if emily posted on commentsif emily posted on comments netiquette

Remember that nursery rhyme about sticks and stones? Lies. All of it. Words are powerful. Superhero powerful, and it’s up to you to decide if you use them for good or evil.

Let’s talk about the comment box. The dreaded comment box. The beloved comment box. Take your pick.

Everyone wants to feel validated. To know when what they write resonates with someone. Online communities are built on the support and interaction between reader and writer. It doesn’t mean that comments need to be sickeningly sweet. Or even in agreement. But at the very least, they should be constructive, right?

RULE: If you have something to say, think about what value your words have. What power they have. Think before you type.

I think there’s a difference between a comment and an opinion.

Commentary is taking in what you’ve read or seen, thinking about it and then offering something of value in return. Criticism is fine, but make it relevant.

Opinion is, well, it’s off the cuff. It’s less thoughtful. It’s the sort of thing people later regret because…they weren’t thinking.  Also, consider whether you’d say it in real life. If a stranger had shoes on you didn’t like, would you go up to them and tell them they were ugly? I doubt it. Then why do that to a blogger?

***

Opinion/comment semantics aside, there’s another issue of comment netiquette we all need to be aware of.

RULE: Do not leave links to your blog, or other forms of self-promotion, within a comment.

It had never crossed my mind until the day I watched a blogger take someone to task for using her space to link to their own blog post. But I understood the blogger’s point:  it’s not cool taking up space on someone else’s site to direct traffic to yours.

Rather than this:

Great post. I wrote about something similar here www. my blagh .com/my post .com

Try this:

Great post. Last month, I blogged about my concerns on the subject, too.

In leaving a comment, you usually leave info that leads back to your site. If you mention you’ve written about a particular topic, someone can go look for it on your blog. At the very least, you’ve given the blog owner your email and they can find you.

I’m not saying we should abolish comments. NOT AT ALL. Comment threads create community, offer support and can teach us all a thing or two. There are lots of important comments out there. Yet, it’s really evident people don’t think before they write. Check out the comments on Pinterest. They’re like a mash-up of Mean Girls and snopes – snarky remarks and misinformation collide. It’s a mess.

But unlike Pinterest, a blogger has the option of deciding which comments they want to publish. A blog is a private space people are invited to participate in. You have the right to decide what comments are acceptable. And I think a comment policy is a great idea.

RULE: The comments section of a blog is where it goes from monologue to dialog. You need to set the tone for that conversation.

I’ve seen a lot of sites, mostly big blogs and corporate ones, that have created comment policies that tell their readers what is acceptable to be part of the conversation. And by acceptable I’m talking about relevant and kind. I’m not saying comments must become a mutual appreciation society, but there is no reason to be mean. We can disagree without being mean.

So, here’s my idea. I’ve found that images speak louder than words online. And so I’m creating a badge that tells my readers what my policy is. And you can use it too. It’s brief, it can be somewhat customized, and I’ll have it to you next week.

Take the badge and use it anywhere on your own blog to set the tone. To say that you welcome comments, but that they have to be relevant and respectful to be part of the conversation. Then use your judgment to decide what you will and won’t approve of.

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