The case for open comments

I'm not very hep on comment moderation. I think it's a line for bloggers that cannot handle criticism - why is the blogosphere so full of thin-skinned people? - but the usual line trotted out that it's to stop comment SPAM.

Well, since I use Blogger and Typepad, that seems like a cop-out. You can set it so you get comments sent to you when posted - and then delete the comments if you believe or feel that they are SPAM.

Today, BL Ochman posted about the potential for bad PR for American Airlines. I read the article about American the other day in the WSJ - contest winner declines tickets - and smiled. I didn't think it was going to be a huge issue, because the guidelines were pretty explicit in the contest rules. It's an unfortunate event, but the IRS is the IRS.

I wanted to post a comment. I had a valid point that it's not bad PR, but crappy rules. But, apprently I'm no longer allowed to comment on BL's blog ... click the photo for her nice little statement.

Oh, this was my comment:
Is it a PR problem, or the inability to read and understand the fine print, and the lack of knowledge of tax laws?

American Airlines has to declare the tickets at full value. Do they ever sell the tickets at full value? Probably 1 percent of the time - but per tax laws, that's what they have to do.

I feel bad for the guy - well, actually, I think it's pretty funny. But, is this really deserved bad press for American Airlines? Even if they gave him vouchers, they and he have to technically declare the value to the IRS.
I guess this means that I no longer will be reading BL's blog (unless someone IM's me something for a laugh ... which is usually what happens). Which is fine, since I noticed that she doesn't post things so she can usually have the last word.

Why did this come about? Likely because I posted a comment on this post, asking why she felt she had to attack Constantin Basturea. I like Constantin. I've met Constantin. And, no offence to Constantin but attacking him is like kicking a puppy. The man has done nothing but good for PR and the blogosphere: New PR Wiki, Global PR Blog Week, Blogdigger Headlines, plus much more.

So, why moderate comments? Steve Rubel just went to the same policy (although no explanation), which would make me think that if he moderates, he would respond more to comments, but alas that is not happening either.

To me, comment moderation is good for corporate blogs. In a corporate blog, you do have people that are trying to attack the company on unfair grounds. I have posted comments on the GM Fastlane blog - something usually along the lines of move out of Detroit, to save the company - but those get moderated. And, at the IABC Conference, GM noted that their agency does help moderate comments.

But, individual blogs? Blogs written by people in an industry that pounds its chest about open communications and how blogs are equalizing the world, and how these are great venues for a two-way dialogue? Well, that two-way dialogue ends when comments are moderated. Then it's just lip service.

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  1. Hmmmm...I understand your argument against comment moderation, but in the defense of my own comment moderation and maybe some like me, I routinely get about 20 comments a day regarding texas hold’em poker or Viagra (I know this is one of Robert’s biggest pet peeves), neither of which is particularly pertinent to my blog posts.

    When I used the option to receive email notices of blog comments, an over-abundant amount of blog-related comment-approval spam was filling up my already limited email inbox space. I couldn’t simply open the flood gates to a free-for-all approval to comments; readers of my blog might get their hopes up for an insightful comment (ok, so I'm hopeful of hopeful readers), yet instead receive a Chinese Proverb from our friends at texas hold’em.

    I will concede, however, that in this particular case of BL Ochman, comment moderation is used as a cowardly defense mechanism against differing opinions. If a blog is not a “two-way dialogue,” as you describe it, it is simply a well-dressed LiveJournal.


  2. Jeremy: Here is your comment policy:
    "This is not a public forum, this is My Blog.

    This is very much my personal place. Please act as if you were a guest in my home, and I will treat you as one.

    Opposing views are welcomed.
    I will, however, delete your comment if you descend into personal attacks, excessive profanity, mouth-foaming hatred, or other such immature behavior that I deem unacceptable in my home.

    Please craft your contribution accordingly."

    Yet you have called me clueless, rude, idiotic and other words that are simply unacceptable in my home or on my blog, and accused me of having the "myopic view of the New York elite" when I disagreed with you.

    As for being mean to Constantin, whom I admire and consider a friend, here's the exchange:
    BL, each posting offers not one, but three ways of accessing a permalink: through the entry's title, by clicking "read full entry", or by clicking the date and time when the entry was posted (at the bottom of each posting). Don't know what's the deal with the trackbacks :)

    Posted by: Constantin Basturea at July 5, 2005 08:12 PM

    I don't care if there are 12 ways to get to a permalink. Until one of them, above or below the bottom of the post is labeled "permalink," it's not user friendly.

    Posted by: B.L. Ochman at July 6, 2005 12:05 AM

    So Jeremy, you insulted me one too many times and now you're not welcome on my blog. I'm just following YOUR policy. Cause what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

  3. You called B. L. clueless, rude and idiotic? Jeremy, the overuse of adjectives is the first sign of lazy writing.

    B. L.'s business model is about getting sticky eyeballs onto ads for her "reports" -- it's not about "conversation" or any of that Cluetrain nonsense. The sooner you understand that, the sooner you will delete her from your feed reader and get on with life.

    (Odd, though, that she made you the goose and claimed gandership for herself).

  4. If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck...

  5. It's a duck, exactly. Take Allan's advice, unsubscribe and move on!

  6. Allan's my other favorite critic. Allan Jenkins and Jeremy Pepper apparently spend their days looking for other bloggers to criticize. I'm unsubscribing from both of their feeds right now.

  7. Well, this has turned into an intelligent dialog.

    Comment moderation can be a slippery slope. As you delete hateful or venomous posts, you can reach the point where you begin to kill of incendiary dialog just because you, the blogger, disagree with it. If someone responds with a dumb comment, other readers or you will call them on it, or it will be recognized for what it is: dumb and idiotic.

    Every blogger that I read has posted something I would personally consider to be asinine at some point. Sometimes I comment, sometimes I don't. But I'm glad to see my comment appear even when it mocks the writer a little bit. These aren't letters to the editor -- they are Internet jibes.

    Here's to open dialog, no matter how ridiculous it gets.

  8. Greg: I see your point -- well stated -- and will un-ban Jeremy's IP and let readers decide what a nice guy he is, or isn't.

  9. IMHO moderating comments is as bad as not allowing them at all. Spam is a small price to pay for dialogue. As soon as you start moderating comments - or requiring folks to register or log-on - you start turning away people. And that isn't the point of a blog. Web sites get to be exclusive. Blogs need to be inclusive.

    There is a flaw with the the current generation of Blog technology. It allows spam in far too easily. And controlling comments is still too hard. Saying that, I'm very happy with how TypePad works. But moderating comments is just cowardly.

    I don't have any problem with a company or individual pulling down comments that are off topic and that represent the views of trolls and agitators. It's your blog. But if you want dialogue - and especially if you want to stimulate dialgoue - you are going to need to put up with some heat. As soon as that heat goes way off topic or is clearly just soap-boxing, you have the right to clean it out. Afterall, dialogue is dialogue.

  10. Actually, I spend my days looking for ideas to promote and share, though sometimes I will poke fun at something silly. I think truncated feeds, for example, and Blogging for Benjamins are silly trends.

    Oh, and over-reliance on three adjectives when one would do fine.

  11. This is an interesting back and forth.

    As Erica noted, I do not like spam. My blog does moderate comments, but I let everything but spam through.

    The key here is letting everything through and responding to it. In my blog, the number of responses by me almost matches the number of commments. That is the dialogue.

    To some/many, it seems, the dialogue is either (a) I post, you comment - that's it, or (b) I post, you can try to comment, but I will decide if you are worthy.

    Spam is horrible. Today, I received 118 spam comments on one blog and several on another. Since most spam comes to old posts, I turn comments off after 14 days on all posts.

    However, I also have a comment form (by email) which allows all to comment that way and then they can have their comments posted to the original article.

    Blogging software has a way to go. Blogging practices do, too.

  12. You know, I'm just chiming in late, and nearly off-topic, but the notion that the term 'permalink' is in any way user-friendly is foolhardy.

    'Permalink' has meaning to a remarkably small part of the Web-using population. I agree with Constantin that linking from the page title and "read full entry" (I prefer "read more") is a far more intuitive and user-friendly strategy.

    Ideally, if one decides that it's important to absolutely clarify what the link is going to, the text should read "Permanent link to this entry".

  13. Permanent Link is in fact what it says on my blog posts.

  14. I usually have comments and trackbacks open but Texas Holdem and viagra and a couple of pharmaceuticals are hitting me bad this last month. Even after removing the comments and trackpacks from my directory I've got 18,000 page not founds by them so far this month already on my links blog and about 2,000 on Pig Work.

    The server guy was having a heart attack even on moderation - lot of emails.

    What's the cure? I'll have open comments when someone fixes this issue. I don't have time to delete 18,000 spams manually...

  15. Permanent link appears to be a Typepad/Movable Type term.

    Wordpress? Nope. Blogger? Nope. Mindsay? Nope. Xanga? Nope. LiveJournal? Nope.

    So, that's just one blogging company, and it's not even a standard across their different platforms.

  16. But its not a Typepad "problem". Typepad users on the "Pro" plan (the ones allowed to tweak their html/css) can change the word "Permalink" to any word or phrase they choose.

    That said, I think one would have to be a bit thick not to suss out what Permalink means: the DIY market alone is filled with products like Perma-Seal, PermaWax, Perma-Bond, PermaCoat, PermaFilla...

  17. From the Annenberg School's "Online Journalism Review," September 2004:

    "...the godfather of blogging Dave Winer, former CEO of UserLand, told me that comments are not an intrinsic part of a Weblog and have basically failed after a brief honeymoon period in the early history of blogs. 'I think a blog is a publication, and publications have proven that letters to the editor are useful,' Winer said. 'But blogs with comments are not letters to the editor. Letters to the editor are edited, they're selected, and that selection process is a very important aspect of it."'

    "Instead, Winer thinks commenters should simply run their own blog if they want to comment."

    This may wind up being the best possible advice. As for me, I do have commenting turned on and don't moderate comments on my blog, but I do use Captcha. Nearly all comment spam is machine generated, and Captcha prevents that. I haven't seen a single instance of comment spam since I activated it. Trackback spam, on the other hand...

  18. I'd agree with Dave Winer's opinion about blog comments that was shared by Shel. I've gotten myself into a corner or two by making a snide comment on one of y'all's blogs. That being said, I don't feel like I deserve to be let in just because it's a blog...but if you'll let me, I'll come if I had something to contribute. The beauty of the technology is the choice it allows. Whether it's your "publication" or your "conversation" who really cares. It's your what the hell you want. BL has every right to shut the gate on you just as you have the right to step down the street to the next yard. My yard is a mess and I have two really big dogs, and I like to walk around naked a lot, so my gate stays locked.

  19. Hi. Really interesting blog. I'm still reading it.

    BTW, you are right. Bye.


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