Feed the trolls or let them starve?

Journalists have a love/hate relationship with online comments.

On the one hand, comment threads can generate interesting discussions when paired with news stories. They can serve as a town square, where anyone can contribute to the debate without a gatekeeper standing in the way. They can even include valuable news tips that lead to further stories.

On the other hand, many comment threads can be summed up in three words: “Your a idiot.”

When they’re overrun by trolls, Internet comments bring out the absolute worst in people – deplorable statements, assaults on the English language and vicious personal attacks. A thick skin is a job requirement for reporters, but a built-in place for hecklers would cut down on any job’s appeal.

And for readers … well, we’re never quite sure what comments do for readers. Even if only a handful of people participate, many more enjoy reading through them. Lurking can be fun, and part of the website’s mission is to entertain.

Many websites have given up on comments altogether, and The Herald is evaluating what to do long-term after putting them on timeout. In our latest poll at HeraldNet.com, we asked what you think is the best solution.

The results were pretty well split. Forty-four percent said it’s better without comments, narrowly edging out the 43 percent who want to bring them back.

The remaining 13 percent said to bring them back only if the tone can be improved. I thought this number would be higher, but maybe our voters are just being realistic. Nobody’s really figured out how to do this well, at least not without employing an army of comment monitors.

And if you think any newspaper wants to do that, “your a idiot.”

— Doug Parry, @parryracer

Next up, we’d like to know how you’re feeling about the Hawks this year.

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