My evolving view on blog comments

I’ve started to practice Aikido. That sounds impressive. At the moment, it mostly involves me having far more skilled people repeatedly throw me to the mat.

Make no mistake, I love it. And, I plan to become a lot better at it. Why? Because practitioners of Aikido defend themselves without harming their opponent. Instead, they sense an attacker’s intentions and respond in a way that incapacitates them.

The philosophy behind Aikido aligns with what matters to me. Because of this, I’m already noticing how I can use the principles of Aikido in other aspects of my life.

Case in point: My evolving view on blog comments.

Random, I know. My mind works in orthogonal ways. Here’s what I mean:

When I was a less experienced blogger, I would relish the sight of a blog comment. Ooh! Someone noticed my blog! And they took the time to comment! Win!

Since then I’ve written 480 blog posts and published over 2,694 approved comments. That’s cool. I’m happy many people have taken the time to comment thoughtfully and with consideration. I’ve enjoyed some of the conversations I’ve had.

Here’s what I don’t like:

  • Uncivilised discussion. Stupid or ugly comments that do nothing to further the conversation.
  • Comments from people who didn’t take the time to read the article.
  • Comments from anonymous posters intending to attack me or other commenters
  • Pointless comment spam. My spam blocker (Akismet) has blocked 12,731 spam comments since August 2015. Still, spammers are getting smarter. Too much spam requires my personal attention to delete. Comments like these wastes my time. I could spend this time doing much more productive things.

Unproductive comments on my personal blog are more than enough. I have also had to contend with comments on other sites to which I contribute.

Commenters on SL Blogger Support tend to comment politely even when they disagree. Perhaps it’s the nature of the community there. For this reason, I’ve been happy to write 22 articles for this blog in 2015. I’ve published 334 comments associated with these posts, almost all constructive.

Commenters on New World Notes are plentiful, anonymous and (perhaps consequently) much less helpful. With few exceptions, reading comments on Hamlet’s, Iris’s and my posts is not rewarding. I’ve thus limited my posting to that site. Who’s got time for that? Hamlet seems to have the stomach for it. That’s not an area I want to develop.

Firestorm is one of Second Life’s most high traffic sites. Thousands of people read every post, and many people comment too. Upwards of 50 per post. Firestorm’s comment policy is ‘anything goes’, with which I don’t agree. But it’s their blog, and they make the rules. I can accept getting hate mail because my principal activity with Firestorm isn’t blogging. My goal there is much bigger, so it’s worth it.

I told someone close to me that I was preparing myself for loads of hate mail from my next Firestorm blog post. Surprised, they looked at me and asked: “Hate mail? Why would you get hate mail from volunteering to help people?”

I had to ponder the question and realised I’d become accustomed to this new reality. I didn’t like that I had and that feeling was a catalyst to doing something about it.

Indeed, how is that behaviour even possible, let alone acceptable? It doesn’t happen in my day to day work. I’ve never in my life been the recipient of the vitriol I’ve received while blogging in Second Life. And it’s not because I’m a doormat elsewhere. I voice my opinions in all domains of life. My feelings don’t generate such odious passion in people I interact with in day to day life! Only here. Only in Second Life.

On my blog, I’ve considered disabling comments altogether. Bigger blogs have led the way in this regard – including Re/code and Copyblogger. Both these sites and others cite similar concerns as I’ve listed above. Trends suggest that more people comment on social media. Some argue that social media is a better place for such conversations. Besides, there’s greater SEO value in that as well.

Copyblogger has since reversed their decision, deciding to apply a comment policy instead.

And this leads me to my Aikido move:

As of this day forward, I’m implementing a comment policy on this blog, much like Copyblogger’s:

I welcome thoughtful and civilised discussion. I reserve the right to edit or delete comments as I see fit, without explanation.

Ok, it’s the same as Copyblogger’s. There’s no sense in reinventing the wheel is there?

How should your comments look? Your comment

  • Will have a way to identify you as a commenter
  • Is smart, relevant and expands on the article’s premise. Read the article before you comment.
  • Carries the conversation forward
  • Offers useful and constructive criticism
  • Is any combination of the above

Here’s how to get your comment blocked (or deleted after the fact in case I am sloppy):

  • You show you didn’t read, watch or listen to the content
  • Your comment is an off-topic rant
  • You threaten or defame anyone
  • You are a douchebag (I don’t need to spell it out, everyone knows).

A few other tidbits:

  • I will moderate comments to allow comments from people who register and log in to comment. I recommend signing up with Gravatar.
  • I will automatically close comments on articles older than seven days
  • I will manually approve comments that fit the above criteria.

What if you want to want to comment on something I write but don’t wish to abide by my rules? That’s simple. Put it on your site, not mine. If you want to link to my posts, that’s fine too.

As a final word: I want to thank everyone who’s taken the thought and care into writing well-reasoned and considered comments on my blog posts. This policy won’t affect you at all.

I’ve loved having you. Is there something in my post that strikes a chord? Is there something I’ve written with which you disagree? Is there something you’d like to amplify or counter? Go ahead, make those points! All I ask is that you do it with grace.

As a result of this move, I expect to see a marked drop in comments to this blog. That’s great! It’s just another stride towards quality and away from quantity.

By | 2016-11-18T13:14:49+00:00 January 12th, 2016|General, Opinions, Second Life|13 Comments

About the Author:

Canary Beck has been an active Second Life resident since 2007. She is an SL blogger, artist, creator, merchant, sim owner, researcher, filmmaker and performing artist. Offline she works as a London-based internet marketing consultant and business owner.

13 Comments

  1. […] Beck has just written an article where she outlines her rules for blog comments. See: My evolving view on blog comments. In it she writes, “I’ve never in my life been the recipient of the vitriol I’ve received […]

  2. Cybele Moon January 13, 2016 at 7:06 pm

    well said!

  3. Shauna Vella January 13, 2016 at 3:30 am

    What you’re doing is sensible. The person who comments should not be anonymous, should be civilized, and show that they have actually read the article. It is your blog and you have the right to delete any comments for any reason.

  4. nalates January 13, 2016 at 2:04 am

    I’ve never formalized my rules for those commenting. There are so many different types of people, motivations for commenting, and organizations patrolling the web with agendas I was pretty sure I would have too many exceptions to the rules.

    Also, while moderating on another forum we tried to work out a set of rules. Some of the older peeps moderating had great insights into trolls and whether they are a good or bad thing. They convinced me we needed the good trolls and attempts to weed out the bad trolls usually created problems for the good ones. In the end I couldn’t come up with a definitive rule for trolls.

    Much of how we see a comment is shaped by our personality and perceptions. People have read one of my articles, I know because they quoted it in the comment, and totally misunderstood. Sometimes I can’t figure out how they inferred what they are writing about from what I wrote. The whole conversation thing is so ambiguous and subjective, I just decided to leave the rules out and wing it for comments basing decisions on my reactions to a comment.

    The closest I have to a rule is: it is OK to disagree with me, but not to be disagreeable. I may toss out a comment or edit it because of language. Demonstrating a serious lack of intellectual honesty or respect for others can get one banned from the comments. I just don’t want to spend time on those people’s comments.

  5. Scott January 13, 2016 at 1:38 am

    Hi Canary,

    Many years ago in my younger days, I also did Aikido. Even though I haven’t practised it for many years now (due to a bad back at the time and a busy life with a young family subsequently), I still love the gracefulness of Aikido and the fact that it does not rely on brute strength like some other martial arts. I also love the fact that at the club I was a member of there were people from all walks of life, including some you might say were a little “rough around the edges”, but despite the different backgrounds and life experiences, everyone was so welcoming to new members and supportive of each other. This was never more evident than at the time of the death of our sensei, who I will never forget because he went out of his way to make me feel I was worth something even though at times I didn’t feel that way.

    My experience with comments on blogs, and even just on news reports of various kinds, is that they often add valuable insights to the topic under discussion and can even at times be more informative than the main content itself. However, I have also noticed how often discussions in comments quickly degenerate into slinging matches as people make very personal comments about each other and get right off topic. I don’t understand what it is about some people that causes them to get so personal or so extreme, but I guess it is in part the anonymity of the Internet and partly the fact that they are frustrated with things in their own lives but can’t openly let their frustration out in the real world. I have also noticed that this extreme behaviour seems to happen a lot on forums related to commercial digital games. I have heard the term “fanboi” used to describe the people that engage in this kind of trolling (or griefing as it’s called in SL). I don’t know if it is necessarily mainly a male behaviour, but the demographic of many of these games is male and young. It’s one of the reasons I intensely dislike going on to those kinds of forums, and indeed the game environments they are related to.

    I have experienced a small amount of griefing in SL, but to be honest, in the 8 years I have been involved with SL there have only been a handful of times when someone has gone out of their way to cause trouble. For the most part I have found people in SL to be very welcoming and supportive, which, like many long-termers in SL, is one of the reasons I stayed originally and continue to stay. Without the people that mentored me when I first entered SL as a complete novice (newby) I doubt I would have stayed very long. I wonder if the fact that in a VW like SL even though you are “anonymous” you have more of a sense of presence in the environment because of your avatar, that contact with others in the environment is more like contact in the real world where we are far less likely to engage in such extreme behaviour?

    Anyhow, sorry to hear that you have been the recipient of such bad behaviour and attitudes.

  6. Tizzy Canucci January 12, 2016 at 9:28 pm

    I’m mortified if I make a comment and realise afterwards that I have misread the original post. It’s why I don’t comment often, because it takes time. I also dislike the anodyne comment, which is far too common on Flickr and other photography sites, such as ‘wow, nice shot’. Liking it does that job, and you haven’t added anything with the comment. The problem with too many internet sites is that quantity counts over quality – more followers, more comments, more indiscriminate sharing (especially of inaccurate/misleading/inappropriate statistics/graphs). It’s not an inherent problem with the internet, but it is the way it has evolved.

    In terms of rudeness – I personally haven’t found it to be a problem (so far). But maybe that’s because I don’t maximise followers and I choose who I follow and where I post my work. But that led to me being accused of being elitist by someone because of that. Maybe it is – but in no other walk of life are you expected to have harmonious relationships with thousands of people all at the same time, so why should it work on the internet?

    • Becky January 12, 2016 at 10:24 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Tizzy. I don’t expect to have harmonious relationships with thousands of people all at the same time. That would suggest I expect that everyone would always agree with each other and that’s unrealistic. Instead, I prefer to appreciate those who can agree or disagree respectfully.

  7. Nissa Nightfire January 12, 2016 at 5:39 pm

    I felt some comfort at this observation, because I have had that same thought and wondered if somehow I was just being too sensitive. I haven’t personally experienced this in blogging, but in just normal interactions with people in SL. (absolutely not everybody, but enough to make me really scratch my head). I’ve been treated far, far worse in SL than I have ever experienced in my life! And I’m in the legal profession where emotions and vitriol are plentiful. Perhaps its the anonymity or the loosening of social constraint. I don’t really know, but it shocked me the first time it happened, and it is still one of my more painful memories.

    I worry that we don’t seem to really expect people to be civilized. I appreciate you taking the bull by the horns in the areas you do have some control over 🙂

    • Becky January 12, 2016 at 10:34 pm

      I sense it is partly the anonymity. Youtube is a good example of how unbridled anonymity can turn pretty much any seemingly innocuous video into the platform of raging hate. I also think that as networks of people grow larger and more connected, we may be losing some of the finer skills involved in amicably relating with each other in small groups. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar%27s_number

  8. Night Lefevre January 12, 2016 at 5:32 pm

    I’m sure many readers will appreciate this new policy. Regardless of the blog, I generally read all the comments left after a well written and thought provoking blog post in hopes of finding those few comments which further the discussion. Thank you for saving my time and making your blog an even more delightful read!

    • Becky January 12, 2016 at 10:35 pm

      Thanks for bringing up another benefit to this policy! You’re right, it’s not only better for me, it’s better for my readers too!

  9. daleinnis January 12, 2016 at 3:46 pm

    Seems like a good idea to me!

    > Only here. Only in Second Life.

    My guess is that it’s a blogging problem, not a Second Life problem, and that you’ve seen it only with Second Life because that’s where you blog. Which is maybe what you were saying. 🙂

    A few technical/UX notes:

    The workflow to be able to comment seems convoluted! I came here first in Twitter’s mobile web browser on my phone; there, the link in the “You must be logged in to comment” line apparently does nothing at all. I then opened it in Chrome on my phone, and the link seemed to be a no-op there as well. So I opened it in Chrome on my Pixel, where I was already logged in to WP. The “you must be logged in to comment” link there took me to a weblog-specific login page, where I chose “log in with wordpress.com”, and confirmed that WP could send this blog my identity. That took me to a page about buying membership in something, not sure what. I went back to the home page and back to this blog post, and now pushing the link on “you must be logged in to comment” apparently just reloaded the page unchanged. I reloaded the page entirely, and finally this box appeared.

    Bit of a hurdle. 🙂

    Second, the “tiny font in light grey on white” in this input box is kinda hard to read?

    And lastly, the whole comment area keeps bobbing unsettlingly up and down in the browser window, I think as taller and shorter related posts get rotated through in the “Related Posts” area.

    All of that aside, though, thanks for a thoughtful and insightful post on a touchy subject! And for using “orthogonal”. 🙂

    • Becky January 12, 2016 at 4:21 pm

      Wow, that does really sound like a long-winded process. Only the most steadfast would survive. Ok, I’ll see what I can do about that log-in issue, which should solve most of the problems you are having.

      On the point about the tiny font in light grey white, are you meaning the area where you type? Ok, that might be something I need to fix with CSS.

      And yes, those related posts are moving the comments up and down because of the length of the titles. I’ll see about changing that too (or getting rid of them completely); I find that bobbing up and down really annoying as well!

      Thanks for your comment!

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