by Christopher Butler on in social media

Just a quick referral and comment: I saw an article in the Washington Post today by Doug Feaver called Listening to the Dot-Commenters that I thought was pretty interesting. Essentially, Feaver is writing to defend the practice of allowing un-moderated, anonymous comments to be posted to their articles and blogs. He writes:

I have come to think that online comments are a terrific addition to the conversation and that journalists need to take them seriously. Comments provide a forum for readers to complain about what they see as unfairness or inaccuracy in an article (and too often they have a point), to talk to each other (sometimes in an uncivilized manner) and, yes, to bloviate…I believe that it is useful to be reminded bluntly that the dark forces are out there and that it is too easy to forget that truth by imposing rules that obscure it. As Oscar Wilde wrote in a different context, “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.” Too many of us like to think that we have made great progress in human relations and that little remains to be done. Unmoderated comments provide an antidote to such ridiculous conclusions. It’s not like the rest of us don’t know those words and hear them occasionally, depending on where we choose to tread, but most of us don’t want to have to confront them.

One obvious caveat, Feaver is speaking from the context of a widely read newspaper; news content tends to elicit much more commenting activity than the kind of blog we, or any of our clients for that matter, would have. However, I think the point carries over well. Sure, there’s going to be some bad stuff in there, but allowing anonymity encourages users to tell you what they actually think. The practice of moderating comments, though, I think is more of a time waster than anything else. We do receive some spam comments, which I have to go back in and remove, but that’s far less frequent than real comments. If I had to approve each one, I’d go crazy. I’m happy with it being an open forum of sorts, and am even happier to see that activity increasing (see our newsletter on writing newsletters for an example of a good dialogue in the comments).

  • Alan

    Un-moderated and anonymous is definitely the way to go, but many b2c’s are against doing this out of fear of unhappy customers trashing their products.

  • https://www.newfangled.com/chris_butler_blog Christopher Butler


    That may be ok, actually. I’ve never thought that blogging is necessarily the *best* content strategy for B2C companies. Forums may end up being a more appropriate and helpful strategy. They foster a different kind of relationship between the company and the customer, as well as between customers who participate.


  • Tom

    I don’t know- I think every company should blog. It’s becoming the standard way to connect with people. If you don’t do it, then your customers will leave you behind.

  • https://www.newfangled.com/chris_butler_blog Christopher Butler


    I don’t think every company should blog. There are going to be companies that have much beloved products, but beyond continuing to offer them, will have nothing to say in a blog. And their customers probably wouldn’t be interested in what they’d have to say in a blog even if they had one.

    Chris Brogan makes a good comment along these lines in a blog post called Social Media Decision Tree:

    Should your company blog? – Yes, all companies should blog. No, your company might not be right for a blog because you want to moderate every comment, or because you don’t really have a goal for the blog, or because your customers just want to eat the hamburgers, not read about what you think.”

    I couldn’t have said that better myself.


  • anonymous

    Well, I think you’re both wrong!

  • https://www.newfangled.com/chris_butler_blog Christopher Butler

    @anonymous Do you mean both Chris Brogan and me? I’m wondering if your comment is meant to be ironic…

  • https://www.newfangled.com/chris_butler_blog Christopher Butler

    Just read an interesting piece from Virginia Heffernan at the New York Times about user comments. Here’s a bit:

    “But as it is, online commentary is a bête noire for journalists and readers alike. Most journalists hate to read it, because it’s stinging and distracting, and readers rarely plow through long comments sections unless they intend to post something themselves. But perhaps the comments have become so reader-unfriendly, in part, because of the conventions of the Web-comment form. Online commentary, for one thing, is a circadian art, one in which style and tone seem largely determined by the time of day a comment is posted. This echo-chamber effect is unpleasant, and it makes it hard to keep listening for the clearer, brighter, rarer voices nearly drowned out in the online din. Which is too bad: newspaper journalism benefits from reader comments. Creating registration standards, inventive means of moderating and displaying comments, membership benefits for regular posters and ratings systems for useful comments are just some of the ways that other news outlets like Slate have improved the quality of reader responses.”

  • https://www.newfangled.com/chris_butler_blog Christopher Butler

    One new link that’s appropriate: Ask a lawyer: Can user comments land a blogger in court? David Griner “wanted to look at the liability and legal issues of blog comments. For this, [he] turned to Michael McSunas, a veteran attorney in the field of advertising and marketing law. He also happens to be the legal counsel for one of [his] clients, McKee Foods (parent company of Little Debbie), and an all-around great guy.”

  • http://www.soltrago.com Jack

    I also think that keeping the blog commenting unmoderated would be positive for the blog if he has a good antispam software installed on his blog.

  • http://globalknifeset.com Mac

    While spam is an annoyance I don’t think a few spam comments have ever ran me off from an intelligent blog or an interesting forum discussion. Allowing anonymous comments (on a well run blog) will just add to the value of the blog and often provide useful information to companies.

  • http://www.ascreenrepairinc.com James

    I don’t know, while having unmoderated comments would def. lead to a lot more action on a blog, It could get out of control pretty quick if it lands on one of those do-follow search engine lists.

  • http://homeplumbingandheating.co.uk/commercial-boiler-repairs.html Peter Plumber

    $10 says this comment wont get posted.

  • https://www.newfangled.com/chris_butler_blog Chris Butler

    Peter, normally, I would delete a comment like yours. Using blog comments for link building is essentially a spamming practice. The point of this post was to discuss whether comment moderation was a valid practice for handling the varied opinions of respondents, which can sometimes be extreme and/or inappropriate. Deleting spam comments like yours is a no-brainer.

  • http://www.claytowne.com/beats-digging-ditches/ The Design Dude

    On my blogs I allow a comment be be immediately live IF ( and it’s a big IF) it passes my Akismet filter and it has under two hyperlinks in the text. I also dofollow all my comments. Occasionally an obvious piece of spam gets through but very little overall. I get notified of every comment so I know right away. Some I let stay, even though they are mainly looking for a link because:1. Their link is relevant2. The took the time to actually read my post and comment intelligently.I think not moderating at all, as in never even checking or having any filters is suicide. Your blog will be overrun with pages and pages of crap.That’s my 2 cents anyway.BTW like the NewFangled logo.

  • http://www.answers10.com/AutoLoans Paul

    One of the challenges is keeping the spammers from posting unrelated content. Civility could be another issue also.

  • http://Website Mike

    Thanks for all these very interesting posts. I am new to blogs and think that allowing anonymous comments is the way to go.

  • http://www.offpricefashion.com Eddie

    Unmoderated blog is possible but if you as the moderator disagree with a comment then just delete it from your control panel.

  • http://www.sellhousefast.co.uk/quick-sale/faq/ Christopher Jennings

    I agree. Those people that are using links to certain websites are generally spammers. They tend to post comments into someones blog, then post links inappropriately or a certain much more specific, they post irrelevant links on their comments not necessarily pointing out the content or essence of it. They are the so called spammers. I do hope people post relevant comments.


  • http://traffic--siphon.blogspot.com/ T.S.

    Keeping a blog moderated can be dangerous because of spammers, they will post something unrelated. But if you keep them moderated, they will at least post a comment that is related to the article.

  • http://www.golfcarts-usa.com Jessy

    I agree with him. You should not cut off or make rules against what could be useful information. You really never know where the information that makes something right will come from. I love to read about all kinds of things and everyone has something to say that is important, good or bad.

  • http://www.embrace-learning.com E-Learning

    I’m of the opinion that Unmoderated and anonymous blog comments are essential. They allow an excellent opportunity for SEO and a strong SEO presence is what seperates a large company from a one man band running a company out of his garage. To take away blog comments means that search engine rankings would become less stable and thus pose a much greater risk of fraud.

  • http://www.computerproblemonline.com CP

    I guess it depends on what kind of comment the user gives. If he comments with intellect and relevancy to the topic then the owner the blog would be pleased to hear from that person. However, I would not tolerate spammers who has irrelevant and obscene comments.

  • http://www.drivingschoolswatford.com/sirens/index.cfm/advance-driver-pass-plus/hgv-lgv-pcv-training-london/ Carl

    I totally agree. I think if the person who comments says something relevant to the topic, then I bet the one who wrote the article would like to read it.

  • http://www.drewharkness.com Drew Harkness

    Why am I here? I’m confused.

  • http://www.internetmarketingatlanta.org Google Places Expert

    There has to be a limit to spamming somewhere right? Every place has a purpose and a blog should be to foster discussion and feedback. Just my two cents.

  • http://techtalkforum.tk James
  • http://www.downcomfortersonsale.net Jill

    It has been awhile. I really have miss keeping up with your site. I believe that it is important to listen to what other have to say, also. That is the way we get new ideas or know which idea to throw out. You write really well and I really enjoy reading what you have to say.

  • alan gray

    burr ridge joe parente-stop swindling the disabled

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By Christopher Butler

Chris Butler is the COO of Newfangled. He writes and speaks often on design and the web. You can follow him @chrbutler. More by Christopher Butler