This post is about blog moderation. Skip it if you're not interested.
Like every blogger I started blogging without any readers. And just like every blogger I weren't blogging anymore, if I still had no readers. Feedback is important even for the most in himself resting person. And while I do have all kinds of statistics for my blog, the most powerful feedback are comments. But not every comment is .. appreciated.
From the very beginning I had the policy to permanently delete every comment that I considered worth deleting. This means that there won't even be some placeholder, like "An admin deleted this comment". The comment simply vanishes into the depths of Google's servers. I also don't have any binding policy that my readers can look up, like in an official forum. There's no rule #23 that you could have violated. I have no interest in pretending that there's any other reason for the disappearance of your comment than that I disliked it. That having said, I love debating. I would never delete a comment just because it expresses a different opinion; not even if this opinion is expressed in strong words. In fact, I dislike it if readers start to play fanboy and defend my position in front of other readers.
Since only about 4% of all readers actually leave comments, every one who does is absolutely appreciated. I sometimes wonder why some readers send me page-long mails, but never comment on the blog. It's not that I don't appreciate feedback by mail; it does even have some advantages. But unless the other party is genuinely interesting (like being an experienced developer), I usually don't really have an interest in long conversations by email.
Now, since comments are so appreciated, it's always a pain to delete them. My single biggest concern, however, is to not delete a comment I should have deleted. Yes, you read that correctly. A lot of bloggers make this mistake and it creates an environment in which other readers assume the same commenting style. It may increase the number of comments, but at the cost of their quality. If you want a wonderful example check out that controversial MoP trailer at Youtube. It has over 40k comments by now. The quality is about as bad as comments can be. Which doesn't mean that it isn't fun reading a few or even adding *grin*. Perhaps some professor will soon invent some stress therapy that encompasses commenting on controversial youtube videos. Go check it out if you want. The continuous stream of bullshit is strangely relaxing.
Anyway, one reason only 4% of the readers actually post a comment every now and then, is certainly that I delete all nonsense comments, like those that consist of nothing but “I disagree”. (Yes, there exist less polite versions of that comment.) Yesterday, however, I realized that I post a lot of “I agree” comments on other bloggers' posts. I started to do that several years ago when I realized that many very good posts don't get much feedback. This is really a big flaw of comments as feedback mechanism: If a post is very good and says everything there was to be said about a topic, it sometimes doesn't get any comments. Take Shintar's latest post, for example. A lot of work, went into it and it is very worthwhile reading - but what could I possibly add as a comment?
If readers leave comments like “I agree” on my posts I never delete them. I appreciate them a lot. It means that the post was so good that they simply didn't find anything to add. But it's also strangely asymmetrical considering that I always delete “I disagree“ comments. Looking into this a bit more one would hopefully find out that the symmetry is purely superficial. I hope.