Three Reasons Comment Moderation is Wrong (and one why it works)

Moderating comments is interrupting a conversation.

If you are running an age-appropriate blog and want to ensure that the comments are kept in line with the law, you may have a case.

The idea behind a blog is to spark the imagination of the reader, get them engaged,  have them contribute.  That the community and makes it a better destination.  Comment moderation puts a barrier between the community and the content.  It relegates the author to the role of gate-keeper and decision-maker.  It takes the power to contribute away from the reader.

It takes less time to delete a comment in your blog than it does to moderate a comment and approve it.  Most blogging platforms will let you delete a comment via email.

Communities are self-policed, that should be moderation enough.

Trust your community, trust your readers.  They want to know their thoughtful comments are being enjoyed by everyone who reads you blog, not just because they happen to agree with you or you have time to approve them.  Your community will handle any trash that is inserted into their communal space appropriately.

I can only comment for my behavior.  I know when a blog has comment moderation and it prevents me from commenting. Some of my comments are time-sensitive, some others may be repetitive.  I try to comment when I see an issue that is not being discussed, something I want to raise awareness on.

I want to know my comments are timely, and well received.

I used to moderate, then I switched to known users, and I am now totally free – no controls.  SPAM? I use Askimet (awesome) and I delete what little gets through.  I think I deleted just one or two messages since I started that were not caught by Askimet.  I had less than 10 false positives caught by Askimet in the timeThre I have been blogging in a public platform.

Would love to hear what you have to say about this.  Moderate or Not?

6 thoughts on “Three Reasons Comment Moderation is Wrong (and one why it works)”

  1. Esteban,

    Your points are valid regarding keeping the conversation flowing. But based on my experience I’d say moderation policy depend heavily on the size and tip of community.

    Large communities tend to attract “spambots” and real human spammers alike that post content trying to get links back to their sites. Some posts are of no value (“hey I really liked your post, please visit my blog to learn more”) so a short delay while these posts are deleted may be ok. But what if you have an automated notification system for previous commenters on a thread? Now all those people got a notice about the new post and some may in fact take the bait and follow the link to who knows where. Not so good for the bloggers conversation and brand if to porn, male enhancement products, etc.

    Or, the posts could actually be highly objectionable text or images, put online in the middle of the night while you’re sleeping. Do you want this content showing to visitors from Europe in the meantime?

    Could the community do some of the policing? Yes, but it still means someone is seeing the content. And on some sites, you might find the “police” like to flag posts they don’t agree with just for sport.

    We faced these problems and many more over the past 2+ years at http://www.customerthink.com. We started with a very open policy towards comments and found we needed to implement increasing controls to prevent spammers from defacing our site and damaging our user experience.

    We do allow un-moderated comments from logged in users who have a “trusted author” status. All other comments are moderated. Yes, there is a delay of a few minutes to a few hours depending on when the comment is posted, but we really have no other option.

    Every situation is different. If you live in a small town with low crime, it may be ok to leave the front door unlocked and the keys in the car. But in the big city, this would be naive.

  2. Esteban:

    You mentioned you had originally included blogs with compliance issues as exempt from your no-moderation rule, and then retracted it. I’d like to clarify.

    We are considering starting a blog in a community of independent sales agents where comments could include details from individual client cases. Privacy regulations, including our own internal policy, prohibit public disclosure of these details.

    I’m confident that the vast majority of our community would observe the rules, but not comfortable enough that I could allow comments to be posted without moderation. Even from trusted users. By specifically stating our expectations upfront, I believe we could filter without compromising the open exchange of ideas. Do you agree?

  3. Bil,

    this is a tough on. I can give you my opinion, but you know that is just one more in the crowd.

    I originally wrote that people that need internal compliance (make sure their employees or partners comply with rules) should stick with moderation. Then I rewrote it to say that they should forget moderation and get better employees and partners (yeah, ain’t I a stinker), or better training. Then I decided to take it out because I don’t see how moderation would stop the spreading of information that should not be spread.

    The bottom line is that moderation is likely to not do much – if any. If the people want to spread the information, they will find a way. It can be done in so many ways these days (some of them don’t even leave tracks for auditing), why risk it by going to a public forum?

    I am still of the idea that if the problem is internal compliance (company policies, not government or officially mandated), then it comes down to training, making the information available, and getting the right people. I don’t think moderation will make a difference.

    You can start with moderation in such a situation, then slowly remove it or assign someone else to review comments if you are not sure of what may happen. the presence of moderation, even if randomly applied, may be sufficient to thwart would-be “criminals” and to have them go different routes.

    Again, it is a complicated process and I cannot serve as legal counsel on that one. It is just my opinion.

    Thanks for reading, and asking a great question!

  4. Esteban, I think what the replies from me and Bill indicate is that some thought needs to be given to the risk of a no-moderation policy.

    Your original posts focused on the benefits of open comments, to keep the conversation flowing. No argument there, and I agree that should be the starting point. That’s certainly where we started at CustomerThink.

    But there’s risk, too. Risk that a unsavory comment will slip by spam protections and the watchful eye of the site owner. Risk that someone will post personal info.

    Every situation is different, but I’ve come to learn that it’s worth thinking through some worst-case scenarios and then deciding whether to live with the risk, or add additional protection. Not every site needs “double bolt locks” on the door and “ironed bars on the windows,” of course!

    Some consideration needs to be given to the impact on the site/owner’s brand and the user experience if highly objectionable content is seen, even briefly. And in some situations, there may be legal exposure.

    It’s sad that we can’t trust everyone to do the right thing online. But the Internet opens up a channel for anyone to promote their own personal interests, and they don’t necessarily care about playing nice on your site.

Comments are closed.