Blogging

Why I Changed My Mind on Moderating Comments

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For years, I suggested that bloggers should avoid moderating comments to encourage more discourse among their visitors. That was then….

A decade ago, I wrote a post about moderating comments. In fact, I asked bloggers if they were moderating them and, if so, my follow up question was, Why?

Yes, that was way back in 2012. When you blog for more than 18 years, it’s amazing how quickly time flies. Those timestamps on old posts can really be a shock to the system!

Ten years ago, things were different.

First, people were more likely to leave comments on blogs a decade ago. As social media grew more and more powerful, comments and discussions moved to social media. That was fine for forwarding the discussion. But it hurt blogs because those discussions weren’t happening where the posts were. New readers, therefore, had no way to see what the discussions were.

For that matter, even the blogger might not necessarily see those discussions. A reader could send a link to the post to one of their own social profiles and start up a discussion. That’s great in that it potentially gets more eyes on the blogger’s content. But if the blogger has no idea the discussion is happening, he’s missing out on potential new content that could provide a timely update to the post.

Bloggers too easily miss such discussions. It can be very difficult to find them.

But there was another big difference a decade ago. I used a platform called Livefyre. I found it in the WordPress repository years ago. Back then, you could install it free on your site and it took moderating comments to a new level.

Specifically, it seemed to do an excellent job at blocking spam. You could also get rid of trolls in a sneaky manner by clicking a “bozo” button. This let the commenter — the troll — see his comment, but prevented everyone else from seeing it. That way, since no one was “feeding the troll,” they were more likely to go away.

It wasn’t that I suggested you shouldn’t moderate comments.

In fact, I said it wasn’t about whether to moderate them. It was about, I said, how you go about it. Rather than preventing a comment from seeing the light of day until the blogger “approves” it, I suggested a different tack. They could allow the comment to go live, and if someone said something they shouldn’t, the blogger should act at that time.

Maybe that action was to edit the comment to remove offending material (provided editing was an option). In such cases, they should certainly add an “editor’s note” indicating they had edited the comment. That served two purposes. It let the audience see your transparency and it let the troll know you wouldn’t tolerate “trollery.”

Maybe the action would be to delete the comment altogether. It’s your site, after all. You have every right to do so. Four years ago, I put it this way:

When we blog, it’s like we’re opening our front door and letting people in our living room.

You wouldn’t tolerate any kind of behavior from a visitor in your own home. You’d have your own idea of what is acceptable conduct in your home and what isn’t.

Blogging is no different.

By contrast, of course, when you delete an inappropriate comment, the audience may not have any idea. The troll might notice, if he bothers to come back to see if he stirred up a hornet’s nest.

But at least you’ve prevented garbage from staying on your site.

I had a good reason against moderating comments.

Let’s say someone left a comment on your blog at 10 a.m. You’re at work. You don’t get off work until 6 p.m., let’s say. Unless you check your blog for comments on company time (or at least on your lunch hour), it could be a minimum of two hours or more before any of your readers see that comment.

If it’s a comment others might comment on themselves, you’re potentially losing conversation on your site.

When I used Livefyre (which dropped its free version in favor of an expensive enterprise version for business sites years ago), I actually saw this kind of organic conversation happen. In fact, it was during my time with Livefyre that I saw more conversations popping up between readers live on the site than ever before.

I did not moderate comments before the fact back then. I rarely had to fix any issues after the fact.

But conversation, at least for a time, picked up. But again, this was as social media was taking off. I think social media took a lot of the real-time conversation from most blogs.

Today, it’s a different picture.

Over the years, more big bloggers announced they would shut down their comments. They claimed it was about the “sheer volume” of spam comments they received.

I always found that dubious. Granted, my site doesn’t get a lot of comments these days. While the readership is still there, commenting largely is not. But I haven’t gotten a spam comment in quite a while. In fact, I can’t even remember the last time I received a comment clearly written by some spambot.

Between plugins like Akismet and Bad Behavior, and the general lack of commenting, I note a dramatic decrease in spam comments.

But there’s a more dramatic difference these days: People seem to have forgotten basic manners.

I have a handful of folks who comment more often than anyone else. They’re always respectful, even when they disagree with something I’ve said. I appreciate that more than they know.

Not everyone, however, possesses the ability — or feels any obligation — to be polite. We have watched these bad manners become the norm on social media for years. But some commenters feel the need to bring it to people’s personal websites, too.

That’s unacceptable. It’s intolerable. If I were to paraphrase a famous quote attributed to Winston Churchill, it is something “up with which I will not put.”

So, yes. I changed my mind.

You can blame the last president for the general loss of manners. Many people surely will.

While Donald Trump’s behavior may have scared off a good deal of the manners that still existed on social media and public discourse, the vanishing act had already begun by the time he took office.

Rudeness is not something bloggers should feel obligated to tolerate. I certainly don’t feel any such obligation.

So when you leave a comment, it goes into a queue. I approve it as quickly as I can.

I’d say at least 75% of the comments don’t cross any line that would raise any objection. But for the 25% that do, they won’t ever see the light of day here.

Maybe, if we return to bit of politeness from the general populace, comment moderation might not be so necessary.

For now, it seems to be.

Do you moderate comments on your blog, or allow them at all? Why or why not?

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.

2 Comments

  • I’ve not had any unkind comments, unless I’ve forgotten some from the old days (I’m 77 years old now). I do sometimes get a spam comment, but those are on older posts, generally, and I have to approve comments on any post more that two days old. I still have a group of friends, many of them bloggers themselves, who comment. I don’t get as many comments as I used to either, but that’s partly because I don’t comment on every blog I follow as often as I could, I’m sure.

    • Donna, I’m definitely guilty of not commenting on other sites like I should. That’s why I don’t complain about not getting comments; I wish I did, but I realize how busy everyone is these days as soon as I look at my own schedule. I set a time limit for older posts for the very reason you mentioned: most of the spam I was getting was on really old posts, as if spammers thought they could sneak those by.

      I always appreciate your visit! 🙂

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