14Feb Comments On: Building Community & Discourse Through Conversation
Often, intense dialogue emerges in the comments section of blog posts. In my opinion, the discussion enriches the original post. Comments add depth to the post, and benefit the reader. Further, it allows a post to remain dynamic over time as knowledge improves or reasoning changes. A guest post on @MikeReinoldBlog entitled Trigger Point Dry Needling for Lateral Epicondylitis resulted in over 220 comments. At one point, Mike even closed comments. Later, in a decision I respect and agree with, he re-opened the comments section. That post is rich in various content, lines of reasoning, and debates on various aspects of science, physical therapy research, pain, and mechanisms of manual therapy. A true resource. On PT Think Tank, our most commented on post OsteopractorTM Not now, Not ever currently has 201 total comments.
Do I not want the feedback? Do I not want to foster discussion? Not at all. The answer is simple: I don’t have the time to manage it. When I have allowed comments in the past I was bombarded with spam posts. This required constant attention to weed out the crap…
The other problem is trolls. Most comments are either blind emphatic agreement or blind emphatic disagreement. Then you get into name calling and weird irrelevant attacks. No thanks.
I agree that moderation can be difficult. Spammers and trolls are a constant, annoying problem. Spam widgets and spam reducing practices exist. See 7 Ways to Reduce Blog Spam for ideas. For those not familiar, @ErikMeira hosts two fantastic podcasts, PT Podcast (@PTPodcast)and PT Inquest. On his site, he published a fantastic 5 part Science Series.
For moderation, a policy statement can guide decisions to un-approve a comment(s) utilizing set standards as a reference. I uphold that heated discussion and debate eventually lead to progress, are extremely helpful to readers, act as real time peer review, and illustrate when people are being ridiculous. The more people comment, the more obvious their intellect, intent, and true value (or lack of) is displayed. Comments allow for multiple participants and viewpoints to present and discuss issues. Often, connections are made to other concepts not explicitly explored in the initial blog post. For a reader, following the discussion can engage analytical processes, allow them to follow arguments, and challenge ideas. There is value for the author in the for of feedback, questions, and a forum for further clarification. There is value for the commenting to engage with the author and each other in an archived discussion. There is also value to the reader. Personally, I have extracted tremendous intellectual challenge and benefit from reading through a blog post with a engaged comments section.
Although a fear of negative comments is present, allowing individuals to post dissenting views illustrates enriches the post. Even without any moderation the community of commentors can come to the rescue in the case of poor logic, bad reasoning, misinterpreted references, or just plain nastiness.Comments and the ensuing discussion give blogs their true power. In best case scenarios, they are an example of real time, open source peer review and academic-clinical discussion. We can discuss and collaborate around the world. SomaSimple is a prime example of an open forum. Although many view SomaSimple negatively, they have presented a moderators consensus on the Culture of SomaSimple and Information for Guests which includes the Disagreement Hierarchy. One of the resounding themes of the forum is “Here you are safe, by your ideas may not be!”
A prime case example of “comments on” is the contraversial post OsteopractorTM Not now, Not ever. To date, the post has garnered more than 200 comments. The dialogue was not terse and rather intense at times. Overall, I think the comments section benefits those who read and engage PT Think Tank. I attempted to respond to most comments and critiques. The commenting community dialogued further. Eric Robertson moderated comments that were blatantly attacking individuals or were grossly off topic. In total, less than 10 comments total were moderated. One comment by a single individual and all the rest by another. So, overall 2 users and less than 5% of all comments required moderation.
Comments? Comments, anyone? Anyone?