Are your readers pests?

September 18, 2013Jake DiMare

A while back I discovered a or law blog with some content I found interesting so I subscribed. After reading a couple of posts I commented on one and then an interesting thing happened…The author, a criminal defense attorney, introduced me to a strategy for handling commenters on his site I’ve yet to encounter.  It works something like this:

  1. Comments must be approved to be published.
  2. However, (at least my) comments are always approved, with a response from the author.
  3. Finally, (at least my) comments are universally treated with disdain.

I can’t tell you how many blogs I’ve taken an occasional interest in over the years. I usually forget about them pretty quickly because, let’s face it, there’s a lot of material out there. But the approach outlined above is awfully magnetic to my personality. I’m guessing it works on me because I always wanted to have a voice at the grown up’s table when I was a kid.
However, to suggest this is a strategy may simply be giving the blog’s owner too much credit. For a strategy to exist there must be forethought and calculation, as opposed to what amounts to little more than a curmudgeon, responding reflexively to younger, and/or less experienced audiences fumbling around him with a steady stream of discourteous insults and admonitions.
Dennis the menace
Aside from how I personally feel about the author’s treatment, I’m a web content strategist and this approach of treating readers like pests, and some other details are interesting from a professional perspective. For instance, he has taken the time to post his commenting rules and most of them make sense, if not a bit heavy handed…But there’s one underneath the comment authoring section that is simply wrong-headed:
“This is my home and I make the rules.”
Previously, I would have thought the problem with this statement, aside from the grandiosity, is self-explanatory. But perhaps, for older bloggers who are not digital natives, something is not so clear: Sharing one’s thoughts and ideas on a website with no password protection is not the equivalent of having a conversation at a private dinner party. It is the equivalent of standing in a public square with a megaphone. It is to be expected that occasionally someone who happens by is going to pay attention. If it makes the broadcaster unhappy that passersby may even want to discuss those things being shared in public, there is certainly no better example of the roots of unhappiness lying in the delta between expectation and reality.
Of course, a blogger is completely within their rights to ignore unwanted comments. I am a blogger who has, at times, enjoyed very large audiences with some commenters willing to share wildly variant and sometimes deviant perspectives, I can tell you that it is sometimes the best policy to avoid feeding the trolls, no matter how much they increase your engagement score. However, if I do choose to engage readers with a response, shouldn’t the basic rules of civility apply, whether I like what they have to say or not?
Who is to say what the right way to behave in public is? I’ve certainly vacillated in my own ability to behave according to how I think others should. But if a blogger’s goal is to be memorable and retain readers I can no longer advise my own clients, in good faith, that the only approach is to leave out a bowl of honey.

Comments (8)

  • shg

    September 19, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    Now I understand both the source of your confusion and your inability to recognize your suffering from pervasive pathologic psychological conditions. Had you just explained that you were both a slackoisie and a “content strategist,” I would have lowered my expectations of you accordingly, typed slower and used smaller words.

  • Jake DiMare

    September 19, 2013 at 11:54 pm

    Are we having a conversation now?

  • Pete

    September 20, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    Don’t take it so personally. His blog isn’t meant to be circle jerk. I think most enjoy his curmudgeonly demeanor . I like to know I’ll be called out if I post something incomplete – It’s hard to grow if you’re never checked.

  • shg

    October 18, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    I’m now in the mood to chat. If you’re not, that’s fine. Then this will be a monolgue rather than a dialogue.
    Your analogy is poor. Don’t feel badly about it. It’s very hard to come up with a good analogy. People screw it up all the time.
    You see, my blog isn’t anything like “standing in a public square with a megaphone,” but more like my having a lovely little cheese shop, where I get to sell whatever cheese I like. The doors are wide open, and the public can come in.
    Some shoppers will buy what I offer. Some will tell me that I need to sell pepperoni, and I tell them that it’s a cheese shop. If they want pepperoni, they should go to a pepperoni shop.
    Others will ask me if I sell Velveeta, and I tell them no, not because it isn’t cheese (though I’m not sure if that’s the case), but because I prefer not to sell it.
    Yet others will ask to buy Chees Whiz, and I will tell them that’s not cheese and get the hell out of my shop.
    You see, I pay the rent for the shop. I sweep the floor. When someone spills something, I clean it up. And as much as it’s a cheese shop, it’s still my cheese shop and I can sell the cheese I prefer to sell.
    Now if no one buys what I’m selling, my poor little cheese shop will go bankrupt and I will have to shut the doors or change my cheese to suit the tastes of my customers. Fortunately for me, it seems that I have sufficient customers to keep the doors open, while maintaining my cheesey standards.
    But then, this is just an analogy, and I’ve never been a big fan of analogies.

    1. Jake DiMare

      October 18, 2013 at 4:37 pm

      I don’t think it makes much sense to argue about whose analogy is more appropriate in this context.
      I will simply point out even if the analogy of your blog being a cheese shop is correct, then this is very different from your blog being your home, which is how you frame it in your documented rules of engagement and in how you treat those who wander in off the street.

      1. shg

        October 18, 2013 at 4:51 pm

        You’re very literal, I see. Well then, I live in a small garret over the cheese shop, where I make the cheese in the wee hours of the morning.
        I could have used the Soup Nazi analogy instead, but that would have been trite, and I dislike being trite almost as much as I dislike analogies.

        1. Jake DiMare

          October 18, 2013 at 5:09 pm

          That’s a Seinfeld reference and a South Park reference from you in the last two days. You might just be an OK guy.
          How people and organizations think about and relate to their content and technology is genuinely interesting to me. Your blog is also of genuine interest to me. Treat me however you want. If you’re right, I just might learn enough to be ashamed of the ignorance in my first feeble attempts to eat cheese and soup at the grownups table.

          1. shg

            October 18, 2013 at 5:18 pm

            And you missed the obvious Monty Python reference? Oh my.

Comments are closed.

Prev Post Next Post