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To comment or not to comment … and other considerations

I moderate because it’s important for you
to know that this blog is a safe place to be.
— Jonathan Fields

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Who would have thought an issue as mundane as blog comments would become so divisive? I mean, really, what is there to say about them, right? Turns out, quite a bit, if you’re paying attention.

First, let’s break down the three specific conversations/arguments about blog comments:

  1. Whether to allow them at all
  2. Whether to moderate them or not
  3. Whether comment moderation is scalable

On the first topic, whether to allow comments at all, Darren Rowse at ProBlogger.com writes, “[S]ome blogging purists … believe a comment-less blog is not a blog.” While I disagree with this notion – a blog is simply the aggregation of one person’s or company’s thoughts/messages, regardless of the feedback portion – I do believe that a comment-less blog limits the entire benefit of the SOCIAL aspect of social media.

Rowse goes on to say that he does not necessarily agree with this pure definition of blogging, either. He adds the following points, as well:

  • Some topics generate more conversation than others. This may be a result of several factors: the headline, the topic, and the author’s writing style. Bloggers who ask questions and invite comments are more likely to see higher percentages of comments than those who just post straight content.
  • Traffic levels can impact comment levels. New bloggers – or those with low traffic – may feel embarrassed for the lack of comments. On the other hand, those with lots of traffic can become overwhelmed by the time it takes to delete spam, monitoring the comments, respond to questions, etc.
  • Disallowing comments can actually be an advantage. Seth Godin does not allow comments on his blog. As a result, he has many other bloggers “linking to his posts because their comments happen on their own blogs.”
  • Avoid changing the rules at the halfway point. Think things through and decide ahead of time whether you will allow comments or not – because you can really freak people out when you change your policy after your blog is well-established.
  • There may be a middle ground. You can always allow comments on posts you think would warrant and welcome comments and turn them off for others.

Next up is the issue of whether or not to moderate. In a post on Untwisted Vortex from February 2011, R.T. Cunningham makes the case that you put your blog at peril with the almighty Google if failure to moderate your comments allows unseemly content to worm its way onto your blog. Honestly, I cannot imagine this becoming a problem unless you have a noteworthy brand with a HUGE following.

According to blogger Jonathan Fields, “There’s a great divide about this in the blogosphere. Some folks believe you should never restrict the conversation. Others believe the ‘Your comment is awaiting moderation’ message is such a turn-off that it kills the conversation.”

Fields disagrees, and makes this eloquent case for moderation: “I moderate because it’s important for you to know that this blog is a safe place to be.”

I, personally, have recently chosen to disengage the comment moderation feature of my other blog, Marcie Brock – Book Marketing Maven, because I wanted to see whether the comments would pick up if people didn’t have to wait for me to approve them, which sometimes could take up to 24 hours. While the jury is still out, I’m not seeing any negative fallout so far.

One last argument, presented by Blisssful Writer on HubPages.com, is that comment moderation does not scale. In other words, as a blog grows and the attendant comments grow, the work involved in monitoring and/or responding to them can become too labor intensive to be beneficial to the blog owner.

I suppose this is a problem I would like to have. It’s rather like worrying about having too many clients, I think. I’ll deal with that hurdle as it arises.

So there you have it – some blog comment food for thought. I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind you that you’re free to add your 99 cents’ (inflation, dear blog readers, inflation!) below in the comments section.  🙂

Cheers –
Laura & Marcie

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The Author Blog Challenge is hosted by Laura Orsini and her alter ego, Marcie Brock, of the Marcie Brock – Book Marketing Maven blog. Please visit Marcie’s blog for loads of great info about low- to no-cost methods of marketing for self-publishing authors.

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