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August 19, 2011

Blogging: Comments and Conversations - Moderating Comments

Commenting on blogs is always fun, because it can give you a way to converse with the blogger, letting them know what you think of what they said. Some great conversations can come from this, and people can learn things from each other.

My favourite example of this is my "The more attractive you feel you are, the more likely you are to expect to have dinner paid for" blog, because it's the only post that's sparked a long comment stream, though not exactly much debate. It's not like anybody was dumb enough to take the *other* side in that one against such powerful forces.

But this is talking about personal blogs, relatively low-traffic blogs that aren't part of a company or organization. What about blogs like political blogs, gaming blogs, popular media blogs, and the like?

Most of them that I'm familiar with, they don't moderate their comments. They may police them and delete offensive comments after the fact, but they don't moderate them and not post ones that may offend people.

Most of the political blogs I follow are Conservative, but I would bet that Liberal blogs operate in a similar fashion. Some are no-holds-barred comment fests where offensive comments may be deleted after the fact, but commenters are able to get involved in free-for-alls among themselves. The bloggers themselves rarely comment in the threads, though I'm sure they do read them (unless they're paying somebody to monitor the comments for them).

Hot Air is a blog like this.

This can create quite the community, and it can also instigate some valuable give and take between the commenters involved.

Other blogs, like National Review's blogs (I mainly read The Corner, though I do peruse the others sometimes) recently opened comments on their individual posts. They do moderate, but the moderation is generally very quick. I've posted a few comments there and there has usually only been a brief period between me posting and it actually showing up. Sometimes it almost seemed instantaneous. This became the norm after some complaints about how long it was taking to post.

In a blog where individual posts from contributing members can drive previous posts down the page fairly quickly, a delay in posting comments can kill any interplay between the commenters. It would be very hard to get a debate/conversation going when it takes hours for a comment to appear.

Which gets me to what drove me to write this blog in the first place.

What's the point of allowing comments if they're going to take forever to post? Especially when you don't offer the "subscribe to comments" feature on each post?

I went over to the American Enterprise Institute's blog this morning because one of my favourite writers, Jonah Goldberg, posts over there. I saw that none of the posts had comments on them! There were just a bunch of big, fat zeroes.

So I thought I would contribute my thoughts to a couple of them. Since comments are so few and far between, maybe the writers might actually engage!

That was five hours ago. They still haven't posted.

No wonder there are no comments. Nobody's interested when there's no chance that it will facilitate any kind of discussion. This is a political/policy blog! I would think posts there would spark some lively discussion!

But there's nothing.

There are a *few* posts that have one comment, so I know the comment system works.

But it's kind of pointless, isn't it?

I have the page open and refresh it periodically to see if they've finally posted. But I doubt I'll go back once I leave work and see if anybody responded. For one thing, even if they did, it won't appear for a while.

For another thing, again, what's the point? Who's interested in getting involved in a discussion that takes place over multiple days? Where you have to bookmark each individual page if you want to find it again, because it will be off the front page soon enough? If you comment a lot, that's a lot of bookmarks!

Obviously they're not that interested in fostering discussion, and that's fine. But then why allow comments in the first place? Is anybody going to read them? I guess it keeps their email inboxes from filling up with diatribes (though they do offer the ability to contact contributors directly by email anyway).

I'm befuddled.

Any of you have any thoughts on this, and the moderating of comments in general?

9 comments:

  1. I think adults should be able to say whatever they want and be responsible for their comments. I don't moderate comments on my blog, but I rarely get any. You probably comment on my blog more than anyone else does, even my husband.

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  2. I don't moderate comments on my blog either, unless it's spam or someone who is just being outright abusive. I've only had one negative, antagonistic comment hit my blog since I started it, and I consider that a good track record. My blog isn't one that contains anything overtly controversial, so it doesn't seem to generate a huge amount of debate.

    I welcome discussion, certainly, and am always happy when I get a good bit of traffic in the comments section. And I always, always take time to respond to every comment in as timely a manner as possible. I feel that if someone takes time to read my work and go the extra step of leaving a thoughtful comment, I'm going to honor that with an equally thoughtful reply. I also visit their blog in return, read their latest post and leave a comment. Reciprocity is what keeps blogging driving forward, after all.

    - Dawn

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  3. Knotty: I promise not to make myself moderator-worthy. :)

    Dawnie: I have deleted a few comments from spammers, but for a blog like this, I don't see the point of moderating (my cousin moderates just so that she doesn't miss one, I think, but she can correct me if I'm wrong).

    I'm with you in responding to comments, though if it's a fairly minor comment from a regular commenter that doesn't seem to invite a response, I might not. But anybody new? Definitely respond.

    And I understand the desire to moderate on some political/policy blogs. I just don't see the point of said moderation taking hours (my comments are there now, by the way).

    Thanks, ladies!!

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  4. Ok, keeping in mind that mine rarely deals with anything like politics, I moderate my comments. The main reason being, with my blog being mental health related, I have to keep in mind my audience. While I agree (with what someone said about) that as adults we should all have the right of freedom of speech, etc... Comments like "Get over it" in reference to what is very much a life threatening mental health issue with an high mortality rate, is helpful to NO ONE and can indeed be quite harmful. In just over 1100 posts, I've prevented maybe a handful of comments. Maybe. But I keep the option to prevent abuse to my highly "delicate" readers and myself (though I have to read the abuse to mod it).

    Also, you are correct about my fear of missing one. It's just not the reason I broadcast to my readers.

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  5. Thanks for chiming in, Karen.

    If you want, I can edit that part out, if you don't want it to get out.

    Your reasons for moderating are perfectly understandable.

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  6. Nope, chances of my readers stumbling upon it are small. It isn't BAD that it get out, it's just not a goal. Some might just be defensive on my urge to protect. Others will see it as common sense. It's my readers I'm worried about offending, no one else. In this regard, they are the ones who matter. And the chances of them stumbling upon a random comment I made on a random post you made on a random blog on my blog list, is small. I don't think we share too many readers who aren't related to us, though I may be wrong. We have a different target audience though, mostly. Though your one hit wonders, and reviews could appeal to anyone. *shrug* So some of my readers might come to you, it's less likely any of your readers would come to me. And I'm rambling. Anyway, What's in print here is fine by me.

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