Keep Comments on Topic

July 24th, 2005 by Steve Pavlina

Since this blog has been receiving a healthy volume of comments lately, I’ll take a moment to clarify my policy on comments, partly to create a post that I can send people to as a reference when needed.

Comments on this blog are moderated, meaning that when you post a comment, it goes into a holding area for me to approve. For a while I was checking comments twice per day, but I’ve stepped it up a bit because it only takes me about a minute or two to scan and approve a batch of comments. When you make a comment, you’ll be able to see it right away, but it won’t appear to others until it gets approved.

I’m fairly liberal on approving comments for posting. The general rule is that comments should be kept on topic with respect to the original post.

Here are some things I typically don’t approve:

  • Obvious spam: By far the greatest volume of comments are from spammers, but I’ve setup filters such that most of it is automatically deleted before I ever see it, and the rest gets manually nuked.
  • Disguised spam: Sometimes tricky to detect, but it still gets nuked.
  • Off-topic comments: Comments that have nothing to do with the original post or with any other comments that came before it. Picture Curly from The Three Stooges saying, “Look at the grouse.”
  • Personal attacks: If you just want to vent your frustrations with life by bashing me or anyone else, you’re wasting your time. I have a thick skin though, so I’m far more lenient about permitting semi-attacks on me than of other contributors, especially if they include humor. I don’t recall ever being criticized for being too sensitive, but I do consider personal attacks off-topic. If you’re feeling stressed and need to vent your frustrations, go for a long walk or run — it will do you much more good and won’t backfire on you.
  • Personal messages: If you want to communicate with me personally as opposed to the community at large, you can send me a message via the site’s contact form. This includes personal feedback, whether positive or negative or neutral. Most of the time I’ll delete messages like, “Steve, you are so cool” which aren’t relevant to the post, unless of course I happen to be feeling particularly fond of myself.
  • Copyrighted material: If you repost a copyrighted piece such as an article without the author’s permission, it will be nuked. Post a link instead.
  • Non-english comments: Please post in English. A phrase or two in another language is usually OK, but not a comment that goes on for several paragraphs.
  • Profanity: Gratuitous profanity is nuked. But I usually allow profanity if I can see the person is trying to use it to express their emotional views with “colorful metaphors” and there’s some genuine substance to the comment. Personally I never use profanity either in public or in private.
  • General whining: I treat excessively whiny people as carriers of the plague (including in cyberspace), so if a comment contains no real substance other than pointless whining and complaining, I usually nuke it. Partly I do this because it frustrates the whiners, who eventually seek their tribe elsewhere. I want to keep my life and business as whine-free as possible. So if you’re just looking for a place to whine about your lot in life with no real interest in solutions, begone! Such people usually need to accumulate more life experience before they’re ready for conscious personal growth, so I try to send them on their way as quickly as possible.

With respect to the above, here’s what I do approve that might seem borderline:

  • Criticism: I’m fine with criticism. You can rip my ideas to shreds all you want. Especially when I post a controversial topic, I expect criticism and debate. You can also shred the comments made by others, but remember to focus on the ideas. If you stray into personal attacks, you’re wasting your words. Relax and remain calm.
  • Links to other sites: I’m happy to allow people to post links to other sites as long as there’s some substance to the message telling people why they should click it. I.e. if the link is the entire message, I’ll generally nuke it.
  • Relevant marketing: If you want to tell people about your own articles, products, and services in a way that’s truly relevant to the topic, I’m happy to allow it. People can decide for themselves whether or not they want to click your links. But topically irrelevant links will be treated as spam and nuked.
  • Humor: I feel that humor adds value, so if you want to try to stretch the rules, make it funny.
  • Anything else: If it’s remotely reasonable and doesn’t trigger any of the other filters, I’ll approve it.

What else?

  • Freedom of speech: Keep in mind that this is a privately owned web site, not a public forum which guarantees free speech. So you don’t have unlimited free speech rights when posting comments on this site. If you wish to complain about that, see the reference to “General whining” above.
  • Responding to comments: I generally try to be helpful in responding to comments when I feel I can add value succinctly. But I definitely don’t respond to all comments and questions even when specifically directed at me. For one, I know most people don’t even read the comments, so I prefer to invest my writing time elsewhere. And with respect to my other work, responding to comments is a fairly low priority. In many cases the opportunity cost of responding to comments is simply too high.
  • Comments on old posts: I seldom respond to comments from posts that are more than a week old, nor do I tend to respond to questions that have already been answered elsewhere and can easily be found via the search box.
  • Editing comments: Your comments are either approved or deleted. I don’t edit them.
  • Notification: I don’t email people if their comments get nuked except in unusual circumstances. In 99% of cases the reason for nuking is obvious.
  • Suggestions: I maintain a suggestions list for future blog posts. The best way to send me a suggestion is via the site’s contact form. I usually don’t reply to such emails, but I will add your suggestion to my list if it’s related to personal development and isn’t already on the list. Currently I have enough suggestions to last me a few months at least. Be sure to search the blog archives first to make sure your suggestion hasn’t already been covered.
  • Requests for personal advice: I rarely respond to requests for personal advice, either via blog comments or email. I did this last year, but now it’s a clear posteriority compared to everything I’m doing. I prefer to focus on one-to-many communication, since I feel that’s my best means of providing value. I have no interest in personal coaching. Nevertheless, if I feel answering your question in a general way could be of benefit to others, I’ll add it to my suggestions list. Of course I won’t post anything personal you send me.
  • Posting under my own name: I always post comments under the name “Steve Pavlina,” whether on this blog or anyone else’s blog. I’ve never posted anonymously or under any other name, nor do I have any intention of doing so.
  • Posting anonymously: You’re free to post comments anonymously or under a pseudonym. However, I’m personally a bit prejudiced against people who do this, so when reading comments (and deciding whether or not to respond), I tend to place more value on comments made by real people as opposed to ghosts. Nevertheless, I understand that privacy is a concern, especially when discussing sensitive matters, so you’re free to post anonymously if you so choose.
  • Rel=nofollow: Whenever you include links in your comments, the blogging software automatically adds the rel=nofollow tag, meaning that search engines are told to ignore those links. So don’t expect your page rank to benefit by posting a lot of comments with links to your site.

I like the interactive nature of blog comments, and I feel they add significant value to the blog. As long as they continue to add value in a way that justifies the effort, I’ll keep them going. But if they slide into being more trouble than they’re worth, I’ll likely disable comments. I notice that many of the most popular blogs which attempt to maintain a degree of maturity don’t allow comments, or they require registration to post comments. I’m hoping I can avoid those contingencies and maintain the interactivity of the site.


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