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. In  Comments Off on PT Podcast @ErikMeira states:

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’m not the only one who feels this way. Look herehere, and here for some much more thought out reasons for not allowing comments on blogs.

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.

Once a site decides to have comments open the author of a post has a couple of options:

1. Allow the commenting community to discuss
2. Address critiques or questions directly
3. A combination

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. Many view SomaSimple negatively, but 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 grossly off topic. In total, less than 10 comments total were moderated (deleted or discarded). 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?

5 Replies to “Comments On: Building Community & Discourse Through Conversation”

  1. Kyle makes some good points and I do think that open and respectful dialogue is the key to continued progress. As noted above, I chose to turn our comments off due more to time and the fact that our website is more for generating discussion instead of hosting discussion. We also feared having our content influenced by the most vocal, understanding that they may be a passionate minority. Our website is more a platform for our podcasts and some basic resources.

    Due to my limited experience with moderating comment threads, I feel like I should end this comment with a string of links to porno sites and black market pharmaceuticals…

  2. Erik… there is no hard and fast rule about allowing comments. Think of yourself as the Seth Godin of physical therapy. 🙂 Always stick to your vision. You have a good vision. 🙂 If someone *really* wants to get your attention and speak to you, they’ll find you.

  3. The purpose of a blog eludes me without the desire of input from others. The likely assumption is that a blogger and their post come with an aspect of passion from helpful tidbit to the provoking of extreme emotions. I say shake the stick in the lion’s cage! I want to hear what people have to say. Are they thankful I took the time to post or do they want to call me a nitwit and prove me wrong. To me it’s a win win. A thank you I’m more apt to feel confident my efforts are worthwhile. A debate and, well, I might learn something new. If I’m forced to moderate 5% of over 200 comments to what I said then my biggest focus is that I inspired someone or some people to feel what I had to say was important 200 times over. I’m going to be glued to that blog not feeling it a nuisance.

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