Do not moderate comments on your blog

October 19, 2012

When you start a blog, the natural thing is to want to feel that you’re in control of it, and that means controlling what can be posted there.  But that’s a mistake.  Moderation means that people can’t see their own comments, which is alienating; but more importantly, it means other people can’t see them, which in turn means that all discussion grinds to a halt until such time as you happen to moderate.

What that means is that the site is only really alive when you’re at the keyboard, constantly checking your inbox, so that you notice moderation requests as soon as they come in.  It means you’ll never have the experience of waking up in the morning and finding that a discussion has broken out on your blog.

.

But what about spam?  On a good platform, it’s not a problem.  Since we started SV-POW!, 6,539 comments have been posted, and 3,552 spam comments have been automatically detected and help for moderation.  My and Matt’s manual moderation of those suspected-spam comments shows that detection has been 99.92% accurate: there have been only three false negatives in five and a half years.  There have been 63 false positives, i.e. comments that looked like spam but weren’t.  Those were held for moderation, and passed.

So.  You don’t need to moderate to filter spam, and you don’t want to moderate to control discussion.  Just open it up. (If you’re using a platform with bad spam-filtering, you may have to move. We’re on WordPress.com, and very happy with it, but others platforms may be just as good or better.)

[Note. This is a re-post of the most important part of Tutorial 18: how to have fruitful discussions in your blog’s comments. I’m posting this bit separately so that I can link to this most important part without the distraction of the other parts.]

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11 Responses to “Do not moderate comments on your blog”


  1. I’d say the title should be “Don’t PRE-moderate comments”. “Moderating comments” means engaging with commenters, responding, setting the tone, occasionally deleting one, and sometimes but rarely banning a commenter.

  2. Mike Taylor Says:

    Well, Bora, in that very broad sense of “moderate”, then of course I agree that engaging with commenters and responding is a good thing. I’m not sure that’s what most people would understand by the term, though.

    As for post-moderation: I wouldn’t want to advocate a blanket ban, but we try here to exercise as little control over comments as we can, and it’s been gratifying how often that’s been possible — in effect, always. We’ve never had to ban anyone, and only once in five years and 516 posts have we had to shut down a thread. I think science blogs tend to attract a better community than politics or sport blogs!

  3. Grant Jacobs Says:

    There is a middle ground – “pre-moderate” the first time someone comments, thereafter they’re free to comment at will.

  4. Grant Jacobs Says:

    Ha. Now I’m confused. On posting my comment (above), I get “Your comment is awaiting moderation.” Weren’t you advising not to do this? Perhaps you need to elaborate?

  5. Mike Taylor Says:

    Ha, how ironic. Grant, the moderation policy on this blog (and the default on WordPress.com) is in fact precisely the one you advocate: until you were known to the blog, your comments were indeed held for moderation. Now that I have OK’d one of them, all future comments from you will go through without our intervention.

    That policy works well when the goal (as here) is to build a commenting community, so I’ve never bothered to change it from the default. But come to think of it, it’s astonishingly rare that I’ve not OK’d someone’s first comment here — in fact I can’t recall a single occasion — so I could indeed switch to the literally-no-premoderation policy.

  6. Grant Jacobs Says:

    “I could indeed switch to the literally-no-premoderation policy” – that your post reads as advocating ;-)

    There are some sites that let don’t do first-comment approval and rely entirely on spam filters. In my experience this doesn’t work well enough for me to want to try it – even a little spam can put people off commenting.

  7. homolog.us Says:

    Mike, Thank you for the excellent blog !! We discussed your writing in our blog today -

    http://www.homolog.us/blogs/2012/10/20/sieve2/

    Regarding comments, we not only do not moderate any comment, sometime we make special mention for creative spams (http://www.homolog.us/blogs/2012/09/19/kind-of-comments-we-receive-every-day/) :)

  8. Mike Taylor Says:

    Thanks — your thoughts on journals’ scalability make some sense to me, but I’m not yet persuaded that they’re on the way out because they will scale in proportion to the number of publishing researchers, and the number of available editors and reviewers does as well.

  9. Mark Robinson Says:

    Mike, I fucking agree.

    Hey, if anybody needs any fake boner pills or wants to know how to make $457.85 every day using a perfectly legal system that I am very willing to generously share (oh so willing), let me know. [Trollmode=off]

  10. super amazing Says:

    Great idea to never moderate comments, then you get people sharing their own URLs like this: http://superamazing.net/


  11. I don’t support blogs that lean the rout of pre moderation and view them as little as possible.

    I’ve notice some blogs go out of their way to make it as difficult as possible to comment on like this one blog from the University of Washington Cliff Mass who is the state Climatologists he forces weird accounts and when I log into my word press it says *You don’t own that identity* even though it seems to work here.

    Why is it on some blogs Word Press doesn’t work? There is no way to contact the owner either as he has no contact page.

    Like I said some owners seem to make it as frustrating as possible to comment and on those blogs it’s usually the same users over and over again rather then newcomers.

    People are more and more close minded these days.


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