Danny Sullivan left SearchEngineWatch last year and has started his own company called SearchEngineLand. Danny also has a blog by the same name where he writes on search related topics. Today he wrote about his rules of engagement for comments on his blog. He does a good job of explaining what adds value to the conversation, what doesn't, and what he does to block spam.
Comments and Trackbacks - When I started blogging a little over a year ago I read lots of blogs to get an idea of what style, formats, and topics work. I left Comments and Trackbacks on several blogs. A Trackback is basically a link on their blog that links back to your blog. A Trackback is different from a Comment in that a Trackback is simply a link with no commentary.
Mathew Ingram is a media and technology writer for The Globe and Mail in Toronto, so he is a professional writer and obviously a great blogger. In my early days of blogging I left a Trackback on Mathew's blog. He sent me an email where he politely said, paraphrasing, "Leave a comment that adds to the discussion, and include a link back to your blog if it is relevant. Trackbacks don't add value" Mathew was very polite, and I actually agreed with his point. So, I don't generally leave Trackbacks, but I do comment and include a link where appropriate. However, I do accept relevant Tracbacks on my blog...although I would prefer Comments.
Spam - Search engines give high ranking to sites that have lots of inbound links. Spammers have discovered that blogs are an easy way to generate links. Spammers have developed bots that automatically scan blogs and leave trackbacks to their sites. For popular blogs this has become a huge problem. For this reason I require everyone to validate their comment or trackback by typing in a random code. I also review every comment or trackback before it is published. I wish I didn't need to do this but the spam was overwhelming.
Anonymous commenters - I allow almost all comments, but anonymous comments raise a red flag. Anonymous commenters are usually bashers or "drive by shooters" that leave inflammatory opinions with no facts or examples to back them up...just bashing. Sometimes it can add a different perspective to the conversation, but in a few cases it is just plain venom. I usually don't allow those.
Disagreement and controversy is good - I love comments, read every one of them, and try to respond to as many as I can. Some of the best comments are those that challenge my assumptions or opinions, or even better, correct factual mistakes. I wrote a blog about the Apple iPhone and mentioned that Apple is able to price at a 20% to 30% premium because it all just works. Several readers commented that I was wrong about that and gave specific examples. They were right, and added value to the discussion.
Are blogs echo chambers? - No, they mimic real conversation. Someone starts it and others join in. Interesting discussions attract a lot of attention in the form of blog posts, less interesting topics don't. Blogs mimic real life in that there are a few A-Listers that are opinion leaders and usually lead the discussion. We need to join the blog conversation in the same way we join other public discussions. Ask questions, add opinions, give a different perspective. I am not an "A-List" blogger yet and may never be one. But all of us can influence the discussion by pro-actively participating.
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