Unclutterer’s comment policy

If you’re someone who regularly reads comments to our posts, you’ll notice that occasionally comments will disappear. More specifically, you’ll notice that nasty grams disappear.

When I use the phrase “nasty gram” I’m not referring to people who disagree with content on our site–educated dialogue that takes issue with ideas is definitely welcome. My use of the phrase “nasty gram” is to refer to a comment that does nothing but spread nastiness and hate.

Nasty grams are pure clutter, so we clean them off the server the same way we throw away junk mail in our homes. If someone were to walk into your office spewing hate, security guards would come and remove that person from the premises. The same concept applies to Unclutterer, where we have security guards (interns and sometimes me) remove nasty grams from the server.

Thankfully, over the course of the past six months, we’ve only had to remove about 40 nasty grams from the site. We’re pretty convinced, too, that the majority of nasty grams aren’t written by readers of our site but by trolls who get their jollies off of leaving hate mail around the internet. Because, seriously, who else has time to write nasty comments? I barely have time to keep up with reading and commenting on blogs I enjoy. I can’t imagine how I would find the time to read blogs I think are crap AND leave messages on them.

Oh, and in addition to removing nasty grams, we’ll remove comments that notify us about broken links when we fix the links. We remove the notice so that it doesn’t confuse people once the link is working. I think this is common practice among most blogging communities.

Speaking of other blogs, if you have one, let me recommend that you also follow an uncluttered comments policy. Delete the nasty grams off your website without a second thought. You’re not fond of having clutter in your home, so feel welcome to get rid of it on your site!

20 Comments for “Unclutterer’s comment policy”

  1. posted by Wendy on

    Excellent policy.

  2. posted by Angela Esnouf on

    Hear, hear!

  3. posted by Deb on

    Here’s a note of great appreciation to counteract the nastygrams! Trolls leave you wondering if you really do have a problem or if it is just their mischief and ugliness.

    The thing about the internet is that it magnifies the personality. I used to work customer service at a flower company and I discovered that in person, a complaint will be at a magnitude of 1. By phone, a person can raise their level of aggression by up to 10 magnitudes. By e-mail, the same person may exhibit their darkest side, at a magnitude of 100.

    Trolls can get to 1000 just with their own imaginations.

    Truly nice people by blog are a joy. Those who can also enlighten and contribute are a treasure. I consider this blog a treasure!

  4. posted by Chris on

    I love this site and check it everyday. Keep up the good work. There will always be naysayers, and people who want to stir up trouble.

  5. posted by prophet on

    that’s really helpful. I think I was operating under a delusion that “free speech” required tolerating occasional nastiness.

    What you say makes so much more sense, though. Nasty speech is not prohibited in advance – i.e., censorship – but I don’t have to let it take up residence in my living room. I’m allowed to throw it out for the garbage that it is.

  6. posted by Fit Bottomed Girls on

    I love this policy.

    You’re right, your blog shouldn’t be cluttered with comments that do nothing but take up space and spew ick. Clean out the nasty!

  7. posted by Sam on

    great policy! Fortunately I haven’t had many, but I have email notification set up so the minute I realise I have a horrible comment (troll or stupid spam) it is GONE!

  8. posted by Sarah on

    This entry got a big smile from me. Haven’t heard the phrase “nasty gram” in a long time. And I agree with you in the large sense, that hate speech/mail/comments are not only counter-productive, but also directly destructive. Good for you!

  9. posted by Aegir on

    I removed the comments facility entirely from my website and replaced it with a contact form. I found that the genuine comments were ones I’d want to respond to individually and personally, so were better as emails. All the rest just get deleted.

  10. posted by Katie on

    Good policy. Excellent blog and I also check it every day.

    I am guilty of the snarky or angry blog comment thing (not here, though) and I am trying to rid myself of the mental habits that get me there. Clearly it is mental clutter that is in the way of better and far more satisfying uses of my time.

    Anybody got tips on getting rid of mental habit clutter?

  11. posted by Lynn on

    Adding my own thumbs-up. I moderate all comments on my blog. No snarkiness, no taking God’s name in vain, no spam. I have only ever had to delete one tacky comment-in-waiting.

    @Katie: the only way I’ve found to get rid of a bad habit is to replace it with a good one. [I’ve done a lot of that in 50+ years of living.] If prayer is part of your life, then pray over your struggles. If it is not, channel Thumper’s mother and tape “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” across the top of your monitor! Something else that might work is to find a point of agreement and comment on that, and let the other go.

  12. posted by Lawrence Salberg on

    I found your breach of this topic interesting as it has come up at several blogs around the net over the past year – and even at BlogOrlando last year.

    However, I have a problem with your point. First, I think a comment policy, if it exists, should be reprinted in clear unambiguous language right before the comment form itself. Tucking it away in a TOS just isn’t practical considering that many people fly to a page from Googleworld based on a keyword search, leave a comment, and then never return. A post, such as this one, is even more difficult to find (or use to justify the removal of a comment).

    The comment rules should be very clear. Unfortunately, just using the words “no nasty grams” could mean a lot of things to a lot of different people. On the one hand, you could be discouraging anyone from making a contrary remark. On the other, you still leave open the door for quite a bit. Plus, as I was recently reminded by a commenter on my own blog, that’s a very American idiom that may not make any sense at all to our English friends overseas. So, more. More details. What isn’t permitted.

    On one blog I run, a hyperlocal community blog, I have the following reminder right next to the comment box:

    “Comment moderation is on. All comments not in violation of our policies will be accepted shortly. There is no need to resubmit your comment. A valid email address is required. While most comments are approved immediately, and while anonymous commenting is allowed, the editors reserve the right to follow up or to ask for clarification on some comments. They also randomly check the email addresses of comments that seem unusual, out-of-place, overly hostile, or questionable as to their authenticity. Comments without a valid email address are subject to non-approval.”

    Granted, this isn’t black and white, even though the words “our policies” link to a more detailed page about what exactly is or isn’t allowed. But the general gist given is “Hey, we want your comment, but please be serious”.

    On my personal blog, I’m far more liberal, so I don’t have any rules. If someone uses foul language, I just edit the comment and replace the offending word with a less intense word (i.e. sh*t gets replaced with crap). Basically, I try to keep it PG-13.

    On the few occasions where I’ve felt inclined not to approve a comment, I always email the offending person and say something like “Hey, I appreciate your comment and I get your point (really), but I just don’t want this type of vitriol on my personal blog and I also don’t want to edit your words to the point of dulling your meaning. Please reconsider rewording it down to a PG-13 level and repost it and I’ll quickly approve it – and comment on it myself as I do have some interesting thoughts on your position here – but I do have kids. Hope you understand.”. Out of the maybe ten times I’ve sent something like this, half the time they repost it (once even with an apology) and the other half the time, their email address bounces (no surprise).

    I think just yanking comments off without fair warning to the commenters is a bad practice.

    Although, perhaps not as bad as the practice of removing commenting altogether as suggested by Aegir above. Once you do that, you really become a one-man loudspeaker afraid of honest, transparent, public feedback and for all practical purposes, you cease to run a blog, but a more traditional brochure-style top-down website. Boring. As I’ve written about this before on my own blog, if you’re Steve Pavlina or Seth Godin you can get away with it (although I even took them to task for doing it), but if your you or me or Aegir, you really can’t do that and expect to grow. Commenting is what made blogging popular, not reverse-dated posts.

    As a last resort, I’d encourage you to add the “Subscribe to Comments via Email” feature that many W/P blogs are now using. I see you have the RSS version which is great for RSS geeks like me, but most folks on the internet wouldn’t know an RSS feed from “Weed and Feed”. It really helps keep a good thread alive and keeps people coming back to hash out details to come to solutions.

    Sometimes moderators and blog owners feel the need to overly moderate those debates when they get a little heated, but I think that’s a mistake. As long as they are staying on topic, not calling each other ridiculous names, and are interested in using your comment feed as a forum for debate, no harm done. You get free content and traffic, they get an outlet for their opinion.

  13. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Lawrence — I disagree. The majority of nasty grams (34 of the 40 documented) over the course of the last six months came from people who have visited the site once and only once. This type of troll is not a faithful reader. Instead, he/she is a person who comes to the site for the sole purpose of leaving nasty grams. If we put a comment policy up at the beginning of every comment section, it would not be respected by the trolls. Instead, it would likely have a more negative impact on the positive comments we do receive. People who have legitimate disagreements might shy away from leaving comments simply because they take issue with a particular point in a post. Why punish the people who aren’t creating the problem?

    Your solution says, “Faithful Reader, we don’t trust you to make a good decision, so we’ll remind you that we don’t trust you over and over again.”

    Our solution says, “Faithful Reader, we trust you to do what is right without us telling you how to behave every. single. time. you come to our blog.”

  14. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Lawrence — Also, I find it offensive that you believe most of our readers can’t figure out how to work RSS feeds. Have you ever looked at our readership statistics? The majority of our readers are college educated and under the age of 45. Most of our readers grew up with computers in their homes and schools. Who cares if they bookmark their favorite sites instead of subscribe through RSS feeds? Both can be productive means for accessing information from the internet.

  15. posted by Ann at One Bag Nation on

    Hi Erin: I’m over 45 and I know how to subscribe via RSS. To be sure I didn’t know what that was three months ago, but you really can teach an old dog (some) new tricks!

  16. posted by Chris Yi on

    I whole heartedly agree with the sentiment behind this post. I love the analogy; hate-filled nonsense comments are like junk mail: Garbage! They really do pollute the Internet.

  17. posted by Kelly on

    I love this policy. It is sometimes feels almost hurtful to read really mean spirited and hateful comments.

  18. posted by brandy on

    erin, maybe i’m crazy, but i didn’t find anything particularly offensive about lawrence’s comment about RSS feeds. i know plenty of people who know their way around the internet, but would have no idea what RSS is–and yes, they are all college educated and under the age of 45.

    somehow i doubt that lawrence meant those of us who aren’t familiar with rss are less intelligent. he was just suggesting that you offer an alternative to people who want to subscribe to comments (which i don’t necessarily agree with, unless people were requesting it).

  19. posted by Celeste on

    His tone was a bit condescending (the whole comment, not just that paragraph), but the point isn’t even that people might not understand RSS. Some of us just don’t use it. I used to, but lately I’ve found it easier to just bookmark the sites I check daily in a bookmarks folder I appropriately titled “Daily” so I can check them all individually when I have time/in the order I choose. Considering my dad was online before I was born (CompuServ in ’78!) I think I’m pretty Internet savvy. It’s a personal choice.

    But, anyway.. if he’s saying that most people don’t understand RSS, why is his next logical step to add additional RSS feeds?

  20. posted by Judy on

    Personally, I like to read well moderated comments-I stay away from sites with lots of negative comments so I’m all for you. For any website, though, my bottom line is…your website, your rules. Keep your convictions, kiddo. ;-}

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