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Follow up on commenting, and Facebook

Here’s a follow-up to my Thursday post, Comment Quality?:

Lately I’ve noticed that my blog posts, which get posted to my Facebook account as Notes, are more likely to garner comments (or “likes”) over there (on Facebook) than here (on my blog’s comments board), and that it’s my local friends who are doing the Facebook commenting and “liking.” This got me thinking.

I love getting comments, so it doesn’t really matter whether they appear here or on Facebook. But whatever comments appear on Facebook are only visible to my Facebook friends, and no one else. I have some pretty draconian privacy settings on Facebook, while my blog is completely public and visible to anyone.

If there’s a particularly good comment on Facebook, should I port it over to my blog’s comments board, or leave it to its obscurity on Facebook?

For example, on the Comment quality? post, Rob Randall – who has commented here frequently – wrote a Facebook comment that I felt should go on the blog instead of remaining stuck behind Facebook’s garden wall.

Rob wrote:

Good point. Newspapers lost classified advertising to other entities that could do it better. They will lose commenting (and possibly the hallowed letter to the editor) if they don’t clean up the wild west aspect to their online presence.

Here’s relevant comment that I’m sure you’ll find agreeable from this week’s WaPo humour chat:

Santa Clara, Calif.: Since you have a poll regarding the comments following news stories, I feel obligated to share my beliefs about what works and what doesn’t. First and foremost, if you want good dialogue between people with differing opinions, unregulated and unmoderated commenting simply won’t work. As an online forum browser, participant, and moderator, I’ve learned a good commenting system takes a lot of effort from both the forum host and the participants, and has to have solid foundation of policies and standards.

I love WaPo and I’d really like to see good dialogue, but I’m almost always disappointed when I see most of the comments are crap. If you want to do this right, you need three essential elements:

– Active moderation. The best systems rely not only on the forum hosts, but on the participants themselves to filter or ban users when needed (qualified participants, see below).

– Qualification. New users should be identified as such, and they should not be allowed to freely comment without qualifying themselves first. Moderators and other “starred” participants can judge.

– Recognition. Use well qualified commenters as an extra resource. Identify and recognize them, and that will motivate participants to be that much more responsible.

The A-Q-R elements list really nails it. Q and R especially require a lot of human curation: someone from the organization (the newspaper, in this case) would have to be there to monitor the community, but it’s not impossible to do. It’s a comment that should be accessible.

Other recent blog posts that have generated comments (or “likes”) on Facebook (but not here) were Getting it up with coffee; City Hall sure likes to feather its staffing bed; Trust Agents, one; The future of publishing video; 28 seconds of reasons why I live here; and Theater of the absurd for 2010.

Most of those posts were about something local, and all of them were “liked” or commented on by local people near me, people I know. None were commented on or liked by far-flung friends. I guess that says something about the strength of Facebook in the local community – that people find it easy to use, easy to slip into, and that they’re comfortable with the level of privacy they feel it affords. I’m still trying to figure out how to transpose this into what I think should be a more truly public space.

For me, Facebook is not public – not like my blog is public, not like Twitter is public. Whenever I “like” or comment on anything on Facebook, I feel like I’m in a room (or walled garden). And there are several different rooms – I’m aware of the different levels of privacy / visibility I’m engaging in, and I’ve got some sense (right or wrong) of control – my networks or my friends-of-friends have some rights, whereas people completely unconnected to me have none. (I think.)

Whenever I comment on anything on a blog (my own or that of someone else), I know it’s public. No “rooms,” just an open platform. (The same holds true for Twitter, of course: completely public.)

As I said, I love the comments – whether they’re here, in public, or in that Facebook room.

But when push comes to shove, I’ll go for the open, public comments – breadcrumb trails that others can track.


  1. I find a lot of people comment on Facebook because they specifically don’t want their comments to be viewed in a public way. I sympathize with this (it’s only recently I started to comment with my real name). It troubles me because I don’t believe Facebook offers much real in the way of privacy.

    Comment by Cheryl — March 28, 2010 #

  2. To be honest, I saw your post first on Facebook and didn’t immediately see how it was connected to the blog, in fact, I thought it was Facebook-exclusive.

    That’s probably due to my unfamiliarity with Facebook (despite using it for a couple of years). The provenance of an item in a Facebook news feed is sometimes difficult to notice if you’re not paying attention. Was it the author’s wall post? Note? Forwarded note from a friend? Automated post from a blog or forum?

    If I see something of interest in a FB feed it’s often easier to be lazy and comment on it right there rather than clicking through to the “home” location.

    I also admit to rarely, if ever, subscribing to forum or blog notifications. Facebook notifies me automatically without e-mailing me.

    Comment by robert randall — March 28, 2010 #

  3. Yule, these are interesting observations. I agree with Rob’s comments on a personal level – I would rather participate in moderated discussions. I think Facebook and social media are gaining ground because there is some trust and informal moderation within groups of friends and colleagues. I too now avoid reading newspaper Comment sections because they have become just rampant inflammatory idiocy. I had enough of that in junior high school, all those years ago. There’s also been a thorough discussion of ‘why we don’t respond to posts’ recently on LinkedIn.

    Comment by Lorne Daniel — March 28, 2010 #

  4. Rob, those are really good points. One of my FB friends was similarly confused by Facebook. Is it because FB wants to keep you in its garden that they make it tricky, really, to follow the link beyond the garden wall?
    And yes, it’s convenient to stay within the garden. Nor do I subscribe to blog comments, so again: a win for FB because they send an email every time someone adds something to the thread. Hm, interesting.
    Cheryl, agree that FB users probably enjoy the clubhouse atmosphere. Regarding privacy: maybe I’m totally naive, but I’m pretty sure that my privacy settings are such that no one can see my posts unless they’re my FB friend (with the exception of one or two items that I specifically expanded to allow “friends & networks,” which means all of Harvard & Vancouver networks). I changed the settings to “Friends only” in a fit of pique – sometimes I go with “Friends of friends.” It bugs me that FB has gone behind my back (so to speak) to make more content public (against my expectations/ wishes). On the other hand, if I comment on someone’s wall or post and that person has their settings on “Everyone” (i.e., totally public), then I guess whatever I write is …well, visible to everyone. So I’m fairly circumspect about writing anything on someone’s post that I wouldn’t want anyone else to see.
    Lorne, I guess the discussion about online idiocy and rudeness, and whether that’s facilitated by anonymity or not, isn’t going to abate any time soon. (Too many idiots keep cropping up, haha!) There’s a really interesting discussion about how this relates to “managing” your online brand over at Fred Wilson’s blog, with 103 comments so far and counting. See How to Defend Your Reputation, posted on March 28 (today).

    Comment by Yule — March 28, 2010 #

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