Nasty Blog Comments: Human Nature on Blogs

Human Society: High School Meets Blogs

High School Meets BlogsIn high school, we had the geeks, nerds, drama queens, beauty queens, jocks, jills, freaks, grungers, punkers, and band members. I’m sure there were more social classifications, but those were the most popular cliches. Every year I worried about going back to school and hating all the social isolation and groupings that formed, never wanting to be a part of any of them. I’d try to think of the start of the school year as a fresh clean slate. Maybe this year the jerks from last year would have had a mental make over and play nice. Maybe they would understand that relationships are built with honey not vinegar. Maybe the drama queens would tone down their drama, the beauty queens would find self esteem, and the jocks and jills would understand that grunts and poking fun at non-jocks just wasn’t fun any more. Maybe the geeks and the nerds would learn that it takes more than numbers and big words to carry on a conversation. And the grungers and punkers would realize what is under the paint and clothing defines your personality or character more than the costume. I knew there was no hope for the band and choir members. We understood the social in team work early on, and how to protect each other within our group.

The transition happened for some, I’m sure, but within the first few weeks of school, we knew which kids were the losers, asses, and bullies to avoid, the twits and sillies to laugh at, and the queens and kings we envied for their calm, cool, self-confidence and voted them as student body officers, even though we really hated them – or at least made fun of them from our weird little corners of our social world.

The move from static HTML to dynamic blog platform opened my website to social interaction, interaction that was both welcome and terrifying. Over time, those who hung around and contributed through blog comments became part of my social cliché, brought together by common interest. I felt like blogs were the next generation from the first usenet groups and online forums which gathered together people with a common interest to exchange information and form support groups. As with all such social groups, you have your good guys and bad guys, along with the geeks, nerds, jocks, jills…oh, and band members.
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Blog Herald Commenting System Now Back Online

For the past few days we’ve been receiving complaints of comments being blocked or IPs, emails and domains being blacklisted from posting comments. Blame it on overactive spam filters or perhaps oversight on our part. Spam Karma 2 has been blocking most comments recently, and nothing has been able to get through, for some reason.

We have yet to check whether this is due to plugin incompatibilities or other reasons, but for the time being we’ve switched SK2 off. This could lead to some spam comments being published, but we’ll try our best to weed these out. What’s important is that valid comments get through, and on time.

At any rate, folks, we’re sorry for the inconvenience. Some of you have been very vigilant about this. Thank you for the reminders. After all, being the Blog Herald we’re supposed to be advocates of open communication through blogs. And it’s also in our comments policy not to pre-moderate or censor comments unless they’re blatantly spam or offensive.

Some of your comments may still be in the moderation threads. As Spam Karma uses a different moderation queue from WordPress’ own, and since the interface does not exactly make it very easy to recover the few valid comments from among the thousands of spam comments, it’s going to take a while. If you think you’d rather re-post your comments, please feel free to do so.

Again, on behalf of the editor and other contributors here at the Blog Herald, we express our sincere apologies.

Are You Readers Keeping You Honest?

Pamela spanked me for screwing up a link. Ian found a misspelling. Sidney got me on a PHP code error. Angie corrected a fact. Finny found four grammar errors. Andy uncovered a dead link. Barry gave me a link to a better resource.

Are your readers keeping you honest? Are they keeping track of what you are doing and letting you know when you do wrong? Are they helping you blog better?

Sure, like many, I sigh and moan when I get a blog comment that corrects my blog post, wishing the spelling police would go elsewhere, then I stop. I work my ass off to encourage readers to come back to my blog. I bust butt to give them reasons to link. It’s important to me to build a community around my blogs, so why should I whine when I’m getting what I ask for?

When I look around at the friends I label “best” in my life, they are people of all cultures and lifestyles but the have one thing in common: They tell the truth when they find it.

They are people who tell you that there is toilet paper stuck to your shoe, your slip is showing, your zipper is unzipped, you have something hanging out your nostril, and a long hair growing out of your face in a way that catches the light and makes a rainbow. Pretty, but not esthetically pleasing.
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Disqus and Seesmic Team Up To Offer Video Comments

The startup Seesmic provides a video comment service to blogs, through installation of a WordPress plugin. Any reader with a microphone enabled webcam can then leave comments in video form.

Seesmic has been working with Disqus, a blog commenting service (previously covered by the Blog Herald here and here) to provide video comments to Disqus-enabled blogs. Now, bloggers using Disqus can easily activate Seesmic video comments through just one setting.

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Are You Educating Your Readers About Blogging?

Part of our task as bloggers is to educate our readers on the subject of blogging. Do you? Many do and aren’t even aware they are. Let’s look at some of the ways you may be teaching your readers about blogging.

You teach readers how to comment on blogs

By opening your blog to comments, you are teaching your readers how to comment on blogs. But it’s a shared teaching position. Your commenters also help to educate other commenters.

The conversation on a blog begins with the blogger’s post setting the voice and writing style as they present their opinion and information. Depending upon the emotional quality in the writing, the commenters will respond in kind.

A sad, sorrowful tale invites supportive comments. A raging rant tracts others who support the cause or have an equally emotional response in contrast. An educational and factual tone elicits like comments. Once the tone is set by the blog post, the comments tend to follow along.

Visitors read through the blog comments to get a feel for what others are saying as well as how they are saying things. If the comments are open and friendly in tone, then they may feel comfortable joining the conversation in that tone of voice. If the comments are bitchy and whiny, then they will follow that form, whether or not the blogger initiated that tone of voice.

There will always be exceptions to the rule, but most people tend to respond in kind. How you respond to comments sets the tone for others to follow on your blog.
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3 Reasons to Use Disqus

The Disqus blog commenting service is catching on – with many popular blogs such as Scripting News signing on to use the service.

VC Fred Wilson talks about three reasons to use Disqus in a recent post:

2a) Email Replies – Disqus emails every comment to the blogger. If the blogger wants to reply to the comment, he/she simply replies to the email and it is posted as a reply (with the indent described above). This feature, which I requested the day I met/saw Disqus for the first time, is the single best thing about Disqus and has transformed my blog comments because I can now participate in them in real time throughout the day as the conversation develops. This is a BIG DEAL.

How is your Comment Quality Quotient?

At a conference, I heard someone trying to explain the Comment Quality Quotient theory to a small group during a break. It went something like this:

You got your good comments. You got your bad comments. You got your comment spam. Somewhere in the middle, you got your time waster comments. Which do you want more of? Which do you want less? Which do you want gone?

The better the comments on your blog, the better your blog, right? So you need to improve your Comment Quality Quotient.

While everyone agreed that comment spam and “bad” comments were unwanted, a number of the group agreed they wanted the time waster comments gone as well. They all wanted good, clear, quality comments that contributed to their content. The problem was determining how to improve their Comment Quality Quotient.

How do you improve the quality of your blog comments? The ratio of valuable comments from the time wasters and boring commenters?
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Video Commentary: Why It Just Won’t Work

I’m intrigued by the inclusion of video commentary functionality on TechCrunch, reported and discussed by Darnell here at The Blog Herald already.

Basically, video commenting is posting a video as a comment. You give your thoughts on the post, your angry opinions, your screaming obnoxiousness, whatever, in video form.

Pretty cool, but it certainly has its kinks.
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Are Video Comments The Wave Of The Future?

Michael Arrington, owner of TechCrunch has recently allowed readers to post video comments upon all of the blogs apart of the “TechCrunch empire.”

The feature is powered by Seesmic, a service that Michael has invested in previously.

While video comments will probably help enhance the discussion (as you will have the opportunity to see just how ugly some readers truly are, especially if they have not shaved in a while), it could potentially compound the blog trolling problem, as individuals could simply shout out their annoyances at you instead of typing IN ALL CAPS.

Even though other types of abuses could be discussed (ranging from shameless promotional video comments to hard core porn), video comments may a feature bloggers should seriously consider adding to their sites–just as long as they are up to the challenge of moderating video comments posted to their site.

Do You Care Where Your Comments Are?

The discussion surrounding the previously addressed Commenting Issues in the Blogosphere heated up again this weekend with Robert Scoble claiming that the Era of blogger’s control is over. When I asked the question: Where Do You Leave Your Comments? I only dealt with commenting on blogs:

When bloggers are quoting other bloggers and you want to comment on the issue, where do you leave your comment?

There are three different options:

1. Comment on the the original post
2. Comment on the post that quoted the original post
3. Start a new post and use trackback/pingback to notify the other two posts

However, we are increasingly using other services and social networking sites to engage in the conversation. The feature to auto-post your latest blog post on Twitter is a very popular way to promote your blog post. It also means that you may receive comments on your blog post in the form of a Twitter reply.

I notice that I reply differently on blog posts when I comment on Twitter than on the actual blog post itself. When commenting on a blog post I feel the need to sit down, reflect and spend some time on formulating a valuable comment. However, when I comment in the form of a Twitter reply I am not only limited to 140 characters but I also feel my comment is part of a time sensitive flow. This means that my comments are not only shorter but that it also lowers my personal barrier of commenting, I can write a quick and short reply.

I recently commented on a blog post with a Twitter reply suggesting some corresponding literature. The author then asked me if I could comment on the blog post also which I then did. This is the problem we are currently dealing with. Should we care where our comments are, that the conversation is increasingly scattering around the blogosphere? Should we cling onto our blog as the central aggregation point of our conversation?

Friendfeed suggests that the issues of distributing commenting in the blogosphere seems to have moved beyond control. It is the perfect tool to keep up with your friends’ feeds but it also allows you to bring the conversation to Friendfeed. The situation is getting more and more dispersed. We use centralizing features such as CoComments to keep track of where we leave our comments but the conversation is only visible to us and not to others who would like to participate.

I don’t care where my comments are, as long as I am aware of them. This is the issue that we need to address which is an infrastructural issue as Matthew Hurst from the Data Mining Blog points out:

What is being lost in the conversation is the fact that the infrastructure of the blogosphere, due to its somewhat amateur evolution process, has not managed to fix some of the serious issues that have troubled it from the past. Commenting is exactly one of those things. As the value and use of comments evolved, and as the distribution mechanisms of content evolved, little effort has been made to bring commenting along with it. What has happened, is the appearance of a number of hacks on top of the base infrastructure to get around this issue. Perhaps the exception to this is the RSS 2.0 commenting mechanism.

Do we need an infrastructural fix or should we just “give up control” and focus on the conversation taking place? Robert Scoble doesn’t care where his comments are, do you?