We’re in the middle of the Pitch Your Shorts pitch session with Entangled Publishing. If you have a 10-60K word story with strong romantic elements, check out that post for details on how to pitch to six(!) editors.
During the pitch session, I’ve had to lock down comments to make sure things run as smoothly as possible. Normally, I love encouraging conversations in the comments, so this temporary change made me think about how we balance comment policies and our desire for interaction on our blogs.
Some authors don’t allow comments on their blogs at all, while others let everything and anything go through. Most people delete spam comments, sometimes without checking to make sure the comments are really spam. Some people engage with trolls, while others delete all negative comments.
I don’t think there’s any “one right answer,” as everyone has to do what makes sense to them. But maybe by learning others’ reasons for their policies, we might discover an approach that works better for us.
Know Your Options
WordPress blogs can use the Akismet plugin, which catches 99.99% of spam comments. (That’s not an exaggeration. I get 30-50 spam comments a day, and I’ve seen only a handful of false negatives or false positives over my year and a half of blogging.) I don’t know if Blogger blogs have a similar plugin (maybe someone can share in the comments).
Personally, I’ve decided to check spam comments before deleting, as several legit comments have landed in the spam folder. Besides, many of my spam comments are…er, entertaining and educational. *smile* I blogged before about what we can learn from spam (one spam comment inspired the story I’m pitching!), and I translated another spam comment into Instructions for Zombie Apocalypse Looting.
The Discussion settings in WordPress can be set to disallow anonymous comments (requiring a name and email address), close comments on older posts, require a first-time commenter to go through moderation, moderate all comments, or disallow all comments. I know Blogger can be set to moderate comments on older posts, but I’m not sure about the rest.
On my blog, I’ve decided to disallow anonymous comments and require first-time commenters to go through moderation. I enjoy the give and take of opinions from my readers, but I also want to keep spammers and trolls away. I think that’s a happy medium that hopefully doesn’t impair the conversation.
Some people use a third party like Intense Debate or Disqus to manage comments. I’ve decided against using a comment management plugin for now because some people might not comment if they have to sign up for yet another service. (I know I resisted for a while.)
Next up on the line of tricky decisions is how to handle legitimate or semi-legitimate comments when they’re negative about us, our work, or our readers/other commenters. Some people simply don’t want negativity of any kind on their blog. Others don’t want to be seen as having too thin of a skin, so they let insults through. And still others like encouraging controversy and debate.
I’ve written some posts that are controversial, meant to start discussions of pros and cons, and some that ask for others’ opinions to see if anyone can get me to change my mind. It would be disingenuous of me to ask for opinions and then delete any comments that disagree with me.
Personally, I’ve set the line at insults. Of the two comments I’ve deleted, one was an obvious troll who insulted me for liking the latest Star Trek movie (which wasn’t the point of that post anyway), and the other was a pseudo-anonymous commenter who yelled at me for referencing Wikipedia as a source in a post. (Apparently, they wanted to copy my post for a college essay, but their professor doesn’t allow Wikipedia to be used as a source. They were mad at me because the post was “written annoying well for something i can’t use.”) Yeah, I’m real broken up about those two comments. *rolls eyes*
Beyond negative comments, the slipperiest slope is whether or not we should edit someone else’s comment. When someone comments on our blog, are we “allowed” to mess with their URL, links they include, or modify their content?
Like the legitimate-but-negative issue, this is a tough call. Our blog is our online home and what happens there reflects on us. We each have to find the line that matches with our needs. Some of us want to have a professional image or brand. Some of us worry more about insulting our readers by messing with their comments.
It might help us decide how to handle the situation if we think of our blog literally like our home. We might take into consideration whether the commenter is a regular (Do we consider them a friend in our home or are they more like a random guest?) and whether we know what their intentions are (Did they include that link to be helpful because it’s relevant or to be a drive-by spammer?). In other words, would we let them get away with that behavior in person or would we escort them to the door?
As I mentioned in the post for the pitch session, I’ll edit comments if I know the commenter wants to change it. Several times, someone has posted a second comment with a correction right after another comment. I’ll often edit their original comment to match what they want and delete the follow-up comment. I usually let them know I’ve done this, and they’ve been grateful for having their typo erased. I consider this a service I provide to make up for the fact that my comment system doesn’t allow editing.
Usually, as long as a link is relevant to the post and helpful, I’ll allow them. The one time I deleted a link, it felt more like someone starting a sales pitch in the middle of a party in my house. Nope, I don’t have to allow that.
A handful of times, I’ve had new commenters to my blog say something that seems relevant but is a bit off. In those cases, I’ve checked the URL they list with their name and email. If the URL leads to a website that feels spammy, I’ll simply delete the URL so their comment can be approved but their name won’t link to anything. I figure that’s a good middle of the road decision to avoid upsetting someone who might be a real reader of my work, but also prevents me from being taken advantage of, just in case they weren’t legit.
I’m sure some will think I’m too lenient (maybe they don’t allow any outside links) and others will think I’m too much of a control freak (umm…no comment *smile*). My point is that we each have to find the line we’re comfortable with. Some bloggers might not have considered these issues or assumed they had to let everything through. Maybe by talking about our options, we can find the approach that feels right to us.
What are your blog policies? Do you moderate comments? What makes you not let a comment through? Have you ever edited a comment? Are you a Blogger user who can provide insight to those options? Do you want to try to convince me to change to Intense Debate or Disqus?
(And I apologize if your comment gets caught in moderation because of the temporary lock-down due to the pitch session. I’m out-of-town for my grandmother’s funeral, but I promise I’ll approve your comments as soon as I can.)Pin It