Commenting on Blogs

This is one subject about which many of us bloggers have difficulties. I noticed that a major traditionalist RC blog has removed the possibility of comments because moderating them all is too time-consuming.

Most commenters are decent people who are aware that they are communicating with real people, even through the “emotionally blind” avenue of the computer and the Internet. A very small minority is the type of troublemaker who is sometimes called a troll (click on older posts at the bottom of each page). Real trolls (see this interesting Telegraph article) are particularly despicable people who have even caused vulnerable people to commit suicide! In extreme cases, they can be arrested and sent to prison. Other commenters are less extreme, but they are still bullies and cowards. Their tone is rude and provocative, and they invariably hide behind anonymity, use technical means to hide their IP address and make it impossible to be seen as a real person.

There is no real invariable typology. The signs differ, and this blog is different from those of professional journalist bloggers who get the really serious stuff, or pranks from teenage geeks who occasionally know how to cause real damage. The religious troublemaker is something else. The usual thing is bringing a discussion back to the same question, the narrow topic that interests the person – and always anonymously or under cover. I used to get troubled by this sort of thing, and had scruples about not allowing some persons their freedom of speech. No longer, I am completely immune.

I don’t moderate comments, but I moderate commenters. The WordPress system moderates all new commenters by default (though this option can be changed), and once they have had a comment allowed through, they are no longer moderated – unless – the moderator puts their e-mail address on a list in the options boxes. There is a commenter who still has a few comments on my blog, even one that is a little borderline. When his tone became poisonous, I added his e-mail address to the moderated box. I observed the old adage – Don’t feed the trolls. It works.

Comments are a valuable dimension of the blog, which give it some of the characteristics of a discussion forum. Without them, it would be a “Father says…” site, of little interest to internauts. The system I use takes little of my time, and it only takes a few seconds to put a troublemaker on moderated status. And, I keep the commenters who have something interesting to say, even if they think and say I am wrong.

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2 Responses to Commenting on Blogs

  1. Simone says:

    Being a regular reader of the mentioned blog, I’m very disappointed they have closed their comment section, that accounted for at least 50%-60% of the interestingness of that space. I’m afraid that the new “style of papacy” of Francis stirred some ideological turmoil, and finally internal contradictions of traditionalism (that I use to live on my own skin and in my soul) became too visible and no longer properly manageable via the usual “infallibilistic” clichés. It’s true that confrontation is very hard with people whose only mantra and one-fit-all response is the consecration of Russia (that also applies to worshippers of Cardinal Martini on the other side), but a blog without debate between its commentators is sterile at least, when not useless (also, the “news agency” format actually won’t work, since most of the “scoop” were being simply reported from vaticanists or Italian trad blogs that are better informed). I sincerely hope they will reverse the decision.

    • It takes imagination and application to distinguish between the comments of interest to all and those coming from various kinds of “pathology” (obsessed about narrow subjects, etc.) and those who amuse themselves by trashing what is precious to others. Most commenters can be trusted to write responsibly and require no supervision. This is why I moderate only some e-mail addresses and not all comments. Sometimes a nasty one gets through, so I simply get rid of it and moderate the author. It isn’t difficult.

      Of course, a “troll” can get back “in business” by changing his / her e-mail address. But, they don’t change their style. Admit them if you can respond to their bad emotions with charitable reasoning. If one hasn’t a good word to say, just block the badness and keep it out. It’s always the same – Don’t feed the Trolls! I am determined not to punish the majority of readers who are decent, God-fearing and interesting for a tiny minority of sick or bad individuals. Beware of falsus in uno falsus in omnibus.

      You are right, without comments, a blog loses its interest – especially when it is less informed by the news sites. I get about 400 hits a day, and that is certainly due in part to a sound comments policy. As I don’t discuss sensationalist RC news or the Ordinariates, I have fewer problems with the Pathology Department or Cranks’ Corner. My “Orthodox Blowout Department” is interesting because there is real discussion, even if it gets a little “heated” at times.

      Each to his own…

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