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).