Thoughts on Blog Comments, Moderation, and the Conversation

by Scott Allen - June 16, 2008 
Filed Under Blogging

Every blogger at some point has to wrestle with his or her own philosophy on blog comments and moderation. Each blog has different goals and a unique target audience so there is no “one size fits all” answer. The particular solutions will have to be different for each blog. I think about blog comments a lot. More so since developing WP-SpamFree, because now I’m always thinking about how to help improve the quality of blog conversations – that’s really what the comments are – part of the conversation. I’ll share some thoughts that may affect your particular strategy for handling blog comments.

The Conversation

First off, I’ll explain my view on blog comments as part of a conversation. The blog author writes a post and starts the conversation, which is continued through the comments. I think real-life conversational etiquette comes into play, or at least it should. When people have conversations outside the Matrix (Internet), there is nothing wrong with disagreeing or trying to persuade others to our point of view, as long as it’s done in a civil manner (not rude, not yelling, etc.) I feel the same way about blogs. I don’t mind if you disagree with me or have a different point of view (in fact that’s great!), but being rude, off-topic or self-promotional lowers the quality of the conversation, and let’s face it, who wants to have a conversation with someone who does that? We go elsewhere. What I find incredible is that people sometimes act very differently on blogs than they do in real life. In real life they would be courteous, even if they are disagreeing with others, but somehow online – where words are just words and there are no faces – it seems ok to drop some of these civilities. What happened here?

There a few irksome things that we see in a lot of blog comments. One is trolling. We all dislike trolls – people who visit a blog or forum with the sole intent of stirring up trouble, or flaming. Disagreement is fine, but there is nothing constructive about trolling and flaming. Another is when people read a blog post and take one line out of context and then start harping on something that clearly wasn’t the author’s intent. To that I say: “Read the entire post before you comment!” A third, is blatant self-promotion. We’re all guilty of a little shameless self-promotion from time to time, but seriously, let’s keep it to a minimum. The fourth, is a variation of #3: Dropping an extra link in the comments. The whole purpose for allowing blog commenters to place links in comments is to add to the conversation. If you really feel a link helps the conversation, add it. But people shouldn’t just throw a link to their site in because they can. Everyone already gets a link to your site just by commenting – is it necessary to make the comment spammy by adding another? You can probably come up with a few more that bother you too.

Comment Moderation

Personally I believe bloggers should always moderate comments. There are many who would disagree with me on this, and that’s fine. Their points are valid. Some feel moderation slightly discourages commenters, and I understand this position, as I don’t want to stifle the freedom of the commenters. However, in my opinion the costs of not moderating outweigh the benefits. Here are my reasons:

Editorial Integrity

That being said, it’s important for you to exercise editorial integrity, or your blog just turns into one big propaganda piece. (Again, just my thoughts here – you’re obviously free to do as you like.) If you edit a comment, don’t do more that fix grammar or typos, or strip a link. Also, don’t just delete a comment because it disagrees with you. Learning to respond with class to dissenting comments is a skill that every blogger should develop. However, if a comment is excessively rude or uncivil, by all means, delete it. People should learn to have discussions with respect for each other, so my tolerance level is pretty low in that area.

The Other Side of The Coin

There are two sides to this coin. We also need to become better commenters. Some quick questions we should ask ourselves before we hit submit:

If our comment fails any of these questions, then we should rewrite it with something that adds to the conversation and isn’t self-serving.

The thing I’ve found is that by simply participating in conversations without selfish motives, you make friends who want to link to you and promote you without you ever asking them to.

Enough of My Thoughts – How ‘Bout Yours?



5 Responses to “Thoughts on Blog Comments, Moderation, and the Conversation”

  1. Guy on November 4th, 2008 12:13 pm

    In my opinion the website owner owns the comment and has the right to do with it as he sees fit. But he also has the responsibility to ensure that the comment is suitable and not illegal or defamatory in any way. The trouble is then you spend half your time moderating comments. I gave up on my site especially with all the automated rubbish and have now turned it off

  2. Cindy Carnes on November 24th, 2008 1:22 pm

    I have an issue with somebody leaving nasty remarks on my blog. They have to log into a google account, but I can’t track who it is? How would I find out so I can email them and suggest they stop doing this? Thank you. Cindy

  3. Cindy Carnes on November 24th, 2008 1:23 pm

    I forgot to add, I moderate the comments now, but they are still posting them. I don’t publish them, but I need to be able to find out who it is and request that it stop.

  4. SteelMagnolia on December 27th, 2008 5:41 pm

    My daughter had a former friend posting nasty remarks on her blog. Nothing obscene or threatening, just hateful. She refused to contact her and tell her to stop because that was just what the girl wanted. Moderating the posts solved the problem.

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