When Eunuchs Blog

I had a conversation today with a reporter, and was commenting to him about the few comments I had received on my blog post on Dennis Hastert and his blog.

His response "I'm starting to think it can't be a blog if it doesn't allow comments. And moderating comments is also bullshit, as name redacted exemplifies so well."

I noted that I have had issues with moderated comments for a while, particularly as it is quite easy to notice that some moderated comment bloggers tend to sit on comments that the blogger does not like. Come on - a day to post a comment, when others appear immediately, depending if they agree or disagree?

His response? "Eunuch blogs. It's true, though. Most politicians don't allow comments on their blogs. It's crap. Orrin Hatch has a "blog" also. It's just talking points with no feedback."

At least Seth Godin - while he does not have comments - has trackbacks. I am not sure if he moderates those, and how long it takes to post a trackback, but he is at least keeping the conversation going and open to conversations.

But, something about moderated comments seems fake. More along the lines of a desire to control the conversation - so much for the open dialogue of blogs - and fake complaints that it is easier to moderate than to delete. I have used WordPress and Typepad - and get comments sent to me when they are posted. It takes the same number of clicks to delete a comment as it does to moderate one. So, calling that out as bullshit.

The reporter ended by saying that is something, that if you don't allow the free comments, or no comments at all, that it just screams that you are "thin-skinned, and that if you can't take comments, then you have no place blogging. That you are half a blog, half a man - like a eunuch."

Just something to think about. Everyone clamors that blogs are about conversations, and old PR was about controlling the conversation. So, moderated blogs are okay? Um, not in my book. They are no better than being gatekeepers.

Or, as a friend puts it "Ball up Bitch."

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  1. Jeremy, you're one of those commentators I usually agree with. But not on this one.

    On any "professional" blog, e.g. corporate, elected politician etc, you absolutely need to moderate comments. It is not for censorship reasons or to filter out opposing views but is to prevent offensive language, libel, racism etc.

    Unless you can staff your blog 365/7/24 and can delete them immediately then you can't afford for that type of material to be damaging your reputation for even a few minutes.

    People who are familiar with blogs might understand that comments are unmoderated but for many businesses and politicians most of their readers will associate those comments with the site owner.

    You can't take the risk.

    However, I do think site owners should publish an "editorial policy" so that visitors know what to expect. I'm busy writing a template at the moment, although it's not as easy as you think as you suddenly start getting into legal issues.

  2. I'm not completely sure where I stand on this one, but think I tend to be more on the unmoderated side. Not to brown nose, but why not have a policy like Jeremy does -- that comments that are attacks, unfounded, etc., -- will be deleted.
    That seems fair. Granted, one person's attack comment is another's opinion, so you can't please everyone.
    I don't have any clients blogging (yet), but can see moderating being an option -- only if comments are quickly posted.
    For example, BusinessWeek's Trendspotting blog (Stephen Baker and Heather Green) requires approved comments. I don't see anything wrong with that, since they are posted quickly.
    I guess it does depend on how thick/thin skinned you are, how often comments would be reviewed, and how much you trust your readers to be fair.
    -- Mike

    P.S. Moderated comments do prevent spam comments from showing up.

  3. I have to disagree with Stuart Bruce, although I certainly respect where he's coming from.
    Keeping an outside voice off of corporate and political blogs is a huge mistake, and one of the key reasons that most of these blogs will never be taken seriously. People are smart enough to know when a commentator has an agenda or is just spewing vitriol.
    I'm tired of hearing that blogs are "consumer conversations" or grassroots journalism. Conversations go two ways and journalism seeks to hear from several points of view on an issue.
    It's all just interest-backed bleating without a dialogue...

  4. I agree with Stuart's position that unmoderated comments can pose a serious risk to professional blogs, particularly. But then I also agree with Michael in that in order for a moderated comment system to be well-received, it must be prompt. I would imagine that consistently timely posting of moderated comments would rival keeping up with unmoderated comments in the amount of time it consumes. So either way, keeping tabs on your site's comments is going to be time-consuming.

    My instincts still tell me that moderated comments imply a lack of openness. The solution? I think sites should have a succinct version of their comment policy front and center for everyone to see, making it clear, as Jeremy does, that unacceptable comments will be deleted in time. And with that, allow open comments. To help with the risk of site viewers getting a bad impression of the site, don't just display the comment policy on the site's main page. Place it at the top of every list of comments, so the disclaimer is fresh in the mind of viewers. (This, especially, needs to be brief: two sentences max. You can always link to your full policy.)

    And a blog with no comments? Yeah, there's no conversation. It's a simplified version of the classic web log: just an online journal, one side posting entries. If that's the case, why set it up as a blog? Why not just let it be a website that's updated very frequently. (I think you'll piss off fewer people that way.)

    At any rate, it's certainly up to each individual site owner whether to offer comments moderated, unmoderated, or at all. There are pros and cons to each. Ultimately, I think the best way to go -- the way that both manages risk and provides that necessary sense of openness -- is with monitored open comments.

  5. Stuart, the act of moderating "to prevent offensive language, libel, racism etc." is understandable.

    I refer you to a recent incident at Marcomblog.com where such a possible lible incident occured. It was dealt with in a relatively timely manner.

    I think Jeremy's concerns center around two issues. One, those that don't allow any conversation / feedback at all. And, two, those that 'do' moderate for content that is contrary to the blog owner's opinions.

    The timeframe (delay) for letting comments through is also an issue. Should it take more than 6 hours (or even a day) for comments to get through? No, not in my opinion. Especially in those blogs that tout them as the "New PR" tool.

  6. FWIW,

    1.) I trackback to Seth Godin's blog pretty frequently - and not all of the posts are entirely positive. I'm under the impression that all trackbacks are accepted (provided they're not spam).

    2.) Online journals have a place - even if they are just one-sided discussions of issues, etc. Positioning them as a blog is, I believe, more of a concern to those of us who blog than the majority of the web-surfing public.

    3.) Moderating comments are a pain in the ass and don't help a business or politician establish a reputation for transparency ... but, then again, most businesses and politicians aren't really interested in transparency, are they? I think a strong editorial policy and a thicker skin go a long way to dealing with any problems that might arise from a corodinated blog attack on a company or candidate.

    4.) Moderating posts may cut down on spam comments, but there are plenty of other ways to keep 'bots and spammers out of your comments section. Word verification systems seem to be working very well right now.

    Mike Bawden
    Brand Central Station

  7. Some good points, Mike.

    Transparency is important. If you are going to take the plunge into journals or blogs, recognize the audience. They will, mostly, expect the function to be available.

    And, Captcha (word recognition) did not help with the problem at Marcomblog, for example.

  8. I agree with you on this one Jeremy, yet definitely respect the opinions of those who disagree.

    To me, moderating comments is like being put on hold, except for much longer. It’s annoying and it creates an unnecessarily long delay in the conversation. It prevents good insight and new ideas from being exchanged in a timely manner.

    If I post a comment on a moderated blog, I sometimes have to wait hours before I ever see it posted. And then once I see it - what if I want to immediately respond to what someone else has said? Do I have to wait another few hours before I see that? By that time, I’m over it, way over it.

    And for what? Because we’re afraid of someone infiltrating our comment box with negativity? Hey, that’s the real world. When negativity comes our way we should deal with it right then and there, not block it out, otherwise it will only build up, turning into something we can’t control. Like Greg said - people are smart enough to know when a commentator has an agenda or is just spewing vitriol.

  9. I am in the pro-moderating camp but only foir the reasons that Stuart Brice puts forward. Politensess costs nothing - regardless of how passionate the individual.

  10. The only reason Orrin Hatch has his "Eunuch" blog is because he is running against Pete Ashdown. Pete started the first ISP in Utah, has a real blog and wiki on his website: www.peteashdown.org
    He doesn't moderate the blog, either.