On comments and blogs

A tweet by @JasonFalls reminded of this topic.

Have you ever been in a large meeting where someone asks a question that is uncomfortably inappropriate? The perceived anonymity of the internet only seems to only embolden such tendencies.

Copywrite, Ink.: Allowing Anonymous: Communicators Divided - The business and communications justifications for allowing anonymous, allowing moderated comments, or allowing no comments at all. I would tend to agree that considering "[allowing] no comments at all" myopic is a bit harsh, for two reasons:

  1. While the average lone miscreant is relatively harmless, many organizations might (justifiably) consider themselves potential targets of coordinated attacks.
  2. The more popular the blog, the faster the comments degrade into flame wars. I avoid the comments on digg.com and several news sites because I've seen mildly provacative devolve into vitriolic hatred and ignorance--sometimes over something as benign as a story about a local basketball game.

I do, however, like this final point:

However, and I cannot stress this enough, I do advise communicators and public relations professionals to never make anonymous comments or, if they do, they need to be prepared to answer for such posts in a world where no communication is really private. Not anymore.

Of course, my feelings might be partially influenced by the Unedited Voice of a Person:

Do comments make it a blog? Do the lack of comments make it not a blog? Well actually, my opinion is different from many, but it still is my opinion that it does not follow that a blog must have comments, in fact, to the extent that comments interfere with the natural expression of the unedited voice of an individual, comments may act to make something not a blog.

Joel Spolsky draws from this to make the point that you get a few insights, followed by a spew of noise/filth that no one would say out loud if they had to take ownership of their words.

Finally, xkcd illustrates:

Especially on YouTube:

Added 2009.01.16:

@JasonFalls found another gem on a related topic: Time to Rethink Comments on Media Sites?

2 Replies to “On comments and blogs”

  1. Thomas,

    I really appreciate that you've drawn out a highlight from my post. The topic is one of those that keeps coming up over and over, and your addition to the conversation is a good one.

    On the example you cite, I think comment moderation, not necessarily the disallowance of comments, might make a suitable solution in those cases. Pre-screening comments to allow for different ideas but censor flames works for many.

    I'm also not always sure popularity and blog drama go hand and hand. Some of that phenomenon has to do with developing the right culture on the blog or within a social network. People have a tendency to follow the norms established by the blogger or social network leaders. At least, that is what I have noticed over the last few years.

    All my best,
    Rich

  2. I agree moderation is key, but moderation can quickly be time-consuming in the perspective of a popular blog. Imagine the comment moderation equivalent of a DDoS attack. A few dedicated troublemakers can make moderation impossible.

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