Do you have a policy about publishing comments on your blog posts? I won’t publish comments which are:
- Have no real value, such as “great post” – I’d like to know why it’s great, and what would make it even greater; otherwise it just looks like spam, or an attempt to draw your attention to yourself;
- Anonymous – I’m happy to publish comments anonymously at the person’s request, but I’d still like to know who made them; that seems to me to be both courteous and sensible, because I may wish to follow up or clarify a point. I also think that if someone has a point to make, especially a negative or controversial one, there is something slightly suspect about not wanting me to know who they are;
- Obviously spam, which could be in the name, the web address or in the comment itself (like the one I received recently which read “Great post. This is an important issue, which is why these handbags are such excellent value.” Eh?
- Offensive in any way.
I have a written policy that covers the last one of these, and an unwritten policy to cover the others. I also have comment moderation enabled.
Advantages of a comments policy
- It helps to prevent the site being spammed – or, at least, the spam actually appearing on the site. I get tons of spam, which is a back-handed compliment I suppose.
- It helps to maintain the intellectual integrity of the site, by insisting on useful comments as far as possible.
- It can help to maintain intellectual honesty if you insist on commenters posting with their real names (I don’t, because some people would be worried about their employer seeing their comments – as long as I know who the person is).
- It helps to prevent bullying via nasty comments posted anonymously.
- It maintains commercial integrity: why should companies use your space without paying for it? You wouldn’t let them erect an advertising hoarding in your front garden, would you?
- If written, it sets out what you regard as acceptable, and marks you out as a professional.
- There is a perception that if you undertake moderation, you can be prosecuted if something inadvisable is published, ie if something falls through the net. I am not a legal expert, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t true (disclaimer: don’t take my word for it because like I said, I’m not a legal expert!). But besides, surely the likelihood of that happening is greater if you don’t moderate? In any case, do you really want your site to gain a reputation for allowing spam or legally actionable comments?
On balance, I’d say the pros outweigh the cons, but I’d be interested in hearing your views on this.