We love blogs. That is not a secret that we have as we make it known on a regular basis. What we love about them is the open feedback model. Discussions that take place can be so beneficial to the organization because it usually provides an opportunity to learn directly from your audience. We can’t tell you the amount of knowledge that has been passed on to us by our readers and it is all because we allow comments on our site.
The downside of having an open comment system is that sooner or later, if your site is fairly popular, you are bound to get spammed. Spammers harness the power of blogs and especially Google’s love of blogs to hit blogs constantly with spam attacks just to up their rankings in the search engine.
Glaser Online has an article titled, Bloggers Declare War on Comment Spam, but Can They Win? This article goes into the struggles that bloggers and makers of blogging software have encountered dealing with spammers. There are plenty of solutions available to combat spammers, but one solution — turning comments off — will cost a site (and a company) more than having to spend resources to moderate comments and deal with comment spammers.
The problem with comments, open forums, e-mail discussion lists and other user-generated online content is that it takes work — usually a moderator or trust system — to make sure the comments stay relevant, clean and spam-free.
The thing is, this takes work. To everyone reading this entry let me inform you now that if you want a successful site it is going to take work. The problem isn’t the comments, it’s the people who don’t take the time to read comments on their own sites and allow spammers to hit their sites.
If you continue to read the Glaser article you will see some relevant information, but nothing really new until you reach the part where Dave Winer starts to speak. This is the same Dave Winer who knocked 3000 bloggers out of commission not too long ago (now fixed) and for some reason Glaser labels him the “Godfather of blogging.” In any case here is what Dave thinks about comments:
“I think a blog is a publication, and publications have proven that letters to the editor are useful,” Winer said. “But blogs with comments are not letters to the editor. Letters to the editor are edited, they’re selected, and that selection process is a very important aspect of it.”
Instead, Winer thinks commenters should simply run their own blog if they want to comment.
I can only assume that Winer has formed this opinion from his personal experiences, but don’t let his view, however “informed” convince you this is always a good idea. If you are unaware of who Dave is and his past exploits, just know that he is one of those people that are either really loved or really hated on the web. This could be why someone of his caliber would be hesitant to include comments on their site.
However, what would happen if someone like Scoble were to remove comments from his site and expect to receive feedback only from other people who have blogs? It wouldn’t be half as successful as it is now because the majority of his site is focused around the ensuing discussions that occur within the comments.
I am not suggesting that comments should be open for every site, but to write them off completely for all sites is absurd.
Comments are the first line of feedback that your company can receive. You may worry about comments that reflect negatively upon your company, but it is better to have those comments followed by great responses by your team than to allow no comments and learn nothing of how people perceive you.