Comment gardening log

What the heck is this? Read this first.

Apologies in advance because this is long, not organized all that well, and rambling, but if you make blog software, want to run a community blog, or are thinking about expanding your blog's audience and you want to know what to watch out for, this is what it's like hosting comments on a high-traffic site where the goal is high-quality conversation.

10/17/05 9:50am
Deleted 17 spam comments (spomments! I'm inventing new bloggy words! Worship me!!!) from this Friendster thread and closed it. It was open for approximately 6 days before getting hit with spam. Almost all of the discussion on this thread took place in a 12-hour period.

On the same thread, I didn't delete this borderline comment:

Interesting about Friendster -- changes things a bit.

Memry is neat -- always a good game for those of us with the visual memory :).

It's a nearly content-free comment and the second paragraph refers to a remaindered link post that didn't have comments turned on, but since it came right at the end of the thread and the thread was pretty fluffy anyway, I left it. If it had come earlier in the discussion, I would have deleted it.

10/17/05 2:03pm
This intelligent design thread is getting a bit off topic, my comments included. Only a little bit though, so I'm going to leave it. These are my least favorite types of threads...opinions are usually so polarized that people just end up talking past each other. Politics, religion, abortion, mac vs. pc...all very difficult conversations to have in a weblog thread.

10/17/05 2:15pm
Still the ID thread, I'm on the fence about this one:

Jason Alexander Kottke, you've been blogging for almost eight years now and you open up the comments on a post about intelligent design? Good Lord man!

I usually don't like meta-thread comments ("this thread is great", "why did you post this?", etc.) because they're off-topic, but a little levity in this volatile thread might help take the edge off a little.

Here's another meta-thread comment:

All of today's posts have comments enabled. Is this going to be a permanent change?

It's tacked onto the end of a longer on-topic content and I never edit other people's comments (unless they leave lots of extra space below their text), so I'm leaving it be. But I'm not going to answer the "moderator" (in quotes because I don't really moderate, I just keep the conversation clean and moving, unless I want to jump in as a participant), I need to keep the conversation on-topic.

10/17/05 2:33pm
Trying to be funny in threads with one-liners rarely works and almost always gets deleted. != Metafilter. But a comment like this (from here) is why I don't have a set policy about deleting all one-liners:

John Updike says:
Wait: If I buy this set by clicking the link up top, Jason Kottke will get a bigger slice of the purchase price than me, John Updike, famed New Yorker contributor? I write great but I don't know crap about monetizing clickstream, too bad for me.

Funny and makes a point. Good comment.

10/17/05 4:41pm
Comment threads about photos are hard. They usually just consist of several separate opinions of your photos...and people either love them or hate them. Eliot touches on this in a presentation he did this summer at the Apple Store (6th slide):

The baseline level of engagement: "Nice shot."
Open question: how can we promote better interaction? Real critique.

Take a look at comments for most photos on Flickr or Fotolog...lots of "good photos" comments. It's nice to know that people appreciate your work, but I didn't post them for validation.

Here's a frustrating comment:

Jason Kottke, you're photos are quite mediocre, really. Straight out of Catch-22.

Spare us.

Further: please, please, please: update more often.

It's rare that someone comments to say that photos are "eh", so that's interesting. And he's probably right about the mediocrity. But then comes the dreaded meta-thread comment...which really seems to be saying, "please post more, but not your mediocre photos". I want to delete the whole comment for the off-topic second part, but then if people have seen it, I'll be accused of deleting comments that aren't complementary toward me, which I never do if they're on-topic and not a personal attack. I'm going to leave it.

10/17/05 6:29pm
Deleted the following from this thread:

Thomas Crampton posted some questions on Joi Ito's blog today, after the Commitee to Protect Journalists named Shi Tao as a winner of the International Press Freedom Award.

"His 10-year sentence to a Chinese prison came partly due to a disclosure about him by Yahoo!.

1- Do employees of Yahoo! feel responsible for/comfortable with this man going to prison? (Will they, for example, send care packages or join a letter-writing campaign petitioning the government of China for his release?)"

Off-topic and trolling.

10/18/05 6:14pm
Offtopic and deleted from the superhero post:

I was just looking for a document on the net, when I found this page.. My name is Silvana T. Kottke, from Brazil!!

10/19/05 9:31am
Close thread for Turning the Tables. Most of the conversation on this thread was done in less than 24 hours (mostly because I posted it on a Friday and my traffic slows by 1/3 over the weekend), but there were a few comments on Sunday and Monday. Not a bad thread, no deletions. Threads about books are tricky because unlike material that is readily available on the web, I'm trying to say something about a 200-page document in just a few paragraphs, and if the people participating in the thread haven't also read the book, they can react to only what I've written and don't get a robust view of what the book's author is trying to say.

10/19/05 9:41am
From the superhero thread, this one's easy to get rid of:

Superman, unless you're a fucking retard.

If you use "fucking retard" in a comment, you'd better be pretty clever about it or it's gone. Also:

Could you say that I am the superhero for having this dream?

Makes no sense. Off-topic, irrelevent. Deleted. There are a few other mostly useless comments in this that answer the question but give absolutely no supporting evidence or opinion. Worst offenders are those that just repeat what someone else said earlier. "Me too!" Useful if we were voting on something (should I dye my hair pink or just leave it?), but otherwise not so much. As much as I think these types of comments detract from the conversation, I leave them because I'd rather encourage participation than stifle it and I think people would get a bit discouraged if I started deleting comments that technically (though not in spirit IMO) "followed the rules".

10/19/05 9:48pm
From the Szerzbeziacz post:

Kottke. Minnesota. Are you related to the guitar player?

Off-topic. Deleted. Are these two things related?

10/20/05 9:18am
In the Sarah Silverman thread:

She's a fuckwad. Her jokes are moderately shocking and she's only barely believable telling them. She's a wet-dream for guys with acne and ingrown hairs. Only a place as tired as the New Yorker would find her interesting.

There's a personal (or at least institutional) attack in there somewhere. It's not a completely content-free comment, but it's going anyway. Again, if you're going to use a word like "fuckwad", you'd better make it count.

10/20/05 9:23am
Sometimes it's really difficult to even understand what the hell other people are talking about so that you can take appropriate action. Here's an exchange on the futurists in Time magazine thread:

Or everyone can pretend they have a pair--like Julie (Mulie) of Real World New Orleans. With apologies to the New Yorker, "on the internet, no one knows you're a Mormon."

I'm so sick of people making broad, sweeping, unfair and bigoted generalizations about members of any given religion. Replace the word "Mormon" in your post with "Jewish" and see how much more obvious your assholery becomes.

The first person is referring to a pair of "big-city, 'aren't we cool' blinders", mentioned earlier in the thread. But then I'm lost with the Julie Mulie reference. The second person is angry about the Mormon reference, but without the Julie Mulie context (which I tried to glean from searching on Google for a bit but have concluded that I needed to have been there or at least have it explained to me by someone who watched the show), I can't be sure that the first person isn't trying to make a valid point which the second person perhaps misunderstood. The thread is pretty much over at this point I think, so I'm going to ask for some clarification at the risk of dragging things off-topic. (Also, I spent 10-15 minutes researching the Julie Mulie this really a good use of my time?)

10/20/05 9:56am
Comment spam, not even two days after the thread was opened:

Software free download says:
I know it wasn't the point of the article, but it felt like a very privileged.


10/20/05 10:01am
Another comment spam, in a thread that hasn't even been up for 12 hours yet:

clean computer says:
Funny blunder on my part.There's no lazy way yet to share, tag and aggregate the best bits. clean hard disk and shareware download

I'm spending all morning reading, responding to, and cleaning up these comment threads...I haven't even gotten around to posting any new stuff to the site yet. I need better tools for this.

10/20/05 10:09am
Dammit, a comment spam I missed from earlier in the tumbelogs thread, created a mere 45 minutes after the thread opened (Jesus!):

:) Do you play around with hypertext? Or have alot of hypertext adds? :P Bathrooms

"Bathrooms" links to the spam site. How is my blogging software supposed to figure out what's comment spam on its own if I'm missing this stuff?

10/20/05 2:19pm
Opening comments up on every single post for this experiment is trying. I didn't want to do it for this MeFi post because comments on that site are the poster children for everything I don't want in a comment left on my site. Case in point, the first comment, in its entirety:


It was funny once, but not now. Deleted.

10/20/05 2:38pm
Argh, a second comment spam in the casual content creation thread, which has only been open for 14 hours or so.

Nice Blog. Check this out, you can get a free iPod

These spammers are getting used to take 5-6 days for stuff to start showing up.

10/20/05 2:40pm
Here's a type of comment we haven't seen yet, the uncomment (from the Google Print thread):

Person says:

This is someone who makes the effort (it's a small effort) to fill out the comment form and submit it so that a single character shows up in the thread. Some people do this in multiple threads or multiple times in the same thread. I guess the person doesn't like me or the thread or even the whole concept of comment threads...I have no idea. You may recognize this behavior from high school as bullying.

10/20/05 5:50pm
Another non-comment, deleted:


10/20/05 5:55pm
Anything that contains "you people" should be red-flagged by Movable Type (tumblelogs thread):

okay this is officially getting idiotic. You people are going to look back at yourselves like you look back at those pictures of you in white tubesocks. In other words, wishing there wasn't a record of this lunacy.

But luckily we won't be seeing your comment. If you don't want to take part in the conversation and choose to opt out of it, then do everyone a favor and opt the fuck out. Follow through is important not just in tennis.

10/21/05 11:29am
It was hard to enable comments on this post to a link making fun of intelligent design...there's almost no possible way that any good comments or conversation will come of it. But the experiment must go on.

10/21/05 12:46pm
Comment on the latest ID post:

Here's hoping all the ID folks intelligently fall on their swords.

An easy one to delete.

10/21/05 2:20pm
From the Google Print thread:

Shawn 'Napster' Fanning says:
Hey Ron Franscell
Napster = greatest invention of the 90's

Comments by people pretending to be well-known people had better be good, or they're gone, and that goes double if the pretended celebrity is still living. This one didn't make it.

10/21/05 6:20pm
Cleaned up a comment on the New York Changing post...someone trying to get their HTML correct:

For the lazy:">

One more time (sorry kottke -- no preview?):">

I'm going to try one more time, and then you will delete these.

Consolidated into one comment.

10/22/05 8:45am
From the why do we believe in God thread:

I believe in God, I also believe in love.
Visit my site, thanks..

I don't care what you believe in. No commercials. Deleted.

10/22/05 8:50am
Another non-comment, deleted:


10/22/05 1:54pm
Meta-thread comment:

haha, why do you call comments cmts?

haha, deleted.

And I'm fairly sure this comment in the why do we believe in God? thread was not intended to be some deep metaphysical inquiry:

What's God?


10/22/05 8:54pm
Fixed a unclosed bold tag in a comment, per a request via email.

10/24/05 11:36am
Deleted some comment spam with a boatload of links and Asian characters in it from the consumer electronics mash-ups thread.

Argh, and the same spam from the Google Print thread. And the casual content creation thread (as well as a comment that consists of "cooool"). Assholes.

10/24/05 10:36pm
Someone managed to post a comment consisting of nothing to the first superhero thread. Not quite sure how that happened because MT is supposed to guard against stuff like that... Ah, ok. I went and looked at it in MT and the comment consists of "<i = superman>". Not nothing, but hardly anything. Deleted.

10/26/05 3:01pm
I've counted and I've got 56 threads open on the site at the same time. I'm hoping to do a bit of analysis and figure how many active threads I had over this time period. Last Thursday I had too many open and spent most of the day trying to keep up.

10/26/05 3:17pm
From the casual content creation thread:

Dear sirs and madams,

Please allow me to plug Slawesome which lets you send emails with your voice.

It is purely web based. It is free.

Podcasting is next for us. Odeo is sweet -- Slawesome is different because we are focused purely on communication.

And our name is better.

No advertising...I don't care how slawesome your name is. Deleted.

And I closed the thread because things are obviously winding down...aside from the ad, no one had posted anything for three days. All but one of the comments was left in the first 48 hours, with 95% of them in the first 24. Too many of the comments were of the "why call it podcasting because people have been posting audio to the web forever" variety, which I can sympathize with, but it's repetitive at this point and just not that interesting. But not a bad thread.

10/26/05 3:27pm
Deleted four spams of the propecia variety in the futurism thread. Closed it. People...well, people who comment on blogs anyway, don't much like pundits in magazines telling them what the future is going to be like, so the reaction here was fairly negative. Over half the comments were posted in the first 12 hours. And there was a little dust-up at the end of the thread that I wrote about above (the Julie Mulie thing) which didn't get resolved to my satisfaction because one of the participants never wrote back to explain why he said what he did.

10/26/05 5:46pm
Some more spam in the tumblelogs thread, this time of the hair loss variety. I deleted it and closed the thread since it's been over for 5 days now (more than 75% of the comments came in the first 12 hours...this was a fast burning thread). The comments were split mostly among those who thought tumblelogs are just link logs (I'll take the full blame** here for not explaining it well enough) and the "this is dumb because people have been doing this forever" contingent (see above). If I had it to do over again, this thread might have been a good one not to open comments on.

** Regarding blame, if you read through all of this commentary, it seems as though I'm laying exclusive blame on the commenters for leaving less-than-great comments on the site. And sometimes they deserve it. But since I'm initiating these conversations, much of the blame for bad threads must rest on my shoulders. And you'd think that I'd then want to take credit for the good threads...nope, the participants make the discussion great, not me. Anyway.

10/26/05 6:03pm
Closed the summer photography thread...last comment was more than 5 days ago, with all but 4 within the first 7 hours the thread was open. As I said above, photo threads are tough; they usually just get "great shot" comments, which doesn't make for good reading. Still, some commenters in this one found similar photos they'd taken and it's neat to make connections like that.

10/30/05 8:10am
Closed the consumer electronics mashups thread. 33 comments, 75% in the first 24 hours. I deleted a comment that was almost free of content; the person was just posting to get a link to their web site(s) on mine. This is not a frequent occurrence, but it does happen...and when it does, the person tends to post in any and every open thread. I consider this quite rude and a short step away from automated comment spam.

Etc. Etc.