Blogggin: Ur Doin It Rong

One of my favorite memes is LOLcats. I never get tired of them. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.

I had hoped to find a hilarious “ur doin it rong” to go with blogging, but alas, you’ll have to be amused by these representative samples.

Anyway, I have a few pet (pun intended) peeves related to blogging, or rather to commenting on blogs. The assumption here is that the blog has comments turned on; if not, it’s not really a blog, is it?

Peeve 1: Moderated Comments
This gets to why someone starts a blog in the first place. If the goal was to open topics up to discussion, moderated comments throw a wet blanket over that. I’m by no means a serial commenter, but when I’m motivated enough by a post to comment, I like to see my comment immediately.

It’s the instant gratification, not dissimilar to what Twitter provides. Moderating comments also lengthens the feedback loop. So not only do I wait for my comment to appear, I also wait for the blogger to respond.

People don’t comment without expecting or at least hoping for a response (more on that later).

Most arguments I’ve heard for moderation are pretty thin, IMHO.

  1. All kinds of spam will get through.
  2. I want to censor people.
  3. I can’t keep up with comments.

None of these are compelling to me. First, let’s address spam.

Any blogging software worth its salt will have pretty decent comment spam blocking. However, even a good spam blocker, like Askimet for WP will fail to catch everything. Just like with email, spammers find a way.

Some posts attract more spam that slips through than others, but if you keep a watchful eye on your comments, which you should anyway, you’ll be able to spot these and remove them with ease.

Spam tends to flock to popular blogs too, so if you have a small audience and low traffic, you’re probably not going to have major problems.

Now for censorship.

Censorship has a negative connotation, but what else would you call when you moderate what people can say on your blog? I believe most moderating bloggers have good intentions. They don’t want cussing or flaming on their blogs. However, the odds of that happening are like spam. They go up as you get more readers. The problem for me is that if a blog moderates comments, and I have a negative or dissenting viewpoint to express, what’s the likelihood that my comment ever makes it out of moderation?

Finally, time constraints.

This one is counter-intuitive to me, since it’s less effort to let all the comments through without moderating them. Like I said, most of the comments you get will be from interested readers who want to have a conversation. This is why people start blogging, right?

Peeve 2: Black Hole Comments
While we’re talking conversation, I just don’t get why people blog and don’t reply to comments. One major tenant of Web 2.0 is the evolution of publishing into participation.

So, if you blog and don’t reply to comments, aren’t you just publishing? Even bloggers for a highly trafficked blog like TechCrunch or ReadWriteWeb reply to comment, which often number in the hundreds. Maybe they don’t reply to each and every one, but when you get 400 comments, that model doesn’t scale.

When you only have a handful, what’s the problem?

Yeah, I know people are busy, but I’ll ask again, why did you start the blog?

Peeve 3: Anonymous Commenting
This starts out as a peeve and gets into anger territory when you see people attacked behind the anonymity and impersonal nature of the Intertubes.

IMHO if you have something to say and feel passionate enough about it to comment, why not put your stamp on it? I’m not defending marketing walls here either. I think they tend to encourage anonymity in the form of psuedonyms.

A blog should have a commenting system (like Disqus), ideally that supports OpenID (and by the way, I would like to know why the Disqus blog widget doesn’t allow OpenID authentication), or a form that allows a quick way for commenters to identify themselves and give their comment.

Anonymous commenting makes people suspicious, and it’s not that anonymous, as Vinnie pointed out last year. People may not know you’re a dog on the Intertubes, but they do know a lot more about you than you think.

Not all anonymous commenting ends up as hate, but when it does, it’s yet another reminder of how easy it is to say hurtful things when you don’t have to confront someone. It happened to Kathy Sierra, and it just happened to a friend of mine, Corvida Raven. It’s despicable, and it’s happened to countless others and will continue to happen.

Not all anonymous commenters mean harm, but if you make the leap to comment, why not tell the bloger who you are?

So, these are my peeves with commenting. What do you think? Am I full of it? You know what to do.

And you’ll find your thoughts unmoderated and definitely answered.

AboutJake

a.k.a.:jkuramot

19 comments

  1. We see things through the same lolcats lenses, dude. When you only write one blog article per month like me, it's pretty easy to keep up, though :).

    For the record, I like http://www.gizoogle.com as much or more than lolcats, but not quite the same way.

    As usual, a thought-provoking and on-point post–thanks!

  2. I know you do on your website, but the blog widget that I display on posts only has username and password. How can someone sign in to comment here using OpenID? Do I need to tweak the widget?

  3. Nice, very funny and totally incomprehensible. I do love an AYBABTU reference every now and again. That always makes me lulz.

    BTW, saw your rant today. Does Dell sell a SAN? Can I buy one on Amazon?

  4. “You are on the way to destruction!!”

    For the SAN, please send me the money via paypal and I'll send you a whole SAN in a single box (warning: I may light it on fire…guess what's in the box). I'll let you know when you've sent enough money…keep it coming :).

  5. I agree with you about comments. Another couple of peeves about moderation

    – When *everything* is moderated, how do I know why it hasn't appeared? It could be because someone didn't like the comment or they just missed it. Maybe the odd comment will be moderated because it looks like spam, but *all* of them?

    – This one happened to me recently. Someone asks 'does anyone know how this works?'. There are no comments yet, so I take a little time to answer. But the blog owner is in bed, so they can't approve it. So the next person comes along, spots that there are no comments yet, so they take a little time to answer …. Eventually the various comments appear, but until they do, there's no way of knowing whether it's a productive use of your time.

    – Oh, one more, and I've raised it with the one example I've come across – first you have a captcha (an excellent one, but that's not the point) *then* the comment is moderated! What's that all about?

  6. Yes, all very good additions to the overall point, thanks.

    Your first point is most annoying to me, and I can't believe I forgot to mention it. Just like anonymous commenting is suspicious, moderation seems fishy. Maybe less so, but still, you're right. You have no way of knowing what has been censored and why.

    Don't get me started on captchas. I'm a big fan of OpenID and us Vidoop to manage mine. No complaints yet. Bonus for me, I know a lot of the people at Vidoop, and I trust them to handle my identity. And I know where they work.

  7. I've had comments edited by removing a sentence or two because the author didn't like them. (Not here, obviously!) Frustrating that someone would remove something instead of addressing it. And since my email address is always required when I comment, why didn't they mail me to let me know of the edit?

    I personally think people who run their blogs this way are full of themselves or are just a bully. I rarely read/visit them after that.

  8. That's weak. I've not had that happen, at least that I can remember. I usually lose interest in the conversation while waiting for my comment to appear, effectively ending the dialog.

    I'd like to add paranoid to that list of people who moderate. I think there's an element of fear that people will post porn (recurring theme) or flame the blogger, the blogger's company, family, etc.

  9. I initially moderated comments on my blog and stopped after about a week because I found

    1) Askimet seemed to be catching all the spam
    2) I realized I was slowing down the conversation

    Sometimes I get comments that rankle me, such as this one the other day

    http://davidhaimes.wordpress.com/2007/12/08/com

    I try to give a respectful answer and I think that gives the blog more credibility than if I deleted any comments I didn't agree with.

  10. Completely right. People won't always agree with what you say, but that's life.

    One reason we don't provide a delete/edit comments capability on Mix or Connect is to prevent editing the thread. One person mentioned that this was needed to remove any negative comments.

    This gets back to the “what if someone posts porn?” question; first off, how often does that really happen? And second, it violates the spirit of the community to censor people with whom you don't agree.

    Of course, we oversee the community and take care to make sure people play nicely. This model seems to work.

  11. Jake–IMHO you're a teeny bit full of it, but as usual I like the post anyway.

    1) Moderation: Agree with you 100 percent. It's annoying. And editing someone's comments is absurd.

    2) Censorship: In the extreme, I'll continue to censor. Not that I get a lot of comments on my blog, but I had one that made a vague sexual reference to my wife. Even though she thought it was completely harmless, I pulled it. And just a few days ago, after a post on General Motors, someone posted a reply with an obvious sexual reference to one of their car lines (hint: gas hog, begins with the letter “H”). Sorry, but I pulled that one too, and I stand by that decision.

    3) Anonymity: This is a tough one for me. I choose to remain relatively anonymous, but gimme a break. It's pretty easy for someone to find out who I am. I simply choose not to plaster my first and last name all over the Web. My blog site link is another matter, of course. Now, if someone is out there day in and day out replying in the most extreme form, I agree–why hide.

  12. How can anything be a teeny bit full?

    Regarding censorship, I am sorry that someone made rude comments directed at your wife. Did that person post anonymously?

    I would completely agree with your actions if you included a note saying the comment was removed, who left it and why. Censorship also removes accountability. You lose the opportunity to let your community support you. So, from the blogger's perspective, my approach would be to remove the really nasty bits, but make sure there was a record of who did what and why it was removed.

    People get mighty pissy when you change history, and changing blog content and comments without any updates is bad form. The worst type of censorship is removing opinions you don't like, e.g. you said I'm “full of it”. Sure, there's a somewhat attached, but what's to stop me from editing you? And any future comments?

    Regarding anonymity, I have no problem with your approach. As you say, anyone can easily find your true identity. I don't care for pure anonymity or pseudonyms.

    Handling these issues right helps with credibility. At the end of the day, it's all just a bunch of opinions.

  13. Jake–Insightful. I'm just learning this stuff… So….
    1. I'm allegedly friendly from a business perspective with the guy who made the remark about my wife. I emailed HIM and put him in his place.
    2. In terms of the GM post from the other day, I just threw a comment up on my blog telling folks that someone posted a comment and I removed it because it “crossed the line” given that I have the occasional 10 year old nephew who reads my blog.

    Good advice, and thank you as always!

  14. These are my peeves, so they should be taken as just that. Again, sorry that people have been rude to your family. That's definitely out of bounds.

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