To delete blog comments or not to delete blog comments, that is the question

Tim Berners-Lee thinking things over

Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, thinking things over. Image courtesy of Paul Clarke, Wikimedia Commons.

After I’ve published a blog post, comments arrive from people around the world within minutes, hours or days depending upon the commenter’s time zone. Most of the comments are thoughtful and positive in nature, sharing information that the commenter thinks I and other readers would enjoy reading. I love these comments because anyone reading this blog can see it too and learn from it.

Other comments go straight into the spam folder thanks to WordPress’s Akismet plug-in. These spam comments are wacky — I’ve been offered all sorts of bizarre things and I wonder “Why do they bother sending this stuff?” since Akismet will catch it anyway. Delete, delete, delete.

But occasionally, a less-than-positive comment will arrive from a reader that makes me wonder if I should allow it to appear on the blog at all. For these borderline comments, I’ll hold onto them for a day or so and think over the situation. Does the comment match the tone of the blog or is its content way, way off from what I’m talking about? Does the commenter have a good point in what he or she says? Is it going to start off a “comment war” between two commenters reacting to each other? (I faced this last question after being Freshly Pressed. In that case, I allowed the comment to go through and a war didn’t start. Phew! *breathes sigh of relief*)

I try never to be offensive (after all, these posts are going to last for a long, long time) or to discuss topics in bad taste, but I recognize that not everyone is going to agree with my wording of a thought because each reader has different ideas of right and wrong. I’m posting in a public forum and there is no way to please everyone. My personal policy is to moderate all of my comments and read through them carefully before I approve them.

Overall, I’ve allowed hundreds of comments to go through and appear on the blog, with only a few exceptions. Sometimes I’ll permit a comment to appear when I deem that the information it contains is more valuable to my blog readers than my ego. I’d rather keep it real. Enough said.

Bloggers: What is your personal policy for handling this situation? Let’s get a discussion going.

(Worth noting: Jill of All Trades…Expert of None wrote a wry and hilarious blog post in June 2012 about the strange spam that we bloggers receive, called “Holy Spamalot, Batman!” For a good giggle, take a quick trip over there. It’s definitely worth your time.)

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66 Comments

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66 responses to “To delete blog comments or not to delete blog comments, that is the question

  1. It really depends on the nature of the blog. You have to ask yourself what atmosphere you want to create. For instance, the blog attached to this comment is zany and sometimes lends itself to inflammatory comments simply because fans can get absurd. I knew that going in and let inflammatory comments come through as long as they are not name-calling or full of foul language or descriptions. All the other passionate but offensive comments I can usually diffuse with humor.

  2. Apart from the spam — I’ve approved every comment. I find most people on WP to be very polite indeed. 🙂

    I could imagine that being freshly pressed (congratulations!) would probably bring in a whole new set of followers and comments that require moderation.

    I’m heading off to read Jill of All Trades…Expert of None — thank you for sharing 🙂

    • Thank you for coming by. Yes, being Freshly Pressed did bring lots of comments and new followers. It was a bit overwhelming for a couple of days, but so much fun to read what people worldwide said.

  3. This is a very thoughtful post. I allow 98.9% of the comments, but as you say, occasionally one is off the wall, I do not understand its context, or it just bugs me so I trash them. This does not happen often at all – I find the blogging world generous and kind almost all the time.

  4. After I was Freshly Pressed, I got a comment calling me a “tediously unpleasant person” (or was it unpleasantly tedious?).

    I let it go through only because I wanted to take the moral high ground and show that it didn’t get to me. I didn’t reply, and nothing came of it except some nice comments from others telling me to ignore the guy.

    I don’t think deleting a comment, except spam and rude language, is the answer, just replying level-headedly and being prepared to drop the conversation.

  5. I have only had a couple of negative comments and I have done just what you did. I let them sit for a while until I thought about how to respond, then I answered as nicely as I could. One person got stuck into Bagni di Lucca, saying how much he hated the place. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I am entitled not to agree with it, so I responded to each of his negative points.

    I had another commenter who would be outraged every time I wrote about something he/she considered was too luxurious or exotic and complained about the unfairness of the world…..I write about travel!!!!! I don’t claim to be a blog about the human condition. I invited that person to stop following my blog as it appeared to be upsetting him/her, and that was the end of that.

    • It’s definitely better to pause and contemplate before answering a blog comment. Strange, however, how a few people will use your blog to promote their own agendas and ignore the spirit of your blog. But being polite, or even humorous as RAFrenzy is, helps.

  6. Good question.

    I agree that the Akismet plug-in seems to work rather well and catches most of the blatant spam, 99% of which is ridiculous, with the comments bearing no relevance to the post on which they are made.

    I also agree with the commenter RAFrenzy, above, in that humor is a great way to diffuse anything bordering on offensive or controversial. So far I haven’t been bothered by anything offensive, in fact although my blog deals with humor most of the time anything that might be approaching the offensive category is usually me going off on a rant about something that has annoyed me.

    One thing no blogger should do, however, is to filter out comments that don’t agree with them and only post the ones full of praise; that would not only be dishonest but also self-defeating. If you’re not big enough to take a bit of criticism now and again, then why are you putting yourself out there on a blog in the first place?

    • Very true — having others disagree with what you say is an inevitable part of blogging in a public forum. But if someone disagrees with your viewpoint or wording, I think they owe it to you and to other readers to explain why they disagree and keep it polite. I’ve read some blogs where the blogger and the commenters were fighting with each other in the comment section, using profanity. It made me cringe. Since our posts and comments are preserved for a long, long time, this practice does not create a good impression and did not make me want to follow their blogs. Ugh.

  7. I, of course, delete all of the spam comments. Thankfully, I haven’t yet been bothered with a mean-spirited comment. And I don’t classify correction of what I’ve got wrong, mean-spirited. Rather I welcome correction, as I don’t want erroneous info getting around out there.

    When the time comes and I get the dreaded comment, and it’s bound to happen, I’ll try to make the best decision.

  8. I’ve had my blog for many years and have never screened comments before they are posted. With very few exceptions, my visitors have been polite and respectful, regardless of their positions. Akismet does a very good job of catching true spam. If, rarely, obvious spam slips through and gets posted, I delete it as soon as I see it — usually within a couple of hours. No harm done. Trying to moderate all my comments just slows the discussion, and some readers become concerned that if their comment doesn’t appear right away, they must have done or said something wrong.

    I’ve included a warning on my About page that spam, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be tolerated, and over the years I had to delete very few comments. Perhaps a dozen in ten years. I’ve blocked only two commenters, one who returned repeatedly just to be argumentative, and one who seemed to think my blog was his place to write essay-length defenses of his position.

  9. Aww EEE, thanks much! So glad someone enjoys my sense of humor. 🙂

  10. It definitely depends on the tone of the comment. If a comment is attacking my post or myself, then I would take a good look at it to determine whether to allow it or not. Then of course, respond to the post in as polite a manner as possible after I let it through.

    If it is someone who just disagrees with me and the comment may spark intelligent conversation and be productive, then I am all for allowing the comment. However, if things get out of hand, I would then go on a delete campaign.

    You do make a good observation about the spam posts. They can be hilarious. I like to read them before permanently deleting them. I get a good laugh out of some of them.

  11. I do moderate all comments on my blog, fortunately to date I haven’t had to make the tough decision on whether to allow one through. Akismet does a great job blocking spam posts. But short of someone really being over the edge, I’ll let both good and bad comments through. Great post!

  12. The only comment I’ve considered deleting thus far was “i love u”. It was extremely weird and out of place, but my friend pointed out that maybe someone had read my post and enjoyed it, and either their English skills weren’t very good, so they just stuck with “i love u”, or they were in a rush, or something. It didn’t really harm anyone, so I let it be. 😀

  13. Spam is always (well, almost always) good for a laugh. I’m glad the spam has slowed down from what it was a couple months ago.

  14. If the comment gets through my akismet filters, and does not use foul language, I put it up. There was one that I didn’t put up. It was from someone attempting to take credit for an illustration I did years ago for a talk I gave, and just this year used in one of my posts. From the linguistic style of the commenter, it was obvious I did the illustration probably before he was born. I have ignored him and his comment, though a few friends keep telling me I have to respond. Why? I feel it would be a waste of time. The other comments are very good, and some have even sparked a new idea for another article.

  15. Personally, I leave all of my comments except the ones that are obviously spam, or obviously trolling. I think that’s part of the fun of blogging. Sharing your opinions, and seeing other’s opinions as well. 🙂

  16. I must admit that I don’t moderate my comments but, for some reason, completely unknown to me, WordPress simply puts certain comments into “waiting for moderation”. Then again, my type of blog probably doesn’t elicit the type of comments yours might. I’m also rather new in this blogging world, so might have to review my tactics as I go.

  17. I welcome disagreement and cordial criticism and think that such comments can add real thought and interest to an article.

    I rarely complain, yet do have one specific complaint regarding comments. As easygoing as I am, it bothers me to receive comments from others to promote their own blog (e.g., thanks for following NAME OF BLOG…thanks for dropping by my page NAME OF BLOG…you get the point). Maybe these comments are meant to express gratitude, but sometimes I wonder if the comments are at times designed to say “maybe your other readers want to follow me as well?” I could be delusional in terms of any ego-driven intent at all with these sort of comments…but I have several of them my storage bin unpublished because I just go with my instinct on these things.

    When I comment, I am careful not to announce that someone followed me and instead try to focus on the merits of the blog or on a genuine perception or question about the material written.

    Now I’m wondering…am I the only one that feels this way?

    • No, you’re not the only one that feels that way. I suspect that a few bloggers do not realize that when they leave a comment on someone else’s blog, a hyperlink is automatically created so it isn’t necessary to insert “name of blog”. I’m of the opinion that if the comment is interesting, funny or thought-provoking, a reader will become intrigued enough to find out more about the blogger who left the comment and click on the hyperlink to go to that blog. I’ve found several great blogs that way.

  18. I blog my opinions on pop culture and I welcome every comment, whether someone agrees or disagrees with me, as long as they don’t use profanity or stoop to a personal attack of some sort. IOW, feel free to disagree with me, but be polite about it. The crazies generally show themselves for what they are pretty quickly, and those I ignore.

    Every once in a while, I’ll peek at the akismet-blocked spam comments before hitting delete simply because they can be hilarious.

  19. How delightful to hear that the majority of commentators are kind and considerate. Since I’m only on my seventh blog, I haven’t received many comments. I agree that humor goes a long way toward coping with vitriol. As a long-time newspaper editor, I enjoy spirited discussion and controversy; however, at some point back-and-forth comments have to be reined in. As one editor-mentor always said of the opinion page, “When two letter writers start playing ping-pong, those not in the game are bored.” At that point, she would inform the dueling commentators that it was time to quit writing letters to the editor and continue the debate by “going out for coffee.”

  20. E-EE, Death by watching the train station scene over and over. 😀

    There ought to be a blog as well on the key word searches. But I couldn’t write all of mine or it would be somewhat X-rated. Unreal how some people find my blog. *cross-eyed*

  21. I find myself deleting or heavily editing long comments and when the same person just keeps sending more and more on the same subject. Comments aren’t a forum. They are supposed to pertain to the post. I have a few readers who just don’t seem to know when to give up or at least put it in a personal e-mail. I’ll also either remove or choose to not publish anyone who is overly aggressive or who I consider uncivil. I figure at the very least, I can demand good manners on my blog.

  22. Hi, great post. I agree, it is a dilemma. I approve all post comments and trust WordPress’s Akismet spam filter. I read the spam but to date I’ve not approved any ‘spam’ comments.

  23. I’ve only had one comment that was directly offensive to me, which I decided to delete. I’m not sure why people spend the time just to write hurtful comments. I can understand if it’s constructive!

  24. Look at all your comments! We bloggers are just dying to discuss this, it seems. Fortunately, in the last 4-6 years I have had only a handful of negative comments. Of course, they’ve all devastated me upon initial reading. I hope to mature to the point where devastation is no longer necessary.

  25. Val

    Hopefully, you won’t mind a late comment to your post. I rarely delete comments but there are occasions when I do and also occasions when I (carefully) edit them. The ones I delete are usually offensive or so out of context that they are pointless. If I know the person who has posted the comment, I try to send them a courtesy email to explain why their comment hasn’t appeared; if I don’t know them then I just have to hope that they will find the link at the bottom of my blog to why some comments don’t appear and what to do about it: that page contains a simple comment policy and advice on what to do if their comments disappear for other reasons, not to do with me.

    I regard my blog as a virtual extension of my home and, to me, commenters are like visitors. In the same way that I wouldn’t want visitors to my home to offend me or each other, I don’t want that sort of behaviour in my blog. I try to keep the content as positive as I can.

    As for spam, most of it is bots, not human beings so trying to figure it out is usually a waste of energy. I don’t write posts about it and (apart from this one) rarely write about it as, as soon as one’s words hit Google or other search engines, it attracts more.

    • I don’t mind a late comment at all. I’m glad you took the time to provide your input, Val.

      We seem to feel much the same way about blog comments, especially regarding what you say in paragraph 2. I liked what you said about the blog being a virtual extension of your home. Great way to put it. 🙂

  26. I let a rather aggressive comment stay once & it turned into a big comment war. In the end for the sake of common decency, I had to delete heaps of the comments on both sides of the argument. Things got out of hand really quickly so I guess sometimes we do need to delete if necessary.

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