to add new complicating layers to what’s already working. Maybe add new moderators to spread the load, but other than that.


I propose a membership fee of $166 available in the Boing Boing Shop for 97% off.


I have had more experiences where someone posted for the very first time because they had specialist knowledge than I have with any sort of troll. In fact I can’t remember a single drive-by troll. I’m sure I saw a few, but they get zapped so quickly and efficiently by the existing moderation system that I can’t remember them.

I’d much, much rather keep things as they are especially since payment sort of requires giving up anonymity/pseudonimity which I always thought was rather a BoingBoing virtue.

I’d be very likely to consider some sort of reasonable-scale payment to avoid ads, though.


Is that low a fee even worth spending the person hours to implement for the limited audience that would pay this barrier to entry?

TechDirt tried a hybrid commenting system where paid members could get their posts pinned to the top or some other special attention (I forget the exact implementation). Payment would likely reduce trolls, but it could also become pay to troll. Dunno.


Excellent counterpoint: a “license to misbehave”.

It will stop a troll army. But the system already deals pretty well with the hordes and bots.


Yeah, seems like a solution in search of a problem. There is never going to be a way to stop all trolling. But the mod team (and us) seem to do a pretty good job rooting them out in the first place.


My 2 cents;

Put a voluntary "donation box’ link in the Boing Boing store, if need be.

IMO, implementing a fee in order to comment even “one time” will actively discourage ‘open discourse,’ which is what we’ve long been told is this site’s whole purpose.


So, I’m not against a membership idea. The problem, though, is determining how to vet new users. It’s all well and good to have a system for “gifting” memberships, but how do you make your case that you need one in the first place, short of posting and giving whomever is deciding to approve gift memberships some idea of whom they are allowing in?

the vast majority of Boing Boing posts are open for 5 days, and I’d wager that for most, conversation only happens in the first 24 hours or so after a post is opened. That also suggests that whatever the approval method is, it would need to have fast turnarounds in order to be useful for random commenters who want to legitimately post but who also can’t afford a membership.

I almost feel like we could instead solve the drive-by problem by forcing moderation on all TL0 users, and giving TL4 (or perhaps TL3+) permission to approve first posts only, thereby unsilencing a TL0. That solves the funding issue, and spreads the new-user-approval workload onto the community as a whole.