At some point, every blogger faces the question of whether or not they should moderate comments. The primary reasons for moderation are rational and simple:
- Kill spam
- Control trolls
Worthy reasons for sure. Nobody wants or needs spam and trolls camping out on your site. But do the risks outweigh the benefits gained from comment moderation?
There are three levels of comment moderation:
- No Comments/No Moderation. A blog is intended for broadcast purposes only. Few can get away with this. One exception is Seth Godin and I’m not exactly sure I’d consider his site a blog (see below).
- Comments/Moderation. A blog has comments, but these comments are moderated by the publisher. It can be hard to tell if your comment is going to get sequestered until after you click Post. If you’ve commented on blogs before, you know what I mean.
- Comments/No Moderation. A blog has comments and these comments are posted in real time once you click Post. I’ve made the choice to go this path with comments here and my other blogs (which might reveal a bit of bias).
Let’s put aside the No Comments/No Moderation level since it shouldn’t be part of your game plan if you’re publishing a blog. I would even suggest that any site that doesn’t offer the ability for readers to respond and interact isn’t really a blog. It’s just a broadcast engine.
This leaves the other two levels and the issue of which method to use. If you choose to set up moderation, here are a couple of questions to answer:
- Is an objective of your blog to inspire interaction among your readers?
- Can you quickly approve comments so they enter the dialogue stream shortly after posting?
- …And if not, are you okay with your readers either not bothering to comment in the future or not returning altogether?
I apologize if it seems that I’m setting up this argument a little too much. My experience is that moderation rarely corrects the problems it’s intended to solve. There are several spam-filtering tools available for blog platforms (e.g., WordPress comes with Akismet; Typepad has its own built-in solution). These tools nail the spam comments before they even hit your site. And if you’re concerned about trolls posting inappropriate comments, let’s approach from another angle: what is the probability of true troll behavior (not to be confused with opposing viewpoints) appearing on your blog to the degree that the comment needs to be deleted?
I argue that moderation imposes significant risks to the health of your blog’s community – particularly if your blog is new. When someone leaves a comment on your blog, they want it to post in real time. They want to be part of the dialogue. When you sequester their comment until you get around to approving it, you’ve effectively kicked them out of participating in the community. Worse, most folks don’t know when their comment is going to get approved so they move on…and you’ve potentially lost them as both commenter and reader. If you’re truly worried about trolls, put a solid commenter policy in place letting your readers know what happens to inappropriate messages.
So ask yourself if moderating comments adds or detracts from your blog’s interactive experience. And unless you have good cause to moderate (and yes, there are a few out there), promote an open dialogue in your community.