Comments used to be a must have thing on blogs, news sites and more, but more and more leading sites have disabled or not utilized comments. Why is that? Isn’t this a way to engage users?
For most popular sites, run by less than five people and started as a hobby, the answer is no. The answer should probably be no for you as well.
Why should you turn off comments?
One might ask “Why should I disable comments? They drives traffic, increase repeat visits and let my users engage each other.”
That may be true, although it generally isn’t, but let’s say it is.
Social Media is a Comment Section
If someone wants to talk about your article, they can post to Social Media. If you want to generate discussion, post it yourself and say “hey, read my post and tell me what you think”. You may be surprised, but you will have a direct forum with the people you want to communicate with who you already have an online relationship with. You can post to a private chat or direct message thread to keep your discussion private.
Do what you do best, Forget the Rest
If you are hosting a site and your primary business is getting people involved in discussion and discourse, by all means, you are an exception to this rule. Most sites are not. If you blog about cats, post trip pictures or write about the intricacies of Japanese Cinema, none of these things require or qualify you to be a moderator of regular discussion group under each and every post. This becomes another job and can interfere with your writing schedule.
Who would do such a thing?
Let’s talk about it. One thing these different comment vandals have in common: they are relentless, they will do whatever they want.
Comment sections on our major US newspapers are a cesspool of misogynists, racists and any other kind of bigotry you can think of. Often times it’s just people being downright mean. Quite often they have a social or political agenda and they are here to be a keyboard bully. They won’t say much of what they post in real life, but they feel like your open comments section is their invite to write however they want about whoever they want as long as they hide behind their screen name.
When you are always the Devil’s advocate, you are just the Devil. If your site is about comic books and your post is about whether Black Panther‘s Erik Killmonger or The Dark Night‘s Joker is better villain the commenter who keeps posting paragraphs that all comic book movies are camp at best and awful at worst will keep diverting your audience from what you want them to do and that’s . reform and someone begins arguing that
The most benign spam is used to create incoming links for sites that are paying for inbound links to their website (e.g. on your post about a car recall on a consumer products review site, someone posts a link and marketing blurb about a car dealership website). This is harmless to your code base, but still unethical. Usually a shady SEO consultant is getting paid and is using your site as a resource to justify their fees. Sometimes people just post spam to test your security/defenses of your site. This is a type of landmark that is used by the next type of site invader.
Well bots are really actually tools hackers use to exploit your site’s resources for various reasons.
Often the most malignant invasion, hackers find ways to secretly force malicious code to your website. This code is often used to secure information from your site including bank accounts, user/password combinations. The motive here is much worse than unethical. It’s illegal, but it also puts you and your users secure information at risk.
Well, If you must
If you must have comments I’d suggest do all of the following.
Log-in To COmment
Users must log-in to comment. This way, you can tie a user to their sessions and their commenting history. If they are in violation, it will be easier to determine if they have to be signed in to comment.
Use an external comment system
Try an external system, not the system built into your blog or platform. Why? Well, they have all types of tools to better moderate, monitor and protect your comments. In addition, the users are not yours directly so you don’t have to administrate the users that want to comment on your posts. These companies have their own policies and many require posters to post under a verified social media handle or allow you to specify that if you do.
Post the Playground Rules
Be clear about what language and behavior on your site. Dive bars can be friendly and posh cocktail bars can be miserable depending on the clientele sitting on the stool next to you. Your site is the bar, your commenters are the patrons. Kick them out at will or their bad tendencies will drive away the patrons you actually like.
You also can settle disputes. Sometimes their are righteous arguments and it’s up to you to step in and say: calm down and provide them a way out.
You should watch and engage your commenters. This means having you or staffers (authors of the posts or social media staffers) actively involved in taking part in discussions. Some comment systems allow you to moderate commenters who have less than a certain amount of approved comments.
You should also put your commenters to bed, rather: automatically disable comments after a certain amount of time after you publish your post. This allows your most engaged commenters to dive right in but allows you to stop worrying about the post after the time limit is up.
Report any threats of violence or law breaking. You may or may not be legally culpable, but you are ethically responsible.