The number and quality of comments on Venture Hacks is steadily increasing. This is most awesome; we really like comments. Thanks for commenting and please keep ’em coming. We read and moderate every one.

So prospective contributors don’t have to comment into a black hole, we’ve adapted these moderation guidelines from Edward Tufte‘s epic thread on Moderating internet forums:

  1. Accept comments with good spelling, grammar, and formatting; that advance the quality of the discussion; and are civil. Focus on the quality of the discussion for the reader—whether a comment agrees or disagrees with us is irrelevant (of course).
  2. Silently and lightly correct minor spelling errors, punctuation errors, or poor formatting in otherwise good comments.
  3. Let the quality of the posts and existing comments serve as a standard for new comments.
  4. Don’t accept partially meritorious comments if the overall effect of the comment is to lower the quality of the discussion.
  5. Quickly make final decisions about whether we’re going to accept a comment.
  6. Delete accepted comments if we later decide they don’t advance the quality of the discussion.
  7. Try to follow these guidelines when we write posts on Venture Hacks or comment on other sites.
  8. Thank commenters and highlight good comments.

What do you think? Are we missing anything?

Related: Edward Tufte’s Moderating internet forums.

Topics Comments

19 comments · Show

  • Daniel Erickson (TechWraith)

    I agree with all of the points listed above except for number two. I think this form of censorship is completely uncalled for. If you want the discussion to have proper spelling and grammar, then don’t approve comments that don’t live up to these standards. But you should never, under any circumstances, change what your readers have to say.

    • Nivi

      Daniel,

      I probably wouldn’t have come up with guideline #2 if Edward Tufte didn’t do it in his forum. You make a great point and I will monitor the issue and continue to think about it.

      By the way, the New York Times and other newspapers edit letters to the editor and comments under certain conditions:

      The New York Times on comments:

      “Do you edit comments?

      “No. Comments are either approved or they’re not. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article or in the ‘Comment of the Moment’ blog feature. In those cases, we may fix spelling and punctuation.”

      The New York Times on letters to the editor:

      “Do you edit letters?

      “We reserve the right to edit for space, clarity, civility and accuracy, and we send you the edited version before publication.”

  • Tony Wright

    Great post. If you expand the topic a bit to “how to manage blog comments” I think it is a GREAT best practice to:

    1) Have threaded comments. All of the @replies you see in comments make discussion confusing at times.

    2) Have notifications of replies. i.e. If I comment here, and someone wants to reply to MY comment, they should be able to do so and I should hear about it when it happens (via email). When I installed Disqus, I noticed how much richer comments on my blog became — I’d largely give credit to the notification feature, which spurred on lots of follow-on comments.

    • Nivi

      Tony,

      You read my mind.

      This blog has had (a fair implementation of) threaded comments since the dawn of time. And I personally love getting email replies to the comments I make on other blogs.

      I’m waiting to see what the comment system in WordPress 2.7 looks like before deciding on Disqus or IntenseDebate or something else.

      Please let me know if you have any additional suggestions. This was super helpful.

      • Ryan Graves

        I would HUGELY recommend going with Disqus. I’ve tried all the platforms and gone with Disqus because of how quickly they respond to needed functionality, bugs, customer feedback or suggestions.

        Keep us posted but I suggest going with Disqus.

        • Yokum Taku

          Ditto on the kudos for Disqus. They are very good on customer feedback and response with regard to issues. Once the email response via blackberry to approve comments is entirely glitch-free, that is a reason to move off of the native WordPress comment system.

  • Michael F. Martin

    I think the right philosophy is behind these guidelines, but they are still a bit heavy handed for most blog comments. I.e., Tufte’s seems to want blog comments to obey the rules of editing that he follows for presenting visual information. But blog comment sections are more like a house party. If the host is going around correcting the manners or expressions of her guests, it’s not going to be much of a party.

    • Nivi

      Michael F. Martin: “If the host is going around correcting the manners or expressions of her guests, it’s not going to be much of a party.”

      Michael, This is a great analogy that I will think about.

    • Nivi

      Michael, I’ve thought about it and I think this is more about creating the right guest list for the party, not correcting the guest’s manners while they’re here.

  • Pete

    How are you going to define “quality”? What if someone wants to push the discussion in a direction you don’t like, but that your readers like?

    I think you should approve all civil comments. Rely on the quality of your blog posts to attract intelligent commenters.

    Editing a comment is absolutely not cool. I would be seriously PO’d if you changed my comment in any way, particularly if I signed my real name to it.

    • Nivi

      Every post we publish meets a vague quality standard or we wouldn’t publish it. Generally, we publish posts that we would want to read. I think we can apply this same approach to accepting comments: accept comments that we would want to read.

      And, as you wrote, the best way to define an acceptable level of quality is through the examples set by the posts and existing comments on the site. This attracts a lot of great comments and a lot of not-so-great comments that require moderation.

      Re: “What if someone wants to push the discussion in a direction you don’t like, but that your readers like?” We’ll deal with that when it is an issue. It has never been an issue, I think.

      I will definitely think about editing comments. Here are some initial thoughts on editing comments. I also rewrote the guideline: “Silently and lightly correct minor spelling errors, punctuation errors, or poor formatting in otherwise good comments.”

  • Neil Cauldwell

    I read via RSS so the comments have been out of sight (until now). Perhaps you could update each post with references to notable comments so late coming RSS readers will be aware of any must-read additions to the discussion. I’m not sure if no.8 is already suggests this, though (sorry if I’m missing something here).

    • Nivi

      Good idea Neil. Are you volunteering to help with this? ;^)

      • Neil Cauldwell

        Nivi, I’m more than happy to read through the comments and suggest potential ‘updates’ to the posts. I don’t really have any credentials in the world of start-ups & VC (and, therefore, I’m probably not the most likely candidate for deciding which commentators provide the most valuable additions, or where a semi-colon is due) – but I’ll give it shot.

  • Sean Murphy

    These seem very reasonable.

    I am going to adopt them for my blog as well.

  • sneaker

    Good list, thanks for sharing it.

    Though this could probably be implied in #4, I’d also add that any comments which are blatant (or sometimes even subtle) attempts at shameless self-promotion also deserve the axe.

  • Matthew Trifiro

    Every one of our markets has its own forum and we are seeing how sometimes productive business discussions can quickly descend into flame wars that mostly just create dysfunction and confusion.

    I have started advocating a strong moderation policy and this post is becoming my new “go to” reference. I would love permission to repost this verbatim in my Market Manager’s Best Practices board (with proper credit and links).

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