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Keeping your blogging cool

ice cube

Comments are very powerful and can be benefit your blog. Regardless of your niche or your intent when publishing a post sometimes discussions can give rise to unexpected controversy and it’s important to keep a safe environment for discussion on your blog. Knowing how to deal effectively with spammers,  annoying subscribers, negative comments and trolls comes with the territory of becoming a better blogger.

Spam And Libel

Everything posted on a blog contributes to its brand and the blogger’s reputation either positively or negatively. Posting spam comments and/or troll comments and/or libelous comments reflects negatively on a blog’s brand, authority and page rank, deters other commenters from submitting legitimate comments, encourages the submission of more spam comments and posting libel can result in a legal suit.

When it comes to comments posted on your blog, it’s your contractual obligation to remain within the Terms of Service you agreed to as set out by your blog host. Beyond that the choice of whether or not to set rules of engagement for discussion on your blog is yours alone to make and to express in your commenting policy.

Comment Moderation

We all love receiving comments and may not be inclined to moderate comments at all until we know that over 80% of all comments, trackbacks and pingbacks received on the WordPress.com site daily are spam. Spammers become more inventive every day. Robotic spam used to be all bloggers had to cope with but these days legions of  humans are paid to submit spam comments to blogs. That’s why blog comment moderation is a good thing. It’s also why you must learn how to use the Akismet spam filter appropriately. Mark only spam as spam, so you don’t pollute the spam filter with false information by marking dissenting comments or troll comments as spam.

Trolls

Expressing a dissenting opinion in a comment is not the same as trolling.Trolls have no true interest in the subjects they comment on. They derive pleasure from baiting bloggers into highly charged emotional states and attempting to make them look stupid. Trolls want you to completely lose your cool and your ability to sound like an intelligent person who knows what you’re talking about. On one hand, engaging a troll can have a negative impact on your online reputation. On the other, refusing to engage by deleting their comments prompts trolls move on and find another target.  Hence,  the maxim: Don’t feed the trolls.

Ouch that hurts!

Blogging is a means of obtaining recognition and validation for your creations, interests, causes and/or opinions ie. your passions.Whether or not blog monetization is your long term goal, we all blog:

  • to be heard and receive responses to what we publish;
  • to engage in interesting discussion in blog commentary;
  • to form relationships with like-minded people;
  • to build a growing reader community of online friends.

Regardless of what your topical content is or what writing style you use to deliver your message receiving differences of opinion will arise and receiving negative comments is inevitable. Dissenting comments can be helpful or hurtful. How you view them is up to you. How you deal with negative comments is equally important as how you deal positive comments, because constructive criticism provides what you need to know to improve your blog and blogging technique.

We can’t control what other people will say to us. But we can control how we internalize it, respond to it, and learn from it, and when we release it and move on. If you’ve been having a hard time dealing with criticism, it may help to remember the benefits of criticism.

ice cubeWhen things get hot chill out

When you receive a negative comment be mindful that no one can trigger your emotions, unless you allow them to do so. If you have a strong emotional response to any comment then be sensible and delay responding to it. Don’t lose your blogging cool.

Reacting is Not Responding

Instead of reacting to criticism immediately and defensively or offensively taking a time out to get an accurate read on the situation is a wise move. If you don’t chill out first you will be inclined to react emotionally rather than responding logically.

When you are done fuming carefully read what the commenter has to say more than once. Make the effort to objectively examine the points raised from his/her point of view. Then ask yourself these questions:

  • Does this dissenting comment contain constructive criticism?
  • Does this comment include anything that my readers and I can learn from?
  • How can I address this comment in a way that will provide value to my readers and not harm my reputation or my blog’s brand?

Blogging provides ways to make a difference in this world by learning and growing through reader feedback. It’s important to recognize that different readers can best understand different messages. Offline you may find your best friend’s dissenting opinions contain truth despite the discomfort they evoke. Likewise you may find the positive in negative comments submitted to your blog. If so then to communicate clearly with your readers you may need to adjust your message, how you say it and what information you include in it.

Responding to negative comments

1.   When responding to comments that conflict with your own opinions keep you blogging cool, knowing that the more emotional you become, the more clouded your thinking will be. Focus on the issues, not on personalities.

2.   To refute an argument, you have to understand it and argue convincingly against it. View the other side and make honest efforts to understand where the commenter who disagrees with you is are coming from. Determine the facts. Isolate the key concerns. Identify fallacious arguments and weak points.

3.   Look for common ground but when you cannot find any then express your point of view agreeably – agree to disagree without becoming disagreeable.

4.   Present good reasons why the reasoning and conclusions are wrong.

5.   Put a positive spin on your conclusion as the commenter is providing you with an opportunity to discuss the topic in greater depth.

6.   There is a downside to reacting emotionally and it’s loss of control that can damage your blog’s brand and your online reputation. Before you publish your response take an emotional temperature reading. Ask yourself: Am I reacting emotionally or am I responding intelligently?

7.   Keep your blogging cool. Edit your response with impunity knowing what you publish will be available to everyone on the internet for years to come.

ice cubeYou can handle serious online attacks effectively. When things get hot chill-out. Take out the trash. Delete troll comments and mark spam as spam. If you must respond to a dissenting comment do so calmly, without losing your blogging cool. Acknowledge the positive and be gracious enough to thank any commenter whose feedback helps you improve your blogging.

43 thoughts on “Keeping your blogging cool

  1. I realize I am really late to the party, but I’ve been searching all over WordPress and at Tech Support for how to block someone from “LIKING” your post … couldn’t find an answer, and eventually found my way to this really cool site that has TONS of good information. After doing a few searches on SPAMMERS and SPLOGGERS, still don’t know if I can remove/delete someone from showing up in my LIKES.

    I’ve been noticing more and more “automatic” LIKES that happen within moments of me posting up a new blog post, and today, I got one that was adult-themed graphic that I would like to remove. The name is graphic, the icon is graphic, and the link to their web page takes you to an entirely adult-themed WordPress page. Is there any way you can delete/remove someone from your LIKE list?

    My initial research is that it’s an all-or-none proposition, as far as the LIKE button goes. You can either set your blog to allow LIKES, or turn the LIKE feature off. A long time ago I learned how to change the settings on my blog to filter all comments through a moderation step so that all users have to have a pre-approved comment before they can comment, but so far I have been unable to find a similar feature of having to pre-approve someone before they can click the LIKE button.

    So, am I SOOL? (out of luck?) Is it an all or none proposition with the LIKE button? Any way to delete them after they have already clicked LIKE? (I already added the page to my blacklisted filter, but this doesn’t stop their icon from displaying in my LIKES). Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    I’m at the point where I’m considering shutting down my blog because I can’t keep the SPAMMERS away. Regular old annoying SPAMMERS I can deal with, but pornographic SPAMMERS. Not so much.

    1. No you cannot remove or block anyone from displaying in your likes on an individual basis gravatar by gravatar. We will be able to do that in the future according to Staff but we cannot do that now.

      At present every person logged in on a WordPress.com/Gravatar account can click a like button. You can disable the like button on individual posts and pages but you cannot disable like button display in the Reader.

      1. I thought it probably would end up that way, as it seemed an all-or-none deal on the LIKE button, although I wasn’t aware you could disable the LIKE button on an individual post basis. I guess I’ll just have to either put up with the SPAM likes, or disable the feature altogether. Really aggravating on a general scale, but truly offensive when it starts posting adult-themed gravatar names and images to my blog. Very unwelcome.

        Thanks for sharing the information. Much appreciated. Your page is kind of fantabulous, by the way. I’m sure I’ll be back over there poking around. So much good information. Thanks again.

  2. Really one of your best, TT, and I wholeheartedly agree with the person who said it should be required reading for new bloggers. Keeping one’s cool is an essential life skill, and, sadly, one that appears to have fallen out of fashion these days. Great post, thanks for your strong stand on good sense.

  3. Thank you Time Thief for sharing your experience and insight. I am new to Word Press. I uploaded from Google Reader. I have some raw blogs made up of stories, poetry and such that I must now clean up. I am grateful for your pointers. Dramon.

  4. I am quite glad that due to a reply you made on the WordPress.com forums I had a chance to stumble upon your blog, timeThief. As a new blogger your blog is a vault of information, tidbits of wisdom and a plethora of tricks for me and I think I’ll check your blog frequently for tips and tricks to imrpove myself as a blogger.

    I hope you will continue your great job as a blogger for many years to come so that others have an easier time getting into it all.

    WeymiensN

  5. This is all so true! I know that now, but in the beginning of blogging I need this info! Good that you are hear to make us ready & know how to handle issues like these,…

    1. Thanks for your comment. I think it’s important to keep your blogging cool knowing what you publish will be available to everyone on the internet for years to come. Constructive criticism is worth considering but troll comments and personal attacks aren’t.

  6. Your advice for dealing with criticism applies just as much to face-to-face interactions as it does to blog comments! The three settings for comments information is very helpful. My older posts attract spam (all caught by the askimet filter-yay!) By closing comments I think I can deflect a lot of the spammers’ efforts. I agree that this post should be part of an “Intro to Blogging” feature. I knew nothing about comments, spam or trolls when I started.Your info would have helped me learn how to deal with all three much more quickly.

    1. Hi there,
      It’s good to hear you agree with me. Hostility doesn’t lead to anywhere worth visiting. We bloggers ought to be open to constructive criticism that helps us improve our blogs but not all criticism constructive and we need to learn how to discern what is helpful and what is not.

      Reacting emotionally instead of responding intelligently means you have chosen to give your personal power away and it’s that kind of loss of control that can damage your blog’s brand and your online reputation.

      Your blog is not YOU. The commentator cannot touch your inner self, unless you give them permission to, so don’t open that inner door and give your power away. Keep your blogging cool.

      The comment settings we have for comment moderation and also for closing comments on old posts which are the ones spammers tend to continue to hammer away at is a time saver.
      http://en.support.wordpress.com/settings/discussion-settings/#comment-moderation By using these settings you not only save time you also remove the potential to be emotionally triggered by comments left by spammers and trolls. By developing a comment policy and publishing it you have created a warning and an action plan. Thereafter, all you have to do is carry through.

  7. I’ve been getting spam regularly, but curiously they seem mostly to be confined to this one post I wrote almost a year ago, where I reviewed negatively (but constructively, I think) a popular song by a popular artist. So I’m thinking they could be from annoyed fans. But since the comment-spams make no specific reference whatsoever to the post or my blog, I just mark them as spam.

    As for criticism, so far I’ve managed to respond to them with tact and courtesy I think, and I try to inject some humour to help indicate I really don’t mind criticism and welcome all feedback.

    Thank you for this very helpful post, timethief! I’ll be coming back to this post over time to re-read many of the useful points and tips, to remind myself of them.

    1. Hi Halim,
      Sometimes when you get a lot of spam on a single post it can be a result of accidentally approving a single spam comment. Other spammers note that and keep hitting the post with more spam comments. Sometimes it’s the keywords in the post that attract spammers. I have noticed that spam comes in weekly, biweekly and monthly waves. If and only if I am receiving quality comments on an older post I simply disable comments on any post that attracts spam for a week and then enable comments again.

      I find these three settings > Settings > Discussion are very useful:
      Other comment settings
      _ Comment author must fill out name and e-mail
      _ Users must be registered and logged in to comment
      _Automatically close comments on articles older than __ days

      Responding to spammers in any away shape or form is counterproductive. They are attention seekers and it’s our ego that wishes to reply and best them; it’s not our true self. I starve them.

      1. Ah, I see! That’s fascinating to read; it never occurred to me. I will now bear that in mind: to be careful with comments to avoid accidentally approving a spam one. Thanks so much for the insight and for more wonderful tips! They are so helpful and I will surely implement them.

        I like how you put it: starve those attention seekers. Very cute haha! Thanks again, timethief!

  8. Very useful advice, time thief. I’m going to forward this post to a online friend who has been having difficulty with trolls recently :)

    1. Hi Marianne,
      I hope my post will encourage your friend to keep his or her cool. The only effective way to deal with trolls IMHO is to ignore them, delete the comment and blog on.

  9. I think you touched all the bases here on what any blogger should know and remember about comments. I’ve had to delete very few comments in my umpteen years of blogging, and none were for disagreeing with me. A comment section that does nothing more than praise and agree with the author would be really boring. Dissent (polite and respectful) makes for lively conversation.

    1. Thanks for sharing your observation here. There are those who are so insecure they delete all dissenting comments. Some even approve them wait a day or two and then delete them. There are those who inappropriately mark them as spam. Hopefully, those who are so insecure that they will not post dissenting comments on their “public” blogs will consider either make their blog visibility setting “private” or take up another hobby.

  10. Hi TT,
    Great post, very sensible and useful information to know and remember.
    I agree, best to cool down and avoid responding emotionally, [or not at all if dealing with a troll.] I’ve never regretted withholding a negative response. But I have been sorry about words I’ve typed in anger, pain, or retaliation though.
    –Hope you have a great weekend ☺

    1. Hi Jayme,
      I hear you loud and clear. I too have typed responses in anger and pain on discussion forums in the past. I have not done that on my current blogs and they are over 6 years old. When any words anyone else types triggers me emotionally I immediately choose to take a time out and pacify my inner child (AKA ego or monkey mind). Wherever possible I choose to look for the good in the bad and when I can’t find anything of value in a negative comment then I choose not to be disagreeable. I thank the reader for sharing their POV and I blog on.

  11. Hi TiTi,

    I’ve been lucky. Trolls haven’t been a problem that I’ve had to deal with on my blog. On the rare occasion when a comment seems negative, or misrepresents what I have written, I chill. As in my offline life, I think, “above all, reason.” Playing it cool doesn’t mean that I bottle up my emotions, rather it’s the way that I’ve learned to cope with stress. How much does the negative comment really matter? If something similar happened in person, would I care? Will getting angry help? If the answer to those questions is “no”, it’s best to just move on.

    On Youtube, trolls are plentiful, but the site makes it easy to deal with them — delete comment and block user. With just a few clicks, there’s one less troll invading my space.

    For non-troll comments that simply disagree (politely) with what I’ve written, there are no concerns. I don’t take it personally and I promptly respond to any points that are made. It’s good to have our perceptions challenged. It’s how we grow.

    1. Hi Ray,
      I agree with your very sensible approach. Once one has cooled down it’s easy to recognize that angry responses to dissenting comments are not beneficial to the blogger, their reputation, their blog’s brand or their readership.

      This sentence of yours is a wisdom nugget: It’s good to have our perceptions challenged. It’s how we grow.

      I was hoping to convey that concept in my post too. Those who are unable to recognize constructive criticism and act on it to improve their blogging are misplaced in the blogging community.

    1. Hello there,
      Thank your for taking the time to let me know you found value in my post.

      P.S. I too live in a forest and love tulips like you do,.

  12. From March 2009 until the end of April 2013, I allowed people to post anonymously. (danwoog06880.com is a hyperlocal blog, covering my local community). I am a strong believer in free speech. Some posts got up to 300 comments — but many were vicious and hateful. Many times the discussion devolved into something way off-topic, usually with a national political bent. People urged me to prohibit anonymous comments. I received several thousand hits a day, but many readers said the comments section was driving them away. (Of course, they didn’t HAVE to click on the comments, right?)

    In late April, after a couple of particularly nasty flame wars, I announced that users would have to use real, full names to comment. Immediately the tone of comments changed. There is now a much more respectful, nuanced discussion of issues. There is an even stronger sense of community on the blog. I have no idea where the trolls have gone, nor do I care.

    When I made the change, someone said, “You’ll wonder why you didn’t do this earlier.” He’s right. As someone else pointed out, “Free speech is one thing — on a street corner. But this is your blog. Your brand. Your name. You shouldn’t let anyone tarnish it.”

    It is a bit more work. I do have to remind people to use full names (via private email). I do have to delete posts without full names. But it is definitely worth it.

    Thanks, Timethief, for shining a light on this important subject.

    1. Hi Dan,
      I’m surprised that your solution was using real, full names to comment and it worked. It’s my experience that most but not all people online behave online the same way they do offline.

      It never ceases to amaze me when those who blather on about freedom of speech fail to recognize that along with the freedom to speak as one wishes in private spaces and places comes specific responsibilities to other citizens when they move into the public realm. The minute I spot defamation in any comment submitted to my blogs In delete it. I have a zero tolerance policy in that regard.

  13. Nothing to disagree with there, tt.

    I do wonder, though, if a published comments policy actually achieves anything (this is mine http://ronsrants.wordpress.com/comments-policy/ ). If it is read, it’s largely unheeded.

    I have no problem with negative comments, but I do expect someone telling me I’m wrong to prove it. If they can I’ll correct my text. If they can’t then their opinion is worth no more than mine – and it’s my blog.

    I do find it hard not to react combatively to abusive comments, though – probably a guy thing ;-) Most, however, are just consigned to a well-deserved oblivion.

    1. I think the idea that aggression is a “man thing” is unfounded. I rather deal with an openly hostile and combative person than a passive aggressive manipulator any day. But that’s just me.

  14. You know, this post really should be placed with the WP instructions for new bloggers. Solid common sense approach and ideas.
    (Spam and Trolls are always harder when it’s all new and you’re just beginning.)

    1. Hi there,
      It’s good to know that you think what I published will be of use to those who are new to blogging. Blogging involves a huge learning curve. The online environment is unforgiving as what we publish remains forevermore to haunt us. Even those who write for an income as I do find the lessons are not quickly or easily learned. I can clearly recall receiving my first negative comment over 8 years ago and how poorly I dealt with it. I reacted emotionally and it took me years to forgive myself for the loss of control I exhibited. I have been careful not to make that same mistake again and I hope what I published will prevent others from doing a public faceplant like I did.

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