How to handle comments

Welcome to part five of our “Introduction to blogging” guide for Liberal Democrat bloggers or would-be bloggers. It’s appearing each Saturday between now and Christmas, with all the posts available via this page. The series will then be revised and collated into an e-book, so please do post up your comments as the series progresses. Today it’s the turn of Paul Walter, who looks at the question of how to handle comments which appear on your blog.

There are a number of approaches on handling comments. It’s a question of finding a method which you are comfortable with.

It’s probably best, at first, to moderate comments (i.e get them sent to your email account first before you approve or reject them). That way, you can get a feel for the sort of comments you will attract.

99 times out of 100, most blogs will get totally OK comments with which most bloggers will be comfortable. So it’s probably best to aim to allow unmoderated comments as soon as you feel comfortable with that. When you do, make sure you have a disclaimer somewhere on your blog saying that “comments are unmoderated and do not represent the opinion of the blog owner”.

Unless you are a legal expert, it is best to play very safe with libel. If you feel any comment is making unsubstantiated and defamatory remarks about an individual then it is best to delete them. It hardly ever happens on most blogs. But if it does, its best to play safe. Don’t worry if you allow unmoderated comments and it takes you, say 24 hours, to get to a comment which might be libellous. As long as you act within a reasonable time period then you’re in the clear. It’s remarks about a named individual that are dangerous.

Comments about a group of people – e.g “The Tories are bar stewards” tend to be OK, because they are rather nebulous in terms of who is implicated. (Would that be the Conservative party or anybody who votes Tory?) If you are under 18 then bear in mind there is such a thing as “vicarious responsibility” which means that your parents might be implicated if you publish something libellous. But, as I say, it hardly ever happens but it is best to be aware of what libel is. There are plenty of websites which explain it in layman’s terms.

You really can decide your own policy on abusive comments or swearing. It’s your blog. Again, it hardly ever happens. But if someone, for example, writes that a very genteel politician is an “organ thieving Nazi whore”, then you are within your rights to delete that comment. Not only is it abusive, but if the individual is named it is probably legally “actionable”. You might like to leave a comment on the same post saying that you have deleted a comment due to its abusive nature.

In general, don’t worry about comments. Most of the time, they won’t bite you. It’s only blogs like Iain Dale or LibDem Voice who get heavy duty abuse or libellous comments.

Enjoy your comments. If you are getting people who take the trouble to make comments on your posts, then remember it’s a cause for congratulations! – your blog is working! It’s a very good idea to engage with your commenters and occasionally thank them for very good comments. Often commenters are the first people to point out errors, so their feedback is very valuable. If someone takes the trouble to comment on your blog, you should value them. It’s a tremendous compliment to you that they can be bothered to comment.

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This entry was posted in Blogging guide.


  • Tom Papworth 10th Nov '09 - 11:59am

    “99 times out of 100, most blogs will get totally OK comments with which most bloggers will be comfortable.”

    I don’t think this is very acurate. In my experience (reciving, leading and reading comments) about a third of comments will disagree with the writer, and about a third of those will be quite aggressive about it.

    The internet brings out the worst in people: like driving, we interact impersonally, and the normal rules of polite behaviour do not apply. Bloggers need to be aware that people who disagree will often hide behind a psuedonym and attack you and your views as though you were advocating the compulsory disembowelment of babies, when all you’ve suggested is that the local high street could use a new bookshop. If one has a regular audiance, it is easy to attract serial abusers – a kind of cyber-bully. Some hide behind anonymity; others are quite brazen about it.

    Put simply, blogging requires a thick skin.

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