Those f*%#&’n comments

by Bill Ferris on November 30, 2007 · 2 comments

in General

I’ve found that bloggers have a love-hate relationship with their comment sections. On one hand, we all want a lof of comments. It’s a sign of an active blog. It’s a sign of compelling content. It’s a sign that you have an engaged reader base. At the same time, when comments turn ugly it can be enough to make you want to throw your hands in the air and just shut down the whole blog. For sports bloggers, a losing streak can often bring on the worst of the worst in others as frustrations mount. And typically, the blogger is just as frustrated and is less able or willing to deal with the issue. So what to do?

I know for a long time I was reluctant to ban commentors or delete comments because I thought that it would hurt the community. But then I started to run into commentors that were hurting the community on their own. Two people came in and started belittling anyone that didn’t agree with their stances, making it a not friendly place to be. Those were the first and only 2 commentors I had to ban. One time proved to be enough. It also prompted the creation of my first commenting policy which essentially was:

1. Don’t swear. And don’t try to evade the censors when you swear either.
2. Don’t be a jerk.

Disagreement and criticism are fine, but there are ways to do it in a civilized manner. As for the swearing, it’s not that I have a problem with swearing in general. But I feel that my comment section is a reflection on my blog and on me and it’s not the kind of thing that I want on my site. It’s a sports site and there is no reason that parents should have any qualms about their kids reading it.

A guest post at Problogger nicely captures my feelings on the matter:

How you choose to moderate the comments on your site will affect who feels comfortable to participate on your site, and who will want to come back again and again.

If you let rude, obnoxious, spiteful comments persist on your blog, you are basically telling all of your commenters that it’s okay with you to behave badly on your site. This covert permission can act like a magnet, drawing in hooligans and bullies, making the reading of and participating in your comment section uncomfortable for many. I learned long ago that people will give you as much crap as you are willing to put up with. If you tolerate abusive commenters, they’ll just keep coming back.

USS Mariner probably has the strictest policy that I’ve come across. They will delete posts for a whole host of reasons that go beyond inappropriate content and will do it if they don’t deem your comment worthy. And yet they still have a very active community and the result is a ton of very intelligent discussion. Even a very strict policy can actually help to build community and that strong community lends more credibility to the blog itself.

The other downside to comment moderation is that it takes a lot of time. Spam catchers take care of stuff that is truly spam, but moderating comments can take so much time that it detracts from your regular blogging. The most absolute way is to moderate every comment. This can and will detract from the community because comments don’t appear right away, and who is always watching their blogs.

If you’re using WordPress (I can’t speak to the functionality of other blogging platforms) you can enter key words that when they appear in a post it will be sent to moderation before reaching the audience. This is also an effective way to ban people. I’ve entered IP addresses of the offending commentors into this field as well. It typically deters them for a while – at least until they get a new IP address. Hopefully by that time they will have given up posting. It doesn’t solve all the problems, but it can at least free up some comment moderation time.