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Either/Or: Unrestricted vs. Controlled Comments

Sometimes, simply checking a box or clicking a button can make a subtle, but significant difference in the way your…

Sometimes, simply checking a box or clicking a button can make a subtle, but significant difference in the way your audience reads and reacts to your blog. In these posts we’ll dig deeper into the dashboard, and explore some either-this-or-that decisions that can have a real influence on your readers’ experience.

Do you want readers to interact with your blog, but wonder how much control to exercise over their input? Here are some options to consider.

Comment approval: the pros and cons of instant gratification

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As a blogger, are you a control freak or a free spirit? Either way, If you’ve enabled comments on your blog, you can choose how much authority to exercise over the comments appearing on your posts.

One of the most fundamental questions to address is whether you should first approve a comment before it appears on your blog (to change your choice, go to Settings >> Discussion in your dashboard).

  • Leave unchecked: Sometimes you want to get the discussion going as quickly as possible. Sometimes you know in advance that you won’t be around to moderate comments when a pre-scheduled post goes live, which might lead to a long comment queue and an empty comment section. Finally, sometimes, especially when you’re a beginning blogger still building your audience, you want to remove any obstacles to readers’ feedback. In such cases, it might make sense to just let comments drip in as they’re submitted, especially since a lively comment section is likely to beget even more interaction. You can always moderate your comments later, after they’ve been published, and remove or alter anything you find inappropriate.
  • Check the box: For some bloggers, total control of a post’s comment section is a must. You may prefer only certain types of comments (long, short, supportive…), or wish to avoid redundant or less-substantive reactions to your posts. You may write about loaded questions or very personal experiences, and want to avoid any insensitive feedback on your site. If you regularly receive many comments, you might consider spacing them out over time to make the discussion you’ve generated feel more organic and increase its longevity. Approving each comment might entail some extra work, but the reward is a blog that meets your personal preferences to perfection.

Should commenters be asked to fill out their information?

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Beyond approving comments in general, you also have the power to decide whether to allow anonymous comments, or rather require visitors to provide their name and a valid email address (to check out these options on your dashboard, go to Settings >> Discussion). Which way should you go?

  • Leave unchecked: many of us really want to inspire as much discussion and interaction as possible, and adding this requirement might make some commenters keep their thoughts to themselves. One point to consider is that many bloggers separate their online identities from their everyday personae, and want to keep it that way for a variety of personal and professional reasons. While you won’t be able to verify all the information provided, asking for it alone might alienate some of these readers.
  • Check the box: adding this extra step might weed out less substantive, less serious comments. We tend to be a bit more responsible when we are not just anonymous online spirits, but grounded in our own identities. It might be a particularly good idea to consider this option, then, if you think your post tackles a provocative or polarizing topic. Sometimes the mere presence of this small addition may give trigger-happy, guns-a-blazing commenters pause, and make others moderate their tone.

Interaction might be a central part of blogging, but it can mean different things for different bloggers. How do you approach your readers’ comments? How much control do you maintain, and why? Your tips and stories are very welcome!

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32 Comments

  1. I want to approve each comment, just because I have had issues in the past with an ex-husband who enjoyed slandering me on my blog. I wish that i didn’t have to do this but it’s the only way….right now.

  2. This is a thought-provoking topic. Right now, all comments on my blog go to be moderated but I usually do that fairly quickly because I check my email and my blog at least three or four times a day. Sometimes I do get a couple of spammy comments which haven’t been filtered by Akismet so I like to keep the moderation option checked. But I’ve never thought about whether unchecking that option could potentially liven up the comments section. Thanks for this post! One of the things I love about blogging is that there is always something new to learn.

  3. I’m relatively new to this whole thing and while I think a certain amount of control is good, it has to be coupled with an active blogger (so a several times a day checker like Grace was saying above!). I hadn’t thought about the registration part. A lot of my audience isn’t on wordpress so this is actually a good point, thanks.

    So, out of curiosity, what feature do you have enabled now?

  4. I approve every comment… I usually receive lovely comments from lovely people but recently I had persistent requests from a guy asking for my Facebook ID and he wouldn’t take no for an answer. After this I set it so I approve everything first, and any comments that he posts go immediately to spam.

  5. This posting was quite helpful. I hadn’t changed my comment settings since I started the blog and now I’m going with unrestrive comments. I don’t have a large readership and I write about ordinary, day-to-day life, so I’d love for a “conversation” to be able to start more organically. Thanks for the help!

  6. i prefer to have some control over my blog by asking first-time commentators to leave their names & emails for me to approve. not to censor the content but to ensure all comments are made by good people with genuine intentions, not spammers

    1. I do the same. I also have a list of words which, should you use them, places you in the moderation queue whether you’re previously approved or not – just a precaution to keep vulgarity off my site.

    2. How do you determine who is good and who is not? You don’t know me from Adam, you may love my blog and what I write, but I may be a mass murderer. I have known some very, very nice men and women but they swear like troopers. l was known in my younger days for every other word to begin with a ‘F’ but as I have become older I have curbed my language. Saying that even when I did swear, I dtill opened doors for women, stood up when a women comes in a room and all the other things that goes with politeness. I served in the armed forces and the minister who run the church, I once asked him does all the bad language affect you? He replied that its just a form of expression, and doing such a demanding job with sometimes life threating, I think God turns a blind eye.

    1. @Lingeringvisions by Dawn

      You are completely off-base. Those ads are not placed by WordPress.com at all. They are coming from a browser add-on or toolbar. All WordPress.com placed ads are easy to identify as this link accompanies them http://en.wordpress.com/about-these-ads/

      Any other ads you see are not placed on the blog by WordPress.com. They are coming from a browser extension or toolbar. These sites have further explanation and suggestions for eliminating the ads: http://www.littletechiethings.com/2012/06/how-to-remove-ads-not-by-this-site.html http://blog.wikimedia.org/2012/05/14/ads-on-wikipedia-your-computer-infected-malware/ http://onecoolsitebloggingtips.com/2012/09/14/bloggers-beware-of-adware/

  7. I have the “previous approved” comment because I like to keep the conversation going plus all those peeps with previous approved comments are fine. I can leave for a day and not worry about people writing slanderous things on my blog. I also have “must put email/name” checked because I don’t like the idea of unknown people commenting on my blog either.

      1. Yep :) It works very well for me. I trust that people with previously approved comments aren’t going to say anything bad but it’s always good to try to dissuade spam.

  8. I have it set to where I have to approve comment. I’ve never had anyone pose anything I have problems with, but I want to be safe. Most of what people post on my blog are pingbacks.

  9. I do moderate my comments even though I don’t think I really need to because I have never come across anything I didn’t like but then my blog isn’t that highly visited yet. I think it is good to have control over your blog because once something is ‘out there’ then you don’t really have much control over anything that goes on to the Internet and that is when the problems happen x

  10. Thank you so much for a beautifully written, helpful and informative piece. It is a dilemma, isn’t it? I am new to WordPress – joined two days ago! – but, on my previous blog, did press the ‘moderate’ button. At this stage, however, and with the need to build up a readership and hits from the beginning, I am trying to let my spirit’s wings flutter and unfurl a bit more.

    1. That sounds like a very solid approach for your current situation. Of course, it’s extremely easy to change if you ever need more of a filter before comments go up.

  11. Because some comments are not filtered by the antispam protect, including ping, it’s usefull t check every comment. And because it has not to be quicker than light, I chose to check comments at home at night….I think for many bloggers, it’s like this, no ? But for a newsmagazine with many comments, it’s a real job to check and moderate comments.

  12. There is no dilemma for me. I moderate all comments on my blogs to insure that my blog remains spam free so the authority and page rank of my blogs cannot not affected by auto-posted spam comments. I do not use first time moderation only because I work full time and I am not always in a position to respond immediately to comments I receive.

  13. This is helpful, but our blogs are also screened very vigorously by a computerised system which has recently been sending lots of my comments from my followers and readers to spam, and lots of my comments on others blogs to spam. What might trigger this so I can avoid it as its very frustrating?

  14. I am moderating all comments on my blog and require commenters to provide identity (wordpress, twitter, facebook or name and e-mail) because of two reasons.

    First – I have years-long experience at on-line discussions and I concluded that moderation is mandatory to have discussion. Without it personal insults is starting sooner or later and discussion is over at this moment – one “good” example for this is largest news site in Latvia (http://www.delfi.lv) where commenting was anonymous for a long time and just recently they implemented option to register or log in with social network’s account, and meaningless & insulting, agressive comments, discharge of persons negative emotions have 99-100% of all comments. And one good example compared with above is one other news site (http://www.ir.lv) where only registred users are alloved to comment articles and there is uncomparable more qualitative discussions.

    Second – I have studied psychology and I know that anonymity make person irresponsible, rise illusion that his action will not have consequences. It’s the same as to have mask on face. It is strongly related with first point.

    On my blog till now I have accepted all comments (I am decided to accept all appropriate and meaningfull comments regarless opinion declared on them*), but knowing bouth above things and because I am looking for discussion I prefer to moderate all comments before they appear on my blog.

    _
    * as long as it’s not violating laws and calls to discrimination, agression aganst some group of society, of course! :-)

  15. With the amount of SPAM I get for comments, I always moderate all comments on my blog. It seems there are so many comment spammers that turning off control, would detract from the value of the words I try to get out.

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