How does your comment policy affect your blog?

I am a firm believer that it is personality that is important in this modern age of Web 2.0, distributed communications and mediated, online societies. I have always felt that blogging is about making connections between people. Easier said than done, but possible. The blogs I enjoy reading are the blogs where the authors are clearly identifiable. They have personalities and opinions and voices that I do (and don’t) enjoy reading.

As Mia has pointed out, blogs from a “personal” standpoint as opposed to an official view are rare in corporate environments. This is not to say that they can’t be done and done well, but these are the exception rather than the rule. I think that people need a ‘face’ to relate to. The Net is a hyper-crowded market place and you need to make full use of any hook you can develop to bring the customers in. One of the reasons I keep coming back to Innocent smoothies, despite their high price, is that they are just so fun and approachable as a brand.

How does this relate to blogging and in particular the “personal” blogging that I practice?

I used to joke that Bright Meadow was a small community of people, more than just me, made up of everyone who reads and comments. I have also said time over time that I couldn’t do it without y’all. I would still be writing and blogging without the regular input of readers, but for damn straight it wouldn’t be the same. It was brought home to me recently that this jest has actually become the reality. In my latest moment of blogging angst (yes, even the best of us have our moments of insecurity) several people stepped up to the plate and flat out told me that I had created a great community around the site.

And that chuffed me to bits.

I am also chuffed to bits by the fact that I have had just three – yes, three – trollish comments in the five years I have been blogging. And the people responsible for two of those came back to me, apologised, and now contribute to the wider BM community.

What has perhaps chuffed me to bits the most is the welcome my guest writers have received. I know it was/is a big thing for both of them so my heart is always in my mouth when they post (not because I don’t like to let anyone loose on my baby, but because what if the readers are rude?!) but I should know better. Somehow there has developed a unique group of people who hang around Bright Meadow and I can trust them (you) to treat the space and everyone in it with respect.

How have I done this? I am not exactly sure, but I think it is something to do with my personal policy on comments. I do have a comment policy, but as you can see it is fairly basic: no spam; no meanness; and I reserve the right to remove/edit obscene or inflammatory comments. My unofficial comment policy is that I leave no comment un-answered, even if it is just a “hello”. All first time commenters get a “welcome to Bright Meadow and thank you for commenting” and as much of a personal response as possible. Even if the comment left is rude I much prefer to respond in a reasoned fashion and try to engage the person in dialogue than just summarily delete it.

I think it makes a difference. I know it has worked on the trolls because one of them flat out emailed me, said mea culpa, and now joins in the fun.

I know when I comment on other sites and don’t get a response, something that happens all too often, I feel unwanted by the blogger. Quite frankly, I find it rude. If you don’t want to join in the conversation, don’t have a comments field. I am a reluctant commenter at the best of times because I am shy and hate to be rebuffed. I can’t be the only one who puzzles for an age over the simplest comment and who more often than note clicks on from the page leaving her contribution unsaid. It is a big thing for someone to leave a comment. Acknowledge it!

This policy, I think, has directly led to readers getting involved with Bright Meadow; makes them want to come back and contribute again and again. It has got to the point where whole conversations and debates happen in the comments between readers. We even had our first duel a few months back! I can’t express what this means to me. It means I have succeeded. And it makes me think other bloggers should do the same. Without our readers we are just one more self-obsessed geek pouring our hears out to the disinterested Net. People read our words, especially on personal blogs, because they want to make a connection. It is unpardonably rude to ignore them.

Where did this thinking stem from? I am not totally sure. It certainly has something to do with my background in customer service, where more often than not a smile, an anecdote and a personal connection with a customer got me that machine sale, and more importantly for my manger, repeat sales. I wouldn’t be surprised if my first introduction to the web being on gaming communities where all the posts contributed to an ongoing story doesn’t have something to do with it. But it is also the inescapable conclusions my research over the past few years have led me to draw. I am not the only one. Neko is finding it hard at the moment to get this personal approach into her research and I can understand her frustration *. There are currently certain arenas where it is not deemed appropriate to bring the personal voice (scientific research being one of them) but blogging is categorically not one of those arenas!

So how has my comment policy affected by blog? It has made my blog! It is not an after thought, but something integral to the site. Just as I will not tolerate spam or meanness, I will not tolerate ignored comments. If I ever ignore a comment you make, feel free to take me task.

And now we perhaps come to the best bit and what keeps me sitting at the computer, typing away despite the RSI in my wrists. Here, as always, is where you all get to say your stuff. How did the welcome make you feel? What are your thoughts on commenting? Am I totally talking out of my hat?

And can you help me update the Usual Suspects page? I really want to get it up-to-date and to include as many of you as want to be included, but I don’t want to miss anyone! If you want in on the page, pipe up in the comments or shoot me an email. Requirements are a name and a short bio (no bigger than 50 words if poss). If you want to include a link to your own site, then even better 🙂

* Yes, I did read it sweetheart, I just needed to think things through.

18 thoughts on “How does your comment policy affect your blog?

  1. 🙂 I knew you would have my lovely, just wondered what you thought…. There is def. no room for it in my transfer document- meeting today confirmed I have ten thousand words only, that’s NOTHING!!! I shall have to somehow learn to be concise…

    Oh, and please please don’t change my description on the usual suspects page, it is almost my favourite thing anyone has ever said about me… (the current favourite is, OK, you are not the only person I call ‘trouble’, but if it helps you are easily the most trouble!)

  2. Neko – eek. 10,000 words only? Once upon a time that seemed like a lot to me, but that’s only ten average blog posts… My sympathies and if you ever need a reviewer, you know where I am 🙂

    And your description is safe if you want it safe. If you ever want it changed, let me know though.

  3. I think my usual suspects entry needs updating. That all seems so long ago. Not sure what it should say yet though…
    *wanders off to ponder*

  4. My comment policy? Well, I have a general idea that no one reads it at all if my stats page is to be trusted. Only but a handful of people actually bother to read the comment policy which is placed right smack there before the comments. I think fewer still actually realize I enforce it.

    I’m still trying to get to that point where I have more than just 1 regular commenter. It’s nice to have a community behind the words. For that, you’re doing just great Cas.

  5. I’ve been thinking about this very issue recently. I love a good comment policy! I also love that you respond to comments. I try to do that too (sometimes I do it later rather than sooner). I think that if you’re getting hundreds of comments a day, responding to all of them is unrealistic. But if, like me, you get maybe 8 or 9 comments per post, I think it’s nice to respond. It certainly encourages me to return and participate more when a blogger I read responds to my comments (not even every time – just now and then! I’m easy!)

    So, you know… well done, you!

  6. Update away Moose 🙂

    Edrei – I’m not saying anyone actually reads the comment policy (though it is spelt out right over the box), but I live by it and that seems to be enough. As for getting the commenters in the first place? I’m not sure exactly how that happened but I sure love that it did! I wish I had pearls of wisdom for you but all I can say is keep doing what you’re doing. I’m sure they will come (if commenters is what you want).

    Roro – thank you, and I had noticed that you respond too. One (more) thing I love about you! I’ll agree, if I had hundreds of comments a day, it would be impractical to respond to them all. I am not sure what the upper limit would be, but I do know I haven’t reached it yet so I’ll let you know when I get there.

  7. Do I even count as a usual suspect anymore? I tend to lurk more than ever these days…
    I like the dark…
    Well, if I do still count, I still live in Japan, but I changed my blog. It was a photo a day blog last year, (as you know!) but now it’s kind of a weird story blog thing. And there’s always sushimatic although it gets updated about as often as Lister changed his clothes.

    Enough me, me, me – your comments policy has always been courteous and welcoming. Keep it up.

  8. A community is what I like. I like knowing that there are people out there I can talk to, relate to instead of having some sort of random people come in every time and leave after a couple of seconds. I have my theories on why that is, if its true at least, finding a crowd is harder than just waiting it out.

  9. Cas, I think it’s partly that you invite comment- your Roasts normally make us smile, or think, or want to ask more about something, so we post here to say so, then discussions start (like the raccoons vs. penguins one)… and the not- roast- posts (alliterative, no? :p) usually invite debate in some way, or are thought provoking, or outright ask for a reply….

    That and the non snarky nature of your readership makes for good comments and lots of talking. In a way it’s self policing- if people are lurking, waiting to say something (speak up lurkers, it’s great!) then they at least get a sense of the sort of conversation we all have, and know they won’t be jumped on or trolled at, upward spirals 🙂

    I’ve been wondering why I don;t have as many comments/ readers, and writing quality aside (!), I think it’s because you do something for us here- the roasts are a service- once we know we like your sense of humour and interest, we know you will find us cool stuff from about the web, so it’s a good place to stop off and be entertained, then your more researchy/ thought provoking stuff gets read as well, and because there are comments, it makes each piece worth coming back to- again, virtuous spirals…

    I’ve read this piece three times now, come back about 4 or 5 to look at comments, and commented twice!

  10. JB – you were my first non-flatmate commenter. Of course you’re still a Usual Suspect, lurker or no! And it’s not like I can complain about people lurking, as I am a lurker extraordinaire myself. I shall tweak the link to your blog though 🙂

    Edrei – care to share your theories?

    Neko – virtuous spirals. I like that! And I get what you’re saying about the Roast’s hooking people in. It amuses me that something which started oh so humbly has become so important. I am not sure when I started calling them Roasts but a quick scroll through the archives shows that it was around the summer of 2005. Wow. Are they officially an institution now? I do know that there are 115 posts as of today in the “Sunday Roast” category. I can’t pull out the first because my current damn theme doesn’t allow paged archive pages (grr!) but I do know that there are going to be more than that because when I was on blogger, I couldn’t categorise or tag like I do here… Oooh, that’s a lot of history to be proud of! It just goes to show that you never know where something will take you 🙂

  11. There’s no comment policy on NDNL. There is comment screening for every new commenter — and if I had an own design, that might be something I’d mention somewhere. Then again, I’m never offline it seems, so I’ll be quick to approve. If the comment is blatant spam or trollism, I ignore it, but I haven’t done that in ages.

    As far as my own reply policy is concerned, I try to acknowledge input, welcome new visitors and add something; some kind of confirmation that I read it. Depends on the post itself of course, or whether I specifically asked for opinions.

    Commenting here does seem more active than at my place, though, and that certainly comes from your personal style of writing. When you post private thoughts and opinions, when you tell people how you feel or what you’ve done, you’re bound to get more input. It’s just something I don’t do much.

    I do agree that having a personality shine through is much needed in blogs. If there’s no face, there’s no real reason to accept what the author is saying as true, valid or even worthwhile. And that goes for a “corporate” blog too. At least that’s what I try when I blog for work, but this post was a good reminder to keep that up, or improve on it even.

  12. Ed – it’s late and I can’t really do justice to your post, but I am thinking on it and when I get back from the weekend, I should have something constructive to add!

    Nils – I try to get personality into one site I have control over at work. It’s got a “news” section I am desperately trying to inject some life and personality into. It’s hard work and even harder convincing the rest of my team that it is actually their personalities that have made us such a success, but I think I’m getting there. Slowly. Who knows what will happen when I leave… Which is something else to consider I suppose. If you inject too much personality into a corporate blog, and it all hinges on one person, when/if that person moves on you could run into some snags.

    Hmmm. Something to ponder on the train home tomorrow. Thank you!

  13. One of the reasons that we have such a good community in the meadow is that we tend to scare off people who don’t play nicely! The best bit is, it’s from all of us, not just you Cas. We’re happy to share this little meadow, but we’re very protective of it’s integrity.

  14. Sorry.

    I am meant to have written the roast.

    I suck, and will suffer whatever horrible death by penguins Cas cares to choose.

    I will try to get it done tonight. I went to a stag do over the weekend, then uni stuff ate my brains….

    Zombie Neko x

  15. Pingback: Bright Meadow » Blog Archive » Sunday Roast: What a crazy random happenstance

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