The Fine Line Between Policing and Moderating Comments

There is a fine line between policing and moderating comments. The blogosphere is infected with spammers. In a desperate bid for as many links as they can possibly get back to some dodgy site illegally selling prescription medication, they will comment on any blog in any niche.

Spammers in the Blogosphere

The comments will occasionally say something generic like, ‘Thanks for the info,’ or ‘Great blog.’ The more audacious spammer will actually post an ad for their dodgy products with a back link in the body of the comment. It’s little wonder then that people have become conscious of moderating comments.

I personally run Askimet on my blogs to filter comments and hundreds are automatically spammed. The occasional one will slip through the net and I will manually delete this. I choose not to hold every comment pending approval, but I know of many fellow bloggers who do indeed hold every single one back and painstakingly sift through.

Either way, moderating comments for spam, in my book, is not a bad thing at all. In fact, it is necessary. It can be pretty off putting trying to join in a discussion that is frequently interrupted by the ‘cheapest ever’ prescription drug offers!

To Moderate….

What I do not like, however, is policing comments for opinion. It inhibits free speech, which in turn inhibits the community aspect of a blog. Certain comments should be moderated in some circumstances. For example:

  • Comments containing profanities
  • Comments containing any form of general discriminatory items.
  • Comments entirely irrelevant to the topic.
  • Non-constructive hateful or spiteful comments.

Or Not to Moderate….

However, finding the balance between policing and moderating comments is tricky. Just because someone curses a lot, does that mean their opinion is of no value? No. You’d therefore probably be better removing the profanities or starring them out with a small explanation underneath as to why. But keep the gist of the comment if it’s a valuable one to have!

There are also blogs on which I used to comment frequently, but where the owner of the blog started to delete comments that expressed a disagreement with his or her own opinions. Now, as far as I personally see it, if you are a blogger you are choosing to make your opinions on certain things public. You therefore have a responsibility to allow people to respond, whether those people agree with you or not. Providing that they’re expressing their views politely or making constructive comments, there should be no question about posting it. A blog should be a discussion on the topic of the post – a discussion requires 2 way input!!

On blogs where I find that disagreements are just deleted, I stop commenting and I stop reading. Why? Because it’s not a community if there is only one voice. And I am not interested in blogs that lack any form of community at all.

Striking a Balance

So how can you ensure that you do not cross that fine line between moderating and policing your comments? A few ideas include:-

  • Setting a comment policy explaining what isn’t allowed, for example over advertising, profanities etc.
  • Make requests in the guidelines to outline a policy of constructive criticism, rather than just plainly slating someone’s post or comment.
  • If someone does post a comment that includes any of the above, edit the applicable parts out and send the commenter a direct email explaining why you have done so. In contacting them directly you have the opportunity to explain your policy in person, rather than that person just visiting your site at a later date and seeing their comment completely edited.
  • Take criticism on the chin. Not everyone will agree with your every opinion and if someone makes a comment that disagrees, don’t take it personally. It’s your post they have the disagreement with, not you directly. Learning to accept constructive criticism is a core part of blogging.

Chasing people away with overly tight commenting policies will leave a rather dull blog. By the same token, allowing anything and everything can be equally as off putting. So strike a balance taking into account the niche of your blog and the type of people who are already there commenting. The balance will be different for every blog.

This is a guest post by Stacey Cavanagh of which does SEO in Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds. You can also write guest articles and share your blogging tips.

Share with friends

About the Author: P Chandra is editor of QOT, one of India's earliest tech bloggers since 2004. A tech enthusiast with expertise in coding, WordPress, web tools, SEO and DIY hacks.