An open letter to my fellow bloggers
Please turn comment moderation off.
A few weeks ago, I left a comment correcting a Microsoft Tech Evangelist’s blog post, where a suggestion was made to unnecessarily expose a surface area of SQL Server. My comment suggested that the surface area didn’t need to be exposed, but it was not published immediately (the blog comments are moderated). I let this go for a few days, then I saw a new comment saying something along the lines of, “Great post, thanks man!” So I e-mailed the author directly, and he admitted that he should fix the suggestion. He did, kind of – I still find it ambiguous. My comment remains unpublished, so readers may still be unintentionally misled into believing that the specific surface area needs to be exposed to take advantage of the other technology he was evangelizing.
On Sunday I left a comment on another Microsoft blog, and it has yet to appear. This one is a lot more benign, but the point is the same – if the blogger is too busy to moderate comments, why is there a comments feature at all? How many comments are sitting in this person’s “approve” queue? An issue with blog posts is they get stale very fast. If a reader has a relevant point to make, and you don’t publish the comment until a week later, what good is it? Most of your readers are not checking back day after day to see if anyone has left a comment. I’m not sure about your RSS reader but I have enough in the unread queue that I’m not spending a lot of time doting over 0ld items.
Moderation kind of goes against the point of allowing comments on your blog in the first place. So why do people moderate?
Let’s be completely honest here – nobody cares about the spam. Do you not trust your readers’ ability to ignore an enticing but obvious link for a fake Rolex or Gucci bag? Besides, your spam filter should be worrying about that, not you. So a few spam comments get through – who cares? So a few hundred spam comments get through – ok, time to get a better spam filter? I know some folks (e.g. @AndyLeonard | blog) are adamant that they will never let links to questionable sites get picked up by spiders and be indirectly linked to their own site. Again that goes back to having a better spam-trap in the first place, but I know some can’t control this. For anyone who can, use Akimset and keep it up to date. Even if some spam comes through and someone clicks on it before you delete it – do you really think the reader is going to blame you?
I understand that some people are overly sensitive and don’t want to risk their readers seeing a negative or corrective comment. I try to treat blogging like public speaking. You can’t put duct tape over a heckler’s mouth, so why are you doing it to your readers? If someone asks a question and you don’t know the answer, or brings up a point that you disagree with, this is an opportunity for dialog – one of the whole reasons you’re part of the community, right? Maybe another reader has the answer. Maybe another reader wants to hear why you have a different opinion. You don’t necessarily need to be the first responder. We don’t all have to agree, and we don’t all have to be perfect. This is not the Borg.
- Damage Control
I suppose there are some cases where you want to prevent competitors or would-be-saboteurs from saying really negative things on your blog. But I think that falls under #2. Haters are going to hate, and you should rely on your readers to be able to distinguish between nonsense and legitimate criticism. If someone is being a real you-know-what, I think deleting the comment after the fact (or better yet masking the dirty words) is still better than moderating – even if they’re doing it anonymously. If they’ve attached a name to it, now you have quasi-permanent evidence of their behavior.
- Keeping Your Private Business Private
One colleague I talked to has received offers for work on their blog, and this is the sole reason they moderate. I can understand that. However, there is probably some fault on both sides here – if you are a contractor openly looking for work, your prospective clients should already know a better way to contact you than through a comment on your public blog. And, quite frankly, they should know better.
I’d be interested to hear other reasons for moderating. I know that I have already convinced at least one fellow SQL family member to stop moderating comments, and I’d like to convince you too! I’m not asking you to be on standby 24/7, serving as your readers’ Q & A host. You don’t even have to respond to the questions and comments if you don’t want. I just feel it’s unfair to your readers to suppress comments for days, stifling the conversation and preventing other readers from seeing those comments (even if you’re too busy to read them). Some of you moderate but are still really good about turning it around quickly – however you will be leaving your readers hanging when you take a vacation, get sick, or have a power or ISP outage.