Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Private & public communication

Maintaining a weblog with the ability to comment on postings can be interesting and fruitful in terms of exchanging information or starting interesting (asynchronous) discussions. However, as comments can be anything, this function can also be misused by some to start bashing people. Then, the question the blog author is faced with is how to deal with such comments that are off-topic and do not have any benefit. Most of the blog providers thus allow three options to handle comments: not allow comments at all (which turns the weblog into a diary and prevents any exchange), allow comments only after review (the comment is only readable by the blog author until being accepted as publicly acceptable), and allow comments without review.

I personally prefer allowing comments after reviewing them, because I am then always in control of what is being commented. After all, this is my blog and not a public journal. An analogy that is often mentioned is being able to decide whom to allow to enter one's home. Still, one could well ask whether this already constitutes some kind of censorship. Assuming that censorship is understood as suppression of published material by someone other than the author or editor (e. g. a state or an influential organization), I do not think so. As any journal or newspaper is able (via their editorial board) to decide what is being published (including any submissions also known as letters to the editor), so should blog authors. If a weblog is established with several authors (e. g. corporate blog), these should of course agree on some guidelines in order to avoid mutual deletion of postings.

Another personal argument on reviewing comments prior to their publicaton is that it avoids any public discussions on comments. If I do not accept a comment by someone, this person will always be able to discuss this with me, without the public participating. On the other hand, if allowing any comments, this may fuel mutual bashing, which is hardly acceptable, and results in the necessity to delete comments by others, which I do not really consider a good thing to do. It is like having to extinct a fire that could have been avoided in the first place.

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