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Four rules for great blog comments

Four rules for great blog comments

During Twitter’s #blogchat today, Mack Collier dropped the following idea in:

There’s a good post for someone, a post on what IS a good comment & where the ‘spam’ line is & how to cross it in comments #blogchat

Given I’m the sort that keeps this sort of idea floating around in my head for just such an occasion, I offered to take up the task. I comment on blogs all over the Web, and I try to follow these simple rules.

Of course, this is just one person’s view. And, I’m quite deliberately keeping it to a short list. Everyone’s going to have a different view, and the list could as easily be 100 rules as four.

Rule #1 – Add something to the conversation – as much as we can be inclined to say words to the effect of “I agree” or “I disagree”, what does that add to the conversation? Answer is, pretty much nothing. Try to add your own view, or thoughts or an additional facet to the topic.

Rule #2 – Be identifiable – it’s occasionally okay to be an Anonymous Coward, but 9 times out of 10 it’s much better to be identifiable. Why? Because the value accorded to your comment and to you in the form of social capital, or whuffie, from the other participants is measurably higher if you aren’t sheltering behind anonymity. So, make sure you put in a real email address and a URL that can be used to follow the White Rabbit that is you in that comment form. It’s karma, baby!

Rule #3 – Don’t link shill – we’re often tempted to put links to our own material around a subject. Hell, I do it all the time. But before you do, think for a moment. Ask yourself, “is this link really relevant to this conversation?” If the answer is no, or you’re not sure, don’t do it. Stick with the link you provided for Rule #2.

Rule #4 – Avoid relevance fallacy and playing the man – the downfall of many an unskilled high school debater (and everyone who never progressed beyond that point), relevance fallacy will bring you undone faster than… well, pretty damned fast. The other thing is playing the man – the favorite tactic of the troll. If you don’t agree with someone’s position, that’s cool, but use logic and well-reasoned argument to state your case rather than attacking the individual. Otherwise we’ll inevitably end up with invocation of Godwin’s Law. Argue nice and we’ll respect you for it in the morning, even if we still don’t agree.

If you sick to these rules, I think you’ll find your comments will improve, your writing will improve and your ability to debate well might even get a boost too.

Stephen Collins
  • Twitted by marketingblogs
    Posted at 14:25h, 17 August Reply

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  • Ben
    Posted at 14:53h, 17 August Reply

    Rule #4 reads remarkably like a two for one Steve :).

    Also, for blog authors, when they request a url from commenters, it’s worth providing info on whether the http:// is needed, such as what I’ve done on my site 🙂

  • Stephen Collins
    Posted at 15:00h, 17 August Reply

    Ben, I grouped those two together as they often go hand in hand. Consider it a bonus!

  • Greg
    Posted at 15:15h, 17 August Reply

    great post stephen, your point #2 (not hiding behind anonymity) I think is a very serious point. A lot of people will hide behind ‘anonymous’ when they have something very controversial to say. In my opinion that’s the best time to be being yourself, because your comment will hold more weight and be taken more seriously if people can follow up on you.

  • Twitted by adobeInc
    Posted at 15:47h, 17 August Reply

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  • James Duthie
    Posted at 09:45h, 18 August Reply

    Couldn’t agree with you more re. point 2 Trib. Nothing sh*ts me more than when someone puts forth a strong (often contrarian) opinion but is too cowardly to attach their name to it. Weak.

    • Stephen Collins
      Posted at 09:56h, 18 August Reply

      Thanks, James. I (obviously) agree. I’m more than happy for contrary views to be published here, for example, provided the commenter gives me enough to identify them.

  • Lola LB
    Posted at 20:59h, 18 August Reply

    Well said. The other thing I might add is, if it is a heated, controversial subject and you really feel the need to comment, refrain from commenting from the next couple hour or so and think about what is being discussed and why you want to comment. (Also gives you time to wait for other people to comment and shed another perspective that might clear up the picture so you don’t need to comment, or otherwise.) This also gives you time to get control of your emotions so you can comment in a calm, composed manner.

  • Mollybob
    Posted at 00:39h, 22 August Reply

    The anonymity you mention in number two is important for all sorts of reasons, especially around building community. The bad behaviour that often comes about is often referred to as disinhibited…

    now I must do a mental checklist here before clicking the post comment button to make sure this comment is suitable… no superfluous links, check, relevance? I think so, check… and so on 😉

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