I’ve spoken at length about commenting and about the fear associated in my previous article Fear of going first. This is an article that charts a few rants on how comments are implemented on Blogs and how blog post comments can be flawed.
What are blog post comments useful for?
Commenting on blog posts helps with the social fabric of blogging.
That’s very easy for me to write. First answer in a pub quiz. Shout it loud (Actually don’t! Whisper it to your neighbour!).
Comments gives the reader a chance for reply if they strongly agree or disagree. It allows the reader to share an alternative viewpoint, something missed or expands a point already covered to a deeper level. It allows a fellow blogger to insert a link, if appropriate, and gain a small trickle of like-minded traffic.
For the author it gives some pride that someone has read and wants to leave feedback on the topic. It may lead to valuable insight into how to improve the article if there is something flawed with the conclusion or the argument.
To all those who have commented on my blog so far, thank you very much. I find each comment highly valuable!
There are some problems with blog post commenting though….
1 Encouraging people to enter their details
This is like asking a heavily pregnant woman to undertake a triathlon in a hessian sack in the middle of winter. Picture that if you will!
I’m of the opinion that there is a little bit more scrutiny about personal data security in the now with a lot of identify fraud occurring. Drawing someone over the line has become that much harder.
It is actually just better to do your best and let the person come to you. Many successful businesses don’t go on the hunt because their product speaks for them.
2 Lack of time
I believe that the majority of people are short of time in life. I never have enough myself so finding time to comment actively is something I have difficulty with. If I have difficulty with it then how many others do?
The more emotion filled the comment is, the more time it takes to craft it so the less time you have to make other comments.
The added drawbacks of a lack of time are Sloppy Joe responses.
3 Sloppy Joe responses
These are the responses where a person didn’t have time to frame their thoughts. They are likely to be one liners or a short paragraph, that whilst being complimentary or accusatory, are of low quality overall.
I love you Jackson, your posts are the shiznit, gush, gush, gush, link, gush!
4 Johnny No Face
Whether it is a John Doe or a Jane Doe we are all tired of the anonymous. Finding out how to put an avatar on your social or commenting profile is an extract of urine. The “bone idle” no faced social populace claim ignorance. Mr No Face is not valuable, not as valuable as a splash of colour, a real face or a logo. It doesn’t even matter if you change the default avatar from a blank face to a funny monster or an abstract art motif. These people are still No Facers.
Sort it out people!
For point of reference I have a special kind of place for the No Faced community on my Google+. It is a bit like a leper colony but in contrast, some people actually recover and I let them back into my general populace. It’s akin to returning a zombie back into the life of servitude after it lost its taste for brain and instead showed a sign of life. If you don’t want to get “Kettled” in my No Facer group learn how to make a profile picture!
5 Buried Comment Zones
Occasionally someone decides on their web design to bury the comments deep. That adds time to tracking them down and an extra click to dig them out. The message that the blog owner advertises is that they don’t give a rubber chicken about comments. If they feel that way, why make the effort?
I don’t want to dig for your comments section. I don’t want to go beneath a massive page footer!
Place it in sight.
6 Complex and undecipherable Captcha
Captcha is often used to prevent spammers by placing a small hurdle that requires a manual entry. I use Sweet Captcha because I like the cheeky little graphics. Often people may use simple tick boxes which are also quite acceptable.
There are some Captchas that are crappy. Such examples include the undecipherable captcha which comes out as a bunch of odd words that have been put together by a serial killer.
The other forms of crappy captcha are those that don’t work or are so complex it defeats the object. Time is bleeding out, let’s not forget.
The other problems with captcha are that on some responsive themes (those that reduce or expand in size to accommodate all sizes of screen) cannot handle their dimensions which distorts them yet further.
7 Failures after comment
This is not so common but still a pain. I commented on Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income and after validation was hit by an error. I had no idea at this point if my comment had been submitted for approval or not. Fortunately it did.
8 Deactivated comments
People who don’t take comments are anti-social. Why are you putting up what you are writing about if you aren’t capable of taking some feedback. Can’t take the heat? Commonly corporations and big hitters deactivate commentary but they must realise that giving their audience a voice could save them some pain and also gives back a right of reply. Deactivated comments it the ultimate way to be unsociable.
Now, this is a contradiction to a post I wrote about how to conduct yourself socially. There are some topics that will encourage idiots and for those topics the veto of no comments is mandatory because you are going to make a moderator’s job hard otherwise. The flip side of that coin is that once in the social domain, an audience expects to carry this content in a socially expedient way with rights to comment and share.
Step back and think: Social Engagement – a guide on how to act responsibly on the internet.
Other problems with blog post comments
- Barriers to entry
I’ve run across Disqus and Livefyre on my travels through cyberspace. Disqus and LiveFyre are more like commenting portals than anything else. I find myself turned off almost instantly when I get to the bottom of the blog post that I’ve been reading and I see the D or the flame symbol. If I don’t have the option to use Google+ or the standard comment I’ll pass.
What are my justifications behind my distaste?
This is another faceless corporation who owns my writing contribution. Their websites might try and convince me that they are brilliant and that I should embrace them but it is yet another wall of password orientation, another club I have to be a part of, another place my details can get leaked, another user pocket.
Disqus and Livefyre are not the biggest turnoff however.
Facebook comments are the biggest turn off for me. I’m not really sure why. There is something about Facebook that I don’t like.
It all started with www.planetF1.com
I’m a Formula 1 fan. I support McLaren even though they’ve had a poor run in the last few years. I also love crashes and in Formula 1, there are some great crashes. (Incidentally, I also like the crashes they have in IndyCar and Nascar, mmmmm!)
Planet F1 provides news with a blog element that has a nifty set of stats that run throughout the race calendar. It was always the hilarious comments from various differently aligned race fans that drew me to the articles.
Planet F1 went downhill when they suddenly decided to ditch the old commenting system for Facebook comments. Previously to make comment on the site you had to have a login ID. This was because some fans got so bent out of shape by other people’s points of view that they got into royal punch ups and had to be moderated. Moderation was quite lenient because often there were some valid points among the fiery comments. I loved that part, reading those anorak fans laying punches into each other. The arguments often boiled up over stupid press releases from team managers, drivers or has-beens, technical diversions, biased viewpoints and more besides. It was fun, trust me!
When the Facebook comments came along all the old guard of commentators disappeared. The characters were gone. They were replaced with randoms instead. Now you could argue that Facebook eliminates trolls and is great, ra, ra! But no, actually it sends true commentators away.
The problem with Facebook is that more than likely you have friends and family on your profile and you become more reserved in what you write. It’s great for sensitive topics, like dying, children and knitting but a disaster for true debate. Expanding on the debate crush, self moderation by those peers you don’t want to upset (colleagues, bosses, parents & friends) means you are far less likely to be a fool. Once that Facebook comment is on that site, it is also on your Facebook page. You own that comment. Regardless of how foolhardy it might be.
The Facebook Comment implementation renders a movement in tone.
With partly this 1 simple change and partly Sebastian Vettel dominating for a long time, I switched off PlanetF1. I don’t think I was alone when I decided to vote with my feet. I would have been more loyal had the old comment system remained firmly in place. It was definitely not a change for the better.
Whilst I am sure that Facebook opened up the comments even further it destroyed the exclusivity of that site. The way it was rolled out really sucked.
I never received an email to inform me of the change in advance. It was just a middle finger to those loyal commentators who made reading the comments fun.
It all harks back to this original sin:
The Final Gripe with Post Comments
It’s the common thing that to only say a good thing is preferred over saying a bad thing. When we are starting out as writers with blogging, negative comments can actually be far more constructive to our development.
My mother said: if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all!
What I’m getting at is that we would take private criticism from a consultant, teacher, client or friend but not from strangers, and yet, those strangers might be right.
I term some of this positive reinforcement movement being down to social media sites such as Google+ and Facebook. They both only accept positives. For example you can only +1 an article or ignore it on Google+. You can’t -1 it. On Facebook, you can’t thumbs down an article. This approach differs on StumbleUpon, YouTube and Reddit. They support positive and negative. In order to promote a sense of balance you must have negatives. You must have that occasional thumbs down.
- So the first issue is people feeling brave enough to disagree or point out flaws.
You may not be inclined to do this because you are at odds on whether you know the author may simply decline your point of view or field it with a counter view. This pause for thought may make you less inclined to help.
- Allowing these negative comments to be viewed by others.
We know this as censorship. This extends from the first point but is a moral choice by the administrator. Do they allow criticism in a democratic standpoint or do they bury this discussion and only let warm words shine through.
I have read a lot of articles over my time. Some of them have been flawed but because their author has a high pull of social support, articles of question pass by without query. They have only glowing support. That surely looks suspect?!
My final thought on this subject asks the question; when everything is good, why bother striving to do things better? The reality is that everything will, at some point, need a revised way of thinking so embrace opposing opinion. It might save embarrassment if you are just flat wrong.
Over to you:
Do you have a bugbear about Article comments, by the commentators or by the systems that allow comments? Do you have any qualms over the Social Media agencies who are trying to muscle in on the comments? What are your thoughts?