One of the advantages of having your own blog is that you have total control over its content, especially important when it comes to comments.
That control is important for two reasons - it allows you to block offensive comments, often but not always anonymous, and it allows you to set a tone for debate which is appropriate to your readership (it never ceases to amaze me when people tell me that they've read posts here). However, ownership allows a degree of certainty, almost a dogmatic one if you let it.
But now that I am part of the Liberal Democrat Voice family, I've had to give rather more thought to what represents acceptable language and debating style. It has been put to me that what I might consider a 'robust exchange of views' might actually deter others from taking part in the debate. On my own blog, that might not matter so much, but when we're talking about a much-valued 'Party resource' (it is, after all, not an official organ of the Party), one does need to be more mindful of a wider perspective.
We've been having an interesting discussion on the subject in the Members' Forum, the contents of which will naturally remain private and confidential, and I have been somewhat enlightened by the ideas put forward there.
And what I've learned is that good moderation is really difficult, balancing freedom of expression with inclusivity. There is little point in allowing individuals to write pretty much whatever they like if the comments stream becomes so vile (cf Guido Fawkes) that it deters all but those with strong stomachs and an absence of mutual respect. On the other hand, excessive moderation, excluding dissent and passion, reduces the vibrancy of the debate and dullens the site, reducing its effectiveness.
But if that's the hard option, the alternative, no moderation at all, is much harder in the long run. Political dialogue in this country has been coarsened to a point where the public just switch off, something which impacts on all of us who believe in political activism within a vibrant civil society.
I suspect that I will continue to struggle with this question over the weeks, months and years ahead. And sometimes, I will get the balance wrong. But do bear with me, I am trying...