Day 14 – Comment Control

CROWDSOURCE DESIGN UPDATE: You’re all doing a fabulous job deciding how this blog should look and behave.  It’s been a great experience, even when I make a total mess of things or break the site.  There’s a little time left to comment about the $2000 Web Design Giveaway entry rules, so I’m going to wait to officially announce the giveaway until Monday.

I just returned from a lunch meeting with a big client (that’s big as in size of the organization, not size of the actual people, who were all quite petite) where we were brainstorming a new WordPress-based site for the commercial arm of one of their departments.  In the hour long meeting, an amazing amount of time was spent discussing the options, benefits and drawbacks of allowing visitors to leave comments, testimonials, and ask questions that would be visible to everyone else on the interweb.

Now, granted, this organization has an onion-like structure of brand management and risk management and brand risk management (okay, I made that last one up) that exceeds anything that most of us everyday blogging types ever encounter.  But the argument is still just as important to us.

Why?  Comments are how we know visitors to our blogs are more than just accidental arrivals via Google.  They are proof that someone out there was compelled to start a conversation with your content.  And, frankly, they are what motivate me to keep blogging—without that feedback, encouragement, and occasional chiding, I would probably have stopped blogging a long time ago.

From a business perspective, they are crucial bits of information about your audience demographic, powerful evidence of your influence when seeking sponsors and advertisers, and often serve as a very candid evaluative method to determine the success (or failure) of your blog.

What role do comments play in your blog?  Do you leave room for commentary in your posts, or do you wrap up each entry so neatly that no one wants to muss up the packaging?  What have you learned from comments received on your blog?

From a strategic design perspective, comments are complicated, because comment forms open up your site to spammers and flamers (the angry kind, not necessarily the homosexual kind).  Comment moderation, where the author must approve every comment, slows dialogue.  CAPTCHA codes (those wacky letters and numbers that verify you’re human) and registration requirements stop spammers, but add baggage to the process.

Some argue that each added layer of security, each step someone must take to comment, decreases the odds that actual readers will make a comment.  Others say good fences make good neighbors.  Many professional bloggers and websites have established comment moderation policies that clearly define what’s okay and what’s not.

So, today I have two quick Blog Salad design questions:

What do you think?  What’s okay to delete, to block, and what should be fair game?  Is commenting a first amendment right?

6 responses to “Day 14 – Comment Control”

  1. babette

    Here’s my take: it’s your blog. You get to say if a comment goes up. I want my blog to be a nice place…I don’t want spammers to get to put comments into the comment space.

    The world is nasty enough. I get to expel nasty on my blog.

    As for captcha, I voted who? Because, well, what Do YOU think??? Do you care about it?…It doesn’t make me NOT leave a comment…and I don’t mind the blogger knowing I’m’s another tool.

    I will be interested to read if captcha chases commenters away…


  2. Alexandra Grabbe

    I, for one, am glad you are back.

    I noted a word in the text that seems REALLY important to me as we ride along together down this Avenue of Contemplative Dreams. Which one? Compelling. A blog has to be compelling if you want strangers to read it and return to read it again and again.

    Yes, comments are important, of course. It took me four years to start getting more than the occasional comment. And, I don’t mean comments from friends and family, who, in my case, don’t even read my blog anymore.

    I have discovered that if you comment on the blogs of some bloggers, they will return the favor, ie. reciprocate. I like to have my blog well dressed, so I do a lot of commenting on other people’s blogs.

    I only answer a comment if there is need to clarify something, or if the writer really seems to be looking for acknowledgement. Actually, that’s not true. I do welcome new commenters. I know some people think you should answer each comment, but just posting every day and reading favorite blogs is enough time spent at the computer for me. One type of comment that I do not allow is quasi advertising that manages to slip into someone’s remarks and takes readers away from the original topic …

    I try to remember a “take home” or questions to stimulate comments, but sometimes that doesn’t work, like when I’m doing straight-forward reporting.

    I have had blog readers show up on my doorstep. Now, that’s not a risk for most folks, but because I run a B&B and write about my town, it does happen and is always disconcerting when the world of the Internet intersects one’s private world ….

  3. Jackie Dishner

    I moderate all comments that come to my blog. Like Barb, I don’t do nasty. I don’t welcome that into my life. So moderating the comments helps me stay in control of the message I’m trying to get out. Disagree with me, but don’t bring a mean-spirited attitude to my space. I don’t want it and won’t let it in. I don’t mind the CAPTCHA codes, either, because they help prevent spam. That’s good. I’m not a huge fan of Anonymous comments and comments that don’t link back anywhere, so I accept and reject those on a case by case basis.

  4. Julie in Greenwood

    I voted to moderate because I know what a royal pain it is to stay on top of those spammers as a blogger. I also know that, as a reader, it’s a turn-off to read “Hey, I just found the perfect television. You can save money, too — check it out.” on a post about guacamole. (Only they don’t know enough about punctuation to make it look that good. LOL)

    The ones that really send me through the roof are the “I see you have in common with me and I am in agreement with this post. I am thinking to return here often” remarks. Generic enough to look legitimate, but the English is off just enough that you know if you click on the name, you’ve just sent yourself to someplace you truly don’t want trackable on your computer.

  5. Jennifer Fink

    As a blog reader, I voted for moderated comments. Off-the-topic or clearly spam-like comments do little to add value to a blog, and as a reader, I’m grateful to bloggers who take their time to keep their blogs free of such mess. I also think the blogger should have final say over what’s allowed on his or her site. I’m all for free speech, I don’t believe a blogger should have to host comments that he or she believes are inappropriate for any reason.

  6. Blog Salad | Day 16 – HOLY LOGO BATMAN.

    […] CROWDSOURCE UPDATE: Well, my fellow blogarinos, we’re past the halfway mark in the 2010 WordCount Blogathon! And I figured out why no one was commenting on my blog—my goofy sleep-deprived behind left my maintenance page up for two days without realizing it (Thanks @bikelady and @michellerafter for alerting me of my ineptitude).  C’est la vie, and all that jazz.  The results of my Comments poll have been quite interesting, and the commentary has been far more intelligent than my post—I highly recommend taking a look. […]