Comments are a really great way to facilitate conversation on a blog. I actually love the comments I get on my sites, when they’re real. The problem is that sometimes it can be difficult to tell when something is worthwhile and when it’s not. The spammers are getting better at making you wonder whether or not something is worthwhile.
As a result, I’ve come up with some rules of thumb that help me determine what makes it on my site. I use these same rules when deciding what to post on other sites too. For me it all comes down to relevance and whether or not anything is being added to the conversation.
Imagine, for example, that you go over to a friends house to watch a live sports event. In an private setting, like his house, he knows you and some comments are mutually understood. For example, let’s suppose you complain about one of the refs and he says something like
“Wow, you said that perfectly. I’m not sure I could have said it that well, but I totally agree with you.”
That may actually add to the conversation, at your friends house. Now, strictly speaking, it adds nothing new and only vaguely supports what your friend said. It doesn’t even say anything about the ref!
Now imagine that you were at a restaurant watching the same game and you make the same comment about the ref. This time, some guy a few tables away says what I quoted above. Already it’s a bit more awkward because you don’t know the guy and his comment doesn’t really add to the conversation. Furthermore, it’s not a natural way to have a conversation.
What would be natural? Let’s continue on with the restaurant idea above. The people that are most likely to comment will have both proximity and interest. They’ll be engaged in the game (or at least watching it). If they make a comment it will likely be on topic and add to the conversation. For example, this comment might be more relevant and something that would socially make sense:
“I agree that ref’s a real jerk. He was banned last season for making some bonehead calls during a playoff game and if he’s not careful he’ll get bumped again.”
Whew! Wasn’t that refreshing? I can see how that would really add to the conversation. It’s relevant, on topic and would fit into another social environment.
Now there is a certain appeal to the idea of the one-giant-global-conversation that the social platforms promise, but it doesn’t invalidate the long standing rules of social engagement. If it wouldn’t make sense in a public forum, like a conference or a restaurant or a seminar, then it probably doesn’t make sense online either.
So for blog owners, if the comment doesn’t add relevant, on topic information to the conversation (the conversation is whatever the post talks about), then don’t approve it. For blog commenters, if you really like something on a blog and you have no idea who the blog owner is, do one of two things. If you have something relevant and on topic to add to the conversation then post a comment. If not, do the blog owner a favor and create a link back to his site (e.g. digg, stumbleupon, facebook, twitter, etc.). If it doesn’t add to the conversation on my blog, I won’t approve it.
For fun, here are a few of the non-contributing zeros that have commented on my site just today. This post could go on for years since there’s so much junk. Thank heavens for Akismet.
Garbage comment examples
This comment had a link to a medications for male erection problems. I’m glad he thinks I’m a good writer though.
Are you a professional journalist? You write very well.
This comment might be from someone that really liked what I was writing about. But I have no idea who he is and so his comment lends neither increased credibility nor content to the subject of the post.
“Pretty insightful post. Never thought that it was this simple after all. I had spent a good deal of my time looking for someone to explain this subject clearly and you’re the only one that ever did that. Kudos to you! Keep it up”
I should take this next comment and enter it in the Bulwer–Lytton fiction contest, unless the spammer found it there in the first place. It adds nothing whatsoever to the (any) conversation, but could seem an admiring reinforcement to any blogger’s post. I hate spam!
“i would not have suspected this was awesome a couple of years back but yet its funny just how time evolves the method by which you see varying creative concepts, many thanks regarding the piece of writing it happens to be pleasing to go through something clever occasionally instead of the usual rubbish mascarading as a blog on the internet, cheers”
Stop comment spam
If you’ve unwittingly (yeah right) been sucked into the idea that leaving flowery, useless comments on blogs and websites is somehow showing kindness to the owners of those sites, just stop. If you have something relevant and on topic to add then by all means, add it. If you’re not sure, ask yourself what you might do if you overheard the conversation in a public place and act accordingly. That’s still not a guarantee that I’ll approve your comment.