Commenting

Let’s talk commenting.

This is about the beginning of a conversation, not the end of one. One thing I love about blogging is the fact that it’s a continuous work-in-progress. Blogs are never all set. A blog is always still working on it.

I’m trying to decide what kind of commenting policy I want to have on my blogs. When done well, the comments section can be as powerful, entertaining, and educational as the blog itself. When not … oy. We all know what that’s like.

The price of a good commenting community is, unfortunately, eternal and unpaid vigilance on the part of the blogger. You have to moderate, and you have to moderate aggressively and consistently. This article in Slate describes, admiringly, the draconian moderation at Television Without Pity, which did not change after the site was bought out. TWOP moderators don’t just enforce civility and keep the spam out, they make sure you are bringing your A-game. No “Hah hah ITA Zak Quinto is soooooo hawt” on the TWOP boards, no sir. Ta-Nehesi Coates described his commenting policy as, “Don’t be boring, and don’t be an ass,” which I think sums it up pretty well. That’s what everyone wants for the comments on their site: interesting, insightful, on-topic.

So how to achieve that? Philosophically, I’d rather err on the side of deleting an “innocent” comment than publishing a “guilty” one. In practice, however, I do tend to let stuff through. The software on the Miss Conduct blog isn’t really the best for moderation. And certain posts, like the Monday question (check it out and weigh in on today’s, eh?), get linked to on the boston.com home page, which means that a bunch of newbies show up who aren’t necessarily followers of the Miss Conduct Way.

I guess what particularly bothers me is that when things have gotten a bit heated over at the other ranch, invariably someone pulls the “I can’t believe that on an etiquette blog …” card. This bugs me. It’s like the Susan Boyle phenomenon: we should treat all frumpy middle-aged women with respect and dignity, not just the ones who can sing. I don’t want you to not be an asshole on my blog because it’s an etiquette blog, I want you not to be an asshole on my blog because it’s not cool to be an asshole. Just because you’re commenting on RSVPs or wedding presents doesn’t mean you have to type with your pinkies in the air.

Okay. Enough of my maundering. Let’s air your dirty maundry. What do you think? If you’re a frequenter of the Miss Conduct blog, what have you liked and not liked about commenting there? Have there been comments that you think I should have deleted? (A note: I grade pass/fail. I’m not going to edit a comment, that’s too time-consuming. If there’s any inappropriate content, it gets dumped, even if the rest of it is good.) What blogs do you think handle moderation well, or have good comment policies?

More questions … Should comments be deleted if their only offense is lack of content (e.g., a comment consisting solely of “LOL!”)? Do you like it when the blogger participates in the comment thread, dislike it, or are indifferent? Is it annoying that I don’t open all posts up for comments? How much does threadjacking and topic drift bother you?

Comment away!

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