When I moved my own blog, I left my old one up, so people could find my new location. For a while, the comments I got on my old blog were relevant to the posts, but then came the spam comments that had nothing to do with my blog or my posts. If that wasn’t bad enough, I started getting weird, creepy comments in addition to the spam and that’s when I knew to turn off comments entirely.
This phenomenon doesn’t just happen with abandoned blogs… it’s also happens on active ones that don’t keep on top of moderation.
“[The] theory takes its name from the observation that a few broken windows in an empty building quickly lead to more smashed panes, more vandalism and eventually to break-ins. The tendency for people to behave in a particular way can be strengthened or weakened depending on what they observe others to be doing. This does not necessarily mean that people will copy bad behaviour exactly, reaching for a spray can when they see graffiti. Rather, says Dr Keizer, it can foster the “violation” of other norms of behaviour.” Via The Economist
The same principle applies, with negative comments, spam and the like. When a site is left up for abuse, it doesn’t necessarily mean that bad comments are going to multiply, but it does foster the idea that it’s ok to leave those kinds of comments up, therefore encouraging more.
Set up a Policy and Maintain It
Tricia has always been really great at maintianing community, like Wardrobe_Remix is what it is today because she makes sure everyone is following the guidelines. While many other Flickr groups ascent in to chaos, repetitive pictures, photos that have nothing to do with the group… near-pornographic pics… Wardrobe_Remix remains one of the most important ‘what are you wearing’ communities on the internet. You might wonder how much time it takes to manage all of that, I know I do, but in terms of building a reputation and a respectful community, maintenace is very important.
I personally do not allow comments with any kind of slanderous or abusive language on my blogs, nor do I allow spam comments. This also applies to comments that could be construed as slanderous, to anybody. Luckily, I’ve only had to put my foot down a few times. And more recently, upon staring the IFB Forums, I’ve had to ask myself similar questions about who can use the forums for what purposes, as companies have been trying to use them as a place to ‘let us know about their products’.
Your own policy doesn’t have to be set in stone. You can publish a list of rules, or it could be anything that makes you uncomfortable, what ever it is, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Remember it’s your blog, it’s your hard work, treat it like you would a real place. Would you allow abusive, rude, people in your house? What if they pee on your carpet? What if they invite their abusive rude friends? It’s always best to nip the bad behavior in the bud.
Don’t Reward Vandalous Behavior
Often times trolls, or negative commentors are looking for attention. They want you to get upset. Don’t play their game, remember it’s your blog, if they want to participate, they have to play YOUR game. You can simply delete bad comments, and forget them. There is no reason to figure out why someone does this because there are plenty, and I do mean plenty of people who write nice and encouraging things. The nice ones are the people who should be rewarded.
I’ve seen posts highlighting particular bad commentors, and I personally have mixed feelings about it, and I’ve even written a few angry posts, only to delete them. Sure, it feels good to get back at “them,” and yes, it’s nice to rally support for your favorite bloggers. But on the other hand, I’m not sure what it really achieves, and I often wonder if it’s sending the wrong message out, like “Hey, if you write a nasy comment about me, I’ll dedicate an entire post to you.” It’s not really a detterent for future abuse.
It’s your call
How you maintain your blog is entirely up to you. When I first started blogging, I got a couple of not abusive, but certainly creepy comments. I didn’t want to encourage this person to keep coming back, or other people to leave similar comments, so I deleted them. I came to the conclusion that if I wouldn’t tolerate it in real life, I won’t tolerate it online. It’s not censorship, and don’t let anyone tell you different. Just like it’s not censorship to crack down on a graffiti artist gracing your home with his or her art, it’s not censorship to crack down on online vandals.
Image by [parentesi quadre]