Comment posting guidelines

Most blog authors want their readers to participate by commenting, so having people post comments on your articles is generally a very good thing. I for one love it when people leave constructive comments here. Nearly everybody participates in a civilised manner, but unfortunately there are exceptions.

I'm sure most people who have reasonably popular blogs will agree that reading and responding to just the well-written comments can take a lot of time, but that it's okay. What is not okay is the time and energy consumed by trolls, spammers, and people with bad attitudes.

Disabling comments does not feel like an attractive option to me since this site would not be what it is without reader participation. So instead of doing that I have written a few tips and ground rules for posting comments.

Following these simple guidelines will increase the chance of your comments being read and taken seriously, and encourage blog authors to keep writing useful and interesting articles. You're happy, the authors are happy, everybody wins.

  • Read any existing comments first. Really. Somebody else may have already stated your point. Take extra care to read any comments posted by the article's author (many blogs format author comments differently to make them stand out), as they tend to clarify the article. If you post a comment to point out something that has already been mentioned, all you're doing is adding clutter to the comments. There are exceptions to this of course.

  • Add value to the discussion. Consider whether what you are going to say will actually be of use to others reading your comment. If you aren't certain that it will, try rephrasing your comment or maybe even refrain from posting it. If you disagree with the author's point of view, that is fine, but explain why. If you find a mistake in a tutorial, explain what is wrong and let the author and other readers know how to fix it. And stay on topic.

  • Avoid two-word comments. While getting appreciative comments is great, comments consisting of only "Great job", "Nice work", or "Love it" don't really say a lot. I'm not saying that you can't express your appreciation for an article you like, but do try to explain why you like it. With more and more spam containing only short phrases like the ones I mentioned, fleshing it out a bit also reduces the risk of getting caught in a spam trap.

  • No signatures, please. Blog posts aren't mailing lists or discussion forums. Your name will be linked to your site, so there is no need to make the comments harder to read by posting signatures.

  • Stay polite and civilised. Posting personal attacks and being disrespectful will not add value to the discussion. I generally (but not always, there are exceptions) delete such comments, and sometimes ban the IP that they were posted from. Again, it's perfectly fine to disagree on something, but be constructive about it or you're out.

  • Don't try to disguise spam. I get an increasing amount of comments that are carefully written to be on topic and look as if they are taking part in the conversation, but link to obvious spam sites. Recently spammers have reached a new low by faking the names of people who regularly post comments here, probably hoping that I'll miss the spam content. Don't do it. I delete these comments and blacklist any URLs they contain as soon as I find them. In the past I have probably let some slip through, but as this kind of spam is increasing I will be much more trigger-happy with the delete button.

In my opinion, these are the most important blog comment guidelines. There are certain topics to which one or more rules do not apply, but they all apply to almost any kind of Web design/development related article or tutorial.

I really think these rules are easy to follow and that they will make reading and writing blogs more enjoyable and less stressful. Should there be more rules? Are any of my rules too harsh? What's your opinion?

Posted on November 20, 2006 in Writing