I find myself having to defend my comment policy from time to time. I’ve been accused of editing comments so only the rosy ones come through, or being biased about who is allowed to comment at the FWJ network. None of that is true. I have a comment policy in place and like to abide by that policy, it’s really nothing personal. I just don’t feel rudeness or personal attacks have a place in an intelligent discussion.
Here’s the thing, some commentators don’t know how to disagree respectfully. Instead they throw in barbs and digs and downright nastiness. I don’t feel this is necessary for getting one’s point across. The nastiness that sometimes comes through in the comments turns off other members of the community and some leave for good. So yes, I think for a community of this size, a comment policy is necessary.
Why should you have a comment policy?
- It’s a good troll repellent
- It keeps your community happy
- It keeps discussions on topic
- The crankypants who insist on ruining a conversation for everyone will (hopefully) crawl back into their holes
- If there’s too much controversy, folks stay away. When folks stay away, advertisers stay away. Free for all comments are bad for business.
What should you consider when creating a comment policy?
- Your community comes first, if rudeness or vulgarity makes them uncomfortable, ban the offending parties from your discussions.
- Disagreement isn’t the same as abuse or attacks. Folks should be able to disagree all they want as long as it’s kept respectful.
- It’s your blog and your community and you can manage it as you see fit. If others don’t like the way you control your comments, they’re welcome to go elsewhere. If you feel you need to moderate a comment, that’s your prerogative.
- Contrary to what some disgruntleds will have you believe, comment moderation is not censorship. Your blog is not the government, it’s your blog. You’re welcome to keep your comments positive if that’s what you choose to do. You’re also welcome to keep your comments unmoderated, if that’s what you choose to do. To remove an abusive comment isn’t censorship, it’s good blogging.
Some things I do here at FWJ:
- The first comment for any new community member is held in moderation. Once that is approved he is free to comment as he likes. This helps the deter hit and run trolls or the folks who like to post hateful comments using proxies. I do note IP’s and user names of various repeat offenders so their negative comments can’t get through any more.
- Anyone with a history of negativity or abuse is entered into the moderation panel. They are no longer allowed to take part in a discussion without having every comment approved first. Harsh? Perhaps but I like it a lot better than name calling and meanspiritedness, and so does this community.
- I make mention of FWJ’s comment policy every time a discussion starts heading towards a bad place. The reminder gets everyone back on track
On the other hand…
Someone once told me FWJ has a “hostile” community. I disagree. I don’t believe every comment has to be a happy “ I so agree with your greatness, oh Writing Guru” comment and I appreciate all sides of the coin. If one of the FWJ bloggers posts something a commentator doesn’t agree with, that person is also welcome to present his point of view, respectfully. To disagree doesn’t make one hostile. To be passionate doesn’t make one hostile. I have never seen a more helpful community. The writers and bloggers that visit this network are so quick to help with advice, tips and commiseration. The comments here are much more than “I agree” or “I disagree”.
I also feel it’s hard to convey tone sometimes. Sometimes we take something the wrong way, but it wasn’t meant to be negative. That isn’t an excuse for everyone else to pile on, and again I’ll try to steer the conversation to a happy place. However, once a comment resorts to name calling, abuses, attacks or trolling, I have to draw the line. Disagreement doesn’t make a hostile environment, but mean people do. Thankfully, there are very few mean people here.
Tell us about your community’s comment policy. Do you moderate? If so, what sort of rules do you have in place?