Wednesday, February 2, 2011

To Comment or Not To Comment? That is the Question

Just a short article today about my thoughts on allowing comments to your blog.

There are several news and information sites about Japan that have a comments section that is full of, well, what I consider foolish and often rude comments from frustrated readers. I think these sites do a great service for us English speakers and I wish they would quit being so amateurish and "up" their game and get to world class.

Compare say, News On Japan (what I consider to be the best English news site for Japan) to, say, what I think is Singapore's best English news site, the Straits Times

There is no comparison to style and flair. There is also no comparison to the quality level of sponsors. 

All three of the "big" English news for Japan sites are this way. I know most Japanese do not understand the importance of image and branding, but you'd think the foreigners would...

There was a time a few years ago when the guy who owned one of these sites asked me if I would run it for him. He also asked, if I ran his site, how I would reform it in order to get more and better paying sponsors?

Insults are OK in a public forum if they funny and are not 
personal nor directed at a certain individual

I had lots of ideas, but the first was that I told him to reform or get rid of the comments section.

He wouldn't even consider it. He said that he needed the comments section in order to get readers to come to his site. Well, it's his site, he can do as he wishes, but I think he is completely wrong and short sighted. Here's why:

Think about a blog or a news site as an experience for visitors. Do you think people enjoy going to Internet sites and see/reading negative or insulting remarks? (A blog can be different as it should appeal to a focused group). 

I think it is a special group of people who do enjoy getting frustrated and writing vitriol to blow off their stress. They have earned the special moniker of "troll." I think people who are busy, enjoy life, and have discretionary income generally do not hand out invective at the readers comments sections; they do not earn the title of troll. The people who do take the time to add value are appreciated, the ones who hurl invective - the trolls - are probably very frustrated people.

But this is conjecture on my part.

I especially don't think potential sponsors want to be associated with anything that could be construed as insulting to people and/or a bad or negative experience. I believe that reputable companies who understand branding will not spend their money in places where negativity is promoted.

I sometimes visit sites like Japan Today. I used to visit everyday. But not anymore. The readers comments are quite unsatisfying and sometimes painful. I don't like that part at all.

I do not write this to insult anyone. I write this because I can see where they can better their business. I think the management of sites like that (while being hard-working and good people) are missing the boat if they think great sponsors are going to pay good money to sponsor their site when amateurs and rookies make ill conceived and rude remarks towards Japan and each other. Here's why:

It lessens and cheapens the experience. Great sponsors want to sponsor things other great sponsors support. Who wants to be associated with cat-fights and arguments? 

Think about it.

I do not write this to insult publications like the one I mentioned above, but to help them see their potential.

Let me give you a good example of a company that understands completely what I'm talking about: Have you ever been to an Apple Store? That is usually a good experience for me. It is a good experience for most people, I imagine. The staff are polite, knowledgeable, and friendly. The place is clean and has a good "groove" and atmosphere. Those first three words are important words in building what is a good experience. Let me repeat those words for you again:


How do those three words stack up against a reader comment sections whereby some rude people are making nasty remarks and insulting each other in a very disagreeable manner? Granted not everyone is doing this, but does this make for a good and feel-good experience? I do not think so.

I, myself, do get irritated at some people's foolish remarks (I have an article at Lew Rockwell out about that read it here). and I find myself getting irritated, but I try to refrain from writing back some insulting diatribe. Though I do need to be much more diligent in my self-control.

But I do wonder why some people have to write personal invective towards others and use profanity? Gee, hate to sound like a kid, but I don't think that's fun.

Do not get me wrong. I am not saying to eliminate reader's comments. Mish Shedlock allows them. Mish gets over 1.8 million unique users a month. He has a comments section, but his, like this blog's comment section, has to be clicked to be accessed. 

It does not sit open at the end of a news article. The comments are separated. 

Comments can be useful. But make people click through to see them and moderate your comments section. 

I think this is important: A news article is just that; news. Comment's by amateurs is just that; amateur commentary. They should not be one on top of the other...

Like I said, the amateur comments directly below the "real" article cheapens the experience for me. I'll bet it does for most people, it's just that most people haven't thought deeply about why they find the experience distasteful. Here I am putting it into words. 

Anyway, I cannot control what goes on at other Internet sites, but I can control what goes on here at this blog. In my very possibly confused thinking, I'd like for this blog to be a fun and pleasant experience for everyone, so I ask that readers not stop commenting, but please refrain from the personal insults.

If you want to insult others for dumb remarks they make, there's other places that allow you to do so; or, heck, start your own blog.

But this is my blog and, as such, I just want everyone to know that I reserve the right to refuse service to customers as this is a privately owned blog.

I may delete insulting and rude readers comments. I may also delete remarks made by people who write nonsense.

I deleted one the other day when someone took me to task and wrote, "...Japan has one of the most repressive and dictatorial regimes in the world..." Uh, I think this guy was confusing us with North Korea... If his comments were funny, I would have kept them. But they were insulting, so they were deleted.  

Pardon me for being possibly anal retentive but I don't appreciate people - especially people I don't know (named "anonymous") - insulting my guests at my party.

So, I announce that I will probably, from now on delete all insulting and uncivil commentary from this blog's reader's comments. I think that, if you run a blog too, depending on what you are trying to accomplish, you might want to consider doing the same.

No, this blog is never even close to the cool experience of visiting an Apple store, I do not imply that, but I do not want people who do visit the be insulted.

Call me an oldie and/or a prude. I hope you are here to have fun. I am. I will not allow you to be insulted. I've often read, "Do not feed the trolls." OK, I will do my best. To not only not feed the, but to block their admittance.

I think if you run a blog or a news site, you'd be wise to consider this as part of strategic policy.


This just in from viral marketing guru Seth Godin,

Strategy is worth thinking about if it causes you to make difficult or non-intuitive decisions. And so you have to test your commitment. "Are you saying that we have to cancel this product line?" is the sort of reaction your strategy statements ought to generate.
If you can't put an example on the table, a concrete manifestation of the action being 

discussed, then you're just prattling on, you're not actually serious about strategy.


Tom Boushel adds: "Drink deep, or touch not at all; a little bit of knowledge is a very dangerous thing"


Andy "In Japan" said...

Mike says .."I think people who are busy (too busy with life to be reading or writing readers comments), enjoy life, and have discretionary income generally do not read nor visit readers comments sections."

Yikes, I'm feeling really low about now. I enjoy life, have some dough, and comment on Mike's blog a lot because I like it very much and want it to have a good and active vibe. Comments show that people care. There's so many blogs that no one reads, comments on, or cares about, but this blog is fun, interesting and important.

Sadly, there are a number of people who post insulting and angry comments on the internet. Seems like that's where Mike's blog today is focused on.

mike in tokyo rogers said...

Ah! Andy! yes. Now my instructions are to: "Place foot firmly into mouth."

I am going to fix that. It should say something along the lines of, ""I think people who are busy, enjoy life, and have discretionary income generally do not hand out invective at the readers comments sections. The people who do take the time to add value are appreciated, the ones who hurl invective are probably very frustrated people."

Or something like that. I do not mean to insult my cherished readers who do add good comments (the few handful of you. You know who you are)... Gomen!!!!

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