Friday, September 5, 2008

What is it about comment policies?

Tēnā koutou katoa - Welcome to you all
An empty circus arena

When Michele Martin challenged bloggers to write a blog comment policy in May this year, I got the distinct impression I heard the squeals of a thousand mandrakes being wrenched from the ground. I had this virtual impression that in many parts of the blogosphere, little shelled creatures, that had popped out their soft and tender bloggling eyes, were retreating smartly into the protection of their hard dark shells - I swore I could hear the sound of a hundred vacuum cleaners all sucking at once. When it had passed, it was some time before my ears got used to the silence.

What is it about blog comment policy that people seem to detest? Is it a pomo reaction to something people feel should be relegated to the history books on the early 1900s?

Holocaustic emotion

I was reminded of these chilling, holocaustic emotions recently when I came across Peter Turney’s June post about a change he had made to his blog comment policy. As it happens, I didn’t totally agree with his point of view. That wasn’t entirely why I decided to leave a comment. His post had sat, without a comment, among his other popular posts, for two clear months. I just had to put it out of its misery!

But it was only on reflection that I recalled I’d left a comment, somewhere in the dim past, on another post on a related topic. I could only assume Alzheimer’s had set in, for I’d no idea where I’d left it.

Until . . . yes . . . I realised that it must have been on one of Peter’s earlier posts on the same topic! I flicked swiftly back to my RSS Reader to check it out. Sure enough, there it sat, and almost completely forgotten about. A solitary comment, congratulating Peter on his common sense
blog comment policy - almost hilarious in parts.

What is it about comment policy that drives people away? In their droves!

( 3 ) <<- related posts - >> ( 1 )

Nga mihi nui - Best wishes


Britt Watwood said...

"Policy" is the word I have problems with - sounds like we have police duties associated with our blogging. I do believe in "guidelines", so guess I am locked in a semantics battle!

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Ah, Britt!

I was never much good at English. I did my bit to get through school. You've shown me the connection of policy to police - a letter. It could be argued that these words came from the same roots, though some might disagree - policie Fr, Peelers Brit.

Thanks for that.

Ka kite

Anonymous said...

I think what you are really talking about are two separate issues. There is a difference between 1) comment responses to a blog post on a comment policy and 2) a comment policy that that drives people away.

A post that writes about an update to a comment policy or that you have implemented a comment policy would be unlikely to receive many comments because it is an announcement style post. And lack of response doesn't mean that it has turned people off. If your post on a comment policy was written to ask readers for their input then maybe you would get more response.

Now getting back to having a comment policy -- well it depends on how it is written. If the policy is nice and inviting like Michele's there is no way that it would drive people away. But if it was too restrictive and not inviting then new readers may well be off put and it could drive people away.

Obviously it's their blog so up to them however the conversations, connections and blog community to create to me are an important part of being a blogger -- would hate to have a comment policy that impacted negatively.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Sue.

Hmmm. I concur with you about hating to have a comment policy that turns people away.

I built mine and gave it a blog of its own, simply because I did not want to have people commenting on the policy, and didn't know at the time how to turn comments off on one post only (come to that I still don't).

Besides, I also found it convenient to have a separate blog for that. BTW, GA has given me some curious data on that policy post in the last few weeks. Quite illuminating.

I did have a blog policy announcement page on my first blog, however, where I was attempting to solicit some feedback. Being a newbie, I guess I wasn't holding my mouth right at the time.

Interesting that you felt that an announcement style post would not solicit comments. I had a different take on the one mentioned here (obviously) in that it was a chatty style post (albeit an announcement) that prompted a comment because the writer mentioned something specifically about possibly turning readers away. You must admit that the take was an unusual one for a blogger.

When I've updated my comment policy, and I have a few times, I didn't feel the need to announce that changes had been made to it - simply because it was accessible anyway.

My feeling, from the little I have read about how people feel about these things, is that Britt is probably right about the word 'policy'. Michele Martin also mentioned in a post that many people were put off by her use of the word 'policy'. I have looked to see if Michele had a comment policy, several times now, and I've never been able to find it - presumably she wants people to access it.

Again, in my naive state, I failed to see what vagaries might befall by using the term - that's my fault. I'm reviewing what I call it, on the strength of what Britt has said here and the GA data I'm gathering about it.

Thanks for introducing these ideas to me - I guess I had a singular take on what a post was about - and I didn't realise that an 'announcements type post' was a recognisable category. There y'go.

Ka kite

Anonymous said...

With blogger at the bottom of the post area you will see a title that says Post options. Click on it and you'll see there are advanced options which allow you to turn off comments. It's a shame that blogger doesn't give you the ability to create pages like you have with Wordpress type blogs since you create posts when what you want to do is create static pages. You would have still obtained those statistics if you had it as a post or a page.

If you spend some timing analysing the different styles of posts you write and difference between various bloggers writing these posts you will send trends in how readers interact with them.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Tēnā koe Sue!

Thanks for that. I have been examining the timing on my own posts which is one of the indicators that prompted me to do the last study using GA. I did some statistics with some of the figures. Also the site showed about 2 minutes per post on average. I used this as a comparison (control) as I had no other data to compare it with, and no idea what was a reasonable time.

I must say that there are some posts that readers obviously study for they range to more than 10 minutes in some cases.

Thanks for the tip on post options:-) I'll check it out.

Ka kite

V Yonkers said...

I have the same problem in my classroom (comment policy) especially in the current class I am teaching (speech presentation and composition). The problem is that you want to open up the floor for "constructive" criticism. However, this is open for interpretation. I find, if I have an international readership (which I do), that a written policy doesn't "teach" the readership what my expectations for comments are. If I feel a student is being too critical in class, I can turn the comment around and make it more helpful rather than ego busting. With student evaluations, I do not pass on overly negative evaluations to the students, but rather incorporate it into my own evaluation so it is more constructive (e.g. instead of the student "dressed like a whore" I would write "the student was dressed inappropriately which did not create a professional appearance".

This is hard to do with a comment, but can be done if addressed immediately.

This is why I approve or disapprove the comments. Of course, this means I must look daily (sometimes more than once a day) at my blog so I can release comments in an appropriate time frame. However, it also helps to direct me to read and respond to the comments.

As I get very few comments on the grand scheme of things, I don't really have trouble keeping up with it. This might be different if I had more comments!

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Tēnā koe Virginia!

Am I on track in saying that you have just made a case for comment moderation and not having a blog comment policy? :-) It's complex, isn't it? There are so many catch 22s.

@Britt - you cited one related to semantics, and I empathise with you especially since you alerted me to the connotations involved.

I think it comes down to freedom and how we maintain it in our community without having to police it overly. I chose not to have comment moderation, as many of us have. Months ago now, I recall having discussions about this during the Comment Challenge. Come to think of it, there were similar vibes that I detected from people when comment moderation was being discussed. It's all about the same thing really.

Hmmm. Thanks for making me think more about this Virginia! It's not easy for a blogger of little brain!
Ka kite

Rose DesRochers said...

I think it's good to have a copmment policy (guidlines.)

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Rose!

Thanks for that - I take it you're leaving a criptic message about my paragraph on spelcheking :)

Good one Rose. I like your humour!

ka kite