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How to deal with bad blog comments

Thursday, 15 November 2007 — by

For the most part, ‘blogging is about telling a story. Often, opinions become part of that story. And not everyone will agree or understand those opinions, which can be the focus of unrest in your article comments. So what do you do about bad comments?

Over the years, I’ve had my fair share of heated and bad-tempered comments from people. Some people fire off a flame-filled comment anonymously and you never hear from them again, while some actually put their name to their scalding missives, which is at least admirable in some respect.

First and foremost, I write to express an idea, to articulate concepts and distill technologies into more comprehensible forms. I do so with the use of subtle word play and good spirited, largely harmless humour.

On occasion, it’s been a case of my dry and ironic British humour not traveling all that well. But the reasons for why people choose to write inflammatory, foolish or argumentative comments can be reduced significantly by following a few rules, which I try very hard to follow myself.

Be word-wise

I’m very deliberate in my choice of words, and with good reason, too. Be sure you’re not inadvertently insulting a vocal minority with a glib, off-hand joke or observation in your writing.

If you do say something stupid — which generates a flood of negative comments — say you’re sorry and be quick about it! Word travels fast on the web and you could well be the focus of some very unwanted and unwelcome traffic.

Know thyself and thy topic

A lot of preparatory work goes into each article I write. So I’m usually very sure that I’ve got my facts right. If you feel you really must write about something you’re not 100% sure about, include a suitable disclaimer.

You’ll be surprised by how many people out there who will fire off an impassioned comment or two if your handling of a given topic isn’t the quality they’re expecting.

Keeping order

Not everyone is going to agree with your views, so you better get used to that. I like to throw ideas out there for people to think about and then reply to. But on occasion, you’ll get more than you bargained for.

Some people talk about things they don’t fully understand and then put those thoughts into an argumentative comment. This happened recently for me, and I regrettably made the mistake of allowing myself to be drawn into a petty spat of words.

These people are thankfully not representative of the broader population of the web, so totally ignore any abrasive, invective and insulting remarks and try to answer their questions simply, clearly and politely.

In rare instances these people are utterly impervious to reason and common sense, no matter how many times or with how much detail you answer their questions.

For the sake of maintaining a civil conversation — and also to avoid others being drawn into what is a pointless war of words — remove their comments, block comments to the article in question for the duration and then ignore the person causing all of the disruption.

In my experience, smart people can say and do some amazingly stupid things, which they will fight through fire & water to rationalize, rather than just admit they were wrong. So almost any attempt to reply to them is simply going to do little more than fuel their ego and fan the flames.

Yes, this is censorship, but it is also my right to remove what I feel are disruptive people from the conversation. And it’s not like it’s the first time I’ve thought about internet censorship, either.

Being the referee

A former ‘blogger friend wrote about a new service which raised some very challenging questions with regards to personal privacy.

A representative of the company behind the service entered into the dialogue, which soon turned very, very nasty. In this case, the guy being nasty did have a point. The problem was, his point was totally lost under the weight of fiery insults.

I had commented earlier, but I soon distanced myself, as I didn’t want to get drawn in. However, my friend had to attempt to take matters in hand and calm the situation down.

In these circumstances, it’s difficult to intervene if you feel that someone has a legitimate point. But point or not, there’s a time for heated debate, but it’s a time not suited for wayward and caustic remarks.

Making matters worse, these people could be friends of yours, but the best policy might just to be to delete their comments and block comments to the article until the heat of the moment has passed.

It’s ugly, it’s a thankless task, but if you’re serious about maintaining your reputation and building a valued sense of trust, you just have to do what needs to be done.

Keeping ‘blogging fun!

I’ll be honest with you guys, in times past, I’ve fired off the odd rant / comment of my own. So I’m no angel, but at least I do speak from experiencing both sides of the comment conundrum.

If like me, you want to keep a steadily growing tide of constructive and thoughtful comments coming through your ‘blog, then it’s as well to choose your topics and your words wisely.

For me, ‘blogging has to be fun and serious in equal measure, or why ‘blog at all…

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Ronnie Ferez → Thursday, 15 November 2007 @ 11:38 BDT

Great article here and very helpful to struggling blogger like me.

Cheers!

Wayne Smallman → Thursday, 15 November 2007 @ 11:55 BDT

Hi Ronnie, in some ways, the choice of ‘blog niche can help alleviate a lot of the conflict commenting, so maybe you’re safe? I hope so.

Because of the niche I’m in, there are some towering egos to contend with, a rare number of which simply cannot abide anyone else having an original thought of their own.

That said, other than the recent incident that inspired this article, I’ve managed to use subtle humour and a deft hand of diplomacy as a salve to the odd few angry comments I’ve had in the past…

Timmargh → Thursday, 15 November 2007 @ 12:36 BDT

This article’s rubbish!!!!!

(Sorry, couldn’t resist :^)

Wayne Smallman → Thursday, 15 November 2007 @ 12:44 BDT

How Ironic — your comment ended up in Akisment hell!

How do, fella. Great hearing from you…

Heidi Cool → Thursday, 15 November 2007 @ 19:52 BDT

Rather than antagonistic, flame-like comments, my annoying ones tend to be more of the nonsensical variety. I.e. Someone will ask why their CSS buttons don’t work with FTP (huh?) in response to an entry on SEO.

But I think the deletion rule still applies. If the comment will disrupt, confuse or otherwise throw readers offtrack, sometimes it’s best to just get rid of it, rather than encouraging more of the same. I’ve turned off commenting on a few of my older entries for this reason. The comments just stopped making sense.

Wayne Smallman → Thursday, 15 November 2007 @ 20:20 BDT

Heidi, let’s do a swap!

You can have my invective / angry verbiage and I’ll have your nonsensical / funny weirdness…

Shana Albert → Friday, 16 November 2007 @ 2:43 BDT

Great post, Wayne.

It’s a bit frightening for me. Being a Webmaster for nearly 7 years and then adding Blogging to it as bit exciting for me. I love the interaction between myself and the readers, but every time I publish a post I have a fear of the negative comments I might receive. I’m not very good at constructive criticism. Never was. It is something I know I need to work on with being a Blogger. Thank you for the great suggestions. :-)

Shana

David Bradley → Friday, 16 November 2007 @ 8:50 BDT

The bottom line is that, it’s your blog, you’re the Editor (with a capital E). Blog comments are nothing more than your “letters page”, but with limitless space for readers’ words. If someone makes a comment you think is inappropriate, however, you, the Editor, choose whether to publish or not. It’s not a question of freedom of speech, it’s a question of Editorial control.

db

Nick James → Friday, 16 November 2007 @ 10:10 BDT

Great article. I think that in the case of leaving negative comments for all to see, it probably won’t do any harm to an established, well-subscribed blog or respected blogger, but for a brand new blog it could well be the kiss of death.

Great tips for the uninitiated.

Wayne Smallman → Friday, 16 November 2007 @ 19:54 BDT

Hi guys, and thanks for the comments!

Shana: yes, criticism (constructive or otherwise) can get caught by the defense reflex before logic has a chance to play a role. Being objective is the way to go, but it’s all about being honest with yourself.

David: “It’s not a question of freedom of speech, it’s a question of Editorial control.” A wonderful quote, one probably not fully appreciated away from the more formal world of print media.

Nick: handling negative comments is a balancing act for sure. And in the most recent exchange, I got it wrong. But we live and we learn, yes?

Thanks again for the comments…

ses5909 → Tuesday, 20 November 2007 @ 13:57 BDT

I know someone who just started blogging and was hoping to get commenters and he got a whole bunch of nasty ones. Commenters are just like any representation of society, there will always be a bad bunch.

If something is completely rude and gross, I mark things as spam. If someone disagrees and is always being a jerk, I will typically leave their comment as they are the ones who look like the @ss, not me.

Wayne Smallman → Tuesday, 20 November 2007 @ 14:30 BDT

Hi Sara, nice to see you again!

It’s disheartening for any new ‘blogger to get that kind of reception. It’s a shame when things like that happen…

Zaharije → Tuesday, 27 November 2007 @ 15:23 BDT

Thank you for this article, it’s very useful for a newbie like me. Especially liked the “keeping order” part, as it has been my experience, as someone who reads a lot at least, that some people can be very persistent in attacking something but often lack deeper insight about the subject.

Wayne Smallman → Tuesday, 27 November 2007 @ 15:25 BDT

Hi Zaharije, I’m glad you found the article of use. And thanks for commenting, too…

T Michael Bow → Tuesday, 10 March 2009 @ 18:52 BDT

Yeah that sounds like a reasonable way to deal with unreasonable people. Wish I could block my unreasonable roommate from commenting with her mouth though. Virtual life is so much simpler. Stating positive though. All things must end eventually.

Otimização de Sites → Thursday, 28 May 2009 @ 1:46 BDT

I am afraid of permit dofollow comments in a blog because at the same time it can increase the number of comments, it can generate that kind of comments “great post”, “very useful information”, “nice blog” just in order to get links, not related to the post or to creating a interesting discussion.

In this blog, it appears to give good results.

Cindy → Sunday, 5 December 2010 @ 5:44 BDT

I’m not that good in my grammars but I’m definitely WOWed by what you had shared.

I agree with what you say. Personally, I’m just a someone who blogs to express and not impress. I mix a little of my written language with my dialect which makes me comfortable with it.

I also admit I like to photoshop my photos to look thinner but regardless I still post unedit photos of me. I got bad comments and learnt that at the end of the day, those are just comments. At least I know I don’t lie:)

Awesome blog!!!

Sorry Comments are close. Quite possibly for a good reason. Share your thoughts on some of my other posts or contact me directly.

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