5 Ways to Deal With Jerky Comments on Your Blog

Sometimes you get jerky comments on your blog. Not just people disagreeing with you, but people who are being out and out A-holes. These are the people who leave snide, snarky, and mean-spirited comments on your blog, often cowering behind an anonymous handle.

How do you deal with those, especially if you’re a new blogger or have a corporate blog, and you’re just not used to seeing this kind of stuff?

1) Take it personally.

Yes, I know we’re not SUPPOSED to take it personally, and everyone who tells you this has either never had it happen to them, has grown immune to it, or is lying to you about sobbing uncontrollably in the bathroom after someone pointed out a grammatical error in their post last week.

You will feel bad. You will get your feelings hurt. I completely understand it, so give yourself time to feel that. Afterward, remind yourself you’re better than they are, and the other person is just envious of your life, because hanging out in their mom’s basement in their Star Trek uniform doesn’t seem as glamorous as it did 10 years ago when they first started working at Burger King.

2) See if you can you learn anything from it.

Sometimes a mean or abrupt comment may have something to teach you. Maybe they said you can’t spell. Maybe they said you were being short-sighted about your ideas. Maybe they said your work was derivative and sounded an awful lot like someone else’s work. It may hurt, but it may also be a small hint that maybe you should work more on your spelling, think out your ideas better, or develop your own style or voice.

If you can learn something, great. Keep going through these steps. If there’s nothing useful in it whatsoever — and that includes printing it out and using it to soak up where your dog just puked on the rug — then, keep going through these steps.

3) Don’t respond.

There are trolls on the Internet. They get their jollies from saying mean and spiteful things to people because their lives are so pitiful and joyless that this is the only way they feel better about themselves. They’re still just bitter that they didn’t get that promotion to assistant night manager after 10 hard years, and they want to bring people down to their own level.

They figure if they can get you to respond, they’re somehow accomplishing something, and they feel better about themselves in a way that only trolls can. So don’t respond, don’t give them the satisfaction, and keep telling yourself you’re better than that.

4) Delete the comment.

There is no rule that says you have to leave a comment up on the blog, especially if the other person is being an A-hole. This is your blog to do with what you want. There are no blog comment rules other than your own, and no expectations that you leave up something you don’t want to. It’s not censorship to delete negative comments — it’s only censorship if the government deletes it — it’s you keeping your house looking the way you want to. You wouldn’t let an obnoxious jerk come to your house and sully up your living room. So you don’t need to let them come in and stink up your blog either.

If people want to be A-holes, let them continue to clog the comments section of their local newspaper. You only want people who can be supportive, or at least constructively critical. Delete away and don’t feel bad about it at all. If necessary, block the users from leaving comments.

5) Read all your good comments.

Sometimes, after you’ve been hammered, you need a pick me up. (Just please don’t go to Facebook or Twitter and ask for prayers and hugs.) Go look at your past comments where people have said some great stuff about you. You should be able to access your comments page from your blog’s admin dashboard. When you get slimed by an A-troll, after you delete their muck, go read all the awesome stuff people have said about you to cheer yourself up. Or go read your LinkedIn recommendations. Or, if you don’t have many of those yet, go to Facebook and Twitter and ask for prayers and hugs.

Yes, there are people who like being jerks and trolls. They do it on purpose, just so they can be hurtful to someone else. They want to be mean, and don’t have anything better to do, so they leave nasty comments on other people’s blogs. But occasionally, you’ll get a comment from someone with poor tact, but who actually means well. Learn to separate the people with communication issues from the actual trolls, and deal with them as you see fit.

It’s your blog, and you’re free to keep whatever content and comments on there you would like. Save yourself the headache and the heartache, and delete anything from anyone who pisses you off.

No, It’s NOT Okay To Edit Spam Comments

Last week, I asked the question whether it was ethical to edit spam commentsto get rid of the URL that is being used to generate some SEO juice for the spammers, but leave the semi-spammy comment in place.

Stack of cans of spam

Now THAT'S a lot of Spam

I expected some vigorous debate and discussion with people on both sides of the argument. But with a couple of exceptions, everyone said, “No, this is not okay!

(Before I go on, let me say, we got some wonderful feedback and comments, so I want to thank everyone who took the time to read the post and respond.)

I was actually surprised by the near unanimous stance everyone took. I figured it would be more of an even split on the issue, with a large number of people saying they thought it was okay to beat the spammers by using their own energies against them, sort of a blogging jiu jitsu. But, nearly everyone was of the opinion that we, as real bloggers, should be above this, and should not resort to the same practices as the spammers.

Fellow blogger Brian Shelton summed it up best.

Erik, I think deleting them is the best option. Editing them just so you can keep a “semi-generic praise-ish” comment doesn’t seem right. Is it that important to receive praise, especially if it is not “legitimate” anyway. I think the ethical debate rests more in the decision to keep known spam comments – minus the links – just to make it look like people like your blog.

That was the majority opinion, and made the most sense. And it seemed to cover most types of blog comments, although Daniel Clark of GeekDadsWeekly.com made an interesting point:

It’s interesting that not a single person here, most notably the ones who say they will strip any and all links left in their blog’s comments, has opted out of including *their* link in *these* comments.

(Touché, Daniel.)

The Other Side of the Debate: Editing for Spelling & Punctuation

However, one person, an ethics blogger, said on his blog that he did not think it was inappropriate to edit typos and grammar errors in another person’s comment. But I disagree. That’s a line I won’t cross. It’s not up to me to fix someone’s spelling, punctuation, or grammar errors. They’re their errors, not mine, and they should not be fixed because I have to have everything perfect.

A post and its comments are a historical record, to show what people were thinking and saying at that time. If they make a mistake, it’s not my place to adjust the historical record because I have a weird fixation on spelling and grammar.

(And no, I don’t think spammers deserve to be a part of the historical record.)

That’s why most bloggers will fix an error in information by striking out the error and writing the correct information next to it. They will also put an Update: note at the bottom of the post, so people can see that the information has been updated and corrected. (Note: this doesn’t extend to typos and misspellings. I think we can fix those without telling everyone “I fixed a typo.”)

Photo credit: Freezelight (Flickr)

Is It Ethical to Edit Spam Comments?

Spammers are getting more and more sophisticated in their methods. Thanks to Akismet on WordPress and Blogger’s new spam filters, the days of gibberish-filled comments with 50 links to different spam sites are over. So the spammers have had to get creative and try to slip one over on us bloggers.A handmade pizza made with spam, with the letters spelling out the word spam.

These days, the common technique is to leave some flattering yet generic comment like “Hey, this is a great post. I bookmarked it, and I’m going to tell all my friends. You rock!”The spammer has also included the URL to the site they’re pimping in the hopes that this seemingly innocuous comment will slip through our radar. What they really hope is that the search engines will follow the URL to their site, and they get a little “Google juice” out of it.

This is a common SEO technique, so I understand the reason for it. But it’s really kind of slimy, especially because some new bloggers don’t catch on right away, and they’ll publish these comments, and will sometimes even respond to them.

The latest technique is to actually read the blog post, leave a semi-generic message about that particular topic, again with the URL, in the hopes that this will get through.

“Hey, this is a great post about ghost blogging and I bookmarked it so I can come back again later. I’m going to tell all my friends about it. You rock!”

Here’s my ethical dilemma: Can I, as the blog owner, delete their URL, and then publish the comment? I’m “defanging the serpent,” as it were, and not allowing the spammer to get what they want, but I still get the benefit of a semi-generic praise-ish, if falsely made, comment.

The Pro of Editing Comments

I can argue that many of these spammers are only trying to deceive people into buying their stuff (usually porn, pills, or counterfeit watches), and as such, are not very moral people. I’m not doing any more harm by editing these comments than I am by deleting them. I’m removing the offending URL, and blocking their attempts to direct people to their nefarious websites.

The Con of Editing Comments

This could be a slippery slope. If I edit a spam comment today, what’s to stop me from editing a regular comment for spelling and grammatical errors tomorrow? And then deleting a negative comment the next day? From there, it’s a short step to editing a negative comment into a positive one.

The Question: Can I Edit Spam Comments?

So, my question is, assuming I don’t slide down the slippery slope, can I remove the URLs and publish the comments? If I promise not to cross that line, and never, ever edit a real comment for any reason whatsoever, can I tweak the spam comments and remove the one thing that makes them spam.

What do you think? Do you edit or just delete? Is it dangerous to edit these spammy comments, or perfectly acceptable?

Photo credit: Cookipediachef (Flickr)

Blogger FINALLY Gets Spam Filter

My biggest frustration with Blogger has been the absolute lack of spam moderation. This has been a problem, because I’ve had my humor blog for five years on Blogspot. And while I have been relatively free of spam, lately I’ve been getting a single spam message by a Chinese spammer on every post I make, which meant I had to delete it every single time.

I tried making people sign in, then made it so only people with a Google account could leave a comment. But this weasel was always a step ahead, and I had to delete message after message.

But Blogger finally caught up with something WordPress has been able to do for years: block spam comments.

Blogger finally adds a spam filter to their comments.

Blogger now filters spam comments into a spam folder, just like the one they have in Gmail.

When someone leaves a comment on your blog, it will be reviewed against our spam detector, and comments that are identified as possible spam will be sent to your blog’s Spam Inbox, found at Comments | Spam.

While I thoroughly appreciate the filter and the fact that they’re finally doing something about blog spam, why couldn’t they do this a couple years ago?

The Best, Easiest Way to Build Blog Readership

Gary Vaynerchuk, author of Crush It!, says that one of the best ways to build readership for your blog is by commenting on other people’s blogs.

For one thing, it helps with your Google search juice. But more importantly, it lets people know you’re reading their blog and are interested in what they’re saying. Vaynerchuk says that we need to spend hours per day — hours! — posting comments on other people’s blogs.

While you may not have the time or desire to spend hours doing this (of course, you won’t crush it, says Vaynerchuk), you do need to leave some intelligent comments when you do. It’s not enough to just leave “Nice post!” as a comment. If you want to show the bloggers you’re truly engaged and interested, leave comments that show you have actually read and understood what they wrote about.

This does two things for you: 1) you meet like-minded readers, and let them know about your existence. When they find you, they’ll become readers, and you’re growing your social media footprint; and, 2) it builds backlinks to your own blog, which boost your search engine ranking.

This is a tried-and-true technique for building search rankings, especially as Google is recognizing authority of websites by their backlinks. They figure if a lot of people link to a blog, site, or even a post, it must be something worthwhile. And commenting, while not as powerful as, say, another blog post, is still a way to generate those much-sought after backlinks.

There are some search engine optimization companies that offer backlinking services to their clients, and will spend a lot of time (hopefully) leaving comments on people’s blogs, in addition to their other techniques and practices.

Less scrupulous companies will leave crappy comments that are nothing but spam, hoping that they won’t be deleted or caught in spam filters. While I’m not sure if Google or other search engines will penalize URLs that spam links lead to (if anyone knows, leave us a comment), it’s our fervent hope that the search engines will penalize those parasites, and that they suffer TSA strip searches and tax audits.

(WordPress has a great spam fighting software in Akismet, and it’s done wonders for this blog. It’s blocked 11,484 spam comments to date, and I deleted 35 spam comments right before I wrote this post. So I’m not a big fan of spammers.)

Basically, if you want your comments to be accepted and appreciated by your fellow bloggers, explain why you think a post is comment-worthy, talk about your own viewpoints, and maybe a reason why you agree or disagree. Engage in an ongoing conversation with those people. And if someone leaves a comment on your blog, respond, and check out the other person’s blog.

Why Corporations Shouldn’t Moderate Their Blog Comments

One of the biggest concerns we hear about from corporations is “if we have a blog, people will be allowed to comment, and they could say bad things about us.”

Exactly. That’s what you want.

This concern, more than anything, seems to keep the corporate lawyers up at night, and is the number one reason why blogs and social media ventures are killed before they ever start. (Don’t worry, I won’t turn this into a rant on why lawyers shouldn’t be allowed to make marketing decisions. But they shouldn’t. Ever.)

Mitch Joel said in his blog, Six Pixels of Separation:

Most company Blogs blow because companies understand only one-way dialogue (from their mouths to our ears). The companies that are great at it (and the good folks over at the The Blog Council were kind enough to point some of them out over here: Here are a few trustworthy corporate blogs) are the ones that understand the new two-way dialogue or, as Clay Shirky (author of Here Comes Everybody) calls it, the “group expression.”

Basically, if you don’t want your blog to blow, you want that two-way conversation with people. You get that by allowing comments on your blog, and never, ever moderating them, including the negative stuff. You want people to air their complaints, express their frustrations, and say why they disagree with stuff you do. If you block comments, you come off looking bad.

(NOTE: It’s important to point out that negative comments do not include abusive, vulgar, mean, racist, sexist, or derogatory comments. You can get rid of those all you want.)

1. It lets you deal with customer service problems. If someone is unhappy with your product or service, you want them to air that complaint on your website, because it lets you fix the problem publicly. People who visit your site and see the complaint get to see what you did to fix it. You look like a caring company, and it improves your standing in future customers’ eyes.

2. It reduces the number of comments made in other places. Most people only have so much time and energy to devote to a complaint. They’ll post a few comments in different places before moving on to the rest of their day. Make sure one of those comments is your site, not another site you didn’t discover. Then, you get to fix the problem, as per #1

Comcast was so opposed to allowing customers to interact with them that NPR radio host Bob Garfield created ComcastMustDie.com, an angry blog and website that let customers post all sorts of complaints about the cable giant. It wasn’t until thousands of people piled on complaints and the site got all sorts of media attention, that Comcast finally realized they had a problem. If only they had started a blog and fixed a problem (as in item 1), Garfield would never have gotten so angry that he started his own anti-Comcast movement.

3. It encourages conversation with your customers and fans. Social media is no longer about the broadcast one-to-many model of communication. It’s a two-way conversation. I’ve had several conversations with customer service people in my day-to-day dealings with other people. The companies I liked best were the ones whose customer service people had conversations with me. The ones I didn’t were the ones who tried to avoid speaking with their customers at all.

4. It humanizes the corporation. Right now, corporations are often seen as faceless automatons or inflexible martinets who won’t post directions to the bathroom without a ten-page review from Legal. But a blog with comments will make your company seem like real people. Remember, people buy from people they like. They get angry with people they can’t talk to. Do you want people to buy from you or be angry with you? If they’re angry with you, you could be on the wrong end of someone like Bob Garfield.

5. If you don’t, you could get hit by the Streisand Effect. That’s what happens when you censor or remove information, and it gets widely publicized. The Church of Scientology saw it happen when a leaked Tom Cruise video hit the Internet. The first sites were threatened by the church to remove it or else, but other sites already had it in place. Soon, hundreds and thousands of sites were showing the video. Too many for the church to keep up with, so they gave up, after giving it more traction than the video ever would have gotten on its own. The moral is: if you censor blogs or moderate or edit comments of people who disagree with you, you’ll end up creating a bigger monster.

If you want to make your blog work for you, enable your comments. If you want to be seen as yet-another uncaring, unfeeling, faceless corporation whose latest problems will be revealed at YourCompanyMustDie.com, by all means shut off your comments.

Your customers will still be talking about you. You just won’t know about it.