Internet Trolls Impress NOBODY

Sound familiar?

I think the second and fourth panels on this excellent comic strip by Scott Meyer can easily be applied to Internet trolls — you know, the dickwads who always have something nasty to say in online forums and in comment threads. Do read the whole thing to get the full message.

How to Impress NOBODY

Image embedded with the author’s permission.

Battling Comment Spam

An interesting — but unfortunate — statistic from this site.

One of the biggest challenges to bloggers who allow comments on their blogs — other than dealing with immature, know-it-all asses who can’t write a civil sentence — is comment spam. It generally comes from three sources:

  • Automated spambots that are programmed to post comments on blogs. This accounts for more than 90% of the comment spam out there.
  • Real people who manually post comments that promote their products, services, or websites.
  • Pingbacks from blogs built by scraping content from other blogs, primarily to attract hits to other links on their pages.

I wrote about comment spam extensively on my Maria’s Guides site when I was regularly providing fresh content about WordPress. If you’re a blogger, you might find the following posts there interesting:

Spam vs. Ham on An Eclectic MindWordPress’s anti-spam tool, Akismet, does an excellent job of catching and filtering out spam so I don’t really need to see it at all. It also provides statistics about comments. This morning, while looking at these stats, I discovered that a full 98% of all comments posted on this blog are spam — or about 4,000 to 10,000 spam comments a month — leaving only 2% as legitimate comments (or “ham,” a term used by Akismet).

If this percentage is about the same on all blogs, it’s easy to see why so many bloggers elect to either turn the commenting feature off or require registration for commenting. (Note that registration doesn’t always help; some spambots can also register an account and then manual intervention is required to identify and delete those accounts.)

Comments are moderated here for two reasons:

  • Aksimet doesn’t catch all spam. It misses, on average, about 10 spam comments a month.
  • Akismet can’t identify abusive comments.

I have a zero tolerance approach to spam and abusive commenters and don’t want to see any of it on this blog. So I manually review all the comments that Akismet approves before allowing them to appear on this blog.

June 30, 2014 Update
I’ve finally gotten around to writing up the site comment policy on a regular page (rather than post) on this site. You can find it here: Comment Policy.

(If you believe that deleting comments is censorship or somehow violates your freedom of speech, read this and this.)

Personally, I’d like to see a higher percentage (and number) of legitimate comments on this blog. I like when good conversations get going among readers. I can think of two posts offhand where reader comments have added real value to what I’ve written: “The Helicopter Job Market” and “Why Groupon is Bad for Business…and Consumers.” I write from experience and my experiences are limited. When readers share their own thoughts based on their experiences, they provide more information for other readers to draw upon. They help round out a discussion. And as long as they don’t get rude or abusive to me or other commenters — or are obviously commenting to promote their own product or service (i.e., spamming) — I don’t care if they disagree. Intelligent, civil debate based on facts is encouraged.

But while comment spam is obviously a serious problem for all bloggers that allow comments on their blogs, I have it well under control here.

Blog for Your Readers, Not for Yourself

It simply isn’t fair to expect your blog’s visitors to jump through hoops to see your content or share their comments.

Yesterday, I followed a link to a Web site I often visit and read a blog post I wanted to comment on. I filled in the form and was faced with a series of options, all of which would eventually require me to set up an account with the blogger’s current choice of comment platform: Livefyre. I didn’t want an account on yet another commenting platform, so I simply didn’t leave a comment.

I should note a few things here. It was this same blog and blogger that was using Disqus, another commenting platform, a few years back. I wanted to comment and set up a Disqus account. Since then, Disqus has become relatively popular and I use the account a few times a week.

(It wasn’t always like that. I distinctly remember the hassle that followed my Disqus account setup when the system kept sending me email messages every time someone else commented on a post I’d commented on. It took a lot of digging to figure out how to turn off that feature — which I’d never turned on. As for Livefyre, it seemed impossible to post a comment yesterday without giving Livefyre permission to post on my behalf on Twitter or Facebook or use my e-mail address for some other purpose I didn’t want but had no choice but to authorize.)

Of course, I still don’t understand why a blogger doesn’t simply use the commenting feature that’s part of a WordPress installation. That’s what I use here. It’s pretty straightforward: enter your name, e-mail address, website (optional), and comment. If the comment passes muster with my spam prevention software, it’s held for moderation by me. If I approve it, it appears. If I don’t, it’s trashed. I could, of course, require each and every commenter to open an account on this blog, but I really don’t think it’s necessary to make them take that extra step. It’s bad enough that they may have to wait for their comment to appear.

And that brings up the topic of this post: requiring blog readers to do something special just for you so they can see or interact with your blog’s content. I’m talking about requiring an account on an obscure commenting system just because you like it. Or inserting content that depends on a specific plugin or Web browser to view. Or requiring someone to create an account or log in just to read a post. (Don’t get me started on paywalls.)

It’s just not right.

Face it: there are tens of thousands of blogs out there and, if you’re an average blogger, half of them are going to be better than yours. Why would you make your blog readers do something special just to read/reply to your blog? Do you really think it’s fair to have them jump through hoops just for you?

I don’t.

If you’re a serious blogger with content you want to share with the biggest possible audience, stop putting up roadblocks or hurdles for readers. Make content easy to find and read. And yes, that does mean not splitting posts into multiple parts, forcing readers to click through multiple pages to read one post. It also means not littering your blog with obnoxious and distracting ads that make it difficult to find content among blinking, flashing, or animated trash. And content that requires plugins to see is likely to be seen only by the few people who have those plugins or are willing to install them.

If you want feedback from blog readers in the form of comments that can start valuable conversations and build a blog community, stop making it difficult for them to post a comment. Not everyone is happy about setting up accounts all over the Web — especially accounts with third party services that might use contact information for their own purposes.

So who do you blog for? Yourself? Or your readers? Look at your blog from their perspective. Is your content worth the bother of jumping through the hoops you’ve set up for readers?

If there’s any question, maybe it’s time to rethink your priorities. It just might help get your blog a bigger audience and the kind of reader interaction that sets good blogs apart from the rest of the pack.