A while back, probably a good five years or so, I had no "filtering" on blog comments. People, whoever they were, and if they could be bothered, were free to type their little response to whatever I had posted. I had a few of the usual "I very much like this blog post. I sell all sorts of roof tacks and hardware equipment, please browse my website" but they were easily dealt with. Whether this was actual people or just these clever little bot things I have no idea. A few were in cantonese, a few russian, a few in something attempting but failing to be english. Fine fine, this is the internet, it is expected. Then a few unrobotic comments began to creep in from anonymous contributers, and there was a distinct correlation between the ugliness of the comment and the lack of identity of the poster. Well, I like a bit of discussion, but when it starts to cross a line well that's not really what I'm in this for. The world is a big place, there are many people that hold opposing views, many that hold similar views, and that's normal for the internet too, but when it starts to get nasty it's time for censorship. And blogger allows you to do that, so rather than waste time I selected whatever option disallowed anonymous - now you had to have an ID. That worked pretty well, but something later than spurred me to go one step further and allow me to decide what got published and what didn't. I have no idea this amount of time later what that event was, but until yesterday that's how it operated. Anyone leaving a comment simply got a message that their comment would be "visible after approval" or something along those lines.
But that's a double-edged sword I think, as it presumably makes it more of a hassle for anyone to leave a comment. Twitter perhaps also has a part to play. I frequently advertise the presence of a new post there, with a link and so on, and this leads people reply to the tweet rather than comment on the blog. As a result, or perhaps as a contributory factor, I get very few comments. Why is that? Is it dull? Well yes, frequently. The decline in comments probably goes hand in hand with the gradual decline of me posting, as I detailed in that "Where is the joy post" last year. Admittedly I do very much go through fits and starts, but it does sometimes amaze me that a long post, perhaps even one stuffed full of photos, rarely attracts a single comment, especially when you know heaps of people have read it.
As well as providing an ability to censor comments, blogger also has a stats tool. I don't use it that frequently, however an interesting one is how many clicks a particular post gets. Now obviously not everyone who reads an entry is going to want to say something, why would they? But when you get 300 hits and no comments whatsoever, what's going on there? August last year is an excellent example - 969 views, 0 interactions. All bloggers like a bit of comment, a bit of response. This not only satisfies vanity, ego etc, but is also a genuine way to interact, which is the primary purpose of blogging - putting yourself out there and all that. And here's my biggest problem - rarely if ever did I reply to a comment I received. I hit "publish", sometimes days after the fact, and went and did something else. I cannot possible feel aggrieved at no repartee if I myself play no part in any dialogue.
So alongside my renewed sense of the need to write stuff on here, from now on all comments, well, most comments, will receive some kind of acknowledgement. Promise. I've also removed all the hassle elements - although I am still steering clear of the anon route. Whether this makes any difference will be interesting to see. Whether the trolls will come back is another question. As an analogy, whenever I put my bird-feeders up the squirrel is back within 24 hours. So if anyone is feeling squirrely, please can I ask that you go next door!