Editor's Note: David Williams is the community manager at CNN iReport and oversees comment moderation at CNN.com.
(CNN) -- People are interesting, so if you talk to enough people, you're bound to learn interesting things. That's the fortune-cookie version of CNN.com's philosophy when it comes to comments.
CNN.com gets thousands of comments on its stories every day. They can be thought-provoking, vulgar, inspiring, offensive or hilarious, but they're rarely boring. Our audience makes valuable contributions to CNN's coverage by giving us a broader view of the day's events.
Our Health unit recently published a story about phobias that referenced actress Salma Hayek's fear of snakes and quoted a San Diego woman with a fear of vomit. It's an interesting story and dozens of people jumped in to discuss their fears of sharks, heights, crowds, blood and even wet paper. That conversation gave an even better understanding of a problem that affects more than 19 million American adults.
We also read through the comments to see which stories are generating buzz and deserve follow-ups, and to look for new story ideas and fresh angles.
It's not all rainbows and unicorns and people can be mean, but we have moderators and other mechanisms in place to help keep things civil. You can check out our Community Guidelines to get the full list of what is and what isn't allowed on CNN.com, but the short version is that we encourage lively discussions and spirited debate.
We don't want comments that are abusive, vulgar, defamatory or obscene.
Our moderators can remove comments that violate our guidelines and block users who have a pattern of bad behavior. We've also given you the power to report abuse when you see comments you think are inappropriate.
It's an evolving system and we spend a lot of time in the newsroom discussing the right approach for delicate stories. Are racial slurs OK in a story about racist language? Is it appropriate to allow comments calling for terrorists, rapists and serial killers to be killed in the most violent way possible?
Or how explicit is too explicit in a story about sex? A recent health story about the female G-spot sparked a particularly frank debate.
We're always looking for new ways to highlight user comments on CNN and to make participating in the discussion more rewarding. If you've got a suggestion, please let us know in the comments.