Here’s one thing I would be willing to bet on: Everyone reading these words has had reason to worry over comments on a website. It’s one of those modern concerns that replace things like, “Dinosaur about to crush hut” and, “Which one of you cretins scratched my Deep Purple album?”
This week the site dailywritingtips.com discussed the subject. It pointed to these helpful hints from the folks at WordPress.com (which powers this very blog). The company suggests those who comment on websites:
- Be specific.
- Don’t leave a link.
- Stay on topic.
- Be nice.
- Keep it brief.
Good advice, right? If all of our commenters took those five simple lessons to heart, if they truly reread everything they were about to post to test those posts against these simple rules, our sites would be more vibrant and meaningful to the communities they serve.
Obviously, we don’t live in that utopia. I delete comments from our site and our Web forum just about every day, sorry to say. I hasten to add that the deletions are a very, very small percentage of the total. I usually only delete things for violations of that fourth commandment – when people aren’t being very nice.
Perhaps the above list is helpful to you as you seek guidance on whether a post goes to far. I don’t think I would recommend deleting posts that are simply long or aren’t specific in their language. But I might use the advice as a guide. …
Here’s a tip: When a commenter goes off the rails, I very often send him an exceedingly polite email, thanking him for his efforts to communicate with our readers and explaining why I thought this particular missive missed its target. More often than not, and I’m completely serious, I get a contrite email in return promising to do better next time. If you don’t routinely communicate with regular trolls, you might give it a try. I usually find folks are pretty civil when confronted with their own lack of civility. It’s an interesting phenomenon. It’s as if the writer doesn’t think there are any actually human beings on the other side of his screen.