When blog comments go wrong

Comments (of sorts!)Engadget, one of the leading gadget blogs on the internet, recently decided to turn off commenting on articles. Their claim is that in in recent days commenting has got ‘out of hand’, with a few people creating an environment that they feel is ‘ugly, pointless and threatening’.

It’s a bold move, and one I suspect they did not take lightly. By their own admission, and inline with the oft cited 1% rule, only a small percentage of their readership comment. However, the feature is considered one of the basic tenants of social media – allowing motivated readers to become part of the debate. Indeed, it’s features like commenting, along with the low barriers to entry, ability to syndicate across multiple platforms/channels, etc. that have helped the format grow to the size, variety and popularity it has today.

Benefits aside monitoring comments, filtering out the spam and ensuring abuse is kept at bay can be a difficult process. Blog authors have options, which include:

  • Moderation – before a comment is displayed online, it must be ‘cleared’ by a site administer, ensuring no detrimental posts get through. However, this can take away the immediate gratification users have come to expect and cause commentors to feel they’re being censored. Such a process also becomes unfeasible for a site that is as popular (and has such a high number of generated comments) as Engadget.
  • Spam filters – Great for some removing the ‘v1Agra’ type of spam message we have all come to despise, but limited when it comes to deciding if a well composed comment is inappropriate
  • Community-managed voting – only displays comments that have been given a positive vote by readers. Very ‘hands-off’ for site owners, but requires an extra level of interaction from users
  • Register to vote - Great for blogs with a small following – e.g. personal holiday blogs, but becomes difficult to track with large and manage with large user base. Equally, as user names and passwords are required each time, barriers to entry for commenting (especially for casual commentors) become very high
  • Threading - this allows people to comment on comments. It doesn’t stop spam comments, but it does conversations to diverge. Sites like Slashdot take this approach to the extreme, allowing unlimited ‘threading’. The side effect is that this can quickly become confusing to the casual observer. Limited threading is a useful

Our advise at Dub is to try and take maximum advantage of the medium and be as open to viewer comments as possible. As you can see, there are a myriad approaches to helping mange comments. Unfortunately, for some publishers all the options in the world can’t stop the trolls and spammers of this world.

Read Engadget’s full statement here