by Judith Curry
There is a sad lack of etiquette guides for new media. Granted, Miss Manners and her brethren have started weighing in on the correct way of handling everything from Facebook snubs to Twitter meltdowns, but there is still no set of guidelines for the proper way to handle oneself while blogging. So, an unwritten etiquette has been created for blogging, but without the benefit of a rulebook that new bloggers can consult. – Emily
I really appreciate the community that we have developed at Climate Etc., especially those that actively comment. However, many of the comment exchanges have gotten out of hand lately, and I am getting tired of my blog turning into a garbage dump for trash talking and insults.
Splashmedia sums up the problem in this way:
We all know picking your nose in public is considered bad manners (at least, we hope we all know.) But did you know that there are also rules for behaving well in the blogging world?
So I googled around to try to find some good text re commenting on blogs. Read on for sage advice such as Do not feed the trolls, they will just follow you home and poop on your doorstep.
From the Lost Art of Blogging:
Commenting on the web is one of the most important factors that lead to the Internet social revolution, from the last few years. In the not so distant past, commenting and public social interactions on the web was more or less exclusive on forums and was limited by a series of complications. When blogs first became popular in the early 2000s, they were hailed and highly praised, not for their particular concept, but rather for their social innovation; a never before seen connectivity between the readers and the article authors. Readers could now freely and easily interact with the authors, publicly share and discuss the post’s ideas and form a bond with the blogger. In short comments from behalf of the readers made blogs what they are today.
Since then, a lot of things have changed on the web and in the blogoshere particularly. Commenting has also more or less changed, thanks to the ever expanding issue of spam, that’s lead to steadily decline of quality in blog comments.
From Daria Black:
Write a comment, not spam.
Spam is the bane of all webernet existence and has caused many a blogger to resort to counterproductive measures such as closing their comment section. Even worse than spam, however, are comments that do little more than consume bandwidth.
Take the time to read the blog entry and put some effort into writing a response that adds to the conversation and/or helps the blog writer. Your comment is your calling card. The webernet is an open rolodex and as such, how you present yourself through your words will tell people whether or not they want to look you up.
Stay on topic.
As a general rule if you find that you fall into a discussion with other visitors about something unrelated to the post, offer to email them privately.
Respect the rules.
Some bloggers will have an official comment policy in place. Usually because of issues they’ve run into with their feedback. Read it and respect it. Visiting someone’s blog is just like being a guest in their house. The last thing they want is you pooping all over their couch and doing so will usually result in them pushing you out the front door.
Comments should be comprehensible.
People cannot respond effectively to your concerns if they cannot understand what they are in the first place. Don’t forget that people cannot see your expression or hear your voice. Flame wars are often the result of a misinterpretation of the meaning of your words. This is why smilies and snark tags, such as “sarcasm”, were invented. Use them.
Avoid setting the whole blog ablaze when flaming a topic.
Let’s face it there are some subjects in life that, no matter how hard we try, cause us to flip out at the mere mention of them. But while you have the right to act like a jerk when the topic is raised, unless you want to be banned from the internet I suggest you refrain from doing so.
Link to your sources.
When citing material to make your case, provide a link so that the participants can read it at their leisure. Be careful of linking to your own website, this can be seen as spam if you are a first time visitor.
Do not feed the trolls.
They’ll just follow you home and poop on your doorstep.
Advice from FreelanceWritingGigs:
Don’t Make it All About You
Try not to turn every single conversation into a testimony of your awesomeness. Try saying something new each time you comment and add something of value. Saying the same self-serving comments over and over gets a little stale.
Keep the Name Calling and Finger Pointing in Check
Please avoid calling names when visiting blogs. It makes the community uncomfortable and it makes the blogger uncomfortable. Name calling isn’t a comment, it’s a cop out. If you can’t add something of value, don’t bother commenting.
Brevity is a Talent
Comments are just that, comments. When you get into the 500 to 1000 word category, we’re talking blog posts. Do that on your own blogs. The occasional long comment to illustrate a point, is one thing. Don’t use someone else’s blog as a platform to pontificate, or to sell your services or promote your stuff. Use it to be a useful, contributing commentator.
Keep it On Topic
Nothing disrupts the flow of a comment stream than to have someone write something having absolutely nothing to do with the topic. Some folks do this to add in an attack on a person or idea, others just add in the topic in hopes of getting answers to a question, and still others just want to start up a conversation on a completely different topic. Stay focused on the matter at hand, nothing ruins a good, productive, discussion like commentators who throw the topic off track.
Say Something Useful
A snipe at a commenter isn’t value, it’s being insulting. Bringing up something someone said five years ago isn’t value, it’s being a dork. Again, think about how you can add value to the discussion and keep the flow going. Stay on topic and add points that will stimulate thought and add another facet to the chat. Be intriguing.
Don’t Feed the Trolls
The moderator will handle trolls so you don’t have to. Trolls feed on negativity so don’t give them the satisfaction. Ignore them and they’ll go away.
You’re a Guest in Someone Else’s Home
When you’re commenting on another blog, you’re essentially a guest in their home. Act as if you would act with a group of friends sitting on a couch chatting. Treat the host with respect and treat the guests with respect.
Name Calling is Not Disagreement
To respond to a comment with “You’re a jerk!” isn’t disagreeing in a conversation, it’s showing a lack of class. Disagreement is fine, but do be respectful. Get your point across with being insulting or using profanity. Creative, intelligent people know how to rebut without being disrespectful.
JC comment. You get the idea, but it seems that people need periodic reminders. If you must insult, please do it with panache (see Shakespeare insult kit, e.g. Thou spleeny tickled-bill popinjay!).
We’ve discussed moderation numerous times before, the challenge is the large number of comments and my reluctance to have anyone else moderate. Here is what I have come up with:
• Anyone that makes more than 5% of the most recent 1000 comments will be put in moderation (unless this is a guest poster engaging with the commenters). Occasionally, a single individual has exceeded 10% of the most recent 1000 comments. Such frequent commenting is almost always associated with one-liners, which are typically content-free zingers. I will release any substantive, constructive comments and release you from moderation once your comment frequency drops below 5%. E.g., think twice before blasting off all those one line zingers.
• Anyone that persists in insulting other commenters will be put in moderation, and I am most likely to notice you if you make a large number of short comments. If your insult is hidden in a long post, I probably won’t spot it and unless it is severe, I’ll probably let it go. I also tend to be more tolerant of people that have a long track record of productive comments, who have an occasional lapse of judgment. Note: unless I am on travel, I check the comments about 6 times per day, looking at the most recent 40-60 comments. So I do not catch all the comments.
Let me know if you have any suggestions. Thanks for your continued constructive participation here.